HARVARD MONTHLY REVIEW
Dean Hurbult as a Mid-Victorian Critic Comments on February Number, Finding Much to Question.
"When they talked of their Raphacls, Correggios, and staff, He shifted his trumpet and only took snuff."
To the Mid-Victorian who, reviewing the February number of the Harvard Monthly, is by his ancient limitations compelled to comfort himself with these lines, the contributors may with equal justice hurl them back again as they were originally hurled by way of retaliation. It is absolutely true that the one-time, "music of the future" has today become a part of the music of the past: Siegfried is as simple as "Home, Sweet, Home," and twenty years hence, to the successor of a certain Harvard instructor who, after a performance of one of the most modern compositions of D'Indy or some one of his sort, wrathfully departed from Sanders Theatre with the comment. "I did not come to Sanders Theatre to hear a reproduction of the noises of the street," this same music may be as pellucid as the pool of a mountain stream. All this, however, gives the Victorian little help in his present task. All of his loves--very respectable indeed, but old-fashioned--Scott, Dickens Thankeray, the great Jane, Fielding, Chaucer, Goldsmith, Byron, Wordsworth, Shakespere, and the people of the Bible, have trained and perhaps limited him to expect definiteness, consequence, and satisfaction. In his time and in his reading of English literature morality had never been successfully divorced from art; in fact, a degree of separate maintenance had never kept them long asunder.
Thus, cabin'd, cribbed, confined, he sits down to enjoy the Monthly. Mr. Gregg writes clearly and definitely, but has he covered the field? Has he really found the "Best Seller," the best with the most modern conveniences? I see no account of Rex (or is it Regina) Beach's work; nor of the price of first serial rights disposed of to the great Eastern publishing houses; second rights to the Indiana Humble Bee, for example; sometimes third serial rights in the far Northwest; rights for dramatic production; rights for the cheap reprint to be given away with a pound of tea; and finally rights for reproduction in the "Movies."
As to the stories. "They don't end as they ought to, or, perhaps better, as do those I am accustomed to read," says the Victorian. "Yours is very definite, very cleverly told, Mr. Burlingame, but why deal with the exceptional Boston John, especially if he is a snob and a cad, when there are so many Johns of Boston who are straight and clean and brave? The gentleman of the first person, as well as he of the third, whom Mr. Barlow conducts through a Parisian evening in a study of the contrast between Basque impetuosity and English simplicity, pay a very modest price in losing the outside as well as the inside of their pocket-books; in fact, they 'get off easy'; but I don't care about them; I want to know what became of that American boy who danced so well and over whose head the plate was smashed. Was his skull fractured? And what manner of man was Mr. Kornfield's Sergius, so stirred by a chromo, competent analyst of Oscar Wilde's tremendous ballad, victim of the Sicilian fruit seller and the New York policeman? It's very vivid painting of New York, very real and very unreal. Do not all these story tellers need to ponder and take to heart the doctrine which Mr. Skinner so clearly sets forth?"
The Victorian turns to the verse: here surely will be comfort; he can understand. Mist, Water-Lilies, Dusk, Evening in the Town, To Snowflakes Dancing Before My Window, In Memoriam, Their First Ride Together; Wordsworth, Herrick, Tennyson, Browning! The mantle of the great upon the shoulders of another generation of poetic youth! Poetry is not dead, whatever may have been one's feelings after reading Number 1 of the new Poetry Journal.
The Victorian has been trained to recognize the pathetic fallacy; Ruskin must be taken with a great deal of salt. But figures are intended to make clearer the thought which they illustrate, are they not? He tries to see
"Huge finny forms of phosphorescence (that) ... .........caracole With the sea-horses on some eye-less shoal, Quickening the leafage of a wave-tombed tree." and "weeping stars," mourners with golden pelf";, and to dig the meaning from "Oh, wash her white as flowers are Before she lieth down and die, Oh wash her white;"
Surely the purpose of the writer of this last is commendable, but is the source of the Victorian's trouble the grammar or the punctuation?
What was the "face of doom" that waited the two impassioned riders at the end of their "first, last ride"? Blown steeds and an angry sire?
"These are very excellent and varied words," says the Victorian, "highly connetstive; some of them trip together delightfully; only, what do they mean?" Irresistibly the mind of the Victorian runs back to that first love affair of David Copperfield's, when Miss Shepherd, whom the Misses Nettingall outrageously stood in the stocks for turning in her toes, Miss Shepherd to whom as a token of affection he gave twelve Brazil nuts, "difficult to pack into a parcel of any regular shape; hard to crack even in room doors... and oily when cracked," was mistress of his heart. "At home, in my own room," David writes, "I am sometimes moved to cry out, 'Oh, Miss Shepherd!' in a transport of love." "Oh" isn't definite, but it may be very expressive. Is it some such interpretation that the Victorian is to give to the words of these youthful poets? Is this the way they really feel?
But contentment comes at last. Mr. Adams hymns with real dignity and genuine feeling the heroes of the Titanic; Mr. Wright pictures the evening with the simplicity of a master; and Mr. Thayer's snowflakes dance with lightness akin to the dancing of Herrick's creation. And with the thought of him comes a vision of Dean Prior, remote in lovely South Devon, its ancient church, the vied tower, the churchyard, and the vicarage garden.
After all the Victorian is a sadly lim-