13 MAY 1943, Page 20

Shorter Notices

The Old Lion and Other Stories. By Walter de la Mare. (Faber and Faber. 3s. 6d.) THESE stories, selected from three of Mr. de la Mare's books for children, reveal his power not so much of creating a new world outside this one as of transforming the familiar world from within. Each story begins with its feet planted solidly on this earth, with Mr. Bumps in Portsmouth, Maria in a drawing-room, little Sambo in the doctor's tall brown house or John Cobbler in the village of Tussock in Wiltshire ; and each story turns that corner into Looking Glass Land where the humdrum becomes the incalculably strange. It is -in the adroit turning of this corner that Mr. de la Mare shows his humour and imaginative tact, for all that happens is refracted through the mind of the small human hero, the core of sanity amid enchantment. The problem for the writer of such tales as these is that of entering a child's mind without having to stoop. Mr. de la Mare has never yet mislaid that little bottle with " Drink Me " on its label, and is as instantly at home in the tree- tops of the Mulla Mulgars as in the deepwater realms of the Lord Fish. Like the child, he sees his world through the microscope, and can create a mysterious whole by painting vividly a hundred minute particulars. In this world everything exists and is equal by its own right, because everything is itself ; a fly on the door-panel is no less mysterious to Maria than a talking fish to Jack Cobbler. Hence the queer authentic inconsequentiality of • these stories, the unbewildered acceptance of the incredible, the dreamlike absence of surprise. For everything that happens happens in that eternity between the pendulum's tick and tock, when the realisa- tion comes, as it came once to Jean Paul Richter, that " I am a ME." Miracle on the Congo : Report from the Free French Front. By