20 MARCH 1942, Page 20

Angles and Angels

To interpret a new spirit, non-political but radical, as it will be applied to various phases of modern life is the aim of the new series called Bridgeheads, edited by Misses Sayers and St. Clare Byrne, in which The Mind of the Master has already become widely known, but it is doubtful whether the contributors in general are of a calibre " To build right over Chaos A cantilever bridge."

Miss Ellis-Fermor's subject is the living or " poetic " imagina- tion, and as a scholar and the winner of a Rose Mary Crawshay prize for literature she might have been expected to go rather deeper and to have cast her net wider to do justice to it. The creative Imagination, Coleridge's " shaping spirit," calls for a new and broader interpretation today beyond its function in art, for it is the co-ordinating principle that alone can make a synthesis of the forces of reason on the one hand and the instincts and emotions on the other. And synthesis is the essence of maturity: it is not the same as compromise but it has much in common that could be explored with the old Virtue of temperance and the ancient Golden Mean. That Imagination is independent of intel- lectuality accounts for those intellectual failures of judgement which are often difficult to understand, as its independence of emotion also accounts for the maladjustments which follow from thinking only with the blood: it is something that may be found in Wordsworth's leech-gatherer and not in a Lord Chancellor: in a passionate Spinoza, polishing lenses all his life, and not in Byron.

" The faculty of imagination has, in its function as a transmuter of life no less than in its function as creator of art, two main characteristics : it is positive and it works towards delight, that delight which to the artist and to the man of imaginative life, is a sacrament."

That is a sample of Miss Ellis-Fermor's obiter dicta which are often interesting, but she does not help her theme by her device of illustrating it with a self-conscious fictional form. She tells three stories to point her moral : one about a country- man, Lakes and Lake School ; another about a contemporary stockbroker, discontented in spite of all his modern conveniences and, in contrast to him, a well-adjusted publisher who has a happy family and mends his own fuses. They are studies in Fancy, not Imagination: it would have been better to spare the space to the Biographia Literaria.

Miss Buck also has a message, originally delivered in the pages of Harper's Magazine from which it is not easy to see why it was