A 1926 review of The Calaba in The Lawrenceville School newspaper
Mr. T.N. Wilder, Former Master, AUTHOR OF Successful Novel
Mr. Thornton N. Wilder, who taught in Lawrenceville for four years and who is now at the Princeton Graduate School, has lately published his first book “The Cabala.” While in Lawrenceville Mr. Wilder taught French and was assistant master of the Davis House. His book has been highly praised by many celebrated book reviewers and was published by the well known Boni Brothers. A New Haven paper says of it: “there is a small army of Yale men bringing out books from year to year, and it is always exciting for us New Haveners to see a new one join the ranks. Thornton Wilder was not only a promising student, but a member of the Lit board and a prize winner in the fields of both story and play writing. His first published book, a novel laid in present-day Rome, has just been issued by Boni Brothers. He divides it into five parts or “books” instead of ordinary chapters , and follows the continental method in dialogue of using no quotation marks. Furthermore, the narrative is all in the first person. This may lead some who know that the writers studied for a year at the American Academy in Rome to believe that this is veritably Thornton Wilder, His Book. It is probably partly so, as no doubt he had excellent introductions. But the highest society of any capitol is not easy to penetrate. The realism of the story is maintained through a very convincing motivation. The student arrives with his introductions at a psychological moment when a member of the Calaba (the inner set) has an erring son in whose behalf all are planning and hoping. The youth has fallen into the hands of equivocal persons, women, and does not wish to extricate himself. All efforts failed up to the time of the student’s arrival. The American lady of the group immediately suggests to the lad’s mother that the newcomer will be a good influence. She proposes and the duchessa quickly and gratefully agrees that a young Puritan about the villa a few weeks to play tennis with Marcantonio and teach him boxing will be something new and different. How the plans succeeds must be left to the reader. ‘First Encounters’ and ‘Marcantonio’ to tell this part of the story. Curiously enough, the American student has no name until midway of the volume the Princess Alix, whose story forms the book, dubs him Samuels for a little dog she once loved who sat and gazed at her out of honest brown eyes. So Samuele, or Samuelino, as the old Cardinal calls him, is accepted into the inner sanctum of the Cabala.
“The is charm in this novel and lovable people. And there are ideas between the old Cardinal and Mlle Morofontaine in the fourth book is maintained at a high, even philosophical level. Yet religion, archeology, learning are not dragged into the story The whole is transfused with them. There is material for several weeks here. We shall look for his next, which we understand is already bespoke, with great excitement.”
A friend of Mr. Wilder, who is a well-known book reviewer, says of “Cabala” in the Saturday Review of Literature’s: “Another book the Bonis are fostering is an intimate story of the high aristocratic group in Rome today, a novel which should please the esoteric. This is Thornton Wilder’s “The Cabala".” … We have known Mr. Wilder since he was a Yale undergraduate and a fashioner of delicate and fantastic one-act plays. We have always believed that he had in him the stuff of genius. … Whether his forthcoming first book will entirely convey his true quality remains to be seen, but it is certain to have distinction and style".”