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This review is taken from PN Review 14, Volume 6 Number 6, July - August 1980.

ROBERT BRIDGES Donald E. Stanford, In the Classic Mode: The Achievement of Robert Bridges (University of Delaware Press, Newark/Associated University Presses, London) £12.50

The "case" of Robert Bridges at the present time is rather problematical. Most contemporary English poets who in the least feel inclined to connect themselves with a tradition have gone to Thomas Hardy as the more authentic voice to imitate. In the process they have either ignored or rejected Bridges as artificial and too aristocratically aloof from the "common life" that in one way or another provides the subject matter of most contemporary poems. (At first it was Hopkins, but now it seems increasingly to be Hardy whom he is unfavorably linked with.) In the minds of most of them Bridges is seen, if seen at all, as a sort of "imperialist", as, finally, an apologist for his own social class, those men of the late 19th century who, Susan Sontag informs us, "founded industrial empires, wrote hundreds of novels, made wars, and plundered continents." This, I think, is unfair to the man, but there is the question, closely related to class, of a self-sufficiency that often borders on smugness. That he could and did read Homer effortlessly, but wouldn't, for instance, Baudelaire, indicates not only, I suspect, a social inflexibility-he was a gentleman in life and literature-but also a certain intellectual, artistic insularity that is too comfortable with itself for our more catholic tastes and our greater, though sometimes questionable, talents for assimilation. There are times when he reminds one of nobody more readily than, say, a Shelley who played football at Oxford instead of writing "The Necessity ...


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