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REVIEWS THE SCHOLAR AS CRITICl P. L. CARVER It is unnecessary to commend Professor Snyder's lectures to the many readers of this journal who must have heard them orally delivered . In the more scattered regions of the underprivileged, it may be too lightly assumed ,that the author has said _ everything worth saying on his favourite theme in the erudite Life of Robert Burns which he published four years ago, and that the present publication must be an abridgment or summary of a work which the wise reader prefers to take at full length. Professor Snyder himself _seems to encourage some such error by remarking, with perverse modesty, that he has "inevitably leaned heavily" upon the larger achievement. It must certainly have s.urprised the audience, if we may judge by the prinfed word, to hear that he "leaned heavily" upon anything. No action could be more remote from the swift, graceful, and easy movement of his exposition. The two volumes do not lend themselves to comparison, for there can be no comparison between the root and the flower. In both works Professor 'Snyder is searching for the truth, but he devotes himself mainly to scientific truth in the larger volume, and to artistic truth in the smaller. Neither could have been written without the incidental help of qualities for which the other affords freer scope, and neither would satisfy every test which is properly applicable to the other. It is easy to write the biographies of men who are memorable for their actions, for actions can be observed and recorded. A competent historian can follow Wellington to Waterloo, or Lincoln to Gettysburg, or Gladstone to Midlothian, with the happy confidence that he sees each crisis with the eyes of the hero, and can explain exhaustively why this course was taken and not that, and how far, if at all, the decision fell short of perfect wisdom. Where shall we find the genius who, with equal penetration, will write the biography of a poet as a poet, following the progress of his mind from the first lRobe-r1 Burns: His Personality, his Reputation, and his Art] by Franklyn Bliss Snyder. [The Alexander Lectures in English at the University of Toronto] 1936.] The University of Toronto Pre'ss, 1936. 132 REVIEWS dawn of inspiration to the crowning achievement? Some enthusiasts , more royalist than the king, would tell us that the miracle has been accomplished in The Road to Xanadu, and a still more recent school of thought proclaims its faith in the method of Shakespeare 's Imagery; but no one knows better than Professor Lowes that to discover the quarry from which the stone was taken does not explain the genius of the architect; and no one knows better than Dr. Caroline Spurgeon that the law of association did not create the character of Hamlet. The impenetrable mystery remains, and the ' less fortunate or less enlightened biographer is still encountered in the duty path Where knowledge, ill begun in cold remark On outward things, with formal inference ends; Or, if the mind turn inward, she recoils At once--or, not recoiling, is perplexedLost in a gloom of uninspired research. It is not to be denied that intelligent research may help us to build up a chronological record, and, in so far as the actions proclaim the man, to trace the outline of a character. That one such record after another could be regularly presented as the "life" of ahuman being is one of the penalties of bondage to mechanical habits of thought, and it is a hopeful sign of deliverance in someĀ· distant future that the present generation has witnessed the first stirrings of discontent. Can we breathe life into dust and ashes? Can we animate the cold remark on outward things so as to bring back, with the formal inference, the spirit of Burns? I t would not be true to say that Professor Snyder devoted the whole of his former and greater effort to the task of collecting dry -bones and afterwards performed a miracle of revival in the lectureroom . The biography is complete in itself, and displays, a.s has been said, the essential qualitie$ which re...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 132-137
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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