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10. W. H. MALLOCK'3 THE KEW REPUBLIC: A STUDY IN LATb VIC'TORIAr-i SATIRE By Johη D. Margolis (North'τοr,tern University) As little as it has been studied by literary critics, VJ. H. Mallock's The New Republic has consistently beer the object of rather basic differences of opinion regarding the fundamental nature of the novel. In her pioneering study of Mallock's fiction, Amy Belle Adams began her remarks on The New Republic saying, "[ItI places itself in literary history merely as another evidence of that 'wave of pessimism' that swept over the 'tender souls' of Arnold, Tennyson, Clough, Thomson, and other writers of the latter half of the nineteenth century."! Thirty years later, in 1964, Ti:. D. H. Johnson anthologized a portion of the same novel which he labelled a "neglected masterpiece of parody,"2 These two poles --- at one of which the novel is a testament of pessimism and at the other of which it Is a rare bit of Victorian comic writing --represent the two basic orientations of the slight amount of twentieth century scholarship on The New Republic. But uncertainty as to the fundamental character of the novel is not unique to modern critics. Mallock's contemporary readers in 1877 were similarly uncertain as to how this unusual novel was to be read. The review in the Literary World began with the simple declarative sentence: "This book Is something of a puzzle." The reviewer continued, "One cannot be quite sure whether It is intended to laugh to scorn all faith in God, all practice of religion, or whether, on the contrary, it Is intended to defeat infidelity by... the reductlo ad absurdum method."3 To the Spectator it was "not very easy to determine whether this clever squib be meant for anything more than a clever squib or not."^ "On the whole," the novel seemed "almost as well adapted, --- we do not mean Intended, --to advance the cause of the more thorough and deeper scepticism, as to damage the cause of that shallower and feebler scepticism...."5 To the Saturday Review the novel seemed beyond analysis. "From the nature of the case, a novel without a plot, a story that Is no story, is not capable of being analysed...." Yet, though he considered the novel a dismal failure, the Saturday Review critic did sense the book was a parody. "In form and feature like a two-volume novel, this book is really a thinly veiled parody of the opinions, manners, and personal appearance of a number of living persons famous In the world of science and letters."" Though he, too, understands the novel as a parody, the Athenaeum reviewer criticizes it for lacking action: "A parody In two volumes is something of a monstrosity, and one certainly tires of such a prolonged concert, with all parts sustained only by the mocking-bird."' The critic for the Contemporary Review was among the more perspicacious. He discerned that the novel has "an argumentative purpose... [namely] to show the writer's ... conviction... that without personal faith in a personal God there Is no logical ground for a consistent morality of self-restraint, or even of benevolence; and that such faith leads naturally into some definite form of Christianity."" 11. The writer for the Quarterly iievlew had the keenest understanding of the novel. Ke described it as "a serias of conversations where the interlocutors violate the first principles of Culture by cynical contempt for recognised opinions, illustrate Faith by ludicrous travesties of religious observances, and. caricature Philosophy bv proclaiming Tilth stentorian bray the doctrines of Nihilism.... The writer, evidently young, sees the ridiculous side of several distinct schools of thought, and by a kind of negative eclecticism contrives to extract and exhibit those phases and manifestations of them which tend most to convince the reader as to each of them in turn that this, this, and th 1 s, is not the school to which he can attach himself", and that the pundits who expound the doctrines of these several schools are not worthy of his confidence."? The fact is, as the Literary World observed, that The New Republic is something of a ruz~zle. "And...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 10-25
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Will Be Archived 2021
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