26 October

26 October 1920

Villa Isola Bella Menton, France

If an infinite capacity for taking pains were what is needed to produce a great novel, we should have to hail Mr Walpole's latest book as a masterpiece. But here it is - four parts, four hundred and seventy pages, packed as tight as they can hold with an assortment of strange creatures and furnishings; and we cannot, with the best will in the world, see in the result more than a task - faithfully and conscientiously performed to the best of the author's power - but a 'task accomplished', and not even successfully at that. For we feel that it is determination rather than inspiration, strength of will rather than the artist's compulsion, which has produced The Captives. Still, while we honour the author for these qualities, is it not a lamentable fact that they can render him so little assistance at the last - can give him no hand with this whole great group of horses captured at such a cost of time and labour, and brought down to the mysterious water only that they shall drink? But, alas! They will not drink for Mr Wapole; he has not the magic word for them; he is not their master. In a word, for all his devotion to writing, we think the critic, after an examination of The Captives, would find it hard to state with any conviction that Mr Walpole is a creative artist. These are hard words; we shall endeavour to justify our use of them.  [KM's review of The Captives by Hugh Walpole in the Athenaeum, 15 October 1920]