Jane Austen and Her Art

Jane Austen and Her Art

Jane Austen and Her Art

Jane Austen and Her Art

Excerpt

I suppose that it must happen to writers on every one of the most generally interesting subjects of literary criticism to be told very often in the course of their writing that everything worth saying on that subject has been said already. And it is likely that they may all feel (as I do), as they wind themselves into it, that all who have written before them have stopped short as they were arriving at the most interesting point. In Jane Austen's case there is at least this particular for justification for such an impression, that the most part of Dr. Chapman's work has taken the direction of biographical investigation in which criticism is incidental, and the professed critics--such as A. C. Bradley, Saintsbury, Walter Raleigh, John Bailey, and Dr. Chapman himself in his few critical papers--have all chosen to work on a small scale--so small that the reader does not see how they have reached their conclusions until he has patiently found his own way to them. Is this perhaps a characteristic of that generation of critics, that they exclaim with Jonson 'By God, 'tis good, and if you like't, you may', and carry entire conviction--but leave us at the beginning of the exciting 'how?' and 'why?' of analysis? At least I am sure that while quotations from Bradley's essay might well head most parts of this book I should not have realized all that they meant if I had not written it.

There may, then, still be something to say about Jane Austen; there is certainly much to be said about narrative art. When so important a critic as Professor Stoll tells us that 'all narrative art seems . . . to aspire towards the condition of drama', and the most illuminating writer on the art of the novel tries to drive a wedge between the 'art of narrative' and the 'art of fiction' --then it is surely time to look into the story-teller's peculiar problems.

But, it may be objected, is it at this time worth while to study narrative art in so simple a form as that which it . . .

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