The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
VOLUME XVI. Early National Literature, Part II; Later National Literature, Part I.

IV. The New South: Lanier

§ 29. The English Novel

The same want of the perspective and balance that come from broad and profound knowledge characterizes his lectures on The English Novel. His effort to trace the conception of personality from the time of the Greeks was a perilous undertaking for one who knew so little of Greek life and was so little acquainted with the sociological implications of any such investigation. The limitations of his upbringing also militated against success. The strict Presbyterian training of his childhood as well as an inherent moral bias conspired to give him a strongly ethical view of literature:

  • Indeed, we may say that he who has not yet perceived how artistic beauty and moral beauty are convergent lines which run back into a common ideal origin, and who is therefore not afire with moral beauty just as with artistic beauty; that he, in short, who has not come to that state of quiet and eternal frenzy in which the beauty of holiness and the holiness of beauty mean one thing, burn as one fire, shine as one light within him, he is not the great artist.
  • Consequently he fervently wished that the novels of Fielding and Richardson might be “blotted from the face of the earth.” Consequently, too, “in some particulars Silas Marner is the most remarkable novel in our language,” and its author the greatest of English novelists. The preachments in which he again reminds one of Ruskin are the most interesting portions, because in them the man Lanier shines out and his cherished and innate convictions lie bare.