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90 UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO QUARTERLY S. M. Adams's sensitive structural analysis of Aeschylus' Persians ("Salamis Symphony") deserves special mention. There is not room for detailed comment, and further enumeration would serve little purpose. The essays mentioned are a sample of the high level of scholarship throughout. Great credit is due to Mary E. White and her fellow editors of The Phoenix, and to the University of T oronto Press, for producing a dignified and graceful tribute to a distinguished scholar. APPRAISALS OF JAMES AND CONRAD" WILLIAM BLISSETT The titles of these books are revealing. Mr. Douglas Hewitt chooses to call his book Conrad: A Reassessment. The first chapter and the last two establish the critic's methods and assert his conclusions; the rest of the book is devoted to a "reassessment" of Conrad's chief works, one by one. Conrad is praised for the "complexity and unity" of his tragic vision and for the "integrity of its presentation" in his best writings , but the book is disciplined by a Cantabrian high seriousness and marked on every page by a detennination that the novelist shall not be allowed to get away with anything. Miss Elizabeth Stevenson calls her study of Henry James The Crooked Corridor- as deliberately "creative" a title as Mr. Hewitt's was deliberately "critical." The serious young American, in revolt against the style and point of view of the learned journals, strives for imagination and artistry in criticism; the serious young Englishman, in revolt against the graceful vacuity of the appreciative review-essay, sets out to be businesslike. Quoting a letter of James to Mrs. Humphry Ward in which the phrases occur, Miss Stevenson says, "The 'crooked corridor' leads at last to the 'Presence'.... To appreciate James with justice ... one should undergo some of his labor, one should trace the working of certain of the difficult means. One should follow the 'corridor' to its destination, which James called the 'logical centre.' " This she attempts to do in her book, and it is this attempt, this act of submission, which enables her to make a great many intelligent and perceptive remarks about the novels as stories. Just occasionally the exhilaration of following James's creative processes fires the critic to a misplaced creativity of her own, as, for example, where she says of the old gentleman, "James was a camp follower of ideas. H e could use anyone that he could *The Crooked Corridor : A Study of H enry James. By ELIZABETH STEVENSON. New York: The Macmillan Company [Toronto: The Macmillan Company of Canada Limitedl. 1949. Pp. 172. $3.50 Conrad: A ReasseSJment. By DOUGLAS H EWITT. Cambridge: Bowes & Bowes [Toronto : British Book Service (Canada) Ltd.], 1952. Pp. viii, 141. $2.50 REVIEWS 91 understand. And comprehension did not in his case mean being for or against the idea." While otherwise to be commended for having written a whole book-and one on James at that-without once deferring to Mr. T. S. Eliot, Miss Stevenson might have saved herself an infelicity by recalling the remark about a sensibility so fine that no idea could violate it. The "phases" or "manners" of James are well .differentiated, especially in the selection and discussion of three descriptive passages (pp. 153-4); but I detect something of the idolatry of the high opus number-that mystery religion of the modern intellectual, given its mystique by J. W. N. Sullivan's treatment of Beethoven's last quartets and practised by interpreters of Sbakespeare's last plays, Rilke's last poems, and James's last novels, which Miss Stevenson recommends as "old wine in new symbolic bottles." I agree that the last three completed novels are in many respects James's best work, but can see little basis for an assertion that The Sense of the Past and The Ivory Tower are "both potentially greater than anything that had preceded them"nor (at least in the case of the first mentioned) can Miss Stevenson when she comes down to an analysis of them. In almost all its specific exposition and criticism-the two operations usually being done together with economy and precision-the book is admirable. About its central thesis I am, however, a...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 90-92
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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