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Book Reviews MURRY AND MANSFIELD Defending Romanticism: Selected Essays of John Middleton Murry. Malcolm Woodfield, ed. Bristol: The Bristol Press, 1989. χ + 338 pp. $48.00 Katherine Mansfield: Selected Letters. Vincent O'Sulhvan, ed. New York: Clarendon Press, 1989. xxxi + 320 pp. $35.00 JOHN MIDDLETON MURRYS ROLE in British cultural hfe and his distinctive contributions to literary criticism during the first half of the twentieth century are only graduaUy being clarified. He has been habituaUy misunderstood, underestimated, and maligned, in part because he was seldom in tune with hterary or political fashions and consistently provoked controversy. Early accounts of his relations with more famous associates charged him with betrayal—particularly of his wife, Katherine Mansfield, and his friend, D. H. Lawrence. Murros letters to Katherine were pubhshed at last in 1983. These, combined with other recent biography and criticism, have helped to estabhsh a more just appraisal of Murry. Now another useful volume has arrived to further balance our view. Defending Romanticism: Selected Essays of John Middleton Murry, Malcolm Woodfield's new collection of essays previously not reprinted, offers a chance to look afresh at Murr/s controversy with T. S. Ehot over romanticism and classicism, a debate which Richard Rees called "the most serious intellectual controversy in England" during the 1920s. Eliot's views, particularly those expressed in "The Function of Criticism" (which speciously mocks Murcys position that romanticism has been a larger force in English literature than classicism), have been well publicized, while Murr/s responses to Eliot have been buried in 1920s volumes of the Adelphi and the Criterion. If this collection did no more than make Murros responses to Ehot more accessible, Woodfield would have rendered a valuable service. The controversy began in 1923 with Murros essay "On Romanticism ," which identifies classicism with vesting spiritual authority in institutions and romanticism with discovering authority, authenticity, and reahty within the self. Ehot's mockery of Murros "inner voice" in "The Function of Criticism" led to several responses—three of which, "Romanticism and the Tradition," "The Classical Revival," and "Towards a Synthesis," are reprinted here. In these essays Murry is concerned with locating religious meaning in a secular age without yielding authority to 217 ELT: Volume 34:2,1991 a church or another orthodoxy. His aim is to find a way out of the modern division between intuition and intellect. Without rejecting the past, to which he looks for "crumbs of truth," "direction," and the memory of "great souls," Murry insists that one cannot find complete guidance from the past because "the important elements of educated experience are no longer the same." The monuments of the cultural tradition must be consistently re-evaluated; truth is neither "adamantine" nor "eternal." In contrast, Ehot rooted his defense of classicism in his behef that "men cannot get on without giving an allegiance to something outside themselves " and the continuing validity of Thomistic reasoning. In 1927, the last year of the controversy, Ehot made his Anglican conversion, signalling his complete commitment to tradition and religious orthodoxy. It was an act Murry had presciently foreseen when he wrote in 1926 that "Ehot is in a godless condition and suffers from it," arguing that he would have to make a choice: "The one more obviously indicated is that he should make a blind act of faith and join the Cathohc church." In a long, helpful introduction, Woodfield examines correspondence which reveals Ehot's interest in acquiring power and his rivalry with Murry, who in the early 20s held the prestigious post of editor of the Athenaeum. Making plans for the first issue of the Criterion in 1923, Ehot asked Sturge Moore to contribute an essay on " 'Flaubert (versus Mr. Middleton Murros opinions) or if you choose to dissect Murros Oxford lectures, The Problem of Style I would obtain it for you'." Woodfield concludes: "It is no exaggeration to say that 'dissecting' Murry was one of the principle aims of the early Criterion, an aim which was achieved with great skill and success." Ehot's portrait of Murry as an undisciplined romantic who lacked intellectual rigor contributed to the caricatures that developed later of his thought and personahty. Gaining his points by misrepresenting and contemptuously behtthng...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 217-222
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Will Be Archived 2021
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