"The Advocate in this issue gives up the minatory and monitory capacity which, like the Greek future tense, it sometimes assumes, and with no thought to the college turns itself to literary matters. This reversion was not planned by the Advocate, nor wholly expected by it: for the late rebellious enthusiasm appeared to be deep and lasting. Yet in short space it declined into talk and thence into silence, so that no one remains to write articles, or to urge reformation. The matter of the magazine, therefore, must be imaginative writing, stories, poems, and the like, as it was before the neo-Poseidus, earth-shaking young men were loosed in the college." Thus happily begins the current number of the Harvard Advocate, in an editorial essay singularly reflective and well-grounded in its turn of thought if somewhat humorously crabbed in expression. For those untouched, untroubled souls to whom the phrase "neo-Poseidous, earth-shaking young men", as applied to the Advocate, may perhaps convey, less meaning than the Advocate could wish, it should be enough to remark that there is here implied a never-failing source of debate for conferences of policy and editorial banquets.
The Function of a Literary Journal
The question which springs up at such hours of stimulation regards the function of a college literary journal. Should a magazine attempt to make itself one of the powers, throwing forth discussions of curriculum or discipline, urging reformations where progress appears to demand them? Or should it confine itself to "imaginative writing", as youth may conceive that gratulatory phrase? The position in which literary journals find themselves, especially in colleges like our own, where competition presses in every field except the purely imaginative (or purely imitative, as it often turns out) compels the reformer to labor under difficulties. The literary journal appears to be poaching or attempting to coerce unwilling attention if it thrusts its finger into the general pie. Tradition is against it, and it is likely to lose credit for the good it may actually accomplish. Yet to coerce unwilling attention may be the part of honest service, and the original tradition, in the case of the Advocate, is richly on the side of reform and ardent, crusading, conducted with wisdom, foresight, and study.
It is best, as the editorial of the present number suggests, to let each type of ability have its day. When a stroke for progess may be driven home, let it fall clean and ring hard; when poems and stories are to be the service of the Advocate to its contributors and to the college, let the work be as lively and adopt as the Advocate's work regularly is, and the service in either case will be a true one. Meanwhile, the Advocate has all too little of a type of writing which lies between the styles discussed above. It has all too little of the reflective essay, seriously conceived, but not too seriously written; the essay not bound by the exigencies of reform, and not as open to the dangers of specious maturity, as the purely literary endeavours of young men often are. It is surprising what a good-thinker the undergraduate can turn out to be when he tries. The Advocate needs more of his reflective vein.
A brilliant example of the type of essay we mean is the editorial which has inspired the reviewer to such discursiveness. The balance of learning and originality is admirably struck by it, and its observations have a considerable importance. Another essay, Mr. La Farge's "The Incompleat Angler", is an example of the same class. Mr. La Farge writes refreshingly and well, with a gift for impressions and a skill of style which are unusual. "For reflection (he says) is to the true, inward charm of fishing as the vague ideas that float half-recorded through one's brain when good music is playing are to that music itself"--an admirable simile.
In turning from reform to letters, the Advocate has been fortunate enough to obtain verses from Mr. Damon and Mr. Hillyer, and a story from Mr. Boyce. Mr. Hillyer's verses ought never to fall of welcome where poetry is loved; Mr. Damon's two contributions are pleasantly and skilfully turned. Mr. Boyce's "The Trail Beyond", a dramatic story on the difficult theme of intense hate, would gain, we feel, from a simpler and more direct treatment. The effort to suggest the vortex of sensations in the hero's mind, sustained as this effort is from beginning to end, cannot help straining at points. Highly effective in such scenes as the combat at "El Capitain", it often makes mystery where we do not feel that mystery should exist. Each detall, each motion of the characters, has been carefully planned and visualized, but these details and motions are thrown into the realm of crude sensation or ill-defined symbol for the sake of intensity. The reader, who cannot fully share the intensity either of authors or characters, is occasionally mystified as a result. A more external treatment for the bulk of the story should make the incidents more real. But the effect as the story stands is considerable, and the vigor of style deserves to be rewarded.
Turning again to the undergraduate contributors, Mr. Abbott's sonnet deserves especial praise; but we deplore Mr. Marshall's idiosyncrasies in the modern manner, both of matter and arrangement, and we confess to a down-right bitterness in regard to Mr. Mangan's "Crest". Mr. LaFarge's second contribution must bring our review to a close. It is a story, excellently conceived and skillfully written, perhaps too skillfully, for at the end there is little but its conpetence and its manner to carry it on. There is a sort of frustrate maturity about the Advocate at times which prevents it from getting anywhere, and we confess to feeling this once or twice as we read the current number. Mr. Abbott's vigorous sonnet is the one undergraduate contribution (worth mentioning) which is pleasantly free from it