Dream's End


Dream's End is Thorne Smith's attempt at a serious gothic romance. It's not a bad book - but it's not one of his best. The main character of the story is an Adverting Executive who gets sick of the business and becomes a poet. In many ways, Thorne Smith inserted a few of his characteristics into the character of David Landor - working in the advertising field, walking with a cane, etc... The story centers on a love triangle that develops between Landor, the niece of the man he's staying with, Scarlet (his fantasy), and the wife of the local land baron, Helen (his dream). The ultra seductive Scarlet is more than willing to throw herself at Landor, but he seeks the true love only Helen can bring him. Of course, since Helen is married to the wealthy landowner, this poses a problem. Scarlet eventually succeeds in seducing Landor, throwing him into a rage at how he gave into her in a moment of weakness. He continues to see Helen, but her husband notices she's spending more time with him that at home and forbids their meeting anymore. Helen, distraught by the separation grows ill and eventually passes away from a broken heart. David Landor leaves his sanctuary near the salt marshes and heads back to the city.

Landor comes back to the salt marshes years later to try and capture some of the feeling he had when he originally came to escape the city. An old man now, he comes upon the house where he originally stayed with his painter friend and Scarlet. There he meets Scarlet, who, years ago, married the wealthy, alcoholic land baron. Landor, upon finding this out, retreats to a deserted shed on the beach, curls into the fetal position, and dies with the words he wrote to Helen on his lips:

"And now that the storm is past, I shall sing him upward from death."

There are some genuinely good moments in this story - very nice scenic descriptions, but it is a definate departure from his humorous works. To me, the book has wonderful dust jacket artwork. Current collector prices range from $75.00 up to $3,000.00 for a copy in mint condition.

From the Saturday Review of Literature
The narrator tells of an experience in his youth when, a morbid, amatory poet, he struggles in the coils of a perverse passion for a shameless wanton and of an exalted love for a chastley beautiful girl, his soul's ideal. The latter's husband is a sadistic libertine whose subtle cruelties are slowly killing the girl wife. Knowledge of these proceedings and his hapless love for the victim so unsettle the poet's wits that he falls the prey to an hallucinated dream obsession. The lengthy nightmare is enacted by the four principals in an appropriately secluded setting, whither, twenty years after the brooding poet returns to mourn his dead love and make his exit into the next world.

From the New York Herald Tribune, p23, Apr. 10, 1927 370w
By means of a great deal of description of wild salt marshes and the mad moods of sea and sky and so-called human beings, Mr. Smith has been at great pains to create an atmosphere which will make credible the unearthly experiences of David Landor. For all his labor, however, I never felt at home in the story; the illusion was never complete. Garreta Busey

From the New York Times, p19, April 17, 1927 680w
Mr. Smith has written a novel that in subject and style is seldom represented in our contemporary fiction. It is a pretentious flight. It is a gesture in the direction of the stars in which we find the flight to have been successful only in aspriation. Scattered here and there are bits of star dust that have been brushed down in passing, but the general intention seems to have widely missed its mark.

Another review from the Staurday Review of Literature, 3:765 Apr 23 290w
It is sad to see so goodly a craftsman as the author of "Topper" here wasting his admirable prose in a wallow of fevered flapdoodle.

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