An Essay on Comedy and the Uses of the Comic Spirit

Archibald Constable and Company
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Publisher
Archibald Constable and Company
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Published on
Dec 31, 1897
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Pages
105
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Language
English
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This content is DRM free.
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The last of the great Victorian novelists, George Meredith was also a celebrated poet and a distinguished critic. This comprehensive eBook presents the complete works of George Meredith, with numerous illustrations, rare texts appearing in digital print for the first time, informative introductions and the usual Delphi bonus material. (Version 1)

* Beautifully illustrated with images relating to Meredith's life and works
* Concise introductions to the novels and other texts
* ALL 20 novels, with individual contents tables
* Images of how the books were first printed, giving your eReader a taste of the original Victorian texts
* Excellent formatting of the texts
* Special chronological and alphabetical contents tables for the poetry
* Easily locate the poems you want to read
* Includes rare essay collections appearing here for the first time in digital publishing
* Special criticism section, with 12 essays evaluating Meredith’s contribution to literature
* Features the celebrated biography on Meredith by Constantin Photiadès: GEORGE MEREDITH: HIS LIFE, GENIUS AND TEACHING, available in no other collection - discover Meredith's literary life
* Scholarly ordering of texts into chronological order and literary genres

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CONTENTS:

The Novels
THE SHAVING OF SHAGPAT
FARINA
THE ORDEAL OF RICHARD FEVEREL
EVAN HARRINGTON
EMILIA IN ENGLAND
RHODA FLEMING
VITTORIA
THE ADVENTURES OF HARRY RICHMOND
BEAUCHAMP’S CAREER
THE HOUSE ON THE BEACH
THE CASE OF GENERAL OPLE AND LADY CAMPER
THE TALE OF CHLOE
THE EGOIST
THE TRAGIC COMEDIANS
DIANA OF THE CROSSWAYS
ONE OF OUR CONQUERORS
LORD ORMONT AND HIS AMINTA
THE AMAZING MARRIAGE
CELT AND SAXON
THE GENTLEMAN OF FIFTY AND THE DAMSEL OF NINETEEN

The Play
THE SENTIMENTALISTS

The Poetry
INTRODUCTION TO THE POETRY OF GEORGE MEREDITH
LIST OF POEMS IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER
LIST OF POEMS IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER

The Essays
ESSAY ON COMEDY
MISCELLANEOUS ESSAYS
UP TO MIDNIGHT

The Criticism
THE QUALITY OF GEORGE MEREDITH by Oscar Wilde
MEREDITH by Arnold Bennett
THE NOVELS OF GEORGE MEREDITH by Virginia Woolf
ON REREADING MEREDITH by Virginia Woolf
GEORGE MEREDITH by Robert Lynd
TWO LETTERS by Robert Louis Stevenson
GEORGE MEREDITH AS A POET by Arthur Symons
ABOUT MEREDITH by G. K. Chesterton
GEORGE MEREDITH by James Joyce
HARDY AND MEREDITH by Richard Burton
GEORGE MEREDITH by W. E. Henley
LIVING MASTERS: MEREDITH AND HALL CAINE by David Christie Murray

The Biography
GEORGE MEREDITH: HIS LIFE, GENIUS AND TEACHING by Constantin Photiadès

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In the presence of that world, so different to him now, he preserved his wonted demeanour, and made his features a flexible mask. Mrs. Doria Forey, his widowed sister, said that Austin might have retired from his Parliamentary career for a time, and given up gaieties and that kind of thing; her opinion, founded on observation of him in public and private, was, that the light thing who had taken flight was but a feather on her brother's Feverel-heart, and his ordinary course of life would be resumed. There are times when common men cannot bear the weight of just so much. HippiasFeverel, one of his brothers, thought him immensely improved by his misfortune, if the loss of such a person could be so designated; and seeing that Hippias received in consequence free quarters at Raynham, and possession of the wing of the Abbey she had inhabited, it is profitable to know his thoughts. If the baronet had given two or three blazing dinners in the great hall he would have deceived people generally, as he did his relatives and intimates. He was too sick for that: fit only for passive acting.
The nurse-maid waking in the night beheld a solitary figure darkening a lamp above her little sleeping charge, and became so used to the sight as never to wake with a start. One night she was strangely aroused by a sound of sobbing. The baronet stood beside the cot in his long black cloak and travelling cap. His fingers shaded a lamp, and reddened against the fitful darkness that ever and anon went leaping up the wall. She could hardly believe her senses to see the austere gentleman, dead silent, dropping tear upon tear before her eyes. She lay stone-still in a trance of terror and mournfulness, mechanically counting the tears as they fell, one by one. The hidden face, the fall and flash of those heavy drops in the light of the lamp he held, the upright, awful figure, agitated at regular intervals like a piece of clockwork by the low murderous catch of his breath: it was so piteous to her poor human nature that her heart began wildly palpitating. Involuntarily the poor girl cried out to him, "Oh, sir!" and fell a-weeping. Sir Austin turned the lamp on her pillow, and harshly bade her go to sleep, striding from the room forthwith. He dismissed her with a purse the next day.
Once, when he was seven years old, the little fellow woke up at night to see a lady bending over him. He talked of this the next day, but it was treated as a dream; until in the course of the day his uncle Algernon was driven home from Lobourne cricket-ground with a broken leg. Then it was recollected that there was a family ghost; and, though no member of the family believed in the ghost, none would have given up a circumstance that testified to its existence; for to possess a ghost is a distinction above titles.
On a more intimate acquaintance with the couple, you acknowledge the aptness of the fine distinction. By birth Mrs. Harrington had claims to rank as a gentlewoman. That is, her father was a lawyer of Lymport. The lawyer, however, since we must descend the genealogical tree, was known to have married his cook, who was the lady's mother. Now Mr. Melchisedec was mysterious concerning his origin; and, in his cups, talked largely and wisely of a great Welsh family, issuing from a line of princes; and it is certain that he knew enough of their history to have instructed them on particular points of it. He never could think that his wife had done him any honour in espousing him; nor was she the woman to tell him so. She had married him for love, rejecting various suitors, Squire Uplift among them, in his favour. Subsequently she had committed the profound connubial error of transferring her affections, or her thoughts, from him to his business, which, indeed, was much in want of a mate; and while he squandered the guineas, she patiently picked up the pence. They had not lived unhappily. He was constantly courteous to her. But to see the Port at that sordid work considerably ruffled the Presence—put, as it were, the peculiar division between them; and to behave toward her as the same woman who had attracted his youthful ardours was a task for his magnificent mind, and may have ranked with him as an indemnity for his general conduct, if his reflections ever stretched so far. The townspeople of Lymport were correct in saying that his wife, and his wife alone, had, as they termed it, kept him together. Nevertheless, now that he was dead, and could no longer be kept together, they entirely forgot their respect for her, in the outburst of their secret admiration for the popular man. Such is the constitution of the inhabitants of this dear Island of Britain, so falsely accused by the Great Napoleon of being a nation of shopkeepers. Here let any one proclaim himself Above Buttons, and act on the assumption, his fellows with one accord hoist him on their heads, and bear him aloft, sweating, and groaning, and cursing, but proud of him! And if he can contrive, or has any good wife at home to help him, to die without going to the dogs, they are, one may say, unanimous in crying out the same eulogistic funeral oration as that commenced by Kilne, the publican, when he was interrupted by Barnes, the butcher, 'Now, there's a man!—'
Mrs. Harrington was sitting in her parlour with one of her married nieces, Mrs. Fiske, and on reading Lady Racial's card she gave word for her to be shown up into the drawing-room. It was customary among Mrs. Harrington's female relatives, who one and all abused and adored the great Mel, to attribute his shortcomings pointedly to the ladies; which was as much as if their jealous generous hearts had said that he was sinful, but that it was not his fault. Mrs. Fiske caught the card from her aunt, read the superscription, and exclaimed: 'The idea! At least she might have had the decency! She never set her foot in the house before—and right enough too! What can she want now? I decidedly would refuse to see her, aunt!'
Good Comedies are such rare productions, that notwithstanding the wealth of our literature in the Comic element, it would not occupy us long to run over the English list. If they are brought to the test I shall propose, very reputable Comedies will be found unworthy of their station, like the ladies of ArthurÕs Court when they were reduced to the ordeal of the mantle.
There are plain reasons why the Comic poet is not a frequent apparition; and why the great Comic poet remains without a fellow. A society of cultivated men and women is required, wherein ideas are current and the perceptions quick, that he may be supplied with matter and an audience. The semi-barbarism of merely giddy communities, and feverish emotional periods, repel him; and also a state of marked social inequality of the sexes; nor can he whose business is to address the mind be understood where there is not a moderate degree of intellectual activity.
Moreover, to touch and kindle the mind through laughter, demands more than sprightliness, a most subtle delicacy. That must be a natal gift in the Comic poet. The substance he deals with will show him a startling exhibition of the dyerÕs hand, if he is without it. People are ready to surrender themselves to witty thumps on the back, breast, and sides; all except the head: and it is there that he aims. He must be subtle to penetrate. A corresponding acuteness must exist to welcome him. The necessity for the two conditions will explain how it is that we count him during centuries in the singular number.
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