In fact I wrote "Lilian" as a sort of answer to a novel by Frank Swinnerton ("Coquette"); I felt the book was incomplete and the aim of "Lilian" was to show him what the end should be. Now I am not prepared to defend "Lilian" as my finest piece of literature, but nor is it negligible. I deeply resent Mais's implication that it is lightweight, of no consequence.
Literary critics seem to have fallen into the habit of describing as a pot boiler any novel which they do not like. They have not the least right to do so, and in doing so they presume upon the indifference of authors. Well I am not indifferent. Such a description is undoubtedly libellous. Not that I should ever dream of bringing a libel action! But some day some critic with more cheek than prudence will find himself in trouble. I have a long memory and am inclined to bear a grudge. I think it is in the Five Towns character to do so, as I have shown in some of my short stories. My opportunity for revenge will arise one day, and I shall not miss it.
If Mais knew the literary world as he should, he would know that the writing of a novel like "Lilian" involves a considerable financial to its author, in the matter of serial rights alone. It would have been easy for me to write a novel twice as remunerative as "Lilian". Only I wanted to write "Lilian".
So, I feel better for having got that off my chest. On with the work of making a living and, hopefully, thereby adding a little something to the total of artistic achievement.