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The Autumn's Englishmen--Wells and Bennett

LORD RAINGO, by Arnold Bennett; George H. Doran Company. New York. 1926. $2.00.


TO judge Mr. Bennett's latest novel by his own literary standards were an act of tolerance which would demand the suppression of fervid personal reaction on the part of the critics as well as an intimate knowledge of Mr. Bennetts psychology. Assuming, then, that "Lord Raingo" is all it is intended to be, the reader's disappointment mounts through nearly 400 pages from mild distaste to a peak of pure chagrin and positive depression.

Mr. Bennett's medium is not the X-ray, which penetrates its subject and discoveds unguessed-at causes, nor is it the telescope, which brings out the concomitant phenomena of an object, relegating that object to its proper environment. He depends solely upon the misroscope for his effect. "Lord Raingo" is a meticulous examination of multitudinous minutiae, and little more than that. The Bennett of old was wont to sport with his realistic characers by plunging them into romantic situations, as in "The Grand Babylon Hotel," or "Buried Alive." His latest effort, however, deals with a prosy old codger who maunders through a marsh of political machination crossed by a sickly stream of uninteresting adultery.

Plain Sam Raingo, multimillionaire, British, unimaginative, "wangles a seat in Lords" and a minister from the "P. M." (Prime Minister). His meteoric rise in popular esteem, fear of the P. M.'s jealousy, ultimate confusion of his adversaries, loss of his mistress, and death from pneumonia fill two weeks and 393 pages. The last third of the book describes his death from every angle.

For page after page the reader is held fast to the ground by a million gossamer strands of unimportant detail. Chafe though he may for the moment when he may take off and soar among the clouds, that moment never arrives.

To some, "Lord Raingo" may appear a magnificent exposition of realism. But it is a case of homeopathic remedy administered in an allopathic dose. Mr. Bennett definitely crosses the line where realism merges into tautological flatulence. Elegence of style, felicity of phrase, restraint, suggestion these prerequisites to delight in reading, all are submerged in an ocean of microcosms, and uninteresting ones at that.

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