Unsigned reviews of poetry and prose by James Joyce, Clive Bell, T. Sturge Moore, and William Butler Yeats
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[ 723 Unsigned reviews of poetry and prose by James Joyce, Clive Bell, T. Sturge Moore, and William Butler Yeats1 The Egoist, 5 (June/July 1918) 87 Chamber Music, by James Joyce. London: Elkin Mathews, 1918.2 Thisisa second edition, first published in 1907.Thisverseisgood, very good; though it never would have excited much attention but for Joyce’s prose, still it would in any case have worn well. We infer from it that Mr. Joyce is probably something of a musician; it is lyric verse, and good lyric verse is very rare. It will be called “fragile,” but is substantial, with a great deal of thought beneath fine workmanship. O bend no more in revery When he at eventide is calling, Nor muse: who may this singer be– * * * * They are sadder than all tears; Their lives ascend as a continual sigh. Proudly answer to their tears: As they deny, deny.3 Pot-Boilers, by Clive Bell. London: Chatto and Windus, 1918. Pp. viii +260.4 Mr. Clive Bell, lingering between two worlds, one dead, is in some respects the Matthew Arnold of his time. He is not precisely a critic, but the Sunday afternoon preacher to a small and select public, smaller and more select than Arnold’s. He loves Truth, certainly, and according to his own admission , but his task is the dispensing of it to an audience of whose approval he is sure beforehand. How else could he say “our three best living novelists– Hardy, Conrad, and Virginia Woolf” [11]–or “Korin . . . is about as empty as Velasquez and more brilliant than Frans Hals” [140]? This is not criticism . The book is full of intelligent remarks; it has been patently cut by the Times; Mr. Bell is right with the rightness of a period, a group, despises 1918: journalism 724 ] Gothic, admires Byzantine, Persian, Chinese (but only the best); he is the boutonnière of post-1900 culture. He is interested in the people one is interested in, from Matisse to the last show at the Mansard Gallery.5 He is erudite, intelligent, urbane, knows Peacock, Trelawny, and everybody’s letters . He makes points (but why even sharpen a pencil to destroy Mr. Arnold Bennett’s critical pretensions!)6 In his comments on the War and Art, he delivers what many of us feel. But from anyone so superior as Mr. Bell, we should like something more super: icy inviolability, or violent fury. Perhaps these defects mark the virtue of the book as a chronicle, a document; Mr. Bell will survive not as an individual, but as the representative of a little world of 1914. The Little School, by T. Sturge Moore. London: Grant Richards, 1917. Pp. 63.7 It is a great compliment to Mr. Sturge Moore to say that even when he writes semi-children’s verse he can be pleasing. In this usually distressing genre, he is more agreeable, at least to an adult, than Stevenson. He has taste and the technique to make triviality tolerable. “Plans for a Midnight Picnic” is pretty hard to swallow, but “A Dream” is altogether charming. The body, when a man is dead, Like an empty dress lies on the bed; But that, which in his heart said “I,” Travels away a butterfly. Still, one is cheered at the end to find the always fresh and perfect “Rowers’ Chant.” There is something Georgian about Mr. Moore, but how superior to Georgiana is his workmanship! Per Amica Silentia Lunae, by William Butler Yeats. London: Macmillan, 1918. Pp. vi + 95. It is always a pleasure to have Mr. Yeats talking, even when we cannot follow his argument through all its mazes. I think that I can understand the first part of the book, called Anima Hominis, with its theory of the Mask, the Daimon, the Anti-Self; in the second part, Anima Mundi, I am quite lost, or Mr. Yeats is lost to me, in some delicious soft mist as that in which Venus enwrapt her son.8 One is never weary of the voice, though the accents are [ 725 Unsigned reviews of poetry and prose strange; and as there is no one else living whom one would endure on the subject of gnomes, hobgoblins, and astral bodies, we infer some very potent personal charm of Mr. Yeats’s. Some years ago I began to believe that our culture, with its doctrine of sincerity and self-realisation, made us gentle and passive, and that the Middle Ages and the Renaissance were...