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On George Meredith

January 28, 2011

January 21, 2011

George Meredith

Marshall McLuhan did his Ph. D. thesis on Nashe – (The Place of Thomas Nashe in the Learning of his Time. Ginko Press published it as The Classical Trivium: The Place of Thomas Nashe in the Learning of His Time, edited by W. Terrence Gordon, Ginko Press 2003) – but he wrote his MA thesis on a now little-known writer, George Meredith.

Marshall’s personal library contains about 30 volumes of Meredith, including his 1917 Student’s Library copy of The Ordeal of Richard Feverel, which has many quotations hand-written inside, for instance:

Oscar Wilde:
“Ah Meredith! Who can de-
fine him? His style is chaos ill-
umined by flashes of lightening. As
a writer he has mastered ever-
ything except language; as a
novelist he can do ev. except tell
a story; as an artist he is ev.
except articulate.”

In the back of the book, more writing, but this time I believe it’s Marshall:

“While Meredith has discovered
in egoism and sentimentalism
the richest comic field extant,
I am not at all convinced that
healthy primal feelings are things
to be ashamed of because they play
strange tricks when placed in an
artificial atmosphere. Doubtless they
are profoundly comic but which
are we to change – the emotions
or their artificial environment.
In his essay on comedy Meredith
assumes for himself and all
“sane persons” that we shall regard
our “civilization as rooted in
common sense.” I do not concur
nor would G. K. C., I’m sure. As    [G. K. Chesterton]
Chesterton has pointed out Browning
was composed of great primal emotions
love, fellowship, Homeric laughter
and heroic physical vigor. The society
that tends to render these qualities
bestial, or fatal to other people, is
a damned poor show and the sooner
the scenery is changed the better.
Meredith in his idolatry of the Comic
Spirit failed to see that it was
nourished by conditions in themselves
unfortunate. Social comedy is always
a product distilled from shallow
babbling waters. When and where the waters
are running deeper we get Falstaff’s
Bottom’s, Dogberries, etc. Malvalior
Sir Toby’s, Jacques, Agreecheek’s
Pickwicks, Weggs and Micawbers.”

Those last lines may not be accurately transcribed by myself, but I’m pretty sure they are. That said, I have no idea what that’s all about.

A couple of the other Meredith books also have writings in them, which I suspect amount to a draft of Marshall’s thesis. I’m not going to devote more time to this subject right now, as to transcribe it all would take too much time, and the purpose of this log is not to provide a complete record of what I come across – indeed, that would take many years – but to provide a sampling, a glimpse into Marshall McLuhan’s thoughts as documented by himself in the pages of his personal library.

Thanks for reading,

Andrew.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. WCM permalink
    May 6, 2011 11:54 am

    Agreecheek’s > Aguecheeks

    Andrew, Falstaff, Bottom, Dogberry, Malvalior, Sir Tobys, Jacques & Aguecheek are all comic Shakespeare characters. Pickwick, Wegg and Micawber are comic Dickens characters. Cheers!

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