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424 THE UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO QUARTERLY for human greatness and goodness is to be derived from the revel<;ttion of human nature at its best, that is, from the revelation in religion, poetry, and history. Having given first attention to the civilizing of the Adam in man, we may then introduce into the curriculum the accessories of man's mundane life: "science, by which he increases his knowledge and ·control of the universe; politics and economics, by which he creates and regulates the society that will serve the good life; languages, through which he has access not only to his fellow men but to the collective wisdom of the world; industry and commerce, regarded not merely as means of making money, . but as Plato conceived, as mothers and nurses that supply mankind with the necessaries of life.'' It will be obse·rved that while Sir Richard leans towards the classical tradition, he is in line with the I-larvard report, which states emphatically, "One of the aims of education is to break the strong hold of the present on. the mind." It is in this respect that Ortega for all the brilliance of his analysis betrays a blind spot. Above all others, inclusive even of the high-minded Harvard report, Sir Richard stresses the human problem-"man is the real problem, the old, the modern problem." Though he has not favoured us with an outline of a curriculum constructed in conformity with his ideal, it is probable that literature, history, and philosophy would be given ·a larger place than in the Harvard plan-and that in the other fields the historical approach would be urged in order that the student might see that modern problems are old ones with new faces. By appropriating the best in our heritage, we are helped towards the realization of the good life, straining "every nerve to live by the highest things in us." THE MAJOR PHASE OF HENRY JAMES* LEoN EoEL This book has been before the American public for three years but it has only recently .been published in England and Canada. If there is special ground for reviewing it in these pages it is that the substance of the volume was first delivered as the Alexander Lectures at the University of Toronto. There is still another reason. The figure of Henry Jamessurely · the most complicated and most influential in the relatively short history of the American novel-has always commanded close and scholarly attention at Toronto. Professor Pelham Edgar's valuable pioneering volume on James was written at a time when, south of the border, the novelist was still being discussed less as an· artist than as an expatriate who renounced his American citizenship at the start of the First World War. It is only in recent years that American scholars and critics have ((dis- *Henry James: 'The Major Plzase. By F. 0. MATTHIESSEN. New York and Toronto: Oxford University Press. 1944. Pp. 190. ($3.00) REVIEWS 425 covered" James, and they have tended to treat him as a liter.;ry riddle rather than as a creative human being. Mr. Matthiessen's search has been -deeper than most and he has had the advantage of a vast body of unpublished material at Harvard. The Major Phase is a~ attempt to study the significance of the three "bign novels which crowned Henry James's career as an artist; as ~uch it is not - so much a record or a critique of a "phase" as a series of essays on the novels in question_:_The Ambassadors, The Wings of the Dove, and- The Golden Bowl. To these Mr. Matthiessen adds an essay on James's book of American travel, The American Scene, and the posthumous and unfinished The 'Ivory Tower. By way of'introductlon there is a brief study of James's method of "thinking out" pen in hand his various stories as revealed in his as yet unpublished notebooks, and by way of conclusion an essay on his "total view" of the world of which he wrote. An appendix discusses the manner in which the novelist revised The Portrait of a Lady for the Definitive Edition of his novels and tales. This is far from being, therefore, a systematic and integrated study of Henry James's "major phase," which began in 1895 after the catastrophic failure of his play (i-uy Domville and was marked by absorption into the writing of his fiction of the experience of his "dramatic years." Such a -study would have to begin with the notebooks for 1894-5 in which the· three major novels are first adumbrated and go on to examine the series of novels and stories from 1895 to 1900 !n which Henry James displayed his new and, as we now know, revolutionary technique-The Spoils of Poynton, The Other House, What Maisie Knew; the novelettes In the Cage and The Turn of the Screw; the technical tour de force The .Awkward Age; and the curious and elusive The Sacred Fount. It was only after these works that the three final novels were written, and Henry James was far from epuise. The creative energy of the·man, as he nears his seventieth year, is astounding . He rewrites his early works for the Definitive Edition, as if, in the end, he were trying to rewrite his whole creative life, and appends to them the illuminating Prefaces that are a volume in themselves. He writes the two-volume life of William Wetmore Story. He revises his travel sketches in English Hours and Italian Hours, he revisits America, makes a lecture tour, produces The American Scene and a now forgotten series of articles oh the speech and manners of American women. He puts forth three volumes of short stories. He writes four plays. He assembles his Notes on Novelists . And as if this were not enough he caps this productio~ with two extraordinary volumes of -autobiographical reminiscence-major works of their genre-that foreshadowed Proustian remembrance. Then he throws himself into war work. And when he dies he leaves two substantial, if incomplete, works that show no flagging. of creative energy. There is the complete major phase of which Mr. Matthiessen gives us only a few facets. What was there in Henry James's life and experience that contributed to this extraordinary release at the end of his life, at a time when other writers 426 !HE UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO QUARTERLY find their resources waning and the fount of th,eir creative energy drying up? The hook does not answer this all-important question. Nor does the critic, in his analysis of the three big novels, see how they are the outcome of-and closely related to-the long series of death and death-in-life fantasies that fill the notebooks during the nineties. The Ambassadors, noted in the year James was seeking compensations for the frustration of Guy· Domville, is a cry to ulive all you can.'~ The Wings of the Dove is a cry against early death. The Golden Bowl is an affirmation of the victory of life over sterile family ties. The Wings.of the Doue was first elaborated in the notebooks during the year of ((The Altar of the Dead" and leThe Death of the Lion"~a death-haunted year for James. A close study .of the major phase leads us to a comprehensive picture of an artist engaged in a deep struggle against the nightmare of non-success, which to. some is an artistic death, and shows us the steps by which James defied this -death and arrived at the necessary adjustment that ·made creation poss"ible for him. The very things he created are compounded of this inner experience, revealed to the full in the notebooks. . Mr. Matthiessen's use of the notebooks has been rather to regard them as so many individual notations of ideas and themes than see them as a continuous whole, the fruit of a rich, questioning mind constantly associating and ela.borating its fantasies in a recurrent pattern that dovetails with what we know of James's experiences in the outer world. This reviewer , on reading the notebooks, constantly had a sense of excitementthe feeling that he had passed through the portals of a great adventurous mind, and was face to face with the unconscious proces~ of creation: a Jamesian Road to Xanadu laid out with a spontaneity and explicitness, a · richness of association, and an intensity of feeling which, it seems to him, Mr. Mat~hiessen does not sufficiently convey. Mr. Matthiessen's final chapter, ((The Religion of Consciousness," is a sensitive appraisal of the novelist's belief (amounting if you will to a religion ) in the individual, and in his "consciousness"-that is, in his observation , experience, and understanding of the individual as an observer and absorber oflife. He finds in this a concreteness that was lacking in the more universal religious concepts of Henry's father and the equalitarianism of his brother. He describes Henry Sr.'s ((visitation" or "vastation" and William's religious experience-involving in both cases day-nightmares·of fear and'horror symptomatic. of anxieti.es and insecurities that affected both men profoundly. But he might have looked nearer at hand, into Henry's own experience, the dream-fugue of the nightmare recounted in A Small Boy and Others, in which the novelist describes a drea!U of horror he r~­ garded as "the most appalling yet most admirable nightmare of my life,'' and which he remembered across four or five decades. It differs from those · of his father and brother in that the sense of fright and horror was promptly conquered by a sense of victory, triumph, compensation, even as James's . \ I I \ REVIEWS 427 characte.rs, for all their renunciations, invariably fi!1d inner rewarding triumphs and compensations. So too his concept of Evil-supernatural or natural-of which T. S. Eliot and Graham G1·eene have made so much, was in reality not so much a sense of external and uncontrollable forces working upon humans · as an understanding of destructive forces within the individual. The terror of The Turn of the Screw resides in the well-motivated consciousness of the governess. Rose Armiger in The Otlzer House and Kate Croy in The Wings ofthe Dove, are figures of evil si,nce Rose mu.rders a child and Kate instigates a ''psychological murder." Yet both these women are treated sympathetically by James. He approaches them concretely as a psychologist. He motivates their every act and shows them as the victims of their neuroses and compulsions as well as of their social heritage·. James thought of himself as a man without religion. He asked others to pray for him during the nervous hours preceding Guy Domville with a half-humorous intent that betrayed his fears, and wrote t~ William jocularly : "This is a time when a man wants a religion." He accepted religion as an institution as he had accepted )t in his father and rejected it for himself. Mr. Matthiesse11 explains the short story "The Great Good Place.. ·as· deriving from James's "uprooted religious sense" (if we can uproot something that had no roots) but this is to observe only the surface of the story. It is the account of a. writer who, exhausted by worldly pressures, escapes in a dream to a "great good place," a sort of half-monastery, a Protestant retreat, in which there is an absence of the worldly material things that many consider the hall-marks of American civilization. Chronologically this story belongs to the_period of "The Middle Years" (an author who asks for another chance, to write his great work) and Guy Domoille (a hero who renounces the world for the monastery). It is an expression of James's struggle between the conflicts of worldly life and the childish wish-in a moment of harassment-to return to the protection and solace of Mother. The softness and femininity Mr. Matthiessen finds so objectionable in this story are explicable-and acceptable, if understood-in terms of James's evocation of a Mother-image in a striking series of associations which the critic overlooks. One might see Mother-Church in '"The Great .Good Place," but we must remember that the solace of Mother, in childhood,· precedes that of Mother-Church. James's Mother-Church, as he only too clearly makes us understand, was a monastery of literature of his own creation. Mr. Matthiessen's is a critical rather than a scholarly mind, sensitive to symbols, images, words, to the meaning of language as a signature of the unconscious. His criticism is compounded of a series of delicate brush strokes, and he gives us gleams ~nd insights that are stimulating to an extraordinary degree. It is ''impressionistic" criticism, but it has an elusive quality. It seldom leads to a view of the whole. We ride with him .on a train and look upon a fascinating and ever-changing landscape, but we 428 THE UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO QUARTERLY never return to synthesize and re-evaluate, to make sure that we have really seen-what we have seen! Impression and intuition in such circumstances run the risk of being divorced from fact and this makes one wonder whether, at bottom, Mr. Matthiessen, in his "intuitive'' appreciation of literature and ideas, does not minimize unduly the spadework of scholarship. · NEVILLE CHAMBERLAIN A. BRADY The Life of Neville Chamberlain by Keith Feiling*· is one of the most llluminating books on the politics of Britain between- the world wars, and a fascinating study of a political character. Much of its interest dwells in the peculiar nature of its sources. The Chamberlain family, acting. on, Neville's own belief that a man's life should be written before he is forgotten , placed the dead statesman's papers at the author's disposal, and refrained from a scrutiny of the manuscript before publication. For years Chamberlain had kept a careful diary and in the period 1916-40 had regularly written letters to his two sisters on the men and incidents of public affairs. This rich store of private correspondence provides the principal substance of the present volume. Chamberlain here speaks for himself. Some reviewers have argued that he thoroughly damns himself, but that depends upon the reader's point of view.. . Neville Chamberlain was an excellent representative of the nineteenthcentury British ruling class active in the twentieth century. He possessed the insular prejudices of that class as well as its profound sense of public duty. Yet. in certain notable respects he was very modern. Without sentimentality, he was trenchant in criticizing it in others. He liked to think of himself as preserving the implacabJe realism of ·his father. His chief zeal was for a daring and efficient administration, and to this end he was tireless in seeking to improve the machinery of the state. No Tory, he was far removed from the conservatism of Mayfair. He wrote with contempt of «the strange dream life that goes on" in the Tory aristocracy. He' realized that the grand i.rpperative in the politics of twentieth-century Britain was to improve the l~t of the common man. He remarked of an illustrious contemporary, Lord Curzon, that he was a great .figure with superhuman industry and brilliant gifts, but a great failure too because he "never understood nor ·cared about the detailed aspirations of the workingclasses ." His intelle'ctual roots go back to Unitarian ancestors." He had the intensity of conviction and the sense of mission of the Nonconformist mind, c;lisliking in particular the shallow exhibitionism of elections. His life throughout was regular, simple, strenuous. He was sensitive, restless, and high-strung, but· in times of personal and public stress he was calm, patient, *The Life of Neo£1/e Clzamberla£n. By KEITH FElLING, London: Macmillan [Toronto: Macmillan· Co. of Canada}. 1946. Pp. x, 476. · ($5:50) ...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 424-428
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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