Captain Macedoine's Daughter

by William McFee. New York: Doubleday, Page & Company, 1920. l2mo, xii + 326 pp. $1.90.
AROUND Artemisia Macedoine, the charming, scheming, pathetic, vindictive, aspiring, unmoral daughter of a pretentious old fraud and a New Orleans octaroon, Mr. McFee has knit with surely accumulating interest the threads of a leisurely, introspective story. Now and then it reminds the reader of Joseph Conrad in certain moods; and it is not surprising that, entirely aside from matters of form, there should be a certain intellectual kinship between the two writers, for men who have studied in the same school have much in common. But Captain Macedoine’s Daughter stands on its own merits. Although it is too subjective to excel merely as a story, and although it makes no attempt to reach such a heightof passion or drama as Conrad so often attains, it has a quiet humor, manifested in the turn of phrases so deftly chosen that you find yourself ruminating on their nice accuracy, which is individual and delightful; and its vividness and honesty place it far beyond the mass of current fiction.
The appearance of new characters to represent new aspects of the argument, inevitably suggests that plot and action are subordinate to the theme, and prevents the strong, consistent progress that persuades a reader to accept as inductive the theories upon which an author builds a novel. And yet the fascination of the book comes from its characters. Blessed with an unusual talent for individualizing them, Mr. McFee, seemingly without effort, makes every person of whom the reader gets the briefest glimpse stand forth with a complete and separate identity.
There are those who will not like the world that he creates, for it deals with sordid situations, and in choosing the mould in which he cast the story, he denied himself the whimsical pleasure of creating from sordid materials a Costigan or an Altamont. But the story is so well told that it never becomes the unsavory tale it might become in less skillful hands. It is presented cleanly and honestly, and in every line it deserves the consideration that is due to good workmanship. Although it contains more psychology than plot and more meditation than action, it is consistently interesting and quietly dramatic.
To lay certain phases of love on a laboratory table; to observe them and experiment upon them; and thus to consider, without a trace of intellectual priggishness, love in its many relations to the rest of life, is a considerable task, and one that for an unwary or inexperienced writer would be beset with many pitfalls. But Mr. McFee is neither unwary nor inexperienced. He writes with a firm hand and with a humor that is proof against sentimentality. The figure of the laboratory may indicate both the strength and the weakness of the book. C. B. H.
C. B. H.