"...by focusing on the attention that Liberalism received in this New Age volume I hope to indicate the way in which categories of practical and ideal modes of action or thought form the main nodes of political and economic debates engaged in by regular contributors."
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“The ‘boom’ is clearly at an end, and bad times are ahead. Everybody is saying this of course, but different people say it in different ways.” The New Age, Volume 3, May 9, 1908: 42-43.
May to October 1908, those months spanned by the third New Age volume, generally comprehended both a period of increasing economic hardship in Britain, heightened political demonstrations backed by physical power, and the germinating period for several significant trends in the arts. With unemployment having doubled to 7.8% from 1907 and the winter months on the horizon, The New Age frankly observed the end of the “boom” that had characterized the economic situation of the previous years (the poverty was even considered the worst since 1862). In 1906 the Liberal Party had, in part, achieved a landslide election victory by instigating a post-Boer War conservative approach to spending, which included keeping in place several major taxes, such as that on sugar (though Prime Minister Asquith’s 1908 Budget did reduce this duty by half). Yet this continued conservatism became increasingly contested after an international market downturn in 1907 that intensified poverty among the working classes. New sources of revenue, particularly those that could be had by taxing the wealthier section of the nation, were neglected despite the appearance of future necessity to increase expenditure on naval buildup and Old Age Pensions.
Promised Liberal reforms, several considered to be the party’s great successes such as Old Age Pensions, were eventually passed through Parliament during the summer, yet were considered by The New Age to be blunted from their original purpose (e.g., the Old Age Pensions age requirement was raised from 65 to 70). Similarly, such legislation as the Workingman’s Bill of 1905 and the London County Council’s scheme for feeding school children were consistently attacked by New Age writers as ineffectual, ill-planned measures, in view of the extreme grip that poverty had on so many of England’s inhabitants. Championing the impoverished, however, was not an uncomplicated matter during this period of heightened hygienic and eugenic discourses. In this same volume, M. D. Eder calls for members to join a new Medical Socialist Society aiming to nationalize hospital care, while Robert à Field‘s short stories “The Constitutionalist” and “What are the Unemployed to Do?” ironically depict poor and homeless people as politically ignorant and irreverent, disdaining help from seemingly superior social beings. Such incommensurable forms of social thought instance the “different ways” in which writers were allowed to comment on the national future, a journalistic quality that set apart The New Age from more mainstream (or “mass”) contemporary publications.
Most of the topical divisions in this introduction serve to illustrate many of these different and important debates (important according to the space given to them in the journal). Since such a thematic approach would tend to neglect the form of the journal itself, I would remind the reader in advance that the construction of the journal, its juxtaposition of various essays, and the relation of various regular columns to the overall tenor of The New Age‘s content, is at all times in play with the topics under discussion. That said, by focusing on the attention that Liberalism received in this New Age volume I hope to indicate the way in which categories of practical and ideal modes of action or thought form the main nodes of political and economic debates engaged in by regular contributors. On the other hand, the arts critics of The New Age were often politically motivated in directions that were in tune with the pressing needs of Socialist propaganda.
Two evaluative terms that are attached to this conflict between ideal and practical action are most insistently expounded in L. Haden Guest‘s “Drama” columns. For him, experimental theater must present realistic versions of life which yet “get behind” any particular scene to reach the dramatic universal, as against the complacent commercial theater of the day, which is only ever sentimental. Shadings of realism and sentimentalism may also be found in Jacob Tonson’s (Arnold Bennett) weekly causeries on the state of contemporary English and European literature, and the critical apparatus surrounding it. In the case of Herbert Hughes’s “Music” columns and F. S. Flint’s poetry criticism, however, these paradigms are left aside for different evaluative methods that are concerned with defining new, innovative aesthetic practices which nevertheless have something to do with “feeling,” though in an explicitly non-Romantic sense. These examples are meant to hint at some of the complexities of thought which New Age writers dealt in, complexities which are best pursued by the individual reader in a closer manner than this introduction allows. Perhaps many of the most engaging discussions available to New Age readers shall not appear in this introduction at all, for their minuteness resists the generalizing scope of my topical divisions. As such is the case, I aim only to post directions towards topoi in the journal itself and leave finer analysis for the interested reader.
It is no wonder that with “bad times” portended (though for the poor, they were ever present) that the ideological conflict between “revolution” and “evolution” should initiate the political debates of Volume Three. An unsigned New Age article appearing in the first issue of this volume claims that to favor the political or economic evolution of Liberalism towards Socialism “involves a fundamental misconception of the political needs of the times” (5). Rather, those “political needs” required the forceful statement of immediate change without reservation, that is, revolution. And indeed, political ground was being daily overturned at home and abroad, creating an atmosphere which both amplified the resonance of revolutionary propaganda and scared many Liberals back into the more conservative Unionist ranks who were preaching order in the Empire and protection against foreign (read German) threats to England.
The reactions by New Age writers against economic and cultural constriction had the (not always intended) effect of expanding conceptions of political and social action. While the main contributor, G. R. S. Taylor, consistently expounded a defined field of socialist action aimed ultimately at socialist revolution, other writers like C. N. L. Shaw found the either/or nature of the debate to be itself a “fundamental misconception” of the social machine. In both cases, however, these writers’ analytical thrusts expounded the New Age‘s stated intentions “to defy the established procedure of outworn conventions in art, literature and journalism” (501), procedure that seemed to involve passive acceptance of the ruling ideas of the time as heralded by a silly and reactionary Press.
Unionist warnings of culminating radicalism were not unfounded. In the streets of London and on the benches of Parliament, the political scene was erupting with demonstrations: suffragist demonstrations, unemployed demonstrations, and Victor Grayson demonstrations, all aimed at contravening the slogging pace of government attention to endemic inequalities. Political fomentation abroad also provided ample inspiration for Socialist propaganda at home, like Holbrook Jackson’s epistolary short story in past tense, “The Second English Revolution.” Over the course of the summer of 1908, a revolution in Iran was brutally suppressed by the Shah’s forces, Indian Press laws were re-instituted by the British Viceroy Lord Morley to squash Indian nationalism in newspapers, the Natal government continued to detain the Zulu chief, Dinizulu, in prison without charges, and on July 24, the Young Turks successfully forced Sultan Abdülhamid II to reinstate Turkey’s suspended constitution, spurring Bulgaria’s declaration of independence and the annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina by Austria. Thus, The New Age had its thumb on the domestic and international political pulse when it demanded that “[w]hat we need to stay the rot that threatens to set in is a new and more invigorating propaganda, the propaganda of revolution” (5). This propaganda of revolution consisted mainly in spurring disgruntled English men and women into funneling their irritation into political action of the aggressive, even violent, sort. Distasteful as such action might be, it was the more effective insurer of reformist political results, and ultimately, the eradication of social inequality concomitant with a redistribution of wealth.
At the same time, the powerful prevalence of conceptions of evolution among the British public, government leaders, and intellectual movements of the time certainly contributed to The New Age‘s insistence on revolutionary propaganda. Although Charles Darwin’s theories of evolution were increasingly contested or reworked in the biological sciences (as M. D. Eder’s “Good Breeding or Eugenics” essays detail), his work nevertheless enjoyed widespread familiarity and the terms of his evolutionary accounts had comprehensively merged with a public lexicon. In the case of social Darwinism, “survival of the fittest” could serve as the explanation and excuse for any faction that disagreed with the national expense of social reforms, even as such factions would lobby for increased naval expenditure to ensure Britain’s protection from German encroachment.
For social Darwinians and hard-line eugenicists, nature, rather than nurture, was the ultimate and inevitable arbiter of social formation, but only when it concerned the poor, non-influential, or degenerate inhabitants of England. For New Age writers, this popular and easy recourse to evolution as the natural mode of progress constituted a deliberate blunting of political and artistic imagination. Self-styled “evolutionists” seemed to extol passivity in the face of rapid changes brought on by urbanization, complex technological developments, and Britain’s increasingly insecure imperial control. More damning of the evolutionary credo was the evidence that “biologists of the day are now being put up by the possessing classes” (403) to rationalize the rights of the rich over the poor. In order to discredit evolutionary arguments more pointedly, The New Age printed a letter from the Farnham wheelwright, novelist and journalist, George Sturt, which attempted to show the impossible aims of revolutionary propaganda. This letter projected Sturt’s superficial view of evolution as a scientific phenomenon that explains the organic progression of cause and effect onto the political landscape:
“Now,” says [the revolutionist]; but can he get his new social order now? Will anything but evolution give it him? it looks as if the Liberal party is going about as fast as the nation is prepared to follow. It is not magnificent. Evolution is a tedious business. (04:78)
Evolution, here, does not disallow the possibility of Socialism (since Sturt was sympathetic to the idea of Socialism, though not its doctrine). But that trajectory was precisely what hard-line Socialists contested: evolution, they argued, will never transform capitalism into a collectivist state, since “the two ideas are poles asunder, and can no more be naturally evolved than the North from the South” (01:5). (On the parliamentary side, for a particularly programmatic example of the issues relevant to Socialists in the realm of legislative action, see Herbert Burrows’ “A Socialist Candidate’s Election Address,”issue 15, pp. 288-89.) More particularly, neither Liberals nor Tories were viewed as amenable to a political situation other than the procession of a laissez-faire status quo. The New Age thus contended that “routine is the deadliest enemy of progress, and the disturbance of it is a worthy end in itself” (05:85). This belief accounts, in part, for Orage’s editorial methods, which involved lining up blatantly conflicting articles in the same issue to disturb any semblance of journalistic dogma.
The political wellspring of this “revolution or evolution” debate was an “Open Letter” written by H. G. Wells, at the time a member of the Fabian executive committee, which advocated the support of the Liberal whip, Winston Churchill, in the Northwest Manchester by-election, over the opposing Social Democratic candidate, Dan Irving. Wells’ letter, published in the Daily News on April 21, 1908, was concerned to entreat voters to keep the conservative candidate, Joynson-Hicks, out of office. If Socialists were to stick to Dan Irving whose chances of winning were minimal, Wells argued, they would take precious votes away from the only candidate who could beat Hicks, Winston Churchill (a Cabinet Minister at the time). Wells received resounding New Age condemnation (except from George Sturt), his letter being considered both a typical example of deterrents aimed at Socialist parties and a politically unwise and dishonorable move. Wells’ subsequent letter to The New Age denounced what he considered “foolish and mischievous political intrigues that hamper Socialist propaganda by pretending that the Socialist movement is a political party” (04:79). For Wells, then, the expediency with which social and economic inequalities were ameliorated (and by whatever means necessary) was the primary point of Socialism, and not any administrative or organizational impulses towards unified party action. The debate about “revolution or evolution,” then, isn’t simply concerned with the time frame for achieving social reforms, but touches upon the very basis of political organization and hierarchy and its relation to the organization of the total social sphere. And not only its organization, but its mediation as well.
The offices of The New Age may also have witnessed certain revolutions in 1908, revealed in the post diem pages of various biographies, autobiographies, memoirs and exposés of New Age editors, staff writers, and contributors. In “The Old New Age: Orage And Others”, a venomous reply to laudatory obituaries written for Orage after his death in 1933, Beatrice Hastings (a.k.a. Beatrice Tina, or Robert à Field, to name but two other pseudonyms of Emily Alice Haigh) credits her ascendancy to Literature Editor in the summer of 1908 as a one-woman development of New Age credibility. Determining whether Hastings’ efforts were indeed the mainspring behind The New Age‘s success is a dubious undertaking, yet clearly Volume Three offers significant contributory changes from its predecessors. Most obviously, these issues published from April to October of 1908 witness the demise of what Philip Mairet, in his work A. R. Orage: A Memoir, called the “tournament of literary wits” (03:50). The near-total disappearance of G. K. Chesterton, H. G. Wells, Hilaire Belloc, and G. B. Shaw as contributors to Volume Three did interrupt the run of particularly witty interactions between these contributors, yet also opened space for other less well-known contributors. The success of The New Age had, according to Orage, been secured by the lively and intelligent exchanges between these literary lights, yet Orage pointedly styled the journal as a forum for all intelligent discussions (see “To the Readers,”Volume 2, issue 25), independent of celebrity’s persuasion other than as a gauge of the journal’s political and literary seriousness. Even as the “literary wits” absented themselves from the New Age stage, their presence in the wings is manifested by continued reference to their activities, political, artistic, and otherwise.
Certain New Age writers unflaggingly carried the weight of consistent contributions in Volume Three, including G. R. S. Taylor on all things political, M. D. Eder on the state of contemporary science (eugenical and biological), L. Haden Guest in the realm of drama, and Beatrice Hastings on sex, suffrage, vagrants, and Africa. Bearing the literary standard of weekly commentary, Arnold Bennett continued to write “Books and Persons” under the pseudonym Jacob Tonson, focusing on the vagaries of the publishing world, while concurrently producing How To Live on 24 Hours a Day through the New Age Press. Bennett’s columns are comparatist in nature, with French editions of scholarly works reviewed, female Italian novelists recommended, and England characterized as “an honest, hypocritical country of bad restaurants and good women” (02:33). The overviews of the publishing industry and literary trends of the times, including a characterization of the death of literary serialization (issue 16), and the reviews of journals and dailies, from the Westminster Gazette to the Manchester Guardian, make Bennett’s column one of richest in The New Age.
The New Age“Notes of the Week,” and much of the political commentary written by G. R. S. Taylor for Volume Three, distinguishes the new Liberals led by Prime Minister Asquith from a tradition of (romantically) principled “ancient Liberalism”(07:121). The latter had been represented by Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, the well-regarded Liberal Prime Minister who had handed the reins to Sir Herbert Asquith in April 1908, and whom The New Age eulogized as “The Last Liberal”(01:4) after his death in May. This idealization of old Liberalism as the upholder of world-civilizing standards and reform regardless of financial cost served as a lever in New Age political and economic analyses for their attacks on the “Manchester Liberalism” of the new Liberals, a Liberalism grounded in laissez-faire economics and non-interventionist politics. Such idealizing of a tradition of Liberalism may appear insupportable in this Socialist-minded journal; but The New Age was taking its cue from a “reaction going on all over the country against a Liberalism that ha[d] abandoned its own principles” (01:2), a reaction most evident at district by-elections that year.
The main thrust of New Age arguments regarding the Liberal Budget and laissez-faire politics promulgated “expenditure in the right directions” rather than “retrenchment”(03:44) on the basis of the nation’s fiscal surplus. How funding is to be sought for everything from child welfare programs, to experimental theaters, to The Florence Press books determines the socio-cultural viability of these institutions and commodities. Petty economizing, as the method for a course of action, is written off as too moderate and unimaginative to form the basis for sound (political and moral) policy. Thus, throughout Volume Three, attention is directed at the important defeats of Liberal candidates (including Winston Churchill, despite Wells’ efforts) and a concomitant swelling of the Labour Party and trade unions in terms of membership and political power, all in relation to economic policies. If any movement presaged a “new age,” these political regroupings were at the head of the trend.
New Age commentators viewed the most substantive issue concerning domestic politics (and revolutionary propaganda, as well) to be whether Socialists of any form, regardless of party affiliation, should oppose alliances with Liberals on the basis of Socialism’s ideal claim to represent the underrepresented portions of society. G. R. S. Taylor’s question, “when are we ever going to make it clear to the man-in-the-street that Socialism alone will cure his ills when we, in effect, continually ask him to remain satisfied with Liberalism” (07:125), lays out the problem confronting more radical M.P.s: how to oppose the insufficiency of Liberal policy without alienating Liberal progressives. The Labour Party proposed to follow a middle route. Ramsay MacDonald, the chair of the Labour Party, had refused to oppose Churchill’s Northwest Manchester candidature outright for strategic reasons, thus declining to support Dan Irving at the national level in conjunction with the local Northwest Manchester Socialists. The entire Labour Party executive committee thereby came under suspicion: were they sacrificing the party members’ ideals (though not shared by all) for personal political power, or ensuring the ascendancy of the party, and thereby the disenfranchised classes it stood for, through shrewd political maneuvering?
Running through this debate is an irresolvable tension between social action and parliamentary reform. The relations between the Labour Party, its more properly-Socialist members, the Independent Labour Party, Social Democratic Party, and various Fabian personalities were examined under the lenses of socialist policy and socialist propaganda. G. R. S. Taylor’s article “The I.L.P. and the S.D.P.” contends that in order to expedite reformist measures inside the House of Commons, the Socialist-Labour Party needs to ally itself with the Social Democratic Party, while outside of the House, “they can say whatever they please” (01:6). The Labour Party executive and its members didn’t heed his advice. Inside the Labour ranks, Trade Unionists refused to cooperate with avowed Socialists, and Socialists, like S. G. Hobson, refused to sign the Labour Party’s constitution. Various New Age writers deemed such political infighting as either counter-productive to concerted action, or necessary in order to promote Socialist propaganda over policy. In this latter vein, the Labour-Socialist union was questioned according to the possibility of a more fully, or ideally, Socialist political body united with the discontented masses.
In his “The British Socialist Party” letter of issue 13, Charles N. L. Shaw insists that “[t]he rank and file are in the van, whilst too often the leaders lag behind in the tortuous ways of “practical” issues. […] Let us break down the terminological barriers and the phantom division which to-day stultify us. Revolutionary tactics are practical tactics” (13:258). In a possibly more radical vein, “Some Suggested Definitions” by Edwin Pugh takes the “breakdown of terminological barriers” to its witty extreme (recalling Samuel Johnson’s dictionary), producing a decidedly biased account of socialist terms by playing on other popular cultural discourses of the time, such as food reform. The formal element of Pugh’s criticism, that is, his critique of Socialist propaganda lodged in a satirical list, shows a mode of offering criticism while removing the writer’s responsibility for replying to factional debates. Taken together, I hope these examples have suggested how The New Age at this time served as a stage upon which a motley assortment of opinions negotiated the practical and ideal limitations of organizing, through legitimate, orderly means, an entirely new society.
“There are occasions, however, rare occasions, when we feel that all is not perfect in this provincial Empire of ours” (02:23). This somewhat understated remark introduced the New Age‘s response to Lord Meath’s Times interview which had detailed his notion of celebrations that would be proper for Empire Day, 1908. The “Notes of the Week” column for May 9 goes on to observe that it is a “national weakness” to rationalize British colonial censorship and imperialism according to the “assumption that Providence is in favour of British expansion,” an attitude which “is ultimately responsible for most of our insularity and our jingoism” (02:22). Opinion on this imputed “insularity and jingoism” runs the gamut in this volume, from socialist-inspired proclamations for native self-government to cautious criticisms of the British government’s handling of colonial affairs. Most New Age attention to the Empire’s affairs at this time centered on growing nationalism in India, which I take up below, and the difficulties associated with the Colonial Office having handed local control over to the Natalese government in 1893.
In January 1908 the Natal government remanded Dinizulu, chief of the Zulu peoples, to trial for instigating revolt, stockpiling ammunitions, and condoning the murders of white colonists. Held in prison on these insupportable charges, the action was viewed by New Age commentators as a clear attempt by the Natalese to exterminate Zulu power and social structure in order to facilitate the forced labor of Zulus. The enslavement of Africans was condemned as a form of enslavement similar to the compulsory service of England’s peasant laborers, and on the basis of the homogenization of British holdings by the destruction of cultural differences. The New Age also sensed that the impending conference, in September, 1908, concerning the Union of South Africa would result in South African insularity, a result brought on by continued British defense of a land that it could never again invade after the Boer War disaster. Such fragmenting of both political and moral action under the Empire’s aegis found expression in the view that an “Empire that is not a free and voluntary association of its constituent nations does not appeal to us as worthwhile” (03:43). (However, this statement was made specifically about Canada’s possible secession from the Empire, for, as a “nation,” it more easily enjoyed the unequivocal privilege of political freedom denied the colonized lands of India and Africa.)
Meanwhile, in India, Viscount Morley, (see “Should Morley Resign?” in the June 20 issue for an account of John Morley’s transformation into Viscount Morley) had re-instituted Press Laws that increased censorship and the prosecution of sedition. This action was in response to the increase in newspapers publishing nationalist propaganda and several bombing incidents around India that were professed to be direct results of such sentiment. The June 6th issue of The New Age published excerpts from a pamphlet written by Aurobindo Ghose, who was being held in Calcutta on charges of bomb conspiracy. Educated at Cambridge, Ghose was a prominent editor of the nationalist newspaper Bande Mataram, and his English public school education had repercussions on Parliamentary debates in 1908 concerning expenditure for Indian education policies. During this same period, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, a scholar and leader of the Indian Nationalist Party, was convicted in July (he had previously been imprisoned in 1897, and was imprisoned again in 1915) for writing seditious articles in his Marathi newspaper Kesari. He had advocated swadeshi, or self-reliance, for Indians, which was grounded in the production and consumption of products made solely in India. His arrest and conviction were based on English translations of his ostensibly seditious articles, translations that Tilak objected to on the grounds of inaccuracy; he also decried the lack of Marathi-speaking persons on the jury that found him guilty. He was sentenced to six years’ transportation to a penal settlement by the judge. These oppressions were seen by H. E. A. Cotton, the most consistent New Age writer on Indian national affairs, as only serving to further fragment the Empire by making national martyrs of what were once only leaders of nationalistic Indian political parties.
The counterpoint to “L’affaire Dinizulu”(02:23), as The New Age called it, was the debate between the Congo Reform Association, Hilaire Belloc, and C. H. Norman on the proposed annexation by Belgium of the Congo Free State, in order to bring it under direct government control, rather than merely maintaining its commercial control. Norman concludes that “[i]n advocating the terminable abolition of the labour tax the Congo Reform Association, and those undisclosed persons [gin merchants, he is implying] who operate it, were obviously only anxious to hamper the Belgian Government in its onerous task of administering the vast territories of the Congo Free State” (18:344). The irony of Norman’s espousing a form of imperialist evolution after the resounding anti-evolution proclamations by Socialists illustrates the inherent contradictoriness of New Age political analyses. Such analyses, given by so many differently-minded writers, were especially contradictory in relation to an Empire that was still regarded as an essential part of English social structures, politics, and culture, though the manner and expense of keeping it were becoming less easily condoned.
When speaking of Empires, however, the Ottoman and the Austro-Hungarian garnered the most attention in Volume Three. Baron von Aehrenthal, the Austrian Foreign Minister, enabled the Austrian government to push through plans to develop a railway through a Bulgaria chafing under Turkish rule. As an unsigned “Review” in the August 1 issue claimed, “[t]he storm centre of Middle Europe, which used to be at Berlin, has been shifting since 1870 towards Buda-Pesth, Cracow, and Galicia” (14:275) and Austrian territorial manipulations were crucial to this shift. The instability of Sultan Abdülhamid’s autocracy in Turkey, criticized from abroad since the late 1880s by exiled members of the CUP intelligentsia (Ittihad ve Terakki Cemiyeti, or Committee of Union and Progress, popularly know as the Young Turks), enabled Austria to continue what Louis Cahen described as its “Drang nach Osten,” or eastward expansion. Austrian expansionist efforts were heightened after Abdülhamid’s forced reinstatement of the Turkish constitution on July 24, 1908. This change in his Turkish policy was due to Abdülhamid’s failure to suppress revolts by soldiers of the 3rd Army Corps stationed in Macedonia, whose members had formed a secret revolutionary group known as the Ottoman Liberty Society in 1906. This “almost bloodless triumph” (14:261) coalesced under the aegis of the Young Turks, who were however unable to completely overtake the government due to political differences primarily concerning foreign influence in Turkey. With Abdülhamid’s continued reign in doubt, and the Young Turks as yet disorganized in their attempt to take control of the government, Austria helped persuade Bulgaria to announce its independence from Turkey. As “Stanhope of Chester” argues in his essay “Cives Europae Sumus” (which gives a summary of Austrian influence in the Balkans), since “Austria has aimed a deadly blow at the stability of the European polity” (25:485) by corrupting Bulgaria and annexing Bosnia-Herzegovina, it is Great Britain’s duty to protect this region from Austrian encroachment. This sort of interventionist claim is a key contention made in several New Age essays and continuously in the “Notes of the Week” columns, one which is attached to a Socialist belief in Internationalism (and, often, Imperialism) for the benefits of freedom-seekers everywhere, over and above particular nationalist claims.
In the case of German nationalist claims, The New Age had no choice but to become embroiled in a heightening of fear concerning German aggression that swept through England that summer, particularly after Kaiser Wilhelm’s threatening public statements which intimated that Germans were quite capable of defending themselves from European containment. Most New Age commentators regarded the German War scare as a product of the “silly season,” when most British citizens are on summer holiday and Parliament is not in session. The national press was considered to have become more sensationalistic in order to attract the increase of idle readers, and news of impending war was a certain tactic to do so. Not, obviously, that the war scare was unwarranted, considering the massive expansion of German ship-building and colonial scouting, and the general military aggressiveness of the Kaiser. At the same time, the New Age pointed out that the War Scare did expose the presence of both German and English war parties working towards that end, and exposed some of the naivete of Socialists’ disbelief in such. One might view the articles by Alderman William Sanders about the German Social Democrats’ attempts to elect more of their members to the Reichstag and their opposition to German military aggression as a New Age antidote to the popular press’ unbalanced War Scare propaganda.
While on the topic of the War Scare, it seems appropriate to allude to T. Miller Maguire’s scathing attack on Lord Haldane’s Territorial Army bill. This eleven-part series of articles repetitively calumniated Richard Haldane’s reorganization of the Army forces since his appointment as Secretary of State for War in 1905, criticizing the lack of civil rights for enlisted men, the inefficiency of financial allocations, and the social ties of the War Office commanders. Maguire’s attacks delineate in broad terms the social snobbery of the English “Cult of Sport,” public school education, and the moneyed classes (all inveterately linked entities). In Maguire’s first essay, “Our Army Organisation. A Contemptible Anachronism,” he sets up the main argument which he consistently reiterates, that the “War Office is largely an adjunct of fashionable Society, and is often influenced by ignorant and self-seeking snobs” (11:208). While he does give poignant examples of Army Council perfidy, cites Army journals that criticize Haldane, and offers a brief but succinct account of Army organization since the nineteenth century, his arguments are often strings of unflattering one-word characterizations (“Ignorance,”“Ineptitude,” etc.). Maguire’s dogmatic J’accuse offers a longwinded example of how New Age editorial policy, committed to enlivening political debate, backfires by overextending their generous offer of journal space (they were only one or two letters ever written to the editor in response to Maguire). The commitment to Maguire’s essays might better be explained by the fact that the New Age took the same position as Maguire (despite possible dogmatic contamination), on the grounds that Haldane’s proposition “is at best but a half-way house between the old feudal army and a genuine, democratic army” (18342). At the same time, the “Notes of the Week” opinion from which this assessment is drawn also proceeds to give as balanced an articulation of the question underlying the Territorial Army as Maguire does in his entire series of denouncements.
From the outset, the editorial policy of The New Age comprised an avocation of intelligent discussion regardless of political affiliation, and freedom from political dogma or doctrinaire. With news of King Edward’s projected visit to Tsar Nicholas II at Reval, Russia, however, the “Notes of the Week” columns from May 30 (issue 5) to July 11 (issue 11) opened up a continuous and belligerent campaign against the event. This political stance was explained by the New Age as grounded in a sense of Great Britain’s traditional role of setting the world standard for civilized government and culture. Knowingly associating with a despot of Tsar Nicholas’ ilk confirmed Socialist suspicions that the Liberal government would ignorantly allow control of the nation’s honor and political fate to slip into the hands of a non-representative monarch (King Edward). The English public was quite aware of Tsar Nicholas’ autocratic mode of rule, including his condoning the Jewish pogroms and the anti-Semitic violence of the Black Hundreds, the brutal suppression of the Russian people in the 1905 revolution, and the second dissolution of the Duma in June 1907. In the wake of the Duma’s dissolution, Minister of Internal Affairs and chairman of the Russian Council of Ministers, P. A. Stolypin, strategically arranged (by recourse to martial law) a third, more moderate Duma. This Duma was meant to assent to Stolypin’s insistence on cabinet rule under the Tsar’s autocratic authority, which The New Age condemned as a mockery of democracy.
Renewed relations with Russia had been instituted in August of 1907, primarily under the direction of Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs A. P. Izvolskii, with an Anglo-Russian agreement that divided Persia, Afghanistan, and Tibet into Russian and British spheres of influence aimed at eliminating potential conflict in this arena. (See The New Age, Volume One, for responses to this agreement.) Izvolskii also used this agreement to pursue future British acquiescence to Russia’s desire to once again be allowed to move its naval vessels out through the Black Sea Straits, a key privilege in view of Russia’s pro-Slavic sensibility and the increasing ferment around the Balkans. Sir Edward Grey, Secretary for Foreign Affairs, had admitted to Russian diplomats in the fall of 1906 that England would reconsider its stance on the Straits Question in efforts to establish good relations with Russia. Thus, the Reval visit in June of 1908 only followed up on the foreign policies established in 1906-7 by Russia and Britain, yet with the crucial addition of a formal stamp of approval by the nations’ respective monarchs under the guise of a “purely family meeting” (06:101).
Naturally, such ongoing negotiations had been kept secret from the British press and public, prompting the New Age‘s cry “Who advertised the visit? […] Who, who, we ask” (07:121). Grey’s close manner became the criticism most frequently leveled at him in his tenure as Foreign Secretary during the crucial years leading up to World War I. The Cabinet’s failure to supply reasonable responses in the parliamentary debate and vote on the question of the visit, and the Liberal/Tory alliance in favor of the visit, called down upon the Liberal government the charge that it was “not to be trusted even to be Liberal” (07:122) anymore. In a surprisingly undisputed letter, “Stanhope of Chester” also condemned the Jewish aristocracy of England for tolerating the King’s visit to Tsar Nicholas, calling this action a result of “the money-changing and financial instincts of the Semitic race” (09:178).
I highlight the Reval visit in order to follow The New Age‘s own lead of according it great importance. At the end of the affair, yet while the international and domestic effects of the meeting were still registering shocks, The New Age concluded that
[i]f the present Liberal Government be ever recalled to the mind of future generations, it will not be by the results of their Licensing Bill nor of their Trades Disputes Bill, nor yet by the ever-increasing scope of their Old Age Pensions scheme, but by the fruits of their rapprochement with the Russian autocracy. They will go down to posterity as the Government which concluded the Anglo-Russian convention and arranged the Reval meeting. (10:181)
Most of the New Age‘s contemporary publications failed to register the import of the Reval meeting to such a degree; in fact, the lack of Press participation in discussing the Russian rapprochement was one of the planks in The New Age criticism. Condemning the insufficient activity of the national Press on this issue found its complement in a condemnation of the insufficient activity of Parliament concerning the Unemployed question. The Reval protest also indicates the heated manner in which The New Age could stake a political claim and mobilize various factions to support it. Thus, a fitting bookend to this volume’s opening anti-Reval clamor may be seen in The New Age‘s championing of Victor Grayson, the Independent Socialist M.P. for Colne Valley, to the extent that he was given a position as joint editor of The New Age, announced in the October 17th issue.
With the October Unemployed demonstrations presenting a menacing portent for the winter months, Victor Grayson, M.P., waived Parliamentary Committee procedure aside, insisting that the members discuss the Unemployed question before the end of session. Continuing his stubborn refusal to follow the House agenda (which was to be comprised of debates on 57 Licensing Bill clauses), Grayson was essentially found “in contempt” of Parliament. He was escorted from the House by bailiffs after the other members voted to have him suspended from service (a transcript of the incident, reprinted from the Times, appears in the October 24th issue). Subsequent discussions regarding the lack of Labour Party support for Grayson’s protest inflamed the tensions between Socialists and Labour M.P.s, further irritated by the Socialist M.P. James Keir Hardie’s exclusion from a garden party hosted by the King that went unchallenged by his Socialist M.P. peers. The upshot of these pointedly anti-Socialist incidents was their use as evidence in the continuing debate on the corruptive influence of Parliament on formerly politically active Socialists and Labourites.
The appointment of Victor Grayson as New Age co-editor was explained by Orage as complementary to The New Age‘s aim “to turn the fierce light of public discussion on the secret insanitary corners of our social and political life” (26:501). These “insanitary corners” were everywhere detected in English life, particularly in their literal incarnations. The hygiene movement, concomitant with a eugenics crusade for the physiological betterment of the English race, looms large in the journal, even as The New Age takes a decidedly skeptical stance by publishing M. D. Eder’s intelligent series, “Good Breeding or Eugenics.” Eder points out, as his series’ title suggests, that the Greek appellation, eugenics, was set up to illustrate the scientific legitimacy of the quite traditional social concept that had formerly been called, simply, “good breeding.” Nevertheless, there can be no doubt as to the strength of the New Age‘s claim that “[w]e are in the very thick of a revolution in therapeutics” (15:295), to name but one aspect of the health-oriented considerations of the time.
In Eder’s essays, the concept of evolution as defined by Darwin (though earlier phrenologists had also developed a notion of hereditary inheritance) is both better explained against popular assumptions about hereditary transmission, and also questioned by Lamarckian conceptions of environmental influence. Lamarckians, or neo-Lamarckians as they would have been considered at the time, believed that environmental factors influence adults’ behavior, behavior which gets repeated in their offspring, thus warranting the application of resources towards correcting environmental and behavioral problems, particularly through education. Darwinian adherents, on the other hand, averred that nature selected persons better-adapted for the continuance of the race; thus, quickening the imminent selection of the fit, or de-selection of the unfit, was the surest and most correct way to improve future generations and the race-culture as a whole. (Germ-plasm was the term given inheritable material. The term gene as the unit of hereditary transmission was not yet circulating in the Anglo-American lexicon.) Clearly these are social, not only scientific, disputes inseparable from the modernization, and attendant secularization, of social values. Francis Galton’s scientific definition of eugenics, (good birth or good produce, literally) which Eder is responding to, was shaded with moral evaluations, making for some of the more contentious points in programs of negative eugenics that were based on his defining influence. (Galton, nearing the end of his life, published Memories of My Life, by Francis Galton in October 1908.)
The mechanism by which the race-culture might be improved, and what constitutes improvement, is clearly under dispute. For the anonymous author of “The Moral Education Congress,” the promulgation of hygienic solutions to the conditions of lower-class poverty was a ridiculous and immoral insult, for “what shall it profit a child to learn that a healthy man requires 3,000 feet of fresh air per hour when you send him back to his hovels and his ill-smelling class-rooms?” (24:465). Along with such evaluations of hygienic ideology, The New Age also contained decidedly pro-eugenics and pro-hygiene discourses, if only by implication of the space allotted to writers such as Eden Phillpotts, Havelock Ellis, and Caleb W. Saleeby, to name but the most well-known New Age writers on eugenics. Ellis, in particular, writing on the modern autonomous specialization of medicine, contends that this specialization “has led to an unnatural divorce of the health-regulating functions of the community from its general regulative functions” (05:89). It is precisely the seemingly “natural” relation between health-regulation and social-regulation that is at stake in much of the eugenics rhetoric one may find throughout the journal.
Scientific studies of insect societies were also, at the time, considered to provide insights into the appetitive, or primal, social behavior of such entities, and were readily used as a model by which human social organization might be criticized, elucidated, and eventually reformed according to its biological nature. A review of Auguste Forel’s The Senses of Insects in the August 8 issue gives a brief history and explanation of just such research. The eugenicist Caleb W. Saleeby, in a New Age article promoting the newly-formed Eugenics Education Society (of which Eden Phillpotts and Havelock Ellis were co-vice-presidents), describes Auguste Forel, a professor of psychiatry in Zurich, as “a student of ants who persuaded him [Saleeby] into Socialism” (02:29). Saleeby was himself a practical eugenicist who concentrated on exposing alcohol’s destructive influence on the race-culture, and pressing the London County Council to enforce the Inebriates Act.
Forel’s New Age essays titled “Free Marriage” take up the question of social restrictions that are not based, as he considered it, in biological necessity. He grounds his explication and avocation of free marriage in evolutionary biological science, for free marriage “cannot be a debasing license, but must rest upon a respect for the laws of nature” (14:272). Thus, free marriage might be a socially “advanced” arrangement between persons, but it would nevertheless act in accordance with the biological needs of male support and protection for reproducing females, as opposed to the “fundamental error of our Civil Marriage legalising certain procreations and declaring others illegal” (14:272). Saleeby also credits Forel’s Die Sexuel Frage. Ein Buch für Gebildete (translated into English in late summer as The Sexual Question. A Book for the Cultured Classes, and reviewed in issue 19) with offering “Socialism, Idealism, science, vast experience, alike of ant-heaps and asylums, combined with literary power” (02:29). Saleeby’s account should give some idea of the importance that these eugenics discussions had for beliefs about the very practicability of Socialism for the human race (as well as the practicability of race-culture reform).
One pointed example of the political import of biological studies finds the “magic of property” evaluated by Hilaire Belloc in terms of the primordial instinct supporting it, an appetitive “fact” equal to the sexual or canine instincts and empirically demonstrated by “established European civilisation” (01:8). Belloc’s essay “The Three Issues” attaches to the acknowledgement of this instinct a sort of provincialism and manliness: “If you do not recognise this sentiment in men, you are but imperfectly a man. Those creatures who have no roots in any soil may be, and probably are, warped in this primal appetite” (01:8). Belloc’s contention that the desire to own property is innate, and thus obviates a collectivist approach to political reform, is deftly turned by Hubert Bland into the basis for Socialism’s success. Bland contends in “The Instinct of Ownership” that
it is not the means of production he and they [Belloc and the masses] desire to own, but the product, the finished article, […] things upon which he can impress his personality. […] It is well that he should desire these. It is necessary to his freedom, to the development of his personality, that he should possess them.(02:30)
While the phrase “the desire to own” and Liberal and Socialist concerns over current political issues, such as the Licensing Bill, are common to both Belloc’s and Bland’s essays, the results of their evaluations are different: for Belloc, appetite or instinct is the ground for a market-based social organization, while for Bland, man’s desire for expression of his personality is still behind those appetites, and collectivism actually ensures such expression.
These debates instance some of the concepts attached to versions of socialist reform argued from a scientistic basis. Similarly, the social viability of marriage based on theories about the birth rate informs both G. B. Shaw’s play Getting Married and Edgar Jepson’s “Occasional Reflections” for the September 19 issue. The prologue to Shaw’s play makes a case for reevaluating the social institution of marriage according to the birth rate, rather than promoting it merely from sentimental convention and the unacknowledged benefits of women’s economic slavery. The consideration of England’s birth rate doesn’t make it into Haden Guest‘s review of “Getting Married,” except indirectly when Guest accuses the preface of “invading the play” (04:77). Yet Guest’s pertinent criticism of “Getting Married” contends that “[n]o new discoveries are made because the central theme is taken for granted, because the real, crude, vital attraction of the sexes is throughout assumed” (04:77). Rather than offering a “scientific examination” of marriage (which, in one sense, the prologue proposes to be the play’s purpose), Shaw gives a “three-hour long conversation [where] dramatic form is cast to the winds” (04:77).
In satirical contradistinction to August Forel’s recommendations for percipient breeding, Jepson’s deliberation on England’s declining birth rate declares:
[n]o: it is a truly old-fashioned idea that it is the good citizen’s duty to load up his perspiring country with a quiverful of children. As a matter of fact the good citizen no longer does so; the bad citizen does. There is a good deal to be said for the sterilisation, by Liberal legislation, of the diseased and unfit. Several of our Dukes, now– (21:409)
Free marriage was not exactly what the suffragists and Suffragettes were aiming at, though they did believe in the loosening of social restrictions placed on women concerning divorce. Generally, it is before that law that the important debate on female suffrage takes place in The New Age. Ernest Belfort Bax’s essays “Feminism and Female Suffrage” (in two parts) and “Mr. Belfort Bax Replies to his Feminist Critics” contend that “the granting of [female suffrage] would amount to the piling up of an additional privilege on an already privileged class” (05:88). This female privilege is due to the laws enacted in order to protect women from ostensible oppressions endured within legal marriage. More fundamental than this, however, is that nature obviates any political equality by the very physical and mental inequality of the sexes. Being unable to see beyond the law, however, is precisely Bax’s weakness. As the “Notes of the Week” column for July 18 argues, “[h]ow much longer will some people persist in thinking that the claims of democracy rest upon brains or education” (12:223) when the benefits of full citizenship offered by the franchise are a matter of political necessity?
The New Age position on suffrage is ambivalent, considering its devotion to publishing E. Belfort Bax’s supercilious essays on the so-called “sex-privilege” that were the results of feminist and suffragist attacks on the laws of Great Britain. The New Age did also print the letters and essays of Bax’s detractors, which were on the whole more intelligently argued than Bax’s compositions, but the weight of the discourse seems to fall on the “Injustice of “Votes For Women”” side (as C. H. Norman titled his essay on the subject). The general tenor of New Age approval of Suffragette action is based on the fact that “the nation is being taught the use of violence” (26:503) by the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), founded in 1903 by Emmeline Pankhurst, with her daughter Christabel. During this period the Pankhursts and their WSPU compatriots were launching an aggressive campaign of civil disobedience against Parliamentary inattention to suffragist claims (see “The Suffragette: A Farce” in issue 5 for a parody that still captures Suffragette persistence).
This civil disobedience included demonstrating outside of Parliament sessions, interrupting Liberal political meetings, and “rushing” the House of Commons, actions which occasionally resulted in the arrest and imprisonment of many Suffragettes, including Christabel Pankhurst. Suffragette and suffragist action at this time was a response to the death of the Women’s Enfranchisement Bill in early 1908. In May, a deputation of Liberal M.P.s petitioned Asquith to allow Mr. Stanger’s Bill on Women’s Suffrage a hearing in the coming Parliamentary session, but they were put off by Asquith’s acquiesence to the idea of franchise reform in general and his rejection of women’s earnestness in acquiring it in particular: or, in The New Age‘s terms, “he said in effect […] you must do a great deal more before you can convince me that women generally really want the vote” (05:84). Which is just what the women proceeded to do, even announcing their demonstrations in advertisements in The New Age‘s June issues.
The subsequent “successful nastiness of the Suffragists” (04:68) (though the Suffragettes primarily instigated the violence) echoes the consideration voiced by G. R. S. Taylor’s essay “The Policy of Automatons” as to “whether moderation or immoderation is the more paying policy” (26:507). This phrase captures his views on parliamentary procedure in words expressing a sentiment that might be found in any of the other primary New Age discourses, from eugenics, diplomacy, poetics, or propaganda to the Celtic revival, modern dance, and mountain-climbing. It also expresses the morality-laden contentions of the “revolution or evolution” discussion. Reverend Conrad Noel, a liberal Catholic and Socialist Christian, wrote in “God’s Scourge” that “the “evolutionists” must be told that good manners and good morality are not identical, and that life is not a deportmental ditty” (04:68). The excess of observance characterizing the “paralysing atmosphere of immemorial gentility” (26:502), as Taylor describes it, is, he believes, mistakenly taken as the appropriate tone for political reform. Socialists of differing creeds regarded this sort of conservatism in the guise of “gentility” as the special mark of Liberals, respecting the conviction of Tory conservatism more than the Janus-faced reform espoused by the ruling party. The strategic use of force, exemplified not only by the WSPU but also by the Young Turks’ elimination of key oppositional officials during the 1908 uprising, demonstrated to Socialists “that the control of organised physical force provides not only the shortest, but the happiest route to political freedom” (14:261).
One particularly significant aspect of the domestic politics discourse is the political rhetoric disseminated by various New Age writers that considers activity and movement the true measure of political commitment, or the most effective condition by which some degree of individual equality might be realized. For example, in “The Unpopularity of Socialism,” R. M. writes that “the real objection to Socialism is to Socialism conceived as a state, and not as a direction; to static Socialism as distinct from kinetic Socialism” (21:404). In this case, an indefinite dynamism, rather than revolution, might be considered the proper culmination of Socialist tendencies. This language of motion has both implicit and explicit somatic, and organic, connotations; associated terms of motion, movement, action, kinesis, and rhythm are not set up in strict opposition to passivity, but rather against rigidity, moderation, and calculated constraint. In a word, against the bourgeoisie, “a fat poodle by a stove,” as Upton Sinclair depicts it in his essay “The Bourgeoisie”(13:249). Sinclair offers a fascinating class analysis in terms of physiology:
he bourgeois represents an achievement of the body, and all that he knows in the world is body. He is well fed himself, his wife is stout, and his children are fine and vigorous […] Letting [other] things starve is the specialty of the bourgeois society. (13:249)
Sinclair’s essay offers only one of the ways in which notions of the body and its attendant actions or propensities are figured in Volume Three. As the anonymous reviewer of Forel’s The Sexual Question writes, “[w]e live in a time when the influence of mind upon matter is beginning to be realised. When shall we properly understand the equally vast influence of matter upon mind, as exemplified in the human body?” (21:412). Theories of physiognomic action upon spirit (and the definition of such terms) could be found in such systems as Émile Jaques-Dalcroze’s method of musical training, which related rhythmic bodily movements to musical rhythms, a practice which he called eurhythmics. He had begun publishing Méthode Jaques-Dalcroze in 1907, after demonstrations of his method in London and other European cities, and set up a school in Geneva in 1910. The myriad representations and valuations of the human body were also viewed in the broader cultural scene of a revivified modern dance, unloosed from what were considered the strictures of classical s, though expressed differently by Isadora Duncan, Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, Maud Allan, and other modern dancers. For W. R. Titterton, The New Age poet, fiction writer and essayist, a natural, or free, body was figured as the locus of dynamic motion and thereby as an antidote to bourgeois dogma or puritanical morality. Titterton’s essays on the dancer Isadora Duncan, “Isadora Duncan Preaching” and “Puff-ball versus X + Y,” assert that “the only ethical movement worth having is the dance” (12:226). Opposing scientistic and conventional evaluations of human morality, even political morality, Titterton ultimately asks,
Will you blue-book, or will you dance? If you are for blue-books I am against you. For long I had secretly loathed your bloodless statistics. Isadora showed me that thing I desired. This is my Socialism. The devil take your x+y. (12:226)
(Herbert Hughes, the music critic, uses the identical simile of the “puff-ball” or “little bit of thistledown,” whose “rhythms are not approved of by the metronome,” to illustrate how Debussy “describes things that are formalistically formless and immeasurable” in music (24:476).) Isadora Duncan’s dancing was also set up by Titterton as the antidote to the popular Salomé dancer Maud Allan’s type of “profit-mongering” (09:171), where the differences between Duncan’s and Allan’s movements, clothing, and repertoire represent the “distinction between a religion and a trade” (09:172).
Concentrated assaults upon established regimes by revolution-minded peoples in the political realm had its corollary effect in the arts. The development of jury-free shows, such as the Allied Artists’ Association’s huge exhibit in Albert Hall or The Eight show in America, were attempts to free artists from the strictures of the Art establishment’s institutional authority and selection processes.
In the Athenaeum of March 14, 1908 (no. 4194), Frank Rutter, former art critic for the Sunday Times and the Allied Artists’ Association’s primary organizer and Secretary, writes:
What the [Société des Artistes] Indépendants in France have done, and what the new Association here proposes to do, is to dispense with the Selecting Jury, the first aim of either body being to afford independent artists the opportunity of submitting their work to the public without restrictions. (17:330)
The works hung for the July AAA show were arranged by a Hanging Committee according to the results of a lottery, a gargantuan feat considering that the association had attracted 800 members who together submitted approximately 4000 pieces. G. R. S. Taylor’s review of the exhibition placed it under the aegis of a revolutionary propaganda that formed the best compliment The New Age was serving up at the time:
The younger generation, apparently, has grown tired of knocking at the door (always a stupid waste of time); it is proceeding to remove the whole portico by the gentle persuasion of a battering-ram. Those are our sentiments to the letter […] The abolition of the selecting committee is the key to many situations. (14:277)
The Fitzroy Street Salon, an independent forum for artists associated with Walter Sickert, gained some new members through its association with the AAA show. The Fitzroy atelier exhibited paintings by Lucien Pisarro, Spencer Gore, Sickert himself, as well as other young artists (excluding females, however) who all eventually formed part of the Camden Town Group in 1909, named for a series of portraits Sickert produced after the Camden Town murders. The work of this cohort was considered a form of social documentary, yet without the moral overtones of social realists who insisted on the reevaluation of traditional subject matter, and unlike the effect of “mirroring nature” associated with the French Impressionists. Roger Fry, the influential art critic who was writing extensively for the Burlington Magazine at the time, as well as directing the Metropolitan Museum in New York City, resigned from the New English Art Club in 1908. In its inception, the New English Art Club had been concerned to displace some of the Royal Academy’s institutional control (like the AAA after), yet in 1908, Fry’s resignation was partially in response to the NEAC’s unresponsiveness to both the French Barbizon and Impressionist painters. Fry, of course, went on to arrange the controversial post-Impressionist exhibits with Clive Bell in 1910 and 1911.
The “selecting committee” in the theatrical realm could be considered “the ogre of metropolitan commercialism” (13:256), according to L. Haden Guest‘s series “Towards a Dramatic Renascence.” Thus, “drama of the kind we want” (Guest’s characterization of experimental theatre) is best produced by “those pioneer dramatic societies which are financed by the subscriptions of the members” (13:256). The feasibility of an expansion of experimental drama, producing plays that would run longer than one or two nights, and which would advance British drama in new directions rather than merely ameliorating its grossest defects, turned on its cheapness. Guest pursues the problem practically, speculating on costs, the need for actors willing to charge little for their services, and the possible number of subscribers and their contributions. William Archer’s series, in a notably different vein, speculates on the drama in a Fabian future. The three installations of Archer’s “Fabianism and the Drama. An address delivered at Pen-y-rallt, 8th September, 1908” offer a list of the topics or social situations represented in contemporary dramas which would disappear from the social purview if a Fabian socialist revolution were to effect new-found social equality. Guest, in turn, demurred that even with the overthrow of “metropolitan commercialism” in dramatic arts, the conflicts represented in drama would undoubtedly increase with the increase of critical thought and social well-being resulting from the socialist revolution. (For an extended discussion of The New Age‘s, and particularly Archer’s, general stand on the methods of contemporary drama, see Wallace Martin’s book The New Age Under Orage: Chapters in English Cultural History, also available on this website.)
Protests were not always produced by the ranks of secular, radical, or artistically visionary constituents in 1908. The National Vigilance Society took a sharp dislike to the statues designed by Jacob Epstein for the new British Medical Association building being built at the time across the street from their headquarters. The architect Charles Holden had chosen Jacob Epstein, a American sculptor arrived in London from L’École des Beaux Arts only two years previous, to design and execute a series of eighteen statues in narrow niches along the sides of the BMA building facing Strand and Agar Streets. The statues were depictions of elemental male and female qualities, such as “Primal Energy”, “Matter”, “Maternity”, and “Mentality”, accompanied by seven dancing youths of different build and in different positions. There is little New Age commentary on this hullabaloo or the statues themselves, except for Titterton’s brief piece “The Statues in the Strand” which focuses on the prudery of the English public in the presence of realistically nude figures (public was also the space in dispute, for nudity in an art gallery was quite a different matter). It was The Times, with contributions from Charles Ricketts and Laurence Binyon, which actually launched a successful publicity campaign, aided by the BMA itself, to keep the statues intact and unharmed.
The attention which Friedrich Nietzsche’s work enjoyed in the pages of the journal should, by this volume, come as no surprise to any New Age reader. Not only had Orage established himself as a Nietzsche scholar with the publication of his two works on the philosopher, but such New Age contributors at Oscar Levy, Angelo Rappoport, and Anthony Ludovici were involved in translating and disseminating his complete texts, both in print and in the lecture hall. The New Age Press reissued Shaw’s The Sanity of Art in 1907, an essay originally written for the American paper Liberty in 1895 as a response to Max Nordau’s infamous book-length attack on what he considered decadent fin de siècle art and literature, Degeneration. Shaw’s essay, however, did not effectively repudiate Nordau’s estimation of Nietzsche’s work, considering that Nordau’s take on the philosopher was the lens through which the English-speaking public first examined him.
A. R. O., in a review of Thus Spake Zarathustra (second impression; translated by Alexander Tille) faulted English publishers for the public neglect of Nietzsche, since publishing Nietzsche’s more accessible Birth of Tragedy would have allowed English readers to respond more fully to his work. Yet The New Age was consistently doing its part in presenting him to its public. Under the “Books of the Week” section two of Nietzsche’s works were discussed, H. L. Mencken’s “The Philosophy of Fredrich Nietzsche” (sic) was trounced, and at least four other book reviews mention his name in some respect. Cabinet members unwittingly found themselves his disciples, his aphorisms on poetry, music, and dance were used as yardsticks by which to measure various theories on these subjects, and significant portions of Ecce Homo which diagrammed the German national character were translated by J. M. Kennedy for the final issue of Volume Three. This year certainly saw a culmination in the broader circulation of his name, if not his written works, and his ideas as interpreted by Havelock Ellis, Arthur Symons, and G.B.S., in particular. However, the popularization (most notably by Shaw) of such Neitzschean doctrines as the übermensch, especially in the realm of eugenics discourse, prompted M. D. Eder to declare, “Let us be rid of the Superman. He is a bore” (03:47).
Just as consideration of Nietzsche’s work was on the upswing in England, in large part due to his championing by Orage and The New Age, a modest coup in the field of poetics was being enacted by Frank Stewart Flint’s reviews of contemporary poetry under the title “Recent Verse.” Flint was no newcomer to The New Age, having published his own poetry in all three volumes. A self-taught adept of the French language, Flint was well acquainted with French Symbolist poetry (as witness the epigraphs to most of his articles) and well-acquainted with contemporary English-language verse. Flint is best known for his association with the Imagiste movement advertised most conspicuously by Ezra Pound and Amy Lowell, yet Flint’s intense interest in French poetry was initially quite crucial to Imagisme’s shaping. Flint’s express aim in these first few signed New Age critical pieces was to ignite an interest in poetry-reading in order to combat “the welter of vulgarity in which the world breathes feverishly now” (18:353). Part of Flint’s criticism of the “welter of vulgarity” was an attack on the bureaucratic mindset, and on the poetic insufficiency of the English nation. This second criticism is somewhat vaguely given, but may be best seen in Flint’s commendation of Irish achievements in poetry, notably by W. B. Yeats:
England has no unity to bind them [the new writers of poetry], no universal aspiration to inform them with, and no powerful imagination to lead them […] Ireland in this respect is better off than we—is, in truth, rich where we are poor. (22:453)
Most notably “English,” according to Flint, is the continued use of traditional forms of English meter such as the canto and stanza, which at best offer a “certain commonplace” (22:453) and at worst “are clever tricks that lure a poet on to sing beyond the prime emotion” (16:312). Flint predicts not only that “the day of the lengthy poem is over,” but that “[i]mpressions in rhyme are […] a dead way” (11:213). In opposition to these inherited poetic forms and traits, Flint characterizes a new English poetry that finds its form in emotional and imaginative exigency, is rhythmically “supple” (16:312) and individualized, may be comprised of “broken cadences” (11:213) and contains “a heart of mystery” (18:353). These definitions are wholly related to Flint’s championing of English vers libre, a major plank in the Imagistes’ platform, and a form that he describes more fully in relation to the French Symbolists in his New Age essays of 1909.
“And Shall the New Age Die?” is the title of A. R. Orage’s article penned for the final issue of Volume Three, and assesses the journal’s political standing and publishing success during its entire three-volume existence, while also introducing the new co-editor, Victor Grayson. More than a mere last-issue assessment, however, this essay attempts to rally its readers to preserve the life of the review by buying shares in the newly formed Limited Company, comprised of The New Age and The New Age Press, and thus to “enable it to profit by the work that has been done for it and by it” (26:501). As Volume Four goes on to announce, the public offering was a success, and The New Age made enough money to continue publication, though dogged by insufficient funds for its entire existence. Despite this lack of real financial success, the “extraordinarily close relationship between the general spirit of The New Age and the general spirit of our immediate epoch,” as Orage believed, did indeed guarantee a “certain” success (26:501).
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