A review of Fashion in Literature: A Study of Changing Taste, by E. E. Kellett
In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

362 ] A review of Fashion in Literature: A Study of Changing Taste, by E. E. Kellett London: Routledge, 1931. Pp. 369. The English Review, 53 (Oct 1931) 634-36 Mr. Kellett is writing on a subject on which he has already shown himself something of an authority.1 In this book of 369 pages he seems to me to have missed a most interesting opportunity, or both of two opportunities. He might have written a philosophical and psychological treatise on the enjoyment of art and literary art in particular: for such an investigation Mr. Kellett is perhaps not fully qualified. But for a detailed historical account of the major changes of literary taste in England no one is better equipped. He has a great variety of surprising and pertinent learning; and he knows how to apply it without pedantry, in such a way as to illuminate the matter and enliven the style of his discourse. Neither of these interesting lines of investigation is that which Mr. Kellett has chosen to take. We cannot blame the author for not performing what he has not undertaken; yet we may regret that Mr. Kellett has provided merely a superior Guide to literary Self-Culture, of a much more advanced grade than the primers of Arnold Bennett and such exponents.2 After a preliminary chapter on Taste in general, which displays much etymological knowledge without, I feel, getting us very far in any direction , Mr. Kellett discusses Literary Taste in particular, Criticism, and the Rise of Conscious Art.3 He then, in successive chapters, considers the several chief excesses into which literary fashions may fall: e.g. preciosity , ingeniosity, allegory, the grotesque, and so on.4 On all these matters he usually says the right thing, or at least one of the right things to be said. This is the book to put in the hands of those defective lovers of literature – and they form a numerous class – who do not understand why it might be worth their while to enlarge their appreciation of literature , and those others who desire to do so but do not know how to go about it. [ 363 A review of Fashion in Literature Accepting the scope and design of the book for what they are, I find still two points on which I wish Mr. Kellett had expatiated. He perorates: Let us then endeavour to cultivate a catholic and generous taste; to read widelyifnotvoraciously,andtowelcomeworksofallkindsandofalmost every rank: to find room in our sympathies not merely for the great but for the little, not merely for the exquisite but for the rough – nay, not merely for the good but for an occasional experience of the bad. [353] It is true that Mr. Kellett has warned the reader not to strain at studying literature from which he extracts no pleasure whatever, but on the contrary to hold fast to what he really enjoys, and to seek to enlarge his enjoyment from this centre. I wish, nevertheless that he had asserted that for each one of us there must be a limit of enjoyment; that although some persons can have a much greater field of taste than others, complete catholicity is a chimera . If we try to enlarge our appreciation too much, we may diminish the intensity of enjoyment. If we were born with a catholic taste, it would be indistinguishable from no taste at all. In our enjoyment of literature much else must enter besides pure literary enjoyment; and our preference of subject matter, our affinity with particular personalities, and other such limitations must condition not only our enjoyment but our appreciation – for though enjoyment and appreciation are not the same thing, they must tend to concur. This consideration might have led Mr. Kellett to give some fuller account of why taste must change from age to age; and why each generation must be attracted to some past periods of literature and repelled from others. T. S. Eliot Notes 1. E. E. Kellett (1864-1950), retired English master at the Leys School, Cambridge, author of The Story of Myths (1927), reviewed in the Criterion for Sept 1928, and The Whirligig of Taste (1929), anonymously reviewed in the Criterion for Oct 1929. The Criterion review of The Whirligig of Taste (170-71) possibly by TSE, summarized the book as follows: “The core of his belief, if he has a belief, is that the only thing we can be certain of is the inevitable procession of Change” (170). On 8 Oct 1931...