27 DECEMBER 1919, Page 18


MOUNT MUSIC.• Tuotort the long and fruitful collaboration of the two famous Irish cousins was severed by death four years ago, Mount Music, as the survivor tells us in the Preface, was planned and partly written in " Martin Ross's " lifetime. " Without her help and Inspiration it would not have been begun, and could not have been completed." That Miss Somerville should have had the courage to go on with the task is a matter for unmixed satisfaction. The story is not so closely knit as the finest of their achievements, The Real Charlotte, the gape in the narrative involving an episodic treatment ; but it is enough to say that the tradition is worthily maintained throughout. It is a unanimous book, and alike in description, characterization, and dialogue preserves that unerring felicity of phrase, wide range of sympathy, and intrepid humour which were first exhibited in An Irish Cousin.

Mount Musk is a tale of Ireland in transition, beginning in the late " eighties " and ending early in this century. In the modest phrase used in the Epilogue, it is " no more than an effort to lift, for a moment, the inevitable curtain that hangs between Irish and English everyday life." The years in which the action takes place mark the passing of the old landlord regime, incarnate in the person of Major Richard Talbot-Lowry, a genial, improvi- dent, dashing, and artless sportsman. " He and his generation, reactionaries almost to a man, instead of attempting to ride the waves of the rising tide, subscribed their guineas to construct breakwaters that were pathetic in their futility. History may condemn the folly of the Old Guard of the ' English Garrison,' gallant in resistance, barren in expedient, but it cannot deny, even though it may deride, its fidelity." The fortunes of Dick Talbot-Lowry are traced in the three phases of dwindling powers but still considerable prestige, ineffectual defiance—when he refused to sell his estates—and evacuation. And the situation is complicated for him by the fact that his estate marches with that of a young kinsman, a Roman Catholic and a Home Ruler, the playmate, and in time the lover, of Dick's daughter Christian. For, while the authors hold the balance with rigid impartiality, they leave little doubt as to their conviction that the canker in the Spirit of the Nation is religious intolerance. The blame is equally apportioned, and between Black Protestants and un- compromising Romans we are shown varying shades of religious opportunism and wise toleration. Larry Coppinger, the young Home Ruler, was "in tune with all the world" ; and if Christian yielded to the wishes of her father when he was broken in health, she had personally no fear of a mixed marriage. They are both attractive and generous young people, but the finest portrait is that of Francis Mangan, the " big doctor like an elephant in his hugeness and suppleness, his dangerousness and his gentle- ness." His relations to his father confessor and his family, his social ambitions and real benevolence, make a wonderful amalgam. As for Mrs. Mangan, we cannot resist quoting the description of her at Larry's picnic. " The five years that had elapsed since Larry was her guest had effected less change in her than in him. Save the bisonian fringe now held a grey hair or two in its dark depths, and the curves, that had suggested a • Mount Music. By E. W. Somerville and Martin Ross. London: Long- Mans. La. 6c1. new Chesterfield sofa to her young friend, were now something more opulent than they had been, Mrs. Mangan's progress along the corridor of eternity had made no perceptible mark on her." And how good is the phrase applied to the conversation of their amiable, diffident, and impulsive son—" the disordered violence of a shy man." But the authors of the R.M. are not content with labels—their characters live' and act and talk up to them, whether they be priests or dairywomen, great ladies or bold scalp-hunters like Miss Letitia Mangan. Few types of Irish country life are lacking in this episodic panorama of Ireland in transition. The atmosphere is inevitably autumnal, though it is lit by many gleams of sunshine, and the story ends on a note very far from despair., Our only serious complaint is not with the authors but the printers, who have done their work in a most slovenly fashion.