The Virgin Queene

by Harford Powel, Jr. Boston: Little, Brown & Co. (An Atlantic Monthly Press Publication.) 1928. 12mo. 255 pp. $2.00.
’I NEVER could see that it’s a matter of life or death if some magazine reaches seventeen more dentists in Oklahoma than any other magazine.'
What would happen if the greatest advertising man of our time should allow such a dangerous heresy to come into his mind and even to cross his lips in the presence of an earnest underling? What would happen if the preeminent writer of simple, heartfelt platitudes should indulge, even for a moment, in the luxurious thought that there are better things in life than interpreting, for carefully counted millions of readers, the lofty ideals (and merchandising plans) of Perfection Electric, Nirvana Burial Abbey, Excelsior Secretarial College, Home Arts Magazine, Mother’s Kisses, and Lazy-Lacquer;' What if he should reflect that this loathsome work had now paid him enough to make him able to run away from it?
These questions Mr. Powel has put to himself and answered in a gay, witty, fast-moving novel. In the opening chapter of The Virgin Queene, Barnham Dunn apostatizes, hurls his typewriter to the floor of his Early American private office, tears up several thousand dollars’ worth of his inimitably inspirational copy, and defies the standardized gods of advertising to strike him with their lightnings. Subsequently, with the awed acquiescence of his more practical partner, Barnham Dunn goes to England, buys an ancient manor in Warwickshire, and causes hilarious, highly improbable things to take place.
The principal event, from which the hook takes its name, is a little joke that grows, by a combination of circumstances, into a gigantic hoax on the whole literate world. Under the influence of the Shakespeare country, and much reading of Shakespeare’s works and about the times of Elizabeth, Barnham Dunn writes a play in the manner-nay, in the very genius — of the Bard, and this play, through the plotting of an ex-officer in the British Army and a professional forger, is foisted first upon the scholars of Oxford and then upon all of civilization as a genuine Shakespearean manuscript.
Is it necessary to say more? Nothing, I think, except that Mr. Powel has written a novel that should find two publics: one that will take it as pure light-hearted satire, and another that will read it for its quick, bubbling story. Both will enjoy themselves, for to the former the improbabilities will appear as part of the fun, and to the latter they will not appear at all. Myself, I am a member of both these groups.