ENGLAND'S CHILDREN OF THE SUN: A Narrative of ""Decadence"" in England after 1918 by Martin Green

ENGLAND'S CHILDREN OF THE SUN: A Narrative of ""Decadence"" in England after 1918

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Professor Green has written voluminously in the last years--biographical/critical works of greater or lesser disorderliness with a particular thesis to advance. Here the thesis is only a ""nexus""--that of little-remembered Harold Acton and Brian Howard who touch shoulders with most of the dandies (or rogues or naifs) from 1918 to almost 1960 and permit Green to divagate from one aesthete to another and from major work to minor--say, a book review. With the amusing Acton and more depressive Howard as his emblematic ""Sunchildren"" (Sunchildren have style, manners, splendor; they are also snobs and narcissists), he manages, in this lengthy book which took ""long gentle years,"" to ""cultically"" drop one name after another (overloading is Green's besetting sin--23 names on page 56, only 16 on page 58), all tripping off the tongue. Just as in the foreword we had June Allyson tripping down the stairs and two pages later author Green ""tripping"" down another escalier. While dismissing the Bloornsbury group as too high-minded to be mere dandies, he spends most time on Waugh, Nabokov, Diaghilev, Graham Greene; he also, at great length, discusses Burgess-Maclean and the Manhattan Project--rather tangential but justified as belonging here in the postwar climate which led to the decline of the aesthete. At the very end, he comes closest to a unifying perspective for the book even if he had no ""first-order intellectual motives""; namely that the decent man--and we must relax our ideas of decency--must make room for the imaginative life at any level. But it is Nabokov who holds ""the key to the locked door of England's dungeon. I hold on to that sense as some promise that my own development is not leading me up and out into a self-designed empyrean."" This is his conclusion, whatever it means. That's only part of the trouble really, since Green's overcrowded referrals throughout make one question any form of scholarship which rests so heavily on the indiscriminate acquisition of incidental materials.

Pub Date: Jan. 30th, 1975
Publisher: Basic Books