16 July 2012

Shrieking After Immortality

George Moore evaluates the work of Jules and Edmond de Goncourt in Confessions of a Young Man (London: T. Werner Laurie, 1904), pp. 134-5:
Goncourt is not an artist, notwithstanding all his affectation and outcries; he is not an artist. Il me fait l'effet of an old woman shrieking after immortality and striving to beat down some fragment of it with a broom. Once it was a duet, now it is a solo. They wrote novels, history, plays, they collected bric-à-brac -- they wrote about their bric-à-brac; they painted in water-colours, they etched -- they wrote about their water-colours and etchings; they have made a will settling that the bric-à-brac is to be sold at their death, and the proceeds applied to founding a prize for the best essay or novel, I forget which it is. They wrote about the prize they are going to found; they kept a diary, they wrote down everything they heard, felt, or saw, radotage de vieille femme; nothing must escape, not the slightest word; it might be that very word that might confer on them immortality; everything they heard, or said, must be of value, of inestimable value. A real artist does not trouble himself about immortality, about everything he hears, feels and says; he treats ideas and sensations as so much clay wherewith to create.
Edmond de Goncourt died on this day in 1896.