By Walter Lionel George
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Extra resources for A Novelist on Novels 1918
He likes books of travel, biographies, solid French books (strictly by academicians), political works, economic works. His conversation sounds like it, and that is why his wife is so bored; his emotions are reflex and run only round the objects he can see; art cannot touch him, and no feather ever falls upon his brow from an airy wing. He commonly tells you that good novels are not written nowadays; he must be excused that opinion, for he never tries to read them. The only novels with which the weary Titan refreshes his mind are those of Thackeray, sometimes of Trollope; the more frivolous sometimes go so far as to sip a little of the honey that falls from the mellifluous lips of Mr A.
Bede! , I saw a shopman reading Tono-Bungay, which was propped against the cruet. Does Mr Bennett imagine that man dropping the tear of emotion and the gravy of excitement upon the Venerable Bede? And if one goes on with the list and discovers the Autobiography of Lord Herbert of Cherbury, Religio Medici, Berkeley's Principles of Human Knowledge, Reynold's Discourses on Art, the works of Pope, Voyage of the Beagle ... one comes to understand how such readers may have been made by such masters. From the beginning to the end of that list my mind is obsessed by the word 'stodge,' and the novels do not relieve it much.
Then the mood passes, and he is driven back to Flaubert's view that it is a dog's life, but the only one. He decides to live down the extraordinary trash that novelists produce. Incredible as truth may be, fiction is stranger still, and there is no limit to the intoxications of the popular novelist. Consider, indeed, the following account of six novels, taken from the reviews in the literary supplement of the Times, of 27th July, 1916. In the first, Seventeen, Mr Booth Tarkington depicts characters of an age indicated by the title, apparently concerned with life as understood at seventeen, who conduct baby talk with dogs.
A Novelist on Novels 1918 by Walter Lionel George