19 JULY 1940, Page 20

Animals and Magic

Pr vats Road. By Forrest Reid. (Faber. toe.. 64:1.1 IN Apostate Mr. Reid told the story of his childhood and youth. In the present volume he takes up the tale where he left it off. He paints for us a young man interested chiefly in writing, an admirer of Pater and Henry James, and an imitator of them for a while, until he found his own manner. Like many other original writers, he was troubled by the implications of his imaginative vision of things. He was acutely aware of another world behind the world of fact—a world of which he has given such a perfect impression in The Retreat. This world, if it existed, raised an intellectual problem, and in the hope of finding a solution for it he betook himself to FE. The account of their meetings is amusing and a little exasperating ; 1E was benevolent, mildly dogmatic, and filled with the wisdom of the East. Mr. Reid did not find in /Vs mythologies any solution for his problem ; neither could he accept the Christian explana- tion ; and finally he felt it better to resign himself to the mystery, a decision to which he seems to have held ever since. The main drawback of his choice he mentions himself. His awareness of the other world is of no help to him in times of crisis or grief, for it comes to him only in states of peaceful happiness. Wordsworth's belief was that moments of illumination could be stored in the mind, to be drawn upon when they were most needed ; but that does not seem to be Mr. Reid's experience, nor does it seem to have been Wordsworth's experience in the long run.

This book does not have the exciting quality of its predecessor, perhaps because Mr. Reid does not think manhood is so interest- ing and significant as childhood. His most magical chapter is about animals, mainly dogs and cats, round whom always clings a vestige of die enchantment of childhood. He is admirable on dogs, but perhaps a little unfair to cats. Yet he humanises neither, and sees them as parts of the timeless animal creation, leaving them their indefeasible heraldic Integrity. He has had fewer supernatural experiences than might have been expected in the author of " The Retreat," who made the supernatural so vivid and convincing. A momentary glimpse of Ronald Firbank is one of the best things in the book. Some of the dreams are very beautiful, with the formal beauty and indecipherable signi- ficance of dreams. But most of the story takes place in the world of fact, not in that other world which is so much more imagina- tively real to the author, and this may account for the absence of excitement. Nevertheless this is an unusually charming and