EDMUND GOSSE on Ibsen and American writers 1890
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EDMUND GOSSE on Ibsen and American writers 1890 book
To an American audience it would seem as though Ibsen should speak with greater certainty of a sympathetic hearing than to any other. In no European poet except himself do we find the problems of advanced democracy faced with so much courage or with so little rhetoric. The fanfarons of Victor Hugo seem old-fashioned and ineffectual, the audacities of Carducci and of Swinburne are like the sport of aristocratic children beside the gravity, the terse and stem attitude of arrest, which we meet with in Ibsen's prose dramas. The provincial atmosphere, the air of the little market-town in some country part of Norway, merely deepens the sense of strenuousness, as the earnestness of a countryman may put to shame a metropolitan frivolity. His seven plays are seven arrows in the heart of the mundane goddess of modem society. Whether it is commercial hypocrisy, as in The Pillars of Society; or the sacrifice offeminine individuality, as inA Doll's House; or the hatred of truth, as in The Enemy of Society; whether it is the sins of the fathers, as in Ghosts; or the phantom of conventional religion, as in Rosmersholm; or the brittle shell of humanitarian optimism, as in The Wild Duck; or the tenuity of the marriage tie, as in The Lady from the Sea, in each case a sword is driven between the bone and the marrow of modem life. Ibsen is the enemy of all convention; he takes nothing for granted. No axiom is so universally received as to be safe from his profane analysis.