The most striking article, by far, in the new number of the "Monthly" is that of Mr. Cuthbert Wright on "The Black Heaven." It deals with typical episodes in the history of black magic from the Middle Ages till the present day, and shows, on the part of the author, considerable knowledge of the subject and imaginative sympathy with the characters described. If exception may be occasionally taken to particular statements (such, for example, as the assumed identity of Bluebeard with Marshall or Retz), these are not matters of importance. Mr. Wright's style has freedom and richness, but it is rather too copious; with the practice of restraint he may make it distinguished, He has no difficulty in arousing and holding the interest of the reader. Regarded simply as an account of the mysterious excesses of occultism and of the nature of its votaries, his essay is decidedly effective. But as an argument, which it apparently sets out to be, its upshot is not quite clear. It was hardly necessary to prove that "Satanism" still survives, though some facts cited by Mr. Wright may not be generally familiar. Certainly the opinion, condemned in the opening paragraph, that "interest in the more transcendental aspects of life" belongs to "the deluded and the unhealthy" is rather supported than disproved by most of the evidence in the essay. But perhaps the author's chief purpose, as he himself suggests, was only to combat his own tendency to a narrow rationalism and to cultivate a wider intellectual sympathy. In this self-discipline he seems to have been entirely successful.
Criticism of Prose Contributions.
The other prose contributions are less noteworthy than Mr. Wright's, both in style and substance, though they are all good exercises in narration or description. Mr. Burlingame and Mr. Smith, writing on very dissimilar subjects, both show the habit of observation and analysis and some ability at realistic portrayal. The description, by the latter, of "The New England Grandmother" is straightforward, simple and homely; so much so, in fact, that the solemn verse quotation with which it concludes has a serio-comic effect which seems hardly in place. Mr. Burlingame's story perhaps depends too much, for its impression, on the squalid and the revolting; and his narrative is inferior, on the whole, to his description. Mr. Rogers's account of "Griggs," the English butler, on the other hand, is effective as narrative. The method of suspense is employed with some skill, and a single point of view is well maintained.
The verse in this number, though not conspicuously good, is on the whole creditable. Mr. Wright again deserves commendation for his "After-Days", which has both music and structure. The latter quality is especially rare among college lyrics. Mr. Weston's monologue, "The Invalid", is also good verse, and shows thought and sympathy. "A Wish," by Scofield Thayer, gives evidence of real power of poetical expression. It contains excellent lines and some good imagery. But the figures are not well sustained, and the whole lacks consistency and naturalness. Similarly, Mr. Wilson's descriptive lines, "Wood-Sere," seem a little forced here and there to meet the exigencies of metrical construction.
The signed editorial on "Respectability" is perhaps a little petulant in tone, but the plea for greater independence of mind and conduct was well worth making. No one will deny that this quality is needed not only by college students, but by American society in general. At the same time the necessity has not entirely passed away for urging respect for standards. The growing tyranny of external social standards, which the writer deplores, has been accompanied in great measure by indifference, on the part of both old and young, to traditional intellectual standards which society once imposed. It is much harder to awaken interest in certain sound ideals of culture and training than in the ideals of public service which the editorial writer so properly urges. But perhaps a new generation, in reacting against the respectability of the moment, will bring back something like the older respectability that has passed away.