The title of George Egerton's first collection of short stories, Keynotes (1893), announces a concern with the beginnings of sequences, the first principles from which larger patterns are orchestrated. The stories introduce premises from which new social and sexual relations may be engendered and individual existential choices made, a philosophical intent that harks back to the preoccupation in classical Greek thought with the nature of the Good Life and how to live it, which Friedrich Nietzsche renews for modern Western philosophy. Egerton's broad but nonetheless radical engagement with Nietzschean thought can be traced through the references she makes to the philosopher in Keynotes, which are widely credited with being the first in English literature. Indeed, such allusions are, as Iveta Jusová observes, “the most frequent literary reference[s] in Egerton's texts” (53). They were also recognised and mobilised against her by some of her earliest critics.
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