Roman Fountain. By Hugh Walpole. (Macmillan, 8s. 6d.) Reviewed by MICHAEL DE LA BEDOYERE
WE ktre apt to think that we ean judge the worth of a hook hy a Standard measure, but in fact we do nothing of the sort. It is the writer himself who suggests to us the standard we should apply. Little books are praised when they remain consistently little, and greater books are criticised when they fall short of what the writer leads us to expect,
whether from his reputation or the quality of his mind as revealed in his writing.
I should call this self-revelationWalpole is postponing his autobiography for another twenty years, he tells us— deeply disappointing, and yet I suppose that if it came from a less interesting personality I should give it high praise.
Even now I hate to say that it is disappointing, and should find it hard to give adequate reasons. Everything in it is emphatically on the side of the angels, and there can be no doubt of the popular novelist's intense interest in Catholicity. And who would not study with avidity his reactions to the great ceremonies that follow the death of a Pope and accompany the election of his successor—ceremonies which Walpole reported for the Hearst Press.
IT may be that the author is too I honestly preoccupied with himself so that he cannot get away from himself and make the self-revelation one half as interesting as the characters he can create : he remains throughout the subject analysing, and never succeeds in becoming the object analysed. Hence a sense of shallowness, mere emotionalism, obviousness.
As a young man he was shown (by a character twice as realistically and interestingly described as he makes himself sound) a beautiful fountain in a Roman square. It was a moment, almost a moment of vision. The fountain was then lost, and he is still seeking it. He hoped to find it last year when he went to Rome for the articles, but without success. He promises himself to return again and find it when he becomes "a wise, controlled, welleducated man."
BUT this visit was worth-while. for he has found something. "Four shadows, friendly and intimate, stood, marking with their grey austerity the waters of the road—the Poet (Keats), whose physical life had been so brief; the Sculptor (Michelangelo); that old wise man, the Mountaineer (Pius XI), who had been so simple a father to his many children; and the Saint (Pius XII), beside whom I had stood for so brief a moment." In another passage he confesses his faith as it stands at present: " First the personality and character of Jesus Christ Himself. . . . Here is a Man like no other man who has ever beeti, and in realising Him I go beyond all earthly physical things into the world of the Spirit. If He is true then the
of the Spirit is tree. . . . Secondly. my
love for my friends. . . I am aware in my own experielite Of a spiritual life as active as my physical life."
T HIS book, I think, could only have I been written as it stands either by an incredibly vain and simple person or by a person who has in him the roots of true humility. And those who find it too naive, too sugary. too shallow—as I confess I do—are probably rebuked by the fact that the second alternative is the true one. Meanwhile for those to whom the self-revelation does not appeal there remain the taut, vivid, original descriptions of things seen and experienced and persons met.
SCrflCC and Wisdom. By Jacques Maritain. (Bles, 10s. 6(1.)
Reviewed by THOMAS GILBY, 0.1'.
HAD the second half of this book been left out of the English version the result would have been cheaper and no less useful to the ordinary reader who is interested in philosophy. M. Maritain there considers some points of difference between himself and two Dominican critics, to whom he appears to grudge the power of the reason in moral matters. The question is Important, but the discussion is knotty, and can only be appreciated by the specialist who knows the context.
The first half, which justifies the title, is of more general interest. It contains three essays. The first, rather slight, touches on the contrast between the wisdom of the East and of the Greeks. the effort to escape and the effort to enter into possession, and of their union in the theology of Aquinas.
The next essay, which is the most important, is on a subject now coming to the front, namely the status of a natural philosophy which is more than a general secretary of the particular and experimental sciences and.yet only a metaphysical Cinderella.
The third essay deals with the place of philosophy in faith.