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Miscellany of short stories, prose poems and impressionistic snippets by the author who inspired Evelyn Waugh, Aldous Huxley, and Anthony Powell. Firbank's (1886-1926) early works, written between 1903-08 at ages 17 to 22, herald the completed novels of easily the most precious English stylist to find a publisher this century. Of the pieces collected here, eight were published in his lifetime, five posthumously, and four now see print for the first time. In rediscovering these flights he wrote as a ""child"" (his word), Firbank thought all but one unworthy of publication. Well, the world could get along without half of them, but at least six are flawless marvels of delicate pastoral satire. The more perishable mimic MallarmÉ, Baudelaire's prose poems, and Oscar Wilde's dripping purples and go nowhere. The successes spin webbed silver. Even these seem to be going nowhere until--in some triumphant understatement--they gather their first laugh and the awed reader is successfully taken in by a master. Firbank adores woman, her scents and finery, and revels in the sentimental fallacy, painting flowers, plants, trees, birds and bees with human feelings while allowing his ladies merely a troubled moonbeam of passion. In the strongest tale, ""Lady Appledore's Mesalliance,"" young Wildred, recently orphaned, gives up his grand piano and tea-roses and goes into the country to become a gardener for Lady Appledore, whose flower-arranging nears mania. On his first night there he is told that he cannot yet meet the head gardener: ""Father is not to be disturbed, he is sitting up all night with a sick Orchid."" Each gorgeous page, powdered with hues as Firbank's mothlike antennae follow a lady's perfumes and the liquefaction of her silks, plunges a wisp of womanhood into a fully realized landscape by Corot or Watteau, then frames her lavishly. Glowworms caught in an ostrich feather.

Pub Date: Sept. 30th, 1990
Publisher: Dalkey