10 MAY 1930, Page 19

In demurely humorous imitation of the old eighteenth century manner,

Mr. Walter de in Mare describes his- book, Desert Islands (Faber and Faber, 21s.) as being" The Voyage of a Hulk, called by courtesy a Lecture, that was launched under the Auspices of the Royal Society of Literature . . . was afterwards frequently in Dock again for repair and then refitted for Farther Adventurings, and so at length became laden with an unconscionable Cargo of Odds and Ends and Flotsam and Jetsam, much of it borrowed from other vessels infinitely more Seaworthy than itself and most of that concerned with . . . Islands, some of them Real, some of them Allegorical, and the rest purely Fabulous, together with a rambling discourse concerning Daniel Defoe, and his Elective Affinity, Robinson Crusoe " ; and this sub-title, though properly over-modest, is such an honest and absolute summary that it would seem almost impertinent of the reviewer to attempt to give, in his own words, a better idea of the book's contents. It is true that there is a great borrowing from other vessels, the bulk of the work being an appendix of quotations compiled from notes made on the short introductory essay on Robinson Cru.soe and islands in general, and one agrees with the author that the whole seems to be put together in a most "unmethodical fashion." But Desert Islands is far from being a mere anthology, and it is certainly much more enchanting than a volume of formal literary criticism could be. Though perhaps slightly irritated

at first by its inconsequence, reading on one begins to fall under the spell, by way of Mr. de la Mare's fine sinuous prose and fanciful comments, of those distant places, those buc- caneers' islands and remote wave-washed ocean rocks, by which he himself is so strongly fascinated. And our vessel, instead of a leaky hulk, becomes a barque voyaging on spread- ing sails towards the Hesperides : to some ultimate island of the imagination that, in the poet's words, ." lifts itself from the snows of its surges, serene, strange, aloof in its forlorn beauty, dumb clock of countless ages, the kindly nursery of seal and sea-lion, and green with palm and tamarisk." Mr. Rex Whistler delightfully pictures for us the castaway in that remote place resisting the blandishments of the siren mermaid.

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