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

On C. M. Doughty Laura (Riding) Jackson


NOT very long ago, Charles M. Doughty was, for the general reading public, almost unknown, and, where known, known for his single non-poetic work, Travels In Arabia Deserta. Not very long ago, he was known to those having a special acquaintance with modern poetry as a poet who posed a difficult problem in being not otherwise classifiable than as a 'modern' poet. His poetic writing was characteristically modern in temper in the management of its diction. He wrote, that is, with an insistent personal hold on his words: 'modern' poets have the mark on them of a will, or of a recognition of a spirit of the times pressing upon them the adoption of a will, to put themselves in direct charge of their writing, be their own masters. (However, a good deal of free borrowing has gone on among them from the poetic mastery of past poets, as a prerogative of authorial independence-Pound, Eliot, master examples of this.)

Doughty looked to a few figures in the broad human scene of poetry - Homer, Chaucer, Spenser, among the most prized - as master-poets, models of service of poetry's highest ends. But these admirations had in them no element of literarily strategical appropriation. Chaucer, Doughty praised for 'a justness and directness . . . which touches men's hearts'. Spenser was the dearest to him of all. His mode of word-use has much in common with Spenser's. Yet Doughty was his own master in his every ...

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