even Bove's most popular book, Mes amis, met with critical silence: "Not the shadow of a thesis or an idea. A volume without ideas to agree with or argue over, critics find difficult; they don't know how to deal with it, what to write about it" What he means is, the critic can't shine talking about Bove. ... Bove just represents the world: a man without theories.
Hardly anyone still reads nowadays. People make use of the writer only in order to work off their own excess energy on him in a perverse manner, in the form of agreement or disagreement.
Unless his tolerant remarks in Religio Medici be construed as clearly Anglican, he left no political opinions. The tenor of the times produced so much overtly polemical writing that we have come almost to expect contention as a feature of mid-seventeenth cenury literature. But as much historical research continues to remind us, the upheavals of the Civil War and the antecedent period dit not, perhaps, engulf the whole nation so irresistibly as we are inclined to believe. It was quite possible for a politically sensitive intellectual to have opinions and sympathies in the conflict which did not necessarily inform or even surface in his work.[...]Browne's reputation in English letters has always been high without being familiar. He is the sort of writer who, in the face of competition from Shakespeare, Jonson, Bacon, Burton, and Jacobean and Caroline poets in the first half of the century, and from Hobbes, Marvell, and above all Milton in the second half, is more known about than known. This is unfortunate, but quite reasonable. For one thing his oeuvre is large, and with few exceptions comprehends works too long or too concentrated to be digested readily or comfortably. Secondly, like Burton, Browne is among the most recondite of writers: when not proposing himself as his subject (a topic quite remote enough), his enthusiasms are specialist, learned, antiquarian, obscure. His style, often meditative in the most striking ways, is nevertheless labyrinthine and baroque: the texture of his thought is studded with allusion, reference, understatement, and quotation in ancient languages. In short, Browne is uncompromising and difficult, even to the ear tempered by mid-seventeenth century rhythms; it requires a number of readings to make sense of much he says; and even then, the range of reference can seem fearsome and prohibitive.
'Time is more severe than the public, however, with books. The public at least pounces on the best-sellers, even if to forget them almost as fast. [. . .] say 500 novels a week are published (far more today no doubt) five get reviewed, one everywhere, two here and there, and two very little; those five become 260 at the end of the year, not necessarily the same five; of which five get remembered in Christmas lists. That makes fifty after ten years, of which five get remembered for the decade. And fifteen over three decades, quickly reduced to five or less for literary histories. But by now out of thousands published. So it's a lottery. Fun to start with, since the young tend to seek fun. Sometimes one of these 7,800,000 or so gets rediscovered and revived, not necessarily among the most successful at the time. Frequently the best are ignored and the next best with the worst highly praised. But success in a lifetime doesn't necessarily mean bad, nor does failure automatically mean good though ignored. It's amazing how little this matters now, it's worked out jocularly at the time of a first novel over forty years past, to rinse all false ambitions away. And vaguely confirmed by mild and indifferent observation since, watching authors prancing through press and parties wrapped in their own blurbs. The lottery accepted, by one who never wins lotteries. Accepted also is the strong risk that grammatical experiment is automatically ignored or unseen, though begun long ago and explored with very different characters and plots. The most plotless being this text, which is bound to have a zappy ending.'
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