Mr. Harold Monro: A Poet and his Ideal
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432 ] Mr. Harold Monro: A Poet and his Ideal The Times, 46084 (17 Mar 1932) 16 Mr. Harold Monro, a distinguished poet and man of letters, died on Tuesday, the day after his fifty-third birthday, at a nursing home at Broadstairs.1 His death will be mourned not only by admirers of his own verse, but by all in England who have cared seriously, during the last 30 years, for serious poetry. Both his father and his maternal grandfather were engineers. He was born at Brussels, and was educated partly abroad, so that he spoke French, German, and Italian fluently, and at Radley, whence he went up to Caius.2 After taking his degree at Cambridge he spent much time on the Continent for several years. One of the results was The Chronicle of a Pilgrimage (1909), the prose account of a walking tour from Paris to Milan; but he had already published a volume of poems in 1906 and two in 1907.3 His importance in the literary life of London dates from 1911, when he founded, in conjunction with the Poetry Society, the Poetry Review, in the first number of which (January, 1912) he affirmed that “Poetry should be, once more, seriously and reverently discussed in its relation to life, and the same tests and criteria applied to it as to the other arts.”4 Difficulties arose, and Monro retired at the end of a year. In March, 1913, Monro issued the first number of another periodical to be entirely under his own direction entitled Poetry and Drama, which survived with distinction until December, 1914. In the first number are contributions by Rupert Brooke, Edward Thomas, Sir Henry Newbolt, Maurice Hewlett, James Elroy Flecker, and Lascelles Abercrombie; and in other numbers there was hardly any young poet or man of letters of any talent who was not a contributor.5 Monro’s enthusiasm next led him to found the Poetry Bookshop, for which he took an old house in a small street off Theobald’s-lane.6 It was discovered by most readers of poetry in London, and became also a place of pilgrimage for American visitors; and its removal to the more commonplace neighbourhood of Willoughby-street, Great Russell-street, was regretted. Monro then started the series of Poetry Readings which have continued almost without interruption.7 Of the poets who were well known when the Readings began, and of those who have become known [ 433 Mr. Harold Monro since, there can be few who have not given readings of their own poetry, or of their favourite poets, either at the first or the present dwelling of the Bookshop. Monro’s own taste was sympathetic both to the “Georgian” poetry, which flourished just before the War, and to the more modern poetry which has risen since.8 His own verse had something of this mediating character. He had – what is none too common among verse writers – a steady capacity for improvement; and his latest poems are considered by good judges to be his best. The development is already evident in Strange Meetings (1917); it continues in Real Property (1922) and in The Earth for Sale (1928) and a poem published recently in the Criterion indicates that his development had not reached a climax.9 Throughout, however, there is a quality peculiar to himself; a way of giving to the familiar and commonplace a dreamlike and sometimes nightmarish character which is unlike the mode of either his earlier or his later colleagues. While his poetry will remain to justify itself, his importance in the literary life of London in his time may be overlooked. As editor, as publisher, and as the proprietor of the Poetry Bookshop his efforts were wholly disinterested , and indeed meant much sacrifice of his private means. He was more concerned that other people should write poetry, that able writers in difficulties should be helped to write, and that a larger public should read and enjoy poetry, than he was concerned with what he wrote himself. One of the causes dearest to his heart was the instigation of sociability among men of letters, and to this he devoted his own social gifts. In the few years before the War he was active in keeping poets of diverse gifts in friendly contact;amongthemthegroup–includingEzraPound,F.S.Flint,Richard Aldington, and H. D. – who produced The Imagist Anthology, and in his circle was included T. E. Hulme, who, after his death in action in 1917, has...