MA English Part 2 Notes Essay | STYLE IS THE MAN

“What is n book?” It is a baffling question. Keeping in view all the aspects of a book, it is a storehouse of information, intelligence, wisdom, knowledge, a picture of life and its main problem is to reflect the personality of its author. According to Milton, the book is the “life blood of a master spirit, embalmed and treasured up on purpose to life beyond life.” Such type of books are for all ages. These books contain an element of permanence and universality. All books are not fit to be preserved. But certain books survive because of the deep-rooted personality of authors. They conquer all ages and all countries e.g. the plays of Shakespeare, the novels of Dickens, the essays of Lamb, the epics of homer, Virgil and Milton and the poetry of Shelley, Keats, Browning and Tennyson. According to Shakespeare, literature is a mirror held up to nature, that is, it is a reflection of life. This vivid picture of life appeals to us because it has a ring of truth and sincerity. Our first aim is to establish personal relation with a man in his work. We begin a writer by devoting ourselves to some one or other of his writings, which may have a special kind of interest us. We want to realize the man’s genius in its wholeness and variety. We can easily trace the growth of his mind, the changes of his temper and thought, the influences on him of his experiences in the world. His works are no longer to be dissociated from his personality. They are not isolated productions forming aggregate unconnected thoughts. Shakespeare in his play cannot be traced-able as a man. But still we come in contact with his personality by means of his diverse expressions. If we compare and contrast the matter and spirit of these days, we can note a single individual power, revealing itself in different moods and in various artistic idiosyncrasies. To quote Lamborn “To a poet in lover’s mood, the sea smiles with him in joy, the winds whisper the name of his beloved, the stars look down on him like friendly eyes; to the same poet in another mood, the same sea look grim and cruel, the winds mock his sighs, and the cold stars watch him with a passion able inscrutable gaze.” Thus, literature is the reflection of the artists mood, not representation of objective fact.

“Literature,” says Cardinal Newman, himself a great master of style, “is the personal use or exercise of language. That this is so is proved from the fact that one author uses it so differently from another. While many use language as they find it, the man of genius uses it indeed according to his own peculiarities. The throng and succession of ideas, thoughts, feelings, imagination, speculation, which pass with him, the abstractions, the juxtapositions, the comparisons, the discriminations, the conceptions which are so original in him, his views of external things, his judgement upon life, manners and history, the exercises of his wit, of his humour, of his depth, of his sagacity, all these innumerable and incessant creations, the very production and throbbing of his intellect, does he image forth.. so that we might as well say that one man’s shadow is another’s as that style of really gifted mind can belong to any but himself. It follows about as a shadow. His thought and feelings are personal, and so his language is personal.”

The distinctive feature of style has been emphasized by various definitions. According to buffoon, style is the man himself. It is the opinion of Schopenhauer that style is the physiognomy of the soul. To quote Gosse: “Style is the medium by which the temperament is transformed to the written speech.” Gibbon’s remark is highly praiseworthy that style of man should be the image of his mind. Pope stated: “Style is the dress of thought. In other words, it is an ornament, an addition from without. Carlyle has further improved upon the statement: “Not the cont of a man, but the skin.” A French critic has beautifully expressed the style of a great novelist Balzac: “In order to know Balzac, and to judge him, we must arrange his works in the order in which they were produced.” Taken in this way, such works become for us the luminous and bright record of his craftsmanship; and we thus follow in them in various phases of his experience, the stages of his mental and moral growth, the changes undergone by his art. It is almost universally recognized that the true and the best way to study Shakespeare is to properly know and judge him and similarly to arrange his works so far as we can do. The examples of Balzac and Shakespeare will be found to hold equally good in the study of any other writer who is worth systematic study at all.

It must be borne in mind that the works of the author cannot be literally organized. We should simply keep in view vital and important factors as an expression of his genius. “Today there is some thing very much like a mania for the collection and preservation of every miscellaneous scrap which any great author allowed to remain unpublished, or perhaps threw aside as unworthy of publication; but the outcome of such indiscriminate enthusiasm has seldom any solid value. Even apart from these gleanings from the notebook and waste paper basket (which here can hardly concern us), most writers, even the greatest, leave behind them a considerable body of published work, which is either tentative and experimental, or in which they are merely echoes of themselves, repeating less effectively what they have already said in other forms, and adding nothing to the sum total of their real contribution to the world’s literature. Such secondary kind of work will always have its value for the special student intent upon the exhaustive imagination of a given author; but to begin with, we may, in the vast majority of the cases, safely disregard it.”

In order to understand the personality of the author, the comparative method may be applied. “The student of Shakespeare almost inevitably turns to Shakespeare’s greatest contemporaries to men like Marlowe, Jonson, Beaumont, Fletcher and Webster and rightly feels that by making the point at which the master resembled these other dramatists and the points in which he differed from them, he gains immeasurably in his realization of the essential qualities of Shakespeare’s genius and art. We throw; a flood bf fresh light upon Tennyson and Browning alike when we read them side by side. The fundamental features of the art of Sophocles and Euripides are brought into relief, when we pass backward and forward from one to the other. Thackery furnishes us with as illuminating commentary on Dickens and Dickens does the same service for Thackery. We have laid down the principle that in studying literature our first business is to enter into the spirit of our author, to penetrate into the vital forces of his personality. We need add no further illustration to show how the comparative method will help us to do this. The doctrine that “all higher knowledge is gained by comparison, and rests on comparison,” is as true and important in the study of literature as in the study of science.” Thus, the comparative method enables us to sharpen our impression of his personality by comparing and contrasting him with others. In other words all men must be taken into consideration, who have worked in the same field, have taken up the same subjects, have dealt with the same problems and have written under similar circumstances. These men naturally associate themselves with a particular author in our minds.

To ascertain the relation of the writer to his work, we find two diametrical apposite views. Firstly there is the subjective or the expressional view in the art. Secondly, there is the objective or the impersonal outlook in art. Both are discussed below to make a positive judgement of the book.

Literature does not grow by spontaneous action. It is the product of men and women who it out of their loves. They are real persons of flesh and blood who loved and worked and agonized as men have done in all ages. According to Rutherford,” just in proportion to the measure of individuality with which a man is gifted does his use of language mould itself. To approach style in this way is to find in it only the living product of an author’s personality but also a transparent record of his intellectual, spiritual and artistic growth.” Carefully examined it will tell us, much of his education; of the influences which went to shape and mould his nature; of the masters at whose feet he sat; and who helped him to find himself; of the books he lived with; of his intercourse with men; of the development and consolidation of his thought; of his changing outlook upon the world and its problems; of the modification of his temper and of the principles by which he governed his art in the successive stages of his career. All the factors, which combine in the making of a man will subtly play their parts in giving to his style, a well-defined individuality of form and colour; all the phases of his outer and inner experience will register themselves in it. It is the chronological study of his writings, therefore, which will become interesting to co-relate the changes undergone by his style with contemporaneous changes in his matter and thought. Even his defects of utterance, his limitation, his mannerisms will have thus their value. Matter and expression being no longer thought of part as things which have no connection or at most only an accidental one, style will become of us a real index of personality and the way in which a writer expresses himself a commentary upon what he says. The radical and extraordinary changes which occur in Shakespeare’s style during the twenty years of his dramatic activity are well know to students of literature. In the earliest play, language is sometime, as it were a dress put upon the thought, a dress ornamented with superfluous care; the idea is at times hardly sufficient to fill out the language in which it is put; in the middle plays e.g., Julius Caeser, there seems a perfect balance between the thought and its expression. In the late plays, this balance is disturbed by the preponderance or excess of ideas lover the means of utterance. The sentences are close-packed; there are rapid and abrupt turnings of thought, so quick that language can hardly follow fast enough; impatient actively of intellect and fancy, which having one disclosed an idea, cannot wait to work it orderly out.

Various critics have given their views regarding the influence of personality in apiece of art, or apiece of literature. Wordsworths, the poet has also given vent to his feelings while writing a poem. According to him; “All good poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings ……. By a man who has also thought long and deeply…….. our past feelings.” The statement has been further elaborated by him. “Poetry takes its origin from emotion recollected in tan-quality,” goes to prove the preponderance of the deep-rooted personality of the author. He further added,” Its object (poetry) is truth, not individual and local, but general and operative, not standing upon external testimony, but carried alive into the heart of the passion.”

What has been said above, goes to give testimony that style is pre-eminently the product of the author’s personality, a transparent record of his intellectual, spiritual and artistic development. It will tell us much of the influences that went to mould his nature; of the masters who helped him to find himself; of the books he lived with; of the developments of his temper and of the principles by which he governed his art in the successive stages of his career.

“It is absurd to hold that a writer, however, original or great he may be, is entirely divorced from his surroundings and age. Every writer is the product of his age and environments to a certain extent. His works are a reflection of Zeitgist, the spirit of the age. According to Flaubert, “Nothing is more feeble than to put personal feelings into a work of art. Follow this axiom out, step by step, you will see, I tell, you will see how your horizon will widen……. Once sow you own self-broadcast among them all, and your characters will live, instead of a personality everlastingly disclaiming, and not able even to keep that up thoroughly, because it is continually running short of precise details, by reason of disguises in which it traverses itself-instead of this, your works will give crowds of human beings ……... I mean to say that if you follow new line, you will soon perceive that you have suddenly gained centuries in maturity, and you will think a pitiful method to sing about yourself. That comes of now and then in a single cry, but for all the lyrical gift of say Byron, how crushingly Shakespeare sweeps him aside with his more than human true artist should manage to make posterity believe that he never exited.”

T.S. Eliot holds the progress of an artist in a continual self-sacrifice, a continual extinction of personality. It is in depersonalization that art may be said to approach the condition of science. It requires to define this process of depersonalization and its relation to the sense of tradition. To quote further from his essay, “Essay Tradition and individual Taent,” refer to his book “Wasteland and other famous Poems.”

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