A Commentary (Jan 1927)
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2 ] A Commentary The New Criterion: A Quarterly Review, 5 (Jan 1927) 1-6 The New Criterion: 1927 With this number The Criterion begins the second year of its existence as The New Criterion. A year ago we published a statement of “The Idea of a Literary Review.”1 To many readers The New Criterion, in its first year, may seem to have fallen far short of that idea. But a literary review cannot be realised at once, and thereafter have no task but to maintain itself: that is the way of death; and in this faith many periodicals have died and still go marching on. Few periodicals can justify their existence after the first year: The New Criterion aims to preserve its continuity, but yet to make a new beginning with every year and with every issue. To be perpetually in change and development, to alter with the alterations of the living minds associated with it2 and with the phases of the contemporary world for which and in which it lives: on this condition only should a literary review be tolerated. The programme of The New Criterion – so far as it has a programme – remains the same as it was a year ago. But it is the opinion of those chiefly responsible for its character, that the first function of such a review is to be a vehicle for opinion. Not for the haphazard opinion of a miscellaneous group of “writers,” or for the opinion of an individual, or for the drilled opinion of a school or order, but for the various, divergent or even contradictory opinion of a widening group of individuals in communication. We said a year ago: “editor and collaborators may freely express their individual opinions and ideas, so long as there is a residue of common tendency, in the light of which many occasional contributors, otherwise irrelevant or even antagonistic, may take their place and counteract any narrow sectarianism .” The “common tendency” may appear stronger or weaker in different contexts or at different times: it is, we think, distinct and strong enough in The New Criterion; it cannot but be felt, and it is better that it should be felt than formulated. Having in mind this responsibility of opinion, and this notion of common tendency, certain of the regular contributors to The New Criterion have agreed to provide in the current year and the following year, a series of essays on the more important figures of the previous generation, having the [ 3 A Commentary (jan) character of an inquest, in the French and perhaps also slightly in the English sense of the word.3 Each contributor will deal separately with one figure of the elder generation, and will be solely responsible for his own opinions. He may or may not modify these opinions in consequence of the criticism which his essay will have received before publication. How far a common judgment will emerge is unknown to the contributors themselves . The figures to be examined are Wells, Shaw, Kipling, Chesterton andBelloc(together),andFordMadoxHueffer(Ford).4 Possiblyafewothers will be added. In the current year the number of book reviews in each number will be increased (as the present issue testifies). The reviews in The New Criterion appear to be of particular interest to its readers; but when we have reviewed very few books, the choice must appear sometimes capricious; in increasing the number, we hope not only to review nearly all of the important books of the year which fall within our scope, but to provide a more detailed commentary upon the intellectual life of the time. As for the short notices, both books and reviewers will be chosen with the same care as for the longer reviews: because the book is worth notice, and because the reviewer wished to read that book and to reflect upon it, not merely wished or was willing to write a review of some book. The regular chronicles will be continued. The other contributions will be chosen as heretofore. The New Criterion is not the organ of one generation or of one style of writing. It respects independence and originality: it does not believe that independence and originality are the possession of one generation or of one school, but of a few individuals of every age; and in seeking these qualities it may sometimes, as it has already done, present at the same time authors in appearance the most radical and the most reactionary .5 It will also continue its policy...


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