Vera Brittain Charles Curran - Essay

Charles Curran

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[Testament of Experience] is a unique compound of doom and domesticity. For as Miss Brittain surveys the world in flames, she sees pictures in the fire; pictures of herself writing books, receiving cheques, buttonholing statesmen, handing out advice like a universal aunt. She is Narcissus, Cassandra and Mrs. Caudle all in one. Her books are given parity of esteem with the bombs….

For the historian, the most significant part of this singular and revealing story is Miss Brittain's description of how she, in 1937, became a militant pacifist calling on Englishmen to refuse to fight….

When the war ended, Miss Brittain "said goodbye to frustration" and flew to Europe in order to see the sights and lecture the survivors….

Miss Brittain writes like a literary Nero, with a fountain-pen instead of a fiddle, as she recounts her trek from bomb to book publisher, from catastrophe to her country cottage. She blends apocalypse and prattle with a skill unmatched in literature since the gentleman in Dickens learned Chinese Metaphysics by studying each of them in the encyclopedia and then mixing them. Testament of Experience is likely to be the definitive textbook on the anatomy of gawdsaking. (p. 20)

Charles Curran, "Miss Narcissus," in The New Republic (reprinted by permission of The New Republic; © 1957 The New Republic, Inc.), Vol. 137, No. 16, October 7, 1957, p. 20.