Three Novels: Vainglory; Inclinations; Caprice

Three Novels: Vainglory; Inclinations; Caprice

Three Novels: Vainglory; Inclinations; Caprice

Three Novels: Vainglory; Inclinations; Caprice

Excerpt

Ronald Firbank is a better and a more serious writer than it has ever been fashionable to suppose. The tiresome adulation of the claque which adores his fin-de- siècle wickedness and the grim incomprehension of the excessively serious have always obscured his real merits. The Firbank legend, for which Firbank himself was largely responsible, was constructed so carefully that even a quarter of a century after his death it is difficult to disentangle the artist from the delicate posturer who tried so hard--and with indifferent success--to astonish the bourgeoisie. Between 1915 and 1926, when his books were being published, the English novel seemed set for ever in the pattern of realism and a modified naturalism. Firbank's writing lacked the obvious purposefulness and the impressive documentation which Wells, Galsworthy, Bennett and Moore were bringing to the composition of seemingly indestructible fiction. If Forster, Conrad and Lawrence deviated from this pattern in ways unpopular or disturbing, still they were serious as Firbank, to judge by the surface of his writing, was not. To-day, when the formulas of realism-cum-naturalism which once seemed so inexhaustibly fruitful produce only apples of Sodom, Firbank is a green bay tree. His rococo palaces turn out to have been more solidly constructed than the sedate family mansions of the Georgians and their lower middle-class water-closets. The tradition of the contemporary novel now closest to our sensibility is that established by Joyce and Virginia Woolf. To this tradition, in his own eccentric fashion, Firbank belongs.

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