THE PRESENT AND THE PAST by Ivy Compton-Burnett


Email this review


Again (Bullivant and the Lambs, etc.) a slow, sere satire which moves up and downstairs- from the nursery to the drawing room- in a well-established English household- and derives its intention and its purpose from an irony of situation. In this case, it is the return of Catherine, the first wife of Cassius Clare, to see the two children who have been reared by her successor- Flavia- along with the three children she has borne him. Cassius, a deliberate and didactic and rather difficult man, is at first agreeable to the visit which ends in his exclusion by the two women who do not antagonize but neutralize each other and become intimate. Cassius, who is to learn that ""the past would be too much for any of us, if it did not stay in its place"", stages an abortive suicide which attracts more attention that approval, and a few days later is the victim of a heart attack and the friendship between Catherine and Flavia comes to an end- with Cassius'.... Once more, the precise, poised, studied, epigrammatic artistry of I. Compton Burnett is a taste- like olives- to be cultivated and admired by a select market.

Pub Date: Oct. 5th, 1953
ISBN: 1152692364
Publisher: Messner