The Brimming Cup

by Dorothy Canfield. New York: Harcourt, Brace & Co. 1921. 12mo, vi+409 pp. $2.00.
MRS. DOROTHY CANFIELD FISHER loves sharp contrasts, and she is peculiarly well equipped for producing them. From few other novelists might we have so glorious a sunset over the Campagna — Rome ‘gleaming palely like a cluster of tiny, tarnished pearls, remote and legendary’; then, with the turn of a page, a romantic moment in the life of a Vermont village, when all the men and women and children of the little ugly wooden houses go on a pilgrimage under the stars, that they may take part in a rite of devotion to something rare and beautiful — a vision of the bursting into bloom of the Night-Blooming Cereus!
Exquisitely rich as is Mrs. Fisher’s mind in the fruits of travel and of study, it is yet richer in her love for A ermont and her sympathizing understanding of that unique state. Her Vermont is a treasure-house for the lover of this narrow strip of ‘the East.’ One picture follows another in her pages: the high-porticoed, tall-pillared white parsonage, the mountains very blue against a sky that was really a clear green at the top of the horizon line, the glorious brown columns of the great pines, the velvet-like masses of the winter snows, piled into the frozen, buried, beautiful valley of the frozen, towering mountains; and then the low, silent, strong flight of wild geese, winging toward the north, their gray shapes the only moving thing in all the frost-held world! So vivid is the scene in which the drama is set, that it can almost divert one from the high-hearted action — almost, but not quite.
The scheme of the novel is so simple as to be unusual in these days of complex motive. A marriage for love takes husband and wife from the keen joys of foreign travel and fixes them firmly in a Vermont village. The man devotes his quiet capability to the development of a wood-factory, finding his opportunity for public service in the just and righteous methods of his legitimate business. The wife orders her household, brings up her three children (drawn with enchanting skill and delicacy), and puts her splendid musical ability at the service of the community. Life moves busily and evenly until another man appears— an unscrupulous, godless, hot-blooded egotist, whose very audacities and reckless, if brilliant, diatribes divert and startle the wife, whose agile mind has been growing a bit stiff under the pressure of routine duties. The man is
restrained by no conscientious scruples, and makes a bold try for the conquest of the lovely woman. There is just enough uncertainty in the situation to excite the reader’s horror — and then all the right-mindedness and loyalty of wife and mother come to her rescue. She knows herself a part of the long procession of parents and children, — each giving all that each had to give, — each passing on the cup brimming with life and life’s sweetness!
The Brimming Cup is a gracious, wholesome story — a victory of love over passion, of courage over fear, of patience and tenderness over cruelty and cynicism. H. E. HERSEY.