17 JUNE 1949, Page 32

A Short History of English Literature. By B. Ifor Evans.

(Staples 7s. 6d.)

IN this two-hundred-page view of the whole of English literature the bones are all there and in the right proportions-; but the modelling of the flesh is necessarily (shall we say ?) chancy. For however well this sort of work is done, and the Principal of Queen Mary College has done it admirably, it is by its very nature bound to distort. The omissions have to be drastic, the responses stock responses (to offer anything else would be unfair to the innocent reader), and judgements dogmatic. There can be no space for dis- cussion, for half-lights, for explaining what a compressed statement means. Does it, we wonder, convey anything of Marvell to the ignorant, for whom this book is presumably written, to say that in his early verses " nature and contemplation and retirement unite in a lyrical poetry which is at once gentle and strong" ? Neverthe- less, the book is easily readable—surprisingly, seeing how packed it is and its popularity as a "Pelican" has caused the demand for this library edition. Luckily, Dr. Ifor Evans finds room occasionally to squeeze in such a remark as: " Some have thought it easy to write like Crabbe as, unfortunately, sometimes Crabbe did himself." A book which leads gently into an orthodoxy already here and there a little out of date.