(Edward Montague) Compton Mackenzie Cuthbert Wright - Essay

Cuthbert Wright

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

"Sinister Street" is the second and final volume of that study in adolescence of which "Youth's Encounter" was the prologue…. The theme of the two stories, the author himself explains, is "the youth of a man who presumably will be a priest." If the presumption is correct, vocational training for that office has altered in startling fashion within our experience, for the hero, after some rather uncommon boyhood experiments in sensation, makes the most of his youth in the fastest college of dreaming Oxford. The Michael of St. Mary's and Cheyne Walk is not intagliated so perfectly as the schoolboy of Carlington Road, but one does not lose the sense that the slim, fair, picturesque youth is a vivid contribution to the literature of intuition. The Oxford episodes are charmingly wrought, with an effect as haunting and insubstantial as the unreal landscape pricked with visionary spires which forms their background….

Michael emerges from Oxford only to plunge voluntarily into the nethermost halls of London harlotry and black-guardism by way of reconciling classic with vital education. It is then that the somewhat cryptic connotation of the title begins to reveal itself. "Sinister Street" is simply the interval that occurs in certain temperaments, when there is a definite, imaginative hunger for the sordid and hideous possibilities which life holds out of the voyager in spiritual adventures. (p. 53)

The ostensible cause of...

(The entire section is 512 words.)