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|THE TIMES LITERARY
Thursday, October 3, 1912: "Mrs. Ames"
Mr. E.F. Benson's stories are
always easy of entrance, but in this respect MRS. AMES (Hodder and Stoughton,
Sr.) A clever laughable little satire in the author's lightest and happiest
mood, rivals any of them. We glide, thoroughly aroused from the outset,
into the midst of the social affairs of Riseborough in Kent, where Mrs.
Ames, a plain little woman well in her sixth decade, "like a good-looking
toad," but quite "county," holds easy social sway save for a caviller here
and there. Chief among these is Mrs. Altham (a little gaunt and red
of cheek), with a mind more appreciative of the infinitesimal than of the
important, and a husband entirely congenial by virtue of an appetite for
news no less rapacious than her own. As we accompany the Althams
one fine summer morning up the High street, he on his way to the club (for
"news of Morocco") and she to war, with Mr. Pritchard, the grocer, we find
important matters stirring. For Mrs. Ames has actually invited to
dinner a husband without his wife and a wife without her husband!
Really, it almost looks as if... But there it is, and leads to all
sorts of things - to a middle-aged .Shakespeare" dance in a garden at which
there appear four rival Cleopatras and two Antonies; to a defection from
conjugal loyalty, and some fishing in shallow waters; to a sporadic female-suffragistic
turmoil; to a contemplated elopement - in fact, to things "crammed with
interest and incident for all those who take a proper concern in the affairs
of other people." It is all admirably touched off, and if laughter
could kill, gossip (and philandering) would die in agony in a thousand
country places. But Mr. Benson knows that middle-aged people with
nothing to do are likely to become children, that human beings are periodically
volcanic, and that a storm in a tea-cup if you happen to be living in the
tea-cup is just as upsetting as a gale on the high seas. There is
throughout a most effective interchange of the
BOOK REVIEW DIGEST, 1912
Benson, Edward Frederic, Mrs. Ames. $1.35 (1 1/2c.) Doubleday. 12-21728
The characters of this tale are
a group of more or less middle-aged persons, who move in a narrowly restricted
circle of English society. In
The book has all Mr. Benson's
cleverness, though it is not entirely satisfactory. For one thing,
the younger generation seem to count for
An eminently tranquil book, full
of shrewd observance and mild satire.
It must be premised that Mr. E.F.
Benson's new novel, Mrs. Ames,' stands a very small chance of achieving
anything like popularity. At the same time, it is an extraordinary
study in comedy and quite the best thing artistically that Mr. Benson has
done so far.
Mr. Benson's newest novel which
seems to have been designed by the author to show not only his large assortment
of characters at their worst moments, but also modern life in a small town
at its most vulgar, turns round upon him and shows him at a level far below
that to which we now expect him to attain.
[Spec. 109:711. N. 2, 12. 250w -- no review]
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