A Commentary (Sept 1927)
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[ 185 A Commentary The Monthly Criterion: A Literary Review, 6 (Sept 1927) 193-96 Neo-Classicism Again In a letter published in this issue, and in an editorial note in The Calendar, Mr. Bertram Higgins and Mr. D. R. Garman respectively take up a point raised in our June number.1 While these contributions do not seem to go very far toward clearing up the issues, it is a good thing that interest should be directeduponthemeaninganduseoftheProteanterm“classicism”;andwe hope at a later date to organize some more general discussion of the matter. Mr. Higgins indicates that he used the term “neoclassicism” in extension to denote certain writers here and abroad, and remarks that the term has been used in the same way by contributors to The Criterion. That may be so: but it is dangerous to use a term in extension which cannot be safely used in intension also. “Neo-classicism” cannot have a definite meaning until “classicism” has a definite meaning. But there was never any age or group of people who professed “classicism” in the sense in which St. Thomas and his followers professed “Thomism.” One of the points to be cleared up is this: whether the term “classicism” can be used in England as it can be used in France; and whether, in either country, it can be applied strictly to literary or art criticism ; or whether it has meaning only in relation to a view of life as a whole. We are still puzzledto knowwhythepolicyof TheCriterion,neo-classical or no, should be qualified as “repressive.” Mr. Garman says “it is possible that such criticism . . . could have a repressive influence by an over-insistence or an undue appreciation of the dogmas which support neo-classicism.”2 It is not clear to what dogmas he refers; but everybody, who insists at all, is apt to over-insist; and everyone, who believes in anything, must desire that some things should be altered or controlled. We could only “repress” a writer of genius by influencing him, and the repression consequently would take theformofthewriter’scriticismofhisownwork.Ifthereisanyotherrepression , it is only in the sense in which Mr. Jack Dempsey is anxious to repress Mr. Gene Tunney.3 We take the opportunity of expressing regret at the suspension of The Calendar. Were the demise of one literary review useful to the success of 1927 186 ] another, we should assume no mask of hypocrisy; but this is not at all the fact. Our complaint against most of our contemporaries is that they are so little interested in ideas that it is never worth while either to agree or disagree with them; but in The Calendar and The Adelphi we have sometimes found, at least, a common ground for disagreement. Sir Edmund Gosse on French Poetry On the books with which Sir Edmund Gosse usually concerns himself, in his weekly causeries, one usually prefers to accept Sir Edmund’s opinions, along with his copious information, rather than bother to hold an opinion of one’s own. But in a recent essay on “Symbolist Poetry” Sir Edmund seems to have gone seriously wrong.4 SomeprotestoughttoberaisedfirstagainsthisdismissalofJulesLaforgue and Tristan Corbière as “eccentrics” (the last he calls “sheer eccentric” – one marvels why he has not called Rimbaud an “eccentric” too); and second against his statement that “the interesting French poetry of the end of last century (including apparently the poets just mentioned) . . . has had practically no influence at all on English metrical writers.”5 The latter assertion goes to suggest that Sir Edmund Gosse is completely out of touch with modern poetry. The Neglect of English Music The International Festival of contemporary music at Frankfurt is described on another page. It was held in connexion with an exhibition: “Music in the Life of the Nations,” ethnological, historical and commercial, in which nearly allcountriesseemtohavebeenrepresentedexcept England.6 Itwould be interesting to know why England did not take part, for England is now recognized abroad to be once more one of the great musical nations. More­ over it has taken a considerable part in the organization of the International Society; the central offices are in London; and the Chairman is Professor Edward Dent of Cambridge, who is freely admitted all over Europe to have done more than any man living to help young composers.7 Neither the British Museum nor the Victoria and Albert Museum is allowed to send objects on loan, even in England; but other collections, both public and private, even in Frankfurt itself, might have made up a very...


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