George Moore, 1852-1933


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Adrian Frazier

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Always at the center of cultural change and excitement, George Moore enjoyed a sixty-year literary career during which he wrote prolifically, befriended artists and authors from Paris to London to Dublin, and rejected marriage but never the company of women. This book—the first documentary biography of Moore since 1936—tells the remarkable story of a high-spirited man and his pathbreaking innovations as a writer. Adrian Frazier has mined letters, memoirs, society journals, writings not previously attributed to Moore, and other archives to reveal new information about Moore’s early life, his ostensibly promiscuous bachelor life, and his complex career as an author.

The book provides an engaging account of Moore’s pursuit of his passions, from his early, failed attempt to become an artist in Paris in the 1870s through his long career as an author. Moore wrote plays, poetry, criticism, short stories, and sixteen novels, among them his best-known Esther Waters. His experiments in style ranged from the naturalistic A Mummer’s Wife to the stream-of-consciousness prose of The Lake to the seamless, fluent narratives of his late manner—the comic Hail and Farewell and the epic The Brook Kerith. Frazier records the relationships between Moore and his well-known friends—Yeats, Joyce, Archer, Shaw, Frank Harris, Sickert, Whistler, and many others—and with the many women in his life, including his greatest love, Lady Cunard. At the end of his life, Moore sought without success a writer who would candidly tell the story of his life, loves, and art. At last Adrian Frazier has written that story.

Adrian Frazier is professor of English at Union College.

“[An] exemplary new biography. . . . It is likely that Frazier’s biography, elegantly written and rich in analytic insights, will do much to refurbish Moore’s faded reputation. As Frazier states in his introduction, his main aims are to tell an interesting story and to provide ‘a basis for further engagement with Moore and his works.’ In both purposes he has largely succeeded.”—Ben Howard, Sewanee Review

“A remarkable biography: witty, subtle, entertaining, rich and profound in its understanding of Moore’s technique and achievements as a writer. It will serve for many years as both a compelling and a comprehensive account of Moore’s magnificent contributions to literature.”—Bruce Arnold, Daily Telegraph

“Dazzling . . . It is the biography Moore deserved: sprightly, astute, often wildly funny, psychologically perceptive, endlessly quotable, and all built on a substratum of extremely hard work. Just like Moore himself.”—Roy Foster, Irish Times

“In this new biography, the first full account of Moore’s life since 1936, Frazier makes a convincing case for the novelist’s resurrection. . . . Frazier’s complex portrait of an Irish landowner who lived a Bohemian life that none but the rich could afford will only make readers want to know more.”—Library Journal

“A lively book, vividly written, and the best we are likely to want or to need for many years.”—Denis Donoghue, New Republic

“Laced with uncommon wit, affection and attention to Moore’s failings and absurdities, Frazier’s biography, the first since the 1930’s, is likely to reverse the long slide Moore’s reputation has experienced since his death. Well researched and persuasive, the volume should also return readers to Moore’s writing.”—Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

“Thorough and entertaining . . . [a] subtle and shrewd account.”—Victoria Glendinning, Spectator (London)

“Learned, judicious and occasionally racy . . . Frazier’s biography—the first full-length study since the 1930s—can’t be praised highly enough.”—DJ Taylor, Sunday Times

“At 600 pages of close print, Adrian Frazier’s biography has every right to claim the status of “definitive.” Luckily it has none of the tedium associated with that tag. Frazier may be scrupulous scholar, but he is also a fluent writer. George Moore always wanted someone to produce a biography which matched the wit and candour of his own life. Seventy years after his death, it has finally happened.”—Kathryn Hughes, Tablet

“[An] excellent book . . . What was needed was a first-class biography, and now we have it.”—Paul Johnson, Times Literary Supplement

“In Mr. Frazier . . . Moore has found a sensitive and most painstaking biographer, who has sifted through thousands of private letters and many manuscripts which have become available since Moore died.”—Colin Walters, Washington Times

“At its heart is material Moore’s first biographer, Joseph Hone, could not include—the long, intense, bittersweet affair with Maud Cunard . . . and most poignantly, both Moore and Cunard’s daughter, Nancy suspected that they were father and daughter. . . . Frazier writes with a genially mordant, even worldly tone about the many excesses and absurdities of Moore’s public and private dealings, with a character list that constitutes a cultural history of the period.”—Terence Brown, New York Times Book Review

“Frazier tells his long story with even-handed balance and excellent organisation. In sum, this is as complete an account of George Moore’s strengths and weaknesses, and his unbreakable fidelity to his art, as we are ever likely to get.”—Sean Day-Lewis, Literary Review

“A major, extensively researched and densely written biography. . . . It reveals Moore’s disturbed heart and soul, his urgent need for sexual gratification, his remarkable determination to establish an enduring reputation as a writer, and his obsessive need to recast his creative masks in his many revised editions. Frazier’s biography exceeds all previous biographical works on George Moore.”—Karl Beckson, Washington Post

“This book . . . is beyond compare the most ambitious, most enlightening, most judicious treatment of the many phases of Moore’s long career and could perhaps turn out to be more germinal than we may now envision. . . . As a contemporary biography, this is a superb piece of scholarship. As a study of George Moore’s life and times, it will be the benchmark for years to come.”—Thomas C. Ware, Chattanooga Times

“A well-documented study of a full and complex life. . . . A worthy companion to Frazier’s study of the formative years of the Abbey Theater, this biography will be a valuable tool for upper-division undergraduate students and advanced scholars interested in Irish literature and in the era of Zola, Shaw, Wilde, and the French Impressionists.”—Choice

“Adam Frazier’s George Moore, 1852-1933 is a brilliant and witty study of the author of Hail and Farewell.” —Helen Meany, Irish Times

“This is a riveting view of traumatic social change in Ireland, recorded with pithy eloquence by a combative local schoolteacher, enhanced by a masterly introduction and notes.” —Roy Foster, Times Literary Supplement

“As a contemporary biography, this is a superb piece of scholarship. As a study of George Moore’s life and times, it will be the benchmark for years to come.”—Thomas C. Ware, English Literature in Transition 1880-1920

“A fascinating picture of the Anglo-Irish writer. . . For anyone wishing to get the flavor of upper-middle-class Anglo-Irish Dublin when the Irish Literary Revival was coming into flower, it remains the essential on-the-ground book to read.”—Richard Tillinghast, The New Criterion

“Frazier’s densely written, admirably researched critical biography of George Moore is the first since Joseph Hone’s The Life of George Moore, which appeared in 1936. . . . Frazier’s book is most welcome. It offers incisive discussions of Moore’s writings, his role as a controversialist and cultural critic active in France as well as Ireland and Britain, and his mercurial, cantankerous, and often heterodox way of life. . . . Every page of Frazier’s biography displays his keen and exceptionally well informed mind at work on fascinating and, for the most part, little known materials.”—Albion

“The staggeringly well-connected Moore poses a field day for the adept biographer, and Frazier is impressively assured in managing the cast of characters, as well as in capturing the various social and legal dangers Moore courted with the frankness of his writing.”—James Eli Adams, Studies in English Literature

“[A] superb new biography of Moore. . . . By situating Moore’s work within its time, Frazier allows us to see just how prescient it was and how much it can, like the story of Moore’s life, speak to the needs of our own time.”—Elizabeth Grubgeld, Victorian Studies

ISBN: 9780300181197
Publication Date: June 1, 2000
624 pages, x