and the language of the liturgy andnScripture, Hardy nonetheless felt thatnthe only real function of Christianity wasnthe social cohesion it provided. Millgatenpoints out that Hardy was influenced asna young man by Auguste Comte, thenfounder of Positivism, and that he was anlifelong friend of the leading BritishnPositivist, Frederic Harrison. Positivism’sn”Religion of Man” is a wholesale transfernof Christian rites and dogmas to the worshipnof the abstraction “Man.” ThusnHardy could see in Positivism an outletnfor charitable emotions. Hardy’s intensensympathy with the sufferings of animals,nlaudable in itself, is indicative of hisnmisdirected sensitivity.nThe side of Hardy which tendedntoward what he called “meliorism,” thenbelief in definite historical progress, wasnovershadowed by his bleak view ofnhuman existence. As he wrote to FredericnHarrison:nThe fact is that when you get to thenbottom of things you find no bedrocknof righteousness to rest on—nnature is awmoral—& our puny effortsnare those of people who try tonkeep their leaky house dry by wipingnoff the waterdrops from the ceiling.nThe “leaky house” to which Hardy refersnis nature itself. Many of the most powerfulnscenes in his fiction simultaneouslynevoke the beauty and lushness of naturenas well as its hostility or indifference. InnFaulkner, nature is given a quality of beingnwhich points to its createdness; it is anstandard against which man is measured,nand it implies a corresponding transcendentnmeasure, not a mere faulty roof.nHowever, Hardy remains a great artist,nalbeit one with a serious flaw. He oncenwrote in his notebook: “An amplentheme: the intense interests, passions,nand strategy that throb through the commonestnlives.” Whenever he works outnhis “ample theme,” in his fiction andnmuch-neglected poetry, Thomas Hardynis at home.nIn Group Po;:?nwV Nicholas Delbanconhas attempted an interesting type ofn38inChronicles of Culturenliterary biography, what he calls “A biographicalnstudy of writers in community.n” Delbanco has researched the interrelationshipsnamong five novelists whonall lived in the rolling hills of Kent andnSussex at the turn of the century. Delbanco’sncontention is that Joseph Conrad,nStephen Crane, Ford Madox Ford,nHenry James, and H.G. Wells were partnof a self-conscious community of writersnwho sought to learn from and collaboratenwith each other.nThe first thing that is apparent aboutnGmup Portrait is that its author is a novelistnhimself. The book seems to be writtennmore for other novelists than for thenintelligent layman, as Delbanco makesnpassing references to things which no onenbut a specialist in literary history wouldnknow. Even his thesis seems strained:nthough he does show a number of briefncollaborations and exchanges of letters,nthere is no sign that these writers gatheredntogether with the specific intent ofnworking together. In the same neighborhoodnlived Rudyard Kipling, John Galsworthy,nW.H. Hudson, and others, butnthey go unexamined.nDelbanco devotes a section tonStephen Crane but never proves how hencan be directly related to the other novelists.nHis portrait of the young Crane, thencommitted artist dying slowly of consumption,nliving extravagantly in ordernto hide his illness, is excessively romantic.nCrane was a prodigy as a journalist andnfiction writer whose career was sadly cutnnnshort. But his only major work is TheRednBadge of Courage, which was writtennwell after the Civil War by a man whonhad never participated in it. It was thenguilt Crane felt for not fighting in thenwar that feeds the bleak “naturalism” ofnthe novel. Crane can be seen as one of thenfirst “existentialists” whose experiencenwas that of radical alienation andnisolation.nThe next section, covering FordnMadox Ford and Joseph Conrad, is thenmost convincing. Their period of collaborationnwas limited but intensive, andnthey were both at the right moments inntheir careers to profitably absorb eachnother’s influence. The Polish seamannwho had settled in England and hadnpublished some of his tales was still feelingnhis way toward a fluent narrativenstyle. Ford was another prodigy who hadnmore fluency than structure or substance.nConrad gained a greater ease ofnexpression, and the stmcture which Conradninsisted on made Ford’s few greatnnovels shine amidst the mountains ofndross he wrote. In addition to his finencraftsmanship, Conrad possessed a profoundninsight into the cultural crisis ofnthe West, evident in such novels as Heartnof Darkness, The Secret Agent, andnUnder Western Eyes.nDelbanco’s final chapter covers HenrynJames and H.G. Wells. Once again, henfails to show their association in any othernway than an intermittent correspondence,nbut the debate about the novel innwhich they engaged is highly significant.nWells and James exemplify oppositenpoles of the argument about the role andnfunction of the novel, or of art in general.nJames, of course, held a view close to “artnfor art’s sake” which required thennovelist to render a fiill, impressionisticnpicture of life in his fiction. Wells, thenhigh priest of progress, argued that thenrole of the novel should be didactic: itnmust be journalistic, reporting in thenmuckraking style, and it must move peoplento action, by which he meant socialistnrevolution and “free love.” A glance atnbookstore shelves will show who is stillnbeing read: the only Wells novelsn