In 1899 Marcel Proust read a translation of Ruskin's "The Lamp of Memory" in a Belgian magazine. Fourteen years later he back-projected the experience onto the narrator of "Du Cote de Chez Swann", who describes himself as a boy reading the self-same piece in the garden in Combray. In between lay a period of intermittent enthusiasm for Victorian writing - a period which saw the refurbishment of Proust's method and a fundamental rethinking of his views. Much of this re-assessment was achieved in relation to English writers whom Proust adopted, absorbed and then as often or not discarded. The end result, however, was to enable him to pass from one, outmoded aesthetic to another. The progress from one to another is illustrated through Proust's reactions to Carlyle, Darwin, Emerson, Ruskin, George Eliot, Hardy, Stevenson, Wells and Wilde. There is also a chapter on the connection in Proust's mind between literary and art criticism, and his delayed response to the Ruskin-Whistler dispute of 1878. A final chapter relates these matters to the current debate as to the parallel between the 19th-century fin-de-siecle and that of the 20th century. Robert Fraser is also the editor of "Collected Poems" of George Barker and "Sir James Frazer and the Literary Imagination", and is the author of "The Making of 'The Golden Bough'".
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Robert Fraser is currently lecturing in English at Royal Holloway, University of London.
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