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This blog makes liberal use of AB's journals, letters, travel notes, and other sources.

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Wednesday, 14 May 2014


Wednesday, May 14th., Victoria Grove, Chelsea.

I dipped into "Adam Bede" and my impression that George Eliot will never be among the classical writers was made a certainty. Her style, though not without shrewdness, is too rank to have any enduring vitality. People call it 'masculine'. Quite wrong! It is downright, aggressive, sometimes rude, but genuinely masculine, never. On the contrary it is transparently feminine - feminine in its lack of restraint, its wordiness and the utter absence of feeling for form which characterises it. The average woman italicises freely. George Eliot of course had trained herself too well to do that, at least formally; yet her constant undue insistence springs from the same essential weakness, and amounts practically to the same expedient. Emily and Charlotte Bronte are not guiltless on this count, but they both had a genuine natural appreciation of the value of words, which George Eliot never had.

Jane Austen now is different. By no chance does she commit the artistic folly of insisting too much. Her style has the beauty and the strength of masculinity and femininity combined, and, very nearly, the weakness of neither.

In May Chapman's, there is a story by Henry James. His mere ingenuity, not only in construction, but in expression, is becoming tedious, though one cannot but admire. Also his colossal cautiousness in statement is very trying. If he would only now and then contrive to write a sentence without a qualifying clause!

Additionally for May 13th., see 'Family reflections'

This evocation by my mother of these farming, Puritanical ancestors, dust now, was rather touching in a way. It gave me larger ideas of the institution of "the family". When I thought also of my mother's mother's side (the Claytons), my father's father's side (the Bennetts, descended illegitimately, as my Uncle John once told me, from "Schemer" Brindley the engineer) and my father's mother's side (the Vernons, of whom several I believe are living now in Burslem, ignored by my father and us) - when I thought of all these four stocks gathered together and combined to produce me ... a writer, an artist pure and simple, yet with strong mercantile instincts, living on a farm after two generations of town life, I wondered. It is strange that though all my grandparents worked with their hands - weavers, potters, farmers, etc. - I have a positive aversion for any manual labour; the sole relic of all that manual dexterity, left in me, is a marked gift for juggling with balls.

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