(Edward Montague) Compton Mackenzie V. S. Pritchett - Essay

V. S. Pritchett

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Mr. Compton Mackenzie's novel [The Four Winds of Love], when he has gone round the weathercock, will be in four volumes. [The South Wind of Love] is the second. The first volume I have not read, but by its title I suppose the emotional weather to have been keen, easterly and liverish. Now it has become kinder. John Ogilvie, through whom this story is mainly seen, has become a successful dramatist and is trying to break his liaison with a famous and luscious French actress who has an alarming look of marriage in her eye. Ogilvie believes in l'amour, not in marriage, and the comedy of his break with Gabrielle, turned temporarily sentimental, is excellent. If you break with an actress you get the thing twice over, lived and acted, and Mr. Mackenzie, who has drawn some good actresses in his time, may be called a specialist in this situation. It is all better that the people concerned are fluent and intelligent. Ogilvie perhaps knows his Gabrielle a shade too well; but the moments of sentiment are well in hand and the conclusion is marked with great acuteness: "in the admission that each had been able to wound the other recrimination was quenched." A fitting end to the love of two egoists. But John, to the book's disadvantage as a novel, is too great an egoist. A great deal of the book is seen through his eyes and he is really not interested in anyone but himself. This flattens people; they are the figures of a book of brilliant memoirs and you feel that there is more to them than Mr. Mackenzie tells. Still the book is not complete yet; as the intelligent but superficial tide of discussion and chronicle pictures recedes, certain figures are bound to stand out solid if forlorn. (p. 377)

V. S. Pritchett, "New Novels: 'The South Wind of Love'," in The New Statesman & Nation (© 1937 The Statesman & Nation Publishing Co. Ltd.), Vol. 14, No. 342, September 11, 1937, pp. 377-78.