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The Pelican Guide

to English Literature ^

Edited by BORIS FORD

j^f 7

A Pelican Book t S/ ^


Boris Ford read English at Cambridge before the

war. He then spent six years in the Army Education

Corps, being finally in command of a residential School of Artistic Studies. On leaving the Army, he

joined the staff of the newly formed Bureau of

Current Affairs and graduated to be its Chief Editor

and in the end its Director. When the Bureau closed down at the end of 1951, he joined the Secretariat of

the United Nations in New York and Geneva. On

returning to England in the autumn of 1953, he was appointed Secretary of a national inquiry into the

problem of providing a humane liberal education for

people undergoing technical and professional training.

Boris Ford then became Editor of the Journal of Education, until it ceased publication in 1958, and

also the first Head of School Broadcasting with independent television. From 1958 he was Education

Secretary at the Cambridge University Press, and

then in i960 he became Professor of Education and

Director of the Institute of Education at Sheffield

University. He is editor of Universities Quarterly.

For a complete list of books available please write to Penguin Books

whose address can be found on the

back of the title page


A 465.




Digitized by the Internet Archive

in 2011


The Modern Age






Penguin Books Ltd, Harmondsworth, Middlesex e. S. A. : Penguin Books Inc., 3300 Clipper Mill Road, Baltimore 11, Md AUSTRALIA : Penguin Books Pty Ltd, 762 Whitehorse Road, Mitcham, Victoria

First published 1961

Copyright © Penguin Books, 1961

Made and printed in Great Britain

by Hazell Watson & Viney Ltd

Aylesbury and Slough

This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade, be lent,

re-sold, hired out, or otherwise disposed of without the publisher's consent,

in any form of binding or cover

other than that in which

it is published


General Introduction: borisford

Part I

The Social and Intellectual Background :g. h. bantock



Introduction: The writer's predicament - Economic and social change - Moral perplexities - The new social ethic - Prob-

lems of popular culture- The writers response to his age

Part II

The Literary Scene: john hollow ay


The opening scene - New influences in fiction - Tradition

and experiment in poetry - Poetry and the war crisis -

War and crisis in fiction - The search for values in poetry -

Values infliction - Developments in literary criticism - The

closing years of an age

Part III

Henry James: The Drama of Discrimination: henry gifford 103 From Heart of Darkness to Nostromo: An Approach to Conrad:


Hardy, de la Mare, and Edward Thomas: h. coombes

The Literature ofthe First World War :d.j.enright

The Later Poetry of W. B. Yeats: graham martin

The Irish Contribution: grattan freyer

Shaw and the London Theatre : t . R. barnes

The Comedy of Ideas: Cross-currents in the Fiction and Drama

of the Twentieth Century: r. c. Churchill The Prose of Thought: e. w. f. tomlin

Mr Forster's Good Influence: G. d. klingopulos










Virginia Woolf: The Theory and Practice of Fiction:


L. H. Myers and Bloomsbury: G. H. bantock D. H. Lawrence and Women in Love :w.w.robson






The Consistency ofJames Joyce: Arnold kettle

Ezra Pound's Hugh Selwyn

Mauberley :donald da vie

T. S. Eliot: Poet and Critic: l. g.


Criticism and the Reading Public: andorgomme

The Poetry of W. H. Auden: r. g. cox

Novelists of Three Decades: Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene,

C. P. Snow: graham martin







Metaphor and Maturity: T. F. Powys and Dylan Thomas:


The Twentieth-Century Best-Seller: p. n. furbank

Mass Communications in Britain: richard hoggart

Poetry Today: charles tomlinson

The Novel Today: gilbert phelps






Part IV



For Further Reading and Reference

Authors and Works


Index of Names






This is the final volume of the Pelican Guide to English Literature.

Inevitably the project as a whole has taken a good deal longer to carry out than was originally planned, with the result that a number

of the earlier volumes in the series have already been through several

impressions. Indeed, from the point of view of sales the Guide seems to have done very well, at any rate well enough to modify the

comment made in the original General Introduction that 'this is not

an age which is altogether sympathetic to such an undertaking'.

Yet though the sales of Pelican books undoubtedly signify some-

thing (if only a guilty conscience about the topics that one has always

meant to 'take up'), they cannot of themselves dispel one's sense of the

'deep-seated spiritual vulgarity that lies at the heart of our civilization', in L. H. Myers's phrase. Other ages have no doubt suffered from then- own kinds of grossness and vulgarity, which (and it would be a legitimate criticism) the earlier volumes of the Guide have not

always sufficiently emphasized. The reason for this, perhaps, was

that ultimately the critical preoccupation of these volumes was with

the meaning of literature for our own age and for the non-specialist and non-historical reader of today, who might be glad of guidance

to help him to respond to what is living and contemporary in

literature. For, like the other arts, literature has the power to enrich

the imagination and to clarify thought and feeling. Not that one is

offering literature as a substitute religion or as providing a philosophy for life. Its satisfactions are of their own kind, though they are satis-

factions intimately bound up with the life of each individual reader

and therefore not without their bearing on his attitude to life.

This attempt to draw up an ordered account of literature that would be concerned, first and foremost, with value for the present,

has meant that the Guide has been a work of criticism rather than a standard history of Hterature. And if this was so in the case of the

earlier historical volumes, it was always certain that when it came

to offering guidance about the hterature of this century, the work

would have to be conducted in an unusually critical and yet explora-

tory spirit. Of all the volumes, this last was bound to be the hardest

to assemble, for the major writers are still very much part of our


time and yet they are just sufficiently in the past for it to have become fashionable to find some ofthem unfashionable; and at the same time, the profusion of lesser writers have a certain inescapable currency

that makes it very hard, in a volume designed for the wide-ranging

contemporary reader, to disregard them altogether.

In the event this final volume has had to accept a measure of

compromise between critical rigour and what one might call socio-

logical indulgence. A variety of extra-literary factors may give much

of the writing of one's own day a certain genuine life, even though

one comes to the conclusion that it will be comparatively short- lived. Both these evaluations need to be made, for only in this way

can one avoid the prevailing sin of much week-end criticism, which is

not that it gives too much space to lesser writers but that it tries to

justify this space by concocting an unconscionable number of master-

pieces. Though this volume of the Guide has not uncovered any new

masterpieces or master-writers, it has done its critical best not to take

a narrow or unsympathetic view of things. But in the end the stan-

dards of reference have been a few writers who seem, on re-examin-

ation, to have made a profound contribution to our literature, and

a few critics who have made a determined effort to elicit from this

literature what is of living value today. Together, they have managed

to re-establish a sense of literary tradition and they have denned the

high standards that this tradition implies.

It is in this spirit that this final volume of the Guide offers its

contour-map of the literary scene to the general reader. Like its predecessors, it provides the reader with four kinds of related mat-


(i) An account of the social context of literature in the period,

attempting to answer such questions as 'Why has the literature of this period dealt with this rather than that kind of problem?', 'What

has been the relationship between writer and public?', 'What is the

reading public like in its tastes and make-up?'. This section of the volume provides, not a potted history, but an account of contem-

porary society at its points of contact with literature. (ii) A literary survey of this period, describing the general charac-

teristics of the period's literature in such a way as to enable the reader

to trace its growth and to keep his bearings. The aim of this section is to answer such questions as 'What kind of literature has been written



in this period?', 'Which authors matter most?', 'Where does the strength of the period he?'.

(hi) Detailed studies of some of the chief writers and works in

this period. Coming after the two general surveys, the aim of this section is to convey a sense of what it means to read closely and with perception, and also to suggest how the literature of this period is

most profitably read, i.e. with what assumptions and with what kind

of attention. In addition, this section includes a few general studies of such topics as Criticism, the Prose of Thought, the Best-Seller, and

the Mass Media.

(iv) Finally an appendix of essential facts for reference purposes,

such as authors' biographies (in miniature), bibliographies, books for further study, and so on.

Thus, this volume of the Guide has been planned as a whole and should be read as a whole. The individual essays have not been

written to a single formula, some of them being more detailed and some more discursive than others; but this seemed the best way of

giving the reader a varied understanding ofthe literature of the period.

The contributors have been chosen as writers who would be inclined and willing to fit themselves together into this common pattern and

this has meant that they are people whose approach to literature is

based on common assumptions; for it was essential that the Guide should have cohesion and should reveal some collaborative agree-

ments (though inevitably, and quite rightly, it reveals disagreements as well). They agree on the need for rigorous standards, and that they

have felt it essential to take no reputations for granted, but rather to

examine once again, and often in close detail, the strengths and weak-

nesses of our contemporary literature.

In conclusion I should like to express my personal thanks to three

people in particular: to Professor L. C. Knights and Mr G. D.

Klingopulos for their frequent advice and guidance; and to Mr L. G.

Salingar, who helped to plan the Guide in the early stages and has

given me a most generous amount of assistance and encouragement

since then.

Boris Ford






Reader in Education, the University of Leicester

Introduction: The writer's predicament

When Logan Pearsall Smith confessed to Henry James that he wished

to do the best he could with his pen, James replied that, if such was the

case, 'There is one word - let me impress upon you - which you must

inscribe upon your banner, and that word is Loneliness.' James caught

at the eremitic implications of Pearsall Smith's pursuit of 'the best' at a time so inimical to a display of the finest awarenesses. If, then,

two basic themes of modern literature have been those of 'isola-

tion' and of 'relationship' within what has been considered a decaying

moral order, they have reflected a sense, on the side of the writer, of alienation from the public, an alienation reinforced by indifference

or hostility on the part of the community at large. I refer, of course,

to the greatest writers and critics rather than to those who have

preferred the equivocations necessary in audience-seeking - the 'associational process' as James called it - to the renunciations

implicit in the lesson of the Master. Though even these latter have recently shown a tendency to exploit a fashion for 'outsiders' which

is at the opposite pole to James's exacting regard for the life of the


The fact that, in our times, really serious literature has become a

peripheral occupation may induce a feeling that the writer's diagnosis

ofmoral confusion or perplexity is suspect, springing from a wounded ego or dramatizing a self-pity. Though many eminent Victorians had

regarded their age as one of transition, for the great unthinking the

Edwardian week-end was little disturbed by intimations of 'chaos' and

'multiplicity', such as afflicted Henry Adams; and Henry James's

comment to A. C. Benson in 1896, 'I have the imagination of disaster

would have fallen





as ferocious

and sinister',

strangely on many ears at that time. Yet it is clear that by the mid

twentieth century every newspaperman has become aware of a



'crisis', a translation into journalese of Adams's intimation of moral confusion, ushered in, as he saw it, by the final triumph of the Dyna-

mo over the Virgin. Two world wars and an accelerated degree of

social change have produced profound alterations from even the

nineteenth-century ethos, which we now know to have been less

stable and free from doubt than was once imagined. 1 Nor has the

serious artist remained aloof from social movements or indifferent

to moral dilemmas. Rarely, indeed, can there have been a time

when 'background' more readily obtrudes as an essential part of

foreground. For all the comparative indifference with which

they have been received, writers have less and less felt able to retreat into private worlds; instead, they have become increasingly committed to social, political, and therefore public comment. Indeed,

our greatest living novelist, in a television interview, has explained his recent lack of fecundity as being due to precisely such altered pressures

I think one of the reasons why I stopped writing novels is

that the social aspect of the world changed so much. I had been

accustomed to write about the old-fashioned world with its

homes and its family life and its comparative peace. All that went, and though I can think about the new world I cannot

put it into fiction.

Economic and social change

(E. M. Forster)

The later years ofthe nineteenth century saw the almost final break-

down, in the limited areas in which it still survived, of a pre-industrial

way of life and economy. The agricultural depression of those times

(i 870-1902) hit particularly hard the landed aristocracy and the

agricultural labourer; and it was then that the 'change in the village' denoted the end of rural England on any significant scale; as Law-

rence noted, even the countryman became a 'town bird' at heart. Of

the 45 million inhabitants of the United Kingdom in 191 1 (an in-

crease of 14 million in 40 years), nearly 80 per cent lived in England

and Wales; and, of these, again roughly 80 per cent came to live in urban districts. The development of the American wheat prairies

and the importation of refrigerated meat from the Argentine meant

that four million arable acres, £17 millions of landed rents, 150,000



agricultural labourers disappeared during a period of forty years - some place the numbers a good deal higher. Free Trade, and the in-

creasing urbanization it provoked, 'gorged the banks but left our

rickyards bare' (Rider Haggard).

'Agriculture', as G. M. Trevelyan has said, 'is not one industry

among many, but is a way of life, unique and irreplaceable in its

human and spiritual values.' The decline of the rural way of life has

certainly been reflected in the tenuousness of this century's nature

poetry and in the veering of interest, noted by Dr Holloway, towards urban and cosmopolitan themes. The profound human implications of its loss have been mourned by Hardy, George 'Bourne', Richard

Jefferies, Edward Thomas, and others, though as a way of life it had a

shadier side to it than they always confessed. For the evidence of

Commissions on the state of the rural poor ought not to be forgotten

in assessing the implications of rural depopulation. The Rev. J. Fraser,

reporting on the eastern counties for the Royal Commission on

Women and Children in Agriculture (1867-70), said that 'The major-

ity of the cottages that exist in rural parishes are deficient in almost every requisite that should constitute a home for a Christian family in

a civilized community'. Certainly, then, the 'organic community'

of rural England may not have existed quite as its more nai've ex-

ponents believe; in re-animating the past it is easy to omit the stresses

that are inseparable from the human condition. Nevertheless, this

idealization of rural values is important because many writers have

accepted its essential truth and have involved it, if only as a nostalgia,

in their work. The theme of the past golden age, over the last century

and a half, has manifested itself, in one of its important guises, as a

yearning for a simpler, more 'organic' (a modern hurrah-word)

society, to provide a refuge in this 'much-divided' civilization. The

pervasive feeling certainly is that any material gain must be balanced

against a perceptible spiritual loss, and it is the spiritual loss which has received the literary attention, even though one realizes in saying so

that the division itself over-simplifies the situation.

The altered social emphasis following on urbanization extended the

encroachment of a changed pattern in social relations already to be

found over the greater part of the country throughout the century.

Considering the enlarged role of money in the new village economy,

George 'Bourne' points to the alterations necessitated by the slow but



remorseless enclosure of the commons after 1861, a phase which in

his area lasted until 1900:

the common [was], as it were, a supplement to the cottage

gardens, and [furnished] means of extending the scope of the

little home industries. It encouraged the poorest labourer to

practise, for instance, all those time-honoured crafts which

Cobbett, in his little book on Cottage Economy, had advo-

cated as the one hope for labourers.

(Change in the Village, 1912)

With the enclosure of the common, 'the once self-supporting cot- tager turned into a spender of money'. The implications of this struck

at the very heart of his human relationships; what emerged was a new ethic, familiar enough by then in the towns but less known in the

country, the ethic of competition. The effect of this had been to re-

duce man to the level of economic man, one whose community

relationships were at the mercy of the cash-nexus, and whose psy-

chological motivations were thought of mostly in terms of self-

interest. (There had been protests, of course, but not on a socially

significant scale.) In such circumstances, ' "the Poor" was regarded not

as a term descriptive of a condition of society but of the character of

a group of people' (Beatrice Webb, My Apprenticeship). Darwinian notions, interpreted by Herbert Spencer and others, helped to afford a set of fortuitous economic arrangements with the force of an apparent natural law. The chance interaction of economic atomic

particles pursuing their rational self-interest was regarded as the in-

evitable and exclusive model of social behaviour. Notions of a public

morality in terms of a diffused public good hardly existed among

ordinary people- as C. F. G. Masterman's Condition oj England (1909)

makes clear.

Private morality, at least on the face which it turned towards the

world, was authoritarian and taboo-ridden. Serious personal oddity

was dismissed as a sign of degeneracy, not diagnosed as neurosis.

The bringing-up of children, as Samuel Butler bore witness, was strict;

and the overt decencies of family life and relationship were main-

tained, whatever went on under the surface. The 'great ladies of the

day' sent for Lord Templecombe when the question of diyorce arose, in Miss Sackville-West's The Edwardians:



'Noblesse oblige, my dear Eadred', they had said; 'people

like us do not exhibit their feelings; they do not divorce. Only

the vulgar divorce.'

The twentieth century has seen the break-down of the old familiar

authoritarian pattern in private and social, as opposed to political,

life. A similar type of moral questioning to that which, in the later

eighteenth and nineteenth centuri