A New Novel by the Author of The Root and the Flower
Strange Glory. By L. H. Myers. (Putnam. 7s. 6d.)
Clansmen. By Ethel Boileau. (Hutchinson. 8s. 6d.) The Marchesa and Other Stories. By K. Swinstead-Smith. (I4ogarth Press.
Mud and Stars. By Robert Clive. (Constable. 7s. 6d.) Mixed Blood. By Eileen Dwyer. (Hutchinson. 7s. 6d.) Reviewed by FRANCIS BURDETT
There is a certain excitement in reading a new book by the author of The Root and the Flower. He wrote there how much he regretted that, though we hear so much about aesthetic sensibility, we hear so little about moral sensibility. To ignore moral problems, the questions about the why and the whither that can never be suppressed, is to become petty; to call such evasion emancipation is folly and a crude manifestation of folly.
Strange Glory reveals, naturally enough, an intense sensibility to character and to the springs and motives of character. Paulina, a young and rich woman, falls by accident into the company of Wentworth, who lives alone in the forest near Pontchartrain. She marries, unhappily, an English peer, and after three years returns to Pontchartrain and lives in Wentworth's house in the forest and cares for him in his last illness. A scientist, Stephen, home from Russia and lecturing in the town, also knows and visits Wentworth. He and Paulina fall in love. This is complicated by the fact that Stephen has a wife and child in Russia.
The aim of this beautifully written book is to disentangle, illuminate, the elements of life. To penetrate the "deep but dazzling darkness" that Vaughan says is to be found in God. Wentworth does reach some sort of incommunicable knowledge towards the end; his belief that "what you think, and what you are, become more important than 'good works' " verifies itself, to some extent, in Pauline. But beautiful and appealing as in many ways it is, there is an infinite pathos about this groping for "fullness of life." English writers seem so completely divorced from the Catholic tradition and in that tradition, to which unconsciously they grope their way, the answer lies.
Mrs. Boileau on the Highlands
Clansmen is a long novel dealing with several generations of a Highland family. The main interest, once we are acquainted with the family tradition and the Scottish setting, lies in the story of Alan Stewart and his servant and friend, Hector Stewart of the same clan. The family fortunes were wined by the too adventurous finance of an uncle who put himself on the wrong side
-f C.; Arclbreck, the family place, was let, and Alan, leaving the army, was forced to earn a modest living on the Stock Exchange.
Mrs. Boileau's pleasant writing reveals a love and appreciation for the Scots and their native land. Their idiosyncrasies, their loyalty, their patriotism and that something that so frequently makes them voluntary exiles from their native soil, is sympathetically presented. It is a smoothly running tale, but occasionally there is a tang in the turn of a phrase. Speaking of the modern glibness with psychological terminology, she says: All those cat-calls, in fact, of old-fashioned self-indulgence masquerading as modern psychology."
Distortions and Sordidness
Miss Swinstead-Smith writes extremely well and in The Marchesa has gathered together twelve vivid stories. Many deal with Calabria and its inhabitants, though one of the best, The Shaft, gives a glimpse of unemployed miners in Cornwall. The author is particularly interested in the physical side of life, especially in sex. She takes pleasure in a realism that inclines to physical crudities and in one story leads up to a most unpleasant conclusion, inevitable though unstated. The Bride tells how a girl, disfigured by a birthmark, is forced, or about to be forced, into a Carmelite convent. There is here, as so often in this sort of book, an utter carelessness of probability or truth.
The concluding story is packed with examples of this insensitiveness to anything except a rather cheap effect. Religion is distorted whenever it is touched; ignorance and a rather sensual imagination do what they will. Apart from this, there is a shrewd observation, tinged with satire, of the tragic happenings of daily life.
Mud and Stars is described on the wrapper as "delicate and amusing." We are also told that "the love affair of Peter and Caroline is a triumph of tenderness and sophistication." Actually the book is, doubtless deliberately, without charm and almost equally without interest. One of the characters says to a friend, "You've got a wonderful knack of reducing every discussion to its lowest terms of sordidness," and, not too unfairly, the same might be said of the author. Peter, after settling an earlier mistress into a hospital for ati operation to eliminate an unwanted child, falls in love with a married woman. This is described with a great deal of extremely dull discussion and we are left with a sad consciousness of the complete mental and moral bankruptcy of a certain sort of young person.
The Mexican Scene
Dona Antonia's Daughters was an excellent novel and now Miss Dwyer has given us Mixed Blood. Again the scene is Mexico, and we are introduced to a large family of mixed American and Mexican blood. The characterisation is good and we come to love the mother, as well as to understand the rather difficult characters of the sons. One, Ramon, is almost too despicable to be credible; he marries an American girl, whose sister embodies every crudity of a semi-educated American with a university degree, and is loved by her until illusion becomes impossible. The best of the book is found in the Mexican scene and in the sympathetic handling of the Mexican character. The story itself is weak and in places rather incoherent and difficult to follow.
Dance as an Art-Form. By La Men. (A. S. Barnes, New York. $1.50.) Reviewed by G. WYNNE RUSHTON I do not pretend to know anything at all about dancing, that is, dancing as a mode of artistic expression. But I have thoroughly enjoyed the Russian Ballet, and the famous season of 1914 at Drury Lane was one of my boyhood's unforgettable memories. When, therefore, this book was sent to me to review I was glad, as I hoped to learn a good deal from it. Alas for my hopes! While chapters VI to X inclusive, on national dances, are exceedingly interesting, the rest of the book is written in so involved a style as literally to tire the reader.
A Wide Field
Psychology and Modern Problems. Edited by J. A. Hadfield. (London University Press. 5s.)
Reviewed by C. L. C. BURNS
Every question of importance to mankind is nowadays called a " modern problem," although these problems are as old as the centuries. It used to be philosophy which was called in to answer them, now it psychology.
The book before us consists of a series of papers read at the Institute of Medical Psychology. The first two are on questions of anthropology and racial culture, and, although containing much fresh and interesting matter, they are only psychological in a very wide sense of the word (they are by Morris Ginsberg and Prof. Seligman respectively). The same applies to a sound but uninspired contribution by Prof. Ramsay Muir on " Liberty, Authority and Democracy."
Next there is Dr. Crichton-Miller on Educational Ideals, a disappointing contribution, on the whole, compared with his usual form. With Prof. Flugel we plunge into a Freudian chapter on the Psychological Aspects of Marriage; it is witty, ingenious, and shocking, but somehow the explanations have too much of the roundabouts-and-swings principal to be very convincing.
The next essay, by Dr. Emmanuel Miller, is entitled " The Artist in Modern Civilisation." He contrasts the artist swayed mainly by instinctual and emotional needs, with the scientist whose domain is the intellect. We would commend to him the scholastic view that art is an intellectual virtue. Nevertheless he is sound in his general viewpoint, that art is essentially the well making of thingsrecta ratio factibilium-as well as the expression of personality, and that it must reflect contemporary culture such as it is.
The final essay, by the Dean of St. Paul's, Dr. Matthews, on " Psychology and the Future of Religion" is in many ways one of the most interesting in the book. His defence of religious truth against the views of some psychologists who lack philosophy is convincing. One of the best bits about religion is to be found, however, in a footnote to Dr. Hadfield's excellent introductory chapter, where he says: " When Freud says that religion is an illusion, men call him a genius; when others say that life is an illusion, we call them pessimists: the truth may be that Freud also is a pessimist, and that his arguments spring more from his pessimism than from reason."
Essays Gone Astray
My Shakespeare, Rise! By Clara Longworth de Chambrun. (Shakespeare Press, Stratford-on-Avon; Lippincott, London. 7s. 6d.) Reviewed by G. WYNNE RUSHTON
I hope Madame de Chambrun will not feel it very ungracious of me if I say exactly what I think about her novel. It interested me enormously, it is packed with information, it is extremely documentebut there is so much in it that one can't see the wood for the trees. The result is that only here and there does it come alive.
The book opens very slowly, too slowly, but is very interesting once you can get past the opening chapters. It must be confessed that it is interesting not so much as a novel but as a recital of possible facts. Madame de Chambrun gives us, in footnotes, chapter and verse that buttress her assumption so well that one feels it is all the greater pity that she did not write a book on Shakespeare instead of a novel with him as the central character.
This may seem cavilling criticism considering that she has already written in French three books on Shakespeare and one on Florio, while her book on Hamlet was awarded the Prix Jules Favre and is "cour: rone par L'Academie de France." She has also published two of these works in English. Nevertheless, I feel very strongly that My Shakespeare, Rise! would have made a very considetable addition to the literature of its subject had it been cast in, say, essay form instead of novel form. With her quite amazing knowledge of Shakespeare and his period one can understand what a temptation it was to write a novel with him as hero-yet for all her love he is not as alive in her pages as old Joyce Lucy or Mary Arden or Anne Hathaway.
Break Thou My Heart. By Vera Marie Tracy. (Bruce, U.S.A.: Coldwell, London. 7s. 6d.)
Reviewed by IRIS CONLAY
These dozen short stories are delicate little things-so fragile that only those who are sure that the fine point of their susceptibilities has not been blunted by any worldly cynicism should be allowed to read them. They would break into fragments under any rude touch.
Miss Tracy has all the simplicity of mind that should belong to the inhabitants of a New World. Instead of using it to produce tough fairy tales about gangsters, she uses it to produce tender ones about orphan children and their touching devotion to their faith.
If you dislike unreality and sentiment you must leave the book alone, for these qualities are intrinsic, not accidentaL to
Break Thou My &art,