THE LONDON YANKEES: Portraits of American Writers and Artists in England, 1894-1914 by Stanley Weintraub

THE LONDON YANKEES: Portraits of American Writers and Artists in England, 1894-1914

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Vignettes of Twain, Crane, lames, Whistler, Frost, Pound, Eliot, and others in England--but Weintraub (Beardsley, Whistler) finds so little in the way of connections or themes that this collage of biography and literary gossip might almost as well be about writers with some similarity of name or astrological sign. Why did they go there? How did it change them--or transatlantic art? Weintraub hardly tackles any of these ideas except to say ""the artist wrote or painted differently in exile because his American roots were attenuated"" and ""it is difficult to believe that Anglo-American culture would have been the same."" Instead he merely recounts, pleasantly enough, with heavy reliance on quotation, just what happened to these writers and artists while in England during that arbitrary period. Twain grew old and bitter, then Crane and Whistler and Bret Harte died, later Pound gallivanted about being brilliant and befriended timid Frost (one of Weintraub's few crosscultural insights sees English influences on Frost's poetry) . . . .while lames lived on and on, watching them all go by; and with James above all, Weintraub's breezy, un-grounded approach--picking up a life in midstream--seems misguided and shallow. Without a sense of theme or continuity or interpretation, the major figures here seem cheated, rudely separated from their pasts, their futures, and their full-fledged bios. The somewhat-lesser-known expatriates, however, do seem to suit the once-over-lightly approach: Pearl Richards Craigie, cynical novelist (under a male pseudonym), mistress to George Moore, center of a divorce trial scandal; Henry Harland, co-creator (with Beardsley) of the Yellow Book; or Harold Frederic, whose death became a trial of Christian Science's legality. Expect a rich, thematic study, then, and you'll be thoroughly disappointed--but, as episodic and rather purposeless literary/artistic storytelling, this is passable, dry entertainment.

Pub Date: Aug. 15th, 1979
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich