The following introduction approaches The New Freewoman (Jun. 1913 – Dec. 1913) and The Egoist (Jan. 1914 – Dec. 1919) as a single entity with two names, while regarding its predecessor, The Freewoman (Nov. 1911 – Oct. 1912), as a distinct journal. It is worth acknowledging, however, the significance this earlier magazine had for its successors.1 When publication of The Freewoman ceased in October 1912—after its backer withdrew support and its distributor, finding the magazine’s contents “unsuitable to be exposed on the bookstalls for general sale” (qtd. in Garner 77), discontinued its circulation—the journal’s next chapter as The New Freewoman and The Egoist was already being written. The Freewoman’s last issue included a plea for donations in support of the journal’s reestablishment, and devoted readers in the United States ambitiously sought to form a 1,000-member club of supporters to help raise the required funds. Of especial importance to the foundation of The New Freewoman were the 55 members of the Freewoman Discussion Circle, which had formed in April 1912 in London and whose biweekly meetings continued even after the final October issue. These members provided support by pledging money and subscriptions and demanding the magazine’s return. In this way, The New Freewoman and The Egoist owe their existence to the strong bond between The Freewoman and its readers, even though that readership eventually changed in response to The New Freewoman’s changing concerns.
One of the Discussion Circle members, Harriet Shaw Weaver, would not only make the largest donation of the group (£200), which led the editor, Dora Marsden, to recruit her for numerous clerical and fundraising tasks, but would play a singular role in providing the material conditions under which the magazine could be revived as The New Freewoman and develop into The Egoist. Propelled by Marsden’s determination, Weaver’s organizational skill, and the support of the Freewoman readership, The New Freewoman took office space at the Oakley House in London and registered itself as a company on June 13th, 1913, with 359 shareholders and fewer than 200 subscribers. By its second issue, The New Freewoman was already on its third printer, Robert Johnson and Co. of Southport (a town 200 miles northwest of London where Marsden now lived); the first printer had withdrawn before the first issue came out, and the quality of the second’s work was unsatisfactory. In fact, the same problems that brought The Freewoman to a halt continued: the new magazine was never solvent, and the difficulties it faced with printers, who were liable under British censorship laws, persisted to the end. Though the objectionable content changed, the magazine retained an unwavering determination to print whatever its editors wished, just as The Freewoman had. What changed was Harriet Weaver’s largely anonymous financial backing of the journal, without which it would never have enjoyed the longevity it achieved. By the June 1914 issue, Weaver’s role had expanded further, as she took over, at Marsden’s request, as editor of The Egoist.
Though The Freewoman might have been resurrected under the same name, it instead became The New Freewoman. It was, in fact, a new magazine, with more literary and philosophical concerns. The shift in orientation and aim of the periodical, which will be discussed shortly, was immediately discernible in its list of contributors, which had very little overlap with its predecessor’s. Only a handful of the The Freewoman’s regular contributors—such as Muriel Ciolkowska, Horace Holley, Charles Whitby, Reginald Wright Kauffman, and John Rodker—appeared in both magazines. The participation of others, like Rebecca West and E. S. P. Haynes, dwindled as The New Freewoman progressed beyond its first numbers. And the entrance of critics Allen Upward, Benjamin Tucker and Huntly Carter, as well as the magazine’s expanded commitment to literary work, sustained its new direction.
Dora Marsden would later describe the word “New” in the title less as an accurate description of the magazine than as the means needed to retain the support of the earlier journal’s readers. In the second number of The New Freewoman, she offers an editorial in which she analyzes the new title. She begins by rejecting the basic identity underlying the women’s movement: “’Woman,’ spelt with a capital, Woman-as-type, had no existence; . . . it is an empty concept and should be banished from language. . . . there is no definite reality which can be substituted as that to which Woman corresponds, which is a thing and not an idea” (“Views and Comments” 1.2: 24). Given this, it follows that
The New Freewoman is not for the advancement of Woman, but for the empowering of individuals—men and women; it is not to set women free, but to demonstrate the fact that “freeing” is the individual’s affair and must be done first-hand . . . ; it is not to bring new thoughts to individuals, but to set the thinking mechanism to the task of destroying thoughts; to make plain that thinking has no merit in itself, but is a machine, of which the purpose is not to create something, but to liberate something: not to create thoughts but to set free life impulses. Its effect will be as though it had created new life-force: but in reality it will bare life to the light as the threshing-machine lays bare the corn. (25)
Marsden avoids defining the title, but it is worth noting how she uses the terms “new” and “free” in this passage. Both “free” and “new” are negative terms, describing that which is not: one is not merely free, but always free of or from something else; “new” describes what is not old or preexisting. Marsden uses these words in a way that encourages men and women to escape from the systematic conceptualization of themselves as “Man” or “Woman” as well as from identities inflected by class, religion, or nation. The new that these individuals encounter should not be categorized according to those old culturally-dependent concepts, but appreciated, as Marsden writes, by both the Soul and Intellect conjointly (“Intellect and Culture” 1.2: 23).
Marsden’s thoughts here are clearly influenced by her reading of Max Stirner, whose book The Ego and His Own she had already described, in an August 1912 issue of The Freewoman, as “one of the profoundest of human documents” (“The Growing Ego” 2.38: 221). In that piece she writes, “Morality, religion, God, and man are all brought low. They no longer rule as external powers influencing the Ego. To the Ego they are his footstool” (222). For Marsden and many of the journal’s contributors, Freemen and Freewomen are Egoists of this mold: they have freed themselves from the duties imposed upon them as citizens of a nation or political system, as well as from the obligations levied upon their own consciences, shaped by religious and secular codes of morality. Though Marsden first wrote about Stirner in The Freewoman, his profound influence on her thinking becomes evident in the regular essays she published in the succeeding journal. In fact, the title The Egoist would have been appropriate from as early as The New Freewoman’s first issue.
Thus unlike the transition from The Freewoman to The New Freewoman, the 1914 shift in title from The New Freewoman to The Egoist signified only that—a change in name and not the formation of a new journal. As Marsden writes in The New Freewoman’s final issue, the journal’s title “contrives to suggest what the paper is not, and fails to give any indication whatsoever as to what it is. . . . The emphasis laid on women and their ways and works was, as was pointed out in the early days of the first Freewoman, more in the nature of retort than of argument” (“Views and Comments” 1.13: 244). The “egoist” in the new title, on the other hand, also “stands for nothing: his affair is to see to it that he shall not be compelled to kneel; and provided that he remains standing, all that he needs of those things, before which men have bowed down because they first consented to ‘stand for’ them, shall be his for the getting.”
The renaming is supported with a public letter drafted by Allen Upward and signed by Richard Aldington, Ezra Pound, Huntly Carter, and Reginald Wright Kauffman, which was printed in the same segment as Marsden’s announcement:
We, the undersigned men of letters who are grateful to you for establishing an organ in which men and women of intelligence can express themselves without regard to the public, venture to suggest to you that the present title of the paper causes it to be confounded with organs devoted solely to the advocacy of an unimportant reform in an obsolete political institution.
We therefore ask with great respect that you should consider the advisability of adopting another title which will mark the character of your paper as an organ of individualists of both sexes, and of the individualist principle in every department of life. (1.13: 244)
This letter has implied to some readers that Marsden’s editorial was merely a passive response to the dominating will of the journal’s male contributors, as though the name-change had not been her idea or signified a reversal in editorial intent. Yet Marsden neither toppled under the influence of these male writers nor agreed to abandon the concerns of women; she instead chose to formalize the magazine’s expanding approach to those concerns from a broader, more gender-inclusive, and at the same time more individualized perspective. She explains, “We hope that we may empower individuals: we think we shall. We know we do empower ourselves, our contributors, and those who find pleasure in reading us: three admirable achievements of which the most admirable is the first” (244). Furthermore, according to Harriet Weaver’s notes from a director’s meeting in November, the change in title was already being considered before the letter was sent, which is to say that the decision was not a response to male pressure. The notes also reveal that other names under consideration included The Free Voice, The Prophet, The Revealer, and Tomorrow, each of which add some depth to the intentions behind the new title.
Because egoism, as Max Stirner espoused it, had a defining influence on the editorial motives of the journal, it is worthwhile pausing to introduce that work in some detail. The Ego and His Own (Der Einzige und sein Eigentum) was published in 1844-1845, the first and only book of note produced by Stirner. The possessive pronoun in the title has been alternately translated Its and His (from a grammatical point of view, both are correct). This variation is supported by the premise that, just as the egoist is free from other categories of identity, he is also unaffected by his gender. Today it is worth noting that the ego (Einzige) of this work has nothing in common with Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic ego (ich). The title could also have been appropriately translated as The Unique One and Its Property.
The wave of interest in Stirner that eventually captured Dora Marsden and many of her contemporaries was initiated in 1898, with John Henry Mackay’s critical monograph on Stirner’s life and work. It was not until 1907 that American anarchist Benjamin R. Tucker commissioned the first English translation of The Ego and His Own, by Steven Byington. At this point translations of Stirner’s book had already appeared in French (1899), Danish (1901), Spanish (1901), Italian (1902), and Russian (1906), with translations into Dutch, Swedish, and Japanese appearing through 1920 and many more after. By 1929 the English translation had gone through 49 editions. Clearly the appeal of Stirner’s ideas extended well beyond the fancies of one idiosyncratic editor.
Its later influence aside, The Ego and His Own was, at the time of its writing, entrenched in debates among the young, or left, Hegelians of mid-nineteenth-century Germany. As a student, Stirner attended G. W. F. Hegel’s lectures at the University of Berlin, contributed journalistic pieces to the Rheinische Zeitung, a newspaper edited by the young Karl Marx, and attended meetings of Die Freien (the Free), a circle organized by Bruno Bauer. Stirner’s book directly responds to the influential work of Ludwig Feuerbach, whose Essence of Christianity (1841) radically posited that God is an abstract man-made creation whose attributes are supplied by the idealized traits of man himself. Whereas Feuerbach reverses the Christian relation of man to God (so man now creates God in his image), Stirner questions the resulting privileged status of mankind. In his view, Feuerbach merely replaces God with Man, so Man becomes as abstract and oppressive to the individual as God had been. Stirner writes, “Every higher essence above me, be it God, be it man, weakens the feeling of my uniqueness” (324). This external idealized humanity exists so individual humans may conform their own identities to it. Stirner objects to this when he argues, “I am a man just as the earth is a star. As ridiculous as it would be to set the earth the task of being a ‘thorough star’, so ridiculous it is to burden me with the call to be a ‘thorough’ man” (163). This example also illustrates Stirner’s collapse of spirit and matter, or mind and body, in contradistinction to most western thought at the time. Not surprisingly the volume drew the attention of thinkers in Stirner’s circle. Feuerbach published an anonymous response in “The Essence of Christianity in Relation to The Ego and Its Own,” and Marx and Engels offered a critique the following year in their German Ideology (in “Saint Max,” the lengthy third part of Volume One). In both instances, Stirner’s notion of individualism repulsed these proponents of class revolution.
Stirner’s book is organized historically. He traces the path to egoism in the development of the individual human, from childhood through adolescence to (in most cases) an unrealized state of adulthood; but he also makes the individual’s development parallel the cultural-historical development of the ancient world, the Christian era, and the future. Hegel’s influence is clear in the dialectic that structures this progression, as well as in Stirner’s association of these stages with different races. The first step of this dialectic is the progression from a childhood absorbed with “realistic” and material concerns, in which the subject is oppressed by its parents’ rules, to the adolescent discovery of its mind, which it uses to overcome those rules and environmental conditions. At this second “idealist” stage, the subject replaces the material restraints of childhood with the spiritual restrictions imposed by its own conscience and reason. In this manner the subject remains enslaved by a new, abstract master. At this point Stirner proposes a third stage: an egoistic adulthood, in which the subject acknowledges and provides for its bodily self. The ego here is ruled only by its own self-interest, which is to say that it maintains autonomy from all external and internalized restraint.
For Stirner, this true individual will reject all forms of duty or obligation. This includes democratic contracts in which the interests of the individual are represented abstractly, as well as laws established by the individual itself, as its needs will change from moment to moment. Thus even to its past or collective self the egoist holds no obligation. “Ownness,” or self-mastery, can only emerge when the individual has freed itself from all duties, because only in this way can it be guaranteed that the individual is never used by others for their ends, but only by itself for its own ends. It follows that any program concerned with the well-being of groups of individuals would destroy the self-mastery of those unique individuals. Unlike the mindset espoused by Marx and Engels, in which groups of individuals coordinate to direct their revolution outwards, so they may throw off the conditions imposed upon them by a ruling class or system, Stirner posits an internalized rebellion in which individuals change their mentalities. For Stirner, the individual is personally responsible for his own subservience. “If submissiveness ceased,” he wrote, “it would be all over with lordship” (175). In other words, for followers of Stirner like Dora Marsden, the consent of most individuals to those external governing forces made their oppression justifiable. It is in this way that readers might understand the presence of literary characters like the pathetic Bertha of Wyndham Lewis’s serialized novel Tarr in a periodical previously known for its advocacy of women.
The transformational influence of Stirnerian individualism on the magazine seems like a natural development once we consider that Marsden had formed the original Freewoman in protest against the Pankhursts’ methods and against the operation of the WSPU as a systematic and militant institution,2 which she experienced first-hand as an organizer. Egoism implicitly opposes the way in which the women’s movement depended on the individual sacrifice of its protesters to a larger cause, the obedience of its members to its leadership, and its strict views of sexual morality. Marsden showed how the movement’s rhetorical reliance on concepts like the “right to suffrage” could be reduced to empty slogans by scrutinizing the democratic system in which suffrage operates. In The New Freewoman, under the influence of Stirner, her resistance to such conceptualization and abstraction in relation to the women’s movement expands into a more philosophical, less political concern: “Idea, idea, always the idea. As though the supremacy of the idea were not the subjection of men, slaves to the idea” (“Thinking and Thought” 1.5: 81). As editor, she welcomed the voices of other Stirnerians, like Benjamin Tucker and the English translator Steven Byington, even as it became evident that their interpretation of egoism conflicted with her own. Also involved in this general shift towards art and aesthetics was Huntly Carter, whose regular contributions to the journal continued up to the Egoist’s last issue.
The journal’s literary section, something Rebecca West had been calling for since she became involved with The Freewoman, finally materialized with The New Freewoman, which included substantially more and better literary content, especially poetry from the transatlantic Imagist group as well as translations and excerpts of contemporary French authors. Once the new magazine’s existence was guaranteed, Rebecca West invited Ezra Pound to help expand its literary pages. Pound offered his involvement on the condition that his section would remain independent from Marsden and West and that he would pay authors himself through the poet and patron, John Gould Fletcher. In his correspondence with Marsden, Pound proposed that he “fill a page per number, for, say, six months tho’ I might be quite willing to go on after that. As follows”:
1st of each month. verse, selected by me. Including my own stuff and other work which I should be able, probably, to pay for and thus to spare the authors the disgrace of printing creative stuff without being paid. 15th. of each month. prose article. critique presumably of current books, especially poetry. here, and possibly in france. (qtd. in Lidderdale and Nicholson 67)
Marsden accepted this arrangement and Pound’s first verse number appeared on August 15, 1913. Within a few months, Rebecca West resigned her post and Richard Aldington took her place as subeditor. With the entrance of Pound and Aldington, the journal became an unambiguous vehicle of the transatlantic Imagists (including H. D., F. S. Flint, Amy Lowell, Allen Upward, and William Carlos Williams), who aside from their recent publication in Harriet Monroe’s Poetry (issue 1.6: March 1913) were at this point hardly established. The New Freewoman helped give Imagism the exposure it needed to become a notable literary movement.
Scholars disagree on how to interpret Pound’s role in the magazine, in part because few have recognized the interrelations, direct and indirect, between its literary and nonliterary contents. Les Garner admits, “it did appear that by the end of 1913 the paper was divided into two distinct sections around Pound wand Marsden” (Garner 118). Thus some have viewed the entrance of Pound as a male take-over of a previously feminist magazine. But Jean-Michel Rabaté argues, “It was less that a male-centered modernism was replacing an older suffragism than a political review being slowly turned into a literary magazine” (Rabaté 280). In fact, Bruce Clarke argues that with The New Freewoman, “a new grouping gathered, this one centered on artistic forms of self-assertion as well as on the conviction that aesthetic creation can be an agency of cultural reform or political revolt” (Clarke 3). For Marsden, the changes that occurred in The New Freewoman were related, so her interest in egoism likely led to her choice to give more space in the new journal to literature and aesthetics. In her first written reflection on The Ego and His Own, she notes, “we must turn to those persons who have a positive Ego, sufficiently sure of itself to speak out its wants—to the poets and creative thinkers. These we find saturated with the idea of God in some form or other. This idea rises spontaneously out of the Ego, quite apart from external authority” (“The Growing Ego,”Freewoman 2.38: 222). Egoism, she holds, is best found in the expressions of artistic genius. In this way we can also see how Künstlerromans like James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Wyndham Lewis’ Tarr found in the magazine a hospitable space for their serialization.
Many writers also found inspiration, albeit less systematically, in the discourse surrounding Stirner’s egoist. Pound’s Imagist injunction to “go in fear of abstractions” (“A Few Don’ts by an Imagiste,” reproduced in “Imagisme,” New Freewoman 1.5: 86-87), for example, resembles Stirner’s opposition to the abstraction of the individual.3 The autonomy of the egoist supplied an image of the artistic genius who creates art for art’s sake, where art has no obligations to aesthetic mandates, social good, or national canon. Many have noted affinities between Stirner’s ideas and style of presentation and Friedrich Nietzsche’s, whose self-interested Zarathustra paved the way for the revived interest in Stirner among intellectuals during the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. Through this connection we can also see the relation between The Egoist and writers influenced by Nietzsche, like Wyndham Lewis and the Russian Symbolists translated by John Cournos. The minority of egoists who refuse to serve, like Stephen Dedalus, are set apart from the crowd by their inner genius, their status as supermen. Thus as Michael Levenson writes, egoism’s importance for literature lay in its “antagonism towards prevailing norms” of traditionalism and progressivism (Levenson 68). It is in this sense that egoism had special appeal for early modernists, for whom the “new,” and the rejection of traditional aesthetic imperatives, had a defining thrust. The egoist’s search for freedom from all kinds of restraint involves grasping at the unprecedented, much as the Futurists sought to break with the past in artistic production. The latter outlook found expression in the magazine Blast, edited by Wyndham Lewis, with whom Marsden’s magazine shared several contributors over its run. The difference between egoism and Futurism, of course, is that the egoist must experience the past in order to become a unique individual—something that seems hardly a requirement for many Futurists.
It is in this sense that we can also understand how appropriate Joyce’s Portrait was for The Egoist. The novel traces the development of an artistic genius: how he is born into the repressive limits of his national, familial, and religious cultures and how he ultimately rids himself of their bonds. The novel also illustrates the controversies debated in Marsden’s magazines surrounding the sexual restrictions placed on young men and women, in Dedalus’s case by the Catholic Church. Sexual freedom was among the central concerns of these magazines since The Freewoman, so any claims that The Egoist is a “journal founded by Harriet Shaw Weaver and Dora Marsden, 1914-15” unconnected with The New Freewoman—which is how the magazine is represented in the “Textual Note” of the Penguin Edition (ed. Seamus Deane) of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man—are therefore misleading and obscure the relations that did exist between the male modernists who published in both The Egoist and The New Freewoman and the politics of sex and gender carried over from the original title.
The magazine’s new commitment to literature and the arts, it turns out, did little to improve its financial situation. In August 1913, 2000 copies of The New Freewoman were ordered from the printer, and 260 were spoken for by subscriptions in England, the U.S., and France, while only an additional 120 were sold.
Though The New Freewoman had office space in London, Marsden lived more than 200 miles away in Southport, where the journal was for a time also printed. Early in 1914, Marsden resigned as editor in order to spend more time on her lead articles, which, she hoped, would someday amount to a book. She thus became a “contributing editor” to The New Freewoman, and after some indecision it was settled, in March 1914, that Harriet S. Weaver, who had been acting as honorary secretary and backer of The New Freewoman, Ltd., would replace her as editor. A new printer in London, Partridge and Cooper, was also found, and with the July 1st issue (1.13) Weaver officially took over the magazine.
Harriet Weaver might strike us as an unlikely candidate to edit such a candid, avant-garde journal as The Egoist; when her printers objected to the appearance of the words “fart and ballocks” in the paper, Weaver, according to her biographers, claimed to be unfamiliar with either term. Virginia Woolf, for one, perceived a mismatch between Weaver and her journal when she recorded the following impression of Weaver in her diary: “I did my best to make her reveal herself in spite of her appearance, all that the editress of the Egoist ought to be, but she remained unalterably modest, judicious and decorous. . . . But then how did she ever come in contact with Joyce and the rest?” (qtd. in Lidderdale and Nicholsen 148). Woolf may have unfairly underestimated Weaver, but her comments are not groundless: Weaver was raised by conservative parents in a strict Anglican environment, in a village in Cheshire, and she alone among her seven siblings developed an interest in literature and the arts. But according to her biographers, it was in response to, not despite, her upbringing that Weaver formed her lifelong commitment to art and an acute sense of injustice regarding literary censorship. They cite as one instance her mother’s confiscation of Weaver’s copy of Adam Bede (which features an unwed mother) and the subsequent intervention of their local priest in her reading habits. Though Weaver was educated by a governess until she was 18, her parents did not permit her to attend university, as she wished, because she was a woman. When Weaver’s grandfather died, the family inherited the profits of his cotton business and moved to London. It was her eventual share of this inheritance that would enable Weaver to become a patroness of the arts. But in this urban setting she also developed a strong interest in social justice, worked as a fundraiser and organizer in support of the medical care, training, and apprenticeship of underprivileged children, and eventually attended the London School of Sociology and Social Economics. During this period Weaver also developed her interest in suffrage. However, when Dora Marsden’s Freewoman appeared, Weaver—whose social work had already exposed her to the larger societal problems of the disenfranchised poor—was drawn to the paper’s more complex and encompassing approach to the well-being of women. She became a subscriber, joined the Discussion Circle, and quickly earned the trust and affection of Marsden while becoming honorary secretary of The New Freewoman and The Egoist. When Marsden chose to resign, Weaver, whose vision for the magazine resembled Marsden’s, appeared a natural successor.
The impact of the Great War on the journal one month after Weaver became editor has received very little scholarly comment—though Katherine Mullin has argued that it was this event, rather than the change in editors, that shifted the magazine’s editorial attention away from explicit discussion of gender and sexuality. In any case, The Egoist was extraordinary in its ability to keep its doors open and resist in its pages the war fervor that overwhelmed so many of its contemporaries. From a material point of view, this was quite a feat: after England declared war on Germany on August 4, 1914, Weaver had difficulty obtaining the submissions of contributors living on the continent. The serial publication of Joyce’s Portrait was interrupted from September through November. Leigh Henry’s series on modern music was also delayed for five issues until October 15. The war brought with it new challenges that made distribution, printing, and sales more difficult. Thus in 1915, because the magazine’s publishing company was still insolvent, Weaver reduced the salaries of the Egoist’s paid staff and decided that the paper, which had been appearing twice a month, would become a monthly at the start of Volume 2. The print order, which had been decreased from 2000 to 1000 already, was further reduced to 750. Even this number was ambitious: by September 1915 the magazine’s circulation was as low as 160. Moreover, Weaver was forced once again to change printers because of objections to sections of Joyce’s Portrait by Trucott and Son, so the January 15, 1915 issue (2.2) was instead printed by Ballantyne, Hanson, and Co. A further disruption came in mid-1916 when Richard Aldington, who had been assistant editor since December 1913, volunteered to go to the front. This led H. D., Aldington’s partner and eventual wife, to take over his position for a year while he remained an active contributor to the magazine from France.
The New Freewoman/Egoist had already firmly established its interest in France, at least since the serial translation of Remy de Gourmont’s novel Horses of Diomedes (beginning in August 1913) and its serialized reports about Paris by Benjamin Tucker (Paris Notes, beginning in July 1913) and Saint Fiacre (Passing Paris, beginning March 1914). But this interest took on a new dimension with the war. In addition to Aldington’s submissions from the front, Muriel Ciolkowska, who had written for the journal since the days of The Freewoman, supplemented her reviews of French art and literature with commentary on wartime Paris (Fighting Paris in Egoist 1.17-2.4, and Passing Paris in 2.6-5.6). Marsden commented on the war in her editorials, and the magazine’s literary sections featured contemporary Soldier Poets as well as the theme of war more generally. Lewis’ Tarr (3.4-4.10), which was written before the war, took on added interest as a novel set in Paris with a German antagonist; Lewis calls the timing of the publication “apposite” in his “Epilogue” (4.10: 152-53).
Despite (or perhaps because of) the challenges posed by a wartime economy, Weaver decided to pursue book publishing and sought to give pieces already published in the journal the added permanence of book form. In July 1916, the magazine’s publishing company, The New Freewoman, Ltd., became The Egoist, Ltd., primarily for the sake of publishing Joyce’s Portrait, which went to press in December 1916/January 1917, with a second edition appearing in November 1917. Weaver also used the Egoist Press to publish T. S. Eliot’s Prufrock and Other Observations (January 1917), Pound’s Dialogues of Fontenelle (November 1917) and Quia Pauper Amavi (1919), Lewis’ Tarr (July 1918) and Caliph’s Design (1919), Richard Aldington’s Images (1919), Jean Cocteau’s Cock and Harlequin (1920), Marianne Moore’sPoems (1921), H. D.’s Hymen (1921), the Poets’ Translations Series (1915-1920), Robert McAlmon’s Explorations (1921), Edward Storer’s Terra Italica (1921), and a second edition of Ulysses (1922).
In June 1917, T. S. Eliot, who had been introduced to the magazine and press through Ezra Pound, took over as assistant editor with the expectation of relieving H. D. of her post until Aldington returned from the war. Pound also arranged to supplement Eliot’s salary with support from another patron, John Quinn. Over the next 20 issues, Eliot published book reviews under his own name and under the pen name Apteryx, and he produced two series of essays, Reflections on Contemporary Poetry and Studies in Contemporary Criticism. Deeply invested in his work as literary critic, Eliot endeavored in these essays and reviews to influence the direction of English literature. In many pieces, he worked through ideas that would culminate in his better-known works of criticism, especially his famous “Tradition and the Individual Artist,” which appeared in the final two issues of The Egoist (6.4-6.5). Collected in his volume The Sacred Wood (1920), Eliot’s “Tradition” gained access to an exponentially larger readership over time and powerfully influenced what would become the New Criticism, an important school of literary analysis in the twentieth century that directed attention to the workings of poetic form over the personality and personal story of the poet.
The essay, in which Eliot argues on behalf of tradition in modern poetry, seems at first a far cry from the aesthetic, philosophic, and political outlook of the first issues of The New Freewoman. Specifically, Eliot’s discussion of the individual artist’s relation to tradition runs counter to the egoist individual’s innovative break from his national and aesthetic past. Eliot seeks to correct this egoistic view of the modern artist and the “new” when he faults the way readers “dwell with satisfaction upon the poet’s difference from his predecessors, especially his immediate predecessors” and “endeavor to find something that can be isolated in order to be enjoyed” (6.4: 55). But instead of rejecting individuality altogether, Eliot redefines it through a dialectical historical formation: “we shall often find that not only the best, but the most individual parts of his work may be those in which the dead poets, his ancestors, assert their immortality most vigorously. And I do not mean the impressionable period of adolescence, but the period of full maturity” (emphasis added). Eliot’s contrast of “full maturity” with “adolescence” is moreover reminiscent of the progressive formation of Stirner’s adult egoist, which Eliot redefines in terms of the mature artist’s decisions. Instead of discarding “the whole of the literature of Europe,” the modern artist must acknowledge that he is set apart from previous generations by his knowing those “dead writers” in ways they were unable to know themselves. The result is not emulation of out-of-date techniques, but a complex in which the past still “has a simultaneous existence and composes a simultaneous order” in the artist’s work. How these components emerge or express themselves in modern artwork is determined by the individual artist. Even when Eliot provocatively writes that
the progress of an artist is a continual self-sacrifice, a continual extinction of personality. . . . It is in this depersonalisation that art may be said to approach the condition of science,4
the comparison, just like Eliot’s ideal of art, returns us to the same concerns that Marsden wrote about in her lead articles from Volume One of The Egoist, especially the relation of the ego with the arts and science.
“Tradition and the Individual Talent” thus takes on added interest when read in the context of The New Freewoman and The Egoist. Appearing in the final two issues, it seems to provide a bookend for the journal’s six-volume run that we can contrast with the opposing bookend of Marsden’s first Stirnerian essays; indeed, as Jason Harding has noted, Eliot’s thinking in the essay seems to have moved beyond the early modernism that characterized Marsden’s philosophy and Pound’s poetics (Harding 92). But we need to remember that the “early modernist” literary and critical content of the magazine had been engaged with the past since it first introduced substantial literary content in 1913. Marsden’s engagement with Romantic and Classical philosophy, Aldington and H. D.’s translations and adaptations of Greek letters, and Pound’s Dialogues of Fontenelle are just a few examples of this. Moreover, the journal had been evolving away from strict Stirnerian egoism for years. The dialectical structure of identity that Eliot posits when he writes,
No poet, no artist of any art, has his complete meaning alone. His significance, his appreciation is the appreciation of his relation to the dead poets and artists (55),
is not unlike some of the comments Marsden herself makes in her Science of Signs series, a pioneering investigation into language that anticipates the concerns of both semiotics and deconstruction. Marsden’s critical interest had in fact by this time shifted towards a more explicitly dialectical understanding of the individual: “the meaning of self,” she writes, “exists only in relation to another term—the not-self, while the relation of a self to a not-self can be postulated only by postulating also the existence of some principle of division” (Egoist 4.2: 18).
Despite the new potential Eliot introduced into the magazine, Weaver was taxed by her work as editor for both the journal and the publishing company. The magazine continued to decline financially and Weaver was forced to cancel the March 1917 issue, reduce the page count from 16 to 12 pages beginning in May 1918, and collapse together the June and July issues. In the January 1919 issue, the price was also raised from 6 to 9 pence. Still, Weaver kept the magazine going through 1919, motivated by the desire to see Ulysses through the press in England even as it was appearing overseas in the American journal The Little Review. Edited by Margaret C. Anderson and Jane Heap, The Little Review had already published episodes I-VII by the time Ulysses began appearing in The Egoist in January 1919. Anderson and Heap would go on to publish the first fourteen episodes before serious legal troubles resulting from obscenity charges halted their serialization of the novel. Not surprisingly, Weaver’s effort to publish the novel in The Egoist was likewise frustrated by the objections of printers who feared legal prosecution. In the end, only “Nestor,” the first half of “Proteus,” “Hades,” and part of “Wandering Rocks” appeared in the magazine.
The last three numbers of The Egoist appeared irregularly, with the final number (6.5) printed in December 1919. In this issue a “Notice to Readers” announced, “There will be no issues of The Egoist in journalistic form in 1920. In place of such issues the matter now running serially in the periodical will be published in book form” (70). Weaver was intent on publishing Ulysses as a book (which she accomplished only after Sylvia Beach’s Shakespeare and Co.’s 1922 Paris edition came out, and even then the censor interfered with Weaver’s distribution) and on giving Dora Marsden time to revise her Science of Signs into a volume. The Egoist publishing company continued to operate until 1925, and it was briefly revived thereafter so Weaver could finally publish Marsden’s The Definition of the Godhead (in 1928) and The Mysteries of Christianity (in 1930).
Over the course of its six-year run, The New Freewoman and The Egoist published many of the best-known modernist authors and critics as they developed into the figures we appreciate today. In the past, it has not been immediately clear to many readers how the voices that appeared within the magazine were in dialogue with one another. Instead, it has often been viewed as an arbitrary conglomeration of pieces, where, on the one hand, Marsden’s writings were “studiously overlooked by most readers” of the day, who skipped ahead to the literary section run by Pound, Aldington, and Eliot (Hughes qtd in Garner 123), or, on the other hand, the literary content was accepted by the editors not because it had any special interest for them but simply because it helped relieve the “shortage of good copy” (Lidderdale and Nicholson 83). A more challenging and interesting approach would be to follow scholars like Jean-Michel Rabaté and Bruce Clarke, who have heard in Pound’s and Eliot’s New Freewoman and Egoist criticism an echo of Marsden’s provocations as editor and leader-writer. The diverging visions of Aldington and Pound, as well as Marsden’s commitment to contributors like Huntly Carter and Muriel Ciolkowska, produced a complex and diverse aesthetic in the magazine that is worthy of our attention. In the end, the magazine—as shaped by Marsden and Weaver’s vision for it—avoided becoming the vehicle for a single set of writers with a narrow set of concerns. Today, with the digitization of the journal in its entirety, the diverse modernist exchanges that The New Freewoman and The Egoist facilitated should be more evident to readers than ever before.
—Susan Solomon, Brown University (2011)
Back to Top