Monday, 14 November 2011


One last thing on Empson (for now), which is to remark: how very like Landor's is his voice, as a critic. This from D. E. Richardson's essay 'Cheering up with Empson' [The Sewanee Review, 104 (1996) 106-7)]:
Empson's Toby-jug English personality bursts from his sentences. His style is racy, colloquial, plain-spoken, and gentlemanly in the hearty sense of the word. His could hardly be further from the clotted, undramatic style of contemporary high-academic literary alienation ... long time ago.) Empson's gruff Enlightenment rationalism gives him the courage to undertake many very complicated arguments against what he takes to be the obscurantism of scholars perverted by Christianity and conservatism. ... His attitude derives from an ethos worlds away from the edgy careerism of contemporary English departments. It is the ethos of the independent country gentleman on his ancestral acres quite convinced of his fairness, although giving many orders and obey ing few. This ethos can be stretched to describe Milton's Satan, Lord Rochester, and Shelley -- all of them among Empson's heroes. His deep sympathy with the type makes him an excellent commentator on the tone of eighteenth-century writing, in which the country gentleman who scoffs at the court is so often an ideal type.
It doesn't follow from this, of course, that Empson is necessarily the best critical glass through which to spy Landor -- but he may be, especially for Landor's prose. I'll come back to this.

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