Essay – art of biography
Though, he is not at liberty to alter the facts, he is to rely on his imagination for ordering his facts into a pattern. It is his imagination which helps him to make the facts it into a logic growing out of the character of the man whose life he is attempting to reconstruct. The biographer’s basic aim is to arrive at a truth by way of reasoning from the available facts related to the life of his subject. So it is wrong to think that writing a biography simply means collection of facts and information. Carlyle has rightly observed, – “A well written life is almost as rare as a well spent one.
Perhaps, no other man of composition is so difficult; no other deals with such elusive material. Other forms of composition deal with thought and emotion but biography deals with the source of thought and emotion. Biography which was previously thought to be a simple catalogue of facts and events of a person’s life has In course of time developed Into an elaborate and interesting art. A great biography does not simply exhibit the external life of an individual but gives a vivid picture of his character and unfold the growth of his mind. A good biographer concerned with presenting the whole of a nature and character.
Biographers generally tend to highlight the virtues and positive qualities and to cover up the vices and failings of the individuals they deal with. But this tendency is bound to distort a biographer’s portrayal. Hence, “a good biography should be a veritable artistic picture of the life of a person in which the whites and blacks mingle together in natural relief and harmony. The biographers should be guard against on idealizing or glorifying their portrait. They should not forget that to err Is human’. They must not overlook the feelings or lapses If any In the characters they are portraying.
Because they often tends to dehumidifies their portraits. Their alma Is to create human being not deem- gods. The biographies written by Layton Strachey constitute a definite reaction against the old laudatory biography. Strachey is an iconoclast. He does not believe in hero-warship. He has tried to show Skeleton in the cup-board. He has never sought to put the dust and dirt underneath the carpet. His “Eminent Victoria”, “Elizabeth and Essen and “Green Victoria” through new light on the deem-gods or goddesses of history. With the weapons of wit, sarcasm and cynicism he has destroyed old idols.
Strachey exemplifies the true art of a biographer and in his biographies we do not at all find the tendency to hero worship which characterize Boswell “Life of Johnson”, Carryall’s “Life of sterling” and Lockhart “Life of Scott”, all of which mere rated light In their times. Strachey Is undisputed the greatest of modern biographers. He gives both facts and enjoyment. HIS biography Is a kind of literary revolution of the characters or the facts of the past and this offers knowledge as also rouses understanding, gives truth and creates feeling.
With Strachey biography has geographies the characters come out fully alive. These biographies not only dwell upon the great things of great man but also on the small things of great man. As a result the individuals emerged as a creature of flesh and blood. Another important thing in the modern biographies is the prominence of the literary side of the craft. Here, again Strachey is the path-finder. He has rightly observed “that biography should be primarily a form of literary art capable of giving the pleasure that art should give independent of subject-matter”.