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Every work of literature is intimately connected with the personality of the author who
produces it. There is always a man behind a book, and the judging of the quality of
literature becomes vital to us if we try to think of the author not as a mysterious
disembodied force but rather as a man who wrote to satisfy needs and to resolve
difficulties which are common to us. Literature does not grow by spontaneous
combustion; it is the product of men and women who wrote it out of their lives. They
were real persons of flesh and blood who loved and worked and agonised as men have
done in all ages.
Expressing the view that every book is a reflection of the personality of the author,
Matthew Arnold wrote: ”What is really precious and inspiring in all that we get from
literature, except the sense of an immediate contact with genius itself? Objects could
never be described except for the purpose of describing the feelings which they arouse in
us, for language ought to represent at the same moment the thing and the author, the
subject and the thought. Everything that we say ought to be dyed with us. This process is
a long one, but it immortalises us. For language is formed to convey not the object alone,
but likewise the character, mood and intentions of the person who is representing it.”
Goethe has also expressed at many places in his writings the danger of forsaking the
inner light, of relying on something external, something which is not the language of the
heart’s experience, the danger, or rather the impossibility, of severing expression from
personality. Thus he remarked: ”The style of a writer is a true impression of his inner self: if any
one could write a clear style, let him first have clearness in his soul, and if anyone would write a
great style, let him see to it that he has a great character.” And again, ”It is the personal character
of the writer that brings his meaning before his readers, not the artifices of his talent.” And in
another passage he says: ”The artist must work from within outwards, seeing that, make
what contortions he will, he can only bring to light his own individuality...Only in this way
is it possible to be original.”
Expressing the same view that in every great work of literature there must be fidelity to the
personal vision of the artist, Pater wrote in his Essay on Style: ”Truth-there can be no merit, no
craft at all without that. And further, all Beauty is in the long run only fineness of truth, and what
we call expression, the finer accommodation of truth to that vision within.” And again, ”To give
the phrase, the sentence, the structural member, the entire composition song or essay, a
similar unit with the subject and with itself-style is in the right way when it tends towards that.
All depends on the original unity, the vital wholeness and identity, of the initiatory apprehension
or view.”
What Matthew Arnold, Goethe and Pater have expressed may be called the personal or
subjective view of literature, which lays emphasis on the personal factor in all literature. But there
are some critics who hold the opposite view-the impersonal or objective view about literature i.e.,
the personality of the author should have nothing to do with his writings; the author who like
Shakespeare expresses the personality of others is greater than the one like Byron who projects
his own personality in his writings, Flaubert, the great champion of this view, wrote in one of his
letters: ”There are two kinds of poets. The greatest, the rare ones, the true masters, sum up
humanity: they are not preoccupied with themselves or their own passions, they put their own
personality into the background in order to absorb themselves in the personalities of others; they
reproduce the universe, which is reflected in their works with all its glitter and variety and
multiplicity-There are others who have only to create, and they achieve harmony; to weep, and
they move us; to think about themselves, and they are immortal. Possibly if they were to do
anything else they might not go quite so far; but while they lack breadth, they have ardour and
dash: in short, if they had been born with a different temperament probably they would not have
had genfus at all. Byron was of this family, Shakespeare of other: who can tell me what
Shakespeare loved, betrayed, or felt.”
There is no doubt that Shakespeare hides his personality in his plays, but what about his Sonnets
which are by universal admission among the most intimate of personal utterances? If we look at
this problem of the relation of the personality of the author to his works, we come to the
conclusion that ultimately they must bear the impress of his personality in some form or the other.
Though Milton wrote Paradise Lost with the purpose of subduing to the strict form of Epic, all
things in heaven and earth and hell, he could not rule out his own personality out of it. In fact it
becomes a reflection of his own personal feelings, thoughts and imaginations.
’Is this the region, this the soil, the clime’,
Said then the lost Archangel ’this the seat
That we must change for Heaven? This mournful gloom
For that celestial light?
Farewell, happy fields Where joy forever dwells: hail horrors, hail Infernal world, and thou
profoundest Hell, Receive thy new possessor; one who brings A mind not to be changed by place
or time. The mind is its own place, and in itself Can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.’