In spite of all that has been written in the twentieth century about the stream of consciousness, the idea that the author of a work of literature is trying to produce, first and foremost, something that will stand is still commonly taken for granted. When, some years ago, Walter Jackson Bate produced his study of the despair that overtook seventeenth- and eighteenth-century writers as they tried to match their powers against those of their predecessors; he chose for epigraph the lines from Dryden about those who tried to recreate the Temple:

Our Builders were, with want of Genius, curst;

The Second Temple was not like the first.2

T. S. Eliot’s pronouncement concerning the nature of tradition is well known: ‘The existing monuments form an ideal order among themselves, which is modified by the introduction of the new (the really new) work of art among them.’3 One visualizes a set of beautiful forms on a flat surface that needs to be rearranged whenever the introduction of another disturbs the existing pattern.


French Revolution Imaginative World Previous Writer Vigorous Line Literary Allusion 
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1 Flowings

  1. 1.
    W. J. Bate, The Burden of the Past and the English Poet (1971).Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    See F. R. Leavis, ‘James as Critic’ in Henry James, Selected Literary Criticism edited by M. Shapira (1963) p. 21.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    Henry James, ‘Honoré de Balzac’ (1902), in Selected Literary Criticism, edited by Morris Shapira (Harmondsworth, Mx, 1968) pp. 249, 236.Google Scholar
  4. 8.
    Preface to the New York edition (1909) of The Ambassadors Henry James, Literary Criticism: European Writers and the Prefaces (NY, 1984) p. 1305.Google Scholar
  5. 11.
    W. K. Wimsatt Jr, The Verbal Icon (1954) p. 3.Google Scholar
  6. 31.
    See Neil Hertz, ‘The Notion of Blockage in the Literature of the Sublime’ in The End of the Line (NY, 1985) pp. 40–60 and the long discussion in Leader, Writer’s Block 146–85.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© John Beer 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of CambridgeUK

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