19 JUNE 1926, Page 28


Tom Fool. By F. Tennyson Jesse. (Heinemann. 7s. 6d. net.)—Tom Fool had a genuis for life and a -genius for the sea He came of a Lancashire family of cotton operatives who had emigrated to Australia at the time of the war of American Independence. From his earliest youth he had had his moments of acute conciousness, of intense excitement, but it was not until he first saw ships that he realized where fate would lead him. He saw them, as a little boy, " ignorantly, uncomprehending the wherefore of their beauty, but sure to his heart that of all the lovely things the hand and mind of man has created there is nothing so lovely as a ship." When Older, he discovered the elusive quality which he so loved in ships was also sometimes possessed by birds and women. After years of gold digging in Australia, the spell of the sea fell urgently upon him once more and, leaving his family, he sailed away as an able seaman in a ship bound for the Chincha islands. Later he joined the ' Dusky Bride,' " a brig of greyhound lines. . . . Her figurehead was a young negress, wearing a ifearlet turban and pouting her lips as though in a perpetual kiss." Tom loved her from the moment his eyes rested upon bpi'. His course led him through adventures of every kind ; he loved and was loved in return ; but it is not what he did that is the chief interest in the book, but what he was.

Tom knew what for him was worth while in life, sought it and gained it and finally paid the price of his life for it. He lived for those moments of exquisite consciousness, when fear, joy and beauty are one. He sought danger rather than security, excitement rather than peace. With intense sin- cerity and refreshing lack of cynicism, the author has depicted an attractive and vigorous character. The picture of sea life in the latter half of the eighteenth century is realistically painted, sometimes in almost too crude colours.