THE CRIMSON BOOKSHELF REVIEWS
The Unspeakable Gentleman: by J. P. Marquand, Solbners: New York, 1922.
Weary of living in hall bedrooms, wearing second hand clothes and thumbing ledgers; of fame that comes through new filing systems and of love on a park bench; weary of the present day "realism" and all that it implies, it is pleasant to find a book that deals, virllely enough, with beauty and gallantry--and villainy. There is more than enough of present friction that tells us of our own civilization and mechanics, when God knows we see too much of it day by day; more than enough of the "romance of business" which is no romance. Inevitably are there times when we long to have, (as what gentleman should not?) "at least twenty coats"; to find ourselves in a wide hall choosing a rapier of founding a silver mounted pistol, or to be out on the still wider seas, swinging a cutlass.
We had thought there was little change for such refreshment since Jeffrey Farnol chose to make his books unreadable, but have found our appetite considerably satisfied by this first work of Mr. Marquand's. But we have by no means reached the point of satiety, and sincerely hope that the author who is, by the way, a Harvard graduate of the Class of 1915, will not make this his sole adventure in this field of fiction. Frankly it is not, nor does it pretend to be, an inspiring book. You do not turn the last page with a fierce concentration, nor, having finished, filing the volume across the room with a tensely muttered "God!" and stride out to lift the Universe. "But on the other hand, you can not easily put it down until you have brought the tumultuous evening to a peaceful close.
For all the incidents; the number and interaction of which do credit to the author's ingenuity, are crowded into half a day and one hectic night. In the second year of Napoleon's empire, the scene is laid in New England on an estate which, even if it was in disrepair had "lawns that ran down to the river where our ships pulled at their anchors". The action catches the fire from the flame of a royalist plot, which having been stamped out in France has thrown a few sparks across the Atlantic. These may have smouldered for some time but when we take up the story they have started a fence blaze around a precious paper held by a gentleman as perfectly eccentric as any we have met with in many moons. It is he, this "unspeakable gentleman", who for a day and a night fights the world, his son, Fate, and the reader, with the meagre assistance of rum, Madeirs, and a negro servant. Oh yes. There is also in the story a charming Mademoiselle de Bianzy, who adds a certain interest; but it seems almost as if the author had placed her in the center of the maelstrom rather as an after-thought and to full certain fundamental requirements of fiction; had, lifted her in over the top as it were.
Did we not know is as it is, it might be evident that this is Mr. Marquand's first book from the fact that it starts a little "hard". Things do not move along quite easily unit the first crash and oath:
"My father's fist came down on the table with a crash.
"Then, by God,' he shouted, 'you'll not leave this room!'" After that, although at times, through the author's skill, we feel like laughing or smiling, we have neither the time nor the breath, but are carried along in a hurting rush of excitement and adventure. As a final word, one that cannot be spoken for many contemporary writers, it might be said that if there is one characteristic that stands out in the book, it is the author's eminent good taste.