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A PERSPECTIVE OF UNITY IN GEORGE MOORE'S WRITINGS By Raffaella Maiguashca Uslenghi (Cambridge University) Translated By Jack W. Weaver (Wi nthrop Col Iege) Moore's art has always been approached from the historical viewpoint. That is to say, the critics who have studied him, being aware of the manifold role he had in the evolution of English literature at the end of the nineteenth century, have tended to study his work mainly in relation to certain literary currents that he stimulated, or else in relation to the influence upon him of French authors which he brought to bear upon the English tradition, or simply in relation to the literary vogue of the day. An important consequence of this approach is that the totality of Moore's works has been fragmented, explicitly or implicitly, into a series of literary "isms," each of which is identifiable with one or many models which influenced the author. By now, there is a kind of fixed itinerary that anyone who wants to study Moore cannot help following. Having spent his early youth in the artistic and bohemian coteries of the Paris of the 187Us, in 188U he went back to London determined to revolutionize the course of English fiction by modelling it upon French authors. After a short period of fanatical enthusiasm for Zola's naturalism, the principles and methods of which he followed in his first novels, Moore departed from his French Master to the point of openly recanting his doctrine. Balzac and Turgenev were responsible for his apostasy: their influence led him toward a more introspective type of fiction based on psychological analysis. Subsequently, new and strong influences grafted onto the first two: Gautier, Pater and Huysmans. Inspired by their example, the former naturalist became a perfect "decadent," that is to say a refined, mystical and sensual aesthete, effected by Wagnerism. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, he became associated with the Irish Renaissance. Fascinated by the personalities of Yeats and Russell, and by the idea of creating a new literature, Moore became an ardent Gaelic Leaguer, but only for a short time because soon he was disillusioned and left the movement. After that, until his death in 1933, the writer retired in solitude and devoted himself mostly to autobiographical works, drifting further and further away from the course of contemporary 1 iterature. Such then were the highlights of Moore's artistic career as it has been presented by the majority of the critics. As we can see, it seems nothing more than a plurality or a succession of different literary experiences inspired by the most varied aesthetic ideals, apparently without any coherence among them. As a result, the image we have of Moore is that of a diverse, fickle, contradictory artist, who is ready to recant today what 201 202 he believed yesterday: some kind of eclectic literary conjurer, not without a shade of hoax. amateur or This, however, was not the way Moore saw himself. In a letter that he wrote to Zola, dateless but apparently written after 1888, we find this surprising statement: "In a day, I have twenty contradictory thoughts but, after all, my thought on the essential things is always the same." And we must remember that this phrase was written when the author had just renounced the doctrine of his French Master, the same doctrine that he had solemnly proclaimed only a few years before. Moreover, this is not an isolated or casual statement, uttered because of love for polemics or exhibitionism. It seems a conviction of the author. "Critics say that I have changed, but none has changed less than I," he was to write much later, in 1905.2 If the first statement, which still belongs to his youthful period, shows a sense of substantial agreement between the man and the artist--even amidst changes and contradi et ions--the second statement, which belongs to an already mature period, seems to attest to a sense of continuity with the past, a consciousness of an essential unity within his evolution as an artist. Could it be that beyond the apparent plurality there exists an intrinsic unity in George Moore's art? Is it possible...


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