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BENSON, EDWARD FREDERIC. Paying guests. 320p $2.50 Doubleday, Doran [7s
6d Hutchinson] 29-14379
The author of Dodo is here seen
in an unfamiliar role, as the quiet observer of a group of middle-class
people living in a private hotel
To say that Mr. Benson in it does
for English life and human nature what Booth Tarkington does for like phases
of the American brand of
Mr. Benson's humor is always good
natured, even when he is making sport of the peculiarities of the devotees
of mental healing, and it must
There is little of Mr. Benson,
the castigator of the smart, to be discovered in these pages, which are
devoted to a kindly humour and gentle
We turn from "Dodo", Benson's
pale performance, with a weariness that amounts almost to pain. . .
Mr. Benson retrieves the small doings of these uninteresting people with
the amiably excited air of a puppy rushing back with the stick that his
master has thrown. There is only
"Paying Guests" is comedy of the
sort one sees too seldom. It is the product of a fertile but unrestrained
invention and a sense of quiet
Mr. Benson's wit is spiced with
cruelty; but his invention is so fertile and resourceful that one is always
more aware of the wit than of
There is no plot in the novel,
no implied comment upon life. But there is great good fun, and, what is
more, intelligent fun. High brows need not sniff at 'Paying Guests';
low brows will not find much of the comedy over their heads. . .
Mr. Benson has produced a widely
"Mr. Benson is at his very best
in Paying Guests and we are grateful for his malice.
This author has found better material
before than he finds here in the inhabitants of "Wentworth." . . .
The stage at times becomes a
Other reviews [Booklist 26:69 N '29 ~ Bookm 70:xxx O '29 110w ]
The [London] Times Literary Supplement
PAYING GUESTS. It may, no
doubt, be true that chronic inhabitants of boarding establishments develop
certain idiosyncrasies which render them suitable subjects for the satirical
writer; but novelists who rely wholly upon these idiosyncrasies for their
effects are apt to find their story wearing rather thin before their book
is finished, besides arousing the suspicion of being a little uncharitable.
Mr. E.F. Benson's PAYING GUESTS (Hutchinson, 7s. 6d. net) illustrates this
danger. This author has found better material before than he finds
here in the inhabitants of "Wentworth," the superior boarding-house at
Bolton Spa kept by Mrs. Oxney, and a more thrilling plot than the baiting
of Colonel Chase. No doubt Colonel Chase deserved all he got.
Nobody knows better than Mr. Benson how to display the foibles of the selfish
and domineering, and he gives us an excellent portrait of this healthy,
self-absorbed, and overbearing man, who was accustomed to lord it over
the ladies at Wentworth. Nobody stood up to him, not even the ever-girlish
spinster Miss Howard, until the advent of Mrs. Holders, who was unrepentantly
rheumatic and had a wicked sense of humour. Mrs. Holders let loose
one evening a demon spirit of doubt concerning the Colonel's divinity.
From his resounding defeat at bridge he becomes the sport of imps.
Mrs. Bliss, the brave devotee of mind over matter, Miss Howard and a combination
of circumstances help to bewitch him. Not only is he bewitched, but
Miss Howard herself, with her feeble water-colours, her improvisations
after Chopin, and her irritating "sweet young thing" conversation, and
Florence Kemp, the down-trodden
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