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Some Diversions of a Man of Letters   By: (1849-1928)

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First Page:

SOME DIVERSIONS OF A MAN OF LETTERS

BY EDMUND GOSSE, C.B.

LONDON WILLIAM HEINEMANN 1920

First published October 1919 New Impressions November 1919; February 1920

OTHER WORKS BY MR. EDMUND GOSSE

Northern Studies . 1879.

Life of Gray . 1882.

Seventeenth Century Studies . 1883.

Life of Congreve . 1888.

A History of Eighteenth Century Literature . 1889.

Life of Philip Henry Gosse, F.R.S. 1890.

Gossip in a Library . 1891.

The Secret of Narcisse: A Romance . 1892.

Questions at Issue . 1893.

Critical Kit Kats . 1896.

A Short History of Modern English Literature . 1897.

Life and Letters of John Donne . 1899.

Hypolympia . 1901.

Life of Jeremy Taylor . 1904.

French Profiles . 1904.

Life of Sir Thomas Browne . 1905.

Father and Son . 1907.

Life of Ibsen . 1908.

Two Visits to Denmark . 1911.

Collected Poems . 1911.

Portraits and Sketches . 1912.

Inter Arma . 1916.

Three French Moralists . 1918.

TO

EVAN CHARTERIS

CONTENTS

PAGE

Preface: On Fluctuations of Taste 1

The Shepherd of the Ocean 13

The Songs of Shakespeare 29

Catharine Trotter, the Precursor of the Bluestockings 37

The Message of the Wartons 63

The Charm of Sterne 91

The Centenary of Edgar Allen Poe 101

The Author of "Pelham" 115

The Challenge of the Bront√ęs 139

Disraeli's Novels 151

Three Experiments in Portraiture I. Lady Dorothy Nevill 181 II. Lord Cromer 196 III. The Last Days of Lord Redesdale 216

The Lyrical Poetry of Thomas Hardy 231

Some Soldier Poets 259

The Future of English Poetry 287

The Agony of the Victorian Age 311

Index 338

PREFACE:

ON FLUCTUATIONS OF TASTE

When Voltaire sat down to write a book on Epic Poetry, he dedicated his first chapter to "Differences of Taste in Nations." A critic of to day might well find it necessary, on the threshold of a general inquiry, to expatiate on "Differences of Taste in Generations." Changes of standard in the arts are always taking place, but it is only with advancing years, perhaps, that we begin to be embarrassed by the recurrence of them. In early youth we fight for the new forms of art, for the new æsthetic shibboleths, and in that happy ardour of battle we have no time or inclination to regret the demigods whom we dispossess. But the years glide on, and, behold! one morning, we wake up to find our own predilections treated with contempt, and the objects of our own idolatry consigned to the waste paper basket. Then the matter becomes serious, and we must either go on struggling for a cause inevitably lost, or we must give up the whole matter in indifference. This week I read, over the signature of a very clever and very popular literary character of our day, the remark that Wordsworth's was "a genteel mind of the third rank." I put down the newspaper in which this airy dictum was printed, and, for the first time, I was glad that poor Mr. Matthew Arnold was no longer with us. But, of course, the evolutions of taste must go on, whether they hurt the living and the dead, or no.

Is there, then, no such thing as a permanent element of poetic beauty? The curious fact is that leading critics in each successive generation are united in believing that there is, and that the reigning favourite conforms to it... Continue reading book >>




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