George Meredith

George Meredith

George Meredith

George Meredith

Excerpt

GEORGE MEREDITH was by preference a poet, by profession a novelist. Inadvertently, he wrote the most famous English essay on Comedy. A recent historian of the English novel aptly quoted a sentence from Meredith's admirer, Robert Louis Stevenson, to sum up much that is best in Meredith's work: 'To me these things are the good; beauty, touched with sex and laughter; beauty with God's earth for the background.'1 Meredith would have added Mind to Stevenson's creed, for without intelligence at work sex degenerates into sensualism and man is incapable of comic laughter. Meredith leads his readers past the morbid emotions, that he well knew how to dissect, into a healthy, intelligent, luminous world. As the poet Siegfried Sassoon. said at the end of his book on Meredith, 'the idea of Meredith means a sense of being fully alive. To be at one's best is to be Meredithian.'

The most advanced schooling that Meredith ever had was when from the age of fourteen to sixteen he attended a school conducted by the Moravian Brothers at Neuwied on the Rhine, and these two years evidently led him to the abiding belief that the good life included international involvement: travel, a daily study of foreign as well as domestic politics, and a detailed knowledge of European history and literature. Among his earliest exercises in verse were translations from German poets, and late in life he wrote that 'the noble Goethe' had been 'the most enduring of the formative readings of his youth'.2 His favourite vacations were spent walking in the Tyrolean and Italian Alps, or in the south of France, and he felt that he under- . . .

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