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Full Online Book HomeNonfictionsBooks And Persons: Being Comments On A Past Epoch 1908-1911 - Mr. A.C. Benson
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Books And Persons: Being Comments On A Past Epoch 1908-1911 - Mr. A.C. Benson Post by :flashzoe Category :Nonfictions Author :Arnold Bennett Date :May 2012 Read :1716

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Books And Persons: Being Comments On A Past Epoch 1908-1911 - Mr. A.C. Benson

(_1 Sep. '10_)

I am indebted to Mr. Murray for sending what is to me a new manifestation of the entirely precious activity of Mr. Arthur Christopher Benson. Mr. Benson, in "The Thread of Gold," ministers to all that is highest and most sacred in the Mudie temperament. It is not a new book; only I have been getting behind-hand. It was first printed in 1905, and it seems to have been on and off the printing-presses ever since, and now Mr. Murray has issued it, very neatly, at a shilling net, so that people who have never even been inside Mudie's may obtain it. I have read the book with intense joy, hugging myself, and every now and then running off to a sister-spirit with a "I say, just listen to _this_!" The opening sentence of one of the various introductions serves well to display Mr. A.C. Benson at his superlative: "I have for a great part of my life desired, perhaps more than I have desired anything else, to make a beautiful book; and I have tried, perhaps too hard and too often, to do this, _without ever quite succeeding_" (my italics). Oh, triple modesty! The violet-like beauty of that word "quite"! Thus he tried perhaps too hard and too often to produce something beautiful! Not that for a moment I believe the excellent Mr. Benson to be so fatuous as these phrases, like scores of others in the book, would indicate. It is merely that heaven has been pleased to deprive him of any glimmer of humour, and that he is the victim of a style which, under an appearance of neatness and efficiency and honesty, is really disorderly, loose, inefficient, and traitorous. His pages abound in instances of the unfaithfulness of his style, which is continually giving him away and making him say what he does not in fact want to say. For example: "Such traces as one sees in the chapels of the Oxford Movement ... would be purely deplorable from the artistic point of view, if they did not possess a historical interest." As if historical interest could make them less deplorable from an artistic point of view! It might make them less deplorable from another point of view. Three times he explains the motif of the book. Here is the third and, at present, the last version of the motif: "That whether we are conquerors or conquered, triumphant or despairing, prosperous or pitiful, well or ailing, we are all these things through Him that loves us." I seem to remember that the late Frances Ridley Havergal burst into the world with this information I recommend her works to Mr. Benson. In another of the introductions he says: "I think that God put it into my heart to write this book, and I hope that he (not He) will allow me to persevere." Personally (conceited though I am), I never put myself to the trouble of formulating hopes concerning the Infinite Purpose, but if I did I should hope that He just won't. Mr. Benson proceeds: "And yet indeed I know that I am not fit for so holy a task." Here we have one of the most diverting instances of Mr. Benson's trick-playing style. He didn't mean that; he only said it. Much, if not most, of "The Thread of of Gold" is merely absurd. Some of it is pretentious, some of it inept. All of it is utterly banal. All of it has the astounding calm assurance of mediocrity. It is a solemn thought that tens of thousands of well-dressed mortals alive and idle to-day consider themselves to have been uplifted by the perusal of this work. It is also a solemn thought that God in His infinite mercy and wisdom is still allowing Mr. Benson to persevere in his so holy task, thus responding to Mr. Benson's hopes.

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(_8 Sep. 10_)I have just had news of a purely literary paper which is shortly to be started. I do not mean a paper devoted to literary criticisms chiefly, but chiefly to creative work. This will be something of a novelty in England. Its founders are two men who possess, happily, a practical acquaintance with publishing. The aim of the paper will be to print, and to sell, imaginative writing of the highest character. Its purpose is artistic, and neither political nor moral. Dangers and difficulties lie before an enterprise of this kind. The first and the principal difficulty will be
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(_25 Aug. '10_)One of the moral advantages of not being a regular professional, labelled, literary critic is that when one has been unable to read a book to the end, one may admit the same cheerfully. It often happens to the professional critic not to be able to finish a book, but of course he must hide the weakness, for it is his business to get to the end of books whether they weary him or not. It is as much his living to finish reading a book as it is mine to finish writing a book. Twice lately I have
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