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It may be asked: Did Miss Austen know what she was doing? She lived, after all,
before it was common for the novelist to regard himself as an artist; she had no
knowledge of the theories of fiction Flaubert and Henry James were later to state.
He is saying, in effect, much what Wyndham Lewis has said in The Writer and the
Absolute: . . . there is in all those arts which parallel nature something like a law
obliging the artist to a fanatical scrupulosity, as it were a physical incapacity to ...
And what is significant is the part the conception of the novelist as artist plays in it.
The notion of the artist as a dedicated man is very recent; it comes from the
Romantic poets and its holy scripture in English is Shelley's A Defence of Poetry.
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Remember when literary critics read books and wrote about them? No? Well, I do now. He got a few things wrong - what did these people ever see in H.G. Wells? In Meredith? That they should be put next ... Read full review
THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY
THE FIRST GENERA
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