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The Art of Letters   By: (1879-1949)

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First Page:

THE ART OF LETTERS

by

ROBERT LYND

New York

1921

TO J.C. SQUIRE

My Dear Jack,

You were godfather to a good many of the chapters in this book when they first appeared in the London Mercury , the New Statesman , and the British Review . Others of the chapters appeared in the Daily News , the Nation , the Athenæum , the Observer , and Everyman . Will it embarrass you if I now present you with the entire brood in the name of a friendship that has lasted many midnights?

Yours,

Robert Lynd.

Steyning,

30th August 1920

CONTENTS

I. MR. PEPYS

II. JOHN BUNYAN

III. THOMAS CAMPION

IV. JOHN DONNE

V. HORACE WALPOLE

VI. WILLIAM COWPER

VII. A NOTE ON ELIZABETHAN PLAYS

VIII. THE OFFICE OF THE POETS

IX. EDWARD YOUNG AS CRITIC

X. GRAY AND COLLINS

XI. ASPECTS OF SHELLEY (1) THE CHARACTER HALF COMIC (2) THE EXPERIMENTALIST (3) THE POET OF HOPE

XII. THE WISDOM OF COLERIDGE (1) COLERIDGE AS CRITIC (2) COLERIDGE AS A TALKER

XIII. TENNYSON: A TEMPORARY CRITICISM

XIV. THE POLITICS OF SWIFT AND SHAKESPEARE (1) SWIFT (2) SHAKESPEARE

XV. THE PERSONALITY OF MORRIS

XVI. GEORGE MEREDITH (1) THE EGOIST (2) THE OLYMPIAN UNBENDS (3) THE ANGLO IRISH ASPECT

XVII. OSCAR WILDE

XVIII. TWO ENGLISH CRITICS (1) MR. SAINTSBURY (2) MR. GOSSE

XIX. AN AMERICAN CRITIC: PROFESSOR IRVING BABBIT

XX. GEORGIANS (1) MR. DE LA MARE (2) THE GROUP (3) THE YOUNG SATIRISTS

XXI. LABOUR OF AUTHORSHIP

XXII. THE THEORY OF POETRY

XXIII. THE CRITIC AS DESTROYER

XXIV. BOOK REVIEWING

THE ART OF LETTERS

I. MR. PEPYS

Mr. Pepys was a Puritan. Froude once painted a portrait of Bunyan as an old Cavalier. He almost persuaded one that it was true till the later discovery of Bunyan's name on the muster roll of one of Cromwell's regiments showed that he had been a Puritan from the beginning. If one calls Mr. Pepys a Puritan, however, one does not do so for the love of paradox or at a guess. He tells us himself that he "was a great Roundhead when I was a boy," and that, on the day on which King Charles was beheaded, he said: "Were I to preach on him, my text should be 'the memory of the wicked shall rot.'" After the Restoration he was uneasy lest his old schoolfellow, Mr. Christmas, should remember these strong words. True, when it came to the turn of the Puritans to suffer, he went, with a fine impartiality, to see General Harrison disembowelled at Charing Cross. "Thus it was my chance," he comments, "to see the King beheaded at White Hall, and to see the first blood shed in revenge for the blood of the King at Charing Cross. From thence to my Lord's, and took Captain Cuttance and Mr. Shepley to the Sun Tavern, and did give them some oysters." Pepys was a spectator and a gourmet even more than he was a Puritan. He was a Puritan, indeed, only north north west. Even when at Cambridge he gave evidence of certain susceptibilities to the sins of the flesh. He was "admonished" on one occasion for "having been scandalously overserved with drink ye night before." He even began to write a romance entitled Love a Cheate , which he tore up ten years later, though he "liked it very well." At the same time his writing never lost the tang of Puritan speech. "Blessed be God" are the first words of his shocking Diary. When he had to give up keeping the Diary nine and a half years later, owing to failing sight, he wound up, after expressing his intention of dictating in the future a more seemly journal to an amanuensis, with the characteristic sentences:

Or, if there be anything, which cannot be much, now my amours to Deb. are past, I must endeavour to keep a margin in my book open, to add, here and there, a note in shorthand with my own hand.

And so I betake myself to that course, which is almost as much as to see myself go into my grave; for which, and all the discomforts that will accompany my being blind, the good God prepare me... Continue reading book >>




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