Victor Hugo in the light of English criticism and opinion during the nineteenth century
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in the follovina pages I have set out to discover what English critics of the nineteenth century thought of the works of Victor Hugo* It has not been my intention to study the extent to which the general public of the period were acquainted with his works either directly or through the medium of translations but to confine myself to an enquiry into the reactions of the more cultivated minds of the century to the writings of the great Frenchman. Indeed it would be futile to consider the influence of the works of Hugo on the English public generally, during the nineteenth century for they had none. The Poetical works were in many cases not made available to them until years after their original publications and even then only a small minority would be able to read them. There were some translations of the poems, e.g. Reynold's "Songs of Twilight" ("Les Chants du Crepuscule") but the translations were Inevitably but a poor shadow of the original. There were several adaptations of the plays but as I have shown in a previous thesis "Victor Hugo on the English Stage, most of them bore little resemblance except in plot to the original work., In rmany cases the public did not even know nor were they always told, that the piece was founded on a drama by Hugo. The novels, of course were much more widely read by the general public and numerous translations were made, but in most instances English versions were reduced to an exalting story the ethical and Sociological purpose of the work being forgotten The works of Hugo were however read and studied by a large number of eminent English critics of the nineteenth century, Numerous quotations will be found from the articles of such men as H. Southerns, G. Moir, G.H. Lewes, J.H. McCarthy, G. Colvin A.C. Swinburne, E*Dowden, J.Morley R. L. Stevenson, Roden Noel, F.W.H. Myers, Matthew Arnold, W.H. Pollock, G. SaInts bury,, C Vaughan, W. E. Henley Mrs Oliphant,, G. B Smith, J. Cappon,, P.T. Marzials, R. Buchanan, J. Forster and J. P. Nichol. These men among others made a definite attempt to evaluate the works of Hugo, and their opinions are worth studying as giving a clue to 'the attitude adopted by the more enlightened. literary minds of the century towards the work of Hugo This I have attempted to do, and in doing It Ihave incorporated into the text the exact words of the critics in the form of quotations in the belief that this is the best way of presenting a true and clear picture of English opinions of Hug's works during the period under survey. In the Preface to her book "English opinions of French Poets (1660,. 1750)" in which she sets out to do in a general way for the late seventeen and early eighteenth centuries what I have tried to do in a more particular way for the nineteenth. Miss R.H H Wollstein writes as follows: It is the judgment of this time that is the subject of our study and the Individual opinions that form it must be left to speak for themselves, I have therefore collected such opinions as are Important for our purpose*" This seems to me to be the most scientific method in dealing with the subject, and absolves the writer from any possible charge of tampering with the evidence. In order to make the narrative more continuous and to avoid breaks in the thread of the argument It ls sometimes tempting to state ones conclusions and to leave the reader to sift the evidence for himself. I have sedulously avoided doing this In the belief that in a work of this kind accuracy Is of the utmost importance* The method I have adopted in treating the subject Is to take each of the works of Hugo, poetry, drama, novels, miscellaneous prose works, and to study the reactions of the critics to each separate work drawing together in a final chapter the conclusions to which these separate studies have brought me. In presenting the material I have usually preferred to study each facet of the problem in turn stating one side of the case before proceeding to a consideration of the other. I have thus brought together all the unfavourable criticism of a work before presenting the favourable criticisms. In this way I believe a better picture can be drawn of the general reactions. to the works. In the case of the smaller works where the amount of evidence is restricted, I have sometimes used the chronological method as being the most satisfactory. As the present work purports to be a study of Hugo in the light of English criticism and opinion I have taken no account of the many French critics who during the nineteenth century, contributed articles on Hugo to English journals. One of tha first Critics to introduce Hugo to the English was Stendhal in the "London and "New Monthly' magazines. Other French critics whose names will not be found in the present survey are Gabriel Honods Jules Janin, D. Nisards, Camille Barrero, H. Ceard, Paul Bourget Their opinions are Interesting especially those of Stendhal who gave Hugo a very unfavourable start in England, but do not fall within the scope of the present works
AuthorsBowley, Victor E.A.
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