restricted access Charleston, Hey! Hey! A review of The Future of Futurism, by John Rodker; Composition as Explanation, by Gertrude Stein; Pomona: or the Future of English, by Basil de Sélincourt; and Catchwords and Claptrap, by Rose Mac
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[ 25 Charleston, Hey! Hey!1 A review of The Future of Futurism, by John Rodker London: Kegan Paul, 1927. Pp. 92. Composition as Explanation, by Gertrude Stein London: Hogarth Press, 1926. Pp. 59. Pomona: or the Future of English, by Basil de Sélincourt London: Kegan Paul, 1926. Pp. 94. Catchwords and Claptrap, by Rose Macaulay London: Hogarth Press, 1926. Pp. 44. The Nation and Athenaeum, 40 (29 Jan 1927) 595 To be interested in “the future” is a symptom of demoralization and debility . Messrs. Kegan Paul are to be commended for instituting a series of little books which fully exposes this contemporary weakness. We are, at least officially, prohibited from consulting the oracles, and from having our horoscopes cast in the Tottenham Court Road; but we are able to peer into the future by means of that brilliant series of little books called “To-day and To-morrow.”2 The volumes are, inevitably, of varying interest; but the series will constitute a precious document upon the present time. There are, of course, two futures: there is the future of the present, the future which we are actually working upon, and there is the future of the future, the future beyond our power, the future of the housemaid’s dream of marriage; the latter is the future with which the series is concerned. Mr. Basil de Selincourt seems to be bewildered by the possibilities of the language.3 While Miss Macaulay, fixing her eye upon a few of the more conventional conventionalities of present speech, such as “not cricket,”4 providesuswithapleasanthalf-hourofamusingtriviality,Mr.deSelincourt contrives in his half-hour to be equally trivial, but not half so amusing. One wishes, indeed, that Mr. de Selincourt, before knitting his brows over the future of English, had taken a little more thought for the present. He says, 1927 26 ] on page 7: “it (impersonal) is conjecturable, of course, that it (language) may one day be superseded, that men may learn to transfuse their meanings by a kind of controlled telepathy . . .” etc. A kind of is a phrase only to be used in extremity; to “transfuse by telepathy” is new to me. But there are jewels more brilliant than these. The quality of Mr. de Selincourt’s style may be judged from the following: What,then,dowewishtobe?Afundamentalquestionthat....Language is a branch of the tree of life . . . merest tyro. . . . What is the future of the English language? The problem is evolutionary. . . . Everyone feels in Chaucer the joyous expansiveness of youth, in Hardy the sombre introspection of old age . . . secluded by-path. . . . In Celtic, with its tenderness and wild glamour, we feel the mountain and the valley, the rocks and the rain; in the mellow vowels of Italian the blue of the Mediterranean and its cloudless skies. . . . The French call love “amour.” . . . The salient feature of our age. . . .5 Miss Macaulay should have had Mr. de Selincourt’s book before her when she wrote her pamphlet. Mr. Rodker has provided a much more interesting piece of vaticination.6 For one thing, he writes in an agreeable lively style; his thought is apparently influenced by Mr. Wyndham Lewis and T. E. Hulme (which we are gladtofind),andhissyntaxseemstobeinfluenced,attractively,byMr.Joyce’s third manner.7 Mr. Rodker is up-to-the-minute, if anyone is; we feel sure that he knows all about hormones, W. H. R. Rivers and the Mongol in our midst.8 And he has accomplished a considerable feat in writing, on such a vague subject, ninety-two extremely interesting pages. The shorter a book is, the more difficult it is to summarize; but Mr. Rodker seems to think, in short, that the future of literature lies in two directions: in the line of “Blake, Mallarmé, Roussel, and the development of all those qualities we have called mental agility,” and the other the line of “the sublimity of the bowels as in Tchekhov and Dostoevsky” (91).9 Or to put it crudely (if I understand him correctly), the direction of abstraction (“pure poetry”), andontheotherhandtheinvestigationofthesubconscious.NowMr.Rodker seems to me to have made only one mistake – if he is mistaken – and that is to identify the general future with his present. He seems to think that we “shall grow more refined, our nervous antennae more delicately aware of new vibrations” [44-45], etc. We shall produce, on the one hand, a pantheon of super-Mallarmés for a smaller and smaller public, and on the other hand [ 27 Charleston, Hey! Hey! we shall have...


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