Eliza Lynn Linton —the first salaried female journalist

Eliza Lynn Linton letter 001Found—a letter dated February 22nd 1889 from the journalist and novelist Eliza Lynn Linton (1822 – 98). Before she arrived on the scene in the 1840s women who wrote for magazines and newspapers were freelancers. E.L.L., as she became known, was the first salaried female journalist in Britain, and perhaps the world—and one of the best paid, at one time receiving an annual salary which today would be the equivalent of over £50,000.

Lynn came from a conventional middle class background in Crosthwaite, Cumberland. Her father was a parson and her grandfather Bishop of Carlisle. Attractive and gregarious, she might have married into one of the professions, but instead educated herself in the ancient and modern languages and literature ( her father was too ‘ indolent ‘ to do so himself, she later wrote) and in her early twenties left her comfortable home for London, determined to make a name as a novelist. Her first two novels failed to impress, but undaunted in 1848 she turned to journalism, joining the staff of the highly respected Morning Chronicle. She continued to write short stories and novels and eventually found a degree of success. However, her reputation in literary circles was founded less on her novels and more on her popular journalism, which appeared in All The Year Round, the Monthly Review and the Saturday Review. In perhaps another gesture of defiance she married the woodcut artist, writer and Chartist W. J. Linton , and moved into his ramshackle Lake District house named Brantwood, later to become the home of John Ruskin. The marriage failed and Linton returned to London, where her home became a sort of literary salon. Continue reading

John Osborne and Billy Bennett

John Osborne picFound, a letter dated 6th December 1990 from someone called Rudi to the playwright John Osborne, whom he addresses as ‘ Colonel’, presumably a reference to Colonel Redl, the protagonist of Osborne’s controversial play A Patriot For Me (1965).

The letter accompanies a copy of Billy Bennett’s Third Budget of Burlesque Monologues (c1940), which Rudi had sent Osborne as a sixty-first birthday present. The Music Hall star Bennett ( 1887 – 1942), a unique comic presence on the stage and on radio from 1919, was a great favourite of Osborne’s, as indeed he was of Tommy Cooper, Ken Dodd and Eric Morecambe. Bennett’s billing as ‘ almost a gentleman ‘ was used by the playwright as the title of his second volume of memoirs. Here is the letter in full: Continue reading

Two leading lights of Regency London–Sir Richard Phillips and Dr Wolcot

Found—a clipping from the mid Victorian Jerrold’s Weekly News regarding the legendary Sir Richard Phillips—a sort of Robert Maxwell of his time—and the witty physician, Dr John Wolcot (aka Peter Pindar).Richard Phillips publisher

‘Having mentioned Sir Richard Phillips, I must observe that his shop in Bridge-street was the lounge of a good many literary men. Philips was a shrewd man, fresh-coloured and stout. He lived to the age of eighty. He ate no flesh food, on the ground of his affection for animals. He had a notion in the latter part of his life, that he had discovered a system that would supersede Newton’s theory of gravity. Wolcot said that Phillips, notwithstanding his refusal of animal diet, had no objection to feed upon the brains of authors, and that he loved wine, but kept no beef-steaks. He referred here to Pitt, who it is said ‘would drink wines, but who kept no concubines’, in allusion to the notorious indifference of the Minister towards the fair sex. Walcot said that fact alone proved the Minister a great rascal. One of Pitt’s advocates, observing that it was no matter, Pitt was married to his country: ‘Yes’, said Wolcot, ‘and a cursed bad match it was for his country ‘. Now Doctor, that is too bad, was the reply: ‘You yourself have been but a bad subject of the King’. ‘It may or may not be so,’ said Wolcot, ‘but I can tell you the King has been an excellent subject for me ‘. Phillips used to call upon the doctor after the latter became totally blind, in order to get verses from him for the old Monthly Magazine. When he got them, so niggardly was Phillips, that the doctor could never obtain a second copy of the magazine to send to a friend. ‘I am constantly giving him something ‘, said the doctor. ‘When I ask for a couple of copies of my lines, he said I shall have them “at the trade price”. I will give him no more; ‘he is a Shylock.’  Continue reading

Fakery, forgery and the fore-edge painter

forged letters byronFound in a box of ephemera are some pages from a feature entitled ‘The Fore-Edge Painter ‘, which was published in a early fifties issue of Lilliput magazine. The piece is about a professional antique- faker who is introduced by an antiquarian bookseller to ‘Gulliver’, who wants to know the tricks of the forgery trade.

The piece is doubtless semi-fictional and was probably contributed by a dealer or collector familiar with the tricks of the forger which, by the way, is still very much alive, the most astonishing recent example being that of Sean Greenhalgh, the brilliant art student dropout who fooled ‘ eminent ‘ West End dealers and museum professionals with artefacts created in the garden shed of his council house in Bolton.

In this Lilliput feature the faker is described as ‘ a foxy little man with a red knobbly face, sandy hair and cunning hazel eyes ‘—a bit of a cliché that, since most forgers look like the average Joe, and indeed Greenhalgh has the face of a fifty something football fan you might find in the public bar of a pub outside Old Trafford. Continue reading

Sir Max’s Birthday Party

maximilian birthday prgramme 001Found—a programme for the seventieth birthday party of Sir Max Beerbohm (1872 – 1956), the well known caricaturist, parodist and all-round wit.

It was held on August 24th 1942 and organised by the Players Theatre, which during the war had moved to a ‘basement ‘ in Albemarle Street. The seventy-strong Maximilian Society, had been created especially for the event, and it was decided that a new member would be added each subsequent year that ‘ the incomparable Max ‘celebrated his birthday. The chairman was ‘Sir’ Desmond MacCarthy, the Bloomsburyite literary critic.

All we can gather from the programme is that much of the entertainment comprised seven Music Hall singing acts who trilled such raffish ditties as‘ Milly’s Cigar Divan ‘, ‘ Sweethearts and Wives’, and ‘ Driving in the Park’ . Beerbohm, who began his career in the 1890’s at the height of the Music Hall era, would have known these songs, and might even have chosen them.

Some of the performers were big names themselves. The actor Frith Banbury ( 1912 – 2008) would star in the classic film ‘The Life and Times of Colonel Blimp’ the following year. Hedli Anderson (1907 – 90), the singer and actress, was associated with the Group Theatre and had previously starred in plays by Auden, Isherwood and MacNeice, whom she married that same year. In fact, ‘Funeral Blues ‘was specially written for her by Auden and put to music by Britten for the Group Theatre’s production of ‘The Ascent of F6’. As we all know, the poem later became the star turn in ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’. Continue reading

The Authors’ Good Food Guide for 1961 – 1962

Nigel-Lawson-in-1985-008Some of the celebs who ‘approved’ restaurants and inns in The Good Food Guide of 1961 – 62 were poets, journalists, novelists and literary translators. Two of them—Keidrych Rhys (1915 – 87), the Welsh poet and veteran editor of the literary magazine Wales, and Michael Meyer, the prize-winning translator and biographer of Ibsen and Strindberg, and a friend of Raymond Postgate—feature prominently in the London section of the Guide.

Along with drama and good conversation , the greatest passion of Meyer (1921 – 2000), according to a friend, was food. He writes about his passion for it in his autobiography, Not Prince Hamlet (1985), and doubtless he was instrumental in recommending good eating places to his friend Raymond Postgate. Certainly, he is one of the more frequent ‘approvers‘ to appear in the Guide and at one point was expected to succeed as its editor. Eclectic in his tastes and apparently prepared to trawl London for good places to eat, one of his favourite restaurants was Fiddlers Three in Beauchamp Place, Kensington, very close to the trendy Parkes ( see earlier Jot). Appropriately for such a fan of European culture, the food seems to have had a pronounced East European flavour; dishes included ‘ goulash, boiled silverside and dumplings, whole small pigeon, stuffed baby marrows, prune and orange jelly, home-made soups, kedgeree with cheese sauce, and home-made cream cheese’. Translation work often pays well, which explains why Meyer was also able to afford Chelsea’s La Carafe, a branch of the famous fish restaurant Wheeler’s, where lobster Cardinal ( 15/-) and 32 varieties of sole were on the menu. Continue reading

The same old story…

Vanity press advertIn the fascinating Thousand Ways to Earn a Living (1888) the section on ‘Literary Work’ covers journalism, authorship, and something called ‘compilation’. In the journalism chapter modern-day readers might be surprised at the high rates of pay awarded to humble London hacks ( up to £10 a week in 1888—more than a skilled surgeon or a junior barrister might earn ), but few could argue that in late Victorian Britain , as in 2017, in the newspaper world ‘ the majority of new ventures are promoted by newspaper men who have been underpaid or unfairly dealt with by their employers ‘.

Nor, it seems, has the world of vanity publishing changed much. After praising the commitment to potential authors of such a serious publisher as Bentley (who brought out the early work of Dickens), the dangers of unscrupulous publishers is addressed:

‘Advertising sharks should be avoided. Their only aim is to obtain money from unsuspecting writers of inexperience, and they generally manage to rob those whom they get into toils considerably. During the past few years they have been exposed in many papers; but, as their advertisements still appear, there is no doubt that they are still engaged in their nefarious work. Their advertisements may easily be detected. They generally address their announcements to ‘Authors, Amateurs, and others’; sometimes it is fiction, at others poetry that is wanted. But in every case it is plunder that is meant. Mr Walter Besant has laid down the axiom that no one should pay for the publication of his literary work. In the majority of cases this is a good rule, though like many another good rule, it has its exceptions…’  

The rewards earned by novelists has perhaps changed a little in 130 years. Back then ‘the novel-writer ‘, we are told, got’ £50 to £1,000 for a book’. To us this seems rather generous, considering that in 2017 an average first-time novelist would be lucky to receive an advance of £500. What has changed greatly since 1888 is the demise of the serial.’ The modern novelist’, it was reported, ‘ usually manages to run each story he writes through a magazine and a number of provincial and colonial newspapers before issuing it in book form ‘. Incidentally, note the gendering of this modern novelist at a time when the most popular novelists were likely to be writers like Rhoda Broughton and Marie Corelli. Continue reading

The Book I Most Enjoyed publishing

 

gentlemenmarryOn October 13th 1928 John O’London’s Weekly published a feature in which several well-known publishers revealed the books they had most enjoyed publishing. Though spokesmen for Blackwood’s, Duckworth and Methuen (E. V. Lucas, no less) were reluctant to divulge their choices, a number of other publishers were quite happy to do so. Here is a selection of the publishers that nominated a book or books:-

Jonathan Cape

‘Having been an admirer of the ideas of Samuel Butler, and having read him a great deal, it was, of course, extremely satisfactory to be able to take over Mr Fifield’s business and by doing so become the publisher of Samuel Butler….to get, later, Col Lawrence’s Revolt in the Desert was, perhaps, a bit of a ‘scoop’

H. Grubb (Putnams)

‘…I am sure Major Putnam would agree with me that an author whose books we have been very proud to publish was Washington Irving. My own particular section among his writings would be ‘The Sketch Book’, which, of course, will last while literature remains…’

Harold Shaylor (Brentano’s)

‘….occasionally there arrives a book the publishing of which becomes even more interesting than usual. Such a one was ‘ But Gentlemen Marry Brunettes ‘. Miss Anita Loos’s MS had been anxiously awaited for many months, and it finally arrived. The reading of the proofs was somewhat hampered by the gusts of laughter that continually floated through the office! Nevertheless, thousands of copies were with the booksellers on publication day.’

Charles Boon ( Mills and Boon)

‘…I think that perhaps Jack London’s ‘The Valley of the Moon’ is our choice, for it has many times been described as one of our finest real love- stories ever written.’ Continue reading

Joyce dancing & other bizarre anecdotes of bohemian Paris


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In the twenties the hard-bitten ex-pat journalist Sisley Huddleston
(whose father was such a Francophile that he named his son after a French painter) was the go-to man in Paris for political, literary and social low-down. So it was likely that from his seventh floor studio in Montparnasse he would come up with some hilarious observations on the more outré bohemian behaviour of the times.

In his Bohemian Literary and Social Life in Paris ( 1928), reviewed by Kenneth Kininmont in John O’London’s Weekly for November 17, 1928, he describes, among many other things, James Joyce dancing a ‘ serpent dance with Adrienne Monnier, who kept the famous little bookshop, the resort of many writers, in the Rue de Odeon’.

He also remarks on Rodin’s liking for cooked tripe and recalled a night spent with the Dadaists in their little theatre in Montmartre, where Tristan Tzara, the inventor of ‘a horrible noise-making machine, of the coffee-mill tribe, called a Dada-phone, was putting on one of his plays, entitled ‘Premiere Aventure celeste de M. Antipyrine’. This involved a cast of eight standing in a row and reciting through tubes of cardboard, speeches, of which the following is a translated example:

The equatorial bite in the bluish rock weights upon the night intimate scent of ammoniacal cradles the flower is a lamp-post doll listens to the mercury which mounts which shows the windmill holding on the viaduct before yesterday is not the ceramic of the chrysanthemum which turns the head and the cold the hour has sounded in your mouth once more an angel which falls.

Tzara‘s ‘Premiere Aventure..’ was written in 1916.Perhaps the idea of reciting through tubes of cardboard inspired’ Edith Sitwell to recite her poetry through a megaphone in the entertainment entitled Façade (1923).{RR] 96_530x

 

H.D. letter about Ezra Pound’s look

End_To_TormentFound – an unpublished  typed letter from the Imagist poet H.D. (Hilda Doolittle) to a Mr Russell, almost certainly the poet Peter Russell who was also something of a champion of Ezra Pound. She gives her address as Hotel de la Paix, Lausanne, Switzerland where she is known to have resided from 1946 to 1952. It is a good letter full of commentary on the modernists and with much on Ezra Pound – his style and manner, his appearance and his hair.

She starts by writing about the literary magazine The Egoist, which started in 1914.

‘Yes, I should say it was Ezra who pushed the Portrait (Joyce) in or into The Egoist. I arrived on the scene about 1911; I think during War 1, I was supposed to hold down the Egoist job  for Richard Aldington. I met him before The Egoist, it all came together in 1912, along with Ezra first condescending (and very kindly) to present a few of my poems, as for Poetry Chicago. I believe something of the same thing happened to T.S. Eliot, at one time. I think Eliot noted it somewhere. Ezra just took his pencil and crossed off lines and line-ends and the whole emerged like a stalactite, very beautiful after he chizzled (sic) it. I think it was Hermes of the Ways and it appeared in  the first imagist anthology… I should say unofficially E.  has everything to do with the more dynamic content of The Egoist as with Poetry Chicago, at that time. [At this point she says she could write an article about this but needs no money as she has an allowance and her health is good after an illness. She goes on to reminisce about Pound in early life] …it was a Halloween dance, if I remember,  that day after  Ezra’s birthday. Or it might have been Twelfth Night; I remember our discussing it as Ezra gave our hostess a copy of the same Temple edition which we were all collecting. Ezra wore a green brocade coat. It was, I believe brought back from a trip he had taken with his parents and an aunt  to Tangiers… anyway, he had a photograph with the group, Ezra with a fez over his exact Gozzoli curls. It sounds odd, but Ezra once said to me  at that time, that for one friend he made himself, he made 10 for his hair. It was quite exact, curls like the Hermes of Praxitiles. Continue reading

Haldeman-Julius—-the Henry Ford of publishing


Emanuel_Haldeman-Julius_(ca._1924)Few American publishers can boast that they have printed 300 hundred million books. Emanuel Haldeman-Julius (1889 – 1951), however, was one who could. An atheist and socialist who believed that the average American had a right to own a library of enlightening, useful and entertaining texts for a few cents a volume, Haldeman-Julius established the Little Blue Book series in the 1920s. Pocket-sized and ranging in subject matter from ancient culture and classic literature to self-help books and handbooks on making your own candy, the Little Blue Books sold in their millions each year, figured in the early education of such American writers as Saul Bellow and Studs Terkel, and anticipated in some respects the very popular ‘Dummies’ of today, though they were very much cheaper.

Rejecting the idea that a sensational cover would sell a book, Haldeman-Julius believed that it was the book’s title that did the trick. One journalist writing in John O’London’s Weekly dated December 8th 1928 described the publisher’s practice of re-branding books thus:

‘He…has found that those ‘pull ‘ best which suggest either sex, self-improvement, or attacks on respectability and religion….Whenever one of his reprints fails to sell 10,000 copies in a year he sends it to his ‘hospital’ , where it is someone’s job to discover the reason why . The text is analysed. If it is found wanting in sex, self-improvement or attacks etc., it is dropped. If the title is deficient in pep it is scrapped and another put in its place. Continue reading

Shakespeare’s quartos

 

Quarto Hamlet cover 001When I studied textual criticism and palaeography at University under the legendary Peter Davison (editor of Orwell’s letters) I recall being impressed by the exceeding rarity of the original quarto editions of Shakespeare’s plays. Rarer than hen’s teeth was, I believe, the phrase used. This was because the actors who used them to learn their lines in Shakespeare’s time had no reason to keep them after their acting careers had ended. Shakespeare was just another playwright, and it was only with the posthumous publication of the First Folio in 1623, when all the plays were collected together, that his true greatness began to be recognised.

These pamphlet-like quartos—often badly printed and containing countless errors—were published in small numbers and were not surprisingly badly treated by the jobbing actors who used them every day. Very few survived, hence their great rarity. Despite this, it wasn’t until the early twentieth century, when American multi-millionaires came into the market, that the first quartos began to fetch startling prices—startling, that is, for the time. Today, such treasures might bring in six figure sums. Continue reading

Siegfried Sassoon’s ‘The Daffodil Murderer’

WRCLIT75739Found – a rather battered copy of Siegfried Sassoon’s early book The Daffodil Murderer (1913) published under the pseudonym ‘Saul Kain.’ In decent condition it has auction records like this from Bloomsbury Book Auctions in April 2009:

[Sassoon (Siegfried)], “Saul Kain”.
The Daffodil Murderer
First edition of the author’s first book not to be privately printed, pseudonymous prefatory note by “William Butler” [the poet/publisher T.W.H.Crosland], original orange-yellow wrappers printed in red, light dust-soiling and rubbing, otherwise very good, housed in an envelope with inscription in Sydney Cockerell’s autograph: “The Daffodil Murderer by Siegfried Sassoon Very Rare”, 8vo, John Richmond Ltd, 1913.
Scarce. Sassoon’s parody of The Everlasting Mercy by John Masefield, apparently written during a moment of tedium, then sent off to Edmund Gosse who in turn forwarded it to Edward Marsh, editor of the Georgian Poetry anthologies. Masefield was as impressed by the work that he hailed the then 26-year-old Sassoon as “one of England’s most brilliant rising stars”. £150

The publisher’s name  ‘John Richmond’ was itself a pseudonym for the great contrarian T WH Crosland, whose sardonic introduction, under the name ‘William Butler’ we publish here. It is so far  unknown to any digital medium. The Everlasting Mercy, the poem parodied (with some skill) can be found here.

Preface by William Butler.

I have read ‘The Daffodil Murderer’ nineteen times. It is with our doubt the finest literature we have had since Christmas. The fact that it has won the Chantrey Prize for Poetry speaks for itself. Of course, readers of this noble poem will, after wiping their eyes, wish to know something of the personality of the author. I may say at once that he resembles Shakespeare in at least one respect: that is to say, no account of him is yet to be found in ‘Who’s Who’. It is possible that in early life he was a soldier, and fought for his country on many a bloody field; but becoming tired of the military life, he retired to the country on a meagre pension and there interested himself in the rural sights and sounds and bucolic workings of the human bosom which are so admirably portrayed for us in the present pathetic ‘chef d’oeuvre’. Continue reading

More on the mysterious Frances Mundy-Castle

 

Democrats Chapbook cover 001In an earlier Jot we told the story of Frances Mundy-Castle, the undeservedly neglected poet, novelist and mentor to cult writer Denton Welch. At that point we confessed that we knew little if anything of her literary career between the wars. But now, thanks to a tiny notice in the December 15th issue of John O’London’s Weekly for 1928, we discover that in this year she published A Young Woman Grows Up and furthermore that her two previous novels—both appearing under her given name of P. Whitehouse—were Stairs of Sand and Oscar Strom.

The Net is silent on what these three novels were about, so we at Jot HQ appeal to the Jotosphere for information on them. More needs to be known about this interesting lady—a rather fetching photograph of whom depicts her as a bit of a twenties ‘flapper’ . [R.M.Healey]

 

G.B. Shaw—-playwright & enthusiast for alternative energy sources

Shaw 1949Found in a copy of Evelyn August’s entertaining Black-Out Book (1939) is a slightly damaged clipping from the Letters page of the Times newspaper published sometime between 1947 and Shaw’s death in 1950.

In it Shaw voices incredulity at the failure by Government to exploit the energy from waves:-

‘ It is now many years since I arrived at the northern edge of Scotland and looked across the Pentland Firth to the Orkneys, estimating the sea journey at about half an hour. When I embarked on the hardy little steamboat with my car I found out what the Pentland tide rush meant. We were swirled away like corks in a millrace to John O’Groats House and back again through Scapa Flow in three hours and a half; and I was told that it would be a fortnight before my car could be taken back to the mainland.

   When I at last got back I explored the coast along to the west and found there several flumes like the Kyle of Tongue, ready-made by Nature , through which the tide rushed twice a day carrying thousands of tons of sheer power both ways. Continue reading

A Charles Morgan collection

 

Charles_Langbridge_MorganDiscovered in a catalogue of the late 1990s from the estimable dealer in autographs, David J Holmes, is a long description of a collection of holograph letters, typed letters, and post-cards from Charles Morgan (1894 – 1958 ), the English novelist and playwright who became a household name in the 30s and 40s. The price asked was $8,500.

Twenty years ago Morgan was out of fashion and unread, hence the relatively low price, which works out at about £18 a letter. In the same catalogue a letter of two pages from A. A. Milne would cost you $1,000, while one of similar length from Virginia Woolf is priced at $2,000. Today, while there will always be fans of Milne and Woolf, Morgan’s popularity has hardly improved, though apparently there are signs of a ‘revival ‘. However, in the world of literary biography quantity is everything. A single, if fascinating, letter from the creator of Pooh Bear would mean very little to a Milne biographer, and the same could be said for the Woolf letter. Continue reading

Laughing at Poetry

Laughing at SwinburneIn the April 24th 1942 issue of John O’London’s Weekly can be found a perceptive view by the essayist Robert Lynd on the subject of risible poetry written by good poets. He takes his cue from an incident a century before when Thomas Wakley, the founder of the Lancet, stood up in the Commons to mock some puerile lines from ‘Louisa’ by the Poet Laureate, William Wordsworth.

Lynd then goes on to wonder whether ‘absurdities were so common in the older poets as they came in the period that followed the French Revolution. Shakespeare and Milton seem never to have descended to such unconscious ludicrousness as Wordsworth. I do not think that any of the older poets ever wrote a line that parodies itself so easily as Swinburne’s :–

Swallow, my sister: O Sister

     Swallow. 

‘One of Swinburne’s loveliest poems, ‘Before a Mirror ‘, Lynd continues, ‘begins with a verse of extraordinary nonsense –at least, containing extraordinary nonsense—and yet who can fail to be moved by it:– Continue reading

A Thousand Ways to earn in Living in 1888

1,000 ways to earn a living cover 001As most people know, 1888 was the year in which ‘Jack the Ripper’ committed his heinous crimes. It has been argued that the murderer was a trained surgeon , and under the heading ‘ Medicine’ in A Thousand Ways to Earn a Living ( Tit Bits Offices, 1888) we learn that a naval surgeon could earn from 11 – 17 shillings per day, while weekly pay for a police constable in London started at 28 shillings.

Predictably, the pay structure for members of the ‘oldest profession ‘is not included, although a typical’ lady of the night’ in the East End probably earned more in a week than would an average jobbing actress, whose wages as a ‘super’ in a theatre (the equivalent today of an Assistant Stage Manager) according to the Guide, would be between 10 and 15 shillings a week. Having worked herself up to the top of her profession, via elocution lessons and the inevitable casting couch, a budding Lily Langtry might earn as much as £30 or £40 a week. And all this before the era of Cinema and TV!

As for those who reported the murders and printed the newspapers, pay rates were also surprisingly good. A reporter on a London ‘ daily ‘ could earn anything from £3 to £7 a week, while a sub-editor’s pay might be between £5 and £16. However, a leader writer on a London paper could command £500 to £1,600 per annum and an editor from £500 to £2,000. Continue reading

Reviewers getting it wrong

 

Robert Frost picA Boy’s Will by Robert Frost, reviewed by C. R. Orage in The New Age , June 12th 1913.

‘He declares of his friends meeting with him after some years:-

They would not find me changed from him they knew—

Only more sure of all I thought was true (trew).

 

Evidently he dreamed no great dreams, believed in nothing beyond the will of a mortal boy to accomplish. Let him trot along “in the gloaming “, as he says, with his Mary, and rhyme “those is” with “roses”. As idle rubbish is published every day.’

Frost, a Pulitzer Prize-winner and now recognised as one of America’s greatest poets, was nearly forty when he published this debut collection, which was generally well received. Elsewhere in the same issue, Orage was equally harsh on Yeats, another great poet, who, though only nine years older than Frost, was already established as a leader of the Celtic Twilight movement. From his treatment of all but one of the other poetry and novels reviewed in this issue, Orage clearly despised pretentiousness, preciousness, poetical clichés, lovey-dovey verse, Georgianism, fancy and whimsy, Edwardian chicklit, and melodrama about marriages. The trouble is, Frost’s collection demonstrated none of these faults. Perhaps he just didn’t like Americans.

The only collection Orage approved of was Green Days and Blue Days by P. R. Chalmers—‘fifty or so ditties by a modern young man’, according to Orage. Chalmers, a banker by profession, wrote other ‘ditties‘ and also books on hunting. [R.M.Healey]

 

An attack on Oscar Wilde and Yeats

Yeats picFound, in the June 12, 1913 issue of a famous review is this scalding attack on two famous Irish writers.

In his “Oscar Wilde: a Critical Study “…Mr Ransome remarks that he cannot understand why the Oscar Wilde period (with Mr Yeats, I may add, as its tail-piece) was ever called decadent. Surely, it is either disingenuous or incompetent to fail in such an easy matter. The school was called decadent because it was decadent; and the decadence consisted in the usual feature of decadence, namely the elevation of the part above the whole in value. Pater, I verily believe, never had an idea in his life. In consequence he spent the whole of his energy in concealing the fact in his style. On his style he spent enormous pains as if he knew that he would live by that or nothing. That, I say– the over-attention to style—is decadence. Wilde again was never even a man of letters. Mr Ransome in my opinion utterly fails to present Wilde as he was –an Irish causeur and wit, a born blarney, a talker. In his conversation Wilde was as nearly natural as a self-conscious Irishman in England can possibly be ; that is, he talked to the English as if they were an exotic Frenchman, never by any chance, aiming at the truth, but aiming always at producing in us a pleasant gaping admiration of his cleverness. There are plenty of such Irishmen in England today, only their vogue is past and they no longer surprise us. Too clever for his intellect I called one of them a few weeks ago. Mr Ransome, however, takes Wilde seriously, if critically, as a writer, as a literary man. But as a writer, if you like, Wilde was a poseur. With a pen in his hand he was no longer Wilde but a sort of figure which I can only describe as Turveydrop on paper. He finicked among the words and phrases of the language as if he was playing court to them and was expecting a rebuff from the English genius at any moment. I never saw a page of Wilde that had not “ amateur “ in the vulgar sense written all over it , in vocabulary, in phraseology , and in construction. That also, when the writer is unaware of it, is decadence. It is not mastery of the language, but service under it, as under a mistress. And our language, thank goodness, hates the man who treats it as if it were the Lady of Shallot or Isolda. It is a queen, and its best courtiers are Prime Ministers. Continue reading