The Hero in Eclipse in Victorian Fiction

The Hero in Eclipse in Victorian Fiction

The Hero in Eclipse in Victorian Fiction

The Hero in Eclipse in Victorian Fiction

Excerpt

Those innumerable genre pieces--conversation, music, play--were in truth the equivalent of novel-reading for that day. . . .

WALTER PATER, Sebastian van Storck

ONE of the tritest maxims of writers on the history of culture is that the spread of any new form of taste manifests itself in literature before it makes its appearance in the visual arts. The vogue of the ἐκϕράσις in the Hellenistic period, and of the Picturesque during the eighteenth century (when Claude, Salvator Rosa, and the Dutch painters opened the eyes of writers to a new appreciation of landscape) do not provide the only exceptions. There are aspects of the narrative literature of the nineteenth century that are less satisfactorily accounted for by a scrutiny of literary tradition than by reference to the genre painting --the Dutch, especially--which flourished from the seventeenth century onwards.

The thriving state of trade in the Dutch United Provinces in the seventeenth century was a repetition, on a somewhat larger scale perhaps, of the phenomenon that had occurred in the republics of Italy three centuries before: now it was Dutch ships that penetrated into every sea (their merchant fleet was twice as large as that of all other nations together), Dutch banks carried on the cosmopolitan tradition of the banks of Florence and Siena, Amsterdam became the market of the world. As previously in Italy, commercial prosperity brought with it prosperity in the arts; but, while in Italy, where the influence of the Church was still prevalent, the citizen had not desired any reproduction of himself except as the figure of a donor at the foot of a sacred group, and scenes of everyday life, in order to be thought worthy of the immortality of art, had to be dressed . . .

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