by Sullivan, Robert
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As with every other volume of The New Age, Volume Nine is a virtual barometer of the political and cultural events of the period, both at home and abroad. And, as with previous volumes, there is a healthy disagreement between the various contributors concerning many of these issues, aired either in the editorial "Notes of the Week," the various topical essays or, briefly but significantly, in the weekly letter columns.
The main domestic issues during this period were: the passing of the Parliament Bill (complicated by the death of Edward VII and the succession of George V); Lloyd George's introduction of the controversial National Insurance Act ; the further complication of Home Rule for Ireland due to the rise of Edward Carson as leader of the Ulster Unionists; the rise of "syndicalism" and direct action by trade unions, most particularly in Manchester and Liverpool where troops were deployed and workers mortally shot. Important pieces of legislation passed by Asquith's cabinet in 1911, were the "Copyright Act," the "Official Secrets Act," the "Payment of Members" act, and the "Shop's Act."
In foreign affairs, there continued the instability in the Balkan region due mostly to Turkey's worsening "sickness," leading to Italy's declaration of war against Turkey in September, 1911 so that she might take Tripoli (now Libya). This led directly to the Balkan Crisis of 1912, which in turn was a constituent part of the causes of the conflagration of 1914. Britain and Germany continued their naval rivalry but maintained semi-cordial relations, the Kaiser visiting in May and his son in June, 1911 for the Coronation of George V. But by far the most prominent and most dangerous geopolitical event of 1911 was the Agadir Crisis in Morocco, when Germany dispatched a gunboat to the Moroccan port to contest French hegemony in the region.
Culturally, 1911 saw the emergence of things Russian and The New Age recorded this phenomenon in its pages: this included the printing of a Chekhov story in the first issue; reviewing productions of Russian plays in England and abroad, and, most glowingly, informing its readers of the great virtuosity of the Russian Ballets. Diaghilev and his dancers Karsavina and Nijinsky burst upon the Covent Garden stage like a meteor shower. His stage designer, Bakst, influenced not only theatre design, but fashion generally, from the turban-like hats that women adopted to the "Bakst blue" colour that others painted their walls. Of their Schèrèrazade the usually taciturn Sir Thomas Beecham remarked: "It sounded the death knell of the existing system of organized incapacity." (It is worth remarking parenthetically here that both the great ballerinas Karsavina and Pavlova made their débuts in London on music-hall bills, sharing the stage with comics and jugglers.)
Other Cultural Milestones of 1911:
The coronation of George V (one enterprising reader took out an advert in the "Miscellaneous Advertisements" column in the New Age for "Windows to View the Coronation" (09:48); the "Siege of Sidney Street" entered cultural memory when the then Home Secretary Winston Churchill orchestrated the arrest of "Peter the Painter" and his fellow anarchists; the "Shop's Act" led to the "invention" of the weekend for the working classes and a concomitant burgeoning of cycling clubs; July and August were the hottest months on record (temperatures hitting 100° F) which no doubt exacerbated the confrontations between authorities and strikers, one of the lighter of which was the "Schoolboys Strike of !911; the gramophone was becoming less expensive and more popular; 1911 was census year, but many suffragettes refused to fill out the forms "No Vote, no census"; Oxford won the Boat Race in record time; an escalator was installed at Earl's Court Underground station; the horse Sunstar won the Derby on three legs; someone crossed the Atlantic in a rowing-boat; airmail made its début in England.
- The Parliament Bill. The need to curtail the power of the House of Lords in turning back progressive legislation came to a head during the abortive attempts to pass the People's Budget of 1909. King Edward's threat to create more Liberal peers came to nothing, and the January election of 1910 (the "People versus Peers" election) was less than a conclusive victory for the Liberals, forcing another election just before Christmas 1910. Here they fared better and, along with royal guarantees, were able to push the new Bill through the Upper House with a majority of 131:114. This was made possible by the fact that 37 Unionists peers voted with the Liberals and many others abstained. The consequences of the Bill were as follows: the Lords had no power to veto financial legislation at all and only had a suspensory power of two years to veto other types of legislation; the Septennial Act of 1716 was also revised to make the maximum duration of any parliament five years.
- The Liberal success (this initiated the "long parliament" of 1911-18) and the weakened Unionists (their leader Balfour resigned in November, 1911), emboldened Lloyd George and Winston Churchill to push through their National Insurance Act of 1911. At the time one of the most controversial pieces of legislation, it has also been one of the most long-lived, surviving, almost as written, today. This would provide health and unemployment insurance with contributions from employee (4d.), the employer (3d.), and the government (2d.)--hence L-G's slogan "9d.for 4d." to entice the working electorate. One cannot overestimate the variegation of opposition brought to this bill: it was comprised of socialists, including the editor of The New Age (see "Notes of the Week" in The Journal Itself section below), right-wing Unionists, and Irish Nationalists. It was passed after its third reading in the House by 324:21, and although there was some talk of whether it was "financial" or "legislative" in the Upper Chamber, it eventually became law.
- The Payment of Members Bill was passed to address the result of the Osborne Case, in which it was ruled that compulsory trades union contributions to labour party members was illegal. Now, under the new Bill, all members would receive 400 pounds per annum. Also passed in 1911 were the Shops Act (a compulsory half-day per week for people like Mr. Kipps in the commercial trades); the Official Secrets Act (a response to burgeoning German espionage); and the Copyright Act (partly in response to the Berlin Copyright Convention in 1908).
- The Irish Home Rule question was further complicated by the emergence of Edward Carson, a Dubliner, as leader of the Ulster Unionist Council. He spoke in front of 100,000 people at Craigavon on 23rd September 1911, and in April the next year 80,000 volunteers drilled before Carson and Bonar Law, the new Unionist-Conservative leader.
- Militant Trade Unionism ("syndicalism" was the term in vogue) was becoming a force and there were several strikes during the year, including those by the seamen and firemen, the miners, the railway workers, and, most notoriously, the dock strikes of Manchester and Liverpool. The then Home Secretary, Winston Churchill, called in troops to quell the rioting and they fatally shot two men.
- The Women's Movement. The debate within the movement between peaceful demonstration and more militant action continued, as did the forced feeding of some of the suffragettes, a strategy adopted from lunatic asylums. Mrs. Pankhurst advocated "the argument of the broken pane" (the smashing of windows), although two "truces" were called for the elections of 1910 and these lasted well into 1911. The National Insurance Act made its own gesture by allowing for maternity leave.
- The Agadir Crisis was the most threatening international event of 1911, so much so that S. Verdad's column in the New Age more than once linked it with the possibility of a "European War." At the end of June, the German Foreign Secretary, Kiderlen-Wächter, dispatched the gunboat Panther to the Moroccan port of Agadir. After the French had sent a force to Fez, ostensibly to protect the Sultan, the Germans feared the expansion of French influence there. The Germans also made extravagant claims on France in respect to territory in the Congo region. An explosive situation was only avoided after months of negotiation (the Morocco Accord was signed on October 11th), the intervention of the British Foreign Secretary Grey, and, particularly, a challenging speech by Lloyd George who remarked that "peace at any price would be a humiliation intolerable for a great country like ours to endure."
- The Agadir affair had at least one other international repercussion. On September 29th, before the crisis had been resolved, Italy seized a long-awaited opportunity to take Tripoli (now Libya) and Rhodes by declaring war on Turkey. The latter's only real ally, Germany, could not come to her aid. The Tripoli war was in part responsible for the Balkan War of 1912, which in its turn contributed to the European conflagration a few years later; and so the general discontents caused by an ever-increasing diminution of Turkey's influence continued, toward what in hindsight was the inevitability of August 1914.
The Journal Itself
The very first issue of Volume Nine has a "Special Notice" on its editorial page informing readers that from this date (May 4th, 1911) "The New Age will be published as well as edited from the same address--38 Cursitor Street, E.C." Previously, all business communications, including advertising, were handled at an address in Red Lion Court. Apart from this consolidation of premises, the journal maintained its editorial philosophy of a generally socialist line with space for healthy revision or dissention, and with a similar format to the previous volumes. There is the usual "Notes of the Week," on the title page and Verdad's "Foreign Affairs" column toward the front end; these are followed by an occasional essay or two on various topical matters, then an "episode" of a particular series that ran through the volume as a whole, followed by the Arts section. This latter is usually led by Tonson's (Arnold Bennett's) "Books and Persons, " followed by poetry, fiction, reviews, and the occasional drama column. The "Letters to the Editor" columns take up the last few pages and, as usual, make for interesting, if not mandatory, reading as they rehearse many of the issues raised in the previous issue. The back cover page of each issue again displays advertisements for newly released, or soon to be released, volumes by presses associated with the New Age. One of the more noteworthy of these, In a German Pension by Katherine Mansfield, is found on the list of Stephen Swift's "Six-Shilling Novels." (09:501) There is very little actual discussion of fine art in this volume, but there are reproductions of Sickert drawings and cartoons by Beerbohm.
Following this outline of Volume 9, the reader may find the following highlights useful, although there is no substitute for perusing the volume as a whole and/or doing word searches.
- Notes of the Week. As with his columns in other volumes, Orage takes up many of the political and social events of the period (e.g. the Osbourne decision, No.6; the Railway Strike No.19; the possibility of a General Strike, No.20), but from the second issue of Volume Nine through its very last, nothing takes precedence over his vehement opposition to the National Insurance Bill. Issue No.7 (June 15, 1911) is representative of this stance. In No. 26, the very last issue, he confirms his persistence: "The New Age was not only the first of his [Lloyd George] critics, but has from the outset to the present moment been his unanswerable and unanswered critic." Orage had strange opponents in those who supported the Bill (Keir Hardie and other socialists) and even stranger bedfellows in those who opposed it ( right-wing conservative-unionists, Tory peers, etc.) In one editorial he enlists the aid of the conservative paper The Spectator to strengthen his case (09:169), in another he quotes from a letter by Bernard Shaw (a more likely ally) to bolster his opinions (09:146). Some readers were baffled by Orage's position and there were of course letters to the editor (see for example 09:114, 09:380, and a reply by Orage 09:356). The reasons for his vociferous opposition to what seemed (and seems) a progressive piece of legislation is too complex to rehearse here, but fundamentally it had to do with his general opposition to what he saw as Liberalism's Rousseauesque romantic idealism. He also believed that the Liberals were "socializing not England, but the lower classes." Orage recorded much of this political and social philosophy in his series Unedited Opinions which run through the volume, but the reader is strongly advised to go to Chapter 12 of Wallace Martin's book on the New Age, in which he analyses Orage's political thought alongside that of T.E. Hulme and J.M. Kennedy.
- Foreign Affairs by S. Verdad (J.M.Kennedy) holds its prominent place in this volume. Often citing his foreign contacts, Kennedy was kept busy for the most part by the ongoing dispute over Morocco. He rehearses the background of the problem in No.2 (09:27); reports on German demands for concessions in Morocco and the Congo through "a friend. . . in the Berlin Foreign Office" (09:459); opines in one piece that although "it is almost certain that there will be no war this time," diplomatic sources make him believe that "war between France and Germany is inevitable in 1913 or 1914." (See the topical piece of doggerel, " A Rhyme of Agadir" 09:246.) Kennedy remarks in one piece that he "would like to see war break out now if it is going to break out at all" because of the readiness of the French army. He covers other important topics in his column, including the Imperial Conference of 1911 on Colonial matters (09:99); and of course he visits the "Balkan gunpowder barrel" on many occasions, offering a summary position of the dangerous instability there in issue No.10 (09:219).
- The Rise and Fall of the Labour Party by Cecil Chesterton is a good, contemporary account in several essays of the demise of the "working-class" party. Chesterton traces the decline and fall from the advent of the Poor Law of 1834 (09:28), through the Taff Vale decision (09:124) and the "Victor Grayson Affair" (09:222), to its final "death." (09:365)
- Tory Democracy, by J.M. Kennedy begins in the first issue and runs through most of the volume. In these essays, Kennedy voices his conservative philosophy and seeks to demonstrate "the shallow philosophical foundations upon which Liberalism is based." See 09:197 for a synopsis of his anti-Liberal stance, and for a good commentary on Kennedy and his ideological relationship to Hulme and Orage, see the chapter in Martin's book already cited above.
- American Notes over the signature "Juvenal" is at times amusing and always of interest. In this series an "Englishman in America" surveys aspects of American culture and politics with an estranged and at times cynical eye. These include: a comparison of cricket and baseball, the latter "a demonstration of logic by a ball and two swift legs" (09:59); a survey of the popularity of the "New Thought" school in America; and a report on Coney Island that reads like it is a precursor to Disneyland (09:155).
- In the series Letters From Abroad the sometime drama critic Huntley Carter sent his impressions of various European cities (including Paris, Munich, Vienna, Budapest, and Cracow) as he traversed the continent. Sometimes he fulfilled his role as drama critic, as when he reported on the production of the very difficult Faust Part II, in Paris (09:592), or on the Moscow Experimental Theatre (09:570). But he also filed pieces such as "The 'Blue Bird' and Bergson in Paris" (09:43). Ostensibly an essay on Maeterlinck's play, Carter is also keen to document the ubiquitous influence of Bergson's philosophy on the arts, especially the symbolists and post-impressionists, as well as the Yellow Syndicalists such as Sorel.. (Carter's review of the "spirit which is vitalizing everything" in the Paris of that epoch may help explain the link between Bergson and Hulme, and the latter's interest in Sorel.)
Selected Miscellaneous Articles:
- The Young Astrology by Christopher Grieve (to become known eventually as "Hugh McDiarmid," Scotland's greatest modern poet.) A truly "new age" piece based on the "increasing tendency to regard all phenomena as cosmical." Grieve argues that "moral and intellectual character is profoundly affected by the positions of the heavenly bodies at the time of birth," and offers many (for the most part celebrity) case histories of lunatics and geniuses all predetermined at birth. (09:274)
- The Kalendar by Wordsworth Donisthorpe: the author's ruminations on how adjustments to the division of time has resulted in various anomalies, such as, for example, the cheating of Dr. Johnson out of one of his birthdays. Ironically enough , this was due to that great patron Lord Chesterfield's advocating the adoption of the Gregorian Kalendar in 1752.
- The Right to Murder (09:413). In this article, C.H. Norman comments on the railwaymen's and dockers' strike. Norman quotes the Home Secretary Winston Churchill on his decision to call out the troops (under the guise of the Riots Act of 1714) and concludes that there was "ample evidence to proceed against Mr. Churchill and the military officers for being accessories to murder." See also Norman's article "Some Causes of Unrest" in which he offers a breakdown of the cost of living and documents the unfair distribution of wealth. (09:606)
- Bergson by E.Belfort Bax. In a review article, Bax resumes his argument with the originality of Bergson's thinking and his "sensational reputation," listing among other texts his own "Roots of Reality" as an earlier source for some of Bergson's ideas. (09:280) (See the Introduction to Vol.5 for a previous synopsis of the Bax/Hulme debate, and in this Volume see Middleton Murry on Bergson 09:115, and Hulme again in the form of a letter 09:189).
- T.E. Hulme takes up the case once again in his Bax on Bergson (09:328), in which he disabuses Bax of his possible influence on Bergson. This piece, a long reply to Bax, is supplemented by a later essay that seeks to give a "personal account of [Hulme's ] relations to Bergson's work and an explanation of exactly what it meant to [him]." (09:587) (Parenthetically: the "Bax on Bergson" essay cited above must be one of the first pieces of writing to use the new device for sound reproduction, the gramophone, as a metaphor.)
- A Wordsworthian Fragment This one-page spoof on a newly discovered sonnet, "Scorn Not the Milkman," attributed to Wordsworth and edited by Paul Selver (see his serious poetic contributions below) is worth a look if only for the ingeniousness of its academic apparatus.
Literature and the Other Arts
The Bennett/Tonson column Books and Persons continued its chatty survey of contemporary publishing as well as informing readers of current cultural events in London and abroad. Bennett discusses the passing of the Copyright Bill (09:60); a lecture given by H.G.Wells on the novel where he observed " a thousand women and Mr. Bernard Shaw." (09:85); a production of Chekhov's "The Cherry Orchard" which leads him into a discussion of censorship (09:132); his visit to Paris to see the Russian Ballet perform Petrouchka and Schehezerade (09:202); (For a more detailed discussion of the phenomenal success of the Russian Ballet, see Huntly Carter's piece The Russian Ballets in Paris and London in the same issue 09:209); an assessment of the first issue of Rhythm, the new arts magazine founded by Middleton Murry: "An editor's business is to refrain from starting his magazine until he has obtained a fair quantity of the right stuff." (09:327)
- There was then, as always, a Crisis in Literature (Part I, 09:296, Part II, 09:420)
- The Last Straw: H.G.Wells on the Novel by J.M. Kennedy (09:232) is a critique of Wells' article in the Le Temps, which in turn was a reproduction of the same lecture that Bennett/Tonson attended (see above) and see Tonson on corrections to Kennedy's piece (09:255)
- Ruth Pitter begins her association with The New Age in this volume. A poem, "Field Grasses" appears over the name "Ruth Pitter (aged 13)" in issue No. 2 and there are others in the volume.
- Katherine Mansfield maintains her association with various pieces, including the stories "A Birthday," (09:61); "Pension Sketches: The Modern Soul" (09183); a two-part narrative on her "journey to Bruges" (09:401, 09:450); and a spoof on the Coronation, "The Festival of the Coronation (With Apologies to Theocritus,"), apparently instigated by Beatrice Hastings. She collaborated with Hastings on a pastiche of contemporary writers in the form of a letter to the editor. (09:95) This was while they were both still friendly and Katherine was staying with Hastings and Orage at their country cottage. Their friendship did not last much longer and Katherine's peculiar impressionistic prose poem, "Along the Gray's Inn Road" (where she now lived) was relegated to the letter columns (09:551) due to, the editors of her Collected Letters claim, a spiteful gesture on the part of Hastings and Orage. This does not seem likely, if only for the fact that a later piece of hers, "Love Cycle"(09:586), appears in the main body of the paper alongside an essay by T.E.Hulme.
- Paul Selver A glimpse at the index or "Revised Contributors List" to this volume will attest to the number of verse translations Selver published in this volume. In his memoir, Orage and the New Age Circle, he records the fact that he found an anthology of Slavic poetry in a second-hand bookshop on the Charing Cross Road and decided to try his hand at translation. After meeting Orage, and encouraged by Ezra Pound, he made frequent contributions throughout 1911 and in years to come.
- An Ethiopian Saga lived up to its name, running as it did from No.7 through No.14. A dreadful piece of mumbo-jumbo, many were baffled by why it found space in The New Age at all; and perhaps by why Beatrice Hastings was "very glad to see the 'Ethiopian Saga' begin" and disclosing the fact that she had corrected the proofs (09:191). Only those in the know would have been privy to the fact that the author, Richmond Haigh, was her brother.
- Literary Supplements. There are Literary Supplements to Numbers 1, 5, 10, 23, and 26. What follows is a selection of noteworthy reviews.
- No 1. has a review of anthologized pieces from the periodical "The Open Window," and briefly discusses the difficult-to-find "A Fairy Story" by Katherine Mansfield; No.5 (June 1st) has a review by Allen Upward of a new volume of The Golden Bough ("The Magic Art and the Evolution of Kings"); No.10 (July 6th ) has a lead review by J.C. Squire on volumes of "Recent Verse," as well as a short review of "The Philosophy of a Don," a satire that had been running in the New Age for some time. (See the Introduction to Volume 7); No. 23 (Oct. 5th) has an extensive reply to Lord Haldane's lecture on German Literature by Dr. Oscar Levy.
- Miscellaneous Reviews. Darrell Figgis continues his "Living Poets" series with a review of Robert Bridges ( 09:86). This drew the ire of Beatrice Hastings in the form of a letter (09:141). Unlike the unqualified praise Figgis bestows on Bridges, Hastings remarks of one of the poet's lines that "A squirrel or a rabbit equipped with a lisp might enunciate it." The Prevention of Destitution by Sidney and Beatrice Webb is reviewed in issue No.19 (09:448). T.E. Hulme reviews a book on modern French poetry, allowing him to make comparisons between the Symboliste Movement and Bergson's philosophy (09:400). Arnold Bennett has his Hilda Lessways reviewed in issue No.22 (09:520). This is an unsigned review but it has the stylistic and caustic hallmark of Beatrice Hastings. After a synopsis of the plot, it concludes: "We have no comment to make. Words could never express our fatigue." The review columns in issue No. 26 address briefly Saki's The Chronicles of Clovis: "Why, oh why, can we not find these chronicles amusing?"(09:613); and Conrad's Under Western Eyes ( it is only by "the clumsiest device" that the story is told, a story that "ought never to have been written." (09:615)
- Drama. (See Huntley Carter's "Letters from Abroad" cited above.) John Masefield's "Tragedy of Nan" was reviewed negatively and anonymously in issue No. 11: "That Mr. Masefield can find a public willing to pay for so degrading an exhibition seems to entitle him to be criticised as one of the numerous worms at the heart of the drama." (09:256) This set up a series of letters to the editor, the very first being a defense by Ashley Dukes. Many others were to follow, including a reply from the "Reviewer" (09:310), another from Dukes, J.M. Kennedy (9:382; 09:431), and, eventually, a summary article by A.E. Randall, "What will Posterity Say?" (09:447). But the letters did not stop.
- A production of Ibsen's A Doll's House with Princess Yavorska as Nora at the Kingsway Theatre (reviewed 09:66) may have emboldened one attendee and reader to pen a "sequel" entitled "Christina." This three and one half page effort based on the premise of "'what might or could or should' possibly have happened to Nora Helmer after she left her husband's house. . ." was published in issue No. 2 (09:38). Letters followed, including one signed "Ibsenite" in the next issue, alongside one from the irrepressible Beatrice Hastings. The "Author of Christina" was allowed space for a lengthy reply (09:116). But the letters did not stop: see especially Hastings again (09:141) J.C. Squire reviews Sir Herbert Tree's production of Macbeth at His Majesty's Theatre. (09:492)
Walter Sickert has a series of drawings in the volume (09:180, 09:228, 09:252, 09:276, 09:300, 09:348, and 09:372) with implied social themes and titles such as "I Drive the Bus that Mary Rides On," and "Lou, Lou, I Love You."
"Tom Titt," the Polish caricaturist J. J. Rosciszewski, makes his debut in this volume (09:247) with caricatures of G. Bernard Shaw, G.K. Chesterton, Sir A.W. Pinero, and H.G.Wells. He became the resident caricaturist for The New Age, normally offering one full-page image on the back page of every issue through Volume 14.
There are two full-page cartoons by Max Beerbohm, one depicting the relationship between John Bull and Ireland (Supplement to No.14), the other on the relations between John Bull and the U.S.A. (Supplement to No.21).
Issue No.19 has a "Drawing Supplement" with a series of enchanting landscape miniatures by the artist W. Wroblewski.
- Herbert Hughes's music column makes only three or four appearances in this volume, and has little exciting to report. However, as if to dampen the enthusiasm afforded the Russian Ballet's performances at Covent Garden, he is displeased with the musical performance in general and with Prince Igor and Les Sylphides in particular. (09:308). A piece entitled "The Real Wagner: An Unrecorded Incident" (09:151) reports on the "histrionic" personality of the composer by way of an exchange of letters.
Works Consulted and/or Cited
- Baily, Leslie, Scrapbook 1900 to 1914. London: Frederick. Muller, 1957
- Brooks, David, The Age of Upheaval: Edwardian Politics, 1899-1914. Manchester and New York: Manchester Univ. Press, 1995.
- Carswell, John, Lives and Letters. New York: New Directions, 1978.
- Martin, Wallace, The New Age Under Orage. Manchester and New York: Manchester Univ. Press
- O'Sullivan, Vincent, and Margaret Scott. Collected Letters of Katherine Mansfield: Volume 1 1903-1917. Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1984
- Pelling, Henry, Modern Britain 1885-1955. Edinburgh: Nelson and Sons, 1960
- Selver, Paul. Orage and The New Age Circle. London: George Allen & Unwin, 1959.