Page:The Yellow Book - 01.djvu/231

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213
By Arthur Waugh

time has been introspective. Following one course, it has betaken itself to that intimately analytical fiction which we associate primarily with America; it has sifted motives and probed psychology, with the result that it has proved an exceedingly clever, exact, and scientific, but scarcely stimulating, or progressive school of literature. Following another course, it has sought for subject-matter in the discussion of passions and sensations, common, doubtless, to every age of mankind, interesting and necessary, too, in their way, but passions and sensations hitherto dissociated with literature, hitherto, perhaps, scarcely realised to their depth and intensity. It is in this development that the new school of realism has gone furthest; and it is in this direction that the literature of the future seems likely to follow. It is, therefore, not without value to consider for a moment whither this new frankness is leading us, and how far its freedom is reconciled to that standard of necessary reticence which I have tried to indicate in these pages.

This present tendency to literary frankness had its origin, I think, no less than twenty-eight years ago. It was then that the dovecotes of English taste were tremulously fluttered by the coming of a new poet, whose naked outspokenness startled his readers into indignation. Literature, which had retrograded into a melancholy sameness, found itself convulsed by a sudden access of passion, which was probably without parallel since the age of the silver poets of Rome. This new singer scrupled not to revel in sensations which for years had remained unmentioned upon the printed page; he even chose for his subjects refinements of lust, which the commonly healthy Englishman believed to have become extinct with the time of Juvenal. Here was an innovation which was absolutely alien to the standard of contemporary taste—an innovation, I believe, that was equally opposed to that final moderation without which literature is lifeless.

Let