Elia Essayist 19th Century

Take almost any passage from the essays of Bacon or of Lamb and ask even a dull student to identify it and, a hundred to one, he will do so correctly.But modern’ prose writers write almost alike, with few personal whimsies and little individuality. Ward, the enlistment of essayists by newspapers has had the following two effects: And, second, it has compelled the essayists to accept a discipline which was quite irksome but useful insofar as it trained them to write regularly to fill a predetermined space in an organ.One important reason for this loss of style is the merger of the essayist with the journalist In this era of mass media a journalist may retain the individuality and independence of his mind but, when it comes to style, he has to accept the common norms of the written language for the sake of effective communication. The periodical essay of Steele and Addison, which was born with the eighteenth century and died with it, had a new avatar, under widely different circumstances, in the twentieth.

With the close of the nineteenth century the long great tradition of English prose stylists starting with Hooker and Bacon came to an end.Witticisms, epigrams, satiric sallies and ingenious paradoxes are recurring features of his prose.As an example of paradox consider his remark about the French Revolution: “The greatest event in English history occurred outside England.” How odd, but how true!It is said that once Chesterton taunted Shaw for his hollow looks, saying: “Mr Shaw, if some foreigner looked at you he would think there is a terrible famine in England.” Shaw retorted at once: “And if he looked at you he would also understand the cause of the famine.” For once Chesterton was crestfallen.Chesterton was always ready to measure swords with whoever came his way.The two subscribed to the same religion (Roman Catholicism) and the same political ideology (“Distributism.”) “The Chesterbelloc” fought a long battle with agnostic socialists like H. Now he is chiefly read for his books of light verse-A Bad Child’s Book of Beasts and More Beasts for Worse Children.As an essayist he has a clear and lucid style laced with humour and charged with polemic energy. This makes his essays sincere and, sometimes, moving.Lucas’ essays and “entertainments” are full of common sense and humour of a kind often reminiscent of Lamb.But, as Ward observes, “there are profound dissimilarities between the two writers.one who was against state control of property and wanted it to be distributed equitably among deserving individuals).Shaw was very lean whereas Chesterton was very corpulent.


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