From The Archives

From the archive: the Spectator’s original verdicts on literary classics

15 December 2018

9:00 AM

15 December 2018

9:00 AM

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë,  reviewed 18 December 1847
An attempt to give novelty and interest to fiction, by resorting to those singular ‘characters’ that used to exist everywhere… the incidents and persons are too coarse and disagreeable to be attractive, the very best being improbable, with a moral taint about them, and the villainy not leading to results sufficient to justify the elaborate pains taken in depicting it.

 
Bleak House by Charles Dickens, reviewed 24 September 1853
Bleak House is chargeable with not simply faults, but absolute want of construction. A novelist may invent an extravagant or an uninteresting plot — may fail to balance his masses, to distribute his light and shade — may prevent his story from marching, by episode and discursion: but Mr Dickens discards plot, while he persists in adopting a form for his thoughts to which plot is essential, and where the absence of a coherent story is fatal to continuous interest. In Bleak House, the series of incidents which form the outward life of the actors and talkers has no close and necessary connexion; nor have they that higher interest that attaches to circumstances which powerfully aid in modifying and developing the original elements of human character.

 
A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen,  reviewed 22 June 1889
Ibsen’s play, about which everyone is talking, is a rather high-flown attempt to make men realise how grave a wrong it is to women to treat them as if they were mere toys made for men’s pleasure, rather than for companionship in study, duty, and responsibility. That is no doubt a very wholesome and necessary lesson; but the Norwegian dramatist, whose play is by no means remarkable for either intellectual or dramatic force, has urged it in a spirit and applied it in a form which is more likely to bring it into discredit than to make sober converts to his teaching.

Subscribe to The Spectator Australia today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Subscribe – Try a month free


Show comments
Close