As the Empire drew in, as England became Little England once more, an island increasingly isolated from the stage of world history, so too did the English novel become increasingly conscious of its own limitations. In the four novelists I’ve considered here one sees the beginnings of that dwindling toward twilight, of an absorption with its own small size, that characterizes most English fiction after the Second World War. Their forerunner in this is Forster, who in taking as his subject the limitations of gentility has had more influence upon the English novel than any other writer in this century. Yet Forster is an anomaly in his own generation. His was but one of a number of possible ways that the novel could have developed. It took the writers with whom I’ve dealt to make Forster’s individual attitude into a consensus, to turn his material into the material of the English novel as a whole. In their hands the English novel became what, in some words of William H. Pritchard’s that I quoted in my introduction, it has been for the last half-century: ‘short, cool or opaque in its tone, suspicious of eloquence, committed to terse conversations among characters, neither genial nor “sincere” in its overall manner.’
KeywordsDust Assure Expense Prose
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