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BOOK REVIEWS Hulme's Writings Collected The Collected Writings of T E. Hulme. Karen Csengeri, ed. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994. xxxvi + 489 pp. $85.00 "I AM a heavy philosopher," T. E. Hulme was fond of saying. "I shall write nothing until I am forty." He was killed near Nieuport in Belgium in 1917 soon after his thirty-fourth birthday. Dying young was a rare concession to romantic fashions in a life zestfully dedicated to trouncing romanticism. That early death, with its burden of what Wilfred Owen called "the undone years," complicates the task of assessing Hulme's importance in literary and cultural history and particularly in the invention and production of Anglo-American modernism. For that importance depended to a degree on the planting of suggestive ideas which it would be for others—poets, artists and critics—to develop into the most significant artistic renewal since the romanticism which Hulme, by and large, deplored. He published no books of his own writings, and he is known mostly through the selections made by Herbert Read in Spéculions (1924) and by Samuel Hynes in Further Specufotions (1955). Now here is a more or less complete collection of Hulme's work, comprising some 450 pages of text, impeccably edited by Karen Csengeri, with an introduction, bibliography and notes. Almost eighty years after Hulme's death we can start to see him whole. The impression is of unity in diversity. Hulme wrote widely on philosophy, literature, art, history and politics, but he wrote about them from a set of principles and a historical understanding which he developed quite early in his short writing career. It is not unusual to come across, in a polemical late essay on pacifism, certain arguments and images and even phrases already encountered in an earlier piece about sculpture, or poetry. The impression of consistency is one that Csengeri is anxious to reinforce, since she believes that the ordering of Read's selection in Spéculions did Hulme a lasting disservice by suggesting that his championing of classicism coincided with his enthusiasm for Bergson, so that he seemed to be preaching against romanticism with one hand while practicing it with the other. Csengeri sorts out the chronology, showing that Hulme ceased to write about Bergson in 1912, the year of his seminal essay "Romanticism and Classicism." Since she makes this point strongly in her introduction, it is perhaps a pity that she then blurs it in the arrangement of the contents of the volume, 561 ELT 38:4 1995 whereby the "Romanticism and Classicism" essay, grouped in this volume with Hulme's literary criticism, still precedes the group of his writings about Bergson, which go back to 1909. Hulme's thinking was always restless and experimental, though never tentative. His poetry, so admired by Eliot, had its roots (he said) in his early travels in Canada, and his desire to reproduce the quality of feeling induced by the flat indifferent plains of the Canadian prairies. This handful of short lyrics could be described as nature poetry—they deal, conventionally enough, with sky and wind and moon and the weather—but it is a nature with a slightly comic aloofness from human affairs, going about its own business. However alluring, this is a nature on which no romantic claims can confidently be made. There are eight poems, covering two pages, in this volume. After the splendidly-titled The Complete Poetical Works of T. E. Hulme" appeared in the New Age (and later in Pound's Ripostes) in 1912, Hulme seems to have felt that he had made his point, and wrote no more poetry. His early "Notes on Language and Style," with their formalist emphasis on the de-automatizing and the solidity of the language of poetry, led to "A Lecture on Poetry," in late 1908, which is a forerunner of the brash manifestos which were to be fashionable a few years later. Hulme was alert to the way that formal innovations could kindle bursts of poetic activity. New methods imported from France and Italy had enabled the Elizabethan poetic efflorescence, and now Hulme hoped that French vers-libre could do the same for young writers in English who...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 561-563
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
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