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50 REVIEWS 1. The Lost Paradise of Childhood: The Fiction of Forrest Reid Brian Taylor. The Green Avenue : The Life and Writings of Forrest Reid, l875-1947~lLond and NYi Cambridge UP, 1980). 112.50 Forrest Reid is largely a neglected writer today. Author of an early study of W. B. Yeats (1915), friend of both Walter de la Mare and E. M. Forster, and recipient of the James Tait Black Award for his novel Young Tom (1944), Reid's current obscurity is as much due to the facts of his life as to his aesthetic convictions. "The subject of all of Reid's novels," Brian Taylor argues, "was his own mode of awareness of the life about him, and inevitably, all of his fiction took on the mould of autobiography. Literary motifs in his fiction always related to personal themes in his private life" (p. I83). In The Green Avenue Taylor undertakes to trace the interrelationship of the Ulster-born novelist's life and art, but in the process he has produced a book which may not satisfy a reader's interest in either Reid's life or his fiction. This is not to quarrel with Taylor's hypothesis; it may well be, however, to fault some aspects of his demonstration of it. Forrest Reid was born in Belfast in 1875, and aside from three years at Cambridge (I905-I9O8), during which time he came into contact with both Ronald Firbank and Rupert Brooke, he spent most of his life there. Reid's family was solidly middle-class, but it had suffered economic reverses. His elder brothers entered banking and the linen trade, and Reid himself was apprenticed to a tea merchant. By the time he went up to Cambridge in his thirties, he had written two novels, The Kingdom of Twilight (1904) and The Garden God (1905) , and had attracted the attention of Arthur Symons, Edmund Gosse, and Henry James. Indeed, James had been sufficiently impressed by Reid's first novel to accept the dedication of the second, only to be panicked by its open, if idealized, treatment of one boy's homosexual attraction to another. Taylor notes that "in The Garden God, the twin themes of nostalgia for the past and a heavy, subdued eroticism are entwined. The nostalgia serves as a pointer for Reid's later literary preoccupations; the eroticism is an indicator of deeper, more personal, concerns" (pp. 41-42). In The Green Avenue Taylor treats the development of both themes, but he voices reservations about the propriety of exploring Reid's personal life too thoroughly. "The temptation to 'reveal all' for revelation's sake alone is one that is best resisted," he observes. "However, those aspects of Reid's 'work' which repeatedly find corresponding themes in areas of the 'life' do require linking and this calls for honest biographical exploration" (p. xi). As a statement of principle, this remark is unexceptionable. As a guide to actual biographical practice, however, it causes Taylor to fall between two stools. He draws back from certain aspects of Reid's adult personality , failing to characterize, for example, something like the novelist 's periods of rage and depression at the marriages of his 51 friends James Rutherford and Stephen Gilbert as anything more than evidence of Reid's selfish, adolescent preoccupation with personal loyalty. At the same time Taylor disclaims the intention of writing "a 'purely' literary study" (p. xi) and refers readers interested in the novelist's style to Russell Burlingham's Forrest Reid: A Portrait and a. Study (1953). Significantly, while he lists Mary Bryan's Forrest Reid (1976) in his bibliography, he makes no overt reference to it, perhaps because Bryan tends to see Reid's novels less as expressions of his personality than as dramatizations, at times ironic, of viewpoints of their protagonists. If Bryan's book lacks the sophistication of Taylor's reading of the novelist, it is the most detailed textual examination yet available of Reid's individual books. The strengths of The Green Avenue develop from Taylor's ability to render a convincing portrait of Reid as a child and adolescent. Drawing on the novelist's own autobiographical volumes - Apostate (I926) and...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 50-52
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
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