By Walter Lionel George
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Extra resources for A Novelist on Novels 1918
Be honest in your reply, and you will know who, at that hypothetical reception, created a stir. The stir, according to place or period, greeted the politician or the bishop, and only in purely literary circles would Mr Conrad have been preferred.... For the worship of crowds goes to power rather than to distinction, to the recognised functionary of the State, to him whose power can give power, to all the evanescent things, and seldom to those stockish things, the milestones on the road to eternity.
We are not Doctors of Science, Licentiates of Music Schools. We are just men and women of some slight independence, therefore criminals, men who want to observe and not men who want to do, therefore incredible. And so, because we cannot fall into the classes made for those who can be classified, we are outside class, below class. We are the mistletoe on the social oak. It is perhaps in search of dignity and status that the modern novelist has taken to journalism. Journalism raises a novelist's status, for a view expressed by a fictitious character is not taken seriously, while the same view fastened to an event of the day acquires importance, satisfies the specific function of the press, which is more and more that of a champion of found causes.
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.