"The New Age had good reason to believe, in 1910, that it finally had arrived at a "new age.""
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As though by heavenly design, when King Edward VII died of pneumonia in Buckingham Palace on May 6, 1910, Halley’s Comet was just returning to the skies of Europe. People the globe over feared the earth would be destroyed when it passed through the comet’s tail; it is perhaps with a touch of that apocalyptic feeling that the author of “Notes of the Week” proclaimed—on May 12, the Thursday following the king’s death—that “the era of Victoria is indeed and at last over” and that England faced the beginning of an uncertain new era (07:026). The New Age had good reason to believe, in 1910, that it finally had arrived at a “new age.” Ever since the House of Lords vetoed the People’s Budget in late 1909, Great Britain had been embroiled in a Constitutional Crisis. In December, Asquith, the Liberal prime minister, declared the Lords’ veto “a breach of the constitution”; and after the January general election—which returned the Liberals to power, but only with the help of Irish Nationalist and Labour members—the new coalition government introduced a Parliament Bill that would severely limit the power of the Upper Chamber and effectively make Parliament a one-chamber body, with the House of Commons the indisputable authority. The magnitude of this political revolution was not lost upon the New Age’s editorialists: “we were actually on the eve of a real event, namely, the initiation of a fresh democratic movement upwards into the constitution and powers of the Lords” (07:218).
As it turned out, the king’s death—rather than usher in these long-awaited changes—had the effect of suspending the Liberal government’s political resolve: in mid-June, the two major parties (Liberals and Conservative Unionists) initiated a Constitutional Conference—a series of secret meetings, in which four representatives from either party could debate their conflict in private. For six months, the public was kept in the dark as to the progress of these meetings (more of Asquith’s “wait and see”); in the editorial pages of the New Age, frustration mounted as all reformist agendas were necessarily put on hold (see, e.g., “Notes” 07:193, 07:242, 07:338, 07:409, 07:601). On November 10, Asquith at last declared the conference a failure, and called for an new election to settle the matter. Thus, the year that began with a general election (in January) ended with another (in December)—an election that returned nearly the same proportion of all parties to Parliament. Out of the prospect for stellar change came an apparent stalemate—though the return of the Liberal coalition government to power in 1911 did give Asquith the “mandate” he needed to push ahead with the Parliament Bill. It was passed into law in August of the following year; “ever since,” writes Henry Weisser, “the House of Lords has almost always cooperated with the House of Commons” (CEH, 1273).
1910 saw the start of an expedition to the South Pole, and also the first deep-sea research expedition. It was the year when, in the U.S., the Nickelodeon was entertaining the masses back East, while the first Hollywood movie (D. W. Griffith’s In Old California) was filmed in the West. 1910 was the year when W. E. B. Dubois founded the NAACP and began publishing Crisis; it was also the year when Bert Williams, performing for the Ziegfield Follies, became the first black man to get equal billing with white performers. 1910 was the year when Sigmund Freud, in Austria, first wrote about the Oedipus complex, and when, in Spokane Washington, Father’s Day was first celebrated; 1910 also saw the formation, in America, of both the Boy Scouts and the Camp Fire Girls. It was the year when former-President Teddy Roosevelt set off on a world tour—as did John Philip Sousa with his band. It was in 1910 that the tango and roller skating became crazes in the U.S. and Europe. 1910 also saw the genesis of a few commercial giants—Gimbels, Black & Decker, and Hallmark Cards. It’s 1910 that we have to thank for vichyssoise, the trench coat, the Colt .45 handgun, the use of iodine as a disinfectant, bathroom scales, electric washing machines, rayon stockings, the word “intelligentsia,” and arsphenamine (a cure for syphilis).
1910 is also remembered for its artistic offerings:
1910 is best remembered, in England, as the year when Roger Fry brought Cézanne, Gauguin, and Van Gogh to the attention of England with the first Post-Impressionist show, “Manet and the Post-Impressionists,” in the Grafton Galleries (Nov 8-Jan 15, 1910-11). The controversial show met with mixed reviews—enthusiastic praise by some, indignant contempt by others, and a great deal of puzzlement by many. Elsewhere in Europe, modern art was already quite a few steps ahead of the British, with artists forging ahead in their exploration of primitivism, expressionism, cubism, and futurism:
Felix Tournachon: a.k.a. Nadar (Mar 21), Mark Twain (Apr 21), Björnstjerne Björnson (Apr 26), O. Henry (June 5), Florence Nightingale (Aug 13), William James (Aug 26), Henri Rousseau (Sep 2), William Holman Hunt (Sep 7), Winslow Homer (Sep 29), Leo Tolstoy (Nov 20), Mary Baker Eddy (Dec 3)
And some notable births of 1910: Samuel Barber (Mar 9), Akira Kurosawa (Mar 23), Jacques Cousteau (June 11), Mother Teresa (Aug 27)
As with volume 6, each issue in volume 7 is 24 pages long and sold at a price of 3 pence per issue. Each issue of volume 7 also adheres to the format followed in all preceding volumes: politics first, then a review of the arts—with a variety of articles, stories and poems in between. A typical issue in volume 7 begins with “Notes of the Week” (unsigned, but probably written by Orage himself) followed by “Foreign Affairs” (written by “S. Verdad,” or J. M. Kennedy); it also includes an assortment of the following standard departments: “Books and Persons” by “Jacob Tonson” (the alias for Arnold Bennett, who began this literature column in Volume 2); “Art” by Huntly Carter (who began this column in Volume 6); “Drama” by Ashley Dukes (who began writing for the drama column in Volume 5); “Recent Music” by Herbert Hughes (who had been writing about music for the New Age since volume 1); “Reviews”; and “Correspondence”—which was mysteriously renamed “Letters to the Editor” in issue 16 (Aug 18).
The New Age‘s index for volume 7 lists a hundred separate contributors and over 300 items; but regular contributors to the volume—who, in addition to those named above, include Beatrice Hastings, Cecil Chesterton, A. E. Randall, Francis Grierson, Walter Sickert, and G. F. Abbott—wrote over half of these items. Some of the more famous authors whose writing appears in this volume are Hilaire Belloc, Anton Checkov [spelled “Tchekhov” here], Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Maxime Gorki, O. Henry, Wyndham Lewis, Katherine Mansfield, G. B. Shaw, Upton Sinclair, Leo Tolstoy, and Sidney Webb.
Series and columns in vol 7 that that give it its distinctive character include: “How the Rich Rule Us” and “The Uses of Osbornity” by Cecil Chesterton; “Ferdinand Lassalle: A Grand Pretender” by Alfred E. Randall; “The Philosophy of a Don” by G. F. Abbott; “The Endowment of Genius”; “A Symposium on the Art of the Theatre” conducted by Huntly Carter; a column on dance by Marcelle Azra Hincks; an art column by Walter Sickert; and “Modern Dramatists” by Ashley Dukes. Many of these items will be discussed in section 2.2 below.
Series and columns devoted to particular artistic topics appeared in the following issues:
Finally, five supplements appeared in vol 7: A Science Supplement (12 pages) to issue 1 (May 5), focusing on sociology; an Art Supplement (12 pages) to issue 5 (June 2), focussing on the English Theater; and three Literary Supplements (4 pages each) in issues 8 (June 23), 10 (Jul 7), and 14 (Aug 4), which offer an assortment of book reviews.
The king’s death inspires a moment of reflection in England and among the contributors to the New Age:
“The New Era” by Judah P. Benjamin (07:028)
“Foreign Affairs,” 07:099
“The General Mourning” by G. B. Shaw (07:100)
“Some Forecasts of the Coming Dispensation” (07:104)
In his 6-part series “How the Rich Rule Us” (issues 13-18), Cecil Chesterton addresses the problem that England, while believing its government to be democratic, is in fact ruled by an oligarchy sustained by secret party funds. Because Members of Parliament depend on these funds, they ultimately obey Party Caucuses rather than the constituents they were elected to represent. See the end of part V (07:389) for a concise summary of the problem, and part VI (07:412) for Chesterton’s solution—which involves parliamentary reform as well as having party funds paid openly and publicly. Also note Chesterton’s interesting point that extending the franchise will not necessarily make England more democratic (07:295, 07:366).
The Osborne judgment receives a great deal of attention in the second half of vol 7: first in “Notes of the Week” (issues 17, 21-23), and then in Cecil Chesterton’s series “The Uses of Osbornity” (issues 24-26). The general view expressed in these pages is that the Osborne Judgment—though a burden for the Labour Party—should not be overturned, since members of Parliament should not represent any single class or economic interest like a labor union (07:482). Instead, the Liberal government should remedy the problem by supporting Osborne while additionally instituting payment of MPs (07:579), thus enabling all Parliamentarians to be more independent-minded.(Also see Hilaire Belloc’s less enthusiastic advocacy of payment in his article “On Payment of Members” (07:607).)
The New Age inspires the ire of a number of its readers by opposing the Conciliation Bill, which offered to bring the vote to property-holding women.
The pages of vol 7 resonate with the names of famous convicted murderers of the day: Jesshope, Dickman, Crippen. But even as these cases were sensational stories in the popular press, the New Age —led by Beatrice Hastings—used their trials to advance a series of articles against capital punishment. In the instance of Dickman, Hastings essentially harnessed the journal in an attempt to save the man’s life. She didn’t succeed, but the paper explored extraordinary means for affecting the public—such as having its readers write to the Society for the Abolition of Capital Punishment (102), or by asking them to visit the paper’s offices and sign a petition (282, 310), or finally by asking them to contribute to a fund set up for the executed man’s family (07:406). Discussion of capital punishment appears in 16 of the 26 issues in this volume, including the following articles and letters:
The former American president is also a subject of much attention, and some anxiety, throughout vol 7. The general suspicion is that Roosevelt’s world tour is intended to build up his prestige back home, and that he will eventually seek office a third time—not simply as president, but as dictator, emperor, or monarch—thus suspending America’s experiment with a democratic constitution. See:
Duse Mohamed and Marmaduke Pickthall offer strikingly different accounts—one nationalist, the other imperialist—of England’s occupation of Egypt since 1882.
“Materialism and Crime” by Francis Grierson (07:341) and “Materialism and its Critic” by Hypatia Bradlaugh Bonner (07:389): The very future of civilization (and whether it will decline into crime, suicide, and “cheap irony”) is debated in these two articles which pit science against religion, commercialism against mysticism, and atheism against a belief in the immortality of the soul. It’s not clear on which side socialists—and the New Age—should stand.
“The Children’s Charter At Home” by Stephen Reynolds and Robert Woolley (07:004): the authors assume the persona of lower-class characters in order to discuss how the Children’s Act (1908)—which “established a completely new system of juvenile courts throughout the country and abolished the imprisonment of children” (Rowland 166)—will likely affect them. Note how dialect gives way to proper English in the final paragraph.
“S.S.S.S.” by Janet Achurch (07:316): The four S’s stand for “A Society for the Suppression of Senseless Sounds,” which the author proposes as a way to reduce noise pollution in London. We may surely read this complaint as a symptom of modernity—and reaction against the new “demon of machinery,” the motorcar and motor omnibus.
“A Free Advertisement” (07:364): This item reveals what’s contained in patent medicines of the day, while also pointing out the sizeable discrepancy between the cost of these medications and the cost of their ingredients. Also see “The Patent Medicine Scandal” (in “Letters”: 07:425) with its call for truth in advertising these products.
Drama—with two columnists writing about it, Huntly Carter and Ashley Dukes—is a prevailing concern of vol 7, along with the question whether the theater in England is indeed an art:
In February of 1910, Mansfield had her first publication in The New Age—the story “Bavarian Babies: The Child-Who-Was-Tired.” This story, and three more which were published in March issues of The New Age (vol 6), would later appear in Mansfield’s first book, In a German Pension (1911) , in which a self-consciously English narrator at a German spa critically observes her German companions, who seem to pay as much attention to their stomachs as to their social status. Four more of Mansfield’s Pension sketches appear in vol 7 (during July and August, 1910):
The sporadic identification (and numbering) of these stories as “Pension Sketches” in the journal is confusing; in retrospect, these stories should have been labeled “Pension Sketches, V-VIII.” It’s likely that Mansfield’s critical view of the Germans resonated with the increasing hostility toward Germany that S. Verdad brought to his “Foreign Affairs” column.
This is a series of articles composed (albeit unsigned) by G. F. Abbott that begins in volume 6 and runs for 17 installments in volume 7 across the span of its 6 months. Most of these installments involve a fictional dialogue that an unnamed Oxbridge Don conducts with one (and sometimes both) of his friends, Chesterham and Shav, on some new topic. In the final installment, Abbott describes the series as “a collection of private prejudices, reasonably good-natured, on a multitude of subjects—religion, letters, politics, the drama, marriage, cannibalism” (07:611). In fact, it’s a wonderfully revealing exploration into crucial topics of the day, including such matters as patriotism, militarism, imperial propaganda, degeneracy, divorce, polygamy, and poverty. It’s quite possible that Chesterham, a journalist given to orthodox views, is styled upon G. K. Chesterton, while Shav—an Irish vegetarian playwright who invariably disagrees on all topics and advances a host of radical ideas—seems certainly designed to call G. B. Shaw to mind. The purpose for such a satire—mirroring two important contributors to the New Age—is not entirely clear; but it is eminently clear that this series ranks among the best-written and most engaging material in this volume.
“The Endowment of Genius” was the brainchild of Upton Sinclair, who wanted to create an endowment, funded by philanthropists and overseen by a committee of judges, that would identify and help finance the careers of young creative writers whose talents might not come to fruition without some external support. In a period where the government is beginning to weave a social welfare net in the form of poor law reform, old-age pensions, and health and unemployment insurance, Sinclair’s idea brings the notion of communal support home to the literary community. It also speaks to the increasing concern, expressed elsewhere in the journal, that market forces are incapable of rewarding and nurturing true art—and perhaps to the New Age’s own interest in fostering new talent. Yet the overarching impression one gets of the proposed endowment, in these pages, is that it’s a hopelessly naive idea. See:
Highlights in Bennett’s column include his discussion of censorship in Britain and abroad (07:086, 07:133, 07:279); concerns about copyright and the lack of legal protection authors experience in England (07:350); his account of Galsworthy’s A Man of Property (07:253) and review of Henry James’ The Finer Grain (07:614); his evaluation of a new literary journal, the Open Window (07:442, 07:495, 07:567).
Walter Sickert (1860-1942) was a student of James Whistler and one of the leading impressionist painters of London; he began writing about art for the New Age in April 1910. Unlike Carter’s column, which construed art broadly to include theater and architecture, Sickert’s 14 articles in vol 7 focus almost exclusively on painting. Highlights include his discussion of portraiture (07:016); his accounts of the New England Art Club (07:109) and of Impressionism (07:204); his call for smaller paintings (07:227), for more affordable paintings, and for sidestepping the jury exhibition system (07:251).
Hincks believes modern dance can revive the glory it had in ancient times and become a significant art form in England; she looks to the Russian ballet—and dancers like Anna Pavlova and M. Mordkin—for her models, as well as to the anthropological study of dance in primitive societies.
“Some Living Poets. II—Mr. Ezra Pound” by Darrell Figgis (07:373): This lengthy evaluation of Pound’s work is only the second review of Pound to appear in the New Age (the first, a very short review of “Personae of Ezra Pound” by Flint, appears a year earlier on 05:101). Figgis’s article is surely one of the first in-depth criticisms of Pound—who is merely 25 in 1910—to be found in any journal, anywhere. Pound himself begins writing for the New Age in vol 10.
“The Sort of Poems Modern Poets Write” by Jack Collings Squire (07:500, 07:562, 07:605): Squire offers us 12 amusing parodies of various contemporary poetry forms—e.g., “The Poetry-Ought-to-be-Freed-From-Conventional-Shackles-Stunt” (07:501).
“Anticipatory Reviews” by Eric Dexter (07:017, 07:206, 07:302): These are fictitious reviews of books that have yet to be written—and thus, very funny parodies of the authors reviewed. In vol 7, Dexter reviews titles by C. W. Saleeby (one of England’s foremost eugenists), John Galsworthy, and Anatole France.
Not only does Hastings invent multiple aliases for herself in the pages of the New Age; she also has her various persona argue against each other. See, for instance, “Women and Freedom” (07:029), where Hastings—writing under the alias “D. Triformis”—quotes and argues against “Beatrice Tina,” another of her aliases; in a subsequent letter to the editor (07:069), Beatrice Tina replies, in kind, to D. Triformis. Another instance: in the story “The Lady” (07:395), Hastings—writing this time as “Alice Morning”—cleverly references herself, in the dialogue, when an upper-class woman asks a lower-class woman, “I suppose you are a Hastings woman?” (07:396). Of course, they both are.
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