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101 7 Cornelius Weygandt, "The Latest Phases of English Poetry: Mary Webb," The Time of Yeats (Lond & NY: Appleton-Century, 193D. Ρ· 415, a fair, perceptive discussion of Mrs. Webb's poetry. 8 Goodbye to Morning (Shrewsbury: Wilding * Son, 1964), p. 43. 9 Weyganet P. ^15. REVIEW: THE ESSENTIAL HARDY Irving Howe. Thomas Hardy. New York: The Macmlllan Co., I967. $4.95. Little more than a year ago, Philip Larkin could write, "Wanted: Good Hardy Critic," confident that the limitations and special critical biases of the recent studies of Hardy like those by Roy Morrell, George Wing, and Richard Carpenter would disqualify them. Irving Howe's Thomas Hardy does not belabor any thesis about the value of suffering In Hardy's work (an emphasis which Larkin oddly presumed would be the mark of a "good Hardy critic"), but In every important respect Professor Howe Is the best available answer to Larkln's advertisement. The focus of Howe's book Is, and its arrangement sensibly sacrifices simple chronology for a looser time arrangement which permits unified discussions of related minor pieces, reserving for more extended treatment the major fiction, The Dynasts, and the lyric poetry. His Introductory chapter draws heavily upon yet never simply repeats the insights of generations of writers on Hardy's work, and it stands as a remarkably concise epitome of the most sensitive and Intelligent modern critical attitudes toward Hardy. Howe's discussion of the minor fiction Is almost invariably sensible and Judiciously critical. The rare exceptions - such as his Insistence that "The Fiddler of the Reels" is "one of the great. If barely known, stories In the English language" - stand out precisely because there is so little of the critically wayward in the volume. The discussion of the major fiction Is characteristically balanced and marked by perceptive and Illuminating discriminations . Howe's willingness to exploit a very broad range of language resources renders his meaning fully and precisely. The very denseness of Howe's style would defeat any attempt at summary; its special value lies In its nice critical distinctions. Suffice it to say that Howe's treatment of the later novels Is especially fine. Unfortunately, Professor Howe's discussion of Hardy's poetry does not equal the very high standard set by his commentary on the prose fiction. With The Dynasts. Howe's critical tact nearly deserts him: he wrestles futllely with the meaning of Hardy's sub-title, "An Epic-Drama," and his conclusions depend heavily upon mere points of definition. A similarly narrow insistence on definitional Issues prompts him to characterize John Wain's remarks on the "shooting-script" form of The Dynasts as "charming" but not "useful" - a rare deviation from the generous spirit with which Howe usually credits (and creatively develops) the Insights of other critics. For Hardy's lyric poetry, Professor Howe un- 102 fortunately accepts the critical commonplace that the bulk of Hardy's poetry is routine and undistinguished. In talking about It Howe is certainly not hampered by that verbal inadequacy which seems to overtake even the best of critics who attempt to describe the virtues of Hardy's poetry - and his remarks on Individual poems have the same dense particularity and fine precision that characterize his discussion of the novels. Eut the bulk of Hardy's poetry requires, for really adequate consideration, that discriminations be extended to far more than a handful of poems, and Howe's particular consideration of only a small portion of the corpus Is a real, if understandable, limitation of his study. There are other minor weaknesses. Professor Howe's usual cautiousness in matters critical deserts him when he ventures into areas like the composition dates of Hardy's poetry: in an area fraught with uncertainties, there is something surprising in the unqualified tone of Howe's assertion that Hardy "kept producing verse with professional regularity" except "from about 1872 to 1890." More surprising - and disturbing - is the frequent Inaccuracy of Professor Howe's citations; an inevitable slip or two Is, of course, to be expected, but a complete rehearsal of the erroneous quotations in Howe's Thomas Hardy would be a tedious business Indeed . The following passage, for example. Is taken from...


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