The present issue is of peculiar interest as it is the last number of the Monthly to appear before the temporary suspension of publication. This, to whatever "existing circumstances" it may be due, is a great misfortune. The Monthly, however much it may have been without honors in its own country, has filled to a certain extent the important post of Devil's Advocate amid the blatant orthodoxy of undergraduate life. And it has filled it, as anyone outside of College will tell you, with no little distinction. The Monthly has fallen a prey to all the ills that flesh is heir to, has had periods of wild absurdity and of utter dullness; but it has ever avoided that smiling self-complacency which is the predominating note of our other College papers. Nowhere, however, does a heretic find shorter shrift than in an American university, so, particularly at this time when orthodoxy in word and deed has been raised to a mystic religion, there will be few to weep the Monthly's temporary demise. Yet Harvard sorely needed the Monthly. In the world outside it was looked on as one of the proofs of Harvard's difference from other colleges. The existence of such a magazine indicated, vaguely enough to be sure, a desire to think things through, to reject ready-made opinions for the mere reason that they were ready-made, to hold a little aloof from current lanes of thought. Such a spirit, only too rare in our land of gigantic uniformities, and almost non-existent in our colleges, gave one hope that here at least a leaven was working which would ultimately transform American thought from the flabby courageless thing it is into something new and liberating.
Lives Up to Virtues and Vices.
The present number is a fairly good example, moreover, of the Monthly's virtues and vices. In the first place, there is none of that timidity before experience that is usually the earmark of the writings of undergraduates. The stories and impressionistic essays have in common, despite these differences in style and way of looking at things, a certain exultation in discovery, in discovery of new aspects of sensation, of new quirks of character, of newly-balanced phrasings. This is, of course, the secret of all good writing; and the prose in this issue of the Monthly is unqualifiedly good writing. It is well diversified, too; a pictorial essay, three stories of character, a short sketch and an intensely vivid study of a young artist's mind. There are no stories of the washed-out O. Henry variety, of the sort that pads out the pages of the usual undergraduate magazine. The verse in this issue is, on the whole, far below the usual Monthly standard, conventional and uninspired.
The essay, Mr. Hillyer's "Caucassin and Nicolette," is a charmingly pictorial evocation of vague literary atmosphere, a mood induced by the tale rather than an essay dealing with it. The style suffers a little in places from the sort of poeticizing that marred Oscar Wilde's "Poems in Prose," but is one the whole graphic and full of sensuous charm. The first paragraph might have been written by Turgenieff, so vivid is it and so full of the very scent and rustle of a landscape.
Passing over a couple of poems, one of which, "The Hours Between," has a certain tenuous charm, we come to "Aunt," a fairly successful character study in the conventional English A manner, and to "A Farewell to Epicurus. The latter is a skillfully-phrased and academically admirable poem of Mr. Hillyer's, but somehow lacks the verve and passion of most of his verse. "The Wound," a little further on, by Mr. Wright, is without a doubt the most striking thing in the number. Reminiscent as it is of the work of a contemporary Irish writer, it still has an original and fervid vividness of expression, which combined with the writer's uncanny power of calling up long overtones of thought, makes reading "The Wound's rather memorable experience.
Mr. Howe's "A Conversation," carries