'James Hanley's workmates laughed when he taught himself French by reading the Mercure de France...Working the night shift at a railway station, Hanley withdrew into the work of Moliere, Hauptmann, Calderon, Sudermann, Ibsen, Lie and Strindberg until he grew quite cozy in his literary shell. His parents were appalled that he had no friends. But I've hundreds of friends he protested. "Bazarov and Rudin and Liza and Sancho Panza and Eugenie Grandet". His father countered with Squeers, Nickleby, Snodgrass and Little Nell: "And they're a healthy lot I might say, whereas all your friends have either got consumption, or are always in the dumps".'