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306 five, this is the place to look it up. If you want a solid brief bibliography of Bennett and of books about him, here it is. It is a book that will be very useful to graduate students . But what could bring Bennett back into fashion? There is something almost frightening about him when one looks back at the tremendous output, his mania for the manufacturing of prose. His obsession seems clinical and disturbing, as does his passion for big complicated institutions like hotels and department stores; it is as if he himself were a big complicated institution. In the millions of words he poured out there is some sense of the ugliness of modern times, but not a sufficient one; he was too fascinated. Imper ia1 Pa lace, his last huge book (1930), is a final monument to his industry but not to his talent. That he was a gentle and generous man, with compassion and comedy and fantasy in him, is fortunately as clear in some of his novels as is his obsession with size. His last good book, Riceyman S teps (1923), is a little masterpiece which the other Bennett, not the Bennett of Imperial Palace, wrote. Charles Burkhart Temple University 3. LITERARY MEOIATORS Harold Orel. Victorian Literary Critics. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1984. $T5.00 Harold Orel's V ictorian Literary Critics is a useful, interesting collection of seven self-sufficient, descriptive essays, each devoted to the work of one Victorian commentator on literature: George Henry Lewes, Walter Bagehot, Richard Holt Hutton, Leslie Stephen, Andrew Lang, George Saintsbury, and Edmund Gosse. Professor Orel announces at the outset that the book is "not a history of literary criticism in the second half of the nineteenth century" (p. 3). For a broad survey of that history he refers the reader later on (p. 281) to John Gross's lively, panoramic The Rise and Fall of the Man of Letters (London, 1969). Nor is Victor ian Literary Critics an argument that moves inexorably from observations to one explicit conclusion. The unity of the book derives from the role its seven Victorian writers played in their era of burgeoning journalism and literary production as "mediators between serious literature and an intelligent, educable public"—a public which they assumed to be "literate . . . and curious" laypersons (pp. 2-3). Each of the essays reviews its Victorian writer's major works, usually includes some helpful biographical detail, and is accompanied by formal documentation and a one-to-three page bibliographical 307 note on editions and secondary materials. Each essay is useful and interesting because it reviews its subject's critical output methodically and weaves some recurrent theme or thesis through the discussion. The Lewes essay, for example, moves from his writings on Goethe, through Lewes's commentary on various other writers of prose and verse, to his large body of drama criticism. Through this review is woven a recurrent noting of his "impatience with rules" (p. 11), his recognition of "the value of a creative originality" (p. 14), his recognition that "'all truths are truths of periods'" (p. 17), and his rejection of "the principle of imitation of the classics, particularly as promulgated by Matthew Arnold" (p. 18). Similarly, Bagehot is repeatedly noted for his interest in "soundness" and in any author's "'personal impress'" in literature; Hutton is noted as a "moral critic"; and Stephen as biographer keenly aware of "'the necessity of historical study'" of literary genres and works (pp. 107, 112). The keynote with Lang is "disappointment" because of his overpraise of contemporary romances and romance writers, particularly Stevenson (pp. 137, 145), his distrust of "writers . . . preparing the way for modernist perspectives" (p. 136), and his underestimation of Hardy, James, and Conrad (p. 149). The Saintsbury essay notes his emphasis on attention to books themselves (today, "the text") in their historical context in opposition to the formulae of "schematic criticism" (pp. 172-73). Respite a final word of praise, the keynote with Gosse is, as with Lang, disappointment: his mature "life and works . . . have become emblematic of the reasons why the role of a man of letters became less important after the Great War" (pp. 20001 ). Gosse...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 306-308
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Will Be Archived 2021
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