16 OCTOBER 1953, Page 26

Leaving 'Day

Souls in Torment. By Ronald Searle. (Perpetua. 12s. 6d.) A DRAUGHTSMANSHIP at once delicate and boldly architectural, a wit subtle, high-spirited, masculine and schizophrenic—it is this combination which provides Mr. Ronald Searle with his shattering effects and makes him unique among British cartoonists. To a generation returning from the wars and settling down with all inscrutable and dangerous Peace, St. Trinians has been as necessary as Broadmoor; but we cannot stay at school for ever; the great world of a Peace not less inscrutable or dangerous than we had thought, but perhaps more durable, beckons on the other side of the gates, and we must lengthen our skirts and put away the sten-gun and the gin bottle. For this book marks the end of St. Trinians, the end, as Mr. Day Lewis writes in it, of Those pale Medusas of the Upper Fourth Those Marihuanas of the Moated Grange.

There are replacements: "Dear Diary," "The Printed Word," "How to get a rise . . ."—variations absurd and sinister produced from themes which might be thought ineluctably familiar: The ordinary "humour," by which in our newspapers we are surrounded and protected, consists in taking a situation and getting the fun out of it as one gets wrappings off a parcel. Mr. Searles method is different; he puts a bomb inside the parcel and explodes it. It is the method of nuclear fission. He sees the network of cracks in what appears to other people•an unbreakable solid; the network of cracks is a potentiality of violence, and in his appreciation of the potentiality of violence lies the essence of Mr. Searle's wit.

And so, though the vultures gather over the smoking ruins of St. Trinians, and we shall not see again such sights as the Devil with fang-toothed brat in the line on Parents' Day, or the portentous hippo in the Gothic corridor outside the Headmistress's study, we need not suffer too fierce a regret. Mr. Searle's is the wit of his age; and his age will naturally provide him with material.