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Two influences on L. P. Hartley's The Go-Between.

The few critics who have written about L. P. Hartley agree that the principal influences on his work in general are Emily Bronte, Henry James and Nathaniel Hawthorne. More particularly, Giorgio Melchiori has established beyond doubt that passages in Hartley's most famous novel, The Go-Between, owe a great deal to Hawthorne's short story "Rappaccini's Daughter" ("The English Novelist and the American Tradition" [Sewanee Review. Vol 68, Issue 18, 1960]: 502-15). More recently, in this very journal, I suggested that when Hartley in The Go-Between has Leo Colston picturing himself "threading [his] way through the Zodiac, calling on one star after another (The Go-Between [London: Penguin Classics, 2000]: 83), Hartley has in mind the British poet George Barker's odd little poem "News of the World" ("Wanderers in the Zodiac: George Barker and L. P. Hartley" [Notes on Contemporary Literature, 26, 1996]: 8).

There are two further influences on The Go-Between, and both concern members of the Maudsley family, with whom Hartley's schoolboy protagonist Leo Colston stays during a few weeks of the summer of 1900. Leo notices a trait of rapacity in Marian Maudsley:
 She was wearing what I afterwards came to think of as her
 'hooded' look. Her father's long eyelids drooped over her eyes,
 leaving under them a glint of blue so deep and liquid
 that it might have been slanting through an unshed tear. Her
 hair was bright with sunshine, but her face, which was full like
 her mother's ... wore a stern brooding look that her small
 curved nose made almost hawklike. She looked formidable
 then. (The Go-Between [London: Penguin Classics, 2000]:32)

And, later on, Leo notices Marian pensive: "her face had the hooded, hawklike look it sometimes wore" (80). Of course, a hawk is a convenient, not to say easy, symbol for brooding rapacity, but I think that Hartley has in mind John Buchan's The Thirty-Nine Steps whose memorable unnamed German villain is "an old man with a young voice who could hood his eyes like a hawk" (The Thirty-Nine Steps [London: Penguin, 1991]: 24) and whose eyes Richard Hannay does indeed see, in the book's dramatic final pages, as having "the inhuman luminosity of a bird's" (125).

The other influence concerns Mr. Maudsley, Marian's father, "W. H. Maudsley, of Princes Gate and Threadneedle Street" (Threadneedle Street meaning the Bank of England), and whom Leo Colston perceives as "gnome-like, leaving a trail of gold" (29, 32). Here it is not a novel that lies behind Hartley's imagery, but a poem, Kenneth Allott's "Lament for a Cricket Eleven (1938), which traces the fortunes of the cricketers captured in a sepia photograph: "Two sit in Threadneedle Street like gnomes" (Poetry of the Thirties [London: Penguin Modern Classics, 1964]:112).

Roger Craik, Kent State University Ashtabula Campus
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Author:Craik, Roger
Publication:Notes on Contemporary Literature
Article Type:Critical essay
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jan 1, 2007
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