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Davis Reviews New Harvard Monthly, Making Its Initial Appearance Today

Instructor in English Commends Soundness and Quality of Writing


The following article was written for the CRIMSON by Robert G. Davis '30, instructor in English.

George Santayana has paid the editors of the new Harvard Monthly the compliment of phrasing for them, with his usual grace, the value and purpose of a college magazine, Youth, he says, in the leading article in the first issue, "An Apology for Being Precocious," can bring to experience what experience can not give, and what it too often kills. Youth has the gift of prophecy. It may not know well what is, but it has the right to say what ought to be. It is the time to be radical. "Especially when some storm is brewing in the world the words of ardent young men may bring premonitory flashes of light or anger, impossible to suppress, and important to notice."

Santayana's words have about them the sunlight of the Eighties. He remembers a time when youth was confident, and the elders bewildered. If his prefatory memories seem to promise what a college magazine can not now well fulfill, they are none the less moving for that. Mr. Hay, in an editorial which celebrates the magazine's revival, is more restrained. Unfortunately he and his contemporaries live in the Thirties. They have before them the example of a preceding 'generation, self-conscious and "young," which preempted the qualities of youth, its postures and certainties, and still clutches them at the grave's edge.

The Monthly, Mr. Hay says modestly, is content for the present to express its purpose negatively. It will not be the instrument of a group, a tendency, or a concocted tradition. Its qualities will be determined by the Intelligence and talents of the undergraduates. The present issue reflects this policy. The writers give the impression of moving only so far as the ground seems firm under foot. And though there are few "flashes of light and anger," of passion and oracularity, there is also a healthy freedom from captiousness snobbery and the gloomy shade of Eugene Jolas.

The two most substantial articles display a critical conservatism. Mr. Goodhue opposes the addition of justices to the Supreme Court in an intelligent essay which loses a little of its effectiveness because the author tries to be fair and complete and view the problem from more aspects than his brief compass permits. In "Hutchins and Harvard," Mr. Geismer makes an excellently loyal and well-reasoned reply to criticism by the President of the University of Chicago. Two lighter pieces fulfill their intentions pleasantly, Mr. Thompson's rather condescending account of the life and history of the Cowley Fathers, and Mr. Straus's detailed and sympathetic history of the rebuilding of the Harvard football team under Richard Harlow.

The stories are unpretentious and valid records of available experience. Mr. Gibson "Death in the House" gives with observant pathos a boy's emotions when his brother is dangerously ill with typhoid. Mr. Symonds contributes a pleasant piece of domestic shock in a brief reminiscence of a disturbing grandfather. Mr. Rowley begins a nervous tale of urban frustration in the idiom of Josephine Herbst.

The quality of the reviewing is high, although perhaps the amount--particularly of the dramatic criticism--is disproportionate to the interest of the reader or the purpose of the magazine. Mr. Schlesinger is a little intemperate in his assault upon "The Flowering of New England", but rewardingly vigorous and perceptive.

The magazine is illustrated with photographs.

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