by ROBERT SPEAIGHT
Maurice Baring Restored Selections from his work, chosen and edited. with an Introductory Essay and Commentaries; by Paul Horgan (Heinemann 84s.)
.CINE should thank God. as `-' well as Mr. Morgan. for this timely and judicious act of restoration.
Among English critics John Davenport—who had the genius of discernment—was almost alone in his generation in appraising Maurice Baring at his true value, although I am not aware that he ever did so in print. In France. however. he was always greatly admired: I remember Francois M au riac remarking how Baring showed the "penetration of grace" without the reader being made aware of it I doubt if this was strictly true. for there was generally a momcnt when the heroine met somebody from Farm Street taking the air in Hyde Park. The reason why Baring is neglected today k because he wrote coolly. accurately. and dispassionately. about the upper classes. and the upper classes are no longer thought a fit subject for literary treatment.
Critics regarded Baring as an amateur. because he belonged to several London clubs, and because he did not think it necessary to describe
what people do in the bedroom. Mr. Horgan shows that he was in the highest degree a professional writer. He cornmunicates the glow (and the remorse) of a love affair as surely as Tolstoy, from whom he had learned the secret of simplicity. just as he had learnt a great many other things from a varied and active life. Marshal Foch said that he was the best staff officer he had ever k mown.
Baring took literature so seriously that he was able to be frivolous about it. Although he was serious about every thing, he was solemn about nothing; and his practical jokes were. more often than not, directed against himself.
When a writer falls out of favour. he generally falls out of print. We are greatly, therefore. in Mr. Horgan's debt for providing us with a generous anthology from Baring's writings. These extracts will send many readers scurrying to the second-hand bookshops.
It can. I think, be fairly said that the characters in Baring's novels, although they have interesting emotions and substantial incomes, lack vitality. But take his immense output as a whole and you are left with an impression of undaunted high spirits. ever so slightly tinged with melancholy. It is the right formula for readability.