Classics and Commercials: A Literary Chronicle of the Forties

By Edmund Wilson | Go to book overview

A REVIVAL OF RONALD FIRBANK

NEW DIRECTIONShas brought out an "Omnibus" of five of Ronald Firbank novels: Valmouth, The Artificial Princess, The Flower Beneath the Foot, Prancing Nigger and Concerning the Eccentricities of Cardinal Pirelli--with an introduction by Osbert Sitwell, a revised and expanded version of a memoir which has already twice been printed in other volumes. It is a good thing to have Firbank revived. Just before this collection appeared, I had been reading those of his novels that I had not read when they first came out, and these had led me to reread those that I had read. A conviction had been gradually growing on me that he was one of the finest English writers of his period and one of those most likely to become a classic. In England he has been appreciated much better than over here. In America, he was introduced in the twenties by Mr. Carl Van Vechten, but, while Firbank was alive, only three of his ten books were ever published in the United States, and although these had a certain vogue, they figured mainly among the accessories of what was then called "sophistication" and were, I think, more or less confused, through no fault of Mr. Van Vechten's, with Mr. Van Vechten's own novels, which may have been influenced by Firbank but which were not on the same plane of artistic seriousness. Since Firbank's death in 1926, he has hardly been read over here. In England, he has al

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