William Hale White (Mark Rutherford): A Critical Study

William Hale White (Mark Rutherford): A Critical Study

William Hale White (Mark Rutherford): A Critical Study

William Hale White (Mark Rutherford): A Critical Study

Excerpt

When William Hale White died in 1913 at the age of eighty-two, he had not achieved anything like fame but he had established himself in the literary life of England as a mind of a peculiar interest, as an intellectual personality to whom a special and delicate respect was gladly paid. His reputation, however, declined rapidly from even this small prosperity. His name, or the name under which he wrote and portrayed himself, Mark Rutherford, was known to me in my college days, but not in a very interesting way, not in a way to draw me to him. He was represented less as a mind than as an instance -- he was made to serve as an example of the suffering that might be inflicted on a sensitive soul by a cultural phenomenon of a vanished age, that 'loss of faith' which was characteristic of the nineteenth century. This view of Hale White has recently been canonized in a compendious history of English literature, an American work of some authority. In the single brief paragraph which it devotes to Hale White, it tells us that if his novels are kept in remembrance, it will be rather as documents in the history of certain phases of Victorian thought than as works of imaginative literature.'

The opinion is erroneous. It is the expression of the chief bad tendency of literary history, which is to deal with those works of a past age that are less than very great as if they were quite dead and done with, as if they claimed no other attention than to be recognized as cultural facts and correctly ticketed and put in their proper places for easy reference. But there is another and contrary tendency of literary history, the one that justifies this discipline in the face of all the easy conventional contempt for literary scholarship. This is the tendency of literary history to search out what life there may be in the works of the past and to cherish it. Dr. Stock's book exemplifies this right, conserving tendency. It makes plain to us that Hale White is not a mere deciduous fact of the past to be filed in the catalogue of necessary useless knowledge. In this demonstration it is of some consequence that Dr. Stock can tell us of what Hale White meant to Joseph Conrad and to Stephen Crane, to D. H. Lawrence and to André Gide, men who were not likely to . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.