by Scholes, Robert
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In these six months, Europe drifted toward the Great War that would begin in less than a year, driven by the attempts of various Balkan peoples to free themselves from the grip of the weakened Turkish Empire, to establish themselves as viable national states, to escape from the clutches of the Austro-Hungarian Hapsberg Empire, and to steal choice bits of real estate from one another. The movement toward war was driven also by Germany's imperial ambitions, which took various forms during this period. But the powder keg was in the Balkans, which was the scene of hostilities throughout these six months.
Main Events in the Balkans During this Period
- The Treaty of London signed on May 30, 1913, ended the first Balkan War, and settled the frontier line between the Balkan States and Turkey, but left conflicting claims among the Balkan countries unsettled.
- On June 1st, Greece and Serbia made an offensive and defensive alliance for 10 years directed against Bulgaria.
- June 29, Bulgaria began the Second Balkan War by an attack on the Serbian and Greek positions. Rumania later attacked the Bulgarian rear and forced the Bulgarians to seek a peaceful settlement.
- The Treaty of Bucharest was concluded on August 10, 1913, by the delegates of Bulgaria, Rumania, Serbia, Montenegro, and Greece. This treaty was unfavorable to Bulgaria and favorable to Serbia, Rumania, and Greece. It was opposed by Austria, who nearly started another war with Serbia at this time.
- The Treaty of Constantinople--negotiations between Bulgaria and Turkey began on September 3, 1913, and the treaty was signed on September 29. This treaty ratified Turkey's recovery of Adrianople and other disputed territories.
- On September 23, responding to Albanian incursions, Serbia sent troops to the frontier and occupied positions within Albania. On October 18 Austria sent an ultimatum ordering Serbia to evacuate Albania within eight days. Serbia yielded to this. (In the pages of the magazine, the old spelling,"Servia" was always used for Serbia.)
At home in England the great political issue was the case of Ireland, which had been pressing for "Home Rule" for some decades. This case was coming to a head at this time, with the northern counties of Ireland (Ulster) resisting inclusion in any "Irish" government, and the Tory or "Unionist" party conspiring to arm an Ulster militia, which led to a military counter-movement in the South. The liberal government, with no solid majority in Parliament, tried to muddle through all these problems, with the result that a bit later a World War would start in the Balkans and the Irish would keep trying to revolt, finally gaining independence for most of the island after the war.
Meanwhile, organized labor in the British Isles was imbibing a heady dose of syndicalism from Europe, though it never succeeded in achieving the syndicalist dream of a "general strike." James Larkin and James Connolly led the Irish Transport Workers' Union into a series of violent actions and strikes, which were ultimately defeated by a lock-out begun in August 1913. The result was not good for labor, but it led to the creation of the military wing of the Irish Nationalists, called then, as now, Sinn Fein. Connolly, of course, was ultimately involved in the Easter Rebellion of 1916 in Dublin, which led to his execution by the victorious English, along with Patrick Pearse and others later immortalized by Yeats in his poem "Easter 1916"
During this period women continued to press for the vote, with the Women's Social and Political Union urging its followers to more and more militant action as the evasiveness of Asquith's liberal government became more and more offensive. Houses, mostly empty, were burned, and a bomb was planted in the Liverpool Exchange Buildings. These tactics resulted in a split between the more militant group, the WSPU, led from Paris by Mrs. Emmeline Pankhurst, and various other groups still hoping to negotiate votes for women peacefully, including the East London Federation of Suffragettes, led by Sylvia Pankurst, one of Emmeline's three daughters.
But the major historical process during this period is the drift toward a war that ultimately interrupted all the other movement--votes for women, improved conditions for labor, and Home Rule for Ireland all being muddled and delayed by the Liberal government that was also muddling toward war, trying at every stage to conciliate Germany. This government was led by H. H. Asquith. In his cabinet were
- Sir Edward Grey, Foreign Secretary
- Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty
- Col. J. E. B. Seely, Secretary for War
- Augustine Birrell, Chief Secretary for Ireland
The New Age took a great interest in the matters labor strife and Irish Home Rule during this period, and a lesser interest in the suffrage issue. By this time Orage had settled into a firmly anti-suffrage position, which is reflected in his pieces for "Notes of the Week." Abroad, the Balkan War or Wars quite appropriately became the center of interest for "S. Verdad" (J. M. Kennedy), who devoted most of his weekly columns on "Foreign Affairs" to that situation during these months. The contemporary reader will quickly discover how many of these issues are still with us, including such things as the boundaries of Albania, Montenegro, and Serbia and various atrocities attributed to Serbia and the other participants in these struggles.
In domestic affairs, the following events brought certain issues into focus.
- May-June 1913, the libel trial of Cecil Chesterton, for statements made about the Marconi Affair (purchase of shares in an American Marconi wireless company by members of the government, who had inside knowledge about government contracts with British Marconi.) Godfrey Isaacs, whose brother Rufus had bought the shares offered by him (as had David Lloyd George), sued and won his case. An official government inquiry published its report in June, a few days after the trial, clearing the government members of improper actions. The appointment of Rufus Isaacs to the cabinet as Lord Chief Justice after this incident was an occasion for ridicule (and anti-semitism) in The New Age.
- In April the "Cat and Mouse Act" was enacted by Parliament, which allowed for the discharge of imprisoned suffragettes who lives were endangered by hunger strikes, and their re-arrest when they were healthy again.
- On the 4th of June at Epsom, during the running of the Derby, Emily Wilding Davison, a suffragette who had been imprisoned, forcibly fed, and hosed down with icy water while in jail, threw herself in front of the King's horse, bringing it down and fatally injuring herself.
- In August the lock-out of the Irish Transport Workers began. This was an attempt by management to starve them into submission--which they eventually did.
Throughout this period The New Age was bitterly opposed to the suffrage movement, and, on the economic side, grew furious about any attempt at a political solution for what it saw as the system of "wage slavery." Many separate articles were devoted to the idea of an organization of labor guild--a blend of medievalism and syndicalism whose leading advocate was Orage's friend from Yorkshire, Arthur G. Penty. Conspicuous in Orage's "Notes of the Week" is a total loss of confidence in parliamentary procedures as a way of dealing with social and economic inequality. In his view the government represented the moneyed people who supported it through taxes and would never represent the poor who cost as much as they paid. A regular theme in these "Notes" is the awfulness of the National Insurance Act of 1911, which provided some health and unemployment insurance for workers. Such attempts to make the system of wage slavery more tolerable were regarded by Orage as capitalist tricks of the worst order. Though he seldom uses the word, it is apparent that he is thinking with the syndicalists here, and hoping that a system of linked industrial guilds will empower a general strike of all workers, who may then enforce their demands for wages that go beyond bare subsistence. At the end of this volume, he is considering the possibility of Nationalization of the Railroads--which he believes may soon occur--as a step in the right direction.
This was not a period of great events on the cultural front--with one exception. On May 29, 1913, in Paris, Les Ballets Russes gave the first performance of The Rite of Spring (Le Sacré du Printemps,) with music by Igor Stravinsky and choreography by Vaslav Nijinsky. The works powerful combination of avant-gardism in technique and primitivism in theme proved intolerable for many in the audience. They tried to shout the performance down and the defenders of modernism in music responded. The result was a riot which required police intervention and the elevation of Stravinsky to the status of a major modernist composer.
The Journal Itself
The price of the journal remained at threepence per issue, though notice was given that this would be doubled with the start of the next volume. Circulation was down to about 4,500 by August, and sank further after the rise in price. Issues fluctuated in size between 24 and 32 pages during this period, and each concluded with a full-page caricature on the back page, many of them devoted to literary figures such as Shaw and Wells. The standard format began with "Notes of the Week," written by Orage and devoted mostly to domestic political affairs, followed by "Current Cant," a choice collection of banalities and hyperboles culled from various sources, mostly journalistic, by Arthur F. Thorn. Then came Kennedy's "Foreign Affairs," often followed by "Military Notes, 'with the byline "Romney"--a pseudonym we have yet to penetrate. The "political" section of the journal was usually rounded out with articles on special topic--often having to do with Guilds.
As on the masthead, after politics came literature. Arnold Bennett no longer ruled this roost. Orage himself wrote a regular column called "Readers and Writers," over the initials R. H. C., occasionally allowing Paul Selver or someone else to replace him. A typical issue would also have a "Views and Reviews" column written by A. E. Randall, just plain "Reviews," in which, usually, a number of books got very brief reviews. (See our list of "Books Reviewed in this Issue" for all authors and titles reviewed.) The last written text in each issue consisted of Letters to the Editor, often several pages of them, which were probably read first by many readers because of their lively quality. Before the Letters section there were sometimes, but not regularly pieces on art, written by Anthony Ludovici, who had been Rodin's secretary, on drama by A. E. Randall, writing as "John Francis Hope," and, very occasionally, something on music by John Playford. In this volume, both Ezra Pound and his disciple Richard Aldington loomed large. We will note their series and other interesting items, in the following list.
- On April 12, 1913 in London (three weeks before this volume began) a serious rival, The New Statesman, published its first issue. It was dominated by the Webbs and other Fabians, who had become alienated from The New Age by the Guild Socialism of Orage, Penty, and others. It cut seriously into the subscription total of The New Age during the publication of this and subsequent volumes.
- A series of articles by Ezra Pound, called "America: Chances and Remedies" began in the first issue of the volume and ran through the next five issues. Pound put it together with his earlier series (1912) "Patria Mia," in 1915 and sent it to a publisher who lost the manuscript. It was found and printed as Patria Mia in 1950.
- A second series by Pound, called "The Approach to Paris," ran in seven parts, from No. 19 to No. 25. These pieces on French poets and prose writers, including Rimbaud, Corbière, and Remy de Gourmont, have never been collected, though there are a few selections form them included in William Cookson ed., Ezra Pound: Selected Prose 1909-1965, New York: New Directions, 1973, pp. 363-373, which also includes a reprint of "Patria Mia."
- A series of "Letters from Italy" by Richard Aldington, carried over from the previous volume, was completed with Letter 22 in No. 11.
- A series of powerful articles--historical and personal--on Irish matters by "Peter Fanning--which may be another pseudonym. They begin in No. 9 and conclude in No. 23.
- Two of the real people named as interlocutors of Stephen Dedalus in the Library chapter ("Scylla and Charybdis") of Ulysses have articles in this volume: "John Eglinton" (W. K. Magee) in No. 11, and "A. E." (George Russell) in No. 25.
- A series on "Turkey in Wartime" by Marmaduke Pickthall, starting in the No. 19 and running through the last seven issues in the volume.
- In No. 13 a letter from a young American, Ronald S. Crane, who later became the leader of the "Chicago Aristotelian" literary critics. His interest in the journal led to the acquisition of a full set by the University of Chicago library.
- There are translations of works by Strindberg (No. 3), Tchekov (No. 7), Anatole France (No. 9), Remy de Gourmont (No. 11), and Multatuli (no. 24) in this volume.
- Ensor, R. C. K. England 1870-1914. Oxford: Clarendon P, 1936.
- Gallup, Donald. Ezra Pound: A Bibliography. Charlottesville: U of VA Press, 1983.
- Selver, Paul. Orage and the New Age Circle London: George Allen and Unwin, 1959.