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Because he has occasionally produced a volume for children, many persons regard him merely as the latest and most delicate of nursery poets, an artist for the Christmas Tree. Nor is this notion, except in its crudest form, confined to the uncritical, for even at this late hour there is a tendency on the part of many critics to treat Mr. de la Mare as if he were not an artist with a unique vision, a man of strange delights and sorrows, but a rather gentlemanly conjurer they had engaged for their children's party. There is, of course, an element of truth in this view, but at the moment it is hardly Page 66 worth while disengaging it, though ( . . . ) this element of truth happens to be of supreme importance. Regarded as a general view this popular misconception is so preposterous that if we go to the other extreme, if we argue that Mr. de la Mare is a writer that no child should be suffered to approach, we shall not be further from the truth. We could point out that his work is really unbalanced, decadent, unhealthy, poisonous fruit for any child's eating. Consider his subjects. The Return is the story of a man who is partly possessed by an evil restless ghost, who comes back from a meditation among the tombstones in the local churchyard, wearing the face of a longdead adventurer—a nightmare. The poetry is filled with madness and despair, wonders, and witchcraft, lit with a sinister moonlight; some crazed Elizabethan fool sitting in a charnelhouse might have lilted some of these songs. The Memoirs of a Midget is the history of a freak who moves elvishly in the shadow of some monstrous spirit of evil; it is a long dream that never turns to the waking world, but only changes, when it does change, to nightmare. The tales in The Riddle are worse; they are chronicles of crazed or evil spirits, Miss Duveen, Seaton's Aunt, and the rest; their world is one of abnormalities, strange cruelties and terrors, monstrous trees and birds and dead men on the prowl; their very sunlight is corrupt, maggotbreeding. And is this, we might ask, the writer of pretty fancies for the children; as well might we introduce Webster, Poe, and Baudelaire into the nursery and schoolroom. Such an account of Mr. de la Mare as an unwholesome decadent is manifestly absurd, but on the whole it is probably less absurd than the more popular opinion of him as a prettypretty children's poet. J. B. Priestley, "Mr. de la Mare's Imagination," London Mercury No. 55 (May 1924): 3334 <><><><><><><><><><><><> P. J. Kennedy The first story (in The Connoisseur and Other Stories) is called "Mr Kempe," and is about loneliness and terror: it is supposed to be told by a schoolmaster who, on a dangerous piece of cliff, was threatened with the hospitality of a madman. The madman's hobby was the soul; he conducted researches into the question of the soul's existence; and he did so (apparently) by murdering his occasional guests. The schoolmaster tells the story in a publichouse, and comic relief is provided by a gentleman with eyes like plums in a pudding.