Robert lynd -prose style

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Robert Lynd is one of the most outstanding and certainly one of the most delightful, of modern essayists. Like most of the modern essayist he possesses, to a high degree, the ability to write on any topic howsoever trivial it may be, and he can discover a wealth of meaning in an object which to a common eye may appear without much significance. This reminds us of what Hugh Walker has to say in this connection in his book "The English Essay and the Essayists"-"Apparently, there is no subject, from the stars to the dust heap and from the amoeba to man, which may not be dealt with in an essay". With the modern essayist the range of the subject- matter of the essay has become the widest. In the past, essayists like Bacon wrote on very serious and weighty topics like "Of Truth", "Of Empire", and "Of Great Place", "Noises" and "On the advantages of having one leg". But ~e must not forget that Bacon was not writing for the common man. He was writing his essays as pieces of advice for the highly -placed individuals like politicians, judges and administrators. Hence the subject had to be serious and relevant to their purpose. The modern essayist is basically a journalist and a journalist addresses a common man. About Chesterton one modern Critic has said that Chesterton's philosophy" is sublimated public opinion minus the opinion of the intellectuals."

About Robert Lynd we can say that there is no subject which is too trivial or too insignificant for his consideration. He is often reflective and writes with sympathy on all subjects. He can trip from one mood to another, from the gay to the grave, from the seemingly frivolous to the sober and thoughtful vein. His ideas are sometimes deliberately whimsical and his arguments are equally perverse, but his matter is never laboured. He has not the urbanity of Lucas or the wit of Chesterton, but he is more genial than either of them.

An essay by Lynd is a delightful experience. He is always readable, and his comments upon men and manners are very shrewd and penetrating. Consider his delightful reflections in his essay 'on "Money Box" -The gift of a money box to child, says Lynd, is with a view to train him in the art of saving because wisdom lies in saving for the future. The child who saves carefully becomes a perfect miser in the end, and he who, every now and then, takes out the money -box, turns out to be a perfect spendthrift. In both the cases the result is the same -to end up as a physical wreck either through abstinence or through over-indulgence. This leads on Lynd to say that the gift of a money -box is a fatal kindness.

Lynd's essay "Back to the Desk" illustrates admirably one of the most characteristic features, his skill in taking an unusual point of view-eg. that work is a most welcome rest after a holiday-and he presents this point of view with an urbane persuasiveness, quiet humour, ease and charm of style. This essay also illustrates Lynd's fondness for paradox. Look at the following statements:-

( 1) There is something peculiarly restful in returning to work after a holiday. (2) Work, I sometimes think, is the ultimate recreation of the really lazy man. Robert Lynd is a humorist. But his humour is quiet and not boisterous. "The world", he says, "is crying out just now for a return of good humour', and it is this good humour that is the Chief characteristic of all his essays. He has an innate sense of tolerance towards everything in modern life, and his good humour is the outcome of this tolerance. 'Lacking its good humour', he says, 'London would be one of the most uninhabitable of cities. Who would live amid the buzz of eight million spites?

A. C. Ward remarks-"Being more directly and coolly critical in his approach, he has neither the confident urbanity of E. V. Lucas nor the sensitive comprehensiveness of A. G. Gardiner. But he is a skilled phrasemaker, he can describe a cup final with his eye on many things besides the game-or on every thing except the games. He quotes a good example of Lynd's Phrasemaking:-

"There is great danger of a revival of virtue in this country. There are, I know,

two kinds ofVirtue. and only one of them is a vice" -"Virtue" (Pleasures of ignorance 1921).


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