Cornish Tales. By Charles Lee, (Dent, 8s. 6d.).
Reviewed by DONALD ATTWATER
IT is true that good wine needs no bush, but an introduction by Sir Arthur Quitter Couch is an adornment of any literary work, and when that work consists of talcs of Cornwall it is a guarantee as well as an adornment.
A guarantee, that is, for those who want one ; but I hope there are still many to whom the name of Charles Lee is in itself sufficient. It is new over forty years since The Widow Woman (reprinted in this volume) gave delight to others besides " Q " ; but not so ;many appreciated Dorinda's Birthday. and this collection gives the opportunity to them and their successors belatedly to recognise a masterpiece that Sir Arthur puts on a level with Cousin Phyllis and Under the Greenwood Tree.
The rest of the book is made up of the seven stories and sketches collectively called " Our Little Town," with three other short tales.
IT is often heard said, sometimes with a touch , of irritation or " superiority," " do not like dialect stories." Several explanations can be offered for this, cogent and otherwise, and the " country stuff " so often put out in print and on the air no doubt accounts for a lot. But the dialects of Cornwall and Dorset and Yorkshire and the rest arc as much English as the more standard speech : as much and as good, and in practice sometimes better; ignorance or scorn of those dialects suggests a shallowness of culture, to attempt to eradicate them is to weaken and emasculate our common tongue.
But Mr. Lee is more than a master of Cornish speech: he recreates Cornish folk, shows the outsider something of a people and life that still go on behincj,the G.W.R.'s riviera, behind the landladies and the hotels, and the ugliness of Camborne and Redruth, behind the Cold-Comfort-Farmery of some writers and the kailyard whimsies of others. The past two years have brought a renewed realisation (not before some of us needed it) of the virtues and qualities of the English people: the Cornish arc English only technically, but we should be the poorer without them. Read Mr. Lee's good English writing and see.