7 SEPTEMBER 1951, Page 24

Ballet and Autobiography

In His True Centre. An Interim Autobiography. By Arnold Haskell. (Black. 2 Is.) ARNOLD HASKELL'S story is simple. The son of a wealthy materialistic father and a cultured mother whose tastes he inherited, he.tried his hand at various occupations until, in his forties, hecame upon -his métier and found fulfilment as director of the newly established Sadler's Wells School. To judge by almost any standards, Mr. Haskell's life has, so far, proved singularly smooth-flowing and, as the author puts it, " refreshingly free from problems and entangle- ments "—so much so that most men, with far more spectacular careers, would not have thought this one yorth recounting. Neither is Mr. Haskell's vision or style of tquality which is able to transport the commonplace and unevent%into the worlds of rarity and magic, thus delighting—irrespective Wf content—by the sheer beauty of artistic achievement. But in all fairness Mr. Haskell himself would be the last person to claim such attributes fore his book. He believes that "anyone who sets down his story simply and sincerely . . . deserves a hearing," and, although I do not agree that this is a good enough excuse for writing a book, Mr. Haskell, in In His True Centre has fulfilled his own conditions. He has told his own story simply and. I should say, fairly sincerely, and has shown himself as a man who is shy and unassuming in front of strangers, reserving the endearing qualities of loyalty, warmth of heart and generosity of mind for those closer to him. Mr. Haskell must have made enemies during his many years' contact with a profession far from- free from jealousies and pettiness, so it is especially refreshing to note that in the 300 pages of his reminiscences he has mentioned no individual dispara- gingly and has praised many. The author is naturally at his best when recounting his, visits to the ballet, his tours with de Basil, his work as critic and later as lecturer. and- finally his profession as schoolmaster." With ballet he is on his own ground, and although at times—and despite his high opinion of his own objectivity—he does allow the glow of friendship to tint his critical spectacles, his many years as student and observer have solidified his standards without ossifying his vision. Of all the arts in which, as a young man, he was interested, Mr. Haskell has remained most faithful to, and becorne most knowledgeable about.