The Fourfold Tradition: Notes on the French and English Literatures, with Some Ethnological and Historical Asides

The Fourfold Tradition: Notes on the French and English Literatures, with Some Ethnological and Historical Asides

The Fourfold Tradition: Notes on the French and English Literatures, with Some Ethnological and Historical Asides

The Fourfold Tradition: Notes on the French and English Literatures, with Some Ethnological and Historical Asides

Excerpt

The reader will find that nowhere in the text of what follows do I speak of a fourfold tradition. The idea is a very simple one and can be stated clearly in a paragraph. On the one hand, I believe that France and these islands have more in common than is generally admitted, very much so in respect of their literatures. On the other hand, I contend that our own tradition (like that of the French) is twofold. A third consideration is that, both here and in France (but here more than in France), there prevail ethnological and linguistic popular fallacies which disguise the nature of our duality and provoke alienation between the French and ourselves, as well as between different areas in this small British archipelago.

More than half of the book is in fact concerned with modern novelists. Not all of them closely illustrate any part of the idea. The idea is not a thesis to be consecutively argued. It is a view-finder. The mere question of the influences exerted by French upon English, and English upon French, writers is a giant subject. For my part, I would not undertake to cover it in less than a thousand pages. Luckily, the need is not at all points acute. It does not arise with regard to the modern poets. The effect of the symbolistes on W. B. Yeats and T. S. Eliot has been so often described as to give the impression that not until the eighteen-nineties were French poets studied here at all, at any rate not until Swinburne took up Baudeaire . . .

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