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ELT 38:2 1995 this volume's dual allegiance to Conrad the man and Conrad the artist. That Batchelor's emphasis, despite his conscientious attempt at evenhandedness , falls on the latter is likely a preference few would find objectionable. J. H. Stape Japan Women's University, Tqkyo Hardy's Language Dennis Taylor. Hardy's Literary Language and Victorian Philology. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993. xiii + 429 pp. $59.00 WITH THE PUBLICATION of Hardy's Poetry, 1860-1928 (1981; 2nd edition 1989) and Hardy's Metres and Victorian Prosody (1988), Dennis Taylor established himself as the most probing contemporary critic of Hardy's verse. Hardy's Literary Language and Victorian Philology now joins the other two volumes to form a trilogy that progressively expands its centre from poetic text to technical context to historical hypertext. That expansion occasions, perhaps inevitably, some blurring of focus as the questions raised become more ambitious in scope and the answers less easily groundable in textual specifics, despite inspired attempts to anchor large claims in analyses of Hardyan word usage. Paradoxically, particularly in the light of Taylor's previous work, the broader speculations, even with their occasional cloudiness, are finally more satisfying than the dissection of individual linguistic effects adduced in support of them. The initiating questions, couched in reaction to conventional charges of "awkwardness" in Hardy's diction, could not really be much more expansive without ceasing to be addressable areas of critical speculation and dispersing into the inscrutable haze of literary metaphysics: "What is Hardy's relation to the English language, the language of literature, and the language of poetry? Is there such a thing as 'the language' in any of these cases? How do we gauge Hardy's relation to the history of these things?" While these imponderables remain, four hundred pages later, only partially answered, they generate stimulating debate about Hardy's interest in Victorian linguistic philosophy, and most specifically his relationship with that extended swan-song of Victorian lexicographical philology, the Oxford English Dictionary. Taylor's immensely provocative book is filled with passing insights that amply fulfil its aim of locating Hardy's literary language within the problematics of Victorian linguistic scholarship. Few critics have the 222 book Reviews assurance to advance totalizing claims like the following with such disarming confidence, and to support them with such detailed reference to Hardy's own reading and to Victorian philological, etymological and lexicographical presuppositions: "At the heart of his poetry is dramatization of a human language controlled by its past, in search of its lost origins, conditioned by assumptions of whose obsolescence it may not be aware and which may be preparing it for tragic collisions with reality." But at its more reductive points the argument declines into a kind of two-way influence study—of Hardy on the Oxford English Dictionary and of the OED on Hardy. Since even unidirectional influence studies can be notoriously treacherous, it is not altogether surprising that Taylor finds himself bogged down from time to time in very quaggy terrain. It is a tribute to his originality that he manages to convince the reader to accompany him more or less ungrudgingly. For in striving to establish the symbiotic relationship between Hardy and the OED, Taylor often sounds a distracting note of argumentative desperation. It may be possible to make something of the "many similarities " between the lives of Hardy and James Murray, although, surely, neither man would himself have been prepared to flatten early Victorian regional class complexities beneath the dull weight of modern demographics to claim, as Taylor does, that he came from "a workingclass family." It may even be possible to distill meaning from the intricate inter-patterning of the publication dates of their major works: Poems of the Past and the Present published the same year (1901) as H-K of the OED, Volume Two of The Dynasts in the same year (1905) as O-Pf. But by the time we are invited to ponder the significance of the appearance of the last volume of Hynes's edition of the Complete Poems at around the same date (1985-1986) as that of the last volume of the new OED Supplement, it is difficult to...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 222-225
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Will Be Ceasing Publication
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