Criticism: The Foundations of Modern Literary Judgment

By Mark Schorer; Gordon McKenzie et al. | Go to book overview

T. E. HULME: Romanticism and Classicism*

I WANT to maintain that after a hundred years of romanticism, we are in for a classical revival, and that the particular weapon of this new classical spirit, when it works in verse, will be fancy. And in this I imply the superiority of fancy--not superior generally or absolutely, for that would be obvious nonsense, but superior in the sense that we use the word good in empirical ethics--good for something, superior for something. I shall have to prove then two things, first that a classical revival is coming, and, secondly, for its particular purposes, fancy will be superior to imagination.

So banal have the terms Imagination and Fancy become that we imagine they must have always been in the language. Their history as two differing terms in the vocabulary of criticism is comparatively short. Originally, of course, they both mean the same thing; they first began to be differentiated by the German writers on aesthetics in the eighteenth century.

I know that in using the words "classic" and "romantic" I am doing a dangerous thing. They represent five or six different kinds of antitheses, and while I may be using them in one sense you may be interpreting them in another. In this present connection I am using them in a perfectly precise and limited sense. I ought really to have coined a couple of new words, but I prefer to use the ones I have used, as I then conform to the practice of the group of polemical writers who make most use of them at the present day, and have almost succeeded in making them political catchwords. I mean Maurras Lasserre and all the group connected with L'Action Française.

At the present time this is the particular group with which the distinction is most vital. Because it has become a party symbol. If you asked a man of a certain set whether he preferred the

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and being, their want of significance, as symbol and physiognomy."

"In respect of style and versification, this play [ The Queen of Corinth] and the following of Bonduca may be taken as the best, and yet as characteristic, specimens of Beaumont and Fletcher's dramas. I particularly instance the first scene of the Bonduca. Take Shakespeare Richard II, and having selected some one scene of about the same number of lines, and consisting mostly of long speeches, compare it with the first scene in Bonduca,--not for the idle purpose of finding out which is the better, but in order to see and understand the difference. The latter, that of B. and F., you will find a well-arranged bed of flowers, each having its separate root, and its position determined aforehand by the will of the gardener,--each fresh plant a fresh volition. In the former you see an Indian fig-tree, as described by Milton;--all is growth, evolution, γένεσις;--each line, each work, almost, begets the following, and the will of the writer is an interfusion, a continuous agency, and not a series of separate acts. Shakespeare is the height, breadth, and depth of Genius: Beaumont and Fletcher the excellent mechanism, in juxtaposition and succession, of talent."

"What had a grammatical and logical consistency for the ear--what could be put together and represented to the eye--these poets [ Beaumont and Fletcher] took from the ear and eye, unchecked by any intuition of an inward impossibility;--just as a man might put together a quarter of an orange, a quarter of an apple, and the like of a lemon and a pomgranate, and make it look like one round diverse-colored fruit. But nature, which works from within by evolution and assimilation according to a law, can not do so, nor could Shakespeare; for he too worked in the spirit of nature, by evolving the germ from within by the imaginative power according to an idea. For as the power of seeing is to light, so is an idea in mind to a law in nature. They are correlatives, which suppose each other." (The first two of the above quotations are reprinted here by permission of the Harvard University Press from Thomas Middleton Raysor edition of Coleridge's Shakespearean Criticism, 1930. The third and fourth are from Coleridge Notes and Lectures upon Shakespeare, and Some of the Old Poets and Dramatists, with Other Literary Remains, Complete Works, ed. Shedd, 1871.)]

*
"Romanticism and Classicism" is one of the pieces collected by Herbert Read in Speculations: Essays on Humanism and the Philosophy of Art ( 1924), the posthumous volume of the writings of T. E. Hulme ( 1883- 1917). Mr. Read kindly corroborates the suggestion of the present editors that the probable date of composition is 1913-1914. The essay is here reprinted by permission of Harcourt, Brace and Company, Inc.

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