chapter  6
Henry James: patterns of art and life
Pages 22

After the middle of the nineteenth eentury it beeame eommon practice for novelists and poets to supplement their fiction and poetry writing with essays. The figures we will treat here after James - Virginia Woolf, T. S. Eliot, and George Orwell-were typical in this respeet, for one eould eite also George Eliot, Stevenson, Wilde, Yeats, Lawrenee, Forster, or Aldous Huxley. The poet, novelist, and dramatist beeame inereasingly the poet-essayist, the novelist-essayist, and the dramatist-essayist, partieipating in the literary culture on two levels, in creative writing and eritical and sodal eommentary. Few essayists from this period (1850-1950) who were only essayists have survived in reputation as weIl as Hazlitt, Lamb, or Montaigne. The essays wh ich have remained a vital part of the culture tend to be signed by a name famous for aehievement in a different, "major" genre. Thus these essays are usually treated as an adjunct to the main work, an aid to its better understanding through knowledge of the author's eritical or sodal views. Critical essays may be seen as adjuncts to the works diseussed in them, or as doeuments in the history of taste or "reeeption." And eertainly it is a fasdnating exerdse to eompare a writer's novelistic or poetic patteming of experienee to his essayistie patteming of it. Also it is undoubtedly helpful in some eases to have a writer's personal "map" of literature providing a eontext for his major texts. But there is also a need to study essays in their own terms.