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Full Online Book HomeNonfictionsBooks And Persons: Being Comments On A Past Epoch 1908-1911 - French And British Academies
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Books And Persons: Being Comments On A Past Epoch 1908-1911 - French And British Academies Post by :DREAMCHASR Category :Nonfictions Author :Arnold Bennett Date :May 2012 Read :2656

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Books And Persons: Being Comments On A Past Epoch 1908-1911 - French And British Academies

(_21 Jan. '09_)

Although we know in our hearts that the French Academy is a foolish institution, designed and kept up for the encouragement of mediocrity, correct syntax, and the _status quo_, we still, also in our hearts, admire it and watch its mutations with the respect which we always give to foreign phenomena and usually withold from phenomena British. The last elected member is M. Francis Charmes. His sole title to be an Academician is that he directs _La Revue des Deux Mondes_, which pays good prices to Academic contributors. And this is, of course, a very good title. Even his official "welcomer," M. Henry Houssaye, did not assert that M. Charmes had ever written anything more important or less mortal than leaders and paragraphs in the _Journal des Debats_. M. Henry Houssaye was himself once a journalist. But he thought better of that, and became a historian. He has written one or two volumes which, without being unreadable, have achieved immense popularity. Stevenson used to delve in them for matter suitable to his romances. The French Academy now contains pretty nearly everything except first-class literary artists. Anatole France is a first-class literary artist and an Academician; but he makes a point of never going near the Academy. Perhaps the best writer among "devout" Academicians is Maurice Barres. Unhappily his comic-opera politics prove that in attempting Parnassus he mistook his mountain. Primrose Hill would have been more in his line. Still, he wrote "Le Jardin de Berenice": a novel which I am afraid to read again lest I should fail to recapture the first fine careless rapture it gave me.

* * * * *

Personally, I think our British Academy is a far more brilliant affair than the French. There is no nonsense about it. At least very little, except Mr. Balfour. I believe, from inductive processes of thought, that when Mr. Balfour gets into his room of a night he locks the door--and smiles. Not the urbane smile that fascinates and undoes even Radical journalists--quite another smile. Never could this private smile have been more subtle than on the night of the day when he permitted himself to be elected a member of the British Academy. Further, let it not be said that our Academy excludes novelists and journalists. We novelists are ably represented by Mr. Andrew Lang, author of "Prince Prigio" and part-author of "The World's Desire." And we journalists have surely an adequate spokesman in the person of the author of "Lost Leaders." Mr. Lang has also dabbled in history.

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