04 August

4 August 1920

2 Portland Villas, Hampstead - London

[. . .] And yet we would say without hesitation that Esther Waters is not a great novel, and never could be a great novel, because it has not, from first to last, the faintest stirring of the breath of life. It is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage. In a word it has no emotion. Here is a world of objects accurately recorded, here are states of mind set down, and here, above all, is that good Esther whose faith in her Lord is never shaken, whose love for her child is never overpowered - and who cares? [Quotes from novel] Do we not feel that to be the detective rather than the author writing? It is an arid, sterile statement. Or this: [Quotes from novel] The image of the little feet on wheels is impossibly flat and cold, and ‘tremulous' is never the word for Esther - ‘trembling' or ‘all of a tremble' - the other word reveals nothing. What it comes to is that we believe that emotion is essential to a work of art; it is that which makes a work of art a unity. Without emotion writing is dead; it becomes a record instead of a revelation, for the sense of revelation comes from that emotional reaction which the artist felt and was impelled to communicate. To contemplate the object, to let it make its own impression - which is Mr Moore's way in Esther Waters - is not enough. There must be an initial emotion felt by the writer, and all that he sees is saturated in that emotional quality. It alone can give incidence and sequence, character and background, a close and intimate unity. [. . .] Review of Esther Waters by George MooreAthenaeum, 6 August 1920]