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REVIEWS 507 from his consciousness that he is ·not in the Burns tradition. He detests the sentimentality of Burns clubs and Burns celebrations, and in attacking these bad things he seems to feel that it is a case of himself against the rest of the world. "The splendid treasury of more than three hundred songs, Burns's most truly patriotic .work, lies almost untouched on the shelves." "His worshippers are ashamed of the best part of his nature and his work. And nobody else reads him at aU." Really, Professor Ferguson! I wonder. I am not even sure that those who think of the real Burns as· "the dropper of tears over ploughed-under weeds" should be driven into outer darkness. The sentimental approach has done much to obscure Burns's greatness, and it is a vice to which his countrymen are all too prone. False sentiment and conventionality and insincerity should be denounced-in Burns and wherever they appear. But there is one glory of the satires and another glory of 'john Anderson, and we may hope that there are more admirers of Burns who appreciate both kinds than Professor Ferguson would allow·. But he has written a most valuable study of many aspects of the poet's life and work, for which all lovers of the real Burns will be grateful. JEAN RACINE* FELIX WALTER There is no smugness more exasperating or more deplorable than that of the English or American student of general literature who refuses Racine his rightful place as one of the really great poetic dramatists and dismisses him as a creator of artificial formalisms clothed in empty rhetoric. The only comparable folly is perhaps that of the fanatical French admirer who denies to aU who are not French the remotest chance of appreciating his idol. But, while the latter case is beyond healing, partially successful attempts have been made by English and American critics to enlighten their fellow countrymen. The best of these, the essay by Lytton Strachey, and Mary Duclaux' biography, to mention only two, have begun ~Jean Racine, by A. F. B. Clark, Harvard Studies in Comparative Literature, .XVI, Harvard University Press, 1939. 508 THE UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO QUARTERLY to be a little dated, however, and the tercentenary of Racine's birth provided an excdlent occasion for yet another try. Professor Clark's preface shows that he was well aware that he was undertaking what the French would call a gageure, particularly in attempting to convince those of his readers who know no French of the high significance of Racine. To accomplish his task, he tells us he divided it into four main objectives: a sketch of the social and artistic background of Racine's life and work, an up-to-date biography, a critical and personal analysis of the plays, and an anthology in translation of the more striking passages. Professor Clark's own framework happily provides the reviewer with a ready-made method of appraisal, and it is in the order of the topics mentioned that this work will be discussed. The age of Louis XIV, which constituted the social background of Racine's work, is ably outlined in a spirited essay which, while giving full weight to the importance of the new polileue and the new urbanity of the times, does not neglect what Felix Gaiffe called "the reverse of the medal" in his study of the seamy side of the same period. For it was an age of sensational poisonings, of black Masses of sadism, and of theatrical repentances, which Professor Clark, the accomplished student of Russian literature, finds strangely Slavic, explaining in part at least the Tolstoian phase in Racine's later conduct. The analysis of the artistic background is perhaps somewhat less satisfactory. It is difficult to condense a history of the rise of French tragedy into so short a compass, and there seem to be one or two errors of fact which mar the outline. This is notably the case in Professor Clark's remarks on the date of the "discovery" of the unities, which he attributes to Chapelain and Mairet. It was, of course, a rediscovery in their case, and the best of the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 507-511
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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