DOI link for Meredith's Reputation
Meredith's Reputation book
Anyone who so much as glances over the history of Meredith's reputation is bound to notice how very odd it is. It may even be unique, at least as far as English literature is concerned. Certainly it is not easy to think of a parallel. Meredith is not the object of a cult-worship, for example. There is no evidence that successive generations of admirers have for him the sort of smouldering affection that occasionally breaks out into flame, a flame that is always kept well-stoked and banked. He is not, let us say, like Kipling. But then neither is he like Philip James Bailey. His reputation came to him late, grew steadily until his death, and a few years later was gone. He never had the following of a Dickens or even a George Eliot. Yet amongst his admirers he was unswervingly regarded as a great artist. When they spoke of him, it tended to be in reverential whispers. 'Of course,' Richard Le Gallienne wrote, recalling a visit to Box Hill during the 189os, 'the wonderful thing was that the novelist who wrote of Lucy and Richard by the river and the poet of "Love in the Valley" should actually be reading to me at all. It was almost like listening to Shakespeare read Hamlet.'1 But a few years after his death the whispers turned into rude noises. In 1918 Ezra Pound wrote to tell John Quinn that Meredith is 'chiefly a stink'.2 It seems a remark of terrible finality.