The English Sickness
IF ONE reflects on “the great tradition” of the English novel (using F. R. Leavis’s term more generously than he would approve), it is evident that the quality of British fiction in the 1970′s has deteriorated into the great traduction. Even if one limits the range of critical reference to the post-Lawrence generations, it is dismally clear that the extraordinary mine of wit, intelligence, and stylistic command that enriched the English novel from the mid-1930′s until about a decade after World War II-the flourishing years of Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene, Joyce Cary, Christopher Isherwood, George Orwell, Anthony Powell, and the young Kingsley Amis who wrote Lucky Jim-is by now more exhausted than the British Treasury. The best, as Yeats wrote, lack all conviction, and the worst are full of passionate intensity.
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