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88 THE UNIVERSITY OF TORO).lTO QUARTERLY tinuity among the tragedies, as in other parts of the canon, or in its whole extent. This critical approach to the plays, in our time when each separate play has been so elahorately and voluminously examined, is especially appropriate. Professor Farnham has provided a notable example of the method. RHYTHM IN THE NOVEL" HUGH MACLENNAN It is poignantly fitting that the last published work of E. K. Brown should be entitled Rhythm in the Novel and should deal with various aspects of those mysterious patterns of repetition which constantly occur in life and which the best novelists strive to depict in their work. Rhythm in the Novel is dedicated to the memory of Brown's great teacher, Professor W. J. Alexander. It is a compilation of the Alexander Lectures which Brown delivered at the University of Toronto in 1949-50. In his introduction he tells us that it was from Alexander that "I first learned the meaning of literature and of literary study," and that "I made a habit of something rare in Toronto, and visited his classes. There was not a series of his lectures I did not hear at least twice, and the course on nineteenth-century poets given to students in the final year I heard four times." When Brown returned to Toronto to deliver these lectures based on rhythmic patterns in the novel, which are-or ought to be--based on similar patterns in life, heĀ· was fulfilling just such a pattern himself . He was returning to shed light in the very place where he himself had been enlightened. This rare, gallant, and extraordinary man must certainly have been aware that his own experience was underlining his thesis. Rhythm in the Novel consists of four essays. The first deals with repetitive patterns in phrase, character, and incident, the second with expanding symbols, the third with interweaving themes. The book concludes with a detailed study of rhythm in E. M. Forster's A Passage to India, which Brown, after many re-readings, came to believe to he a truly great work of art. This final chapter rounds out and illustrates the thesis established in the previous three. The greatness of A Passage to India- and, by implication, of any novel- depends in Brown's view on its mastery of the various forms of rhythmic device, of the effects that come "from the combination of phrases, characters *Rhythm in the Novd. By E. K. Brown. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. 1950. Pp. xvi, 118. $3.00. REVIEWS 89 and incidents, rhythmically arranged, with a profusion of expanding symbols, and with a complex evolution of themes." One's judgment of Brown's criticism must, I suppose, depend to some extent on whether or not one accepts this hypothesis. It must also depend somewhat on whether one shares his admiration for E. M. Forster. Perhaps I, as a practising novelist, am least of all capable of knowing whether Brown's approach is sound or not. What matters most to any novelist is his personal feeling about work in progress. He feels, rather than knows, when he is on the right track. He is much safer when he relies on character than on a pre-established scheme. The novelists who plan their work "in sonata {ann," as Virginia Wooli did, are almost certain to lose themselves in delicate nuances. The writing of a novel is a mysterious business, like life itself. The novelist who approaches his work with an excessive!y strict thematic idea is only too Iike!y to diminish his vitality by subordinating the tough intractability of living characters to fit a prearranged pattern. In my view-shared by Somerset Maugham-E. M. Forster is a conspicuous sinner in this respect and only in A Passage to India does he allow life to take him by the throat. But it well may be that E. K. Brown understood the art of the nove! a great deal better than most practising novelists do. Above all he understood that no other form of art is so difficult to criticize, because no other form so defies one's capacity to visualize it as a whole...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 88-90
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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