by Sullivan, Robert
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When the first issue of this volume appeared on Thursday, November 5th, 1914, the “Great War” had been underway for almost exactly three months (see Introduction to Volume Fifteen for a helpful summary and timeline of early events) and the likelihood of the troops being “home for Christmas” was a fast-fading dream. The “war to end all wars” was turning into a quagmire of attack and counter-attack, a new trench warfare in which hundreds of thousands of men were killed, or maimed for life, in order to capture a few yards of terrain. In August 1914, Sir Edward Grey looked over London from his window at the Foreign Office and remarked: “The lamps are going out all over Europe; we may not see them lit again in our lifetime.” This seemed less an exaggeration by November.
This situation of stalemate was brought about by, ironically enough, early British successes; most especially the success of the British Expeditionary Force (B.E.F.) in holding von Kluck's First Army at Mons and thus aborting the German Schlieffan Plan to envelop Paris in a matter of days. Later, the same B.E.F. forces thwarted the Germans at the first battle of Ypres, preventing them from capturing the Channel Ports, which, again, might have shortened the war. Both sides were now in for the long haul, and before it was all over there were approximately one-million dead and more than three million wounded from the British Empire alone. These figures do not include the casualties suffered by Germany, Austro-Hungary, France, Italy, Turkey, and the United States. This was truly the first “World War.”
Some Important War Events During this Period
Nov. 5th; France and Britain declare war on Turkey: Nov. 21st; Indian troops occupy Basra, Mesopotamia: Dec. 17th; British Protectorate declared in Egypt: Jan. 30th, 1915; first of German submarine attacks off Le Havre: Feb.4th; Turks repulsed from Suez Canal: Feb. 19th; British and French fleets bombard Dardanelles: March 18th; failure of Anglo-French naval attack on Dardanelles: April 22nd; German use of poison gas for first time on Western Front: May 7th; Sinking of the Lusitania.
Other Cultural Milestones
M. Duchamp, The Bride Stripped Bare, proclaimed first Dada painting; P. Picasso, Harlequin; Gustave Holst, The Planets; John Buchan, The Thirty-Nine Steps; J Conrad, Victory; D.H. Lawrence, The Rainbow; W.S. Maugham, Of Human Bondage ; E. Pound, Cathay (Poems). Einstein's General Theory of Relativity; Wegener's theory of continental drift; H. Junkers makes first all-metal aeroplane.
The Domestic Scene
The Liberal cabinet charged with running the country during this period was:
- H.H. Asquith. . . . . Prime Minister
- David Lloyd George. . . . .Chancellor of the Exchequer
- Sir Edward Grey. . . . .Foreign Secretary
- Winston Churchill. . . . .First Lord of the Admiralty
The advent of war and a concomitant rise in patriotic fervor resulted, for the most part, in the cessation of political “hostilities” on the Home Front.
- The Women's Movement suspended their disruptive campaign for suffrage. (In January of 1915, in Washington, D. C., the House of Representatives defeated the Federal Woman's Suffrage Amendment bill, the “Susan B. Anthony amendment.”
- The Home Rule (for Ireland) issue — the Liberals were on the brink of granting autonomy earlier in 1914, but the Unionists who opposed it threatened violent repercussions, including mutiny among the ranks of the armed forces-was also shelved for the time being.
- There was even a sense of camaraderie among the classes due to the common plight of the populace and the common cause of getting the war won.
But all these contentious issues would re-appear with a vengeance, some even before the conclusion to the war.
- The German navy's submarine warfare intensified around February, 1915, sinking shipping with vital supplies for Britain, including food and raw materials. This caused hardship at home until, eventually, rationing had to be introduced. One week after the final issue of this volume German U-Boats sank the liner/cargo vessel Lusitania with great loss of life, including many U.S. passengers. This catastrophe, and other indiscriminate torpedoing of shipping, eventually brought the United States into the war, an intervention that would ultimately change its course.
- Defense of the Realm Act (D.O.R.A.), somewhat controversial, gave the government widespread powers (including internment without trial) in order to improve security and marshal the war effort.
- On a more socially intimate level, the government introduced legislation to curb drunkenness (a severe problem throughout the Edwardian era), by restricting licensing hours and greatly decreasing the strength of British beer, a measure from which it has never fully recovered.
The Journal Itself
Still costing sixpence per issue like the volume before it, the “Great War” overshadows much of the discourse in the twenty-six issues of this volume, just as it had done in Volume 15. A quick perusal of the “Contents” pages of random issues will illustrate how the war, and in particular Germany, dominates these pages.
Here are a few arbitrary examples: “British Music v, German Music,” a series running from 16.01; “The English in Germany: an Appeal,”16.03; “The Kaiser's Funeral March,”16.04; “War and Religion,”16.10; “Russian v. German Culture,”16.11; “German Claims: Their Validity and Value,”16.11; “Some Recent War Books,”16.11; “ The Russo-German Frontier,”16.14; “On Belgian Nationality,”16.14; “More War Books,”16.20.
Ramiro De Maetzu's essay “On Marx and Wealth and Power” (16.1) mentions that Marx's analysis of capitalism is inadequate for an understanding of the sway of military-politico power in the contemporary state. Also see famous socialist C.H. Norman's “Parliment of the Dead: An Open Letter” for a scathing criticism of English capitalists (16.13)
The reader should also scan “S. Verdad's” column “Foreign Affairs,” and “Military Notes” by Romney for weekly events to do with the war (see below).
As ever, a sure way to take the pulse of the period is to peruse the “Notes of the Week” columns, written by the editor, Orage, which begin on the first page of every issue. In these weekly overviews, he addresses issues as varied as:
- the need to raise the soldiers' pay in order to avoid conscription (which was introduced in 1916) 16.01; in 16.05 (Dec. 3rd) he criticizes the government for adjourning until February, 1915; in 16.08 he congratulates the Unionists and other dissatisfied factions for “sinking their differences with the government during the war”; in 16.11 Orage attacks the "sniveling and sycophantic" "Times" and "Daily News"; in issues 16.12 and 16.13 he admonishes the "leeches and tapeworms" that live off crass profiteering; in16.15 he takes up his old hobby-horse, the “Insurance Act”; issue 16.17 takes up the cost of living and “the acute misery of the proletariat”; most interestingly, in 16.19 Orage questions the Marxist premise that “all wars are due to capitalism” when in fact “the causes of the war are more spiritual than material.”
Guild Socialists like G.D.H. Cole, Rowland Kenney and A.E.R (A.E. Randall) in successive articles present the blueprint of guild socialism that would also be constitutive of the state, in which the latter would resemble the worker's guild through popular representation and widespread democratization of industry. Guild socialism was touted as an alternative to other popular workers movements, like Syndicalism and Collectivism. See Eric Hobsbawm for a brief note on the relations between syndicalism and guild socialism (16.11:274); G.D.H. Cole on Guild Socialism (16.24); “Writings by National Guildsmen” (16.24, 16.26); “Women in a Guild Socialist State” by Maurice B. Reckitt (16.18, 16.19). See George Dangerfield's note on guild socialism in his The Strange Death of Liberal England.
Two established contributors, “S. Verdad” (J.M. Kennedy) and Marmaduke Pickthall, oftentimes not quite seeing eye-to-eye (especially on Turkey), have columns in this volume.
- In the very first issue 16.01 Verdad prophetically remarks on Italy's neutrality (she was to enter the war in April, 1915) and how Turkey's recent moves might endanger her interests in N.Africa.
- 16.03 H.G. Wells's proposition to arm all civilians, quoting from Wells's letter to the Times of October 31st, 1914.
- 16.04 On recent developments in foreign policy and, at some length, G.B. Shaw's recent pamphlet (a New Statesman Supplement) on the war.
On the other hand, Pickthall's more or less constant theme is the world powers' misunderstanding of, and unfairness to, Turkey.
- Pickthall's essays entitled “Six Years” (in issues 4 through 9) present a survey of the years (1908-1914) in which he documents the change from a Turkish revolution, resulting in the ouster of its ruler Abdul Hamid II, that was “anti-Russian, anti-German and pro-British” to Turkey's current pro-German and anti-British disposition.
- In 16.16 he takes up the question of how the Ottoman Empire will be carved up after the war.
The reader should read through Verdad's column “Foreign Affairs” for reports on the various shifting relations between nations during this period, and readers interested in alternative views, especially on Turkey and the middle-east, should peruse Pickthall's various contributions.
- “Military Notes” by “Romney” (possibly Arthur Green Romney) runs throughout the volume. He offers insights into the impact of the war, both at home and abroad. Here are a few samples:
- In 16.01 he discusses, among other issues, the Home Guard and the possibility of invasion via the Belgian coast; squadrons of motorcyclists could be delivered by submarine to wreak havoc in the English countryside.
- 16.04 On the tabloid press and the accusations of German atrocities.
- 16.24 On the scarcity of munitions.
- 16.25 His speculations on the “German bid for peace” in April, 1915 proved to be somewhat premature.
Perspectives on International Affairs
E. A. Boyd's series entitled “The Hyphenated States of America” appears in three consecutive issues (16.10, 16.11, and 16.12); also see Boyd's criticism of American diplomacy during the war in “the International Impotence of the Hyphenated States” (16.23).
Lionel De Fonseka's essay “War and the Aesthete” (16.09) revisits the debate around the terms culture vs German Kultur. Fonseka's essay also presents a critique of G. K. Chesterton's patriotic pamphlet, "“The Barbarism of Berlin.”
C.E. Bechhofer's column “Letter From Russia” makes its first appearance in issue 12 and appears frequently until issue 26. This column is a mix of reflections on contemporary Russia and anecdotes that frequently center around Russian anti-semitism. Bechhofer also wrote “Adventures of a Young Russian,” (16.9 and 16.11), a fictional account that addresses Russian anti-semitism. Also see Marmaduke Picthall's articles on England's agreement with Russia and the latter's role as an ally (16.14, 16.17).
Jean Jaure's posthumous essay “Socialism and Peace” commends Argentina, Brazil, and Chile for setting an example for Europe, “by intervening to pacify Mexico and preventing the armed intervention of the United States” (16.4).
Literature and the Other Arts
R.H.C. (Orage) continues his “Readers and Writers” series in this volume, but there is little here to excite except the clear and witty style. Budding reviewers could learn a great deal.
- For example, in 16.02 we have remarks on: recent reprints; (somewhat caustic) remarks on Rebecca West's style in her reviews; how the publisher of a recent translation of Nietzsche must be gloating because of the latter's notoriety in starting the war.
- “Impressions of Paris” by “Alice Morning” (Beatrice Hastings), which began in the previous volume continues in this one. Quotidian life in Paris during the war: the art scene; the French and English press; daily life in the Quartiers (especially Montmatre); personal reflection. Often cynical, occasionally scathing, sometimes malicious, but never dull, this is Beatrice Hastings in her element. Here is small sample:
- In number 1 16.01 she is vexed by French Catholicism and the running of the war: “The wounded and dying are at the mercy of a catholic hospital staff, and the plaguing of helpless soldiers is becoming a scandal.”
- In 16.03 while discussing the virtues of various English newspapers, she remarks that the fall of G.K. Chesterton “ into the Daily Mail” is “one of the sadder ruinations of the war.”
- In issue 16.04 she has fun with the French reportage of Turkish atrocities.
- Issue 16.23 expatiates on everything from Zeppelin raids to Joubert and Montesquieu.
- In 16.26 Hastings writes a tongue-in-cheek report on the inevitability of her own old age.
- Hastings fans might also want to read the spoof “Canine Aliens: Another Manifesto”16.06 which reads like her work, written under the pseudonym “Beatrice Marshall.”
- Two contributions to the “Letters” columns in 16.03 , one over the name “Beatrice Marshall,” the other over “Beatrice L. King” are almost certainly Hastings' handiwork.
Ezra Pound contributes a significant, if typically idiosyncratic, set of essays to this volume under the general title “Affirmations.” These are:
- issue 16.10 on “Arnold Dolmetsch”
- 16.11 on vorticism and art
- 16.12 on sculpture and Jacob Epstein
- 16.13 on “Imagisme” (significant addition to Pound's ideas on this topic)
- 16.14 discusses the work of Gaudier-Brzeska
- 16.17 has some interesting remarks on the “Irish Renaissance,” Yeats, Synge, Joyce, etc. This segment brought a scathing, and very witty, letter in 16.20 from James Stephens, the author of The Crock of Gold.
There are two full-page drawings by Augustus John in this volume:
“The New Age of Paintingd” by Willard Huntington Wright in16.12 offers a concise history of the evolution of art forms, from classical to modernist. (Wright metamorphosed into S. S. Van Dine when he later emigrated to the US and wrote the “Philo Vance” detective novels.)
In issue 16.22 there is an excellent rehearsal of the various art movements (realism, Futurism, etc.) in the guise of a review essay: “The London Group” exhibition.
Vasyl Levitzky's “The Literature of the Ukraine,” translated by P. Selver, is a useful piece which highlights important works of Ukrainian literature spanning a period of one hundred and fifteen years (16.9).
The drama columns written by “John Francis Hope” (A.E. Randall) are a testimony to how reviews can be much more interesting and entertaining than the plays reviewed. There is a dearth of talent, but it is nevertheless interesting to learn what people were watching to divert their attention from the war.
Hope also has an unflattering review of Granville Barker's play “The Dynasts” (16.6)
Miscellaneous Pieces of Interest
- “Nietzsche and the Jews” by Dr. Oscar Levy. In two parts 16.07 and 16.08 After the “curses of two millenniums” Nietzsche arrives to understand the Jews and Jewishness. See “Oscar Levy: A Nietzschean Vision”, a portion of which has been excerpted, with permission, from Breeding Superman: Nietzsche, Race and Eugenics in Edwardian and Interwar Britain by Dan Stone (Liverpool University Press).
- “Letters to My Nephew” by “Anthony Farley” (S.G. Hobson) runs from 16.16. Avuncular advice to “George” on leaving university, finding a profession, etc. Wallace Martin remarks on Orage's penchant for “eighteenth century literary forms such as the “periodical essay”” and includes this series in his summary of such contributions. (See Martin 196.)
- A.E.R's (A.E. Randall) critique of Shaw's advocacy of the League of Nations as a peacekeeping force in a post-war world (16.03). Also see Alice Morning's (Beatrice Hastings) response to Shaw's essay in 16.04.
- E.A. Boyd's essay “The Melting of the Glacier” (16.01) and his review of James K.Mc Guire's book The Quintessence of Gaelic-Americanism (16.25) discuss the role played by the war in determining the response of Irish nationalists to the prospect of Home Rule and England.
- The later issues of the volume carry a series of essays by Anastasia Edwardes (16.23-16.26) which are written from a feminist perspective and are humorous anecdotes about travel, husbands who are too old to go to war, and evangelicalism. Beatrice Hastings writes that Anastasia Edwardes is probably a pseudonym (16.25).
- There is a long poem by the famous Italian anarchist poet Gabrielle D'Anunzio titled “On the Death of a Destroyer: Friedrich Nietzsche, xxv August, MCM” (16.20). Also see G.D.'s “Nietzsche or Carlyle” (16.20) for another perspective on Nietzsche and modern Germany.
- G.T. Wrench's essay “Heinrich Heine and Mark Twain” argues that Heine is a greater artist than Twain (16.2).
Letters to the Editor
The reader is strongly advised to look through the Letters list on the “Contents” page of every issue. There is much richness in the “Letters” columns at the end of each number. In this volume there are several from Ezra Pound, mostly defending his essay series, some from a “Music Hall Artiste,” and others from Orage, signing himself as “Writer of Notes of the Week.” In a letter titled “Synchromatism” Pound asserts that futurism and vorticism do not share any similarities (16.14).
Works Consulted and/or Cited
- Cox, C.B. and A.E. Dyson eds. The Twentieth Century Mind. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1972.
- Dangerfield, George. The Strange Death of Liberal England. New York: Capricorn Books, 1935.
- Hobsbawm, Eric. Workers: Worlds of Labor. New York: Pantheon Books, 1984. (British edition published as Worlds of Labour.)
- Martin, Wallace. The New Age Under Orage. Manchester & New York: Manchester University Press, 1967.
- Selver, Paul. Orage and the New Age Circle. London: George Allen & Unwin, 1959.
- Thomson, David. England in the Twentieth Century. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1981.
- Williams, Neville. Chronology of the Modern World. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1975.