By RICHARD ALDINGTON
Heinemann 7s. 6d.
Mr. Aldington, as always, is in serious mood. As is his custom also, he writes in a slangily flippant idiom that gives an edge to his seriousness. In this new novel of his he relates the history of David Norris, a "War baby" of 1916, up to the September crisis of last year. David's father was a baronet's son, a boy of twenty killed in the battle of Loos; his mother was the daughter of a doctor who had been struck off the register and had turned for a living to rent-collecting in a small town in the south. There David was brought up by his grandparents, who were intellectually unadventurous, it would seem, but not unkind; there he suffered the social stigma, it would appear further, of bastardy. He went to a silly and genteel little private school, where he was taught nothing; he left it to assist his grandfather in rent-collecting; he endured the patronage of two young men who dabbled in science and art respectively, and thus entered the "outer suburbs of civilization"; his grandfather died, leaving him a few hundred pounds, and off he went to London to study biology.
If the emphasis on David's illegitimacy in this first part of the novel seems rather forced, that may be owing to Mr. Aldington's adoption of David's point of view; he does not stand aside from his youthful hero but rather states a case for him. This is still more marked in what follows. For two years David lives in mean lodgings and dreams of truth and poetry and friendship, all of which elude him. Then his soul protests and he makes himself known to his paternal grandfather. Sir Thomas Danby alone might have been content to take him to the tailor's and invite him to dinner, but through the worldly offices of the cynical and garrulous Mr. Martindale David suffers a sea change or Cinderella transformation and is transported to the French Riviera on an allowance of a thousand a year. As a beach butterfly he falls in love at slight with the Hon. Diana Rockingham, and together they dwell in Arcady. But Diana is as warped and as self-deluded as everybody else, as complete a sham as Mr. O'Hara and Mr. Cowley, Madame Delorma and Professor Tibbets, Mr. Martindale and Prince Alleoti, and in the end David is back almost where he started.
The distaste or disgust or "disillusionment" that is so pronounced in Mr. Aldington's novels is not abated here. once more he disapproves of a great many things of snobbery, prudery, industry, Christianity, numerous forms of art and literature. The motive of his criticism is often plain enough, springing as it does from an acute and deeply fretted sensitiveness; between an antiquated ideal and the commercialism of our day, he suggests, lies a morass of the spirit in which normal humanity founders. With all the good will in the world, however, it cannot be said that this all-inclusive condemnation of his is delivered here with sufficient imaginative force or weight. David, no doubt, is the type and symbol of a frustrated generation, the rejected guest at the feast of life. But you cannot make a good novel out of frustration alone or out of the indictment of an entire civilization.