20 December 1920

20 December 1920

Villa Isola Bella, Menton, France

The old theatrical star is tempted to go to see the show one night, and she is recognized and taken behind the scenes and made much of. Again she lifts the glass to her lips, but there is no wine. Just a breath, a sweetness - a memory that she sips - and then all is over. Well - mightn't that be a marvellous story? Isn't it one of the stories that we all keep, unwritten, to write some day, when we have realized more fully that moment, perhaps, when she steps out of the theatre into the cold indifferent dark, or perhaps that moment when the light breaks along the edge of the curtain and the music sinks down, lower, lower, until the fiddles are sounding from under the sea? ... But Mr Pett Ridge gives us his version of it as though he expected it to be read between nine forty-five and ten-thirteen.
‘Poor old soul!' we presume his admiring reader thinks, slapping her book together and asking her neighbour if he would mind not sitting on her coat any longer as this is her station and she can't afford to jump bodily out of her coat on to the platform? But is that tribute enough? Does that content the author? We wonder because there are ‘hints' in several stories that lead us to believe he could, if he would, tell it all so differently.
Mr de Vere Stacpoole, to judge by A Man of the Islands, still believes he has only to shake a coral island at us to set us leaping. But we have cut our teeth on it so dreadfully often. We have counted the cocoanuts, discovered the square bottle half-buried in the deserted beach, and fished the lagoon of its last false pearl.

[KM's review of The Countess of Lowndes Square and Other Stories by E. F. Benson; Just Open by W. Pett Ridge; A Man of the Islands, by H. de Vere Stacpoole, in the Athenaeum, 26 November 1920.]