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This article is taken from PN Review 35, Volume 10 Number 3, January - February 1984.

Adrian Stokes Revisited Donald Davie

FIFTY years ago, when Pound in The Criterion applauded Adrian Stokes's The Quattro Cento, he exclaimed: 'It is almost incomprehensible that any man can have as great a concern for the shapes and meanings of stone beauty as Stokes has, without its forcing him to take the tools in his hands. In fact one can only suppose that he in some way regards himself as the forerunner of some sort of sculptural amelioration, or at any rate is trying to clear up incomprehensions and to distinguish between pure and mixed sculptural values.' The comment is endearingly characteristic of Pound, who could never make a distinction, nor endorse one made by someone else, without at once doing something about it, taking the tools in his hands. But the reflection is a natural one, all the same: if Stokes wasn't himself going to sculpt (as he wasn't), and if he didn't want principally to clean up messy notions about sculpture and also architecture (as it soon appeared that he didn't), then what was his concern in The Quattro Cento (1932), Stones of Rimini (1934), and Colour and Form (1937)?

It was only incidentally the concern of a judicious historian, distinguishing in a given period the positive or healthful tendency from others that were dubious. And it was not the concern of a critic, if by 'critic' we understand (with a humility nowadays hardly met with) someone who discriminates among pleasures so as to sharpen them for himself and others. ...


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