Wednesday, September 1, 2010


George Saintsbury's classic A History of English Prose Rhythm (1912), one of the books James Joyce referred to while writing the "Oxen of the Sun" chapter of Ulysses, can be read online free of charge by clicking here. Thanks to for making this available, since the book is hard-to-find, relatively expensive, and an interesting artifact of an age when scholars wrote prose rather than technocratic jargon, an age long since lost down the dark backward and abysm of tenure. Consider this: two of the greatest prose styles in late 19th-century Britain belonged to a pair of mutually antagonistic academics, Ruskin and Pater. A century earlier, one of the best styles was commanded by a historian, Gibbon. What historian today commands a style as powerful as Gibbon's, what art critic writes a prose as beautiful as Pater's, what cultural critic one as magisterial as Ruskin's? Where has it gone, the prose of yesteryear?

1 comment:

LMR said...

I discovered this book via William Gass; it's quite remarkable, and the examples it uses - Browne, Donne, Taylor - are so beautiful.

And I found an Urquhart coinage that is just superb: Philologotheosophically. What a word!