EDWARDIAN OCCASIONS by Samuel Hynes

EDWARDIAN OCCASIONS

Essays on English Writing in the Early Twentieth Century
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KIRKUS REVIEW

Hynes (The Edwardian Turn of Mind, 1968) has here gathered his more incidental writings on the intellectual vagaries of that cultural interregnum which began in 1900 with the death of Queen Victoria and ended abruptly in August, 1914. It is Professor Hynes' special talent to perceive the unsuspected affinities between the literary adversaries of the age -- Shaw and Wells, Arnold Bennett and Virginia Woolf, Chesterton and Ford, Belloc, Wells, Conrad, T.E. Hulme and even that last grim disciple of Victorian science and materialism, Mrs. Beatrice Webb. Each in his own way recognized the epoch as a hiatus -- social, moral, and aesthetic. The stolid virtues of the 19th century no longer gave comfort. Poverty, Socialism and Feminism shook the society. In the words of Virginia Woolf, the artists themselves knew they were "between styles." But the literary manifestations of their plight proved remarkable. Above all, there was the acute sense of temporality, the "meticulous care for the historical moment" which suffused Wells and Ford and Forster, all of whom "carried the advanced ideas of the late-Victorian reformers into the twentieth century, and watched them grow out-of-date and useless there." Nostalgia was the inevitable accompaniment of this "sense of the pastness of the past" but so too was anxiety and writers as different as Conrad and Chesterton shared a vision of impending disorder and dissolution -- a hypersensitivity to the fragility of inherited civilization. Hynes' view of la belle epoque is thus more somber than most -- and perhaps he does not give due regard to the self-conscious posturing and the sporting frivolity of, say, a Saki. Taken individually the brief essays gathered here seem impressionistic and, in the case of minor writers, even parenthetical. But collectively they impart precisely that sense of fleeting discontinuity which Hynes claims for the age.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1972
ISBN: 0710074417
Page count: 232pp
Publisher: Oxford
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1972




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