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54 One could go on in this way, questioning his uncritical acceptance of currently received opinions about tha superiority of "purity" as a general quality; his casual chapter ("On Myth") dealing with what is apparently the only exception he can think of to his claim that the "specifically literary value" of a work is found in its words; his dij.nissal of plot, ignoring as it does what many careful critics have meant by plot, and so on. Dut all this would be largely irrelevant; Even though the title invites us to take the work seriously as critical theory, it should never have been offered as, or taken for, anything other than a collection of first-rate sermons, Pm not clear whether Professor Lewis would want to write that other kind of book, the book that might, on these same topics, develop the theoretical issues and argue fully the possible solutions. I do know that if he wrote ~uch a book, it would be a great delight to read. In the meanwhile, we can be thankful for a splendid exhortation to spend less time damning authors for being not quite great and -nore time surrendering to forms of greatness that -Jo not fit our "great traditions," Earl hum College — Wayne C. Booth Vf Vf Vf Vf Vf Vf Vf * *· J. Benjamin Townsend, JOHN DAVIDSON: POET OF ARMAGEDDON. New Haven: Yale, 1961. [Yale Studies in English, Vol. 148], $8,50 We must accustom ourselves to a world in which events stand not still, but hurtle. Studies in the !8901S seem to have caught the infection. Early in the spring of !361 Maurice Lindsay's JOHN DAVIDSON: A SELECTION OF HIS POEMS (London: Hutchinson) appeared in tngland, prophesying that ". . .undoubtedly a biographical study of the poet /ill eventually be produced. . ." (p. 46). In September 1961, with J. Benjamin Townssnd's JOHN DAVIDSON, Mr. Lindsay's prophecy has been resoundingly fulfilled. Such a full and coherent;, avenly balanced account of John Davidson has long been needed, thwarted as It has been, to be sure, by Davidson's own vehement prohibition, in his will, of any biography. By consent of Davidson's only surviving heir» the prohibition has at last been lifted. Here for the first time are assembled, with a fair degree of completeness and with much coherence, the significant facts that can be known of the life and work of this lyrical and prophet'c, smouldering and tormented Scotsman. Mr. Townsend tells much that has been known about Davidson, inevitably; but adds very much that has not been known or brought into focus before, materials from manuscript, reader's reports, letters gathered from collections and archives scattered throughout France, Britain, and America, It was a job notably well worth doing. Mr. Townsend is right when he says that Davidson is pre-eminently representative of his time: "Any study that begins as a portrait of him must end as a portrait of his generation? (ϕ . vi i i). One pales to think how many letters, news clippings, Grub Street reviews, bits and scraps of l890!s 303s:ϕ literary and otherwise Mr. Townsend has sifted and set in order to support his work. Yet his major triumph, as I read his book, lies even beyond this,, in setting John Davidson's achievement judiciously and 55 knowledgeably into the context of the English literary tradition. Professor Buckley's study of Henley (1345) was a pioneering work in this rich vein of interpretation, Mr. Townsend's JOHN DAVIDSON deals with a man more comp les in development, more diverse in modes of inspiration, than Henley; his study is correspondingly rewarding. Witness especially the skill and extraordinary wealth of information with which Davidson's work has been set in relation to the creed of self-reliance (chap. 3), the Spasmodics (Chap. 4), impressionism, realism, and the poetry of the dity (Chap. 6), and the romantic drama of the 1890's (Chap. 7). Such triumphs in literary-historical understanding are not easily won, least so with a figure so aggressively independent as John Davidson, so avowedly a "man apart," "one against the world." Mr. Townsend has won through such difficulties to achieve at last a full and meaningful view...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 54-57
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Archived
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