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30:4, Reviews Admittedly, characterization is Richardson's strongest point, but McLeod would convince us that the characters have an identity and vohtion somehow independent of the author. She repeatedly praises the characters' autonomy and "openness " and holds that Richardson's "characters make their own choices and thereby shape the pattern of their subsequent choices" (215). What she means by "openness" is not immediately evident. If her point is that Richardson's narrative stance is experimental in some way, she needs to clarify that point. Her argument about the characters is also undercut by the effusive praise of the Cuffy sections of The Fortunes of Richard Mahoney. Certainly, in filtering experience through a young child's perspective, Richardson attempts a difficult task, and she does admirably well. McLeod finds this narrative experiment "an astonishing achievement" (172), but these sections are decidedly awkward in spots and suffer from Richardson's lapses as a stylist, lapses which mar her works generally. McLeod concedes that Richardson is no master stylist. And perhaps, as McLeod contends, her facility with other languages, her wide reading of" German and French authors, and her work as a translator do help account for her undistinguished style, but McLeod rather facilely asserts that "she gets away with manner by the vitaUty of matter" (208). Matter can go only so far to recompense for manner, and some readers may find this very real weakness a serious obstacle to overcome in accepting Richardson as a writer of "classic stature." McLeod's claims may sound hyperbolic, and she may not convince us that Richardson is better than Virginia Woolf, but if she can get us to read more of Richardson, she has accomplished an important goal in her study. And Richardson should be read. She presents realistic human reactions to death, suffering , sexual obsession, and moral bewilderment, and she has the power to make readers care intensely about her characters. The intensity and moving finality of Maurice Guest and The Fortunes of Richard Mahoney do merit more recognition than they have received in the past. But ultimately, of course, Karen McLeod cannot convince us of Richardson's merit—Richardson must. Jill T. Owens Louisiana State University LANGUAGE AND DECADENCE Linda DowUng. Language and Decadence in the Victorian Fin de Siècle. Princeton : Princeton University Press, 1986. $29.50 Fin-de-siècle decadence has long been closely associated with a perversely artificial language, the "learned corruption" cited by Arthur Symons in an echo of Baudelaire's and Gautier's celebrations of the language of a decaying civilization . StyUstic quaUties representing decay or disease appeared to many readers of the time naturally congruent with the perversity, love of artificiality , and fascination with sin by which decadent writing was also being widely defined. However, why there were so many competing styles among writers 483 30:4, Reviews all regarded as somehow decadent and why the decadent Zeitgeist, if there was such a thing, manifested itself so strongly in specifically literary culture are questions that have been too infrequently addressed. Part of literary critics' difficulty in treating the purely syntactic and semantic aspects of decadence very likely stems from a general paucity of knowledge about the history of linguistic theory. After all, one of the purposes of those who helped shape the new discipline of EngUsh which emerged around the tum of the century—as Oxford established a School and Cambridge a Tripos in vernacular literature—was the casting out of the demon of philology. Philology, wrote Churton Collins in The Study of English (1891), was "allowed to fill a place in education altogether disproportionate to its insignificance as an instrument of culture. As an instrument of culture it ranks—it surely ranks—very low indeed. . . . The mind it neither enlarges, stimulates, nor refines." So prevalent did such an attitude become that broad interest in the relationship between linguistic phenomena and literature began to evidence itself again only in the 1970s. Linda Dowling's careful investigation of nineteenth-century linguistic theory enables her to argue "that Decadence, even on the cultural level, emerged from a linguistic crisis, a crisis in Victorian attitudes toward language brought about by the new comparative philology" (xi). In presenting that...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 483-486
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
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