Lack of Vigor Characterizes Recent Monthly Production
The Monthly has reverted in its March number to one of its practices of earlier days, namely, of devoting its opening pages to an article from a graduate contributor. This time the graduate is also a former editor, Edward Eyre Hunt, of the Class of 1910. His article is called "Friendly Faces," dedicated to the 1910 board of the Monthly. It begins with the reminder that four books concerned with the world war, and published during the past year--Walter Lippmann's "Stakes of Diplomacy," John Reed's "War in Eastern Europe," Alan Seeger's "Poems," and Mr. Hunt's own "War Bread"--were written by members of the 1910 Monthly board, and that the 1909 board had its similar representation in Henry Sheahan's "Volunteer Poilu." It proceeds with a dramatized vision of the Monthly Sanctum in 1910, from which the spectator is transported in imagination to "somewhere." Here appears the Foreign Legion, and the countless legions of youth and manhood of a free world in every time, with a passionate impersonal voice reciting "for itself and all the young manhood of the world until it is lost in the chaos of the battle, the rendezvous--the rendezvous with death."
If this is a boldly imaginative undertaking, with a final page of no small power, it savors of positive recklessness to attempts a summary of it in a brief paragraph. The attempt is made primarily for the sake of calling attention to the possibilities of sudden development in young Americans. It is only seven years since the 1910 Monthly board was in College. If their writing had then been scrutinized with a view to what the writers would do in such an emergency as that to which the world has come, what would the prophecy have been? The answer is so uncertain that one hesitates to draw any conclusions from the contents of the March number.
Yet it must be said that in view of all that is passing in the world, the contributors to the current Monthly seem somewhat strangely "untouched by solemn thought." There is, to be sure, an editorial directed against the "Harvard Prussianism" with which the "Union for American Neutrality" was greeted. In two of the eleven poems in the number-- "My Peace I Leave With You," by Robert S. Hillyer, and "The Hour," by W. A. Norris--one hears at least an echo from the present upheaval of mankind. Otherwise, except for Mr. Hunt's contribution, everything might be going on just as usual outside of Harvard College. It is a curious, and rather disturbing, phenomenon.
The contributions in verse outnumber those in prose. Indeed the issue is a veritable nest of singing-birds. The two poems already mentioned well represent the creditable average of all this verse. One contribution, "The Fiddler," by Cuthbert Wright, rises distinctly above it in a certain sureness and aptness in dealing with a topic not too macabre to lie within the writer's power. Of the two offerings in vers libre, one, the anonymous "Hermes," falls clearly below the average in leaving one uncertain whether it is seriously or humorously modelled upon the accepted pattern of the imagists. Another poem, "Middle Age," by Percival Reniers, has a poignant virtue as a "lesson for fathers," who in turn should impart to the rising generation of writers some of the distinctions between will and shall.
Of the prose contributions a story, "Strangers," by Hardinge Scholle, is the most ambitious. There are, besides, two brief sketches by A. D. Fay and Thomas Wharton, and two pieces of critical writing. This is all well enough, but falls short of the vigor and originality of which undergraduates have frequently shown themselves capable. They are still capable of something better than the average contents of the professedly "literary" undergraduate periodicals at Harvard. It is often said that a coalition of existing periodicals would bring this to pass. Is it not possible that some improved process of "digging out" the best might be devised?