Essays

Essays

The recent debate concerning the effects of a loss of credibility for the nonsensical theories of Charles Darwin has its ramifications for  literature, too.

 

Darwin, it is true,  had been struck by the far-reaching changes which plants and animals had undergone in the course of human domestication. By studying the establishment of those artificial breeds, he had succeeded in identifying the principles of evolution and directed them into scientific and theoretical channels.

 

Although Darwin's theory of evolution has proved to be correct with regard to the relatively insignificant phenomenon of speciation, its larger claim to account for the relationship between the classes and orders, leave alone the origin of life,  now rests, many would contend, on very insecure scientific premises indeed.

 

More and more of his theories, such as the linking of birds and reptiles, are coming to seem increasingly like the fantasies of Wells and Huxley rather than serious estimates of what occurred the beginning of life on earth.

 

However.  as a result of this scientific position, it was no accident that in the Victorian fiction of  adventure the predominance of the right wing values of the survival of the fittest of Social Darwinism and the Nietzschean idea of Pure Will meant that a literary form so congenial to the Tory imagination degenerated into an abuse of the form of romance fiction, Rider Haggard compounded his Social Darwinian ideas with a sense of Fatalism.  His adventurers are thus not so much born to lead as are followers of their destiny.

 

His fatalistic ideas may have been acquired in Fast Africa where the religions of the East with their pronounced fatalism abounded, or he may have had s sense of the moral duty  of the English to build an Empire, which was endemic in the thought processes of Englishmen of his class and background.

 

Readers may be interested to know that there exist a couple of books which take the Darwin myth to pieces: they are Michael Denton, Evolution A Theory in Crisis (London, 1985)  and Richard Milton,  The Facts of  Life: Shattering the Myths of Darwinism  (London, l992)
 

Geoffrey Clarke




CO PARTNERSHIP

Co-partnership and an alternative writing of chapters were the hallmark of the balance of elemental forces which worked between Haggard and another of his collaborators, Andrew Lang. ®

Apart from their collaboration on The World's Desire, the two writers had been in correspondence with each other since the date of the publication of The Witch's Head when, in a postscript, Lang recorded: "I am glad to take this opportunity of thanking you for the great pleasure The Witch's Head has given me. I have not read anything so good for a long time".(43) Haggard also advised Lang over the writing of the story, Old Friends,(1890)(44) for Lang writes to ask such questions as: "Doesn't my fairy tale need a more vivacious beginning, and what about Alphonso and Enrico?"(45)

Haggard and Lang were tramping along the "leagues of long Academy", as Haggard described them in a letter dated the 30th April, 1920, while they discussed the merits of the works of art on display:

Today I have been to the private view of the Royal Academy. The pictures seem much the same as they were five and thirty years ago when I used to look at them with Andrew Lang, trudging through the identical `leagues of long Academy' as he called them.(46)

In an inspiring, artistic atmosphere, with collaboration in mind, and the finery of the paintingsart on display, Haggard and Lang live the emotionally heightened life of a literary coterie. A pair of men imbued with an artistic talent in a homophobic, patriarchal and intensely energised artistic metropolis could indulge in reverie and nostalgia for a past more harmonious and sympathetic to the artistry which they had forged.

Upon the publication of King Solomon's Mines, Lang read the manuscript draft of the novel, and on its publication date he wrote to Haggard acknowledging receipt of his reviewer's copy. The review in the Saturday Review (47) was highly complimentary, excessively too much so, it might be said, for an ordinary literary review which is usually hard hitting and not given to extravagant praise. The act of examining his proofs was one on which Lang could obtain assistance from Haggard. A letter from Lang dated June 2nd, asking if his work could be padded out, stated: "I send you five chapters of my romance." Lang requested Haggard to send the work on to the publishers rather than return it to him, if it was satisfactory, perhaps hoping for the assumed cachet of its provenance from Haggard's address: "Can I get any more flesh on the dry bones?"(48) he asks.

In a further revelatory instance of their co-operation, Lang wrote to Haggard informing him that he had incorporated some of his (Haggard's) ideas into the text, and asked for further assistance, "I've worked in your dodge in my fairy tale; it's no more an extravaganza than anything you like...Could you read it when typewritten?"(49) suggesting that Haggard's rather than Lang's ideas and plot preferences were being incorporated into the material by Lang. Haggard appears as leader, and the writing continues in stages, with Lang accepting Haggard's leadership as a model object.

Lang wrote to his collaborator: " You have been more to me of what the dear friends of my youth were than any other man, and I take the chance to say it, though not given to speak of such matters."(50) The inability to speak may have stemmed from the paternalist and homophobic atmosphere with which they were continually struggling to be able to circumvent. The cultural 'take' on homosexuality towards the end of the nineteenth century was that a recognisably "modern" male homosexual identity was emerging. There was an awareness that not only that attitudes towards same-sex activity had varied but that the social and subjective understandings of homosexuality have been culturally specific. There was, according to Jeffrey Weeks, an ambivalence and an ambiguity towards homosexuality in the 1880s and 1890s and yet, he says, it was possible for a homosexual man to continue to live a successful homosexual life within the limitations of the wider society in which he found himself.(51) The writers were able to carry on these correspondences, engage in writing sessions, meet and talk and publish their work in collaboration openly at such a time whilst the texts themselves prevaricate over, perform a duplicitous action in, and yet, nevertheless tentatively allow, the production of a sexualised fiction.

Haggard echoed the sentiments which Lang had expressed, writing that Lang was "among men my best friend, perhaps, and the one with whom I was most entirely in tune."(52) Here again there exists a text showing the close ties between Haggard and Lang and the remarks, whilst conventional enough, suggestexpress the existence of a more strongly felt homosocial bonding between them than had hitherto been the case amongst writers in the late Victorian period.

For Edward Carpenter the preponderance of sexual desire towards someone of the same sex, which he terms "sexual inversion", is in a great number of cases quite instinctual and congenital mentally and physically and is, therefore, he says, "twined in the very roots of individual life and practically ineradicable."(53) Carpenter speaking of a love he terms "homogenic" believes that:

it is, as said, so deeply rooted and twined with the mental and emotional life that the person concerned has difficulty in imagining himself affected otherwise than he is; and to him at least the homogenic love appears healthy and natural and necessary to the concretion of his individuality.(54)

Carpenter says that physical love whether between a man and a man or between a woman and a woman cannot find expression so freely or so perfectly as in ordinary heterosexual love, and that there is a natural tendency for homosexual love to take the form of a more emotional kind. This is why he thinks that this latter kind of love has inspired such a great deal of heroism and romance and is only paralleled in this respect by the loves of Chivalry, which he emphasises, were subject, owing to their special nature, to similar transmutation, as were Platonic ideals of love.(55) In relation to Lang and Haggard's love it underlines why they spent a long period in the composition of a work about courtly love entitled The World's Desire.

A theory within which sexuality would be idealised and which stressed the solid groundwork of natural laws was devised by Havelock Ellis. He emphasised the spiritual and social importance of sex. In his illuminating work The Psychology of Sex(56) he gave two reasons why sex should not be considered as commonplace. First, he said, "it is not merely the channel along which the race is maintained and built up, it is the foundation on which all dreams of the future world must be erected." And second he argued that: "amid the sterilizing tendencies of our life the impulse of sex still remains unimpaired however concealed or despised". Quoting Otto Rank, he maintained that sex was a last emotional resource and was the key to a fulfilling life.(57) Many of his beliefs were forward thinking in the importance of female sexuality and the relative harmlessness of homosexuality and other sexual variations. This underlines why, I shall argue, Haggard and Lang undertook the interactions which they did, and how the emotional homosocial collaborations in which they took part can be seen as fundamental and natural, and conducive to the continuation of dual literary production.

The carefully coded and "amusing emanation of the gay mind",(58) as Lancelyn Green puts it, can be seen no clearer than in the spoof of She which Lang sent in a letter to "Hyder Ragged" entitled "Twosh": a clearly homophile piece:

Not `mid the scamps who swagger in the Strand

The siren-haunted concert and saloon,

Mysterious Twosh, thou takest oft a hand

At double-dummy with some wandering "coon"!

Not there doth Noegood with Fullarder spoon,

Wrapped in wild music of some brazen band;

Nay, these proceedings are not opportune,

But such as the Police would scarcely stand!

Nay, not in Kork ("barred" is the sacred "spot"

Where western waves upon Hibernia wash,)

But wheresoever merriment is got

By sportive souls that have a taste for bosh,

And Sporting Times's cheer the lonely lot;

There (and well worth a shilling), there is TWOSH!(59)

Here the sexual coding is barely disguised, and a doubling of meaning mirrors the doubled nature of the text of She. There is a clear indication in this sonnet of Lang’s of the haunts of pimps and prostitutes such as the Strand of those days, and there is more than a hint given that the police would not be amused at such activities. What are the "proceedings" to which the author refers? Indeed, it may be asked why they are not “opportune.” It was perhaps inopportune to mention sex in a late Victorian time not yet given to the open display of sexual peccadilloes. Perhaps in turn they are inopportunely mentioned by the parodist, Lang, for the joint authors were exposed by such revelations which laid open the collaborators to unspecified yet presumably civil law charges.

Although there is a certain affectation of innocence throughout, there is an attempt at titillation in the poem where an indeterminate meaning may also carry an expressly sexual one. My argument is that, given the accretion of idiosyncracies and the frequent use of imagery open to sexual interpretation such as “scamps”, “siren”, “coon”, “Noegood”, “Fullarder”, “double-dummy”, “spoon”, “wild”, “brazen”, “sportive souls”, “taste for bosh” and “lonely”, then it is possible to read this discourse as homocentric. The text sets itself up as a series of puzzles or riddles which must be deciphered. Whilst the overt meaning may well be references to what were then contemporary ephemera, the covert meaning of these terms may be read as sexual references such as to “spoon” meaning “to make love by caressing, kissing, and talking amorously” (Encyclopaedia Britannica, Dictionary). “Noegood”, although probably a contemporary reference perhaps to a name like Nosworthy, implies also Nogood in a moral sense as in, for example, Dylan Thomas’s “Nogoodboyo”, the great philanderer.(60) “Fullarder“, beyond the surface meaning of an object such as a silk handkerchief [Fr.foulard], suggests as well full hard, Everard, [ever ‘ard, hence ever hard] or foolhardier. “Double-dummy” refers to something perhaps more than just the obvious hand at cards, such as repeated duplicity - the duplicity in which Lang and Haggard are involved textually. And the term “sportive souls” may also mean, as well as active and joyous people, people out for sport, if “sport” can be held to suggest the sport of seeking collaborative partners. Although the reference to ‘Kork’ is undoubtedly to the caves of Kôr, (which glosses as cor!, coeur, or core) in She, the discourse is patently full of sexual innuendo aimed at raising the question of sexuality while all the time obfuscating it.

There is, I argue, over and above the ostensible meaning, a clear indication in this discourse of an attempt at titillation where sexual references which contain a double meaning are included in double authored texts. The tenor of the piece is of raw sexual behaviour and corrupt manners, and it allows for a homosocial reading. These letters are powerfully pushing such terms towards a sexual meaning which they did not at the time perhaps altogether have, that is, the writers discussed in the chapter are re-writing them in our modern homoerotic understanding. Their encrypted meaning in which sexuality is both justified and condemned is capable of uncoding if a modern hermeneutics is applied. I have been wrestling with meanings here trying to engage them with a modern sexualised sense whilst attempting to let them run free of their assumed or, indeed, “given” meaning to evanesce into what were meant or half-intended by their collaborative inventors. Although a parody, and indeed parody can serve as a means of hinting and suggestion, the suggestive “Twosh” sent to the person with the not too difficult name to unravel - “Hyder Ragged” - by his collaborator Lang, has all the hallmarks of an effervescent piece of late Victorian flirtation, which Lancelyn Green, with his usual perspicacity, seemed to recognise.(61)

The correspondence between Haggard and Lang continued over the period of more than a year. Lang and Haggard made gestures of support to each other in numerous letters. Lang's widow destroyed her late husband's correspondence with such "heart-rending completeness" that, according to Lang's biographer, Roger L. Green, "she used to complain that her wrists ached for weeks and weeks after tearing up Andrew's papers"(62) The energy which drove this tormented activity may have derived from an all-encompassing jealousy of her husband’s collaborator. Before he died, Lang had asked his wife, Leonora Blanche Alleyne, who had written most of Lang's Fairy Books, without accreditation being given to her by Lang, to give Haggard a sign of matrimony - a ring, which was to wed them in literary togetherness and Haggard is pictured in plate photographs of the period wearing the Egyptian ring of Queen Tara which Lang had given him.(63) In S. H. Butcher and A. Lang's collaborative work Homer: The Odyssey of Homer. Done into English Prose (1879) there is a Preface, in what is undoubtedly Lang's style, in which he refers to "the ring - givers", an epithet from Homer.(64) This implies the ring means at least an engagement, some form of attachment, or encircling themselves in the same canon.

Haggard tried to obtain Lang's help for further ventures in co-authorship. Lang's reply, partly in French, was to be in the negative:

Faire des objections c'est collaborer, but I don't think I could do more. Had I any ideas of Kôr long ago? She, I think, is not easily raised.(65)

"To make objections is collaborating" is a revealing comment which could be applied to many of the relationships between the authors in this dissertation, and confirms long held ideas in literary and psychological research that apparent contradictions and disagreements between writers who work jointly at a labour of literary production mask a greater intensity of positive feeling than is often displayed in the writing itself. The act of objecting in strong terms is an indication of the emphasis that the writer really places on the importance to him of his male collaborative partner, though it may not be [but as we see, often is] evident in the textual material. Collaboration often results in the acting out of strong feelings towards a writing partner where the emotions of jealousy, rage, anger and also concern for one's own ascendancy are to the fore. The contention that the collaboration between these authors was unencumbered by emotion and without objection is not a straightforward one, but, on the other hand, there were many moments of obvious accord shown in their discourse.

Apart from the help which Haggard received from Lang in his drafting of She, Lang advised Haggard on his defence of the novel from the attacks in the press. On the construction which went into the writing of She, Lang advised Haggard to "Screw it a little tighter, and I think it is undeniably an artistic piece of work. ... I'd like if you don't mind to read over the early part with you..."(66)

We have examined in Chapter 2 Lang and Haggard's co-operation over the dreamlike adventure novel, The World's Desire, and it would appear evident that their period of intensive collaboration resulted in their own worldly desires coming true upon the publication of the work in 1890. The World's Desire lifted Haggard and Lang on to a plain of co-operation which no other writing team in this survey had reached. Haggard wrote to Lang in 1907 recalling:

I think you were a bit discouraged about The World's Desire because a lot of ignorant fools slated it, but in my opinion you were wrong. That work I believe will last.(67)

This demonstrates Lang's confidence in their collaborative ventures on The World's Desire and that he encouraged Haggard to succeed in his literary work. After the novel was published, Lang acted as a sort of publisher's agent to Haggard. Lang read some of Haggard's works two or three times over, and in letters to Haggard was always "delighted to look over any proofs."(68) He defended Haggard over charges of plagiarism of Kingsley's Hereward in his novel Eric: "Let me see the proofs, as two pairs of eyes are better than one."(69) If "two pairs of peepers"(70) were better than one, then two writers writing together could form a more far-sighted team to continue their fanciful expedition into literary togetherness, the imaginations of two co-authors continuously at work, as they forged new images of gender to which I refer in Chapter 1, which were constantly changing amongst men in that formative period

.


Over his Shoulder
by Geoffrey Clarke

 can be ordered by sending a cheque for £18.95 to:

Geoffrey Clarke 
3 Thirlestane Court Colney Hatch Lane
London N10 1LH 
United Kingdom

Overseas Orders

Please send a cheque in your own currency to the above address. 
Use your normal chequebook and your country's tourist rates
for the equivalent of £18.95 plus £5 Air Mail postage.


Geoffrey Clarke can be contacted on
44 (0) 7766693462


Comparative Study of Keats’s Poem “When I have fears that I may cease to be” and Milton’s “When I consider how my life is spent”.

Both are written in the sonnet form.  Milton uses the Italian or Petrachan form, whilst the Keats poem is written in the Elizabethan or Shakespearean form. The rhyme scheme of the Milton sonnet is ABBAABBACDECDE, thus giving five rhymes and, notably, only two in the first eight lines.  The rhyme scheme of Keats’s sonnet is ABABCDCDEFEFGG, giving 7 rhymes – both poems written in pentameters. This makes for tuneful harmony.

A general theme underlies both poems concerning the destiny of human life; in both sonnets the writer considers his personal problems and difficulties, yet realises the deeper significance of human existence.  Milton takes mental stock asking whether his god requires those who cannot see to work in his name.  He is answered by the deity, Patience, who reminds him that god has thousands of others to do his bidding – He can be best served by bearing one’s physical existence -  and that one doesn’t have to engage in the bustle of the world to serve one’s maker. Yet, and yet, in my view, one cannot cloister one’s life and expect to achieve grace with god - blind men have become Prime Ministers!

Keats visualizes the tragedy of an early death when he will no longer be able to see the face of his beloved, and delight in the transcendence of true love.  Next he contemplates eternity soon losing all thoughts of love. This is paradoxical, since one cannot have one without the other. In heavenly eternity there must exist love or what is the point.

Both are highly subjective, yet both come to an objective conclusion.  Milton’s approach remains more staid and unemotional than that of Keats. Milton demonstrates more depth of thought than Keats – Keats always the Romantic, the man of feeling.  Both remain motivated by personal problems - Milton’s special pleading about blindness, and Keats’s concerns about ‘consumption’, a degenerative disease prevalent in the Nineteenth - Century.

There exists a notably similar organisational development in both. Milton’s poem contains three parts:

The consideration of his blindness

The question “Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?” and the answer “They also serve who only stand and wait”.

Keats’s stanzas also consist of 3 parts; fears that he may die before his work is done; No longer able to see his lover - delight in love; that life and eternity pale love and fame into insignificance

Both works are noticeably different in the poetical treatment of the theme:

Keats: Romanticism, Love of beauty in nature; imagery for poetic effect: “full ripen’d grain”,  “night’s starr’d face”, “huge cloudy symbols”

Milton: Austerity and classical approach; Fatalism; Use of personification.

These sonnets are essentially two different approaches in English poetry:

Milton: scholarly; austere; religious fatalism leading to heterodoxy

Keats: Romantic; love of beauty in nature; emotional treatment of an idea

Both poets have made a superb use of the sonnet form, showing little sign of its severe limitations, and producing two opposingly different arguments – the one Romantic, the other fatalistic, they remain two contradictory and yet appealing works of art.


Literary analysis: The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, by Robert Tressell

This earth-moving, revivalist and revolution-making novel has the power to move governments, societies and grass roots organisations.

Set among the impoverished, turn-of-the-20th-century proletariat engaged in the building, decorating and painting trade, the novel, powerful, emotive and politically forceful, provides a harrowing, despairing look at such Western European workplaces.

In the knowledge that this novel influenced post-Marxist Russia, Germany and England and encouraged them towards Socialism, we can now see that it has effects on present day political rhetoric as well.

The privations of the families involved, the heart rending suicides, early mortalities and abject poverties that it portrays has the effect of self enquiry in the reader. Why, as the 99% in the US Occupy Wall St. Movement now ask, were such inequalities ever allowed, and why was little done before the advent of labour supporting political parties to reduce such pain, distress, abject ill-health, cold, poor housing, ill health, poverty and stress?

Rushton and Co. are a firm of decorators and undertakers who use harsh business practices to survive in an economy ravaged by Protectionism and the dog days of industrialised Britain. They flout conventions of fair dealing and just business practice by squeezing the very most out of their workers. The resulting misery is palpable throughout the novel.

Owen, the protagonist, is a genuine searcher after the truth of his situation. Why, he asks, is there so much poverty amongst his fellow workers, but so much wealth amongst those who do no toil.  He clings to a pristine form of nascent Socialism derived directly from Marx in its unreformed, even untried state.

For this he pays a heavy price, even leading to him contemplating suicide at the end of the novel.

These days the misery may not be so acute, but the questions remain - why unequal pay for some in a position to rip it out of their Bank, and Company accounts?  And why is nothing done by business departments of government to harness and control greed and venality in commerce? 

At the time, early 20th century reaction to the novel forced a rethink on the potent evils of capitalism.  Change erupted in the Soviet Union, Germany and to a lesser extent in the UK where the Labour Party espoused a basically Stock Exchange/City of London politic to engage the social errors so trenchantly exposed.

Yet from the standpoint of one who has experienced on/off Labour Party rule, the achievement of the novel  – the introduction of Socialist systems in many countries - is much diminished by the events of the last 35 or more years. 

The return to radical Toryism under Mrs. Thatcher, the advent of a post-industrial, Disneyland Britain, and the rise of a duplicitous Liberal Democrat party in cohorts with an equally facile Conservative rump show the cyclical inevitability of the rabid capitalism on display in Tressell’s writing.

 
The Conflict Between Freewill and Predestination in Marlowe's Dr Faustus.

Marlowe's Dr Faustus remains a tragic play in which can be seen a continual conflict in the mind of a young doctor torn between the paths of good and evil. And yet an even greater conflict is created by Christopher Marlowe between the idea of freewill and predestination.

The first impression that we gain as we read the tragedy is that Faustus has chosen to make his pact with the devil entirely of his own accord.  We see that he worshipped the 'deity' of scholasticism, and it seems that he was willing to take all the risks which his plan to acquire learning's golden gifts involved.  The discussion with the devil in his library shows careful and clear thinking on his part.  And in no way does he betray any reluctance to become the devil's advocate and disciple for a period of twenty-four years.  The good and evil angels present both sides of the argument clearly to him, yet he proceeds with his plan, having made an unaided and clear-sighted choice.


However, we soon learn that there are doubts in the doctor's mind.  He begins to wonder if he has taken the right course.  As soon as the pact with the devil is concluded, we find Faustus bemoaning the fact hat he is a damned man.  We realise on reflection that Faustus had hesitated before the signing of the pact when the blood on his arm had congealed.  Therefore the initial act of this young doctor was not made freely but that he had been forced into it by some power over which he had no control.  Thus a conflict has already risen.  At this early stage, the balance remains in favour of arguing that Faustus acted freely.  There is little or no evidence of any pre-arrangement or guidance of his actions.

When we consider that in the following acts Faustus shows an urge to repent and that, overwhelmed by his wickedness, he continually questions himself about the desirability of turning to God and asking for his forgiveness, the conflict between these two ideas arises once more.  Faustus's soul is crying out for redemption.  And yet, for no apparent reason, some unseen force forbids this course of action and Faustus is therefore doomed to damnation in hell.  This idea pervades the rest of the play.  Faustus, as the end of the tragedy approaches, really wants to cry out for forgiveness for his sinful pact with the devil.  He cries out that he knows that he is damned.  After the words of the 'Old Man' he will repent his descent to hell during his quest for power and knowledge. His greed  has led him to this fate. Yet he ponders  for a moment and then cries out:

"I do repent and yet I do despair
Hell strives with grace for conquest in my breast
What shall I do to shun the snares of death?"[i]

This means that he will cry out to God for redemption.  But, no, he reaffirms his pact with the devil in his quest for knowledge and power, and is doomed forever.  His acts were predestined, for we know that his heart and soul were crying out for repentence. Yet, some force had compelled him to remain silent.

It is difficult to decide whether, as John H Ingram declared,  it remains merely a tragedy where “a mighty mind is gradually subjugated by the power of evil passions”[i]  Or is it to say that Faustus is an example of the great tragedy of a man who is predestined to a terrible doom and who cannot escape however much his soul cried out for release from its prefixed bonds.

 I take the latter view that Faustus was fated to make the choice that he was unable to avoid through an almighty and overpowering predestiny. 

[1] http://www.bartleby.com/19/2/23.html

[i]  http://archive.org/stream/marlowehispoetry00ingruoft/marlowehispoetry00ingruoft_djvu.txt