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On the Art of Writing Lectures delivered in the University of Cambridge 1913-1914   By: (1863-1944)

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First Page:

ON THE ART OF WRITING

CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY PRESS C.F. CLAY, Manager London: FETTER LANE, E.C. Edinburgh: 100 PRINCES STREET.

Bombay, Calcutta and Madras: MACMILLAN & CO. LTD. Toronto: J.M. DENT AND SONS, LTD. Tokyo: THE MARUZEN KABUSHIKI KAISHA.

Copyrighted in the United States of America by G.P. PUTNAM'S SONS, 2, 4 AND 6, WEST 45TH STREET, NEW YORK CITY.

All rights reserved

ON THE ART OF WRITING

LECTURES DELIVERED IN THE UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE 1913 1914

BY

SIR ARTHUR QUILLER COUCH, M.A. Fellow of Jesus College King Edward VII Professor of English Literature

Cambridge: at the University Press 1917

First Edition 1916 Reprinted 1916,1917

TO JOHN HAY LOBBAN

PREFACE

By recasting these lectures I might with pains have turned them into a smooth treatise. But I prefer to leave them (bating a very few corrections and additions) as they were delivered. If, as the reader will all too easily detect, they abound no less in repetitions than in arguments dropped and left at loose ends the whole bewraying a man called unexpectedly to a post where in the act of adapting himself, of learning that he might teach, he had often to adjourn his main purpose and skirmish with difficulties they will be the truer to life; and so may experimentally enforce their preaching, that the Art of Writing is a living business.

Bearing this in mind, the reader will perhaps excuse certain small vivacities, sallies that meet fools with their folly, masking the main attack. That , we will see, is serious enough; and others will carry it on, though my effort come to naught.

It amounts to this Literature is not a mere Science, to be studied; but an Art, to be practised. Great as is our own literature, we must consider it as a legacy to be improved. Any nation that potters with any glory of its past, as a thing dead and done for, is to that extent renegade. If that be granted, not all our pride in a Shakespeare can excuse the relaxation of an effort however vain and hopeless to better him, or some part of him. If, with all our native exemplars to give us courage, we persist in striving to write well, we can easily resign to other nations all the secondary fame to be picked up by commentators.

Recent history has strengthened, with passion and scorn, the faith in which I wrote the following pages.

ARTHUR QUILLER COUCH November 1915

CONTENTS

LECTURE

I INAUGURAL

II THE PRACTICE OF WRITING

III ON THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN VERSE AND PROSE

IV ON THE CAPITAL DIFFICULTY OF VERSE

V INTERLUDE: ON JARGON

VI ON THE CAPITAL DIFFICULTY OF PROSE

VII SOME PRINCIPLES REAFFIRMED

VIII ON THE LINEAGE OF ENGLISH LITERATURE (I)

IX ON THE LINEAGE OF ENGLISH LITERATURE (II)

X ENGLISH LITERATURE IN OUR UNIVERSITIES (I)

XI ENGLISH LITERATURE IN OUR UNIVERSITIES (II)

XII ON STYLE

INDEX

LECTURE I.

INAUGURAL

Wednesday, January 29, 1913

In all the long quarrel set between philosophy and poetry I know of nothing finer, as of nothing more pathetically hopeless, than Plato's return upon himself in his last dialogue 'The Laws.' There are who find that dialogue (left unrevised) insufferably dull, as no doubt it is without form and garrulous. But I think they will read it with a new tolerance, may be even with a touch of feeling, if upon second thoughts they recognise in its twisting and turnings, its prolixities and repetitions, the scruples of an old man who, knowing that his time in this world is short, would not go out of it pretending to know more than he does, and even in matters concerning which he was once very sure has come to divine that, after all, as Renan says, 'La Verité consiste dans les nuances.' Certainly 'the mind's dark cottage battered and decayed' does in that last dialogue admit some wonderful flashes,

From Heaven descended to the low roofed house Of Socrates,

or rather to that noble 'banquet hall deserted' which aforetime had entertained Socrates.

Suffer me, Mr Vice Chancellor and Gentlemen, before reaching my text, to remind you of the characteristically beautiful setting... Continue reading book >>




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