by Sullivan, Robert
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This volume covers a period in which Europe was still very much concerned with repairing itself after the convulsions of the Great War. It was a time of restoration and, some would argue, revenge, as the Allies met in Versailles to parcel out the German territories in Africa and elsewhere. The cataclysm of the war marked a discernable watershed in western civilization, not only weakening the belief in rational progress (Freud’s work was of great relevance here), but also shattering the hierarchical social structures of the previous century (Marx’s work was crucial here). In a time of great flux and fragmentation, maps were being re-drawn as the great Austrian-Hungarian and Ottoman empires toppled and the revolutions in Russia changed the face of Europe, events that were themselves of course a direct consequence of the war.
The twenty-seven issues of this volume reflect this period of post-war turmoil. As the editor of The New Age, A.R. Orage, put it in one of his columns: “nothing we can now clearly see will ever be the same as it was before the Great War.” Even as the Allies were carving out the terms of the peace at Versailles, smaller wars raged throughout Europe as the Bolsheviks fought to consolidate their position and emerging nation-states struggled to assert their independence. Closer to home, in Ireland, throughout 1919 a guerilla war for independence was being waged by the newly-named Irish Republican Army (the I.R.A.)
Although the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28th, 1919, and the Conference had already adopted the principle of the League of Nations earlier in the year, there were still many issues to settle as the following selection of events bears testimony:
- May 1st Bavarian government troops capture Munich from Communists
- May 6th Peace Conference disposes of Germany’s colonies
- May 28th Armenia declares its independence
- June 6th Finland declares war on U.S.S.R.
- June 10th Austria protests terms of the Peace Conference
- June 21st German fleet scuttled at Scapa Flow
- June 28th Germans sign Treaty at Versailles
- July 12th Edward Carson demands repeal of Home Rule for Ireland and threatens revolt
- July 31st Germany adopts Weimar constitution
- August 1st Hungarian socialist regime overthrown
- August 5th Mustapha Kemal at Turkish National Congress declares himself independent of Istanbul
- August Police strike in London
- September 10th Allied peace treaty with Austria
- October 12th British withdraw from Murmansk
- October 27th George Curzon succeeds A.J. Balfour as British Foreign Secretary
- October 28th British War Cabinet stands down
- November 11th first 2-minutes silence in Britain.
Some historical milestones during this period
- Bergson’s L’energie spirituelle
- Keynes’s The Economic Consequences of the Peace
- Sherwood Anderson, Winesburg, Ohio
- W. S. Maugham, The Moon and Sixpence
- T.Hardy, Collected Poems
- G.B. Shaw, Heartbreak House
- Founding of the Bauhaus School by W. Gropius in Weimar
- M de Falla’s Three Cornered Hat (sets by Picasso)
- Communist Third International
- First successful helicopter flight
- Ernest Rutherford publishes account of the “splitting” of the atom
- Total eclipse of the sun (May 29) helps confirm Einstein’s Theory of Relativity
- Theodore Roosevelt died (61)
- Pierre Auguste Renoir died (78)
- Andrew Carnegie died (84).
Other notable events during 1919
The Domestic Scene
The British government that was charged with overseeing the transition from war to peace was a coalition brought into office as a consequence of the “Coupon” election (the name alludes to rationing during the war) of December 1918. This coalition was led by the “Welsh Wizard”Lloyd George and consisted of Liberals, Conservative, and Labour members. The split between the Lloyd George and Asquith factions of the Liberal Party at this time was one from which the Party would never recover and Labour began to take its place as the main opposition party in British politics.
The Coupon Election gave Labour 2.3 million votes (59 seats). The Irish Party, Sinn Fein, had even more seats (73), but these candidates either refused to take their seats in Westminster or could not do so because they were in prison. Due to the Representation of the People Act (1918), the franchise was extended to 8.5 million women and 2 million more men. The coalition was comprised of the following cabinet members:
- Lloyd George. . . co-leader
- Bonar Law. . ..co-leader
- Lord Birkenhead. . .Lord Chancellor
- James Balfour. . .Foreign Office
- Austen Chamberlain. . .Chancellor of the Exchequer
- Winston Churchill. . .Secretary of State for War
Apart from its participation in the European peace, this government had to deal with growing unrest at home. These domestic disturbances were brought about for the most part by growing unemployment (4 million soldiers had recently been demobilized), resulting in a series of strikes, including those by the mine workers, the railway workers, and the police force. A strike in Glasgow led to the occupation of the city by the armed forces. The government was also concerned with the dismantling of many war-time ministries such as Shipping, Munitions, and Food, as well as setting up new legislation during 1919 as follows:
- Coal Mines Act
- Industry Act
- Industrial Courts Act
- Ministry of Health
- Ministry of Transport
- Government of India Act
- The Housing Act
As well as its concerns with the new configuration of Europe, the Coalition had to turn its attention to “foreign affairs” closer to home, haunted as it was by its own colonial quagmire in Ireland and India.
The Government of India Act (1919), offered a modicum of power sharing, but the colonial grip was still too tight for the Congress Party and its leader Mahatma Gandhi. Agitation led to the Amritsar Massacre (April 1919), when a crowd refused to disperse and were fired upon. During the resulting panic 379 people died.
Ireland, “John Bull’s Other Island,” would not, as usual, go away. The success of Sinn Fein in the election of 1918 (and the martyrdom of the leaders of the Easter 1916 Rising) had strengthened greatly the cause for Irish independence, so much so that Eamon De Valera, Michael Collins, and Arthur Griffith formed an Irish Parliament, the Dàil Eireann, in January 1919 and declared Ireland independent. American-born De Valera had been to the U.S. in 1919 and had garnered both financial and moral support. It was throughout 1919 that the Irish Republican Army (the I.R.A, being the new name for the “Irish Volunteers”) waged a guerilla war against the joint forces of the Royal Irish Constabulary, the British Army, and the notorious “Black and Tans,” many of whom were recently demobilized and unemployed. It is beyond the province of this introduction, but these events led eventually to the Government of Ireland Act (1920), the partition of Ireland, and the Irish Civil War.
The Journal Itself
To a greater or lesser extent most of the events mentioned above find their way into The New Age, for the most part in the editor’s “Notes of the Week” columns. The reader is invited to do a key-word search to uncover any of these issues. Still costing seven-pence per issue (as with the other recent volumes), and still giving over some of its pages to literature and the other arts, the year 1919 was a difficult one for the periodical mainly for the following reasons:
- There was no longer any advertising to help off-set expenses
- There was a shortage of paper due to the war, making it more expensive
- The New Age was beginning to lose a great deal of its readership because
- There was more competition from other Literary magazine and
- Orage’s publication policy was beginning to turn away from the “Arts” (which was still on the banner head) toward
- Economics and psychology
Wallace Martin, in his book, The New Age Under Orage, sees the year 1919 not only as a watershed for the periodical, but also for Orage’s intellectual development and publishing preferences. The reader is encouraged to read Part Five of Martin's book for a discussion of these issues. As Martin summarizes it:
Economics and Politics/Noted Series
“Notes of the Week,” as with every other volume, leads off every issue and the reader is encouraged to peruse these pages or to do key-word searches for topical concerns. In the very first issue, Orage takes up the ideology and policies of Bolshevism and its relation to social reform in England. He references a recently published article in the Daily Herald (April 23rd) with Lenin01:01 In issue No. 4., Orage has some prophetic remarks on the Peace Treaty in Versailles, to the effect that
Marmaduke Pickthall's series on things Turkish replaces “S. Verdad’s” (J.M.Kennedy) column on “Foreign Affairs” for most of this volume. In the first issue he expatiates on the benevolence and the modernity of the prophet Muhammad and the morality of the Muslim religion, especially as it manifests itself in time of war, 01:04 and in the same issue he takes Ezra Pound to task (in the “Letters” column) for his deprecation of Turkish literature 01:14 There is a critical letter in 04:70 in response to Pickthall’s stance on the Turkish-Armenian problem and a response from the latter in 05:91 In issue nine 09:144 Pickthall continues his crusade to exonerate the Turkish Empire in the article “Routine or Policy,” and in 10:160 he gives a graphic account of the slaughter and humiliation of the Turks in Smyrna. This is a text that makes interesting reading alongside that of Ernest Hemingway’s “On the Quay at Smyrna” (1923).
“Foreign Affairs”by S. Verdad (J.M. Kennedy) returns in No. 15 and the author remarks that he had
C.H. Douglas, the economic “theorist” and campaigner for “Social Credit,” a system which briefly attracted the attention of Orage, begins the serialisation of his book, Economic Democracy, in No. 6, and concludes it in No. 15. This rather eccentric economic theory—at bottom it advocated printing more money as needed—had its devotees, and Douglas’s discussions may have influenced the younger Ezra Pound’s later peculiar take on economic matters. (see the note to p. 273 in Martin’s book ) Douglas provides a diagrammatic rendition of his economic theory in 22:356 and Orage makes a comparison of Douglas’s theory with Marx’s theory of surplus value23:371
“In School,” a series by T.R. Coxon, deserves a section of its own because it is neither “arts,”“economics” nor “politics,” but rather a shrewd guide to the teaching of English in schools. Beginning in No.1 and running through No.21, these articles by a practicing teacher describe his methodology for teaching English composition and literary criticism, a methodology very similar to that which was to be used by I.A. Richards in his Practical Criticism (1929) . See 02:26 for example. Based on emulation and creativity, the results are astounding, at least the examples of writing offered in these articles:
Literature and the Other Arts
Pound commands a section of his own here, since he contributes to almost every issue in the volume under his own name or one of his pseudonyms. Most significantly, his “Homage to Sextus Propertius” begins in No. 8 and runs, intermittently, through No. 18. Orage, in his “Readers and Writers” column, defends the poem against an over-literal reading by a Professor of Latin at “Chicago University” that had appeared in Poetry magazine. 10:166
If we do a search of the “Pastiche” columns we will see that Pound appears in almost every issue. Apart from a few other entries, he ran a series called “The Regional.” This begins in 07:124 and is a (at times whimsical) study of provincialism, mostly of the French kind. The study is not only of a provincialism of place however, but also of time, a temporal deformity that is manifest
Under his pseudonyms “William Atheling” and “B.H. Dias”, Pound wrote the “Music” and “Art Notes” columns, respectively. There is not much to “note” (so to speak) in the Music columns except when Atheling/Pound provides brief moments of entertainment as when, for example, the auditor remarks of a performance by Miss Winifred McBride at the Wigmore that he
In No. 24, Atheling/Pound calls on Pound’s other alias “B.H. Dias” to agree with him on the superiority of Borodin’s Prince Igor over de Falla’s Three Cornered Hat (Picasso had done the sets for this production) 25:412 and, predictably, B.H. Dias’s “Art Notes” in 26:427 takes up the merits of the Russian Ballet. In the same issue, Pound has a piece called “'Esope,' France and the Trade Union,” on periodicals and their legislation.
In the “Art Notes” column of 22:364 Pound (“Dias”) comments at length on the drawings of Wyndam Lewis.
Under his pseudonym “Edward Moore,” Orage’s recent protégé has several pieces in the volume, including articles on Thomas Hardy2:27 and G.B. Shaw11:184 He also contributes two separate essays entitled “New Values” in which he explores the link between modernity and psychology:
Pitter published her first poem in The New Age in 1911 when she was 13 yrs. old (9.02:29). She has several poems in this volume and is to be found frequently in the “Pastiche” columns, sharing this space with Ezra Pound in 07:124 , 11:188, 13:320, and 26:432.
Selver who went on to write a memoir, Orage and the New Age Circle, like Pitter, began his relationship with the periodical around 1911 (see the introduction to volume 9) and went on to contribute an extensive amount of translations of Slavic poetry. In this volume he has essays on “The Translation of Poetry,” in 19:311, 22:362, 24:393, and 26:425.
No doubt due to the publicity given to the Balkans over the previous decade or so we have a number of literary examples from that region of Europe. These include: “The Song of the Building of Skadar”04:7, “The Maiden of Kossovo”12:204, “The Banquet at Krushevatz”23:379 (these trans. from the Serbian by Helen Rootham); “A Garrison in Bosnia”, translated by Paul Selver13:216, and “Three Days in Sofia”17:280.
“John Francis Hope” (A.E. Randall) has the weekly drama column, but these plays are of an ephemeral nature (one of the exceptions being a review of The Seagull in 08:133), and the reviews are worth reading mostly for their entertainment value, as in, for example, “The Voice from the Minaret”23:376
Janko Lavrin concludes his series “Ibsen and His Creation” in No. 10 of this volume with an essay entitled “The Significance of Ibsen.”10:167
Huntly Carter continues his series “The Old Master as Grotesque” from the previous volume, with essays on “Botticelli,”“Blake,”“Cezanne,”“Turner,” and concludes it with “The Negrotesque” in 27:442
“Readers and Writers”
This column over the initials “R.H.C.” (Orage) appears sporadically in this volume, so much so that one reader in the “Letters” page complains about the “prolonged absence of the well-known initials “R.H.C.”---send him back to us soon.” 16:267 Orage is back the next week with a column on the numerous recent book publications that have had their origin as series in The New Age. Most of his material in these articles concern periodicals and other publishing matters rather than reviewing actual books, as when, for example in 18:294 he praises and supplies subscription information for The Dial, the Little Review, and the quarterly Quest. His article in 23:377 deals with the vicissitudes faced by the young writer in the contemporary publishing world: “it does not pay them [the publishers] to publish novels that are not certain of immediate commercial success.”
(Please see comprehensive “Books Reviewed” section of this volume.)
Works Consulted and/or Cited
- Cox, C.B. and A.E. Dyson eds. The Twentieth Century Mind. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1972.
- Martin, Wallace. The New Age Under Orage. Manchester & New York: Manchester University Press, 1967. http://www.modjourn.brown.edu/Martin/martin.htm
- 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.