E M Forster being rude

I include the weather on the authority of the most amazing work on the novel that I have met for many years. It came over the Atlantic to me, nor shall I ever forget it. It was a literary manual entitled Materials and Methods of Fiction. The writer's name shall be concealed. He was a pseudo-scholar and a good one. He classified novels by their dates, their length, their locality, their sex, their point of view, till no more seemed possible. But he still had the weather up his sleeve, and when he brought it out, it had nine heads. He gave an example under each head, for he was anything but slovenly, and we will run through his list. In the first place the weather can be 'decorative', as in Pierre Loti; then 'utilitarian', as in The Mill on the Floss (No Floss, No Mill, No Tullivers); "illustrative" as in The Egoist; 'planned in pre-established harmony' as in Fiona MacLeod; 'in emotional contrast', as in The Master of Ballantrae; 'determinatiive of action', as in a certain Kipling story, where a man proposes to the wrong girl on account of a mud storm; 'a controlling influences', Richard Feverel; 'itself a hero', like Vesuvius in The Last Days of Pompeii; and ninthly, it can be 'non-existent' as in a nursery tale. I liked him flinging in non-existence. It made everything so scientific and trim. But he himself remained a little dissatisfied, and having finished his classification he said yes, of course there was one more thing, and that was genius; it was useless for a novelist to know that there are nine sorts of weather, unless he was genius also. Cheered by this reflection, he classified novels by their tones. There are only two tones, personal and impersonal, and having given examples of each he grew pensive again and said, 'Yes, but you must have genius too, or neither tone will profit.'

This reference to genius is, again, typical of the pseudo-scholar, He loves mentioning genius, because the sound of the word exempts him from discovering its meaning. Literature is written by geniuses. Novelists are geniuses. There we are; now let us classify them. Which he does. Everything he says may be accurate but all is useless because he is moving round books instead of through them, he either has not read them or cannot read them properly. Books have to be read (worse luck, for it takes a long time); it is the only way of discovering what they may contain. A few savage tribes eat them, but reading is the only method of assimilation revealed to the West. The reader must sit down alone and struggle with the writer, and this the pseudo-scholar will not do. He would rather relate a book to the history of its time, to events in the life of its author, to the events it describes, above all to some tendency. As soon as he can use the word 'tendency' his spirits rise, and often those of his audience may sink, they ofetn pull out their pencils at this point and make a note, under the belief that a tendency is portable.

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