Esther Forbes Anne Parrish - Essay

Anne Parrish

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

["O Genteel Lady!"] is the strange story of Lanice Bardeen, beautiful bluestocking of the Boston of Holmes, Emerson and the Alcotts. No one else in the book matters much, although there are many characters. But Lanice lives, and her life is shown us with honesty and rather bitter laughter.

Esther Forbes is able to keep her characters in costume without letting the costumes smother the characters. The book is brilliant with color. You really see picture after picture—the ladies of fashion in their autumn-tinted dresses, "burnt orange, dull crimson, russet, and a bright, light green, the shade of the winter rye," and their Paisley shawls, sweeping up the fallen leaves with their full skirts….

The book remains true to its period in its costumes and settings. These are perfect. But although Lanice is a contemporary of Louisa Alcott, she is, in the flaming passion of her untrammeled love for Anthony Jones, her independent career as illustrator and author, and her lonely wanderings in Italy and England, more modern than the moderns…. The speech of the characters, on the other hand, is far too old-fashioned. It needs brocade and powdered hair, and even then is unconvincing. The characters, with the exception of the burlesqued Augustus, really live until they begin to talk, then the same voice speaks through each mouth in rounded literary periods. We see and feel them, and believe. We hear them, and say "This is not true."…

Anthony Jones is convincing only through...

(The entire section is 626 words.)