254. (William Makepeace Thackeray)

Thackeray’s Vanity Fair doubles that charge: the novel is braced by a simultaneous awareness of Regency and Victorian foibles, of Regency and Victorian hypocrisy, and Regency and Victorian euphemism (I shorten early-mid Victorian to “Victorian” throughout; I refer to the Regency and also the rein of George IV as “Regency”). In that double-ness lies its singularity: a sense for the history of satirical judgment itself, … Continue reading 254. (William Makepeace Thackeray)

248. (James Thomson)

Among the reasons Thomson’s “The City of Dreadful Night” can be enjoyed is that it is a second-rate poem that mimics one of the greatest of all poems that came before it, and that can be heard as lightly anticipating, through the by-ways of adolescent influence, one of the great poets that appears after. In its romance-quest structure, the poem owes as much to Shelley’s … Continue reading 248. (James Thomson)

246. (William Wordsworth)

“His Muse (it cannot be denied, and without this we cannot explain its character at all) is a levelling one. It proceeds on a principle of equality and strives to reduce all things to the same standard.” William Hazlitt’s insight into Wordsworth’s poetry has endured and been frequently repeated. But readers and critics of Wordsworth have been far from leveling in their appraisal of and … Continue reading 246. (William Wordsworth)

245. (Stendhal)

Stendhal’s romanticism has been described by Erich Auerbach in terms of “atmosphere,” a unifying relation of place, person, and time that we find in the works of Walter Scott and the medievalism of Coleridge and Keats; it is in fact a new conception of history, a sense that different peoples breath different atmospheres and are formed by the air that they breathe. Describing Balzac, with … Continue reading 245. (Stendhal)

244. (Stendhal)

Stendhal’s narration is a perpetual mystery of European literature; it goes hand in hand with his characterization (as narration usually does). How might the mystery be approached?  Here, as a touchstone, is an example, from the end of Chapter 15, “The Cockrow,” immediately after Julien has first seduced Madame de Renal:             Some hours later, when Julien emerged from Madame de Renal’s room, one might … Continue reading 244. (Stendhal)