158. (George Eliot)

Six, and possibly seven, models were available for the realist novel in the nineteenth century. First, the novel of social order and disorder, in which society is an engine with efficiency and waste, or with conservation and loss (Austen, Dickens, Hardy, Zola at times; the novel of manners and naturalism are both potentially in this category–that is because this category could likely swell to fit … Continue reading 158. (George Eliot)

127. (George Eliot)

This post will open with George Eliot and then drift, possibly to return. For a starting point, consider one of the most beguiling and frustrating of passages in nineteenth-century British literature: Her finely-touched spirit had still its fine issues, though they were not widely visible. Her full nature, like that river of which Cyrus broke the strength, spent itself in channels which had no great … Continue reading 127. (George Eliot)

90. (Andrew Marvell)

Yesterday’s post on Andrew Marvell perhaps flew too high in abstraction; the thought that literature might be classified by tolerance of waste on the one hand and the abundance or scarcity of the world on the other could seem perversely arbitrary or narrow, even taking into consideration waste’s variety. But it can be defended. First from the guarded position that to claim these characteristics are … Continue reading 90. (Andrew Marvell)

77. (R.H. Hutton)

One of the chief differences between eighteenth- and nineteenth-century voices of critical prose is that the former wrote for the salon or coffee house; for rooms that could hold fewer voices, where no voice dominated quite as easily. The critical prose of the nineteenth-century, on the other hand, comes, with Hazlitt being a definitive early case, to be written for a lecture hall, in the … Continue reading 77. (R.H. Hutton)

74. (Émile Zola)

In the spirit of a reading journal, here’s the first of a two-part attempt to say something coherent about Zola’s masterpiece Germinal, which I’ve just finished reading in translation. For some initial orientation, here is Erich Auerbach, esteeming the novel: Zola took the mixing of styles really seriously; he pushed on beyond the purely aesthetic realm of the preceding generation; he is one of the very … Continue reading 74. (Émile Zola)

37. (Henry James)

His sentences are moved to excess with a wariness of waste. The inheritance of scrupulous, new-world economizing is carried over, by an instinct that lived on the nerves, to react against authors whose imaginations abnegate their responsibilities for accounting. Authors ought, the years of reviews, letters, and personal achievements suppose, to know where to draw the circle of attention, should discern where the relations between words, … Continue reading 37. (Henry James)

33. (Stendhal)

Minor characters blaze into majority; major events are subordinated to asides; the tempo feels all wrong, the climax abrupt, the plot strands remain untied, are dropped, cut; love expends stretches of the narrative in perplexed clashes of feelings, owned, disowned, cauterized, and occasionally revealed to be false, but then true pages later. He saw that art is sometimes at odds with life, that to get … Continue reading 33. (Stendhal)