20 DECEMBER 1930, Page 28


Love Among the Authors

Seed. By Charles C. Norris. (Heinemann. 8s. 6d.) As Lady Chatterley's Lover it was impossible for D. H.

Lawrence to take the interpretation of his mission further. He had attempted to burn his native, nonconformist con- science alive and to teach us how to burn ours, but he scorched a great deal of the artist in the process. Emphatically we needed what he taught, but, whereas the manner of his teaching embarrassed his friends and brought down a reaction of confusion and ridicule from its enemies, the natural ardours of his art alone would have impressed us perfectly without antagonizing any but thoSe to whom art means nothing. After Lady Chatlerley's Lover what remained for him to do ? To rediscover the unalloyed artist in himself ? That seems to be the attempt in The Virgin and the Gipsy, which comes to us now after his death, tragic and with the frail mien of a late flower, careless of the manner and season of its coining.

One 'cannot truly criticize the book for one does not know what revisions he would have made, where he would have cut and where amplified. One feels he would have amplified it without vitiating the lively simplicity of its composition and the beautiful economy of narrative, the sureness of its passage through character and event. One -mlises perhaps- the full ring of that' hammer-on-anvil style, which made pages and pages of his work seem like the dark forge of Vulcan; sparking and flaming to the powerful, animal rhythms of his poetic genius. One finds a great deal more than a sketch for a long novel, something a little less than an idyll caught out of the shadows of a grey, mind-tortured world.

The title is the idyll. It is the story of the attraction of a young, inexperienced girl, who is the daughter of a self- pitying rector living a grotesque and ghastly life with his mother and elderly sister, to a gipsy who camps near the house in a northern town. The girl burns like a flame among these bleak and charred embers of humanity. They—one does not expect Lawrence to reflect—may have burned in their time. They- are all pitiable, terrible, except, the old grandmother who is a marvellous creation, and is unutterably hateful and grotesque. The climax of the story is extra- ordinary and perfect in its way, yet like so many perfect things in Lawrence almost_ ridiculous. It leaves one with some suspicions of Lawrence's manipulations of psychology. The girl and the gipsy have escaped death by flood and they are islanded in a water-ruined house. Surely, a fear of sudden death, a mad desire_ for rescue at all costs would have been

stronger than the. mere fear of catching cold ? Could they possibly have slept after such turmoil, indeed, with it still continuing ? One is not asking Lawrence to make'realism of his idyll but to convince us of his psychology. One does not know how he would have revised this scene. It is the intent' of a free and high imagination and a master hand. Its pity, tenderness, beauty and impatience are clear as laughter : he seems to have two moods, that of the delighted laughing, scornful, animal in man, and that of the disgust of the Mind's' slave. Often enough Lawrence has written of women as men hoped they were; but in this book, the girl is natural and true. His intuition is exact. If there is little preaching in this book and if—as one wonders—it was the opening-of a new development in his talent rather than the last gesture of an old one, hid dilemma is predented in a new way : he stands divided between fantasy and fact, between the poet and the realism of the pits. Hence the bathos which tripped up the agility and liveliness of his genius, and which is a far greater enemy to his reputation than the dull fulminations Of his censors. How soon they will be forgotten!

Because he was a Puritan mystic Lawrence did not believe that they order these things better in France. He could not understand the point of view that you have nothing to say unless you know how to say it with irreproachable art ; that there is an extraneous self which must be subdued. Yet Eva, by its studied lack of emphasis, its pure simplicity, its way of artlessly creating a situation out of a whole climate of suggestion and reflection, can probe a tragedy, of married life to the bone almost without directing the redder to the place where the wound lies. This book is the journal of a man who has willingly devoted all his life to the love of his wife, who knows her character intimately, and is happy to give up his own interests and friends one by one that her every wish may be fed and guarded. He knows everything about her, so deep is his joy in their marriage and so apparently selfless the sacrifice—he knows everything—except that she has never loved him. He knows therefore nothing. He is utterly out of touch. Slightly monotonous, probably because it is too long seen through the eyes of this uncomprehending man, the book is yet a lucid and penetrating interpretation.

Agreeing with his predecessors on this list that love is the greatest thing in the world, Mr. Bell understands that to put it like that is to be damned. He is a promising artist who knows that truth must be cunningly robed to survive. He has accordingly borrowed some of the fantastical garments which his compatriot, Mr. James Branch Cabell, stole from Anatole France's wardrobe, and has repaired the rents of cynicism in then'. It is impossible to describe the plot beyond saying that it is the caustic and magical story of the interweaving of amorous intrigue in a kingdom half-way between the heaven of Illyria and a satirical suggestion of present-day earth. Mr. Bell's attempts at nonchalant; philosophic ripeness are mannered, imitative and poor, but these defects are redeemed by passages of beauty in the writing, a glib wit in dialogue and a pretty air of originality. The things that. Mr. Bell must beware of are the atmosphere of Ye Olde Giftic Shoppe and the confectionery effects of the stained glass window shining on snow.

Seed is an American book also, a story which begins as a saga on the pioneer ranching life of the Californian and Mexican border and narrows down to a treatise on birth prevention. A Roman Catholic born in a Roman Catholic community where the women rapidly become wrecks through excessive child-bearing and hard housework with it, the hero of the story has his affairs, marries a Hoinan Catholic wife, leaves her—thereby freeing his mind for' success in his career as a writer—and returns to her disillusioned, probably to be the father of more unwanted children. He is the kind of misery who goes half-way to meet trduble on every occasion,' and unfortunately the author is not detached from him. The book contains a great host of characters and scenes and is not much more than an interesting accumulation. The cover states that the author even doubts whether love can 'ever be reconciled to life—a very pretentkius version of the pathetic conflicts of his hero's .unhealthy conscience, though the dilemma—birth prevention or haraased poverty—is still a very real one in certain communities.