Literary Biography: The Alexander Lectures 1955-56

Literary Biography: The Alexander Lectures 1955-56

Literary Biography: The Alexander Lectures 1955-56

Literary Biography: The Alexander Lectures 1955-56

Excerpt

When I was invited to deliver the 1955-56 Alexander Lectures at the University of Toronto I proposed to Professor A. S. P. Woodhouse, the head of the Department of English at University College, that these be devoted entirely to the question of biography--literary biography. It seemed to me that this branch of biography had never been sufficiently isolated from the general discussion of the biographical art. I felt that for this purpose my own effort to encompass and recreate the life of a major literary figure--Henry James--would permit me to draw upon personal experiences as well as upon those theories which I had found myself putting into practice. The lectures were delivered on five successive days in Hart House Theatre at the University of Toronto, February 27 to March 3, 1956.

These discourses represent, in effect, more than two decades of reflection upon the questions they project and discuss. Indeed, when I came to prepare them, I found among my books André Maurois's Clark Lectures, and Sir Harold Nicolson's little Hogarth Press volume, which I had read and marked in the late 1920's. In surveying the field, I discovered that little had been published about the theory of this difficult art, save for certain historical works and occasional essays, largely in learned journals. This points to the fact--I allude to it in my second discourse--that biography tends to be a subject discussed only by specialists: it is taken for granted, in contrast to the way in which theories of fiction and of poetry are the subject of constant examination and reexamination.

I have added a few short passages to the discourses and applied to them minor revisions designed to bring them . . .

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