Stevie Smith pp 132-214 | Cite as

Framing the War: The Second Two Novels of the Trilogy

  • Romana Huk


Over the Frontier (1938) and The Holiday (1949) are best read as just-before and just-after pictures of Smith’s wartime context (or rather its thought-world), with Novel on Yellow Paper having served the purpose of setting or ‘framing’ them from its damning angle. Her speaker in The Holiday, Celia Phoze — successor to the brainwashed and bellicose Pompey Casmilus (whose initials are reversed in hers, since she is given a name and nature that implies the ‘freezing’ of the runaway voice of the first two novels1) — gives us in one of her comments an overview of the movements of the final two thirds of the trilogy. Polarised as her speakers continue to be between deadly starting and equally deadly stopping, ‘running on’ and ‘whoa-ing up’ on the various hobby-horses that seem to be no more than extensions of the forces that dominated Pompey’s civilian life, they seem once again to be offered no in-between, no respite from those discursive forces, no holiday or home-front. And both extremes of movement — running on into the fray or pulling up from the same — are, as we have seen, dangerous; but in the second two novels such dangers typically become explicated in military terms. Celia offers her summary of them near the end of Holiday, from her post-war vantage point and via, significantly, a line recalled from Kipling:

An army, I said, in victory, full tongue across the desert ‘For pleasure and profit together allow me the hunting of men’. It is exciting, is it not?… The victors, at war with the aftermath of war, grow tarnished, they are restless, they long for home, which way shall they look? The thoughts split up and the will slackens. (TH 184)


European Culture Flip Side Opening Page Death Drive Cultural Text 
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© Romana Huk 2005

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  • Romana Huk

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