Ledbury Guardian Newspaper 26-09-1914
A series of lectures are announced to be given in connection with the local Centre of the Oxford University Extension Movement. The first one will be held on October 1, at the Ledbury Church Room where the Lecturer will be Mr. E. A. MEUNEER, M.A. (Corpus Christi College, Oxford). Tickets for the whole course of the lectures can be had for 10s. Application should be made to the Hon. Secretary (Miss N. MASEFIELD), the Priory, Ledbury.
Ledbury Guardian Newspaper 03-10-1914
A course of six lectures on the English novelists by Mr. E. A. MENNIER, M.A., Corpus Christi College, Oxford, commenced in Ledbury Church Room yesterday afternoon (Thursday). The lectures are arranged by the local centre of the Oxford University Extension Movement, of which Miss Norah MASEFIELD is the hon. secretary. There was a good attendance, and the lecture proved exceptionally interesting.
Owing to pressure on our space this week, an extended report will appear in our next issue.
Ledbury Guardian Newspaper 10-10-1914
PRESENT DAY TASTE IN LITERATURE
On Thursday week last Mr. E. A. MENNIER, M.A. Christi College, Oxford, conducted the first of his series of lectures on "The English Novelists." The lecture, which was held in the Church Room, Ledbury, was well attended. Judging by the reception it received, there need be no misgiving as to the popularity which is likely to attend the present course of six lectures. Mr MENNIER deals with his subject in a masterly fashion, and at once compels the attention of his audience.
The first lecture dealt with the popularity of novels, especially the more modern, present day taste in literature, claims of the old masters, etc. In his opening remarks the lecturer made reference to the publication of various books, which claimed to be an "history" of the present war. No doubt they were very interesting, but history was not the proper word to apply to that sort of thing. History must have distance. They could not get the enchantment without the distance. Proceeding, Mr. MENNIER said newspapers, magazines, and novels were what most people read today, but they had arrived at a stage when most of them had a kind of distrust for their daily newspapers. He did not think this was the books, however. In compairing (sic) the light novel with the heavier kind of reading, the lecturer said young people in reading the heavy novel were apt to skip over the heavy reading. This was a sign that they were not well brought up. (Laughter). Probably such a person would not attempt to read the works of classical writers, because they were too long-winded, and Jane AUSTEN because she was too delicate? In succeeding lectures he hoped to consider SCOTT, Jane AUSTEN, and others. DICKENS had been left out because it would be difficult to summarise him in a single lecture. Referring to the history of the novel form, the lecturer said Italy was the original home of the novel. The first important work of prose fiction in England was by MALORY, of the 18th century novelists. RICHARDSON enjoyed enormous popularity, and was an example of what might be done by sheer industry. His equipment was poor, and his education was meagre in the extreme. He lived in a printer's office in London. However, he suddenly blossomed out and published Pamela. His style was epistolary. But he did not profess to write novels to amuse people, but to instruct them. He endeavoured to instil religion and virtue into the minds of youth of both sexes. This was so alien to our modern standard that the book had no chance of being popular in our own time. People objected to being preached at through the medium of art. RICHARDSON's popularity in his own day, however, was very striking both in England and abroad. He was popular in his own day, because he showed the way to escape from all the licentious literature which preceded him. Pamela ran through four editions very quickly. It was a mark of fashion to read this book. People when they read the book ran off and rang the nearest church bells. Their enthusiasm was very real at the time. This was in 1740, and in 1748 RICHARDSON published his second novel, Clarissa, and Sir Charles GRANDISON came out in the year 1753. The success of Clarissa was quite as marked as Pamela. Sir Charles GRANDISON was an attempt on RICHARDSON'S part to picture the ideal hero. The picture, however, was quite a failure. RICHARDSON had a wonderful insight into feminine character and was perhaps second to SHAKESPEARE in this respect. It was on the foundations he laid that Jane AUSTEN built up her famous pictures of humanity. RICHARDSON'S characteristics were just opposite to that of FIELDING, whose first novel was Joseph ANDREWS. In the year 1848 (sic), when he was made a London magistrate, FIELDING brought out "Tom JONES," RICHARDSON said of FIELDING that the virtues of his heroes were the vices of good men. (Laughter). In conclusion, the lecturer briefly referred to GOLDSMITH, whose book the "Vicar of Wakefield" was a sweet and captivating book.
The subject of Mr. MENNIER's next lecture will be "Sir Walter SCOTT."
Ledbury Guardian Newspaper 17-10-1914
An English Novelist
Mr. E. A. MENNEER, M.A. resumed his lectures at the Church Room on Thursday afternoon. His subject was "Sir Walter SCOTT" and there was a good attendance. An extended report will appear next week.
Ledbury Guardian Newspaper 31-10-1914
LECTURE AT LEDBURY
The third of the series of lectures on English novelists, given by Mr. E. A. MENNER, of Oxford, under the auspices of the Oxford University Extension Society, was given on Thursday afternoon at the Church Room. There was a good attendance. The subject of the lecture, "Jane Austen," received from the lecturer a carefully studied and restrained criticism. Jane Austen drew only on the surface, skimming as it were, the lightest and most conventional forms of life, and refusing to dwell on anything, whether of love, passion, or anger, that probed in the least degree below the surface. Her work is executed on a very small scale, but that smallness is enriched by beauty of language, and careful rendition of meticulous detail. Whether she, although perfect in her own way, deserves to be ranked among the really great writers of her period is a question that gives many sides to be answered. She attains marvellous results from scanty materials, her circle is small, her scenes of those of the home, the fireside, the village, she transcribes in faithful detail the trivialities of a tiny corner of human life, and in so doing brings home to us with startling distinctness the life of the average country house of her period. Yet by using only these small means, by confining herself to matter that a lesser genius might have deemed worthless, she has attained such wonderful results that many of our foremost literary critics place her as one of the three foremost women writers, in equality with Charlotte Bronte and George Eliot.
The weak spots in Jane Austen's books are, generally speaking, her male characters. She shows an inability to enter into the masculine point of view, either in the tone of their conversation or their frame of mind. Her men are chiefly objects of feminine regard, self-satisfied, conceited, an unimpressive, a notable exception being the bluff and breezy Admiral Croft in her latest novel, #Pursuasion.#[sic] Her female characters are always faithfully and delicately portrayed, and her style of deleneating them shows a keen insight into the motives and methods of feminine character as developed in the last century.
Jane Austen's greatness chiefly consists in her ability to have produced such wonderful results from such small materials. To say, as some critics have, that a liking for Jane Austen is a jest of intellectual quality, is perhaps to go a little too far, and on the whole, to range her with Charlotte Bronte and George Eliot is to place her higher than her work warrants.
Ledbury Guardian Newspaper 14-11-1914
LECTURES AT LEDBURY
The fourth of the series of Oxford University Extension Lectures was held at the Church Room, on Thursday afternoon, when there was a good attendance. The lecturer, Mr. E. A. MENNEER, M.A., took for his subject "Charlotte BRONTE and Her Sisters." To Charlotte BRONTE one might almost say that life and suffering were interchangeable terms, and the result is manifest in her works. It seems almost strange that such works of genius as hers should have sprung, from such a storm-tossed life, did we not find that the history of genius is nearly always the history of suffering. Prosperity will make the mind expand, and in that expansion sometimes loses itself, but in adversity the great mind is thrown back upon itself, and groping in the depths of knowledge, discovers the truths that control the actions and feelings of mankind. The home life of the BRONTES was peculiarly loveless and hard. Left early motherless, the sisters grew up under the care of an eccentric maiden aunt, and their father, although neither entirely hard nor loveless, suffered from the vagaries of a violently Celtic disposition, which served to remove him in sympathy and understanding far from the home life of his family. The earliest literary efforts of the sisters, which took the form of a volume of poetry, published at their own expense, met with depressing failure, and it was a long time before their first novels met with a publisher. The elder sisters Ann, cannot be reckoned as being among the immortals. Her poetry is inferior, and her novels lack intensity and power. The second sister, Emily, is seen at her best in her poems, which have a certain wild and forceful character. Her chief novel, "Withering (sic) Heights," strikes a gloomy note. Charlotte, the greatest of the three, seemed in her novels to set herself to prove that physical beauty can be disassociated from heroic capabilities. Her heroines are neither beautiful nor fascinating. Jane EYRE, in particular, illustrating her argument on his point. Perhaps in no other book ever written, has the dignity of womanhood been so well vindicated and upheld. To those critics who complain of a certain roughness in the drawing, it may be pointed out that the small Yorkshire village of that period was not exactly a school of refinement and good manners, and that the apparent roughness lies only on the surface. Her male portraits are well nigh perfect. TWINBURNE (sic) once said that ROCHESTER and Paul EMMANUEL are the finest pictures of men ever drawn by a woman: they are vivid, masculine, and forcible. Her second novel, Shirley, lacks intensity, and as a blemish, contains long passages of episodic matter which retard the progress of the story, the book is redeemed by the love scene between Shirley and Louis MOORE. Villette describes the author's life at Brussels, and its somewhat unsatisfactory ending is due to the deference paid by the author to her father's dislike of a sad ending Charlotte BRONTEE (sic) suffered from the constraints of a hard and loveless life, both at home and abroad, but even with this drawback she looked out on to her narrow world with eyes of understanding, and touched it with a hand that lit the fires of genius burn for ever. Of her English style it is impossible to speak too highly. Although she suffered much she never became a cynic; although she saw and felt the many inequalities of social life as regards womenkind, she never became a feminist.
Ledbury Guardian Newspaper 28 11 1914
FIFTH LECTURE AT LEDBURY
The fifth of the series of University Extension Lectures was given at the Church Room on Thursday afternoon, the subject being THACKERAY. THACKERAY, the Lecturer remarked, is most generally known in his character of satirist, and as a satirist he undoubtedly worked to effect reform of the many evils of his day, revealing some of the faults that lurk behind the conventions of respectability. But although this is his chief characteristic, there is a great deal of his work that does not show this trend. Some of his early novels, such as "The Hoggarty Diamonds," and "Barry Lyndon," bear no traces of such satire, but are merely burlesques. THACKERAYs (sic) contributions to "Punch" and the "Treasury Magazine," show a fine sense of humour, and his parody on "Ivanhoe," entitled "Rebecca and Rowera,"(sic) achieved immediate success. His great novel "Vanity Fair," made him famous and realised the sum of £1,200 for the first edition. This was the first work which appeared over THACKERAY's own name. The rather cruel trend of its lines were a natural reaction from the perfection of SCOTT's characters. Both Charlotte BRONTE and DICKENS also felt the same impulse, and both have given us, in different styles, their protest against such idealism, of human nature. In "Pendennis," THACKERAY is much less bitter, and gives a more kindly view of his fellow men, and this gentler tendency is also apparent in his next novel, "Esmond," which in the opinion of many of his critics is the only work from his pen which touches really great heights. Both in plot, characterisation, and atmosphere it is nearly perfect. Perhaps the most prominent point of THACKERAY's writings is the relentless and incessant war he wages against snobs. He is never tired of castigating them as a class, so much so that it has given rise to the remark that he must have been somewhat of a snob himself. But as Archdeacon WHATLEY said of Jane AUSTEN, "It is no fool who can write as she does about fools," so it might also be said that it was no snob who could write as THACKERAY did about snobs. In the constant reiteration of the petty hypocrisies of class distinction, however, it is apparent that he thought too much of this aspect of life, and allowed it to play too important a part in his works.
THACKERAY undoubtedly possessed great intellect, wider in compass than either of the writers who have formed the subject of previous lectures, and as a novelist he shares with DICKENS the primacy of Mid-Victorian fiction. So different are the styles of the two men that it is almost idle to attempt a comparison. DICKENS appeals to people of simple and elementary temperament. THACKERAY's appeal is to those less sophisticated, and to a more cultured class. DICKENS can claim admirers in every class and every station of life. THACKERAY's circle is a little more narrow. RUSKIN once said of him that those who are naturally proud and envious can learn, in his works to despise humanity, those who are gentle can learn to pity it, while those who are shallow can learn to laugh at it.
Ledbury Guardian Newspaper 12 12 1914
The sixth and last lecture of the series on women novelists, under the auspices of the Oxford University Extension Society, was held in the Church Room on Thursday afternoon. The subject of the lecture, George ELIOT, held in her own day, the primary of women novelists, but her popularity has since declined to a considerable extent, although it is to be hoped that this disaffection is only temporary. Leading as a girl a simple and uneventful life, it was not until after the death of her father, for whom she kept house, in her thirty-eight [sic] year, that her first novel was published. Previously to this however, she had dabbled in literary pursuits, and held for some time the assistant editorship of the "Westminster Review". George ELIOT's literary career appears to be divided into two periods. The three novels " Scenes from Clerical Life", " Adam Bede", and "The Mill on the Floss" are the result of this period, and describe in a very perfect manner the manners and habits of life of the Warwickshire peasantry, among whom her early life was spent. It is generally conceded that these are the most truthful and powerful of George ELIOT's works. In her second period she becomes more ambitious, and the result is academic and somewhat artificial, although she herself was wont to observe that the works which represent this later period cost her more pains and trouble than any of her others. " Middlemarch" presents a picture of middle class society in the same way as "Adam Bede" depicts that of the lower classes. George ELIOT's best known novel " The Mill on the Floss" is to some extent autobiographical, the drawing of Maggie Tulliver's character with its development and spiritual struggles, and the storm and stress of that pathetic young life are a reflection of the novelists own youthful experience.
At the close of the lecture a vote of thanks was moved to the lecturer for his interesting series of lectures by the Rev. F. A. STOOKE-VAUGHAN.
In his reply, Mr. MENNEER mentioned that the attendance at Ledbury had been very much better than that at Malvern during the same session.
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