17 NOVEMBER 1928, Page 13

The Literary Pages of the " Spectator

[In our last twq numbers we described the literary contents of the SPECTATOR from 1828 to 1900. The, concluding section brings the account to our own days.—ED. Spectator.] A NEGLECTED POET.

THERE is a secret to reveal in the past life of a prominent modern author. The world has heard much of his imaginative work ; but at the beginning of the century he was known as a young war corres- pondent writing for the Daily Mail. In 1902 he had a poem accepted by the Spectator, which we reprint here, possibly for the first time :- AFTER TWO YEARS !

Good-night, old boy . . . good-bye : (It's . . . strange . . . to die.) Two years' good labour and the end in sight, Colons() . . . Spion Hop . . . and this little fight : And this the end . . . it doesn't seem quite right.

'Was thinking when they fired—

(No pain . . . just tired . . .)

Of all the other fellows who had died—

Strange, what ?—and as I thought somehow I tried To think about the—well, the Other Side.

The roar and rush of death—

(Was that your breath Upon my cheek, old boy, or was it— 1) well Glory and joy of leading where they fell--- I go alone, with two years' work to tell.

Hard, but we did not shirk . . .

Two years' good work . . .

My love to all my people . . . and the rest . . . You dear old boys . . . perhaps this is the best . . . Two years' good work . . . and finis . . . duke eat . .


It is too early to say much of the Spectator's literary judgments during the twentieth century ; and we shall do no more than recall a few scattered points of interest. It was the Spectator which brought Frank T. Bullen into prominence and his Idylls of the Sea were first published in its pages. In the same way, Mrs. Mary Webb was a frequent contributor long before she was known to the general public : both articles and poems of hers were printed and she wrote many reviews. Inci- dentally the Spectator was one of the few papers to which Thomas Hardy sent his poems. We had expressed our admiration for The Dynasts in several long articles, one when each section was published. At first we said :- " We fear that Mr. Hardy's reach must be held to exceed his grasp ; but let us add that the reach is a very great one. The cardinal error seems to us to lie in the philosophy, which is too cold, bloodless and formal, to be adequate to human needs."

When the whole panorama of The Dynasts had been opened out, we confessed that our fears had been groundless.

MRS. was WARD. It was natural that the serious intelligence of Mrs.

Humphry Ward should appeal to the Spectator, and every new novel received the fullest consideration. At times she was felt to be over-solemn : " it is genius which enables her to rivet the reader's attention while she arouses in him the captious spirit of satire." A correspondent remarked that " she acted as a sort of liaison officer between Higher Thought and the average intelligence " ; and a reviewer said much the same thing in other words :- " Mrs. Humphry Ward's novels, apart from their serious aim and their high literary excellence, have been noteworthy for the judicious opportunism of the author. We do not use the word in a derogatory sense, but rather as indicating the sure instinct with which Mrs. Ward has seized on the problems of the moment— social, political or theological—and illustrated their various aspects

in a dramatic form." • MEREDITH, JAMES, AND CONRAD.

Meredith was received into full favour. " When he died," said the Spectator, " he was probably, the greatest Writer of fiction in the world.'" Henry James was neatly caricatured as " the high-priest of the inconclusive " ; but there was always a good deal of space available to reproach him in when he published a new book. Through thick and thin, the Spectator advocated the claims of Joseph Conrad :- " He has a greater range of knowledge—subtle idiomatic know. ledge—of the strange ways of the world than any contemporary writer. He has an imaginative force which at times can only be paralleled among the greatest ; he has a profound sense of drama, and the logic of events which lesser people call fate ; and he has a style which is often careless, involved, and harsh, but, like all true style, has moments of superb inspiration. On the other hand, he is burdened with the wealth of his equipment. A slender talent finds it easy to be orderly and lucid ; but Mr, Conrad, seeing his people before him with such tremendous clearness and entering into their loves and hates with such gusto, does not know where to begin or end their tale."

This continuous appreciation of Conrad is worthy of remembrance ; for Conrad's fame was slow to accrue, and it was only at the end of his life that he could be said to be popular. From the appearance of his second novel the Spectator had praised him without reserve. The reviewer of Romance, however, made rather acid distinctions :- "There is, first, the Mr. Conrad who writes, and writes in inimitable fashion, about the Malay Archipelago and the dark places of Africa ; then there is the Mr. Conrad who writes far less convincingly of life in England • and, lastly, there is the Mr. Conrad who collaborates with Mr. Hueffer."


Mr. H. G. Wells was sometimes in favour and some- times out ; in favour for his scientific romances, his social Utopias, and his comedies of the average man ; decidedly and uncompromisingly rebuked for his " low view of human nature," his laissez-faire in morals and self-responsibility. Mr. G. K. Chesterton was received at first with wonder and with annoyance : in his wilder moods he was compared to Hippoclides, who stood on his head at a king's table and waved his legs in the air from irrepressible spirits ; lost by this feat the hand of the king's daughter ; and announced with undiminished cheerfulness : " Hippoclides doesn't care ! "

The inimitable sentiment of Sir James Barrie wag accepted gratefully, but with some reserve on the score of taste. The reviewer of The Little White Bird said, for example :- " At least half the book is a mere aberration of talent—a dis-

tressingly clever exhibition of the workings of a sensitive, subtle, yet ill-regulated imagination."

Mr. Arnold Bennett always met with respect, never with exclamations of rapture ; indeed, for many years his novels were given only short notices. Mr. Bernard Shaw was finally and unreservedly canonized when he wrote Saint Joan. The poems and plays of Mr. John Masefield were reviewed with enthusiasm, in spite of their strangeness :— " The spiritual tension of his characters, as well as the singular beauty of his atmospherS, seem to us in the highest degree exotic. Which is merely to say that Mr. Masefield is no common realist, but universalizes his tragedy in the grand manner."

The Spectator remarked on the " complete absence of the sense of humour " in Mr. Galsworthy's characters ; admitted, however, that they " stand out distinctly in the picture, even when they are not true to real life " ; and commended " his reluctant but rigorous impartiality." The reviews of the Spectator helped to draw attention to the works of " Somerville and Ross," of W. H. Hudson and of Mr. E. M. Forster ; indeed, there is scarcely a branch of letters in which the Spectator has shown its insight more quickly and decidedly than in Fiction.