James’s Reading of Madame Bovary

  • David Gervais


Flaubert’s novel has perplexed and rankled the Anglo-Saxon sensi­bility too much for one to pretend that there is any real consensus in this country as to its greatness. No other French novel has given us so apt a cue for defining the very different virtues of our own tradition; none has evoked in us such deeply-felt resistance. Our praise of Flaubert has been invariably double-edged, our criticisms of him have often been conducted as declarations of faith. It seems at times as if he had been more debated here than read. This holds for his friends as well as his enemies. When Pound and Eliot used him as a whip with which to chastise the artistic immaturity of the English they were, in a way, as guilty of making Flaubert subserve their own critical battles as is Dr Leavis in those stern asides which offer him up on the altar of the ‘great tradition’. What is there to choose between making Flaubert a war-cry or a bête noire? Yet when the English critic of Flaubert comes up against this kind of road-block it hardly helps him if he tries to by-pass it. To by-pass Pound, Eliot, Leavis — perhaps Arnold, James and Lawrence too — is to by-pass part of one’s own thought about literature. What seems like a detour is really the most direct route into the subject.


Inherent Dignity Hundredth Part Ordinary Child Imaginative Person Small Scene 
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  1. 1.
    See Georges-Paul Collet, George Moore et la France (1957)Google Scholar
  2. Walter Ferguson, The Influence of Flaubert on George Moore (Philadelphia, 1934)Google Scholar
  3. W. C. Frierson, L’Influence du Naturalisme Français sur les Romanciers Anglais (1925)Google Scholar
  4. Mary Neale, Flaubert en Angleterre: Etude sur les Lecteurs Anglais de Flaubert (Bordeaux, 1966 ).Google Scholar

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© David Gervais 1978

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  • David Gervais

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