SOME OF THE ENGLISH. By Oliver Madox Hueffer. D. Appleton & Co. New York. 1930. Price: $2.50.
IF it is complimentary to say that a book is good if it can be read by anyone and do no harm, no better tribute could be paid this work. Certainly not all readers would acquire equal benefit from it; certainly the mellow vein of understanding, the whimsical, delicate irony will be lost on many. But there are no startling extremes to lead a reader away from the genuine excellence of the work as a whole.
Fine frenzy, often disingenuously clever, unqualified assertion, propoganda for one cause or another, and, in fact any indication of a bee in the bonnet of an author, are often considered vital in the opinion of modern literary critics. Likewise, enthusiasm and unrestraint are considered the ear marks of powerful literature. Therefore it is with something akin to surprise that one realizes, on finishing this sober volume, its genuine literary excellence.
Above all else, there is charm in this book, at once tangible, personal and yet indefinite, so unobtrusively is it blended with the subject at hand. The author is avowedly writing about some of the English. For that reason he does not try to tell about all the English, nor even all about the English. In his habitat of Romley he finds by-ways, people, institutions, manners, ideas, ideals, and vices enough to write a book. Consequently his opinions are not violent, his progress leisurely, his attitude sympathetic.
It may be gathered from this account, and rightly so, that the author has the urbanity of a humorist. But this urbanity, an Addisonian touch of gentility, does not, as might be thought, drag the statements of the writer down to a mere Thetorical smoothness. He does what he sets out to do, and does it with literary excellence.