By F. R. Leavis
Quantity 2 of a range from Scrutiny opens with Mrs Leavis's a lot quoted reports, which jointly shape 'A severe concept of Jane Austen's Writings'. There follows a piece of stories of novelists (Dorothy Richardson, Gissing, Hemingway, Virginia Woolf, Henry James), and Mrs Leavis's examine of Edith Wharton. Then there are 3 of James Smith's essays: the distinguished 'Preliminary Survey' of Wordsworth; the both celebrated 'On Metaphysical Poetry' and the learn of As you're keen on It. a piece on 'The English culture' reprints stories of Jefferies, Beatrice Webb, Sturt and Piers Plowman.
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Additional resources for A Selection from Scrutiny: Volume 2
This, like the fatherdaughter relation and its solution in Emma's relation to Mr Knightley, the moral arbiter of the book and her spiritual regulator who by becoming her husband solves her problems—this and such matters are what Emma is about. ' Ordination' is what Miss Austen said and no doubt thought was the subject of Mansfield Park, but what reader would have noticed the ordination theme unless told of it, or that an important contrast is intended between Dr Grant and Edmund Bertram as clerics, and that the arguments about ordination and the Church were meant to take stress?
The general reader has thus been headed off an interesting and frequently very entertaining piece of work. The unpleasant quality so painfully evident in the uneven Mansfield Park is actually not to be traced to Lady Susan, which is merely stamped (as we may be sure First Impressions and Elinor and Marianne were, and as Northanger Abbey still is even after three revisions) by a perceptible unsympathy with all the characters, an impatience to jot them down and rough out their roles and emotional relations so as to see if the desired total effect has been secured: like The Watsons, Lady Susan is a novelist's working draft and not meant for print, though, like that story, its deceptive appearance of completeness has encouraged its acceptance as an entity, and it has not even such very obvious links with its descendant as The Watsons has with Emma.
Without such a preliminary no criticism of her novels can be just or even safe. A small instance of how far astray criticism may go is the treatment that has been given to the problem of the last chapter of Mansfield Park. Every reader is puzzled by something odd about it which is felt to jar on the mood created by the rest of the book, and critics have produced various justifying explanations, from aesthetic to psychological, which satisfy no one and are in fact misleading. Actually its ill-assorted tone is vestigial.
A Selection from Scrutiny: Volume 2 by F. R. Leavis