Through Lawrence to Flaubert

  • David Gervais


Flaubert is seldom truly impersonal when he is trying to be impersonal, nor truly tragic when insisting that life is a tragedy. At such times his aspiration beyond self is perverted into a strategy for by-passing self and he surreptitiously clings to his more superficial personality. In the blind beggar episodes he even seems to be clutching at a pose. Tragic emotion emanates from within the tragic action itself and not, as Flaubert knew when he criticised Uncle Tom’s Cabin, from the attitudes the artist adopts towards it. Those parts of Flaubert’s work in which, in Lawrence’s phrase, the artist’s thumb is in the pan therefore need to be distinguished from his genuinely impersonal art.


Moral Intensity Great Book Great Tradition Burning Incense Human Solidarity 
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  1. 9.
    See Eugene Goodheart, ‘English Social Criticism and the Spirit of Reformation’, Clio V, no. 1 (1975), 73–95. He argues for seeing Lawrence in the protestant tradition of Carlyle, Ruskin and Arnold which he opposes (a little patly) to the more catholic tradition of Art for Art.Google Scholar

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© David Gervais 1978

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  • David Gervais

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