In the leading article, "Debating at Harvard University," Mr. E. R. Lewis sounds an alarm to more than the merely inevitable candidates for this branch of activity. He urges men of wide interests, as well, to participate. His plea is undoubtedly earnest and timely, though one could wish that what he conceives to be the greatest benefit from debating--the mental training--had been less dully expounded. In these days, when undergraduate parlance is so largely composed of indiscriminate, dis-jointed burlesque, assuredly much should be made of any pleasurable exercise which is likely to create real mental fabric.
The most pretentious piece in the issue is "The End of the Journey," by E. B. Sheldon, a longish story dealing vitally with an ever-important theme--a son's belated grasp of a mother's love. So long as merely mother and son are before us, the author fares well, both in character-drawing and in his ability to sustain the scenes; but in the son's brief interim of idiocy, which involves an unscrupulous actress and her vulgar but honest husband, there is an undue amount of melodrama, even cruelty. For blind idealizing, even of the pertinacious, youthful sort, can readily be shattered without recourse to the more than bromidic--the bromidiac -- near-brilliant pink-shirt-stud. The other story in this number, "The Woman Who Wasn't," is no more nor less than it pretends to be--a quasi tragedy growing out of a purely physical situation.
The essay on Stephen Phillips, by J. T. Addison, goes, without question, to the heart of the whole matter. By means of admirable selections the writer demonstrates Mr. Phillips's virtues and defects as a poet; and continuing classes him as a playwright--one versed in the theatrical--as opposed to a real dramatist--an objective student of character. The comparison with Shakespeare, urged for the purpose of bringing out Mr. Phillips's dramatic flimsiness, might easily have been made more illuminating by slightly profounder meditation.
Of the verse much might be said. It is marked by individual, poetic yearning and by meagre achievement. Thus "Browning," by B. G. Brawley, is vast in its way, but gets its being from a figure obviously more suited to Swinburne--one of mingled sea and wind. "Sea-Poems," by J. H. Wheelock, are scarcely more successful, owing to the writer's tendency to be, fussy with his imagery, and to gasp whenever the mood requires powerful inarticulacy. "Nineveh," by J. S. Miller, Jr., has an ingenious conceit, well worked out.
In general, this issue of the Monthly, with its several interesting experiments in pure feeling, partly happy, often groping, tills one with the regret that students in their literature courses, where modern methods of study are apt to seem rather intelligent than instinctive, receive so little stimulus to this kind of individual expression.