The literary criticism in the Monthly has always been one of its most distinguished features. From its beginning there have appeared in its pages from time to time critical articles of astonishing maturity and insight, more than once bearing a promise that has since been fulfilled. Of the three articles of this nature in the present issue that of Mr. C. V. Wright belongs to the best tradition. His review of Mr. Wheelock's recent volume is courageous and discriminating, and remarkably well written. It makes Mr. J. C. Macdonough's article on Emerson, itself a creditable piece of work, seem commonplace. But it hardly needs a foil to set off the astounding performance on Mr. Mackaye's "Uriel" which closes the number. One not infrequently finds in undergraduate publications evidence of a kind of verbal intoxication, the result of some youth's finding a fount of critical terms, and drinking too much before he knew how strong it was--with unseemly results. A. W. W.'s performance is by far the worst instance of this I have ever seen. Never before, I believe, have two pages of the Monthly contained so much unadulterated nonsense, so many and so various murderous assaults upon English usage. "Together," says A. W. W., of Browning and Mackaye, "their spirit-prayers pulso upward, and in the years two before two other of their eyes watched in sturdy appreciation the prying crocus crimson through the lawn." Even after allowing for the worst that the printer can have done to the English, one must blame the critic's botany. Mr. Mackaye, we are told, "is too sane and healthy to retch the infinite." Alas! A. W. W. is not. "In the end, however, I should say of this poet: his are the bowels of pity, where is the belly of fire? And this would be my ultimate criticism. His soul needs ignition--if that means more fire." I do not know about Mr. Mackaye's soul, but I am sure the critic has found what his writing needs--ignition.
It seems as if the labor of editing this exceptionally large number had exhausted the Monthly board, and this contribution of A. W. W.'s had slipped in as they slept. No other excuse is possible. For there is here an abundance of matter--a clever character sketch by C. M. Rogers that shows he could write a story if he only had a plot; a reminiscence of boyhood written by the editor-in-chief with vivacity and charm; a story of Gilbert V. Seldes which teases the reader unnecessarily and leaves one uncertain as to whether the author is very subtle or not quite articulate; a capital Alpine sketch by C. H. Weston; an anecdote with a good point by Irving Pichel; a seasonable Christmas story by W. R. Burlingame; and a group of poems.
Of the poems, the best are those by Cuthbert Wright and S. L. M. Barlow; the worst is Yvonne, by Arthur Wilson. One stanza will explain why, and perhaps induce collectors to buy the Monthly:
"Lo, gowned in maidenfern's galloon
With blue like lapis lazuli's,
Yvonne! blood-sister of the moon,
Yvonne, my girl with pale gold eyes!"
If this continues, we are likely to hear propositions to unite the Monthly, not with the Advocate, but with the Lampoon.