Mr. Doughty’s Epic. An unsigned review of The Titans, by Charles M. Doughty
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410 ] Mr. Doughty’s Epic An unsigned review of The Titans, by Charles M. Doughty London: Duckworth, 1916. Pp. 161.1 The Manchester Guardian, 829 (24 July 1916) 3 This is an epic dealing with the creation of the world, the battle of the Titans againstgods,theirdefeatandtheirfinalsubjugationintheserviceofman.One does not find fault with Mr. Doughty for writing an epic. No literary genre, once established, is ever outworn. But mythology is dangerous literary material . It should either be a mythology in which the author more or less believes or a mythology in which some people once believed. A mythology cannot be created for literary purposes out of whole cloth; it must be the work of a race. Mr. Doughty's mythology is neither Greek nor Hebraic nor Scandinavian; hence it lacks outline, it lacks tradition, and it lacks concreteness. The theme suggests Milton and Keats. But Milton and Keats at their best communicate a feeling, the one of titanic revolt, the other of titanic silence anddespondency.2 Whentheyfail,theysuggestMr.Doughty.Mr.Doughty's Titanshave bulkwithoutmeaning. WhenDantesays“miparvevedermolte alte torri” an image arises;3 one feels the reality of immense bodies with somethinglikehumanspiritsinthem.TheTitansofthispoemhaveviolence, but no passions. Leaned to time-fretted cliffs; Is entered weariness, in each marble corse: [10] In Hyperion the weariness is made actual; here it is stated. One does not know quite why such creatures should be weary at all, unless from the boredom of their inactivity. One cannot understand them. Not being human, they have not even the reality of definite abstractions. Bios and Kratos in Prometheus Bound succeed because they are boldly and intentionally abstract, and as such produce their effect by contrast with a passionate suffering human being.4 Aeschylus was a master of effects of abstract and concrete ; he never fell into the error of the vague. As for Mr. Doughty's style, one is puzzled; one wonders whether he was himself quite sure what he wanted to do. He aims at the ruggedness of the [ 411 Mr. Doughty’s Epic Saxon tongue. If hewerethoroughlyand consistentlyAnglo-Saxonhemight arrive at giving a total impression, even employing, as he does, many words of which one does not know the meaning. But there are heavy Latinisms too. One turns from the harsh From the mount’s knees, up to his frozen breast; Eotens and rime-gíants strive mainly and sweat. [70] to The adamantine Elements; Couched indivisible particles . . . Shall his mathêsis, through unerring thought, Discern . . . [159-60] with a touch of Browning at the end. One can enjoy a style of excess–Sir Thomas Browne, or Lyly, or Mr. Wyndham Lewis, or Browning–if it is excess in a peculiar and exclusive direction.5 Mr. Doughty’s style is not archaic; it is not the style of any time or the style of any intelligible pose; it is eccentric, but not personal. Thus it recalls several writers without being imitative of them. It recalls especially Blake; not the Blake of extraordinary creations of phrase springing at a leap from the unconscious, but the Blake of such verse as America.6 Notes 1. Charles M. Doughty (1843-1926), English poet, Arabist, and travel writer, was known for Travels in Arabia Deserta (2 vols, 1888), and for his epic poem, The Dawn in Britain (6 vols, 1906). 2. Paradise Lost (1674) by John Milton (1608-74) and Hyperion (1820) by John Keats (17951821 ). 3. Inferno, XXXI.20: “I seemed to see many lofty towers” (DC1 348-49). 4. InPrometheusBound(ca.460BC),byAeschylus(525-456BC),Bia(TSE:Bios)andKratos (PowerandMight)chaintheTitanPrometheustoacraggymountainsummitfordefyingZeus’swill bybringingfire,reason,andothergiftstomen.Prometheus,himselfanimmortal,isonlysymbolically a man, placed by Zeus on the same plane with mortals for his punishment. 5. TSE alludes to the rough syntax of Robert Browning (1812-89), the Latinized eloquence of Sir Thomas Browne (1605-82), the euphuistic wit of John Lyly (1554-1606), and the histrionic style of Wyndham Lewis (1882-1957), whose few essays he saw in Lewis’s Vorticist periodical, Blast (1914-15) and whose novel Tarr he began to read in the Egoist in Apr 1916. 6. In America a Prophecy (1793), William Blake (1757-1827) combines revolutionary historical figures with personal mythological characters to create a unique visionary philosophy. ...