15 MAY 1915, Page 23


UNOFFICIAL* NOVELS with a. war motive are already beginning to pour from the press. Mr. Bohun Lynch, however, has wisely abstained from any premature attempt to extract picturesque or romantic material from the welter of the campaign: he is rather concerned with the psychological aspect of the war as it affects a particular type. To speak roughly, his novel describes the gradual development of the sense of patriotic self-sacrifice in a man of artistic temperament, hampered by peculiar conditions. The narrator has not the excuse of age or physical disability for hanging back. He is young, big and strong, and a good shot with a rifle. Even in the early stages of the war it is borne in on him that nothing is the same as usual. His " absurd little world " has been taken away from him. " Merriness and dilettantism in any sustained degree have become impossible." He is envious of those who have gone, and filled with remorse for his earlier patronizing con- tempt of his Philistine and athletic friends. He recognizes that " Simple Faith, which is amazingly efficacious in a tight corner, and Norman Blood, which races through veins to get itself spilt, have at length asserted their supremacy over Money, which, though indispensable, is exceedingly eager to forget itself." Yet he remains, and lives in comfort on the proceeds of "potboiling "—by drawing sentimental war pictures for a paper owned and edited by "one of those dreadful people who thoroughly understand how to make money, but whose pose it is to be ashamed of himself." The ordeal of his humiliation becomes heavier every day. His relations begin to look askance at him. He cannot travel in a 'bus without incurring hostile scrutiny. He feels that it is "in vile taste to live in a nice room in comfort, when thousands upon thousands were living in the appalling horror of the trenches." The society of his particular friend, a lame man, becomes almost intolerable from his friend's curiosity as to the motives which restrain him from volunteering for active service. And then the real reason is revealed. The narrator is not a coward or a pacificist: but he • Unlicial. By Bohun Lynch. London: Martin Seeker. f6Ll

has drifted, more from chivalry than passion, into the position of protector of the deserted wife of an ill-conditioned friend. Mae is destitute of resources, helpless, and incapable of fending for herself and her child or of earning a livelihood. His efforts to secure her employment meet with failure, and when he tries to interest his well-to-do relations in the case they place the worst possible construction on his intentions. Thus a situation is reached in which he can only support a woman who is in love with him by remaining at home and doing uncongenial and even ignominious work, while the alternative of his going to the front will inevitably, as he believes, expose her—vulgar, attractive, and weak as she is—to temptations which she has not the strength of character to resist. Here, then, we have a problem novel ingeniously adapted to the conditions of the hour, and written with the skill which characterized Glamour, Mr. Lynch's exciting tale of the Greek islands. The hesitancy of the narrator is explained, if not completely vindicated, but we cannot altogether acquit Mr. Lynch of a certain artificiality in his method of balancing, or endeavouring to balance, the scales, for the ultimate decision of the artist is implicit in the opening pages of the book. Unofficial has also the drawback, which only writers of supreme talent are able to overcome, of being a novel without either hero or heroine, for Mr. Lynch insists too rigorously on the vulgarity and fecklessness of the unhappy Nancy Binfield for the reader to accord her more than compassion.