Enid Bagnold

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Kenneth Tynan

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Enid Bagnold's The Chalk Garden … may well be the finest artificial comedy to have flowed from an English (as opposed to an Irish) pen since the death of Congreve. Miss Bagnold's style recalls Ronald Firbank's The Princess Zoubaroff; it has the same exotic insolence, the same hothouse charm. We eavesdrop on a group of thoroughbred minds expressing themselves in speech of an exquisite candour, building ornamental bridges of metaphor, tiptoeing across frail causeways of simile, and vaulting over gorges impassable to the rational soul….

Miss Bagnold evokes a world full of hard, gem-like flame-throwers, a little room of infinite riches…. [There] is nothing affected, or snobbish, about Miss Bagnold, unless verbal precision is a mark of snobbery. (p. 127)

Something is being said about the necessity of rescuing young people from the aridity of a rich, irresponsible life; but it is being said wittily, obliquely, in a manner that one would call civilised if one thought civilisation was worthy of the tribute. (pp. 127-28)

Kenneth Tynan, "The British Theatre: 'The Chalk Garden'" (1956), in his Curtains: Selections from the Drama Criticism and Related Writings (copyright © 1961 by Kenneth Tynan; reprinted with the permission of Kathleen Tynan), Atheneum, 1961, pp. 127-28.

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