On The Rack
The current number of the "Advocate" gives the impression of earnest effort on the part of the editors and contributors. The impression is advanced by the articles, stories and poems which fill the magazine and is confirmed by a conscientious statement or restatement of the magazine's policy on the editorial page. In the future, the denomination "literary" will extend to speculations on social, economic and politico-spiritual trends which, as the editors justly believe, are bound to have ramifications in literature. The liberal policy of the editors in this direction is sound.
But of the liberal intentions of the editors in another direction the present writer, at least, has some misgivings. It is said that hereafter in each issue the "Advocate" will present a contribution "by one of the Harvard graduates who has won distinction in literary life." Now it appears that in the earnest effort which is so stamped upon this number of the "Advocate" there is something of a too constraining consciousness of what is being thought and written just at the moment in the outside world. One wonders, then, if the presence every month of distinguished names like T. S. Eliot, Walter Lippmann, and Ezra Pound among the contributors to the "Advocate" will not accentuate this consciousness of which I speak and which, in my opinion, is the chief source of weakness in the current issue.
The article by Mr. H. M. Wade on American literature deserves consideration. It is Mr. Wade's contention that there is or that there is about to be a literary renaissance in this country or, as Mr. Wade further qualifies, "a flowering of the American tradition and a rebirth in America of European tradition from which this land stems." Before taking up the flowering, he indicates the tradition which is to flower. Then, after a survey of writers since 1900, Mr. Wade concludes in the second place that there is about to be a renaissance of our civilization. "The facts constitute a pretty good case."
The facts are here, indeed, but one remains uncertain as to the case which they constitute. A tradition is necessary, Mr. Wade assumes. But he hardly defines the single tradition of which Franklin, Cooper, Whitman, Poe and James are equally the representatives. He leaves in the air their common Americanism. Consequently when Mr. Wade comes to "developments after 1900" he only convinces one that there has been in these years a good deal of miscellaneous activity; he does not persuade one that this activity represents a real growth which in the natural course of things must flower. He leaves one with his knowledge of American literature refreshed and pointed up but as puzzled as heretofore about what precisely is the lowest common denominator of, let us say, Babitt, Spingarn, Brooks and Eliot.
Mr. Wade's article has an unfortunate resemblance to competent notes for a survey course. . . A freer play of the mind, I think, is to be found in Mr. Creighton Churchill's "The Contemporaries of Sibelius," and very agreeable, too is the same contributor's "Variations on Several Themes." The three stories do not come off; their "ideas" are not sufficiently absorbed in the presented facts; they betray the diffidence or constraining consciousness of which I have spoken. More vigorous and independent are the book reviews; and more revealing, as one would expect, of personal adventure and direct relationship are the poems. The reviewer enjoyed the irony and careful flatness of statement of Mr. Boyle's "Stephen Martyr," and enjoyed still more the quite exquisitely phrased "Night Song" of Mr. Wade. Mr. Laughlin's two poems likewise deserve especial mention; they show a sensitive ear and nice perceptions. In the company of one of Ezra Pound's "Cautos," as they are here, they have the appearance of two demure chicks in the wake of a portentous mother hen rumaging in the gravel of modern life.