Literary Englands: Versions of 'Englishness' in Modern by David Gervais

By David Gervais

In our time Englishness has develop into a topic for hypothesis instead of dogma; twentieth-century writers have stumbled on it an elusive and ambivalent notion, a cue for nostalgia or for a feeling of exile and loss. Literary Englands meditates on smooth meanings of Englishness and explores many of the ways that a feeling of nationality has educated and formed the paintings of a number of writers together with Edward Thomas, Forster and Lawrence, Leavis and George Sturt, Orwell and Evelyn Waugh, Betjeman, Larkin and Geoffrey Hill.

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Henley than Wordsworth or Blake. It strains for effects which, to them, came spontaneously. To enter Thomas's real England, this 32 Literary Englands public one must be left behind from the start. To him, the thought of England was a lonelier thought than it was to Coleridge and, perhaps for that reason, a less awesome one. Wordsworth was writing in a tradition of verse about England that went back to Spenser, Dray ton and the Shakespeare of the Histories, through Milton to Dryden and Pope, a tradition spacious enough to include minority views without becoming sectarian.

Unlike the Forster of Howards End, he knew that it wasn't enough to write 'England' with a plangent cadence for England itself to be conjured up. 5 Such continuities, which it has taken fifty years to recognise, seem more like wishful thinking than traditions. Thomas knew that to express his England meant finding an English speech of his own, something the modern world hardly seemed to offer him. In an age of slogans, when so many of the poet's words had been stolen by rhetoricians, the cupboard was bound to look alarmingly bare.

Everything in England strikes Searle, the 'pilgrim', as hauntingly familiar, even the inn where he first stays, which comes straight out The nineteenth century 23 of Dickens and Smollett and Boswell and which he has seen ' in dreams' years before. Here is the narrator's response to 'the little village of Hampton Court': Just the scene around me was the England of my visions. Over against us, amid the deepening bloom of its ordered garden, the dark red palace, with its formal copings and its vacant windows, seemed to tell of a proud and splendid past; the little village nestling between park and palace, around a patch of turfy common, with its tavern of gentility, its ivy-towered church, its parsonage, retained to my modernised fancy the lurking semblance of a feudal hamlet.

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