9 June

9 June 1920

2 Portland Villas, Hampstead - London

The troubling question which would seem to lie so heavy upon the pen of many a modem writer: ‘How much can I afford to take for granted? How much dare I trust to the imagination of the reader?' is answered here. We are too often inclined to think it may be solved by technical accomplishment, but that is not enough; the reason why Mr Couperus can afford to dismiss the question, to wave it aside and to take everything for granted, is because of the strength of his imaginative vision. By that we mean it is impossible in considering these books not to be conscious of the deep breath the author has taken; he has had, as it were, a vision of the Van Lowe family, and he has seen them as souls - small souls - at the mercy of circumstance, life, fate. He has realized that that which keeps them together, the deep impulse which unites them through everything, is apprehension. The real head of the family, the grim, ghostly shadow whose authority they never question, is Fear. So, as we speak of the idea underlying a poem, we may say that fear is the idea underlying these novels. If we listen deeply enough we can hear this unquiet heart of the Van Lowe family throbbing quickly, and it is because it is never for a moment still that the author succeeds in keeping our interest passionately engaged. We are constantly aware of the vision, the idea; it is the secret that he permits us to share with him, and in the end it seems to give way to a deeper secret still....
There is an angle from which we seem to see them as the strangest landscapes, small, low-lying country swept continually by immense storms of wind and rain, with dark menacing clouds for ever pulling over and casting a weighty shadow that lifts and drifts away only to fall again. [Review of The Later Life, The Twilight of the Souls by Louis Couperus, Athenaeum, 18 June 1920]