by Rentfrow, Daphné
This object is available for public use. Individuals interested in reproducing this object in a publication or website, or for any commercial purpose, must first receive written permission from the Modernist Journals Project.
For further information, please contact:
Modernist Journals Project
Box 1957, Brown University, Providence, RI 02912
The major event of the period covered by the volume is, of course, the Great War. By May 1915, the hope that the war begun the previous August would be over by Christmas was dead, replaced instead by an increasing awareness of the stagnation both political and military that marked this war of attrition. While war talk dominates the pages of Volume 17, what may be of greater interest are the ways in which the war, opinions of the war, and reactions to news of the war inform all aspects of the British society represented and reflected in the pages of The New Age. From the debates around women in industry to criticism of the "dead" "modern" literature; from the cinema to birth control; and from drama to South Africa, few topics are not in some way described by, ascribed to, or interpreted through the fact of war. The many ways in which these various topics interpenetrate and inform each other are nearly impossible to map in the space available here: instead, only some broad gestures attempting to encompass the various threads that keep war culture in tenuous stasis are made.
Of all the topics intertwined in the volume, perhaps the most interesting and / or informative are those of labor and war. The relationships between the two are often complicated and not immediately visible. While the war required increased production of munitions, for example, workers demanded more compensation for the extra work. But because of DORA (Defense of the Realm Act), any actions taken that could be construed as an explicit or implicit threat to the health of the realm were treated as criminal acts. Striking workers, then, were not merely disrupting production; they were aiding the enemy, and were treated as traitors. See, for example, the Clydeside case discussed under Munitions Act below.
While labor and the war, politics and gender, literature and empire are all discussed in Volume 17, something relatively new makes an appearance: popular culture. Charlie Chaplin, the cinema, pulp fiction, popular music and other elements of mass culture get a significant amount of attention in these pages. It is not surprising that The New Age connects these to the problems of a labor system that enforces the oppression and belittling of workers: in fact, many of these topics are addressed in the series "Gilders of the Chains" by Ivor Brown, beginning in No. 20, in which Brown names and attacks those things that gild the chains that imprison the wage-slave. This series and other columns in which popular culture comes to the foreground are important not just because they articulate the journal's politics or give information about someone like Chaplin, but also because in them it becomes visible how art, drama, and literature are beginning to break off into the high/low split that would for so long dog modernism and modernist studies.
Names to Know While Using this Volume
- Liberal prime minister of Great Britain (1908-16); responsible for the Parliament Act of 1911 which limited the power of the House of Lords; led Britain during the first two years of the Great War. In May 1915 Asquith reconstructs his cabinet on an unsuccessful coalition basis, admitting Unionists as well as Liberals, and appointing Lloyd George Minister of Munitions. (David) Lloyd George
- British prime minister (1916-22); dominated the British political scene in the latter part of the war. From late 1914 to the early months of 1915, Lloyd George was a vigorous advocate of increased munitions production. As Minister of Munitions he shocked and alienated many people in government (especially Lord Kitchener) and in the public by getting financial help from big business and the cooperation of organized labor. Gorky (alternately Gorki), Maxim
- pseudonym of Aleksey Maksimovich Peshkov, Russian short-story writer and novelist, Marxist. He first attracted attention with his naturalistic and sympathetic stories of tramps and social outcasts. Exiled in 1906, he returned to Russia in 1913 and vocally opposed Russia's role in the war. Hardinge, Charles
- British diplomat and viceroy of India; improved British relations in India and was instrumental in securing India's support for Great Britain in the war. Openly criticized South Africa's Anti-Indian immigration act, and openly supported the passive-resistance movement mobilized by Mohandus Gandhi. At the outbreak of the war, Hardinge sent both English and Indian troops to the British Command, earning praise for his leadership and cooperation. Hardinge also left some water colours and other art produced predominantly while in India. Morel, E.D.
- Journalist and active member of the Liberal party. Morel, along with Ramsay MacDonald and Norman Angell, created the Union of Democratic Control, which would become one of the most important-and reviled-anti-war organizations in Britain. Secretary and treasurer, Morel emerged as the dominant figure in the organization, writing most of the pamphlets published by the group, including The Morrow of War (1914), War and Diplomacy (1915), Our Ultimate Objects in This War (1917) and The African Problem and the Peace Settlement (1917). Author also of Morocco in Diplomacy (reissued as Ten Years of Secret Diplomacy) and Truth and the War, an attack on the foreign policy of the British government. The Daily Express led the attack against Morel and the UDC, accusing them of working for the German government. Morel and other members of the UDC were routinely attacked, physically and in the press. Northcliffe (of Saint Peter) / Alfred Charles William Harmsworth and Northcliffe Press
- Journalist who early in his career took over the The London Evening News, dramatically increasing its readership and changing its style. Founder of The Daily Mail and The Daily Mirror. In 1908, Harmsworth took over The Times and made it a "modern" paper. In the war years, Harmsworth used the pages of The Daily Mail to bring attention to the army's shell shortage, criticize Lord Kitchener, and advocate for a separate Ministry of Munitions. By 1918, the new viscount was the director of propaganda aimed at Britain's enemies. While extremely successful as a shaper and creator of popular newspapers, Harmsworth was criticized-and is remembered-for his keen understanding of newspapers and journals as part of the emerging mass entertainment: rather than informative, papers under and after Harmsworth became commercial and exploitive. Northcliffe Press refers to the many outlets within Harmsworth's control and, in general, to its symbolism of the fall of reportage. Notes of the Week series is the best place to start evaluating the journal's response to this trend in journalism. In Issue 1, for example, The Times under Harmsworth's control is described as "sink[ing] invariably to the level of a parochial and partisan debating club." Venizelos, Eleuthérios
- prime minister of Greece (1910-15, 1917-20, 1924, 1928-32, 1933). Considered to be the most prominent Greek politician and statesman of the early 20th century. While Venizelos was PM, Greece doubled in area and population and gained territorially and diplomatically after World War I through negotiations with Italy, Bulgaria, and Turkey. At the outbreak of World War I, Venizélos advocated Greek engagement against the Turks, allies of Germany. Opposed by King Constantine, who sympathized with the Central Powers, Venizélos finally assumed leadership of an anti-Constantine insurrection in Macedonia, Crete, and the islands after the invasion of Greek Macedonia by German-Austrian-Bulgarian armies (1916). In 1917 he forced Constantine into exile. Finally, Greece — reunited under King Alexander, the second son of Constantine, and Venizélos — declared war against the Central Powers.
Events and Things to Know
- Conscription/Compulsory Service
- After heavy losses at the Western Front, the government decided (after much debate, as evidenced in the pages of this volume) to pass the Military Service Act, which essentially forced men to serve in the army. The No-Conscription Fellowship was formed to help encourage and support those men who refused to serve. While conscientious objectors and pacifists could be and were arrested, many decided to serve in non-aggressive roles, such as stretcher-bearers, drivers, etc. At the other end of the spectrum was the Order of the White Feather, created in 1914 by Admiral Charles Fitzgerald. The Order asked women to shame men into service by publicly offering a white feather to all men not in uniform. This of course exacerbated the growing rift between the two fronts and between the two genders. DORA
- Acronym for the Defense of the Realm Act, passed in November 1914 and March 1915, which conferred extraordinary powers to the government. The most important and widely enforced tenets were those regarding communication: while ostensibly about military facts and positions, these restrictions affected the whole of Britain. Among other things, DORA permitted the commandeering of buildings for military use or even their demolition; controlled the opening and closing of public houses and the sale of liquor near dockyards and barracks; prohibited the publication of material considered dangerous to the realm, including pacifist literature; promoted pro-British positions by hiring writers (among them Ford Madox Ford-then Hueffer) to write and promote propaganda, etc. Lusitania
- The British ocean liner sunk by a German submarine. The act is often cited as one of the most important though indirect reasons for the entry of the United States into the war. 1,198 people were drowned, including 128 U.S. citizens. Munitions Act
- One of the biggest concerns for the government during the war, especially in the period covered by the volume, was the status of available munitions, especially high explosive shells. Many of the losses suffered by British troops were ascribed to a munitions shortage, and so the government passed the Munitions Act to ensure production. The problem was that many of the workers producing munitions were advocating for better wages. In February 1915, around 9,000 engineering workers went on unofficial strike for increased wages in Clydeside, one of the main arms producing areas. Panicked by the implications for future output, the government passed several acts, among which was the Munitions Act, which made strikes illegal and the restriction of output a criminal offence. In July 1915, for example, a Glasgow shop steward was imprisoned for three months for 'slacking and causing others to slack'.
In March 1915 the government rejected the Miners' Federation demand for a national wage increase to meet the rising cost of living. There was widespread unrest in the coalfields and in July the South Wales miners struck. The government proclaimed the South Wales coalfield bound by the Munitions Act. The miners defied the law, confident that the government was not about to send 200,000 workers to jail. The miners won virtually their entire claim, though new restrictions and troubles and violence would arise in the months to come as the war waged on and workers still struggled for living wages. Important to note is that in 1916, the Clyde Workers' Committee journal, The Worker, and several members of the Committee itself were prosecuted under DORA-all aspects of wartime Britain converged and interpenetrated each other around the issues of labor and war. This volume of The New Age in particular is a provocative examination of this confluence.South Africa
- Suffering from and attempting to emerge from its troubled racial and political history, South Africa entered a period of increased tension after Louis Botha formed the first Union government on May 31, 1910. Supported by the majority party in each province and by the British government, Botha's administration was afflicted by issues left unresolved by the constitution, by rapid but uneven economic growth and its attendant social antagonisms, and from the legacy of conquest and dispossession. When Britain declared war on Germany, South Africa's dominion status meant that it was automatically at war, and its troops were mobilized to invade German South West Africa. This sparked a rebellion led by former Boer generals, who were high-ranking officers in the Union Defence Force. Known as the Afrikaner Rebellion, the conflict resulted in the death of over 300 people. The forces behind the rebellion-mostly "poor whites" and militant intellectuals-provided much of the backing for the National Party founded in 1914. In the general election of 1915, the National Party won 30 percent of the poll, as Afrikaners deserted the South African Party led by Botha and Smuts. In the period covered by the volume, the major conflict remains that between employers and organized white workers. In mining in particular, violent confrontations were common. While the government often deployed troops to end the strikes, this stopped when white workers suspended strike action during the war.
Events by Month
- Sea: Germans sink U.S. merchant ship Gulflight 4
- Britain: Estimated cost of first eight months of war $3.95 billion 8
- Cork: the Cunard liner Lusitania torpedoed by a German submarine; over 1,100 perish, including many Americans (02:028, 03: 058, 14:326, 20:481) 9
- South-West Africa: German forces surrender to General Louis Botha's South Africans (See all issues with "The South-African Situation" by Poutsma) 10
- United States: President Wilson declares "A nation may be so right that it does not need to fight." 13
- United States: Secretary of State Bryan demands German reparations for Lusitania 20
- Italy: Cabinet receives full war powers (See all issues with "Letter from Italy") 23
- Italy: War declared on Austria 23
- Britain: Cabinet changes — Lloyd George now Minister of War and Balfour replaces Churchill at Admiralty 25
- Britain: Asquith forms a wartime coalition (04:073, 07:145, 26:609) 25
- Italy: Austrians bomb Venice 25
- Western Front: British 2nd stops German advance along Ypres; when engagement ends at end of June, Germans will have lost 35,000, British 60,000, and French 10,000
- London: German zeppelins bomb the city, causing fires but few casualties 3
- Mesopotamia: British troops advance up Tigris River, take Amara 6
- Germany: Kaiser declares passenger liners safe from submarine attacks 11
- Africa: British troops take Cameroon 17
- Armenia: Turkey: Minister of the Interior sanctions random "deportation" of Armenians; results in Armenian Massacre 27
- Texas, United States: Huerta arrested as he approaches border, accused of plotting against Mexico 4
- Eastern Front: Austro-German troops recapture Przemsyl from the Russians 15
- Albania: Serbian troops invade and take Tirana 21
- Western Front: German success in the Argonne attributed to the use of gas shells 23
- Eastern Front: Austrians retake Lemberg, capital of Galicia, from the Russians who took possession in 1914 25
- Mexico: Forces under General Carranza fail to win Mexico City from General Zapata
- United States: Bomb explodes in the reception room of the U.S. Senate; Frank Holt, angry over arms exports, admits to the act: commits suicide four days later 6
- Eastern Front: British gain ground against Turks in Gallipoli 9
- Germany responds to Lusitania note from U.S. and declares that submarine war will continue 17
- London: 30,000 women march to demand war jobs 21
- United States: Supreme Court finds "grandfather" clause unconstitutional: African Americans can vote even if grandfather did not (by November, the Ku Klux Klan will be revived) 28
- London: American novelist Henry James becomes British citizen 29
- Haiti: 400 U.S. Marines land at Port-au-Price to protect lives and properties of Americans and others against violence in the capital city
- Eastern Front: Austro-Germans take Warsaw 6
- Austro-Hungarians demand Poland be reunited with Galicia and made part of Hapsburg Empire 8
- Eastern Front: Dardanelles-2nd Allied landing at Gallipoli fails after three days without adequate naval support 9
- Europe: Germany proposes separate peace for Eastern Front, which the Russians reject 16
- United States: Secretary of State Lansing informs President Wilson of German espionage plans and spy inquiry gets underway 21
- Italy: War declared on Ottoman Empire 30
- Eastern Front: Russian fortress of Brest-Litovsk falls to Germans
- Poland: Josef Pilsudski begins movement for a free Poland after its partition by Germany and Austria 4
- Haiti: U.S. Admiral places Port-au-Prince under martial law 5
- Russia: Tsar Nicholas II takes personal command of Russian Army 6
- Bulgaria: Military convention with Germany and Austria signed by Bulgaria 9
- London: More zeppelin attacks 19
- Eastern Front: Germans take Vilna 23
- Greece: King Constantine orders mobilization of army in aid of Serbia against Bulgarians 26
- Western Front: French and British troops launch two massive offensives in Flanders and Champagne
- Greece: French and British troops land at Salonika to begin train journey to Glevgell on Serbian border 8
- Balkans: Russia begins hostilities against Bulgaria 9
- Serbia: Belgrade falls to the Austro-Germans 12
- Brussels: British nurse Edith Cavell is executed by a German firing squad for treason 14
- Balkans: Bulgaria and Serbia declare war on each other 16
- Balkans: Allies blockade Bulgarian ports 19
- Europe: Russia and Italy follow Britain and France and declare war on Bulgaria
Most everything stays the same, including price and most frequent contributors. Issue number 10 sees the reappearance of “Press Cuttings”, replacing subscription information on the last page. There are several series in the volume, covering a variety of topics. They include
- Aspects of the Guild Idea by Ivor Brown
- Americanising the Hyphenated State by E.A.B.
- Impressions of Paris by Alice Morning
- Letters from Italy by Teresa de Maiano
- Letters from Russia by C.E. Bechhofer
- More Letters to My Nephew by Anthony Farley
- The South African Situation by Dr. H.J. Poutsma
Perhaps most important to keep in mind when reading this volume is the emerging aesthetic-philosophical-political policy of the journal; specifically, a particular policy of "value" that seems, if not born of the war, at least greatly influenced by it becomes more apparent. Wallace Martin, in his book on The New Age, points out that the war made itself felt in all areas of London life, especially in literary circles. This is true of The New Age as well: of its most frequent contributors, many went into the Army (including Hulme, who would die at the front). Journals like Blast and Poetry and Drama appeared and disappeared as more writers and editors left for France. "As the younger contributors went into the Army," Martin writes, "Orage found it increasingly difficult to assemble each week's issue of The New Age" (193-94). By 1917, the scarcity of contributors and the increased cost of production during war would cause severe problems and heartache for Orage and his increasingly underpaid contributors.
Yet as Martin points out, these difficulties did not adversely affect the quality of the journal. T.E. Hulme and M.D. Eder, among others, wrote from the front and writers like Shaw, Belloc and Mansfield became regular contributors (Martin 194). These new voices and the new war-shaped landscape contributed to Orage's increasingly firm vision, first expressed in 1911, of the work of criticism in modern times:
The purpose of criticism in his time, as he saw it, was to formulate a coherent set of values, based upon tradition, which would be sufficiently flexible to absorb new form without being a weather-vane of literary novelty. . . . [W]ith the coming of the war and the simultaneous decrease of interest in revolutionary artistic movements, [this position] emerged as one of the most important aspects of the magazine's policy. (Martin 195)
Specifically, Martin locates this policy in two types of contributions, both of which are in evidence in this volume: the increase in translations and a return to eighteenth century literary forms like the "periodical essay" and the "hortatory epistle." Examples of these in Volume 17 are: translation, by P.V. Cohn, of Stendhal's De L'Amour (begins in No. 17) and "(More) Letters to My Nephew" by Anthony Farley (S.G. Hobson) beginning in No. 4.
This affinity for "the civilized rationality of the neo-classical period provided an admirable model for maintaining a sense of balance in a period of literary and cultural transition" and highlighted the move away from Fabianism that had begun between 1908 and 1910 (Martin 197). By drawing on past forms and on contemporary thought, The New Age and its contributors formulated a "unified approach to political, social, and cultural problems which can be described as `neo-classical"' (Martin 197). Politically, this vision came to be known as Guild Socialism, a philosophy that combined conservative theory with progressive political philosophy. Volume 17 provides some of the most explicit pieces about the evolution of the movement, specifically Ivor Brown's "Aspects of the Guild Idea" (beginning in No.1), various essays by Ramiro de Maeztu, and Hulme's preface to his translation of Sorel's Reflections on Violence (No. 24) For a more complete discussion of Guild Socialism, its evolution, and its influence on The New Age, please see Part Four of Martin's The New Age Under Orage at MJP Books.
While the complexities of the connection between politics and the journal and its philosophy are briefly addressed above, it is worthwhile to examine, albeit briefly, the journal's direct engagement with the war itself. As early as issue number 1, writers of The New Age demonstrate a keen awareness of the fact that the war is far from over, and that its effects on British society are far from being fully understood. In “Notes of the Week”, for example, we are told that "we should be reminded that the war is not over yet" and that "we are certain of victory in the long run . . . for the simple reason that, muddle as our rulers may, the people of this country mean them to muddle through." (No.1) In “Military Notes”, Romney criticizes the public outcry over the German's use of gas and "asphyxiation" as weapons: he asks what, exactly, makes them more barbaric than the use of bayonets and shelling. In response to evocations of the Hague Convention and a sense of "fair play" dominating the British landscape, Romney powerfully writes
Let war be as horrible as possible, and let us get it over quick. History shows that it is not the short, sharp wars which debase mankind. These, it appears, rather elevate it be evoking heroism and self-sacrifice. What does the evil is the long, dragging contest, with its consequent accustoming of men to horror ad rapine and its consequent hardening of hearts." (02:029)
Similar to Romney's criticism of British horror at the German use of chemical weaponry is C.H. Norman's critique of British indignation at Germans' war-making policies. In his “Advocatus Diaboli: Policy of "Moral Indignation,”" Norman argues that "The Laws and Usages of War" published by the British War Office in 1914 is very similar to the German Kriegbuch, advocating similar tactics, military philosophy, and breaches of international law (03:057). Norman is of course roundly condemned, especially in various letters. See, for example, a letter by Fred. H. Gorle in number 4, which begins an exchange with Norman that lasts for several issues. Norman later writes "Why I Think the War Should be Stopped," in Issue 13, which is published with a running commentary by The New Age. Norman later would publish on the war, including the book A Searchlight on the European War as well as The Revolutionary Spirit in Modern Literature and Drama, and The Class War in Europe, 1918-36. His pieces in the journal are among the most prescient, provocative, and troubling ruminations on the war, the British Empire, and the class struggle.
Other specifically war-related topics covered in “Notes” are
- "war babies" and whether or not their numbers have been exaggerated (No.2)
- conscription and the journal's position on it: "Our objections to conscription . . . . are on the ground of England's efficiency, immediately in the present war, and in the wars to come . . . . [I]n England conscription not only will not conduce to victory in the present war, but we believe it will impair our military efficiency from the moment that an attempt is made to establish it" (No. 5). Also covered in nearly every subsequent issue. See also "On Compulsion" by Ramiro de Maeztu (No.8)
- munitions and / or Munitions Bill (Nos. 6, 8)
“Letters to the Editor” is an especially informative column for British opinions about the war, as well as a window into often un-recorded events of history. For example, the xenophobia evident in "Foreigners in England" in “Letters” in Issues 1 and 4 is not directed, as may have been assumed, toward Germans only. Jews, Indians, Africans, and others are targets of anti-foreign sentiment, though of course, the army was comprised in part of colonial subjects. “Notes of the Week” in issue 3 details the effects of the xenophobia. German shops are attacked (03:049), rioting and looting break out in London (03:050), and spies are detected (these, interestingly, are mostly Englishmen with a "sprinkling" of Dutch and Scandinavian). “Notes” singles out Lord Northcliffe and his press as the instigator of the riots, arguing that there has been in the press a "campaign of rancour, envy, and hatred" against German residents (03:051).
Other pieces of interest in “Letters” include
- "Letters from Italy" and "Berlin in War Time" (No.2)
- "From the Front" (No.6)
- "Mr. Sheehy-Skeffington's Sentence" from Hanna Skeffington discusses how Sheehy-Skeffington, recently released from prison under the Cat-and-Mouse Act for his hunger strike, will be returning to prison (No.9)
- Correspondence between C.H. Norman and Cecil Chesterton regarding "Mr. Morel" (what Chesterton claims is an assumed name) and Norman's position on the war, making reference to essays by Hilaire Belloc in The New Age from December 1907. The conversation begins in No. 10, but continues intermittently through issues 12,13,15, 16, and 17.
Literature / Drama / Popular Culture
There are quite a few pieces of interest in this volume for anyone interested in the debates around literature and other arts in this period. The most useful columns to use when exploring these topics are “Readers and Writers”, “Reviews”, “Drama”, and some series mentioned below. Of note are the following:
- “Readers and Writers” discussion of trench journals, where once again class, tradition, and art collide: "Formerly, officers put on white gloves when they went into battle; to-day the common soldier writes ballades" (02:037)
- “Drama” and cinema in John Francis Hope's column: "Drama is so instructive in these days of the cinematograph that to be a dramatic critic is to receive a liberal education in everything but drama" (03:060)
- A review of H.G.Wells's Boon, published as by "Reginal Bliss": "He flatters Miss Rebecca West and promiscuously associates her with Mr. Ford Madox Hueffer and the editor of this journal" (03:061). West was Wells's lover and the mother of his child: Hueffer, of course, would change his name to the less Germanic Ford and write The Good Soldier and Parade's End. This particular piece also reviews Wells on Shaw and Boon/Bliss/Wells and The New Age.
- Depressional, a poem by Vivien Flanders on The New Age (06:131). It reads in part "For Great Unbought and Young Idea / We pray New Age may hover near." The worries about The New Age losing money and staff make their way into the piece in the lines "Half your court of yesterday / Have sold themselves for meaner hire!"
- For a view into modern life, Paul Selver's piece in “Pastiche” in No. 7 is worth reading. It is titled "Notes on Certain Phenomena Associate with Tube-Lifts, Motor-'Buses, and Telephone Boxes."
- Theater and its role in war time: drama is "not an art but an industry" (09:203)
- Commentary on the second issue of Blast, which is described as better and more interesting than the first: "Mr. Lewis shares The New Age's detestation of the Naturalistic or Realist school" (13:309). There is also discussion of Pound's "excellent" Imagism
- Ivor Brown's "Gilders of the Chain-II" is dedicated to Charlie Chaplin: "The cinema has come to stay" and is "the primary amusement of the wage-slave." Chaplin "releases all our suppressed yearnings for the utterly non-sensical." (21:494)
Many of the best pieces are by or in response to the work of the increasingly well-known young American. His contributions include “The Pleasing Art of Poetry” in No.10, in which he responds to the "priggery" of E. Tompkins's 1791 anthology. He also addresses American letters, the process and history of publication and how value is determined. This thread is picked up again in his series “American Chaos” in Nos. 19 and 20 in which he also attempts to explain the actions-or inactions-of the United States in response to the war (which is itself a fascinating current in the pages of the volume) while still maintaining a distance from England. Pound writes "It is a deep chagrin to me that my country is not at this moment England's ally in the war, et when I curse my country I find myself cursing her for distinctly English habits, for habits imparted from England." "You cannot expect men on farm in Missouri," he continues, "to share my conviction [ . . . ] that there is in `England' some ineradicable character much finer than `the English Government'" (19:449). Pound also writes, in No. 25, "This Super-Neutrality."
There is a range of response to Pound's work in the journal. For example, Paul Selver's poem "The Speculative Meditations of Clarence Frupp" in No. 12, which is imagined as an imaginary poet's death in the war and the responses it earns from the likes of Aldington, Holbrook, and Pound reads in partThen Pound . . . . He'd write, of course, though God
knows what . . .
Some bilge about the Texture of my Work.
And-yes, The New Age crowd (a scurvy lot)
Would bandy japes and epigrams, and smirk.
Beatrice Hastings, writing as Ninon de Longclothes, writes
The apparition of Ezra at the Party
To his right the curling sandwiches
And the fruits that are somehow watching-
The apparition of Ezra
Under the tree branches triangularly waving . . .
Ezra at the Party, half friz, half nibble
Ezra talking Art. . . . .
In “Readers and Writers” of No. 12, a discussion of American magazines becomes praise for Pound's contribution on Noh-Dramas, yet accuses Pound of using too much slang and Americanisms for "serious writing."
Most interesting, perhaps, in terms of understanding how important The New Age and Orage were in the evolution of Pound's talent and notoriety is “Readers and Writers” in No. 14. "As Mr. James Douglas has half accused The New Age of inventing Mr. Ezra Pound, I may perhaps spend with profit a little critical subtlety in disproving it." Pound "is willful like and American child": "his theories" "will in the end be his ruin." The review of "Cathay" claims that it "contains the best and even the only good work Mr. Pound has yet done." "The Sea-Farer" (first published in The New Age) is described as "one of the finest literary works of art produced in England during the last ten years." It is placed alongside "Odes" by "Mrs. Hastings" as "the best serious verse The New Age has published." Yet Pound's claim that he is a Vorticist are dismissed out of hand: "What is final in my mind is that his own contributions to "Blast" are easily the worst, as if indeed he were very far form feeling at home."
Always a pleasure and puzzle to decipher, Hastings contributes weekly to the journal under the name Alice Morning. Her "Impressions of Paris" are alternately funny, sad, whimsical, and demanding. Almost each column turns to the war, providing both the mundane and the political details that seem to define the period. A sample of topics covered includes theosophy, morality, the war and the French social scene (No.1); colonialism in the form of a Senegalese soldier in the streets of Paris, the appearance of the wounded (No.2); French response to the sinking of the Lusitania, descriptions of the almost disappointing experience of Zeppelin attacks (No.3); women and war (war is "man's affair") (No. 12); patriotism, conscription , and the duty of the non-combatant "to hold steady and support the Army to the last shred of physical and moral good cheer" (No.15).
Two entries of "Impressions" are particularly worth mentioning for their passion, breadth of topics, and detail. No. 6's column is particularly bleak (Hastings describes herself as being "very down-hearted"). Her usual boredom is replaced here by somber contemplation of war: "Now the sky is all aeroplanes with their sound of tearing out your bowels-horrible machines, the ideal of mechanical efficiency, perfected in blood, and destined to serve man for sinister destruction of himself and his works." She reacts to the events of the week, which have included two great tragedies — "The week has been awful with the news of the troops burned in the train, and two cruisers lost, and the "Princess Irene." Hastings is here referring to the loss of the hundreds of troops in two dramatic accidents. The HMS Princess Irene, a luxury steamship recommissioned as a minelayer, suffered a catastrophic internal explosion on May 27, 1915, while docked for a refit, killing all but one of the over 300 people on board. The explosion on a ship of its size, carrying an estimated 500 mines, was devastating-few bodies were ever found, though many body parts and dangerous debris landed on surrounding villages, killing at least ten people on the ground. The week before, on the 22nd of May, a troop train carrying almost five hundred officers and men of the Royal Scots collided with another train on the line at Quintinshill. This second train, an empty coal train left on the tracks by a careless signalman, was hit by the troop train at 70 mph. Unbelievably, less than a minute later, an express train from London ploughed into the two wrecked trains. Many of those who had survived the first crash were killed by the second impact and the violent fire that followed. So terrible was the impact, the troop train was telescoped down to 67 yards, a third of its original length. The troops were in locked carriages in a wood-framed train. As fire engines took over three hours to arrive on scene, the loss of life was staggering. All told, 227 were killed and 246 injured. Almost all the casualties were from the troop train: the Royal Scots lost 215 of the 485 men on board. That single Battalion lost, in the accident, 42 percent of its total casualties for the whole war. The Quintinshill crash remains the worst disaster in the history of British railways. [http://members.lycos.co.uk/hinckley8/train.html]
Clearly, Hastings's reaction to news of tragedies of such magnitude is under-stated. Yet what becomes evident when reading her columns in an alternating pitch of emotion-from a frenzied boredom to a numbed disinterest, her contributions to the journals are an invaluable snapshot of the impossible-to-assess emotional upheavals caused by the war. Additionally, the events that Hastings notes are often those which have fallen out of the cultural imagination and memory of the war, and as such offer the unique "in-the-moment' perspective available usually in diaries.
Issue No. 9 is interesting more for its insights not into the war so much as into Hastings's life and the life of her peers. For example, she writes of Rupert Brooke, the poet who died early in the war, and remembers an afternoon spent with him. The memory, however, becomes a commentary on gender relations: "Brooke's shout of thanks for the war contains a good deal against modern feminist England as a school for youth" (09:202). In that same column she attacks Arnold Bennett for a recent appeal for the "Wounded Allies," highlighting in the process a common criticism levied during the war years: "The silly man thinks that be emphasizing the heroes of war he will excite charity , so he talks about `hogheads of blood,' which he himself has, of course, never seen." And, finally, a mention in passing of one of the period's greatest artists: Hastings has translated a "comical romance" into French, "the which has now reached the trenches, and has gained me the gift of a painting by M. Picasso `in eternal gratitude' on a straw handbag I had." For these brief yet wonderful passages, it is worth reading all of Hastings's columns in their entirety.
Ramiro de Maeztu
Already a regular contributor, Maeztu becomes in this volume a more central figure, generating many of the letters and columns simply by provoking the readership. His "On Luxury and Waste" in No.2, for example, gets a response from Hastings in her column of No.5. Maeztu responds to her in the “Letters” of No.6, and it continues. In "Not Happiness, But -" in No.10, Maeztu discusses the contributions of Ivor Brown and Alice Morning (Hastings). R.H.C. in “Readers and Writers” in No.1 responds to a previous piece by Maeztu, claiming that in it he affirms The New Age's treatment of the economic and the political with literature: "we are guildsmen in literary criticism." In his piece "War and Solidarity," Maeztu argues that "Rich and poor disappear in the brotherhood of arms" (04:081). Because he sees the army as a guild, Maeztu holds on to the hope that the war will bring a class change, and for that reason may be a good thing.
Maeztu writes also
- “On Novels and Happiness” (No.6)
- “On Compulsion” (on conscription, compulsory service, labour, voluntary service, etc. No.8)
- “On Love and Veracity” (No. 14)
- “On Liberty and Organisation”(No. 16)
- “Beyond the Barriers of Liberty and Authority” (No. 18)
- “On Law and the Guilds” (No. 20)
- “The End of Romanticism” (No. 22)
- “On a Doctrine of Power”(No. 24)
- “On the Primacy of Things” (No. 26)
The range of topics covered makes sense when one considers Maeztu's politics, and the influence he had on Orage and others in The New Age coterie (see our brief biography for more information, as well as Martin pg. 198) The writings in this and subsequent volumes will be collected by Maeztu, along with some diary entries, into Authority, Liberty, and Function in the Light of War (translated in 1919 as La crisis del humanismo)
Volume 17, like its predecessors, offers much for the student of the period. And, like its predecessors, the volume is often unwieldy and difficult to wade through. The richness of the materials demands a slower consumption: the best approach is to read a single series, one column at a time. This way, the ideas of a Maeztu, or of a Hastings, or of a Poutsma, are seen evolving, reacting to and integrating the events of the war and its society. Not only does this provide a clear sense of a given writer's philosophical doctrines and literary opinions, but it renders visible the ways in which a brutal and brutalizing event like a world war can change the ideas of even the most devoted thinker.Daphnée Rentfrow
- Martin, Wallace. The New Age Under Orage: Chapters in English Cultural History. Manchester and New York: Manchester UP and Barnes and Noble, 1967.
- Millenium Year by Year: A Chronicle of World History from AD 1000 to the Present Day.
- 20th Century Day by Day. Clifton Daniel, ed.