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George Moore (George Augustus Moore) Biography

(1852–1933), (George Augustus Moore), A Modern Lover, A Mummer's Wife, A Drama in Muslin

Irish novelist, born in Ballyglass, Co. Mayo, the eldest son of a landowner and racehorse breeder. After his father's death in 1870, he inherited the family estate with which he subsidized seven years in Paris, studying art and literature. Due to his absence and the effects of the Land War in Ireland, he suffered a financial crisis in 1880 and had to leave Paris. He became a professional writer of fiction, intent on introducing the ideas of Zola, Balzac, and Flaubert to the English novel. His first published work, A Modern Lover (1883), which concerns the relationship between artistic compromise and sexual prostitution, was critically condemned as immoral and banned by the powerful circulating libraries. In reaction, Moore began a prolonged attack on the handful of critics and businessmen who controlled the reading habits of late Victorian England. The novels which followed refused to pander to prudery or the contemporary distrust of French narrative technique. In A Mummer's Wife (1884), which influenced Arnold Bennett, and A Drama in Muslin (1886), a novel about the landed gentry in Ireland, Moore experimented with Zola's theory of authorial detachment. His autobiographical portrayal of Parisian artists, Confessions of a Young Man (1888), recounts his conversion to naturalism: ‘The idea of a new art based upon science, … an art that should explain all things and embrace modern life in its entirety … filled me with wonder.’ Moore's financial problems were solved by the success of his most renowned novel, Esther Waters (1894), which tells the story of a servant girl's misfortunes and her struggle to protect her child. Esther is illiterate and her condition restricts her ability to reflect upon her suffering. In choosing to narrate the novel through a figure of low social rank, Moore exceeded the efforts of Thomas Hardy in Tess of the the d'Urbervilles (1891) to represent a mind of limited understanding.

In his later novels, Moore continued to run counter to contemporary tastes; The Brook Kerith (1916) and Héloïse and Abélard (1921), an imaginative reconstruction of life in the Middle Ages, experiment successfully with historical epic, while Celibate Lives (1927) pays homage to the aesthetics of Flaubert. In 1901 Moore moved to Dublin and, with W. B. Yeats, Lady Gregory, and Edward Martyn, helped to establish the Irish National Theatre, later the Abbey Theatre. His contribution to Anglo-Irish literature continued with a collection of short stories, The Untilled Field (1903), with which, Frank O'Connor has argued, ‘the Irish short story became a fact’. Vale (1914), the third and final volume of his autobiography, Hail and Farewell (191114), brilliantly satirizes the excesses of the Irish Literary Revival, though Moore never relinquished his belief in the renewal of Irish culture and identity. See The Life of Moore (1936), by J. M. Hone; George Moore: A Reconsideration (1955), by Malcolm Brown; and George Moore in Perspective (1983), by Janet Dunleavy. A new edition of the letters of George Moore, 19001933, George Moore on Parnassus (1988), was edited by Helmut E. Gerber.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Edgar Mittelholzer Biography to Mr Norris Changes Trains