15 MAY 1915, Page 24

Starveacre. By J. Mills Witham. (Methuen and Co. 6e.) —The

writer of Starveacre is certainly at his ease in a dramatic situation. There are powerful emotions flaring against the quiet country background of Thunderton, and those characters who are most nearly touched by passion, whether it be the passion of man toward woman, of enemy toward friend, or of husband toward lover, are well and con- sistently drawn; while they hold the stage, the story of Brenda, though it is one which has no especial originality to commend it, is human and thrilling. But where there can be no question of strong emotion, when the writer is either dealing with subsidiary characters whose interest would be heightened by a lighter and more subtle touch, or is speaking his own thoughts with no fictional agency, he has much to learn. In both cases he is unconvincing, and in both the inadequacy is due, not to any lack of understanding, but to faults of style ; in the first, to an unwise use of local dialect :—

• Ye do put things flowery, being read in good things. But master be a rare lad for all that "; and in the second, to a neglect of the wholesome Anglo-Saxon tongue. Perhaps we are ungraciously critical, but it is vexing to feel ourselves hampered in the enjoyment of a story which is capable and individual.