15 APRIL 1922, Page 22


LORD DUNSANYS NEW ROMARCE.t LORD DumeNy's novel is a romance of the golden age of Spain, written in highly decorated prose. Even those who have • The Inferno of Dante Atiohieri, : a New Rhythmical Version. By Henry John Hooper. London : Boutledge. ge.1 t The Chronicles of Rodriguez. By Lprd Dunsany. London : G. P. Putnam's Sons. 17s. ad. net.] a limited appetite for the works of the more genteel picaresque and peripatetic school of writing will be bound to acknowledge that The Chronicles of Rodriguez are not without charm. Here and there the writing is amateurish ; especially is this notice- able in the occasional self-conscious breaking in of the first person singular and of our sudden emergence from the atmosphere of the tale. The following passage is typical of what we mean :- " Morano's expressions of gratitude were in keeping with that flowery period in. Spain, and might appear ridiculous were I to expose them to the eyes of an age in which one in MorEum's place on such an occasion would have merely said, Damned good of you old nut, not half,' and let the matter drop. I merely record therefore that Merano was grateful and so expressed himself."

Again, Lord Dunsany sometimes confuses its employment as ornament with the true use of simile for the attainment of greater sharpness and exactitude in a description. We recom- mend to him Mr. Middleton Murry's book upon style, which is reviewed in another column. He is too often content to use the slipshod adjective, or to plunge into metaphors because he feels that a passage is a little bald. Lord Dunsany, though he sometimes achieves it, does not often use that highest sort of style which is taught by direct observation, he has only occa- sionally the touch which repristinates language and makes it shimmer like the scales of a newly caught mackerel. The Elizabethan age was the prime age of this faculty. Open Shakespeare almost at random and you will find examples of it. For instance, in _King Lear the French King, when he hears that Lear has cast off Cordelia, says that he cannot believe that she who was " the balm " of Lear's age could in a moment

" Commit a thing so monstrous to dismantle So many folds of faith."

But it would be ungracious to treat Lord Dunsany's readable, pleasant book with a stern 'justice that should in this class of tale be only called down by affectation. Lord Dunsany tells his version of the " Grateful Magician " legend very agreeably. The tale seems to have been the product of a genuine impulse and to have clothed itself in its elaborate style quite naturally. And that is something to be grateful for.

There is a description at the end of the book of a ride through a forest which is charming :—

" When Moran° had packed up those few belongings that make a dwelling-place of any chance spot in the wilderness, they mounted the horses and rode away through sunlight and green leaves. They rode slow, for the branches were low over the path, and whoever canters in a forest and closes his eyes against a branch has to consider whether he will open them to be whipped by the next branch or close them till he bumps his head into a tree."

The bowmen of the King of the Shadowy Valley are building the magic castle layer by layer with huge, rough trees cut from the forest :— " That evening Castle Rodriguez was fifteen feet high. And still the hundred bowmen hewed at the forest, bringing sunlight bright on to grass that was shadowed by oaks for ages. And at the end of the fifth day they began to roof the lower rooms and make their second floor : and still the castle grew a layer a day. . . . And now they began to heap up rocks in a mass of mortar against the wall on the outside, till a steep slope guarded the whole of the lower part of the castle against fire from any attacker if war should come that way, in any of the centuries that were yet to be : and the deep windows they guarded with bars of iron. . . . The main doorway opened to the great hall, in which a pile of a few huge oaks was being transformed into a massive stair. Three figures of strange men held up this ceiling with their heads and uplifted hands, when the castle was finished ; but as yet the carvers had only begun their work, so that only here and there an eye peeped out, or a smile flickered, to give any expression to the curious faces of these fabulous creatures of the wood, which were slowly taking their shape out of three trees whose roots were still in the earth below the floor."

In these scenes are perhaps the richest of the veins of phantasy ; though those who have travelled in modern. Spain will enjoy the fantastic exaggeration with which " La Garda," the emissaries of justice, are described, while the duel, which is fought with the accompaniment of an obbligato frying-pan, is an amusingly treated piece of the correct stuff of the picaresque