Q.D. Leavis (was: 19th century literature)

HSchinske at aol.com HSchinske at aol.com
Mon Jul 30 12:27:25 EDT 2001

Mary Ann  (amaebi at iwon.com) wrote:

Dorian remarked that she always thought Q. D. Leavis was female. Dorian
is quite right: Q.D. is Queenie and female. Her husband F.R. Leavis was
also a literary critic, which is annoying and confusing of them both. :D

ACK! Of course you're right. It even says so on the blurbs on the dust 
jacket, Mrs. Leavis this and that. Ah, well. I don't think it affects my 
point much :)

What an awful name Queenie is. I was thinking it was F.R.'s brother or cousin 
or something and named Quintus or Quintin or something. There's a 
mostly-horrible character named Queenie in Rebecca West's _The Fountain 
Overflows_ -- I wonder if it was subconscious revenge for Mrs Leavis 
dismissing Miss West's novels as the work of a competent journalist, or 
whatever she said.

Anyway, I think some of C.S. Lewis's work on contemporary taste was a 
reaction to QDL (or possibly FRL -- I don't know anything about his views, 
but you would have to agree with QDL if you were going to live with her at 
all, is my impression), so now I should go back and re-read some of his 

What's staggering is the calm certainty that she knows, absolutely knows, 
which novelists are of the first rank and which are not (even though she says 
hardly anybody else can tell). Henry James IS, Willa Cather is NOT, etc. She 
also knows absolutely and for certain that the taste of the Victorian public 
was much higher than that of the 1920's and 1930's. She doesn't seem to have 
read George Eliot's essay on _Silly Novels by Lady Novelists_, for instance, 
which showcases stuff that I guarantee 99.99% of you have never heard of, and 
which is of quite surpassing badness (all right, as bad as the school story 
that Charles is supposed to copy out in _Witch Week_, see, I dragged it back 
on topic!).

Wow, I just looked up Leavis's dates, and she was only twenty-six when this 
was published! It's funny how much of a curmudgeon someone twenty-six can be.

Helen Schinske (who will try to return to things DWJ-ian in my next)
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