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242 REVIEWS 1. Arnold Bennett: Realist. Symbolist—Artist James G. Hepburn. THE ART OF ARNOLD BENNETT. Bloominoton: Indiana U P, 1963. $6.00. Professor Hepburn's book Is the most important book published on Bennett since 1959, when James Hall's 1949 Ph. D. thesis, with slight changes, appeared in book form. Further, while Professor Hall has many useful things to say about Bennett, the view he gives us of Bennett differs little from the traditional one of Bennett as an artist manqué at best. Not so in Hepburn's book. Hepburn introduces a wholly new image of Bennett as he subjects Bennett's works to the kind of minutely close scrutiny which previously had been reserved for such "major" writers as Henry James and Joseph Conrad. Critical respect for Bennett's accomplishments should certainly rise, for Hepburn convincingly proves that Bennett is above all a serious artist, and a subtle one at that, that he is at least far less a journalist or sociologist than he has previously been supposed to be, that he is not solely, not even predominantly, a note-taking realist, and that his work lends itself remarkably to structural analysis and, more significantly, analysis for image patterns and coherently developed symbolism. Bennett, furthermore, had a philosophy of beauty. Although he does not state it systematically in his non-fiction writings, the novelist in his practice seeks to discover beauty in the human situation and to express it artistically. He often succeeds in doing both. In part, Hepburn's book is a reply to Virginia Woolf's attack on Bennett and to the attacks of all those who, with various modifications, followed Mrs. Woolf's lead. But it is much more than that, for Hepburn not only shows that these critics were wrong but he also goes on to show that Bennett was in his practice doing what they claimed he was not doing—and more. In this book, Professor Hepburn seeks "to explore the broader path that his [Bennett's] art actually took." He greatly extends Georges Lafourcade's investigations of Bennett's "psychological understanding," Elizabeth Massoulard's study of Bennett's "indebtedness to the romantic tradition," and James Hall's discussion of "some aspects of structure in the novels." Hepburn's study "hopes to show, by a close examination of the novels, that Bennett is indeed more interested in beauty than in realism, more interested in character than in sociology, more interested in technique than in undifferentiated facts of life. And some things may be surprising. For Bennett's symbolism. . .isa deliberate and elaborate symbolism that Bennett uses to disclose character and to discover beauty." To support his thesis Professor Hepburn subjects the undisputably best novels of Bennett (THE OLD WIVES' TALE, CLAYHANGER, RICEYMAN STEPS, and, perhaps, LORD RAINGO) to very close examination. The result, in my opinion, is often brilliant. Few critics have ever given even Bennett's major novels such serious attention and proved that these works deserve the effort. Even such a frequently studied novel as THE OLD WIVES' TALE gains new interest in Professor Hepburn's hands. No one, certainly, will object to Hepburn's devoting from 6 to about 21 pages of extended close analysis to each of Bennett's major novels. 243 However, some readers of Hepburn's book may be disturbed by the fact that about 11 consecutive pages are given to THE GLIMPSE, some 10 pages to THE PRETTY LADY, about 10 pages to THE PRICE OF LOVE, and approximately 24 pages to that much maligned novel, IMPERIAL PALACE. An attentive reader, however, will appreciate the validity of allowing so much space to such relatively little examined minor novels, bad novels some will say. These minor novels often serve Hepburn well as evidence of what Bennett was doing and saying more subtly in his major works. Thus, in Chapter 6 ("To Discover Beauty'1), the central illustration of which is THE PRETTY LADY, Hepburn does not seek to rank the novel with Bennett's best work but only to suggest that this novel might at least be read with fuller understanding than it has been. Hepburn quotes several unsympathetic opinions of the novel and then concedes...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 242-244
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Will Be Archived 2021
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