Page images
PDF
EPUB

"I'm sorry, Melisse, if I have made a gaff."

"Not a bit; jolly good tib. The thing about England today is that we are too English. Whang here knows better.

He eats anything." Trevor smiled queerly.

"Are you quite, quite sure?" asked Melisse.

"Rather! And, by the way, is it full fig tonight?"

"Just as you like. Meemie will be there."

"Full fig, then."

"I thought so."

"I thought you would think so.'

"It was good of you to get me Rennie Cleenist, though. I do hope he'll behave and not be full of Debt Refunding. I'm putting him between Lillie Omster and Neyla Brann. Seven. You know them all. Oh, and you mustn't mind if Old Wadney talks Merchant Marine. He loves it so. Did you read Willie's story about him? Oh, too frightfully amusing - clearly meant for H. K. V. Whang, put that hat down! Whose hat is it?"

"Mine," said Lister, as he entered the room, "but never mind. We sold those ships."

IV

NAPIN REFULGENT

Bug

which engulfed him. Capital. Labour. Tripe! It was man against man. against bug. Oxford against Cambridge. And Napin had stolen rudders.

"See here, Napin! Come home with me and have a drink. You'll jolly well need one."

Tony said nothing but put on someone's hat and coat which were hanging on the wall and waited for Lister to lead the way.

"Napin, old bean," said Lister, "you're about done in. How can a man funk it when the world is as it is today? Look at the Liberals. Fed up on Liability Insurance. Look at the Labour Party. Eating Enfranchisement pap. Look at the Hangnail Prevention League. Nothing

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

ΤΩΝ

V
MELISSE

ONY NAPIN had been in the room with Melisse just fifteen minutes when he asked her to run away with him. The afternoon sun was slanting in through the stained glass windows on which old Manton

Tthan it had ever been. In fact,

HE Board Room was no brighter Hoag, sixteenth baronet, had had let

as Lister sat and poked holes in the map of Solvent Europe, the room seemed full of four per cents. Napin had been caught. Why quibble about that? Caught red handed, stealing the rudders off the ships which the company had sold to the Germans. But as Lister looked at the pale face of the young man, he saw on beyond Tony Napin and into the system

tered in old English the complete text of the Reform Act. To speak perfectly frankly, Melisse was quite impressed with the twelfth century directness of Napin's proposition. Her brown eye rested on the silver tea service, her blue eye following suit.

Of course, there was Lister. Poor, dear Lister. He would be cut up no end. But really, Lister was frightfully civic. For seven years Lister had made

[graphic][ocr errors][subsumed][merged small]

love to her by explaining the principles of Public Ownership of Metropolitan Utilities. Their baby had been conceived in Single Tax and had run away from home at the age of four rather than hear more about Redistribution of Unearned Capital. It was harsh to think, but dear Lister was suffering from hardening of the Trade Arteries.

Then there was Trevor. Trevor was a sweet lover. Melisse could not deny that. But he did talk Socialism when he should have been talking ways and means. Funny! That Trevor had and here Melisse upset the sugar bowl - oh, well! Trevor had, that was all. Thinking was tosh. Tosh and rather dreadful.

[blocks in formation]

The telephone was over there. Melisse took her hand out of the hot tea and went to it.

"Can I speak to Mr. Hoag, please? . . . In the Board Room ... Mrs. Hoag speaking . . . Lister, dear . . . How is the Bill of Rights coming on?

Bully!... And the Swedish Disenfranchisement? . . . Sweet! . . . And do you still feel the same way about taxing indeterminate inheritances? Ducky! . . . Well, then, Lister dear, please do something for me. . . . Take them all, the Bill of Rights, the Swedish Disenfranchisement, and the Inheritance Tax and roll them up in one big bundle. Have you done that? Righto .. What are you to do with them now? . . . You know very well, my dear. I'm off for Innsbruck with young Napin. . . . Yes. N-a-p-i-n. Care of General Delivery, Innsbruck Cheerio...

...

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Whang climbed up on the tea table and pushed his nose into the sugar bowl. At last he was alone.

PROTEST

By S. Foster Damon

BUT do not sneer, thrust you

sneer, pout, thrust your lip

Out such a way! for you will see, Some day soon, from your balcony, The madman, bound, without his whip, Conveyed in a well guarded cart, And funeral music in his heart.

I wonder if, on that last day,

I'd turn my head to look your way;

Or if, intense to be released,

I should forget our loves and lies,

Anticipating with my eyes

The stair, the gallows, and the priest.

SOME YOUNGER ENGLISH NOVELISTS

TIM

By Hugh Walpole

IME passes and nothing stands still; the literary procession reminds one of the last act of the pantomime when, in the reception hall of a palace of ivory and gold, down a magnificent marble staircase, come groups of the nations or the virtues or the vices, just as it may happen to be, and one band of ladies after another, stout or otherwise, march to the front of the stage, wave a little vaguely with their arms, move to the right and the left, instantly to be followed by another eager group.

In England since 1890 this movement has been especially apparent. First, the Yellow Book band, poets and artists and writers of the supposedly French conte, the whole a little foreign, a little affected, an important but frustrated impulse. Then in 1895 the creeping forward of certain men, Conrad, Bennett, Wells, Galsworthy, who in another ten years were to stand once more, as other groups had so frequently stood before, for the emancipation of the novel. Then when they were nicely settled and everybody, having accepted them, was anxiously scanning the horizon for the new group, up there popped that now almost notoriously prewar group of young men whom Henry James pontifically blessed, and Katharine Gerould complained of as a syndicate — Beresford, Swinnerton, Lawrence, Cannan, Mackenzie, George, and the rest. In this case the novel might have jumped into some quite new costume, had the war not caught it by the throat.

But suddenly in 1918 and 1919 "les jeunes" were producing nothing but poetry. The Mackenzies and the Swinnertons were pushed aside by the Sassoons and the Nicholses. Everybody wrote poetry, either bitter or idealistic, either democratic or patriotic, and by 1920 there were so many thousands of small volumes of verse that there might have been several large bonfires in the centre of Trafalgar Square, the poets burning the works of one another, without anyone alive perceiving the loss of anything. The novel seemed for a moment to take a back place. Then the women rushed forward and saved the situation. Saved it or lost it, who knows?

It is of course far too early to say at this moment what they intend to do with it. I don't suppose that they themselves know. All I can say is that it is now, in this year of grace 1925, quite definitely in their hands. One can name half a dozen women who have all come forward in the last five years, whose personalities are now quite firmly recognized by anyone who has any interest in contemporary literature. The curious thing is that against these half dozen can be set no new men writers with the definite exception of Michael Sadleir, the author of "Privilege", the famous Michael Arlen, and of course David Garnett. Six names of women novelists that occur at once to the mind are Rose Macaulay, Romer Wilson, Clemence Dane, Virginia Woolf, V. Sackville-West, and Dorothy Richardson. To these there

should be added the names of May Sinclair and Sheila Kaye-Smith, were it not that both those ladies made their reputation before the period of which I am speaking. They are, however, quite definitely the leaders of this new woman's movement in fiction. There are other names that occur to one Rebecca West, Mary Webb, Stella Benson, E. M. Delafield - but none of these ladies has written enough to assure one definitely of her position, with the exception of Miss Benson, whose last two books, "The Poor Man" and "Pipers and a Dancer", are exquisite.

Here then are these ladies coming to the front in a regular phalanx, just as in the early Nineties Madam Sarah Grand, Mrs. Caffyn, Mrs. Steel, George Egerton, Ella Darcy, were doing. The first point of interest is how does this new band compare with that old one? Has it, allowing for the difference of times and manners, something of the same aims and methods that those earlier writers had, and is it achieving something of the same success? One great difference immediately leaps to the eye. The ladies of the early Nineties were one and all propagandists. New and wonderful to them was the freedom of the modern woman. Who knew but that in another fifty years they might even have the vote? Women had been seen riding bicycles in knickerbockers, one woman somewhere had smoked a cigarette, and the mere whisper of the mystic words "equality of the sexes" made a novel sell like hot cakes. Those dear, old fashioned, cosy, comfortable days of "The Heavenly Twins", "The Wages of Sin", "The Yellow Aster", "Some Emotions and a Moral”, and "The Open Question"! Where are the leaves of yesteryear?

the sexes, but this time it is the man who is subordinate. Special pipes of a delicate filigree texture are being sold in Jermyn Street for the use of ladies. Lady champions at golf and tennis and even football are paragraphed, followed and pursued from one end of the globe to the other. The ladies of the Lyceum Club, the biggest woman's club in London, sat breathless in rows the other day, their eyes glued to the tape, waiting for the issue of the Derby. We have women preachers in our best London churches, women M. P.'s, women barristers, and the women's college of medicine is so overcrowded that new buildings are most urgently desired. It follows naturally then that our new women novelists will not in all probability be deeply concerned with propaganda, they having, poor things, nothing about which they can propagand. It follows on that they are, much more than their older sisters, definitely concerned with art. Instead of the vote and divorce, they are preoccupied with technique, dialogue, realism, and the rest, and every one of the women whom I have named is experimenting with a form, sometimes new, sometimes old, but always the chief matter of preoccupation.

Take Miss Dane's "Legend", Miss Richardson's "The Tunnel", Mrs. Woolf's "The Voyage Out", and above all Miss Wilson's "The Death of Society", and see whether these books are not, in their technique at any rate, more audacious and enterprising than the work of any contemporary men.

Mr. Swinnerton, it is true, several years back produced a piece of perfect technique in his beautiful "Nocturne", but he did it quite unconsciously, the artist in him using the means which were best suited to the delicate theme. Then there is Brett Young's "The

Once again we have inequality of Black Diamond", another splendid

« PreviousContinue »