- George Moore, Polymath
THANKS TO CONFERENCES, the bounty of scholarly work on George Moore keeps growing: essays edited by Mary S. Pierse in George Moore: Artistic Visions and Literary Worlds (2006) were read in 2005 at University College, Cork; those gathered by Conor Montague and Adrian Frazier in George Moore: Dublin, Paris, Hollywood (2012) were presented at the Moore Institute at the National University of Ireland in 2011; and those in George Moore: Across Borders (2013), edited by Christine Huguet and Fabienne Dabrigeon-Garcier, originated at a 2007 conference at the Université Charles de Gaulle–Lille 3.
The present volume—the third Moore essay collection in as many years—stems from the 2008 “George Moore and His Contemporaries” conference at the University of Hull and comprises eleven essays (under “Influence”) and two short works by Moore and Pearl Craigie (under “Collaboration”). The essays in this volume answer the question posed by editors Ann Heilmann and Mark Llewellyn in their introduction: “How did Moore project his impressions, opinions, and desires through other artistic figures, either through direct claims of influence or through collaboration?”
The “Influence” section opens with Frazier’s eloquent essay on Moore’s affinities with Balzac, whose oeuvre Moore knew well (and, apparently, in its entirety) and with whom he shared “a capacity for work and a passion for the telling of tales.” Although Moore revised and rewrote his 1889 Fortnightly Review essay on Balzac for republication in 1891, 1919 and 1924, “he never really got it right.” The reason: “He tried to demonstrate the greatness of Balzac’s work rather than the character of the writer.” Moore was more successful with his estimate of artists, as Anna Gruetzner Robins points out, his appraisals of Seurat, Degas, Pissarro, Monet, Renoir and others making him “a key player amongst French symbolist critics.” In Confessions of a Young Man (1887–1888), Moore “provided a highly visual sophisticated description of pictures that he had seen ten years previously,” and Robins’s essay is the first to identify many works described by Moore “that he could only have seen in specific Impressionist exhibitions or private collections,” which counters the suggestion by some critics “that Moore made up his viewing of such works.” [End Page 428]
Pierse examines Moore’s use of music and “its forms, allusions, sounds, moods and memories,” tracing his preoccupation with sound, musically related language or structure, and deployment of musical references from A Mummer’s Wife (1885) and A Drama in Muslin (1886)—the latter contains “over one hundred instances” where music is present—to The Untilled Field (1903) and The Lake (1905). In a similar vein, Stoddard Martin revisits Moore’s Wagnerism, this time in relation to such fascinating figures as Lord Howard de Walden, Gabriele D’Annunzio and Edouard Dujardin, as well as to Moore’s writing The Brook Kerith (1916).
Next comes Moore the critic, with Jane Jordan comparing his pamphlet, Literature at Nurse; or, Circulating Morals (August 1885), and Ouida’s essay, “The Tendencies of English Fiction” (September 1885)—both make similar criticisms of contemporary British fiction—in relation to the prevailing views on morality in fiction. That Moore knew Ouida’s work is evident from similarities in plotline between A Mummer’s Wife and Ouida’s Moths (1880). Ouida’s more sexually suggestive works—“she treated sexual morality with French candor,” writes Jordan—were nonetheless included in Mudie’s Select Library, while Moore’s A Modern Lover (1883) and A Mummer’s Wife were rejected on moral grounds, a vexing imbalance taken up by Moore in Literature at Nurse.
Katherine Mullin traces the significance of the figure of the barmaid for Moore during the years leading up to Esther Waters (1894). Barmaids, who for many personified “the eroticization of everyday life,” were nonetheless popular in song and on stage, and temperance and social purity leagues distributed tracts in pubs to “rescue” these women, in their view “symptomatic of a sexualized, degraded urban culture.” The King’s Head proves to be “a refuge of domestic...