Wednesday, September 22, 2021

One part genius to three parts melodramatic rant

Here and there are some essays on prose writers, including one on Herman Melville, whose “Moby Dick,” which is one part genius to three parts melodramatic rant, Mr. Lucas contrives vastly to over-estimate. 
-- J. B. Priestley, review of F. L. Lucas, Authors Dead and Living (London: Chatto & Windus, 1926) in the London Daily News, March 12, 1926. 

Literature and Western Man (Harper & Brothers, 1960) contains Priestley's longer, later take on Moby-Dick as accidentally good in places, more symbolical than allegorical. Excerpted on pages 271-272 in Moby-Dick as Doubloon, edited by Hershel Parker and Harrison Hayford (W. W. Norton & Company, 1970). As documented by Andrew N. Rubin, Orwell considered Priestley "very anti-USA." which would explain the enduring hostility to Melville and his glorious allegory of freedom.

Rubin, Andrew N., and أندرو روبين. “Orwell and Empire: Anti-Communism and the Globalization of Literature / أورويل والٳمبراطورية: مناهضة الشيوعية وعولمة الأدب.” Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics, no. 28 (2008): 75–101.

Authors Dead and Living by F. L. Lucas is digitized and accessible for borrowing on the great Internet Archive where you can read the chapter on Herman Melville and decide for yourself how far Lucas over or under-prized Moby-Dick.

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