Online Encyclopedia

GAUZE

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V11, Page 538 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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GAUZE, a light, transparent fabric, originally of silk, and now sometimes made of linen or cotton, woven in an open manner with very fine yarn. It is said to have been originally made at Gaza in Palestine, whence the name. Some of the gauzes from eastern Asia were brocaded with flowers of gold or silver. In the weaving of gauze the warp threads, in addition to being crossed as in plain weaving, are twisted in pairs from left to right and from right to left alternately, after each shot of weft, thereby keeping the weft threads at equal distances apart, and retaining them in their parallel position. The textures are woven either plain, striped or figured; and the material receives lnany designations, according to its appearance and the purposes to which it is devoted. A thin cotton fabric, woven in the same way, is known as leno, to distinguish it from muslin made by plain weaving. Silk gauze was a prominent and extensive industry in the west of Scotland during the second half of the 18th century, but on the introduction of cotton-weaving it greatly declined. In addition to its use for dress purposes silk gauze is much employed for bolting or sifting flour and other finely ground substances. The term gauze is applied generally cannot be surpassed. Gautier's poetical work contains in little an expression of his literary peculiarities. There are, in addition to the peculiarities of style and diction already noticed, an extra-ordinary feeling and affection for beauty in art and nature, and a strange indifference to anything beyond this range, which has doubtless injured the popularity of his work. But it was not, after all, as a poet that Gautier was to achieve either profit or fame. For the theatre, he had but little gift, and his dramatic efforts (if we except certain masques or ballets in which his exuberant and graceful fancy came into play) are by far his weakest. It was otherwise with his prose fiction. His first novel of any size, and in many respects his most remarkable work, was Mademoiselle de Maupin (1835). Unfortunately this book, while it establishes his literary reputation on an imperishable basis, was unfitted by its subject, and in parts by its treatment, for general perusal, and created, even in France, a prejudice against its author which he was very far from really deserving. During the years from 1833 onwards, his fertility in novels and tales was very great. Les Jeunes-France (1833), which may rank as a sort of prose Albertus in some ways, displays the follies of the youthful Romantics in a vein of humorous and at the same time half-pathetic satire. Fortunio (1838) perhaps belongs to the same class. Jettatura, written somewhat later, is less extravagant and more pathetic. A crowd of minor tales display the highest literary qualities, and rank with Merimee's at the head of all contemporary works of the class. First of all must be mentioned the ghost-story of La Morte amoureuse, a gem of the most perfect workmanship. For many years Gautier continued to write novels. La Belle Jenny (18'64) is a not very successful attempt to draw on his English experience, but the earlier Mililona (1847) is a most charming picture of Spanish life. In Spirite (1866) he endeavoured to enlist the fancy of the day for supernatural manifestations, and a Roman de la momie (1856) is a learned study. of ancient Egyptian ways. His most remarkable effort in this kind, towards the end of his life,vvas Le Capitaine Fracasse (1863), a novel, partly of the picaresque school, partly of that which Dumas was to make popular, projected nearly thirty years earlier, and before Dumas himself had taken to the style. This book contains some of the finest instances of his literary power. Yet neither in po}}ms nor in novels did the main occupation of Gautier as a litrrary man consist. He was early drawn to the more lucrative task of feuilleton-writing, and for more than thirty years he was among the most expert and successful practitioners of this art. Soon after the publication of Mademoiselle de Maupin, in which he had not been too polite to journalism, he became irrevocably a journalist. He was actually the editor of L'Artiste for a time: but his chief newspaper connexions were with La Presse from 1836 to 1854 and with the Moniteur later. His work was mainly theatrical and art criticism. The rest of his life was spent either at Paris or in travels of considerable extent to Spain, the Netherlands, Italy, Turkey, England, Algeria and Russia, all undertaken with a more or less definite purpose of book-making. Having absolutely no political opinions, he had no difficulty in accepting the Second Empire, and received from it considerable favours, in return for which, however, he in no way prostituted his pen, but remained a literary man pure and simple. He died on the 23rd of December 1872. Accounts of his travels, criticisms of the theatrical and literary works of the day, obituary notices of his contemporaries and, above all, art criticism occupied him in turn. It has sometimes been deplored that this engagement in journalism should have diverted Gautier from the performance of more capital work in literature. Perhaps, however, this regret springs from a certain misconception. Gautier's power was literary power pure and simple, and it is as evident in his slightest sketches and criticisms as in Emaux et camees or La Morte amoureuse. On the other hand, his weakness, if he had a weakness, lay in his almost total in-difference to the matters which usually supply subjects for art and therefore for literature. He has thus been accused of " lack of ideas " by those who have not cleared their own minds of cant; and in the recent set-back of the critical current against form and to transparent fabrics of whatever fibre made, and to the fine-woven wire-cloth used in safety-lamps, sieves, windgw-blinds, &c.
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