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This article is taken from PN Review 4, Volume 4 Number 4, July - September 1978.

On Leavis on Lawrence Dudley Young

F. R. LEAVIS has written another book on D. H. Lawrence, which provides an occasion for all good men to stand and be counted. The fact that both writers suffer deplorable lapses of various kinds must not allow us to evade our proper obligation to proclaim, as calmly and soberly as possible, that they are the last two-English writers big enough to try to see life steadily and whole.

Big is heroic; but as the Greek tragedians have taught us, to be big is also to be clumsy, stubborn, vain, and paranoid.

To be more specific, Lawrence and Leavis are two 'Modernists' who resisted Modernism. While the prudent men of genius were busy shattering the modern mind into such fragments as would enable it to survive the bombing of all integrities, these two held out for something wholesome. Some fifty years later, as we hobble about on the splintering crutches of our schizoid cunning, it is hard indeed to address these matters.

I do not propose to. It would be difficult enough to attempt in a book, quite ludicrous in a book review. So I shall confine myself to the texts, some aspects of literary criticism.

The first chapter of The Plumed Serpent is obscene. Twenty pages of cliché, malapropism, and appalling snobbery culminate in a nihilist nightmare, in which Nature succumbs to the pollutions of Culture, and a bull rapes a horse in the belly with his horns. It's so ...


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