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Romance in More or Less Historical Guise

THE ALTAR OF THE LEGION. By Farnham Bishop '08 and Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur '09. Little, Brown, and Company. Boston. 1926. $2.00.

By Henry M. Hart

THE stuff of romance is in this book;--hard riding Celts sweeping down upon Saxon shield walls; Drusus, prefect of the Damnonian March, leading forth the remnants of Roman civilization in Britain to quell the barbarian invaders; love, conspiracy, and battle in Lyonesse in the tumultuous days which followed the death of King Arthur.

"The sea lies over Lyonesse--

Fair Lyonesse, lost Lyonesse--

Gray waves wash over Lyonesse,

The city of the foam."

Lyonesse, the legend has it, was the outpost of Roman power in Britain. On the tip of the Cornwall peninsula it lay, between Land's End and the Scilly Isles, until the ocean rose up and swallowed it. Today, "old fisherman still boast that when the sea is still, they can hear its church bells ring far down beneath the rippling keel."

The stuff of romance is here, but not in its best manner. Messers. Bishop and Brodeur have a brave story to tell; it is a pity they have not told it more skillfully. They have chosen to adopt a pseudo-heroic style. Their characters prate mightily of great deeds for mother Britain, messenger after messenger after messenger after messenger after messenger falls swooning at the king's feet, rude soldiers in battle and Roman citizens on the streets blurt out heroic speeches tuned to the rhythm of a Cicero. It is all very exciting, but seldom convincing. One suspects that the authors have written for children, but neither jacket nor advertisements give any hint of it. The tale is admirably told for a twelve-year old; it is the kind of children's story that grown-ups might take up covertly and read to the end, with an indulgent smile at the ingenuousness of the book and the foolishness of their own delight in it.

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