Description of style of the English writers
Daniel Defoe is the father of the modern periodical. The most interesting of Defoe's "documentary" works. Style of Jane Austen. Jonathan Swift is the greatest prose-writer and a very great literary artist. Features of novels of many English writers.
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Daniel Defoe (1660-1731) was a journalist, and that fact itself draws him to our own time. The development of the newspaper and the periodical is an interesting literary sideline of the seventeenth century. The Civil War undoubtedly stimulated a public appetite for up-to-the-minute news (such news then was vital) and the Restoration period, with its interest in men and affairs, its information services in the coffeehouses, was developing that wider interest in news - home and foreign - which is so alive today. Defoe is, in many ways, the father of the modern periodical, purveying opinion more than news, and The Review, which he founded in 1704, is the progenitor of a long line of 'well-informed' magazines. Defoe did not see himself primarily as a literary artist: he had things to say to the public, and he said them as clearly as he could, without troubling to polish and revise. There are no stylistic tricks in his writings, no airs and graces, but there is the flavour of colloquial speech, a 'no-nonsense', down-to-earth simplicity. He was - like Swift - capable of irony, however, and his Shortest Way with the Dissenters states gravely that those who do not belong to the Church of England should be hanged. (Defoe himself was a Dissenter, of course.) This pamphlet was taken seriously by many, but, when the authorities discovered they had been having their legs pulled, they put Defoe into prison.
The most interesting of Defoe's 'documentary' works is the journal of the Plague Year (one gets the impression that Defoe was actually present in London during that disastrous time, seriously taking notes, but a glance at his dates will show that this was impossible). But his memory is revered still primarily for his novels, written late in life: Robinson Crusoe,Moll Flanders, Roxana, and others. The intention of these works is that the reader should regard them as true, not as fictions, and so Defoe deliberately avoids all art, all fine writing, so that the reader should concentrate only on a series of plausible events, thinking: 'This isn't a storybook, this is autobiography.' Defoe keeps up the straight-faced pretence admirably. In Moll Flanders we seem to be reading the real life-story of a ' bad woman', written in the style appropriate to her. In Robinson Crusoe, whose appeal to the young can never die, the fascination lies in the bald statement of facts which are quite convincing-even though Defoe never had the experience of being cast away on a desert island and having to fend for himself. The magic of this novel never palls: frequently in England a musical comedy version of it holds the stage during the after-Christmas 'pantomime season'.
The greatest prose-writer of the first part-perhaps the whole-of the century is Jonathan Swift (1667-1745). A great humorist and a savage satirist, his meat is sometimes too powerful even for a healthy stomach. He is capable of pure fun-as in some of his poems-and even schoolboy jokes, but there is a core of bitterness in him which revealed itself finally as a mad hatred of mankind. On his own admission, he loved Tom, Dick,and Harry, but hated the animal, Man. Yet he strove to do good for his fellow-men, especially the poor of Dublin, where he was Dean of St. Patrick's. The Drapier's Letters were a series of attacks on abuses of the currency, and the Government heeded his sharp shafts. The monopoly of minting copper money, which had been given to a man called Wood, was withdrawn, and Swift became a hero. In his Modest Proposal he ironically suggested that famine in Ireland could be eased by cannibalism, and that the starving children should be used as food. Some fools took this seriously. His greatest books are A Tale of a Tub and Gulliver's Travels. The first of these is a satire on the two main non-conformist religions- Catholicism and Presbyterianism. Swift tells the story of three brothers-Jack (Calvin), Martin (Luther), and Peter (St.)-and what they do with their inheritance (the Christian religion). The story is farcical and at times wildly funny, but people of his day could perhaps be forgiven if they found blasphemy in it. It certainly shocked Queen Anne so much that she would not allow Swift to be made a bishop, and this contributed to Swift's inner frustration and bitterness. Gulliver's Travels hides much of its satire so cleverly that children still read it as a fairy story. It starts off by making fun of mankind (and especially England and English politics) in a quite gentle way: Gulliver sees in Lilliput a shrunken human race, and its concerns-so important to Lilliput-become shrunken accordingly. But in the second part, in the land of the giants, where tiny Gulliver sees human deformities magnified to a feverous pitch, we have something of this mad horror of the human body which obsesses Swift. (According to Dr. Johnson, Swift washed himself excessively-'with Oriental scrupulosity'-but his terror of dirt and shame at the body's functions never disappeared.) In the fourth part of the book, where the Houyhnhnms-horses with rational souls and the highest moral instincts-are contrasted with the filthy, depraved Yahoos, who are really human beings, Swift's hatred of man reaches its climax. Nothing is more powerful or horrible than the moment when Gulliver reaches home and cannot bear the touch of his wife-her smell is the smell of a Yahoo and makes him want to vomit.
Swift is a very great literary artist, and perhaps only in the present century is his full stature being revealed. He is skilful in verse, as well as in prose, and his influence continues: James Joyce-in his The Holy Office-has written Swiftian verse; Aldous Huxley (in Ape and Essence} and George Orwell (in Animal Farm) have produced satires which are really an act of homage to Swift's genius. Yet Gulliver's Travels stands supreme: a fairy story for children, a serious work for men, it has never lost either its allure or its topicality.
The first part of the century is also notable for a number of philosophical and religious works which reflect the new 'rational' spirit. The Deists (powerful in France as well as in England) try to strip Christianity of its mysteries and to establish an almost Islamic conception of God- a God in whom the Persons of the Christian Trinity shall have no part -and to maintain that this conception is the product of reason, not of faith. On the other hand, there were Christian writers like William Law (1686-1761) and Isaac Watts (1674-1748) who, the first in prose, the second in simple pious verse, tried successfully to stress the importance of pure faith, even of mysticism, in religion. The religious revival which was to be initiated by John Wesley (1703-91) owes a good deal to this spirit, which kept itself alive despite the temptations of 'rationalism'. Joseph Butler (1692-1752) used reason, not to advance the doctrine of Deism, but to affirm the truths of established Christianity. His Analogy of Religion is a powerfully argued book. The most important philosopher of the early part of the century is Bishop Berkeley (1685-175 3), whose conclusions may be stated briefly: he did not believe that matter had any real existence apart from mind. A tree exists because we see it, and if we are not there to see it, God is always there. Things ultimately exist in the mind of God, not of themselves. He was answered later by David Hume (1711-76), the Scots philosopher, who could not accept the notion of a divine system enclosing everything. He could see little system in the universe: he begins and ends with human nature, which links together a series of impressions, gained by the senses, by means of 'association'. We make systems according to our needs, but there is no system which really exists in an absolute sense. There is no ultimate truth, and even God is an idea that man has developed for his own needs. This is a closely argued kind of sceptical philosophy, very different from Berkeley's somewhat mystical acceptance of reality's being the content of the ' Mind of God'.
The novel develops, after the death of Defoe, with Samuel Richardson (1689-1761), a professional printer who took to novel-writing when he was fifty. Richardson liked to help young women with the composition of their love-letters, and was asked by a publisher to *write a volume of model letters for use on various occasions. He was inspired to write a novel in the form of a series of letters, a novel which should implant a moral lesson in the minds of its readers (he thought of these readers primarily as women). This novel was Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded, which describes the assaults made on the honour of a virtuous housemaid by an unscrupulous young man. Pamela resists, clinging tightly to her code of honour, and her reward is, ultimately, marriage to her would-be seducer, a man who, despite his brutishness, has always secretly attracted her. It is a strange sort of reward, and a strange basis for marriage, according to our modern view, but this moral persists in cheap novelettes and magazines even today-a girl makes herself inaccessible before marriage, and the man who has tried to seduce her, weary of lack of success, at last accepts her terms. Richardson's Clarissa Harlowe is about a young lady of wealth and beauty, virtue and innocence, who, in order to avoid a marriage which her parents are trying to arrange, seeks help from Lovelace, a handsome but, again, unscrupulous young man. Lovelace seduces her. Repentant, he asks her to marry him, but she will not: instead, worn out by shame, she dies, leaving Lovelace to his remorse. This is a more remarkable novel than it sounds: close analysis of character, perhaps for the first time in the history of the novel, looks forward to the great French novelists, Flaubert and Stendhal, and Lovelace has a complexity of make-up hardly to be expected in the literature of the age. Sir Charles Grandison is Richardson's third novel: its hero, full of the highest virtues, wondering which woman duty should compel him to marry, is anaemic and priggish. (A hero should have something of the devil in him.) This novel is far inferior to the other two.
The greatest novelist of the century is Henry Fielding (1707-54). He started his novel-writing career, like Richardson, almost by accident. Moved to write a parody of Pamela, he found his Joseph Andrews developing into something far bigger than a mere skit. Joseph, dismissed from service because he will not allow his employer, Lady Booby, to make love to him, takes the road to the village where his sweetheart lives, meets the tremendous Parson Adams-who then becomes virtually the hero of the book-and has many strange adventures on the road, meeting rogues, vagabonds, tricksters of all kinds, but eventually reaching his goal and happiness ever after. With Fielding one is inclined to use the term picaresque (from the Spanish picaro, meaning 'rogue'), a term originally applicable only to novels in which the leading character is a rogue (such as the popular Gil Blas by Le Sage, published between 1715 and 1755). It is a term which lends itself to description of all novels in which the bulk of the action takes place on the road, on a journey, and in which eccentric and low-life characters appear. Don Quixote is, in some ways, picaresque; so is Priestley's The Good Companions. Fielding's Jonathan Wild is truly-picaresque, with its boastful, vicious hero who extols the 'greatness' of his every act of villainy (his standards of comparison are, cynically, provided by the so-called virtuous actions of great men) until he meets his end on the gallows or 'tree of glory'. Tom JonesK Fielding's masterpiece. It has its picaresque elements-the theme of the journey occupies the greater part of the book-but it would be more accurate to describe it as a mock-epic. It has the bulk and largeness of conception we expect from an epic, and its style sometimes parodies Homer: `Hushed be every ruder breath. May the heathen ruler of the winds confine in iron chains the boisterous limbs of noisy Boreas, and the sharp-pointed nose of bitter-biting Eurus. Do thou, sweet Zephyrus, rising from thy fragrant bed, mount the western sky, and lead on those delicious gales, the charms of which call forth the lovely Flora from her chamber, perfumed with pearly dews.
Scott's themes are historical. They deal with European history-sometimes French, as mQuentin Durward, but more often English or Scottish. The novels about Scotland's past include Waverley, Old Mortality, Rob Roy, The Heart of Midlothian, The Bride of Lammermoor; England in the time of the Tudors and Stuarts is the theme of The Fortunes of Nigel, Kenilworth, Peveril of the Peak, and so on. What interests him most are the great political and religious conflicts of the past-the Puritans and the Jacobites (the followers of the exiled Stuarts) fascinate him especially, and against a big tapestry of historical events he tells his stories of personal hate, of revenge, of love, of the hard lives of the common people and their earthy humour. Scott has a scholar's approach to history: he is accurate and, for the most part, unbiased. His Toryism led him to choose periods when the old values flourished-chivalry, honour, courtly manners, fealty to the king-and this affects his attitude to his invented characters: the women are often too good to be true, the men too honourable or chivalrous. His style is not distinguished, and his dialogue sometimes absurdly stilted. Here is an example from The Talisman. (The English are fighting the Saracens; it is the age of King Richard the Lion-hearted)- 'My watch hath neither been vigilant, safe nor honourable,' said Sir Kenneth. 'The banner of England has been carried off.' And thou alive to tell it?' said Richard in a tone of derisive incredulity. ' Away, it cannot be. There is not even a scratch on thy face. Why dost thou stand thus mute? Speak the truth-it is ill jesting with a king-yet I will forgive thee if thou hast lied. Lied, Sir King!' returned the unfortunate knight, with fierce emphasis, and one glance of fire in his eye, bright and transient as the flash from the cold and stony flint. 'But this also must be endured-1 have spoken the truth.' 'By God and by St. George!' said the King-[and so on].
This kind of prose became a standard for writers of historical novels. The 'out on thee, false varlet' and 'speakest thou so, sirrah?' which we now cannot take very seriously, derive from Scott. It is only fair to say that Scott has even now many ardent admirers, especially among people who love Scottish scenery. But his reputation generally is not what it was.
The reputation of Jane Austen (1775-1817), on the other hand, has never been higher. She has not dated: her novels have a freshness and humors sadly lacking in Scott, a delicacy we can appreciate more than his 'big bow-wow style'. The first important woman novelist, she stands above both the classical and romantic movements; in a sense she bridges the gap between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, but she can be assigned to no group-she is unique. In her novels-Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbej, and Persuasion-she attempts no more than to show a small corner of English society as it was in her day-the sedate little world of the moderately well-to-do county families. This world provides her with all her material; the great historical movements rumbling outside mean little to her, and the Napoleonic Wars are hardly mentioned. Jane Austen's primary interest is people, not ideas, and her achievement lies in the meticulously exact presentation of human situations, the delineation of characters who are really living creatures, with faults and virtues mixed as they are in real life. Her plots are straightforward; there is little action. In this, and in her preoccupation with character as opposed to 'types' (the static hero and heroine and villain, beloved of Victorian novelists) she shows herself closer to our own day than any other novelist of the period. She has humour and is the creator of a gallery of richly and subtly comic portraits -Mr. Woodhousein Emma, Mrs. Bennet in PrideandPrejudice, Sir Walter Elliot in Persuasion, to mention but a few. Her prose flows easily and naturally, and her dialogue is admirably true to life. She is not afraid of 'wasting words' in the interests of naturalistic dialogue, but she can also write very concisely when she wishes. A good example of her style can be found at the end of Persuasion (perhaps her best novel): Anne was tenderness itself, and she had the full worth of it in Captain Went-worth's affection. His profession was all that could ever make her friends wish that tenderness less; the dread of a future war all that could dim her sunshine. She gloried in being a sailor's wife, but she must pay the tax of quick alarm for belonging to that profession which is, if possible, more distinguished in its domestic virtues than in its national importance.
Everybody is aware of the faults of Dickens -his inability to construct a convincing plot, his clumsy and sometimes ungrammatical prose, his sentimentality, his lack of real characters in the Shakespearian sense- but he is read still, while more finished artists are neglected. The secret of his popularity lies in an immense vitality, comparable to Shakespeare's, which swirls round his creations and creates a special Dickensian world which, if it does not resemble the real world, at least has its own logic and laws and its own special atmosphere. Dickens is a master of the grotesque (he is, as T. S. Eliot points out, in the direct line of Marlowe and Ben Jonson) and his characters are really ' humours'-exaggerations of one human quality to the point of caricature. Mr. Micawber is personified optimism, Uriah Heep mere creeping hypocrisy, Mr. Squeers a monster of ignorance and tyranny-they are grotesques, not human beings at all. In a sense, Dickens's world is mad-most of his characters have single obsessions which appear in practically everything they say or do, and many of them can be identified by catch-phrases like “Barkis is willin" or tricks of speech such as Mr. Jingle's clipped 'telegraphese' and Sam Weller's confusion of 'v' and ' w'. (The heroes and heroines are, in comparison with the full-blooded comic monsters, anemic, conventional, and dull.) The world created by Dickens is mainly a kind of nightmare London of chop-houses, prisons, lawyers' offices, and taverns, dark, foggy, and cold, but very much alive. Dickens's novels are all animated by a sense of injustice and personal wrong; he is concerned with the problems of crime and poverty, but he does not seem to believe that matters can be improved by legislation or reform movements-everything depends on the individual, particularly the wealthy philanthropist (Pickwick or the Cheeryble brothers). If he has a doctrine, it is one of love.
Dickens is unlearned, his style grotesque, inelegant. But he has a lively ear for the rhythms of the speech of the uneducated, and he is not afraid of either vulgarity or sentimentality. It is his complete lack of restraint which makes for such an atmosphere of bursting vitality and for a warm heart that can run to an embarrassing tearfulness, as in the description of Little Nell's death in The Old Curiosity Shop. His novels fall roughly into groups. Starting with Pickwick Papers, a picaresque masterpiece in which plot does not matter, but everything depends on humorous types and on grotesque incidents (and, incidentally, on a large appetite for convivial fun, as in the picnic and Christmas scenes), Dickens moved towards historical novels-Barnaby Rudge and A Tale of Two Cities. He also concentrated on the social conditions of his own day, as in Oliver Twist and Hard Times (an attack on the Utilitarians), and presented, in A Christmas Carol, his view of man's duty to man-Scrooge, the miser, miraculously becomes a philanthropist; Christmas symbolizes the only way in which the world can be improved-by the exercise of charity. David Copperfield is autobiographical in its essence, and, in its long parade of grotesques, it can be associated with Nicholas Nickleby. Perhaps the finest of the novels is Great Expectations, a long but tightly-knit work, moving, with something like penetration of character, and full of admirably conceived scenes. It is in this book that Dickens reveals, at its finest, his understanding of the mind of the child, his sympathy with its fantasies and its inability to understand the grown-up world. In some ways, Dickens remained a child: it is the weird wonderland of ogres and fairies that one finds perpetually recurring in his books.
This is a convenient place to mention briefly two Victorian writers who frankly, without any disguise, explored the world of fantasy for the benefit of children but were perhaps themselves more at home in that world than in Victorian Utilitarian England. These writers are very widely read- Lewis Carroll, pseudonym of Charles Dodgson (1832-98), and Edward Lear (1812-88). CarrolPs Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Booking-Glass have a mad Dickensian flavour with a curious undercurrent of logic (Dodgson was a mathematician); Lear's nonsense rhymes are also mad, but far less mad than some of the works of the sane writers. Carroll and Lear are among the literary riches of the Victorian era; they may well be read when Carlyle and Ruskin are forgotten.
It is customary to group with Dickens a novelist who does not resemble him in the slightest- William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-63). Dickens wrote of low life and was a warm-blooded romantic; Thackeray wrote of the upper classes and was anti-romantic. Thackeray started his career as a satirist, and wrote many humorous articles for the comic weekly Punch, also a couple of curious works-The Book of Snobs and the Yellowplush Papers-which made fun of the pretensions of the upper-classes and their worshippers in the middle-classes-and then wrote a novel in the manner of Fielding-The Luck of Barry Lyndon, which, like Fielding's Jonathan Wild, makes a rogue complacently recount his wicked exploits as if they were thoroughly moral and lawful. Vanity Fair is still his most-read work: it tells of the careers of two girls with sharply contrasted characters-Becky Sharp, unscrupulous and clever; Amelia Sedley, pretty, moral but unintelligent-and draws clever-wickedly clever-portraits of officers and gentlemen of the time of Waterloo. His historical novels, such as Esmond and The Virginians, are very different in technique from those of Scott. The first tells, in autobiographical form, of a man who lives through the age of Queen Anne and of the Georges who follow, and it shows a remarkable knowledge of the literature and life of the eighteenth century. In many ways, Thackeray is closer to the Age of Reason than to his own times. But his book for children-The Rose and the King-is one of the best-loved of all Victorian fantasies, and a certain tenderness that Thackeray hides in such works as Vanity Fair appears in The Neivcomes, with its portrait of the gentle childlike old Colonel. His deathbed scene should be contrasted with Little Nell's:' He, whose heart was as that of a little child, had answered to his name, and stood in the presence of the Master.' Capable of tenderness, but never of sentimentality, Thackeray is in many ways the superior of Dickens, but he lacks that strange, mad glamour that Dickens shares with Shakespeare. Meanwhile, in the isolation of a Yorkshire vicarage, three sisters, none of them destined to live long, were writing novels and poems. Charlotte Bronte (1816-55), who admired Thackeray, dedicated her most un-Thackerayan novel, Jane Eyre, to him. Here, in this story of the governess who falls in love with her master, himself married to a madwoman, we have a passion not to be found in either Thackeray or Dickens, a genuine love-story of great realism, full of sharp observation and not without wit. This story, with its frank love-scenes, was something of a bombshell. Charlotte Bronte's The Professor, later re-written-with some quite radical changes-as Villette, tells of her own experiences as a teacher in Brussels, and Shir ley is concerned with industrial Yorkshire, jane Eyre, one of the really significant Victorian novels, remains her masterpiece. Emily Bronte (1818-48) had, if anything, a more remarkable talent than her sister. Her poems are vital and original, and her novel Wuthering Heights is the very heart and soul of the romantic spirit, with its story of wild passion set against the Yorkshire moors. Anne Bronte (1820-49), with her Agnes Grey and The Tenant ofWildfellHall, is perhaps best remembered now because of her sisters: her talent is smaller than theirs. Other novelists included Mrs. Gaskell (1810-65), Charles Kingsley (1819-75), Charles Reade (1814-84), and Wilkie Collins (1825-89). The first three are much concerned with social reform. Mrs. Gaskell, most read for Cranford, a study of life in a small provincial town, also wrote Mary Barton and ILuth, full of pity for the down-trodden dwellers in factory towns, the working-class exploited by profit-seeking capitalists. Kingsley preaches a kind of Christian Communism in Alton Eocke and Yeast, but turns to the Elizabethan past in Westward Ho! and to the world of the Vikings in Henward the Wake. The Water Rabies, a story of a little chimney sweep -who runs away from his master and, falling into a river, learns of the under-water world, is a charming fantasy still read. Reade attacked such social abuses as the state of the prisons and the lunatic asylums in It is Never Too Late to Mend and Hard Cash, but his story of the late Middle Ages, The Cloister and the Hearth, keeps his name alive. Wilkie Collins is, at present, enjoying a revival of interest with his Woman in White and The Moonstone. He is the first great British writer of mystery-stories, and to a gift of maintaining suspense, terror, and a credible plot he adds a clear prose-style which is quite individual. Anthony Trollope (1815-88) invented a county called Barset and a town called Barchester, and, in novel after novel (The Warden, Earchester Towers, Dr. Thorne, Framlej Parsonage, The Small House at Allington, and The Last Chronicle of Barsef) he paints life in a provincial cathedral town atmosphere, with humour and without passion. His work is a little too lacking in warmth for some people, but he has still many devotees. Trollope, who worked in the General Post Office and was busy there, was only able to write by forcing on himself a mechanical routine-so many pages per day, no rest between finishing one book and starting another. This perhaps explains a lack of inspiration in his novels; but, in good, plain, undistinguished prose, he builds up his own world, and this world has a remote charm.
Show had many things to say, all of them important, but he should not be regarded as a mere preacher who used the stage as a platform. Being an Irishman like Wilde and Sheridan, he had a native gift of eloquence and wit, and - much helped by his interest in music - a sharp ear for the tones and rhythms of contemporary speech. For the ' well-made ' play he had little use: he constructed his dramas on rules of his own, some of them most irregular, but he knew that, whatever tricks he played, his ability to hold the audience's attention through sheer words would carry him through. Thus, Getting Married is written in one huge act, lasting over two hours ; Back to Methuselah lasts for five nights ; Man and Superman shifts the main characters to a mythological plane right in the middle of the story, and keeps them there for a long time arguing philosophically. Shaw deliberately uses anachronism, making Cain in the Garden of Eden quote Tennyson, and Cleopatra speak in the words of Shelley; early Christians sing a hymn by Sir Arthur Sullivan, and Queen Elizabeth I use a line of Lady Macbeth's long before Shakespeare wrote it. Strict realism is not necessary to Shaw's purpose : speech can be, at one moment, colloquial, and, at another, biblical; history can be distorted and probability ignored - it does not matter in the least. Shaw was a disciple of Samuel Butler, but of other philosophers as well. His doctrine of the Superman comes from Germany - Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)-and his theory of Creative Evolution owes something to Henri Bergson (1859-1941). But he had his own views on practically everything. Generally, the aim in his early plays is to make audiences (and readers) examine their consciences and overhaul their conventional beliefs. Thus, he attacks those people who derive their rents from slums in Widowers' Houses, faces the question of prostitution in Mrs. Warren's Profession, subjects the medical profession to critical scrutiny in The Doctor's Dilemma, and deflates the glory of war in Arms and the Man. He turns the conventional assumptions of English society upside-down, so that woman becomes the stronger sex and man the weaker, man the dreamer, woman the realist, woman the pursuer, man the pursued. This is an important idea in Shaw, and is the basis of Man and Superman. Shaw conceives of a great creative will in the universe, which is endeavoring to produce higher and higher forms of life (Creative Evolution). As woman has the greater part to play in the making of new life, it follows that, perhaps quite unconsciously, she will look for a man in whom the germs of human superiority lie, pursue him, mate him, and help forward the evolution of the Superman. Shaw was fascinated by ideas of all kinds, and he used his outstanding dramatic skill to publicise all sorts of notions-from the importance of the science of phonetics (Pygmalion) to the 'Protestantism' of Joan of Arc (St. Joan). He attacked everything (being a born rebel) but, strangely, he never lays a finger on the Christian religion-the Church, yes, but belief, no. Shaw was a great rationalist, very like the Frenchman Voltaire, but there was a deep core of mysticism in him. At times he sounds like an Old Testament prophet, and his finest speeches (as of Lilith at the end of Back to Methuselah) are in the great tradition of English biblical prose. Finally, his work will endure for its dramatic coherence, its wit, its common sense, and a literary gift which prevented him from ever writing a dull line.
Hedonism was the thesis of some of Oscar Wilde's witty essays, as also of his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray. Wilde (1856-1900) seems, in the latter book, however, to be concerned with showing the dangers of asking for too much from life. The beautiful Dorian Gray-Faustus-like -wishes that he should remain eternally young and handsome, while his picture, painted in the finest flush of his beauty, should grow old in his stead. The wish is granted: Dorian remains ever-young, but his portrait shows signs of ever-increasing age and, moreover, the scars of the crimes attendant on asking for too much (a murder, the ruining of many women, unnameable debauchery). Dorian, repentant, tries to destroy his portrait, symbolically quelling his sins, but-magically-it is he himself who dies, monstrous with age and ugliness, and his portrait that reverts to its former perfection of youthful beauty. The sense of guilt-as much mediaeval as Victorian -- intrudes into Wilde's bright godless world unexpectedly, and this book prepares us for those later works of his- written under the shadow and shame of his prison-sentence-which lack the old wit and contain a sombre seriousness-The Ballad of Reading Gaol and De Profundis.
Another substitute for religion was Imperialism (with undertones of Freemasonry), and Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) was the great singer of Empire. Born in India, Kipling knew the British Empire from the inside, not merely, like so many stay-at-home newspaper-readers, as a series of red splashes on the map of the world. This concern with Empire expresses itself in many forms-the sympathy with the soldiers who fought the frontier wars, kept peace in the Empire, did glorious work for a mere pittance and the reward of civilian contempt; the stress on the white man's responsibility to his brothers who, despite difference of colour and creed, acknowledged the same Queen; the value of an Empire as the creator of a new, rich civilisation. Kipling's reputation as a poet has always been precarious among the 'intellectuals': they have looked askance at his mixture of soldier's slang and biblical idiom, his jaunty rhythms and 'open-air' subjects. Recently Kipling was rehabilitated by T. S. Eliot, in his long essay prefacing his selection of Kipling's verse, and George Orwell has said, in an essay on Eliot's essay, valuable things which put Kipling firmly in his place: he is not a great poet, but he sums up for all time a certain phase in English history; he has the gift of stating the obvious-not, as with Pope, for the men of reason and learning, but for the man in the street-with pithy memorableness. He is a poet who knows the East, and certain lines of his (as in The Road to Manda/aj) evoke the sun and the palm-trees, and the oriental nostalgia of many a repatriated Englishman, with real power. As a prose-writer, Kipling is known for one novel (Kirn) and a host of excellent short stories, also for a schoolboy's classic, Stalky and Co. He has, in both verse and prose, a vigour and an occasional vulgarity that are refreshing after men like William Morris, Swinburne, and Rossetti.
The other side of the coin is shown in the poems of writers like John Davidson (1857-1909), Ernest Dowson (1867-1900) and A. E. Housman (1859-1936), who expressed a consistent mood of pessimism. In Hous-man's A Shropshire Lad we. have exquisite classical verse-regular forms, great compression-devoted to the futility of life, the certainty of death, the certainty of nothing after death. There is a certain Stoicism: the lads of his poems maintain a ' stiff upper lip' despite disappointment in love and their sense of an untrustworthy world about them. Some of the poems express the beauty of nature in a clipped, restrained way which still suggests a full-blooded Romanticism. But other poets of the same period sought a new meaning for life in the Catholic faith-Francis Thompson (1859-1907), who, following Coventry Patmore (1823-96), expressed the everyday from a ' God's eye' point of view (as in the brief In No Strange Land) but turned to a rich, highly-coloured style in The Hound of Heaven-a mixture of the Romantic and the Metaphysical; and Alice Meynell (1850-1922), who wrote highly individual Christian lyrics.
Pessimism reigned in the novel. Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) produced a whole series of books dedicated to the life of his native Dorset, full of the sense of man's bond with nature and with the past-a past revealed in the age-old trees, heaths, fields, and in the prehistoric remains of the Celts, the ruined camps of the Romans. In his novels, man never seems to be free: the weight of time and place presses heavily on him, and, above everything, there are mysterious forces which control his life. Man is a puppet whose strings are worked by fates which are either hostile or indifferent to him. There is no message of hope in Tess of the D'Urbervilles (when Tess is finally hanged we hear. And so the President of the Immortals had finished his sport with Tess') nor in The Mayor of Casterbridge or ]ude the Obscure. The reception of this last work, with its gloomy ' Curst be the day in which I was born' and its occasional brutal frankness, was so hostile that Hardy turned from the novel to verse. Today it seems that his stature as a poet is considerable, and that both as poet and novelist he will be remembered. His verse expresses the irony of life-man's thwarted schemes, the need for resignation in the face of a hostile fate-but also he expresses lighter moods, writes charming nature-poems, even love-lyrics. Hardy's skill at depicting nature, his eye for close detail, is eminently apparent in the novels, and it comes to full flower in the poems. His verse occasionally suffers from a 'clotted' quality-consonants cluster together in Anglo-Saxon violence ('hill-hid tides throb, throe-on throe')-but this is an aspect of his masculine force. An ability to produce a verse-composition of epic length was shown in The Dynasts, a vast un-actable drama meant to be presented on the stage of the reader's own imagination, dealing with the Napoleonic Wars as seen from the viewpoint not only of men but of the Immortal Fates, who watch, direct, and comment.
A return to optimism is shown in the verse and prose of Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-94), but it is a rather superficial one, for Stevenson is a rather superficial writer. He is at his best in adventure stories which show the influence of his fellow-countryman, Walter Scott-Kidnapped, The Master of Ballantrae-and boys' books like Treasure Island, a juvenile masterpiece. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde deals with the duality of good and evil within the same man, but it is perhaps little more than a well-written thriller. The poems, especially those for children, are charming, and the essays, which have little to say, say that little very well. His short stories are good, and we may note here that the short story was becoming an accepted form-writers had to learn how to express themselves succinctly, using great compression in plot, characterisation, and dialogue_ heralding the approach of an age less leisurely than the Victorian, with no time for three-volume novels, and demanding its stories in quick mouthfuls.
A new faith, more compelling than Pater's hedonism or Kipling's Imperialism, was still needed, and Bernard Shaw and H. G. Wells (i 866-1946) found one in what may be called Liberalism-the belief that man's future lies on earth, not in heaven, and that, with scientific and social progress, an earthly paradise may eventually be built. Wells is one of the great figures of modern literature. He owed a lot to Dickens in such novels as Kipps and The History of Mr. Polly-works which borrow Dickens's prose-style, his humour, and his love of eccentrics, and which deal affectionately with working people-but he found themes of his own in the scientific novels. The Time Machine, The First Men in the Moon, The War of the Worlds, The Invisible Man, When the Sleeper Awakes, and The Food of the Gods all seem concerned not merely with telling a strange and entertaining story but with showing that, to science, everything is theoretically possible. The glorification of scientific discovery leads Wells to think that time and space can easily be conquered, and so we can travel to the moon, or Martians can attack us; we can travel forward to the future, and back again to the present. The old Newtonian world, with its fixed dimensions, begins to melt and dissolve in the imaginative stories of Wells: flesh can be made as transparent as glass, human size can be increased indefinitely, a man can sleep for a couple of centuries and wake up in the strange Wellsian future; a man can work miracles; a newspaper from the future can be delivered by mistake; a man can lose weight without bulk and drift like a balloon.
Wells sometimes described himself as a 'Utopiographer'. He was always planning worlds in which science had achieved its last victories over religion and superstition, in which reason reigned, in which everybody was healthy, clean, happy, and enlightened. The Wellsian future has been, for many years, one of the furnishings of our minds-skyscrapers, the heavens full of aircraft, men and women dressed something like ancient Greeks, rational conversation over a rational meal of vitamin-pills. To build Utopia, Wells wanted-like Shaw-to destroy all the vestiges of the past which cluttered the modern world-class-distinction, relics of feudalism, directionless education, unenlightened and self-seeking politicians, economic inequality. In other words, both Shaw and Wells wanted a kind of Socialism. Rejecting the doctrine of sin, they believed that man's mistakes and crimes came from stupidity, or from an unfavourable environment, and they set to work to blueprint the devices which would put everything right.
Wells, in book after book, tackles the major social problems. In Ann Veronica we have the theme of woman's new equal status with men; in Joan and Peter education is examined; in The Soul of a bishop we hear of the new religion of the rational age; in The New Machiavelli we have Wells's philosophy of politics. But these works remain novels, characterized by a Dickensian richness of character and not lacking in love-interest. Tono-Bungaj is about commerce, Mr. Blettsivorthy on Rampole Island a satire on our ' savage' social conventions, The Dream a story of the muddle of twentieth-century life as seen from the viewpoint of a thousand years ahead. Wells was a prolific writer and, when he kept to a story, always an interesting one. His preaching is now a little out of date, and his very hope for the future, rudely shattered by the Second World War, turned to a kind of wild despair: mankind would have to be superseded by some new species, Homo Sapiens had had his day; ' You fools,' he said in the preface to a reprint made just before his death, 'you damned fools.' Optimistic Liberalism died with him.
John Galsworthy (1867-1933) is best known for his Forsyte Saga, a series of six novels which trace the story of a typically English upper-class family from Victorian days to the nineteen-twenties-presenting their reactions to great events which, in effect, spell the doom of all they stand for, including World War I, the growth of Socialism, the General Strike of 1926. Galsworthy had shown himself, in his early The Island Pharisees, to be critical of the old standards-the philistinism, decadence, dullness, atrophy of feeling which characterized the so-called 'ruling class'. The Forsyte Saga, in trying to view this dying class dispassionately -with occasional irony-nevertheless seems to develop a sympathy for the hero of The Man of Property, Soames Forsyte, the epitome of the money-seeking class which Galsworthy is supposed to detest. Galsworthy, in fact, is himself drawn into the family of Forsytes, becomes involved with its fortunes, and what starts off as a work of social criticism ends in acceptance of the very principles it attacks. This work is still widely read, though it is not greatly esteemed by the modern critics. It came into its own as a television serial in the 19605.
In 1922 there appeared an important work in prose which (inevitably sometimes sounds like verse. This was Ulysses, by the Irishman James Joyce (1882-1941), a novel of enormous length dealing with the event of a single day in the life of a single town-the author's native Dublin Joyce had previously published some charming but not outstandin| verse, a volume of short stories called Dubliners, and a striking auto biographical novel-Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. The hero o this novel-Stephen Dedalus-appears again in Ulysses, this time sub ordinated in a secondary role: the hero is a Hungarian Jew, long-settlec in Dublin, called Leopold Bloom. The novel has no real plot. Like thi Greek hero whose name provides the title, Bloom wanders from place tc place, but has very un-heroic adventures, and finally meets Stephen, whc then takes on the role of a sort of spiritual son. After this the book ends But the eight hundred pages are not filled with padding; never was ; novel written in conciser prose. We are allowed to enter the minds of thi chief characters, are presented with their thoughts and feelings in a con tinuous stream (the technique is called 'interior monologue'). The bool is mostly a never-ending stream of Bloom's half-articulate impression of the day, but Joyce prevents the book from being nothing but that, b; imposing on it a very rigid form. Each chapter corresponds to an episodi in Homer's Odyssey and has a distinct style of its own; for instance, in thi Maternity Hospital scene the prose imitates all the English literary style from Beowulf to Carlyle and beyond, symbolising the growth of the foetu in the womb in its steady movement through time. The skill of the bool is amazing, and when we pick up a novel by Arnold Bennett or Hugh Walpole after reading Ulysses we find it hard to be impressed by ways of writing which seem dull, unaware, half-asleep. Ulysses is the most carefully-written novel of the twentieth century.
One reaction against the Liberalism of Wells and Shaw was to be found in the novels and poems of the Englishman David Herbert Lawrence (1885-1930), who in effect rejected civilisation and, like Blake, wanted men to go back to the 'natural world' of instinct. Lawrence's novels-Sons and Lovers, The Plumed Serpent, Aaron's Kod, and Lady Chat-terley's Lover, to mention a few-are much concerned with the relationship between man and woman, and he seems to regard this relationship as the great source of vitality and integration (Lady Chatterley's Lover was banned until 1960 because it too frankly glorified physical love). Lawrence will have nothing of science: instinct is more important; even religions are too rational, and, if man wants a faith, he must worship the 'dark gods' of primitive peoples. Nobody has ever presented human passion, man's relationship to nature, the sense of the presence of life in all things, like Lawrence. His poems, which express with intimate knowledge the 'essences' of natural phenomena and of the human instincts, are also capable of bitter satire on the 'dehumanisation' of man in the twentieth century.
Some novelists found their subject matter in modern political ideologies, and one of the most important of these -was George Orwell (1904-50), whose early works expressed pungently a profound dissatisfaction with the economic inequalities, the hypocrisies, the social anachronisms of English life in the nineteen-thirties, but whose last and finest novels attack the Socialist panaceas which, earlier, seemed so attractive. Orwell was a born radical, champion of the small man who is 'pushed around' by bosses of all denominations, and something of Swift's 'savage indignation' as well as his humanitarianism is to be found in Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four. The former is a parable of the reaction which supervenes on all high-minded revolutions: the animals take over the farm on which they have been exploited for the selfish ends of the farmer, but gradually the pigs-ostensibly in the name of democracy-create a dictatorship over the other animals far worse than anything known in the days of human management. The final farm-slogan- ' All animals are equal, but some are more equal than other'-has become one of the bitter catch-phrases of our cynical age. Nineteen Eighty-Four is a sick man's prophecy of the future (Orwell was dying of tuberculosis when he wrote it) and with its nightmare picture of a totalitarian world it has helped to create a new series of myths. The eternal dictator, Big Brother, the concept of 'double-think', the notion of the mutability of the past-these have become common furniture of our minds.
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