A new exhibition celebrating the famous Chinese poet, scholar and artist Mu Xin, and his love affair with English literature. Featuring manuscript of Virginia Woolf, Oscar Wilde, Lord Byron and Charles Lamb.
In Mu Xin’s Words: Treasures of the British Library
In Mu Xin’s Words: Treasures of the British Library takes place at the Mu Xin Art Museum in Wuzhen, from 15 October 2017 to 14 January 2018. Mu Xin (1927-2011) was an ardent admirer of English poetry, drama and fiction and the exhibition features original manuscripts – loaned by the British Library – of four of his favourite writers: Lord Byron, Charles Lamb, Oscar Wilde and Virginia Woolf. In this collection we explore these four works in greater depth, with insights and commentary from world-experts.
Introducing the four works
In her fourth novel, Mrs Dalloway (1925), modernist writer Virginia Woolf confronts the subject of the English middle classes in the aftermath of the 1914–18 war. She noted in her diary that she wanted ‘to criticise the social system, & to show it at work, at its most intense’. Recalling a lifetime’s reading of Virginia Woolf, Mu Xin commented: “Age really matters. I read her when I was in my thirties, forties, even fifties. In my sixties I understood. I understood where she had been right, and where she had been wrong.”Read more
Oscar Wilde’s first hit, Lady Windermere’s Fan (1892), is a hectic upper-class comedy, in which the tangled complexities of the plot are rivalled only by Wilde’s sparkling and witty dialogue. Relating an enjoyably unlikely story of a wife who suspects her husband of having an affair, only for the ‘other woman’ to be unmasked as her own mother, the drama was a huge success on the London West End stage. Mu Xin’s take on Wilde was more ambivalent: “Wilde was indeed a wit, sharp and eloquent. At times, however, I want to say to him: ‘Do not say too much. The more you say, the more mistakes you make.’”Read more
Lord Byron’s ‘Love and Gold’, thought to have been composed in 1812-1813, is a poem of seduction and deception, in which the poet pretends to be unworthy of the object of his affection. The poem has generated a degree of speculation, because no-one can identify precisely who which of his many lovers the famously promiscuous poet was addressing. Mu Xin described Byron as ‘the strongest voice in human civilisation […] against authority and for freedom, absolute freedom of the individual.’Read more
The Lambs’ Tales from Shakespeare is collection of 20 short stories designed to bring Shakespeare’s plays to life for young readers. Created by the brother and sister duo Charles and Mary Lamb (though only Charles was credited when the book first appeared in 1807), Tales has never been out of print in English, and has been translated into at least 40 languages worldwide – including Chinese, where it became sensationally popular in the early 1900s. Mu Xin said of Lamb’s impact on him as an adolescent: ‘it was love at first sight.’Read more
In Mu Xin's Words
‘A Thousand and One Nights in England’
On 6 June 1994, accompanied by his student Chen Danqing, Mu Xin began a three-week visit to England. This was Mu Xin’s only journey across the Atlantic, to which his literary response was ‘A Thousand and One Nights in England’, a draft which remained unfinished.Read more
A Child from Wuzhen: Mu Xin’s voyage to England
In 1994, Mu Xin travelled to England accompanied by his student, Mr Danqing Chen, now director of Mu Xin Art Museum. In this specially-comissioned article, Mr Chen reminisces about the good old days he spent with Mu Xin in England.Read more
Part 1: Vol 31. Renaissance and Shakespeare
Mu Xin discusses the literary history of the renaissance, the pre-Shakespeare authors, and the works of the bard himself.
Part 1: Vol 35. 18th Century English Literature
Mu Xin discusses a range of 19th century English authors including Alexander Pope, Jonathan Swift, Daniel Defoe, Thomas Chatterton, and Robert Burns.
Part 2: Vol 39. 19th Century English Literature, serial 1
Mu Xin starts the discussion with the first generation of the Romantic poets Wordsworth, Coleridge and Southey, before an in depth exploration of Byron’s life and works, how his poetry was first received in China and how we as Chinese reader can relate to Byron today.
Part 2: Vol 40. 19th Century English Literature, serial 2
In this essay Mu Xin examines the works of P B Shelley, John Keats, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Robert Browning, Elizabeth Browning and Thomas Hardy. He then moves onto the discussion of Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, William Thackeray and the Brontë sisters.
Part 2: 19th Century English Literature, serial 3
Mu Xin looks at the works of George Eliot, Charles Kingsley, Robert Stevenson, Rudyard Kipling, Oscar Wilde and Charles Lamb.
19th Century English Literature, serial 4
Thomas Carlyle, John Ruskin, Matthew Arnold, William Faulkner, Walter Pater, Thomas Huxley. This article is consist of paragraphs of introduction to each author.
Part 2: Vol 63. stream of consciousness
Mu Xin explores the concept of stream of consciousness, looking at the works of Virginia Woolf and Marcel Proust.
Exploring consciousness and the modern: an introduction to Mrs Dalloway.
Elaine Showalter describes how, in Mrs Dalloway, Virginia Woolf uses stream of consciousness to enter the minds of her characters and portray cultural and individual change in the period following the First World War.Read more
Too much suicide?
Narratives of Virginia Woolf’s life often place great emphasis on her depression and suicide. Lyndall Gordon considers the way this has overshadowed Woolf’s legacy, and clouded her reputation as a seminal novelist, feminist, and politicized intellectual.Read more
Virginia Woolf’s London
Virginia Woolf loved London, and her novel Mrs Dalloway famously begins with Clarissa Dalloway walking through the city. David Bradshaw investigates how the excitement, beauty and inequalities of London influenced Woolf’s writing.Read more
‘Waking the Sleeping Books’: Bloomsbury and the Crescent Moon Group in China
As Western literature is no longer banned, the literary connection between writings from China and the West is reawakening. The connection between the two dates back decades: this article discusses the striking parallels between the Bloomsbury Group and the Crescent Moon Group in terms of the historical background, aesthetic stance and relationship between art and politics; the prominent use by writers from both Groups of the ‘stream of consciousness’ technique is also considered.Read more
Lord Byron: 19th-century bad boy
Clara Drummond explains how Lord Byron’s politics, relationships and views on other poets led to his reputation of 19th-century bad boy.Read more