Enid Bagnold Brooks Atkinson - Essay

Brooks Atkinson

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Enid Bagnold is "the lady of quality" who once wrote a novel from which S. N. Behrman wrote a drama of quality, "Serena Blandish." It was warmly admired by a few people in 1929.

The episode is recalled here because she has now written another drama of quality, "The Chalk Garden."… It has been put together in the same off-center fashion, witty lines popping off at tangents, non-sequiturs rambling brightly through the dialogue, everything more or less upside down, nothing leading directly into the next point of the story.

Miss Bagnold gives the impression of being a severe writer with a sharp mind who disdains pencil, paper and all the materials of her craft, and has small patience with logic and what is known in the trade as "the obligatory scene." "The Chalk Garden" is like a piece of sparkling cut glass….

[The] plot is the least interesting item in "The Chalk Garden." Miss Bagnold's eccentric manner is everything….

In "The Chalk Garden" it is a sound rule not to pay much attention to Miss Bagnold when she is developing her story. But pay attention to the lines she throws away. A perverse writer, she squanders all her talent on the things that do not matter….

"The Chalk Garden" is an odd, unyielding comedy by a witty writer with a highly personal style. There's a keen mind behind it, and one that is not intimidated by either the theatre or the world.

Brooks Atkinson, "The Theatre: Sparkling Cut Glass," in The New York Times (© 1955 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), October 27, 1955 (and reprinted in New York Theatre Critics' Reviews, Vol. 16, No. 20, October 31, 1955, p. 227).