Thomas B(ertram) Costain K. Shattuck Marvin - Essay

K. Shattuck Marvin

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The Literary Guild has bestowed its accolade upon "The Black Rose," and its author, Thomas B. Costain, deserves another one for the research which went into its writing. Perhaps the relish which Mr. Costain obviously derived from his labors will serve as his reward.

Thirteenth century England and the same period in China, plus an interval spent on the medieval silk routes overland into China, are the great pictures in this book. As they are a new milieu for historical romances, they are in themselves absorbing, but against them the characters move rather pallidly. Mr. Costain's aforementioned relish prevented him from giving us much more than a hazy picture of Walter, Tristram, Engaine and Maryam, for whose ilk the reader of numerous historical romances may have by now only a hazy interest, anyway. A neat job is done on medieval Oxford, Edward I, castle life in England, travel in a trans-Asiatic caravan, and China with the Mongols sweeping down on the Sung Kingdom to unify the nation. The "dreaming spirit" of the University and the Arthur Rackham-Maxfield Parrish vision of a castle perish in the reader's mind before a far more vivid and enjoyable white light of truth with details pleasant and unpleasant. Thirteenth century vocabulary abounds magnificently but enigmatically….

The plot sprawls loosely against the vivid panorama. Walter, a student at Oxford, finds himself the recipient of a small fortune which he...

(The entire section is 411 words.)