Lawrence’s famous dictum ‘Never trust the artist. Trust the tale’1 is apposite for a consideration of the development of the short story over the last hundred years. The period 1880–1920 was marked by changes in the short story which profoundly affected the relation of the artist-as-narrator to the tale. The authority of the teller, usually a first-person ‘framing’ narrator who guaranteed the authenticity of the tale, was questioned by many modernist writers. Conrad, for example, multiplied narrators in such texts as ‘Youth’ and Heart of Darkness so that the status of each narrator was undercut. Subsequently writers such as Joyce and Katherine Mansfield adopted the ‘indirect free’2 style of narration, in which a third-person narrator’s voice blended with that of a dramatised character so that the narrator appeared to merge into the text and to relinquish responsibility for it.


Short Story Paradise Lost Objective Correlative Modernist Writer Subsequently Writer 
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  1. 1.
    D. H. Lawrence, Studies in Classic American Literature, Phoenix Edition of the works of D. H. Lawrence (1964) p. 2.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    There is a discussion of the provenance of this term in Seymour Chatman, Story and Discourse: Narrative Structure in Fiction and Film (New York, 1978) p. 201.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    How Writing is Written, vol. 2 of the previously uncollected writings of Gertrude Stein, ed. Robert Bartlett Haas (Los Angeles, 1974) p. 30.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Virginia Woolf, ‘Mr Bennett and Mrs Brown’, Collected Essays 1 (1966) p. 320.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    This change has been discussed most memorably in Graham Hough, The Last Romantics (1947)Google Scholar
  6. and in Frank Kermode, Romantic Image (1957).Google Scholar
  7. 6.
    Jack D. Flam, Matisse on Art (Oxford, 1973) p. 37 (from ‘Notes of a Painter’, 1908).Google Scholar
  8. 7.
    Ezra Pound, Literary Essays, ed. with an Introduction by T. S. Eliot (1960) p. 4.Google Scholar
  9. 8.
    Virginia Woolf, ‘Modern Fiction’, Collected Essays II (1966) p. 107.Google Scholar
  10. 9.
    Edgar Allan Poe, Selected Writings, Penguin edn (Harmondsworth, 1967) p. 499.Google Scholar
  11. (Poe is restating Coleridge’s dictum, ‘A poem of any length neither can be, or ought to be, all poetry’ — S. T. Coleridge, Biographia Literaria, ed. J. Shawcross (Oxford, 1907) vol. 2, p. 11.)Google Scholar
  12. 19.
    James Joyce, Stephen Hero (1944) p. 188.Google Scholar
  13. 20.
    Katherine Mansfield, Novels and Novelists, ed. J. M. Murry (New York, 1930) p. 32.Google Scholar
  14. 21.
    Nadine Gordimer, in ‘The International Symposium on the Short Story’, Kenyon Review, vol. 30 (1968) p. 459.Google Scholar
  15. 22.
    Selected Stories of Thomas Hardy, chosen and introduced by John Wain (1966) Introduction, p. xiv.Google Scholar
  16. 23.
    Jorge Luis Borges, The Aleph and Other Stories 1933–1969 (1971) pp. 237–8.Google Scholar

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© Clare Hanson 1985

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  • Clare Hanson

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