Swinnerton, Frank (Arthur)
Frank (Arthur) Swinnerton 1884–1982
English novelist, critic, and biographer.
Swinnerton's reputation as a writer rests on his chronicles of the activities and concerns of the Georgian movement in English literature, which began with the onset of the First World War and lasted into the 1940s. His penchant for amusing detail, which often lends a gossipy quality to his work, contributes to the comprehensive literary portraits he created.
In his novels Swinnerton stressed realism and clear, detailed characterizations, projecting his pragmatic view of life. Of his more than forty novels, Nocturne (1917) is generally considered the best. Critics have praised its nearly flawless structure, convincing characterizations, and Swinnerton's compassion in depicting a harsh and disappointing world. His last novel, Some Achieve Greatness (1976), reveals that even past the age of ninety Swinnerton upheld the same artistic and moral positions evident in his earliest works.
Swinnerton's The Georgian Literary Scene (1934) is often cited as an important critical history of this era in English literature. In this large volume. Swinnerton offers insightful descriptions of the Georgian circle of writers, tempering his insider's viewpoint with objectivity. The Georgian Literary Scene provides intimate sketches of such writers as G. K. Chesterton, A. A. Milne, Arnold Bennett, and Hilaire Belloc, Swinnerton's subsequent literary memoirs, Swinnerton: An Autobiography (1936) and Figures in the Foreground (1963), which include information and personalities of the post-Georgian period, exhibit the same confident ease of presentation which makes The Georgian Literary Scene enjoyable reading.
(See also Contemporary Authors, Vol. 108 [obituary].)
H. G. Wells
[Mr. Swinnerton] sees life and renders it with a steadiness and detachment and patience quite foreign to my disposition. He has no underlying motive. He sees and tells. His aim is the attainment of that beauty which comes with exquisite presentation. Seen through his art, life is seen as one sees things through a crystal lens, more intensely, more completed, and with less turbidity. There the business begins and ends for him. He does not want you or any one to do anything. (p. x)
Mr. Swinnerton, like Mr. James Joyce, does not repudiate the depths for the sake of the surface. His people are not splashes of appearance, but living minds. Jenny and Emmy in [Nocturne] are realities inside and out; they are imaginative creatures so complete that one can think with ease of Jenny ten years hence or of Emmy as a baby. The fickle Alf is one of the most perfect Cockneys—a type so easy to caricature and so hard to get true—in fiction. If there exists a better writing of vulgar lovemaking, so base, so honest, so touchingly mean and so touchingly full of the carving for happiness than this that we have here in the chapter called After the Theatre, I do not know it. Only a novelist who has had his troubles can understand fully what a dance among china cups, what a skating over thin ice, what a tight-rope performance is achieved in this astound-ing chapter. A false note, one fatal line, would have ruined it all. On the one hand lay...
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H. W. Boynton
[Nocturne] is neither grey nor gay, neither realism in its docket nor romance in its pigeon-hole. It is a book of fact but also of arrangement, of insight as well as observation; of dramatic action as well as sympathy. In short, it is a work of imaginative art, holding its magic mirror (and not a mere reflector) up to nature. To this roundness and fulness within its slender bounds [H. G.] Wells is paying tribute when he writes to Mr. Bennett, "You know, Arnold, he achieves a perfection in Nocturne that you and I never get within streets of." Mr. Wells enlarges upon his enthusiasm in his Introduction. "This is a book that will not die," he concludes. "It is perfect, authentic, and alive." Authentic or artistic—we may use either word in the effort to express our sense of this story as "the real thing." But I think the main point, which does not seem to be altogether clear to Mr. Wells, is that this is the real thing as a story. The Cockney family: Jenny, the milliner's girl; Emmy, the domestic slave; Pa Blanchard, the paralytic remnant of a reckless fellow … Alf, the vague satellite…. These people with their dingy surroundings fairly offer themselves to the grey method of a Gissing or the jaunty method of a Bennett or the inquisitive method of a Wells. The Swinnerton method is none of these. It is the method of the interpreter who frankly makes truth salient by his skilful manipulation of facts. Here, for example, it is his...
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The structure of [Nocturne] is almost classic. The events take place in the course of a single night. And each chapter folds upon the other without visible apertures or creaking joints, so that in retrospect the mind encompasses the whole with a single gesture.
In theme and treatment is seems to usher in a coming democratization of art. Here is no preoccupation with the commonplace from the contemptous elevation of the intellectual aristocrat—Mr. Swinnerton approaches the vulgarest of his creatures with a genial tolerance. At the same time his book emphasizes the revival of that indiscriminate realism already apparent in the work of two very different writers, Wyndham Lewis and James Joyce. But though he etches accessory details with the minuteness of the author of Dubliners, he does not achieve the latter's biting phrases. In the work of Joyce one is always conscious of looking through a piquant and intensely individual personal atmosphere. But in Nocturne, as Mr. Wells says succinctly: "Life is seen as through a crystal lens." And in spite of the warmth and color of the book and the physical glamor of the soft London darkness, the characters challenge one's vision like objects seen in a too strong light. (p. 323)
Lola Ridge, "A Study of the Commonplace," in The New Republic, Vol. XVI, No. 206, October 12, 1918, pp. 320, 323.
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H. W. Boynton
One secret of the charm of Frank Swinnerton's "Nocturne" is what may be called the warm disinterest, or sympathetic detachment, of the chronicler. He doesn't mean his little episode to "teach" anything: it is simply there before us, yet by no means as a "slice of life", for what makes it alive is the radiant energy of creative art. The artist's self as well as his skill informs it. Irony would be too cold a word for its mood, for there is something glowing here. As we enter that mood, we feel ourselves lifted to something like the wisdom and tenderness of the gods, glimpsing elements of beauty in the children of dust, and in the dust itself. "Shops and Houses" is a less sublimated kind of fiction. Its emotion is less intense and less from within. And it labors somewhat from the outset under the burden of an "idea". At once we are, so to speak, confronted with Beckwith, an English provincial town which is confessedly and unhappily typical. Beckwith is an ancient village but fifteen miles from London, half spoiled by the advent of railway and factories, yet still self-centered. It is a place of rigid class distinctions, raw social nerves, and ruthless tongues of censure or surmise…. It is a village of snobs, such as from Miss Mitford to E. F. Benson has made itself familiar to American readers as a kind of stronghold of Briticism. What gives Mr. Swinnerton's handling freshness is his explicit conviction that this narrow, ingrowing, pharisaical life of...
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It is not clear why Mr. Frank Swinnerton has called his new novel Coquette. A coquette, one had always understood, was a lady who loved the work for its own sake, who found the evocation and frustration of desire a satisfying sport in itself; but his Sally Minto was moved in her first encounter with a man by real passion and in her second by ambition. A novel about a coquette would be primarily … a discussion of the mystery of athleticism, that passion which leads human beings to spend their lives attaining proficiency in occupations which are obviously not of a kind that will print through this world into the next and be placed to their credit in eternity. But Sally Minto's story is something far other than this. It is first of all a virtuosic study of character. Throughout the book there are signs that Mr. Swinnerton is capable of talking conventional nonsense about women in general. He subscribes, for instance, to the legend that a set of girls will inevitably be jealous of the most attractive of their number, and makes all the hands in the dressmaking establishment where Sally works look on her with disfavour. This is Victorian. Experience is all against it; every pretty schoolgirl collects a train of plainer girl adorers, and while there may be rivalry among such leaders there is no jealousy felt by the plain against the pretty. This is not to say that there is no jealousy between women. There is, just as there is between men, but it is...
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Every page of [Young Felix] shows the author to be a perceptive and thoughtful person. But ever since I finished reading it, I have been wondering what it is that he has been attempting. Young Felix is the story of the first thirty years of a man's life. Is it only a prologue to an enormous work five times its length, in which case its shapelessness is only apparent? If so, Mr. Swinnerton is unfair to himself in not giving us warning. If not, what are we to make of it? There must have been a moment when Mr. Swinnerton first saw his story in the lovely light that plays upon an idea when first it rises to the surface of our minds. What has happened since? In some respect the conception lacked vitality, and the author's talent is wasted—at least as far as other people are concerned. He may have learnt a lot in the writing of his book, but we have learnt nothing that we did not know before—that Mr. Swinnerton is a serious and conscientious writer, with a good sense of comedy of which he hardly makes sufficient use. The first few pages seem to adumbrate the shape that Mr. Swinnerton intended his book should take, but the book hardly begins to take it. Why? If this review is a series of unanswered questions, it is really Mr. Swinnerton's fault. He should make more allowance for the stupidity of critics.
Raymond Mortimer, in a review of "Young Felix," in New Statesman, Vol. XXII, No. 548, October...
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P. C. Kennedy
[Here] is a literary problem for you. Read the following passage, and guess who wrote it:
Mr. Sims was in a better position than either Mr. Leicester or Mr. Twist. At a word from Mr. Sims, both Mr. Twist and Mr. Leicester would have been forced to leave the firm. They, although they had worked there for fifteen years and a quarter of a century respectively, and although they knew the business through and through, and could produce the papers unaided, had no status. They could be dismissed at a month's notice. Mr. Sims could not be dismissed. Although the junior, he was, by his purchase of a larger share, the principal partner in the firm. Mr. Twist and Mr. Leicester could run the business, and Mr. Sims could not do so; but Mr. Sims had had the good fortune to possess a rather wealthy uncle, and he was for this reason favourably situated. It might have been supposed that Mr. Sims thought highly of Mr. Twist and Mr. Leicester, and valued them for their long service and experience. He did not so value them. To him they were both merely employees, to be kept or dismissed at his own will.
Whom have you guessed? Of course, Mr. Arnold Bennett. The manner, the mannerisms, and the moral: the repetitions, and the avoidance of repetition: the blend of staccato and rhythmical effects—all, all are Bennett, pure and perfect Bennett. But they happen, in this instance, to be Mr. Swinnerton. And...
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RUTH CAPERS McKAY
[The following essay is part of a thesis presented at The University of Pennsylvania in 1927.]
To speak of Swinnerton's novels in general we may say that he writes principally of the lower middle class life in London and in the cheaper suburbs. The exceptions to this are the three successful studies of the upper middle classes found in The Casement, Shops and Houses and September. His greatest weakness is in plot work; few of his endings have a finished effect, the reader is left dangling, dissatisfied. This is notable particularly in The Happy Family, On the Staircase, and Young Felix. His best motivation is achieved through character analysis as in the case of September. When he is unable to proceed by that method, he is at a loss and finds it necessary to use the various devices which are only too familiar to the reader.
For settings Swinnerton is at his best in the business streets of London and in the commonplace suburbs with their rows of little houses all alike. His London seems to be seen largely from the top of a swaying omnibus. The West End and all the abodes of fashion and affluence are hidden in an unrevealed grandeur. The Three Lovers presents a part of the semi-fashionable town life which is not typical of Swinnerton's field. He does not belong in the bright cabaret but with Gladys Verren in the small parlor-sitting room of one of the ninety-six identical...
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In ["The Georgian House"] the author has assembled a number of well-tried and generally reliable ingredients: an old-fashioned house with a secret panel; a hero who is at the beginning of the book living under an assumed name and is evidently under some sort of romantic cloud, from which he is called home to take his inheritance; a wise old lady who understands the young things; a missing will; a thorough-paced villainess; a black-mailing lawyer's clerk; and other stand-bys too numerous to mention. The sort of book that results from such a combination is in most cases excellent entertainment, and of that we cannot have too much. If "The Georgian House" kept its promise of good traditional melodrama it would be a pleasure to read and recommend it. But unfortunately the good old melodrama never quite comes off.
There appear to be several reasons for its failure. The various parts are not sufficiently connected. And there are many minor characters, treated at considerable length, who have no effect upon the plot at all. In another sort of book, this would matter less; but in a book in which the plot is so insisted on as it is here, where every few pages there is an intimation that we shall see more of this or that there is more in that than meets the eye; it is difficult to realize that there are whole scenes that are meant to stand only by their own interest.
Mr. Swinnerton appears to have tried to write a melodramatic...
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Readers with a general curiosity about the last twenty-five years of English literature need look no further than ["The Georgian Scene"]. There are, no doubt, more brilliant writers and better critics in England than Mr. Swinnerton, but I doubt if any writer is better informed. It is precisely its information which gives this book its melancholy value—this, and its author's extraordinarily pleasant manners.
"Melancholy" because so few of the writers it mentions can one remember any more; and more melancholy still because one realizes how precious few of them were worth remembering. "The Georgian Scene" is not merely a record of English writers from 1910 until today, it is also the record of thousands of tons of forgotten printed paper; and it says much for Mr. Swinnerton that he can make this literary mausoleum a pleasant place to linger in, instead of simply a place which gives you the creeps.
I have only one real criticism of Mr. Swinnerton's comprehensive and dutiful book. Its title is misleading. Surely the real Georgian scene was the scene which was never played out, which young prewar England never had time to finish, which ended abruptly with the death of Rupert Brooke in 1915; a scene which was mostly written in terms of a sentimentalism too mild to be poisonous, and prompted only by the magnificent, unfulfilled voices of Shaw and Wells. For if the Georgian scene actually continued beyond the war and into...
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Joseph Wood Krutch
[The Georgian Scene] contains essays on approximately seventy-five writers who range in time from Henry James to T. S. Eliot and in importance from Shaw and Bennett to Edgar Wallace and Noel Coward. A few of the discussions are quite perfunctory, and the space devoted to each often seems to bear little relation to either the popularity or the significance of the subject, but the best are genuinely illuminating and nearly all both informative and readable. Mr. Swinnerton quite frankly discusses his authors from the point of view of an enthusiastic reader of catholic taste rather than from that of a critic with dogmatic ideas. He walks around each subject, noting significant biographical details and, in a very large number of cases, supplying personal reminiscences. He proposes no standards other than very general ones and he makes no final judgments. But he does achieve a panorama, and few men are better qualified than he to do just that….
In so far as "The Georgian Scene" has a theory, it seems to be that a fairly distinct mode of writing emerged about the time that the Henry James method went into bankruptcy, and that it held the field more or less unchallenged until the rise of what Mr. Swinnerton calls the New Academicism of T. S. Eliot and his disciples. Probably the best of all the essays is the first, on James himself, and according to that the central defect of James was his ambition to be, as he himself stated it,...
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"Swinnerton" leaps, as it were, from ring to ring. Its sub-title should be changed from "An Autobiography" to "A Circus," and I make this suggestion without rancor, for there are many things less pleasant than a circus, and few more calculated to take our minds away from fact. In a circus all the performers have a glamor which is not false, but fictitious: and only if we are very small children do we think that they are what they so beautifully pretend to be….
"Swinnerton" is the kind of autobiography which has leaped into that category over the back fence, about one foot ahead of the critics. The more considerable part of it is about other people, and a charming troupe they are—all talented, all good talkers, and all of them liking Mr. Swinnerton. About Mr. Swinnerton himself one learns less. At first you cannot convince yourself that you know much more about him than that he has a "thousand dollar smile," a description which occurs as late as p. 331, was handed to him by an American lady, and not restored to her. You accept this, of course, but you find yourself wishing that there was rather less of that smile in his book. That is why, when the smile grows faintly acid, as it occasionally does, you draw a long breath of gratitude.
These remarks are intended to convey the thought that to be kind in print (and Mr. Swinnerton has met and is kind to almost everybody English and literary) is something of a modern...
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The Times Literary Supplement
To use the word "old-fashioned" in describing [Harvest Comedy] is to praise it highly, for it is old-fashioned in the sense that it tells a gripping story and that it gives to each character a scrupulous care that is reminiscent of the method of Dickens…. The story traces the careers of [the three main characters] in London, with their various ups and downs, their marriages and their love affairs, but it does much more than this: it shows us the inside of every life…. In another sense, too, the book is old-fashioned in that the good boy comes out on top while the two bad boys, who seemed to flourish like the green bay tree at first, got their deserts. But even for them, with their very human weaknesses, Mr. Swinnerton arouses sympathy; and, although the ending of the book could, in other hands, read like a Sunday School prize of our youth, in his it has the convincingness of life.
A review of "Harvest Comedy," in The Times Literary Supplement, No. 1857, September 4, 1937, p. 640.
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Possibly the lowest sort of reviewing is the type which borrows overgenerously from the blurb on the highly colored book jacket—that eye-catcher which proudly quotes the welcome bouquets of a favored few who have seen the masterpiece in galleys or in manuscript…. In the case of "A Woman in Sunshine" the yellow jacket is misleading…. It purports to describe a novel concerned chiefly with "a good woman who is also an exciting one."…
The woman in question, Letitia Boldero, is 53 and gravely concerned about the marital status of her two sons, as well as that of the daughter-in-law in question. It is only in the final pages that she herself makes any impression in the field of feminine attractiveness—only because an old friend who is stricken with a painful and apparently fatal illness turns to her for sympathy. It may have something to do with her age, but how many readers will in fact find Letitia anywhere near as "exciting" as they are supposed to? "A Woman in Sunshine" deals primarily with other matters. The impression it leaves is one compounded of the dreariness of London, the ennui of bourgeois married life and the depths to which some scoundrels will descend. Not to mention the author's irony and pity.
Mr. Swinnerton is indeed a trained hand in the art of depicting ugliness in many forms. He is a true master of the repulsive. Most fascinating of all is the way he spins out the workings of a rascal's mind....
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The Times Literary Supplement
The title of Mr. Swinnerton's new book [The Doctor's Wife Comes to Stay] is Trollopean, and so in a sense is the story. An energetic and successful young artist, egotistical but attractive, finds that his wife is not content merely with household duties, nor even with the small celebrity of occasional parts in "little theatre" productions. The immense success of the play in which she is acting obtains for her an offer of the leading part in its American production; and she goes to America, leaving her husband at home in the care of her apple-cheeked Victorian mother who comes on a prolonged visit. This lady is the doctor's wife of the title; the doctor himself is an impressively puritanical, sharp-tongued and untidy Scot.
The most unpromising themes may be turned to good fictional use; and Mr. Swinnerton's story, which sounds perhaps even more like Hollywood than like Trollope, is in fact written most carefully and intelligently in the manner of Henry James. At the end of it we are left with a kind of Jamesian problem, and Mr. Swinnerton evokes with remarkable skill that sense of horror, mystery and fascination in the past which comes through so clearly in the master's work. The Doctor's Wife Comes to Stay is not an altogether easy book to read, although it is written with much humour; its subject, obliquely revealed, is really the artist's investigation of the secret lying in the Victorian mother's past. Mr. Swinnerton...
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Those who have read Frank Swinnerton's earlier volume of literary reminiscences, "Background With Chorus," know what to expect of "Figures in the Foreground." It is, as the author says himself, "a book of personal gossip," but it is the gossip of a man who writes from experience at first hand. Mr. Swinnerton has spent his life among books and among those who make them….
In his new book he draws on his memories of British literary life between 1917 and 1940. He is—and no one knows it better than he—a survivor from a past age. He is, as he says in a characteristic phrase, "worm-eaten with Liberalism"; and of himself before World War I he writes:
"It never occurred to me that one day men would consider it disgraceful for a writer to earn money by the popularity of his writings. The authors I admired, whether dead or living, from Shakespeare to Shaw, had all done this; we who followed hoped to share our interest and pleasure in life with innumerable fellow-creatures, and not only the esoteric few. We aimed at being professionals."
That is precisely what he became, and for the most part his reminiscences are of fellow-professionals. His book is discursive, but a backbone is provided for it by extracts from his more than 20 years' correspondence with Hugh Walpole.
They make a nice contrast: Swinnerton cool, skeptical, the embodiment of common sense; Walpole enthusiastic, impulsive,...
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Near 80, Verdi composed "Falstaff", at 80, England's Frank Swinnerton writes "Quadrille." "Quadrille" is no "Falstaff," to be sure, but it is a like example of perdurable creative power. Mr. Swinnerton has composed upward of 50 books in his lifetime. Of this number, at least 35 are novels…. This novel is certainly among his best. The final installment of a quartet (the others were "The Woman From Sicily," "A Tigress in Prothero" and "The Grace Divorce") it continues the author's observation—again, over more than half a century—of the changing tactics in another, timeless war, this time between men and women. The wit, marksmanship, spanking pace and impeccable technique are still there, brighter than new.
It is a rather old-fashioned novel, in that it has a forthright plot, assertive characters and no more allegorical lint than a scalpel; but its grasp of the moneyed and artistic life in St. John's Wood is as up-to-date as Kansas City. The title may be taken in either meaning: the book covers the "game" of life and the "dance" of life equally well. Reminiscent of Maugham's lucidity and shrewdness, it meshes like clockwork, without a waste word. Sniffers at Maugham (or at literary clock work of any kind) may sniff at "Quadrille," but it is whacking good and substantial entertainment nevertheless.
The time is 1960, and the story pivots on young concert pianist Laura Grace, through the hurdles of career, involvement...
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The Times Literary Supplement
For the past forty years, two-thirds of his long career as a writer, Mr. Frank Swinnerton has lived in a restored seventeenth-century cottage in the Surrey village of Cranleigh…. At least, he calls it a village, for, in spite of all the urbanization of the Home Counties, he has managed to remain confidently under the impression that he lives deep in the English countryside. Indeed, one of the attractions of Reflections from a Village comes from the otherwise by no means unsophisticated author's naive discovery of the garden, the village green and the commonest of wild birds and flowers…. There is nothing affected about this, however, for Mr. Swinnerton has preserved into old age much of the excitement with which he first began "to notice such things".
Old people do not merely remember the past, they carry part of it with them, and Mr. Swinnerton appears to wear, like a jacket, something of the warmth of a period earlier than that of the 1920s when he first came to his cottage. For he did not really fit into the age of Lawrence, Fitzgerald and Aldous Huxley; he belonged more to what he himself called "the Georgian Literary Scene". His writer friends were men like H. G. Wells and Walter de la Mare….
Perhaps, in his admiration for the Georgians, Mr. Swinnerton repeats some of their bad habits, including a tendency towards "belle-lettrism" on subjects about which he does not know very much, such as spiders....
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The Times Literary Supplement
It would be hard to maintain that Nor All Thy Tears comes up to the standard of [Swinnerton's] best fiction, since despite its lively construction and wide range of characters, there is a certain lack of verisimilitude about much of their behaviour which, alas, depends largely on the way they talk and the attitudes they express—inescapably those of an earlier age. The tough twenty-five-year-old heiress to a Fleet Street empire, who is the focus of attention, is somewhat inclined to shriek and glare and collapse, particularly after a glass or two of champagne with her oily legal adviser, in the manner of a Victorian heroine rather than the dogged and indeed pig-headed new broom who decides to liven up the old firm with more sex and sophistication….
Frank Swinnerton is never at a loss for incident; there are both office and domestic tensions interwoven here, and he has managed his two big scenes—the office dinner and a jolly discussion, on politics and such …—with considerable aplomb and expertise. He is a good deal less convincing on the interior monologues in which most of the women characters spend some time indulging…. Those who actually know Fleet Street office life may raise an eyebrow or two, but they will nevertheless find much to entertain in the remarkably agile and fluent narrative that Mr. Swinnerton invents….
"Paper Tigers," in The Times Literary Supplement,...
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What a familiar ring it has, 'the novel.' A comfort to the spinster and the secretary, and a temporary refuge for 'the reader' in an imagined world. A world in which effect follows cause, emotions are excited only to be soothed, adventure and surprise are muted in the pianissimo of a final chapter. The novel is now the armchair of our culture. I would hate to be considered a rabid experimentalist, but I often wish that contemporary English writing were something other than the fagend of the nineteenth century.
Gloomy reflections like these occurred to me after reading Swinnerton's Rosalind Passes. It is Mr Swinnerton's fortieth novel and his writing career must, as they say of another profession, have given pleasure to millions. I may be a juvenile carper, but I found nothing commendable in this novel. It has that unctuous and enveloping quality which I associate with afternoon music on Radio Two. And perhaps this is its context, for the writing is of the romance-and-intrigue variety which commonly appeals to the silent majority. Rosalind Passes transpires in the world of the middle-classes. At the centre of the narrative are Clarissa, an amateur artist, and her husband Henry, a senior civil servant with an interest in Druids. Clarissa meets Rosalind through Daphne, a bright old friend, and the death of Rosalind (was it murder or was it suicide?) involves them all in a nexus of tea and suffering.
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A new novel by Frank Swinnerton published in his 92nd year. I make no apology for referring to the author's age. It is utterly relevant. And what do we see opposite the title-page? No less than forty fiction titles listed, followed by fifteen other titles. What an achievement. It makes another man blush for shame.
Only yesterday I received a card from a celebrated woman author, intellectual and sometime contributor to b&b … saying: 'What, I ask myself, is a bookman? Have I ever met one?'. Now, I can answer her: Frank Swinnerton.
Before discussing [Some Achieve Greatness], I should declare an interest, then claim disinterest—in the correct sense of that word, on which Mr Swinnerton, particularly, would insist: the need to take an objective view, which is every author's right to expect. The interest is twofold. In the first place, Frank Swinnerton is a respected contributor to b&b. In the second place, quite unknown to him, I owe him a great debt of gratitude. I also owe one to the late Adolf Hitler—to whom he is related as the North Pole is to the South: each at opposite ends of our world…. Hitler's starting of the war rescued me from an unwanted civil service career and Swinnerton's The Georgian Literary Scene, read at an RAF station in 1940, while waiting for Hitler to invade, confirmed me in my ideas about what really interested me in life.
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