Last evening Professor Wendell lectured in the Fogg Art Museum before the Cercle Francais upon the subject: The Value of an Appreciation of French Style to Writers of English.
France, said Professor Wendell, had been called the Greece of Modern Europe, and in a certain sense she is rightly called so. By the self-concentration so characteristic of the Greeks she has given us a style beyond criticism; for the French by this self-centred interest developed a rigid self-criticism, which was the parent of an excellent style. Unlike English, we find in French literature no flashes of genius; but on the other hand we do find that consistent mediocrity which the English so strikingly lacks.
During the last few years the writers of English-but more especially those of America-have, by submitting themselves to French influence, produced some creditable short stories, with which French literature abounds. This is exactly what all writers of English, who hope to attain excellence of literary form, should do; for only by contagion can this excellent characteristic be acquired. What we most need is not an education for genius-that we already possess-but we do need to gain this preciseness of form which is so admirable in French literature.