Enid Bagnold Christopher Morley - Essay

Christopher Morley

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

With the loveliest humor and feeling, with words that are alive, fresh, simply and unwaveringly accurate, Enid Bagnold puts [the Browns of "National Velvet"] before us…. With never an overplus word, no slackening of pace, with loving magic power, she puts us inside in. We are the Browns. We are Velvet…. I do not know where you would go in recent fiction to find a family interior more superbly captured, made real; every line of dialogue true, moving, progressive, relevant to plot. And this is not accident or a mere gush of charm; Enid Bagnold knows well that if we are to accept and be ravished by the fantastic wish-fulfilment story to come we must be set solidly in the actual. And so we are. Her pages have the clear lightsome freshness and candor of the first day of spring: even the million times battered and fatigued mind of the adult reader capitulates to her magic. By the time we've read three chapters we accept anything…. In its own vein, and for those who can ride the flying trapeze of fancy, this is a masterpiece. Should we say something solemn and sociological? Very well then: you can learn more about the mind of childhood from this book than from many volumes of pedology. The mind of childhood, zigzag, indolent, unblemished by the subjunctive mood, is the mind of any great artist. Disregard the dull dutiful attempt of any critic to praise this lovely escapade. Read it for its humble magic. Read it to be one of the Browns.

Christopher Morley, "Wishes Were Horses." in The Saturday Review of Literature (© 1935. copyright renewed © 1962, Saturday Review Magazine Co.; reprinted by permission), Vol. XII, No. 1, May 4, 1935, p. 6.