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This article is taken from PN Review 15, Volume 7 Number 1, September - October 1980.

Introduction 'Notes for a Book Beginning August 1943. Argument.' Richard Read

Stokes did not intend to publish the following notes. They are a self-communion in preparation for the autobiographies Inside Out (1947) and Smooth and Rough (1951), and for the aesthetic philosophy expounded in the late essay 'The Image in Form' (1966). The 'spade work' at the beginning of the notes betrays the author's occupation of the day: he was 'Stokes the Vegetable Man', running a market-gardening concern at Carbis Bay for the war effort. It is as if confinement to English soil after years in Italy (a hostile country now) enabled the rejuvenation of early intellectual interests. Hence his lucid phenomenology of recall points back to reading Proust (whose evocation of 'le sifflement des trains' in the first paragraph of A la recherche du temps perdu is echoed in Stokes's 'hoot of the train'); the ensuing speculation picks up F. H. Bradley's theory of 'identity in differences', a persistent influence on nearly all his work, while the concluding sentences can be compared with Freud's account of artistic satisfaction in Civilization and its Discontents: 'satisfaction is obtained from illusions, which are recognized as such without the discrepancy between them and reality being allowed to interfere with enjoyment'.

These notes show more starkly than is the case in Stokes's published work the characteristic progressions of his mind from personal experience to art and from art to theory. Perhaps behind this implicit rejection of narrow aesthetic attitudes (a rejection that prevents us from drawing obvious parallels between Stokes's ideas and ...


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