Доклад опубликован в рамках III Областной научно – практической конференции учащихся на английском и немецком языках «Культурное наследие стран изучаемого языка», посвященной 350-летию Дж. Свифта 25 февраля 2017.
Bezborodova Yulia, 8 form, Lvovsky school №4, Podolsk
Teacher: Travkina Olga Vladimirovna
Our famous poet of the Silver Age Konstantin Balmont wrote, «Oscar Wilde is the most prominent English writer of the end of the latest century. He created a number of brilliant pieces full of new ideas. And from the point of view of interest and personal originality, nobody cannot be put at the same level with him except Nietzsche». This made us study Oscar Wilde's quotations and we were greatly surprised that his ideas may be called opposite to the ideas of our famous writers. We decided to choose Anton Chekhov because he was the one, who influenced British literature greatly. In 1928 John Galsworthy said that the most powerful magnet for young writers of many countries was Anton Chekhov.
Thus, the goal of our study is to compare the ideas of Anton Chekhov and Oscar Wilde on literature and writing. The subject of the study are the ideas of these two prominent writers on literature. The object of the study are their quotations on the theme.
Anton Chekhov and Oscar Wilde belonged to the same time. Oscar Wilde was born in 1854 in Dublin, Ireland, to a family of a doctor. Anton Chekhov was born in 1860 in Taganrog. His father had a small shop.
Oscar Wilde's well – educated parents gave him his first education at home. They encouraged his love to books and languages. After Portora Royal school, which he had finished with a medal, Oscar Wilde went to Trinity College and then to Oxford. Thus, his education was really brilliant. Anton Chekhov studied in Taganrog Gymnasium. Later he entered the medical faculty of Moscow University.
Both started writing while studying. Anton Chekhov was fond of theatre. He also took part in the amateur theatre performances at his classmate's house . Being still in gymnasium he published hand – made humorous magazines and wrote short stories for them. At the age of 18 Anton Chekhov created his first drama «Fatherless». Being a student Oscar Wilde travelled a lot and wrote several pieces. He was even awarded the Newdigate Prize for his poem «Ravenna». More commonly it is awarded to students of the University of Oxford for the Best Composition in English verse by an undergraduate who has been admitted to Oxford within the previous four years.
After graduating from Oxford University Oscar Wilde settled in London and travelled around the USA with lectures. After graduating from Moscow University Anton Chekhov became a county doctor not far from Moscow. He was known to be kind and mindful.
Oscar Wilde's first collection of poems was published in 1881. At that time he worked as a journalist, wrote a lot of stories and in1890 published «The Picture of Dorian Grey». It was a great success. He demonstrated his wit in his plays «An Ideal Husband» and «The Importance of Being Earnest». In the middle of the 1880s Chekhov wrote mainly short humorous stories, about one a day. A famous writer Dmitry Grigorovich advised him not to waste his talent on small things and to create something significant. It seems that Chekhov followed his advice. His stories became longer and more serious. He started to travel and his new impressions appeared in his story «Steppe». For the first time it was published not in a humorous magazine but in a thick serious magazine «Northern Gazette». It attracted public's attention to Chekhov.
Eventually Anton Chekhov became a world – famous writer who influenced a lot of other people all over the world. Oscar Wilde was not as successful as Anton Chekhov. He got into prison which broke him morally. After the prison he lived in France and changed his name. Then he wrote «The Ballad of Reading Gaol» and soon died.
Thus, Anton Chekhov's and Oscar Wild's lives were diametrically different. The only common thing was the great devotion to literature and art. They worked thoroughly at each word. «I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again», wrote Oscar Wilde. No doubt, their scope and credo were influenced in the process of life by their environment.
It may seem strange that Oscar Wilde's attitude to literature he belonged to was quite negative. Here are some examples of his quotations:
«I hate vulgar realism in literature. The man who could call a spade a spade should be compelled to use one. It is the only thing he is fit for».
«Journalism is unreadable, and literature is not read».
«Anybody can write a three – volumed novel. It merely requires a complete ignorance of both life and literature».
«One should not be too severe on English novels; they are the only relaxation of the intellectually unemployed».
«The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what Fiction means».
«Literature always anticipates life. It does not copy it, but moulds it to its purpose. The nineteenth century, as we know it, is largely an invention of Balzac».
Analyzing these quotations, we can see that Oscar Wilde neglected the great role of literature. He proclaimed Art for Art and the refinement of the language. He did not support discussing urgent problems. He said, «All bad poetry springs from genuine feeling. To be natural is to be obvious, and to be obvious is to be inartistic».
He also claimed his readers, «The public is wonderfully tolerant. It forgives everything except genius». Here is another quote, «The English public, as a mass, takes no interest in a work of art until it is told that the work in question is immoral». His opinion on the role of literature is evident from his quotation, «I never write plays for anyone. I write plays to amuse myself. After, if people want to act in them, I sometimes allow them to do so».
Anton Chekhov had an opposite opinion. He said, «Writers, whom we call eternal or just good, have one common and an important feature: they go somewhere and call you to the same place... The best of them are realists and write about the life as it is. But because of the fact that each line is impregnated by the awareness of goal, like by juice, besides the real life as it is, you feel the life as it must be, and this captivates you». He also tried to analyze the modern trends of contemporary literature. «I badly see into modern trends in poetry. The matter, as you can see, is not in symbolism or decadence and not in realism, but in the live sense of reality and in the necessity of words to flow from your soul when you write. None kind of form or mannered expressions will save, if an author does not feel the piece he has planned». Thus, he had an opposite opinion. Nevertheless, Anton Chekhov did not neglect the beauty of the language. He wrote, «Beware of refined language. The language must be simple and elegant».
Oscar Wilde did not approve the contemporary writers and readers.
«I quite admit that modern novels have many good points. All I insist on is that, as a class, they are quite unreadable».
«The aim of most of our modern novelists seems to be, not to write good novels, but to write novels that will do good».
«We have been able to have fine poetry in England because the public do not read it, and consequently do not influence it».
Anton Chekhov did not claim his contemporary writers. But he gave some advice.
«Giving a loose to your imagination, hold your hand».
«If you don't have anything to write about, just write about it».
«The Art of writing is the Art of abbreviation».
«A writer must write a lot, but he must not hurry».
«My advice: in a play try to be original and, if it is possible, smart, but do not be afraid to seem silly. Libertinism is necessary. It is a freethinker who is not afraid of writing silly things».
«Don't smooth, don't grind, be clumsy and daring. Brevity is the sister of talent». «If you work for the present, your work will be paltry. It is necessary to work keeping in mind the future».
«It is possible to lie in love, policy, in medicine. It is possible to cheat people... But it is impossible to cheat people in Art».
Once he joked, «There is no ugly man who failed to find his couple. There is no nonsense which failed to find its reader».
Thus, Anton Chekhov is more polite towards writers and contemporary literature while Oscar Wild openly laughed at other writers. Moreover, he expressed dissatisfaction by newly published pieces. He accepted to be a cynic and explained his point of view, «What is a cynic? A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing».
However, Oscar Wilde's sharp quotations were forgiven by many poets and writers because of his talent. Konstantin Balmont said, «Oscar Wilde resembles a beautiful and dangerous orchid. You may talk that an orchid is a poisonous and a sensual flower, but it is a flower, it is beautiful, it blossoms, it pleases».
To sum it up, Oscar Wilde and Anton Chekhov were quite different people and their view on literature was not the same. Oscar Wilde claimed Art for Art and did not want literature to describe reality, while Anton Chekhov was a realistic writer and wrote about the things and events around. But both were greatly devoted to their work and will be always remembered for their masterpieces.
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