Skip to main content

Whose 'Great Tradition'?

If I could send something from the present into the literary past it would be a shrink to the mind of F R Leavis (amongst others). The man was obsessed with Jane Austen and her place on his throne as the monarch of the Great Tradition of the 'English Novel'. I hang those words from the fingertips because he also allows Henry James and Joseph Conrad to be her courtiers in this faraway palace. The former was American (whatever that is/was) and the latter, Polish. He also grants the role of lady-in-waiting to George Eliot. I have been quite verbose in earlier posts about Austen - i.e. She wasn't fit to clean the boots of the Brontes! If we can thank Austen for any tradition it is that of the silly, the trifling, the middling; her tradition leads onto nought more than Mills and Boon, and chick-lit. I think it may have been different if Aphra Behn had taken the title - as mother of the novel (1688) she was considered a slut for earning a living by the pen in her own lifetime. She had guts, just, it has to be said, like the later women characters of Defoe, another one who, in Leavis' mind, does not even warrant a full mention. Henry James! From Behn we rightfully lead to the Brontes. Leavis had good social intentions, like Im sure many dictators thought they had, but he was somewhat blinded, I feel, by this obsession he had for Austen.

Belinda's blog:

Popular posts from this blog

Who was Mary Burns?

On 7th January 1863 Mary Burns was found dead from a suspected heart attack. She was 43 years old. Since her death Mary has received barely any attention despite the fact that she spent over twenty years as the common-law wife of Friedrich Engels, one of the world’s most influential thinkers and the co-founder of Marxism.

Born in 1822, Mary was the oldest surviving child of textile dyer and factory operative, Michael Burns, and Mary Conroy, Irish immigrants from Tipperary. Mary’s parents had married at St. Patrick’s in an area known casually as Irish Town, one of few Catholic churches in Manchester at that time. The year of Mary’s birth and her infancy were significant in that Manchester was still dealing with the aftermath of the event that became known as the 1819 Peterloo Massacre, a peaceful protest of the working-classes on the site of St. Peter’s Fields in which several people were killed and hundreds injured. The Massacre occurred when magistrates, alarmed at the size of t…

Booker Shortlist announced

It's been a while... I know. Dog walking on the Downs, a bit of theatre, a bit of baking, a bit of writing etcetera etcetera. I also managed to read two complete books in the past month, which I was so pleased about. I had not read a whole book for about a year. The first was A Lie About My Father by Scottish poet/writer, John Burnside; a very well written memoir about father and son, but like all memoirs, some unreliability I felt. Poignant and tragic in equal measure. Then my husband returned from Cyprus (too hot for me this time of year, I can barely cope with England!) with Sebastian Faulks's Birdsong. He loved it. And then I read it and also loved it. I had originally picked it up several years ago but didn't get beyond Amiens, where the first section is set, but was really glad I did this time around. Another incredibly well written book in the style of a good Victorian! I felt a bit unsure about bits of Elizabeth, in the later section, but I have never learnt so muc…

Days Without End and Mosul's Avengers

So fed up am I of buying books that I don't finish, that I decided I would go to the local library for a copy of Sebastian Barry's latest novel, Days Without End, which has just been awarded the Costa Prize. Unfortunately, I could only borrow it on the proviso that it was return by 1 February. I returned it the day after, without having finished it. I was about three quarters through, and will now have to go out and buy it for the final quarter. I loved Barry's The Secret Scripture, and on every publication of a new work, his star rises. Days Without End follows two boys, one descended from native Americans, and the other having arrived on one of the notorious coffin ships from famine struck Sligo. The tale is brave, funny, touching, but most of all Barry has achieved the perfect pitch. It is quite remarkable.

Another remarkable work comes in the form of reportage in the New Yorker (February 6, 2017) The Avengers of Mosul, by Luke Mogelson 'A Reporter at Large'.