Tally Halt!

The history of the British novel is a great topic that must periodically be reconsidered, particularly now when we are so much more sophisticated than those provincials who wrote the novels as well as those belletrists whose accounts of those novels have become hopelessly passé. Looking back, we have to smile at Edward Wagenknecht's Cavalcade of the English Novel (1943), the 30th and last chapter of which is devoted to that giant, Walter de la Mare, author of Memoirs of a Midget. Surely a thoughtful and contemporary approach would be productive, as expounded by many academic authorities and published under the aegis of a university noted for its distinguished professors and its riots.

And indeed we do find in this history of the British novel many useful pages. The best chapters, I think, are Robert M. Polhemus's on Lewis Carroll and Michael Seidel's on James Joyce. Professor Polhemus has a charm and energy that are uniquely kinetic—though those qualities may be misplaced here, since Carroll didn't write any novels. Professor Seidel has also written an inspired response to great writing that emphasizes "langwedge" with a success not easily found elsewhere in this volume. Delightful commentaries such as these make us want to read, but too much of this history makes me want to take a long walk.

Because there is too much modish theory and tendentious revisionism, there...

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