Monday, 09 July 2007

Referred to the Department of Committees on Departmental Committees and Welsh Rabbit Fiction Statistics As promised, the best of the editorial responses to The House of Mirth controversy: This is to answer the reader "Lenox," who wrote the answer to the reader "Newport," in which he accused her of being feminine, (but not a lady,) and followed this gallantry by taking up a "cudgel"—evidently then himself not altogether a "gentle"-man. "Uncalled for remarks," is good. If "Newport's" remarks on "The House of Mirth" were "uncalled for," who called for the remarks of "Lenox" on the remarks of "Newport"? (Referred to Committee on Public Literary Privileges.) If "Newport's" frank comments on "The House of Mirth" constitute a "torrent of ill-merited abuse," (a "stick"—printer's parlance,) what is the general public to consider the comment of "Lenox" on the comment of "Newport" (two "sticks" of noisy personal assault, opening with a "cudgel"?) (Referred to Committee on Torrents and Misconduct in the "Muse's Bower.") If the "large majority" voice the sentiments of "Lenox" in regard to "The House of Mirth," who says so besides "Lenox"—and how can he prove it? (Referred to Committee on Literary Mysteries and Welsh Rabbit Fiction Statistics.) If "Newport" hash never moved in real Newport circles, what difference does it make, and who worries about what "Lenox" suspects in regard to "Newport's" position as concerns wealth and the exhibition thereof? (Referred to Philip Burne-Jones, who found the ladies of Newport elegant, but unindividual.) If "Lenox," by his own modest implication, does belong to the "inner circle of society," where is his "hall-mark" of poise and courtesy which is supposed to be the attainment of the highly cultured—surely not worn on the lapel. (Referred to Committee on Literary Heraldry.) If the "extravagant phrases of an army of reviewers" is strong proof of the merits of "The House of Mirth," what becomes of Matthew Arnold's theory that the minority verdict is logically the true one? (Referred to Committee on the Value of Literary Opinions from People Who Can Read Everything.) If "women are not apt to spare each other," what should be done to the men who do not spare the women? (Referred to Board of Literary Etiquette and Arbitration Between Critics Who Get Too Much Worked Up.) N.B. (Uncalled-for Remark)—If Mrs. Edith Wharton has a "Henry Jamesy style," that style exists—as do all imitations—in a weaker degree which does not impress or mislead those who enjoy and appreciate Mr. Henry James in his "better sorts." The elegant tables and chairs of Mr. Henry James grow, so to speak, on his stage. The elegant tables and chairs, and the Newport personages of Mrs. Wharton's conceptions, seem to be introduced with the nouveau riche air of an exhibitor. "See what elegant tables and chairs I am showing you. My characters are all born to the First Circles. Their conduct and morals may not be always above criticism, but they are all men and women of high breeding, I do assure you." (Referred to the Committee on Protecting Rash Remarks of the American Literary Female from the Cudgels...

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