Thursday, August 13, 2015
When I opened a Dorothy Richardson biography in the library yesterday without reading the name of the biographer and saw, near the bottom of the page on my right, the word "nevertheless," meaning that something was true, "nevertheless" another thing was also true in opposition to the first thing, then my heart exclaimed, "Fromm," and it was Fromm.
By the last page she had decided that Robinson and D.H. Lawrence were not as whole as Woolf and James Joyce (two teams of two, one boy one girl, and I became distracted, for what if, in this book and in no other place, symmetry was necessary, and all arguments should consist of symmetry first and foremost and could this biography of Dorothy Richardson be the mental door to a place where all good things are symmetrical, all faces exactly the same right & left, etc?) – they were not as whole because they couldn't keep "life" out of their books, they kept muddling art with life, whereas Woolf and Joyce had detached themselves purely and determinedly into "art." The second team had made a greater commitment and a more important sacrifice: that was the biographer's conclusion.
The distribution of success and failure is clear but is it illuminating?
Richardson and Lawrence's muddying-with-life usually comes in the form of apparent impatience – they want to push against things and argue – and Woolf and Joyce have placed themselves away from that physical punch-up mode, therefore Lawrence and Richardson have roughly-formed books, pulling away into lumps of lecture or hatred, while Woolf and Joyce have artly-formed books, integrating their arguments coherently, without the blasting, ranting irritation. Whatever feeling they have, they like you to think that they're putting it to work. Whereas Lawrence and Richardson are willing to give you the impression that they are worked by their feelings.
And Woolf might have been thinking along similar lines to Fromm when she said that Richardson was flawed because she wrote from one self-boundaried perspective, that of Miriam Henderson. She was not universal and she did not have a wide view.
I believe it is good to have these lumps of hate and gnashing in books. I am in favour of Lawrence and Richardson. I do not think that they are inferior.
Lawrence and Richardson trusted themselves to the veracity of their lumps, and Lawrence at least was a believer in the "under-consciousness so devilish" (as he said of the United States) and in the eviction of all under-consciousnesses from their chrysalis cases: "many a dragon-fly never gets out of the chrysalis case: dies inside." And he will get out.
To remove the lumps because they are lumps would mean submission to the alien thing called art that they do not entirely trust. They have seen that it can be wielded against them. The biographer says that they have not achieved a coherent art, but they have eyed tidiness and decided against it. That is not art, for them.
So I was in an argument with Fromm, and I wanted to bring up Margaret Grainger, the editor who wrote the introduction for The Natural History Prose Writing of John Clare, in order to say, "Here is somebody who does not write symmetry or "nevertheless," and I prefer her –" but then I would be creating a two-team system, like Fromm, and I would be putting one person against another and ticking off their differences, like Fromm, "The two women wrote introductions, nevertheless Grainger was …" and I would be Frommian, as I was when I wrote the paragraph beginning with "Richardson and Lawrence's muddying …" – absolute pure Frommianism, my God.