11 JANUARY 1908, Page 27


ALTHOUGH these little sketches have not the serious and dramatic interest of Lady Bell's At the Works, they are an excellent vehicle for displaying another form of their author's literary gift. In some ways Lady Bell is at her best in fugitive papers like these. Her touch is so light and her point of view so full of humour that it is impossible for any one who takes up this little book not to continue reading it from sheer delight at the instinct which it displays for the graceful and appropriate use of words. There is a slight sub.. flavour of seriousness about the papers which does not detract from their charm, and they are all concerned with various phases of modern life. "The Boycotted Author" recalls how in a recent controversy between the publishers and a library the rights of the unfortunate author were ruth- lessly sacrificed by both sides. There is a slight tinge of exaggeration in "Man and Motorman" which is a little out of key with the rest of the book. The motor is not a subject on which controversialists on either side seem able to keep their heads. The best of the papers is that on "Chairs and their Occupants," the reading of which should be rendered obligatory on every budding hostess. In fact, • Topics for Conversation. By Lady Bell. London : Arthur L. Humphreys. [Ss. 13,1. net.] mothers should read it aloud to their adolescent daughters, teaching them the while bow serious a thing it is to try to entertain their friends, and how absolutely their success depends on mastering the principles which go to the arrange- ment of chairs in a drawing-room. Who has not euffered a party from some such accident as the following 9— " A big arm-chair with wheels, that can go coursing all over the room at a touch, is as dangerous to the social scheme as an emperor with genius. It may be propelled by the indiscreet into a space where it blocks circulation as effectively as an ironclad sunk at the entrance of a harbour."

Although the paragraph is too long to quote in full, two more sentences of infinite wisdom must be preserved for our readers:—

" I would strongly advise the anxious hostess to remove the wheels from her arm-chairs, as the wings of a bird are clipped, and have these more serious chairs dotted about in places where they will remain, sometimes in couples and sometimes alone. l3nt in either case let there be smaller chairs near, which can be lifted and brought up to the side of the greater one; there must never be a sitting place for two without the possibility of at least another person joining them."

It is a good thing that Lady Bell should have drawn attention to the much-neglected subject of the placing of chairs in society, and should have done it in such a way that the careless are amused, while at the same time those who take the art of entertaining seriously are instructed.