Scribner's Magazine
Book Reviews by Eli Siegel 1931-1934

From Scribner's, September 1931

The Sibyl of the North: The Tale of Christina, Queen of Sweden. By Faith Compton Mackenzie. Houghton-Mifflin. $3.

Christina, Queen of Sweden, wanted her own way and didn't quite get it. Though queen, she was disappointed. She didn't know her queenly mind, and most of the time she possessed grave inward uncertainties. These uncertainties affected the lives of thousands of Swedes and other Europeans; that is why they belong to history.

She is fond of people like Tacitus and Virgil and has heard of the amorous good manners of France. Swedes don't usually satisfy her; they are too craggy and know too little of the Elegies of Ovid. She is all for culture, grace, and adventure. She refuses to marry, and so displeases the Chancellor and Senate of Sweden who know that dynasties need marriages and heirs.

Always, meanwhile, Christina has spurts of desire for this and this and this. She, however, does two definite things: she gives up her throne to her girlhood lover, and becomes Catholic, and in this last manner, at least, shocks the whole of Sweden. Then comes a series of financial and social vagaries around Europe. She orders a treacherous favorite of hers, Monaldesco, to be murdered, and the awful and lingering manner this is done acquires for her the bad opinion of European courts. No big purpose of hers is cleanly successful. She drifts in a royal fashion. She pleases and irritates popes. And she almost—not fully—has the love of the praiseworthy Cardinal Azzolino. She dies, at near seventy, without ever having had a full sunrise.

Eli Siegel.


Reviews by Eli Siegel from Scribner's Magazines 1931-1934. Copyright 1931, 1932, 1933, 1934 Charles Scribner's Sons; copyrights renewed. Reprinted with the permission of Charles Scribner's Sons.

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