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The canon of biblical books is frequently cited as a parallel to a unitary literary canon that, though often presumed, is in fact not to be found. The biblical canon was created for the purpose of forestalling change and exiling competition. There are at least ten kinds of literary canons, all ultimately resulting from selections made for such distinct purposes as providing models, transmitting a heritage, creating common frames of reference, logrolling, legitimating theory, historicizing, and pluralizing. Canons formed for any of these purposes necessarily yield to change over time and compete with one another at any given time. We can reasonably expect neither the abolition of selective canons nor agreement on a single one; we can, however, seek clarity about purposes.
The Keynotes Series was the result of one of John Lane's schemes for calling attention to new writers and trends. These fourteen novels and nineteen volumes of short stories published between 1894 and 1897 represent a significant cross section of what Lane, whose Bodley Head Press was regarded as the center of fin de siècle literary attitudes, thought new and modish. An examination of the contents of the Series is useful in seeing the 1890's in perspective: conventional morality is there defended more often than attacked, decadent themes are few but technical experiments in structure and style many, and Hardy, not Wilde or Pater, exercises the greatest influence. (The first complete listing of the Series is included.)
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