Adventures in Criticism eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 236 pages of information about Adventures in Criticism.

“J.K.S.”

Of “J.K.S.,” whose second volume, Quo Musa Tendis? (Macmillan & Bowles), has just come from the press, it is fashionable to say that he follows after Calverley, at some distance.  To be sure, he himself has encouraged this belief by coming from Cambridge and writing about Cambridge, and invoking C.S.C. on the first page of his earlier volume, Lapsus Calami.  But, except that J.K.S. does his talent some violence by constraining it to imitate Calverley’s form, the two men have little in common.  The younger has a very different wit.  He is more than academical.  He thinks and feels upon subjects that were far outside Calverley’s scope.  Among the dozen themes with which he deals under the general heading of Paullo Majora Canamus, there is not one which would have interested his “master” in the least.  Calverley appears to have invited his soul after this fashion—­“Come, let us go into the King’s Parade and view the undergraduate as he walks about having no knowledge of good or evil.  Let us make a jest of the books he admires and the schools for which he is reading.”  And together they manage it excellently.  They talk Cambridge “shop” in terms of the wittiest scholarship.  But of the very existence of a world of grown-up men and women they seem to have no inkling, or, at least, no care.

The problems of J.K.S. are very much more grown-up.  You have only to read Paint and Ink (a humorous, yet quite serious, address to a painter upon the scope of his art) or After the Golden Wedding (wherein are given the soliloquies of the man and the woman who have been married for fifty years) to assure yourself that if J.K.S. be not Calverley’s equal, it is only because his mind is vexed with problems bigger than ever presented themselves to the Cambridge don.  To C.S.C., Browning was a writer of whose eccentricities of style delicious sport might be made.  J.K.S. has parodied Browning too; but he has also perpended Browning, and been moulded by him.  There are many stanzas in this small volume that, had Browning not lived, had never been written.  Take this, from a writer to a painter:—­

    “So I do dare claim to be kin with you,
       And I hold you higher than if your task
     Were doing no more than you say you do: 
       We shall live, if at all, we shall stand or fall,
     As men before whom the world doffs its mask
     And who answer the questions our fellows ask.”

Many such lines prove our writer’s emancipation from servitude to the Calverley fetish, a fetish that, I am convinced, has done harm to many young men of parts.  It is pretty, in youth, to play with style as a puppy plays with a bone, to cut teeth upon it.  But words are, after all, a poor thing without matter.  J.K.S.’s emancipation has come somewhat late; but he has depths in him which he has not sounded yet, and it is quite likely that when he sounds them he may astonish the world rather considerably.  Now, if we may interpret the last poem in his book, he is turning towards prose.  “I go,” he says—­

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Adventures in Criticism from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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