The Three Lovers

by Frank Swinnerton. New York: George H. Doran Co. 1922. 12mo. 334 pp. $2.00.
MR. SWINNERTON sees life steadily, and, if he does not see it whole, he gives at least a very distinguished effect of remaining whole himself. He is not torn, anguished, or even angered by what he sees; his imperturbable calm really is that of the detached and impersonal point of view to which his fellow realists commonly aspire without achieving it. His work has serenity, without which—we were once given to understand — there can be no art. This repose, this coolness of demeanor, ought to be refreshing to a good many modern-minded folk who are conscious of suffering from the constant over-excitation of which our fiction is more and more becoming a profound record.
Patricia Quin, Mr. Swinnerton’s heroine in The Three Lovers, threatens to fall a victim to the modern over-excitation. Rather old-fashioned in her innocence to begin with, she is precipitated into the advanced and emancipated world of metropolitan studio life. The value of the story consists in the balance and the calmly truthful fidelity with which it follows her through her ensuing stages of curiosity, fascination, enervation, disillusionment, and revulsion. By sheer innate intelligence and taste — qualities which, as nuclei of the ‘strong’ character in fiction, have rather usurped the old-fashioned decencies, though they may come in the end to the same thing — she picks her way through the usual specious opportunities to identify adventure with freedom. Hardly understanding her own strength or its sources, she nevertheless has it, and at just the crises where it is needed. The perfection of urbanity in one lover fascinates but fails to win her; the offer of equality-in-freedom from a second leaves her cold; and in the end she marries the one of her lovers who is as simple, as old-fashioned, as completely calculable in his acceptance of life as she herself was at the start.
The Three Lovers has not, and is not intended to have, the concentrated brilliancy of Nocturne; but it has more perspective and as true an economy. The only superfluous words are those of the signature on the title-page.