A Mixture of Frailties, the third volume of Robertson Davies Salterton Trilogy, is his first extended engagement with one of the great neuroses of Canadian culture: Canadas artistic relationship to Europe, and particularly to Britain. Writing inMoreA Mixture of Frailties, the third volume of Robertson Davies Salterton Trilogy, is his first extended engagement with one of the great neuroses of Canadian culture: Canadas artistic relationship to Europe, and particularly to Britain.
Writing in 1958, just as Canadian writers were beginning to shake off their colonial mentality, Davies treats his subject with bitter satire and genuine passion, scorching the white-bread parochialism of 1950s Canada while eloquently arguing that if Canadians are willing to learn from Old Europe, there is no reason why they cannot become world-class artists.
Davies begins his story with the funeral of Louisa Bridgetower, the Salterton matron whose imposing presence ranges throughout the earlier volumes of the Salterton Trilogy. The substantial income from her estate is to be used to send an unmarried young woman to Europe to pursue an education in the arts.
Mrs. Bridgetowers executors end up selecting Monica Gall, an almost entirely unschooled singer whose sole experience comes from performing with the Heart and Hope Gospel Quartet, a rough outfit sponsored by a small fundamentalist group. Monica soon finds herself in England, a pupil of some of Britains most remarkable teachers and composers, and she gradually blossoms from a Canadian rube to a cosmopolitan soprano with a unique--and tragicomic--career.The Salterton books (which also include Tempest-Tost and Leaven of Malice) are not Daviess most accomplished works, but many readers will find them more immediately accessible than his later novels.
A Mixture of Frailties can get slightly technical in its treatment of classical and contemporary music, but Davies is a gentle teacher who writes as though he is simply reminding his readers of something they already know. These are also among his funniest novels, with rich farce worthy of Evelyn Waugh, but Daviess faith in art and his broad sense of humanity give the Salterton Trilogy a breadth and depth that are rare in pure satire. --Jack Illingworth