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308 astonishing that Gosse, the harbinger of Ibsenism in England, was "obtuse about much of what he [was] praising" and "incurious as to what [was] intended" (p. 198). The hypothesis is of course that even though the bookmen affirmed, in critical theory, the same historical relativism that helped to usher in Naturalism, realism, and Modernism in literature, the bookmen's tenacious moralism prevented them from responding positively to the new literary modes. Orel says in his "Introduction" that the "seven bookmen . . . exhibited the openmindedness of their intelligence" and "behaved responsibly . . . as mediators between serious literature and an intelligent, educable public." What he later observes with regard to Lang, however, seems to apply to all three of the later critics: "It is ironic . . . that the common reader's approach [Lang's] was not well suited to cope with changing artistic programs" (p. 150). A certain undercurrent of dissatisfaction with twentieth-century criticism and a corollary nostalgia for the "common reader's approach" (pp. 3-4, 102, 179) seem to restrain Orel from fully digging out possible roots of twentieth-century criticism in the work of the nineteenth-century writers. One should recall, though, that Victorian Literary Critics is a collection of monograph-surveys: its argument is implicit; it guides its readers through the work of seven Victorian literary commentators. If the collection also sends the reader off to pursue Victorian anti-classicism as a progenitor of "close reading" or to study the ironic anticipation of Modernist criticism in Saintsbury and Gosse, so much the better! Alan Johnson Arizona State University 4. KIPLING LETTERS Rudyard Kipling. ^O Beloved Kids": Rudyard Kipling's Letters to His Children. Elliot L. Gilbert, ed. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1984. $16.95 As W. H. Auden was fond of pointing out, reading other people's letters is a curious and questionable activity. For all his great fame, involvement in public issues, and friendships with statesmen, Kipling was an intensely private person ; and one wonders what he would have thought of the appearance—soon after the death of his only surviving child, who had taken over from her mother the jealous guardianship of his memory—of these very personal documents. Perhaps he would not after all have minded much; for, although they add little of importance to Kipling biography and throw very little light on his published writings, they present an 309 attractive and intimate side of his nature and thus help to modify the common and often hostile view of him as strident and abrasive, a sort of diminutive Colonel Blimp who happened to wield a pen instead of a sword. Moreover, this handsomely-produced and wel 1-i 1lustrated volume, which includes the numerous sketches that decorate and enliven the letters, would surely have earned his professional admiration . Kipling is one of the few writers whose classics of children's literature are part of an oeuvre that also includes a large and important body of adult literature; and it is his role as what Professor Gilbert calls "a sensitive Edwardian paterfami 1 ias" that we have to thank for the Just So S tor ies, originally told to Elsie and John, as well as such non-juvenile masterpieces as "They" (to which T. S. Eliot alludes in Four Quartets) and "The Gardener." Fatherhood was of immense importance to Kipling the man, and the loss of two of his three children dealt blows from which he never recovered. The death of his firstborn, Josephine, in 1899 at the age of six was behind him when this volume opens; but as "They" (written in 1904) suggests, her ghost was never very far away from his thoughts. The present selection draws on a corpus of 223 letters written to Elsie and John Kipling between 1906 and 1915; there are apparently another 440 written to Elsie between 1921 and 1935. (If these figures, given on p. 3, are correct, however, there is something wrong with Professor Gilbert's arithmetic, since he makes the total 643.) In the event, Elsie recedes into the background in this selection, which develops into the story of Kipling's relationship with his only son—the editor, indeed, goes so far as to describe the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 308-310
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Will Be Archived 2021
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