Emile Zola

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Author: William Dean Howells

Emile Zola

by William Dean Howells

In these times of electrical movement, the sort of construction in the moral world for which ages were once needed, takes place almost simultaneously with the event to be adjusted in history, and as true a perspective forms itself as any in the past. A few weeks after the death of a poet of such great epical imagination, such great ethical force, as Emile Zola, we may see him as clearly and judge him as fairly as posterity alone was formerly supposed able to see and to judge the heroes that antedated it. The present is always holding in solution the elements of the future and the past, in fact; and whilst Zola still lived, in the moments of his highest activity, the love and hate, the intelligence and ignorance, of his motives and his work were as evident, and were as accurately the measure of progressive and retrogressive criticism, as they will be hereafter in any of the literary periods to come. There will never be criticism to appreciate him more justly, to depreciate him more unjustly, than that of his immediate contemporaries. There will never be a day when criticism will be of one mind about him, when he will no longer be a question, and will have become a conclusion. A conclusion is an accomplished fact, something finally ended, something dead; and the extraordinary vitality of Zola, when he was doing the things most characteristic of him, forbids the notion of this in his case. Like every man who embodies an ideal, his individuality partook of what was imperishable in that ideal. Because he believed with his whole soul that fiction should be the representation, and in no measure the misrepresentation, of life, he will live as long as any history of literature survives. He will live as a question, a dispute, an affair of inextinguishable debate; for the two principles of the human mind, the love of the natural and the love of the unnatural, the real and the unreal, the truthful and the fanciful, are inalienable and indestructible.

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Chicago: William Dean Howells, "Emile Zola," Emile Zola, ed. Davis, Charles Belmont, 1866-1926 in Emile Zola (New York: Doubleday, Page & Company, 1909), Original Sources, accessed June 17, 2024, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=8GP3WWLWFY85GQG.

MLA: Howells, William Dean. "Emile Zola." Emile Zola, edited by Davis, Charles Belmont, 1866-1926, in Emile Zola, Vol. 22, New York, Doubleday, Page & Company, 1909, Original Sources. 17 Jun. 2024. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=8GP3WWLWFY85GQG.

Harvard: Howells, WD, 'Emile Zola' in Emile Zola, ed. . cited in 1909, Emile Zola, Doubleday, Page & Company, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 17 June 2024, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=8GP3WWLWFY85GQG.