A Commentary (June 1928)
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416 ] A Commentary The Criterion: A Literary Review, 7 (June 1928) 289-94 The Quarterly Criterion With this number The Criterion enters upon the third phase of its history; it reverts to its quarterly form; and there seems to be no reason why it should ever again be altered.1 The return to the original form of publication was first suggested by one or two friends of the review; it was supported by others, and there were some who expressed their regret that The Criterion had ever abandoned the quarterly form. More and more reasons came to light in favour of quarterly publication; and as these reasons in the end persuaded most of those who had preferred the monthly, it may be well at this moment to set down some of them. The monthly experiment has at least been of great value to the editor, in making more clear to him the inevitable differences of type between a monthly and a quarterly review. Many persons think, and the editor of this review was for a time among them, that the time for quarterly reviews passed with Victorian leisure; they regard the long established quarterlies with indifferent tolerance, as useless survivals; and they allude to what is popularly called “the general speeding-up of modern life” as demanding something more frequent and ephemeral. It did not occur to us, in acceding to the supposed demands of “modern life,” that something more was required of the review than appearing three times as often; it was tacitly assumed that the quarterly virtues could be preserved in the monthly form, and that to appear twelve times a year was enough to placate the acceleration of life. It is a commonplace that one idea is enough for one lecture, and that two ideas are too many. But just as you cannot pack into a spoken address the thought that you can put into a printed essay, because the hearer cannot digest it, so there is the same difference between a monthly and a quarterly review. The Monthly Criterion was too heavy, and it could not have been made consecutively lighter without sacrificing much of its quality and many of its interests – which it was not prepared to do. As it became more and more evident that the character of the review must be drastically altered, if it was to pursue its career as a monthly and [ 417 A Commentary (June) keep up to the speed-limit of “modern life,” other questions occurred to several minds. Was it after all necessary and desirable to make this concession ? and as The Criterion had expressed many unpopular views and ideas – unpopular both with older and younger generations – should it not be consistent throughout? And there does appear some reason for opposing some of the tendencies of contemporary life; indeed it may be said at the presenttime, that ifthequarterlyreview seems obsoletetothepopularmind, that is perhaps a sign that the quarterly review is more needed now than ever, and that it is ahead of the times rather than behind them. Something should surely be provided for those minds which are still capable of attention , thought and feeling, as well as for those which turn to a literary review as they would glance at the picture-page or the social column of a daily paper – who miss nothing, and who understand nothing. We by no means disparage the production of literary monthlies; we say only that such reviews must fulfil quite different functions from that of The Criterion. So it may be well to attempt to define again the purpose and the place of The Criterion. It is desirable to maintain our designation of a “literary ” review, because there is no other label which indicates so briefly the subjects to which this review is indifferent. The term serves to remind us that we are not concerned with matters of passing interest. We continue to publish the best fiction and the best verse that we can find, and to interest ourselves in problems of applied and theoretic literary criticism and the formation and maintenanceofstandards,andinthestudyandtheteachingofliterature.But this same critical attitude is extended to all the problems of contemporary civilization. Historical and biographical studies will have a larger part, naturally ; but The Criterion is concerned with everything that can be examined in a critical spirit. A few illustrations may make this attitude more definite. In the theory of politics, in the largest sense, The Criterion is interested, so far as politics can be dissociated...


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