Classics and Commercials: A Literary Chronicle of the Forties

By Edmund Wilson | Go to book overview

WHAT BECAME OF LOUIS BROMFIELD

IN THE DAYS of The Green Bay Tree and The Strange Case of Miss Annie Spragg, Mr. Louis Bromfield used to be spoken of as one of the younger writers of promise. By the time he had brought out Twenty-four Hours, it was more or less generally said of him that he was definitely second-rate. Since then, by unremitting industry and a kind of stubborn integrity that seems to make it impossible for him to turn out his rubbish without thoroughly believing in it, he has gradually made his way into the fourth rank, where his place is now secure.

His new novel, What Became of Anna Bolton, is one of his most remarkable achievements. The story begins in the London season of 1937, and in a succession of brilliant scenes which, for the density of the social picture, recall the opening of War and Peace, Mr. Bromfield makes us acquainted with a vivid and varied company from that international haut monde about which he writes with authority. As we pass among these glittering worldlings, Mr. Bromfield characterizes each one with a magically evocative phrase. There are fading Lady Kernogan, "quite simply a tart, with certain superior qualities"; Major von Kleist from the German Embassy, "with the peculiar erect stiff carriage of Prussian military men"; Lady Haddonfield, "whom the years had turned into a rather handsome bony mare" and who

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