By Glen Cavaliero

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The transformation of Toad with his caravan to Toad with his motor car is representative of the increase and scope of travel that is still altering OUI imaginative assumptions. The call of the road is to be found in much popular fiction: Jeffrey Farnol's The Broad Highway (1910), where it is combined with RegellCY romance; H. G. Wells's The History of Mr Polly (19U), where it represents escape for 'the little man' besieged by conventions and the economic laws that support them; and as late as 1940 in Frands Brett Young's Mr Lucton's Freedom, the escaping hero now being a business man of a more prosperous kind than Mr Polly.

Yet compassion is not the same thing as understanding, and the cottagers know very well that even their best friends of this kind have neither the knowledge nor the taste to appreciate them in their own way. a This social division is an aspect of the more fundamental one between man and his environment: with 'civilization' pursuits become more sophisticated, become more self-conscious, more unrelated to natural processes. And just as the physical world is regarded as material for dissection and free exploitation, so, in second-rate fiction, the alienated and underprivileged and even unfashionable elements in society are used mechanically as stereotypes.

The End Sermione, Lago di Garda The place of composition indicates the profitability of this kind of fiction. Certainly the publication in 1932 of Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons's famous satire on the contemporary rural novel, was well timed. The rural novel as a specialist branch of fiction had been exploited by too many writers in a hackneyed way, and the conventions of plot, characterisation and atmospheric description laid themselves open to parody. But this particular satire indulged in more than parody: by causing her heroine to reorganise the lives of that collective embodiment of literary mannerisms, the Starkadder family, the author exercised a criticism of a more serious kind.

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