Daisy and Daphne

by Rose Macaulay. New York: Boni & Liveright. 1928. 12mo. 334 pp. $2.50.
Miss MACAULAY’s latest novel has been called with thorough inaccuracy the story of a dual personality. Daphne Daisy Arthur may be said to be a dual personality only as everyone alive, except those persons wholly lacking both in the dramatic instinct and in vanity, tries to foist upon all who seem to him worth the trouble an ameliorated representation of himself. But it is true that Daisy’s amelioration is rather a transformation, and that her efforts to impose it upon her chosen public are above the average in violence and continuity: hence the tightness of the coil in which she winds herself.
Like the delectable Crewe Train, the new novel has for its central figure a maid whom there will be none among readers to praise, and very, very few to love. Indeed, Daisy is more unheroic than Denham. For the dull brutality of Denham’s self-absorption, of her incomprehensions and indifferences, approaches a kind of grandeur. There is something of Stonehenge about it. One takes it or leaves it, as the queer saying is. But Daisy is a coward and a liar: and primarily she is a snob. ‘To Daisy belonged that last meanness which has warped so many bourgeois natures from Beau Brummel’s to George Meredith’s.’ Daisy’s one possible appeal to sympathy lies in the fact that she is genuinely in love and obviously headed for serious trouble; but one feels no acuteness of pity for her, except perhaps when she is taken by Raymond, the scientist, on that bleak and bitter bird walk to Burnham Beeches. For here, as Raymond shows the inhumanity to man of vour true bird student, and as Daphne, that hardy little tweed-andleather comrade, all responsiveness, all passionate interest in birds, sinks into the weakling Daisy, shivering, aching, rebelling with the fury of the wretched and ignored, the reader aches and rebels too.
Daisy and Daphne, it is needless to say, shows much penetration; and, even with its occasional lapses from Miss Macaulay’s best wit, it is immensely funny. One ventures to assert that the little girl Cary, that self-sufficient and perspicacious child who contributes so much to Daisy’s undoing, has no duplicate among the shrewder childhood of fiction; and Daisy’s mother is a creation none the less full of savor for being vaguely reminiscent. Mrs. Arthur is a woman not to be downed. She is robustly cheerful over her daughter’s illegitimacy, and she shows the same resilience after being cut to the core of her jolly, vulgar heart by the revelation of Daisy’s panic lest her London friends encounter her breezy parent from East Sheen. It is characteristic of the author that the really moving scene in which Mrs. Arthur, hustled ‘hugger-mugger’ into the bedroom of the London flat, overhears Daisy explaining her away to guests is followed rather than preceded by the easeful tea-drinking scene in East Sheen that shows Mrs. Arthur tincturing her cup with a sturdier drop, and listening, so good-natured and so unmoved, to her sister’s expostulations. For there is no doubt whatever that, as the years pass. Mrs. Arthur will be more and more ail unveneiable and mortifying mother; and the vivacious Miss Macaulay has the artist’s conscience.
One who has a fancy for a comfortable glass of milk will not be pleased with ginger ale, and he who is minded to carol with Pippa should not read Miss Macaulay. For her special talent lies in her gay portrayal of a world somewhat askew.