Reason and Romanticism: Essays in Literary Criticism

By Herbert Read | Go to book overview

IX
CHARLOTTE AND EMILY BRONTË

HEREDITY is a factor underlying and determining all other causes and effects within the term of a human life, but in ascribing any importance to it, we should be careful to distinguish rather sharply between intelligence or mental development, which is the product of natural selection in the race and of education in the individual, and what for want of another word we must call genius, which, when it is of any value, is intelligence directed into personal and wayward channels.1 It is merely the instrument of genius--the brain considered as a muscle --that is susceptible to hereditary influences. The rest is the product of environment and chance-- particularly of the psychological events introduced into life by human relationships.

____________________
1
"Talents do not appear to depend upon the improvement of any special mental quality by continued practice, but they are the expression, and to a certain extent the by-product, of the human mind, which is so highly developed in all directions" ( A. Weismann, On Heredity, 1883). See also the same scientist's Thoughts upon the Musical Sense in Animals and Man ( 1889), where the general conclusions would support the position taken up in the present essay. Weismann is, of course, out of fashion --perhaps out of date--but he may still be read for the acuteness of many of his observations.

-159-

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Reason and Romanticism: Essays in Literary Criticism
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Note vii
  • I - The Attributes of Criticism 1
  • II - The Nature of Metaphysical Poetry 31
  • III - Pure Poetry 59
  • IV - The Future of Poetry 67
  • V - Psycho-Analysis and Criticism 83
  • VI - The Disciples of Diderot 107
  • VII - The Definition of Comedy 127
  • VIII - The Dialogue 139
  • IX - Charlotte and Emily Brontë 159
  • X - Tobias Smollett 187
  • XI - The Modern Novel 207
  • Index 225
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