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Most, if not all, of the major events during this period, both at home and abroad, are to be found under discussion in the pages of this volume, as outlined below in the section The Journal Itself. At home, the Liberal government of Herbert Asquith continued to function as a middle way between the reactionary Unionists on the one hand, and the threat of a radical socialism on the other. Its majority under threat for some time, the Liberals eventually lost 127 seats to the Unionists in the “Peers versus People” election of January 1910, ending up with virtually the same number (275 to the Unionists 273) in the Commons. The reasons for this decline are numerous and complex, but, generally, their demise was caused by the fact that the country had been in an ongoing economic recession, mainly due (the Unionists argued) to the Liberals’ stand on “Free Trade” as opposed to Tariff Reform ( a great deal of capital was being invested abroad). Most especially, their attempts at reform led to a budget in 1909 which, in its radical nature, bears comparison with the Reform Act of 1832. Abroad, the continued dissolution of Turkey and the undermining of the balance of power in Europe, particularly the opportunistic moves of Austria and the growing naval strength of Germany, posed threats to the stability of European affairs. These and other issues are addressed below.
- The “People’s Budget” of 1909 is without doubt the main domestic political event of the six months covered by this volume, and it was to have repercussions beyond this period since it precipitated a constitutional crisis calling into question the power of the House of Lords. (Lord Rosebery, often criticized in The New Age, described Lloyd George’s budget “as moving on the path that leads to socialism.”) Lloyd-George had to raise 16 million pounds to help bolster the newly created old-age pensions and other social reforms, as well as financing the building of more dreadnoughts (“We want eight/And we won’t wait”). The Chancellor increased taxation on the usual suspects, tobacco and alcohol, which didn’t endear him to the working class (although he did give a tax break to parents with young children), but it was his death-duty tax and his land tax of some 20% that caused the most controversy, hurting as it did the landed gentry and the more wealthy classes. He also levied a tax on petrol, indicative of the growing popularity of motor-cars, the sign of a changing England. (It is no coincidence that the motor car is featured as a “sign” of these changes the following year in E.M. Forster’s Howards End.) The Lords would not pass the Budget, and after the King reneged on his promise to create more Liberal peers, the Government had to go the people in January 1910, the “People versus Peers” election.
- The Irish Home Rule question, dormant for some time, resurfaced on the Liberal agenda toward the latter half of 1909, mainly due to the upcoming election in which the Liberals (rightly) foresaw the need of the home-rulers’ support. Asquith himself addressed the question during a speech given in the Albert Hall in December 1909, one month before the election.
- The introduction of labour exchanges, the function of which were to publicize job vacancies and thus obviate discrepancies among the numbers of unemployed in various parts of the country (while at the same time alleviating the needs of the indigent who had been catered for by the old “poor law”), met with a mixed response. The Unionists argued that the root of the problem lay in the government’s economic policy (there was general recession in 1908-1909 due for the most part to a great deal of capital seeking better advantage abroad), and they advocated Tariff Reform rather than a Free Trade platform.
- Rearmament. There was a growing resentment and suspicion concerning the growth of German naval power, and it was common knowledge that the big armament maker Krupps was expanding rapidly. In the midst of such an atmosphere it is not uncommon to see such fears aired in the “yellow press,” but even Robert Blatchford, a socialist whose name appears in the pages of The New Age, ran a series in the Daily Mail warning of the threat.
- The Women’s Movement. The debate within the movement between peaceful demonstration and more militant action, between Mrs. Despard’s Women’s Freedom League (WFL) and the Pankhursts’ Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) initiated a discussion of “tactics.” The forced feeding of some of the suffragettes in Winsom Green and Holloway prisons led to severe criticism of the government, and eventually to the tactic by the government that became known as the “cat and mouse act.” Hunger strikers would be released when they became critically weak only to be re-arrested when they regained their strength.
- The Tsar’s Visit to England was both a domestic and “foreign affairs” issue and met with a great deal of opposition, particularly in the New Age. Given the instability in Europe Russia could be a possible ally, but with her record of human rights (10 executions in 1905; 825 in 1908), as well as the atrocities committed in her prisons, many felt this was an immoral alliance. Nevertheless, the King welcomed the Tsar and Tsarina on August 2nd.
Foreign and Colonial Matters
- The international discontents caused by an ever-increasing diminution of Turkey‘s influence continued. After the insult to its pride at the hands of Austria and Bulgaria (the former’s annexation of Bosnia-Herzogovina and the latter’s declaration of independence), Greece now threatened to annex the large island of Crete. The King of Greece, under pressure from the military party, threatened to abdicate and was dissuaded not to do so by the intercession of King Edward. In his column (05.26:456), “Stanhope of Chester” (C.H. Norman) conjectured that Austria’s bellicosity, given the situation in Europe, could lead to a major “conflagration.”
- Spain. The Riff war in Morocco caused a major uprising in Barcelona among syndicalists and other leftists. A radical by the name of Francisco Ferrer (“the Spanish Dreyfus”) was arrested as a ring-leader. The government and, especially, the clerisy, long had it in for him because of his secularist educational policies, and he was eventually executed. To follow the narrative of Ferrer’s demise and the machinations that attended it (there was even a rumour that a New Age “group” might kidnap the Spanish Ambassador in lieu of Ferrer’s freedom) is to read a dress rehearsal for the ideological conflicts that led to the Spanish Civil War. (See below in Journal section)
- A General Strike proclaimed in Sweden.
- The cause of Indian nationalism continued to inspire debate and occupied much space in the New Age. The assassination of Sir Curzon Wyllie by an Indian student only added fuel to the fire (see section below on the Journal.)
- The Colonial administration in British East Africa comes in for sustained criticism.
Some “Milestones” in the Latter Half of 1909
April 10th Algernon Swinburne dies; July 1st, Sir Curzon Wyllie and Dr. Lalacca shot dead by an Indian student at the Imperial Institute.; July 24th; Blériot flies the English Channel in 40 minutes; August 2nd, Tsar Nicolas and the Empress of Russia met in the Solent by King Edward; August 13th, Joint Parliamentary Committee on Censorship of Plays meets; August 30th, Cunard liner Mauretania arrives at Fishguard inaugurating transatlantic service to New York; Sept. 30th, the eighth Dreadnought, H.M.S. Neptune, launched at Portsmouth.
The Journal Itself
For the most part Volume 5 maintained the same format and strategy as it had in Volume Four, with two not insignificant changes. Although the journal started out with twenty-page issues, these dwindled to sixteen, and in issue No.4 (May 20, 1909) an editorial note confirmed that a plebiscite would be taken (a voting form was provided in a later number) deciding whether “the New Age should continue to be sold (at a loss) at its present size for 1d., or increased by four pages weekly and sold for 2d.” In fact, the journal increased the price to 3d. with the first issue of Volume 6, which (whether causally or not) marked a diminution in its circulation. There was also a muddle in the numbering of the issues in this volume, two of them being numbered “10,” which was rectified later by “missing” number 15 altogether. However, the pagination of the volume is correct. Finally, this Volume has 27 issues rather than the usual 26.
Strategically, the journal maintained its commitment to socialism not only as an economic policy, but as an approach to almost every aspect of modern life. It served as an arena for socialist ideas (and ideals) and both catered to, and helped form, the newly emergent class that became known as the “intelligentsia.” It continued to concern itself with all aspects of “culture” in the broadest sense of that term, and how these cultural manifestations (science, philosophy, art) intersected with the workings of politics and with, especially, the potential for political change. A glance at the index of Volume 5 indicates this articulation, with its long list of “Socialism and. . .” entries. Those who care to scan even the small advertisements in the volume will observe how this alliance of socialist ideas and quotidian practice permeates the pages. There are ads for “socialist” typists seeking work, “socialist” weekend retreats, and a strong recommendation for “Socialist Cigarette Makers.” This is not to say that The New Age discouraged debate as banner headlines such as “Why I am Not a Socialist” by G.K. Chesterton (02.189) will attest.
As with Volume 4, “Notes of the Week” begin under the title banner, except for issues No 15 and 26: the former has a drawing of the Tsar, and the latter a picture of Señor Francisco Ferrer. These “Notes” amount to a veritable finger on the pulse of the main issues of the day, both at home and abroad.. The main concerns of the “Notes” in Volume 5 are the difficult passage of Lloyd George’s controversial budget, but other national concerns such as the new labour exchanges, Tariff reform, and suffrage matters are evident, as well as international matters such as German expansionism and the hotly contested visit of Tsar Nicolas.
Following these notes, roughly two-thirds of the issues are taken up with pieces on political matters, foreign affairs, and other occasional essays on science, philosophy and other cultural matters. These contributions were written for the most part by regular contributors: M.D. Eder (who translated Freud’s Theory of Dreams) on science; C.H. Norman (occasionally writing as “Stanhope of Chester”); Francis Grierson on international and colonial politics; and “Holbein Bagman” ( P.E. Richards) who contributed a series of tongue-in-cheek articles with some of the more intriguing titles in the volume, which include (to name a few) “Digestion and Angels” (on English prudery ) 05.08:155, “The Clarion Van” (socialism and religion) 05.13:250, “The Philosophy of the Blue-Bag” (bees and socialism) 05.15:281.
These essays were followed by the “Arts” section, comprising “Jacob Tonson’s “/Arnold Bennett’s column entitled “Books and Persons,” followed by “Book of the Week” (in almost every issue), some columns given over to short reviews, a section on “Drama” (signed “N.C.,” with a few columns over the name Ashley Dukes), and another on “Music” (Herbert Hughes). These are followed by a few pages devoted to the “Correspondence” columns. It is important to note here that these letter columns are very well worth the reading since their contents both challenge and rehearse many of the issues raised in the previous issue. The back cover page of each issue was reserved for advertisements for New Age Press releases, two of the more frequent of which were Arnold Bennett’s Literary Taste: How To Form It and Beatrice Tina‘s Woman’s Worst Enemy: Woman. Interspersed with these “arts” pages were occasional poems and fiction, most notably in this volumeBeatrice Tina’s story “Whited Sepulchres” which ran through seven issues. There is very little fine art discussion in this volume and none of the reproductions found in later volumes.
Following this outline of Volume 5, the reader may find the following highlights useful, although there is no substitute for perusing the volume as a whole and/or doing keyword searches.
Science: (Especially Eugenics and Race/Ethnicity)
M. Chan-Toon, “White versus Black” (the narrative of the gruesome hanging of two “Negroes” in New Orleans) 05.08:159; M.D. Eder, “The New Biology” (review of Mendelian theory) 05.10:192; Dr. M. Greenwood, “The New Biology from the Biometric Standpoint” 05.12:234; Dr, Lionel Tayler, “Race and Marriage,” 05.12:234; Professor August Forel, “The White and Yellow Races,” 05.18:328; M.D. Eder, “Eugenics and Human Sacrifice” (on Mendel and the biometricians) 05.20:359; Bart Kennedy, “The Catalonians” (the “Spanish Irish”), 05.23:409.
- T.E. Hulme, “The New Philosophy” (review of William James’ “A Pluralistic Universe” and Henri Bergson’s “L’Evolution Créatrice.” 05.10:198 (Note: this was Hulme’s first contribution proper to the New Age. He had had, earlier in the year, an acrimonious exchange of letters with F.S. Flint over a poetry review the latter had published in the New Age. See 04.16:327 for Flint’s review, 04.17:350 for Hulme’s response, and 04.18:371 for Flint’s reply.)
- T.E. Hulme, “Searchers After Reality.” Part One: “Bax” (critiques E. Belfort Bax’s lack of sympathy with Bergsonian “intuition” and, by inference, his misogyny.) 05.14:265 (See also a letter from Bax denying any influence of Bergson’s work on his “Roots of Reality” 05.11:226, and Hulme’s reply, 05.13:259.)
- Part Two: “Haldane” (a critique of Haldane’s “abhorrence of imagery” in his search for a metaphysic.) 05.17:315
- C.H. Norman, “Immorality in East Africa” (colonial officials as sexual predators) 05.02:29; C.H. Norman, “Imperialism and Indian Patriotism” (an appeal for the understanding of Dhingra’s (an Indian student) assassination of Sir Curzon Wyllie.) ) 05.14:264; C.H. Norman, “Dhingra and Denshawai” ( a severe attack on Herbert Gladstone (“that craven successor of an honoured name”), the Home Secretary, for denying the executed Dhingra cremation as his religion required. 05.18:326
- “Mombasa,” a series over this name that examines the management, or mis-management, of the British East Africa Protectorate. 05.16:299, 05.18:327, 05.20:361, 05.22:392, 05.24:424
Domestic and Foreign Politics:
- G.R.S. Taylor, “Labour Exchanges” (a review of the function of the recent labour exchanges in relation to workings of the “poor house” and charity organizations.) 05.06:112
- T. Good, “Labour Exchanges and Unemployment Insurance” ( a plea to the government to institute unemployment insurance along with the labour exchanges.) 05.19:344
- W.L. George, “Is Woman’s Suffrage a Lost Cause” (a warning to the movement from a sympathizer not to alienate themselves from the Liberals because of their tactics) 05.19:347.
- Muriel Nelson, “Is the Cause Lost?” (a reply to the above article by George) 05.20:363
- Lady Onslow, “Is the Vote Lost?” (another reply to George) 05.22:395
- Francis Sheehy-Skeffington, “Teachers of Tactics” ( a comparison with the tactics of the Irish Party and encouragement for militancy in the women’s movement.) 05.26:459
- ” Our Friend the Tsar” (an unsigned article attacking the forthcoming visit of Tsar Nicolas, with much statistical evidence of abuses in Russia.) 05.14:263
- “Spain and Sweden,” an unsigned appraisal of the Barcelona Riots protesting the Riff War in Morocco, “the first attempt in a modern state to stop a war at the outset.” Also, a short summary of the proclamation of a general strike in Sweden. 05.16:298
- “Stanhope of Chester” (C.H. Norman), “Shall Ferrer Die?”, as assessment of the Spanish educator’s imprisonment, making comparisons with the Dreyfus affair as well as offering a scathing attack on the Catholic hierarchy in Spain: “The small boys are handed over to the Jesuit and other monasteries for sodomitic practices, and the little girls are deprived of their virtue by villains who have an assortment of venereal diseases.” 05.22:391
- C.H. Norman “Long Live Ferrer!” (an appraisal of the repercussions of Ferrer’s execution.) 05.27:471
- “The Shadow of the Inquisition” an unsigned, summary, piece on the situation in Spain with regard to the Ferrer affair, headed by two telegrams to Sir Edward Grey, the first of which is a plea for intercession on Ferrer’s behalf. The second reads: “‘New Age’ holds you responsible as accessory to Ferrer’s murder.” 05.26:454 This issue (No.26, Oct. 21, 1909) carries a full page drawing of Ferrer on its front page, prints of which were offered for 1s. in the next and final issue of the volume.
Literature and the Other Arts:
- The Bennett/Tonson column “Books and Persons” continued its lively and at times iconoclastic presence in this volume. Bennett’s “causeries” rehearse many of the aesthetic issues of the time, while at the same time introducing continental authors to an English audience. Bennett writes not only about “literature,” but also about the economics of publishing, and he helped break the stranglehold of such academic criticism as practiced by the likes of Saintsbury, Raleigh, and Dowden. He had, as well, to counter the moral arbiters of the day such as the cleric who would as soon commit his daughter to “a house infected with diphtheria or typhoid. . .as put a copy of Ann Veronica in her hands.” (Gross: 217). (Ann Veronica is reviewed 05.25:447) The comments in Bennett’s column on the discomforts of realism (05.17:317) are as good an introduction as any and they are echoed in the following:
- Vincent O’Sullivan, “Excursus Upon Romance” (05.25:444) deals with the economics of publishing and the pressure on authors to offer a “sham realism,” rather than a consistent aesthetic “without sentiment or concessions.” O’Sullivan cites as example a controversial story by Beatrice Tina (Hastings) serialized in Volume 5.
- Tina‘s story “Whited Sepulchres,” serialized in seven parts (Issues No.1 through No. 7), could serve as a meta-text with regard to these debates on realistic/romantic fiction. It is a tale of romantic expectation and realistic dismay, of romantic naïveté and traumatic sexual initiation. There are curious, proleptic, echoes of Joyce’s naturalistic stories, of Eveline’s romantic futuristic musings and her eventual sexual paralysis; and this is conjoined with the portrait of a mother that reminds one of the naturalistic marital politics of “The Boarding House.” This story drew a fair amount of commentary, and if (in the column cited above) Bennett felt that true “realism” should call for reform, then here was an example of it. Likewise, there are (in O’Sullivan’s terms) no “concessions” in this sad tale. The letters ranged from praise to blame, from disappointment at the lack of a moral, to calls for better sex education for young women. Someone who signs himself “Avonmore” (“a father of daughters”) praises Tina’s “vivid and courageous picture,” while suggesting that perhaps his daughters “may witness, as if by chance, some of the ordinary incidents of farm life.” (05.09:186). Another suggests a “New Age Club” for sex education (05.11:226).Tina/Hastings responded to negative criticism in her inimitable way (“they have nothing to teach me but their jargon”) 05.10:206 and 05.12:243.
Apart from scattered verse (for the most part by E.H.Visiak and Beatrice Tina), the more significant literary aspects of this volume are a printing of the relatively unknown Ambrose Bierce’s “A Horseman in the Sky” (05.15:284) and Edward Storer’s “Two Fables” (05.13:251). It was Storer’s poem “Image” that helped identify a poetic movement. The other important literary matter is to be found in the “Verse,” “Drama,” and “Book of the Week” columns, samples of which are given below:
- F.S. Flint did not contribute much to this volume, with only two “Verse” columns. Significantly, he reviewed Ezra Pound’s Personae05.05:101 (Pound was to succeed him as poetry reviewer), and a recent anthology of French poetry in which there is discussion of the symbolists among others. 05.23:412
- Selected “Books of the Week.” Verlaine (05.06:121); Remy de Gourmont (by Flint) (05.11:219); Beatrice Tina‘s Woman’s Worst Enemy: Woman (05.13:254) Keir Hardie on India (5.200); Tom Paine (05.07:140)
- Drama. A weekly event (except for an issue or two), the drama columns were signed almost exclusively by “N.C.” However, in issue No.1 Cecil Chesterton waxes enthusiastic about a play called “Chains,” “the most brilliant and the deepest problem play by a modern English writer that I have seen since Major Barbara.” (05.01:16) Other significant dramatic reviews are: 05.08:162, on Irish drama, notably a production of Synge’s “Playboy” with the debut in London of the beautiful and brilliant Maire O’Neill; Ashley Dukes on a not very successful production of “John Bull’s Other Island” (05.24:433).
The music column was written exclusively by Herbert Hughes, himself a composer, and appeared every week in all but a few issues. He comes in for some caustic criticism in the very first number (05.01:21) from Arnold Bennett and others for his idiosyncratic tastes. The most significant space given over to musical matters in this volume is no doubt the series entitled “Debussy’s Musical Impressions.” These ruminations were collected from French periodicals (“La Revue Blanche,” “Gil Blas”) published earlier in the decade and here translated by “Mrs. Franz Leibich.” 05.02:33, 05.03:52, 05.04:73, 05.05:94, 05.08:156
Works Cited and Consulted
- Baily, Leslie, Scrapbook 1900 to 1914. London: Frederick. Muller, 1957
- Brooks, David, The Age of Upheaval: Edwardian Politics, 1899-1914. Manchester and New York: Manchester Univ. Press, 1995.
- Carswell, John, Lives and Letters. New York: New Directions, 1978.
- Gross, John, The Rise and Fall of the Man of Letters. New York: Collier Books, 1970
- Martin, Wallace, The New Age Under Orage. Manchester and New York: Manchester Univ. Press
- Pelling, Henry, Modern Britain 1885-1955. Edinburgh: Nelson and Sons, 1960