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Howe, Reviewing Christmas "Monthly," Discusses Writings of Former Editors

"Phoenix Number" Is Courageous Venture, According to Overseer

NO WRITER ATTRIBUTED

This issue of the "Harvard Monthly" springs so directly from the flames of earlier days that it might well be called the Phoenix Number. It is made up entirely of reprinted writings by former editors and contributors from George Santayana to Ernest A. Simpson. When another former editor, of so antique a date as the third year of the "Monthly's" infancy (1887-88), turns its pages he must resist the temptation to drop into an "in my day" mood--and so he does.

It was before his day that Santayana was an editor. Since his day the array of "Monthly" writers who have been laid under tribute by the present editors gives one a legitimate pride in having had anything at all to do with such an apostolic succession. Here are some of the names contained in it: Norman Hapgood, William Vaughn Moody, Edwin Arlington Robinson, Alan Seegar, Van Wyck Brooks, John Dos Passos, Walter Lippmann--the catalogue should really be given in full. It is too trite an observation to venture, that when these and other undergraduates were trying their wings in the "Monthly" their names meant not a whit more to the reading public than those of our young contemporaries who figure in this issue, only in the list of those who now conduct the magazine?

There was a period of twenty years--from 1917 to 1937--when the "Monthly," like Lucy, ceased to be. How faithfully will the revised magazine come to represent, in this later day, what its forerunner once represented? That is a question still to be answered. In this Phoenix issue it is interesting to note that many of the contributors deprecate, in notes about the reprinting of their early productions, the immaturity now exposed to view. They may be regarded in general as their own severest critics. The exceptions are Walter Lippmann and Oswald Garrison Villard who stand up in their boots and offer no apologies--Lippmann for his defense of the English Suffragettes whose cause was not yet won, Villard for his praise of journalism as "A Career for Patriots". Is it that journalists arrive earlier at maturity than others? Certainly Villard's article is still timely, particularly in relation to the new possibilities in the field of journalistic training at Harvard.

The poets make fewer excuses for themselves, and with good reason. Of course the better sort of poetry has a timeless quality, and the passing of years does not invariably make a better poet of a promising beginner. What lyric of Moody's, for example, is better than the song,

"Of wounds and sore defeat

I made my battle-stay."

which made its first appearance in the Monthly? There also, as we learn from this Christmas Number, appeared Robinson's "Richard Cory", and two poems of John Hall Wheelock's included in his collected writings after a wide distribution through anthologies. The college friend to whom, as "Edwin", one of them was addressed is now acknowledged in a revised line, as Van Wyck Brooks, who is himself represented here in a spirited poem contributed to the "Monthly."

Altogether the present editors of the magazine have done a courageous thing--in setting forth so vivid an illustration of what the Monthly once was. They act a standard and issue a challenge, to be taken up by their own college generation. The thought, taste, and expression of this generation are bound to be different from those of twenty and fifty years ago. Let it represent the very best that Harvard can yield today, and twenty, fifty, years hence another retrospective issue will receive the welcome now extended to this one.

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