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them), and succeeds beautifully. But this
is a very small proportion of the whole book,
which might well drop out of the complete
collection of Mr. Kipling's books without
being missed. It is difficult to imagine how
a man can have printed parts of it ; and
impossible to imagine how he can have
reprinted them.

A Better Play Than Usual

VERY tardily, I went to see Mr. Drink-
water's play, Abraham Lincoln, at
the Hammersmith Lyric. The tardi-
ness was nothing unusual ; in fact, it was less
than usual. Save only for a faithful attend-
ance at whatever suburban performances of
Gilbert and Sullivan have been within, my
reach, I had not been inside a theatre since
1914, when I saw Mr. Barker's production of
Mr. Hardy's Dynasts. The Dynasts, as pre-

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sented at the Kingsway, was therefore still
clearly in my mind when I went to Hammer-
smith ; and I don't think that it was absent
from Mr. Drinkwater's mind. His notion of
presenting a sort of film of Lincoln's life in
independent scenes, and his manner of stick-
ing to historical record, is strongly reminiscent
of the Hardy production ; so also is his plan
of linking the scenes up with elocuted choruses.
The choruses, however, were not reminiscent
of Hardy's ; verse and sentiments were so
feeble that they gave one goose-flesh. Mr.
Drinkwater would do well to cut out all the
moralising and high-flown parts of these
interspersed passages and retain only those
which explain what has just happened and is
about to happen to his hero, and tell us how
much time has elapsed.

The play has already been written about in
this paper ; and I echo Mr. MacCarthy's
praises. I saw- at least I thought I saw
all sorts of defects in characterisation,
interpretation, machinery ; from the absence
of that humour which always clung about the
hero to the fact that the whole seven scenes
took place indoors ; from the melodrama of
Mr. Hook to the unconvincing and overdone
pathos of the condemned sentry, who was so
handsome, so brave, spoke such perfect English,
and had committed his offence under such
extremely palliating circumstances that it

A Better Play than Usual

was unbelievable that anyone can have meant
to execute him. But the fact remained that
my eyes and ears were glued to the actors
throughout ; that in places I was profoundly
moved ; that I was as sorry when Lincoln
was shot as I should have been had I been
present at the event ; and that I went away
saying that not even the ban on smoking
would keep me away from the theatre if
there were many plays about which appealed
as this one had done to both my intelligence
and my emotion. There is no poetry about
Mr. Drinkwater's verse choruses, but there is
a good deal in his prose-play.

He partially escapes, in fact, the radical
defects of the modern theatre. There is an
immense amount of interest in the theatre.
Books are written about its possibilities ;
societies are founded to explore and exploit
them ; everyone hopes that the theatre will
in our time be as good as it was in the days of
Shakespeare and ^Eschylus ; and thousands of
persons with intellects write for the stage.
But it is commonly overlooked that Shake-
speare and his contemporaries, like JSschylus
and his contemporaries, were poets. The
witty comedy of manners needs no poetry ;
in that sphere our age (for instance, in Arms
and the Man and The Importance of Being
Earnest) has produced works as amusing
and perhaps as permanent as the comedies of

20 1

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Sheridan and the writers of the Restoration.
But we have produced nothing like A Mid-
summer Night's Dream or As You Like It,
and to tragedies like Prometheus or Lear, or
The Duchess of Malfi, no age since the Eliza-
bethan has had anything to compare, and
our own age has fallen as far short as any.
The reason is that our poets do not write
for the theatre, and that our playwrights do
not try to write poetic drama. When an
attempt, not good but respectable, has been
made, as it was by Stephen Phillips, audiences
respond to it well enough. But usually the
attempt is not made ; those moderns who have
written for the theatre have been mostly foes
of what they call romance, and slaves of
theories about " realism " and " types " which
have robbed their works of any chance of
immediate popularity or prolonged life.

I did not think Mr. Drinkwater's a great
play ; but I at least came away from it with
a feeling of the greatness and wonder of exist-
ence, of the splendour of the human will,
of the mystery of good and evil, the magnifi-
cence of conflict, the awfulness of death.
And I remembered how often before the war
I had sat through plays by intelligent men
which had bored me, or depressed, or almost
distressed me, because those men were either
devoid of the poetic imagination, passion and
a love of beauty, or because, having these, they


A Better Play than Usual

refused " on principle " to allow them scope.
They would invite you to witness in five acts
the squalid meals and quarrels of a clerk and
his wife in Brixton, into which an acuter
pain was introduced by drink, adultery or
unemployment. " Realism " was taken to
justify occupying a scene or two by showing
a young woman in a djibbah reading a Blue-
book whilst her obscurantist parent (male
always the mother was docile or secretly
sympathetic) asked her what that nonsense
was all about. Language approached, at
ordinary times, as near as possible to the
common colloquial ; at times of overwrought
feeling the resort was not heightened language,
but splutters or dead silences.

There are degrees of cleverness, of conscienti-
ousness, of faithfulness in observation in the
typical modern drama ; but it is almost all
in neutral tints, and gives one the pain,
not of a great grief or of a religious experience,
but of the toothache or a month in a slum.
The best and cleverest of these things interest,
but they do not stir. One sees these things ;
one thinks " this is a respectable effort," or
" this is very terse and well-constructed," or
" this should show the smug that all is not
well with the world," or " this should assist
the cause of tuberculosis reform " ; but as
for the ecstasy of worship, absorption in
beauty, exaltation, purgation, colour, music,


Books in General

all the splendours of great art of whatever
age, period or style these things are in
another world. For a faint approach to
them we have to be content with the Paolos
and Francescas and the Cyranos ; for broad
humour we have to go to the music-halls ;
and the intelligent stage will remain the
worthy but pathetic thing that it is until the
contemporary mind looks another way, takes
a different attitude, and the contemporary
heart is allowed the full and free expression
of its natural emotions. I know I should
be making reservations and qualifications. I
am not suggesting that great poets always have
dramatic gifts, even in an age when most artists
think and feel dramatically. I am not asking
that tragedies should be written in verse, though
I happen to think that the expression of emotion,
when emotion is deepest and fullest, is usually
likely to approach the rhythm, as it approaches
the imagery, of poetry. I do not forget that
our age has contributed new kinds of play
to the stage, such as the kind of play that
Tchekov wrote and some people like. Nor do
I forget that Mr. Yeats, Mr. Masefield and
others, with a correct appreciation of what
the drama has been and might be, have aimed
at bigger things than Mr. Drinkwater has
attempted. But I never quite feel that they
have done it naturally ; I feel that what has
been wrong is the general intellectual atmos-
sphere, and that granted that that had been

American Intelligentsia

right, other men than those might have done
far better things than theirs.

The Tastes of the American

THE American publishers have, in the
past, not been very enterprising about
cheap series of books. Our own
well-known series Everyman's, the World's
Classics, etc. have been imported and freely
sold, and there was, I believe, a large market
for a " shelf of classics " selected by President
Eliot on the lines of the late Lord Avebury's
Hundred Best Books. The idea of the cheap
series of established books has at last begun to
be thoroughly exploited. During the war
a firm called Boni and Liveright started a
series called " The Modern Library of the
World's Best Books " ; it caught on immedi-
ately, and is having a huge success. The books
are very well printed and bound for the price
which began at 60 cents, and in the latest
batch to reach me has risen to 70 cents and
75 cents, or about three shillings. But what
interests me is the selection of books.

To some extent it is possible ( I do not know)
that Messrs. Boni and Liveright have been
handicapped by American copyrights. But


Books in General

their range is wide enough to show what is
their taste ; or, perhaps I should say, what
they judge to be the taste of the large American
public which likes something better, or more
pretentious, than the ephemeral novels of the
day. There are, in the latest list before me,
some seventy-seven " titles." Except for
Henry James, Mr. Howells and President
Wilson, there is scarcely an American name
iu the whole table. The publishers are content
to ignore the eminent American writers of the
nineteenth century ; what they set out to do
is to ransack the rest of the world. Oscar
Wilde's, The Picture of Dorian Grey, and
Strindberg's Married, are Nos. I and 2 ;
Soldiers Three and Treasure Island follow ;
and the next authors in sequence are Mr.
Wells, Ibsen, Anatole France, Maupassant,
Nietzsche, Dostoievsky, Maeterlinck, Schopen-
hauer and Samuel Butler. Diana of the
Cr os sways and The Mayor of Caster bridge
flank one of Mr. Shaw's novels, and Mr. Moore's
Confessions of a Toung^ Man ; Gilbert's Plays
are cheek by jowl with Ann Veronica and
Madame Bovary ; Francis Thompson's Poems
are followed by a novel by Schmtzler ; and
with Nos. 49 and 50 we come to the delicious
collocation of Max Stirner and Max Beerbohm,
the two Max.

The names are very varied, and at first
sight it seems difficult to draw any deductions

American Intelligentsia

whatever from them. Yet, on closer inspec-
tion, a few facts stick out. For instance
when one comes across such a name as that
of Mr. Chesterton one is faintly surprised to
find it there. It is quite properly included
in every series of good and celebrated authors,
yet one is surprised. Why ? Because of
something in the surrounding atmosphere ;
one feels that the dominant elements in it
are positively alien to him ; that he would
dislike nine-tenths of the authors by whom
he is here surrounded. Again, certain names
recur. Which are they ? They are few, but
they include Wilde, Strindberg, Nietzsche,
Maupassant. Only one of the foremost nine-
teenth-century English poets comes in : that
poet is Swinburne. There are two artistic
portfolios : of these one contains reproductions
of Aubrey Beardsley's drawings. Mid-nine-
teenth century literature outside England
is represented, I think, only by Mademoiselle
de Maupin, Baudelaire's Flowers of Evil
and Schopenhauer's Studies in Pessimism.
There is only one eighteenth-century book,
and that is Voltaire's Candide ; there is only
one book of yet earlier date, and that is a
volume of Francois Villon. Mr. W. L. George's
A Bed of Roses is deemed worthy of a place
with the masterpieces of Balzac and Turgeniev,
and space is found amongst the seventy-seven
classics for the Complete Works of Ernest


Books in General

Now there are undoubtedly many master-
pieces in this Modern Library, but it cannot
really be called catholic. It is tendencious.
It is constructed for a particular generation
and a particular place. " Do not," says the
publishers' exhortation, " be a Stagnuck."
What that means I do not know, though I
sincerely hope that I am not one and shall
never become one. But the sentence that
follows is more comprehensible : " People are
judged by the books they read." If young
America is reading the Modern Library, and
the Modern Library is suited to young America,
we may form some opinion as to the state of
mind of young America. Why are Voltaire
and Villon, very great writers, selected rather
than their equally great contemporaries, pre-
decessors and successors ? They are the only
two pre-i8oo authors who have so far been
considered worth reprinting, and it can only
be deduced that there is in them something
that peculiarly appeals to the readers of the
majority of the modern authors here included.
Voltaire was subversive and slightly indecent
and played with ideas ; Villon got drunk,
like Ernest Dowson, and used bad words.
Chaucer used equally bad words, but he did not
blaspheme like Voltaire or ruin himself with ex-
cesses like Villon, so it would be useless to
expect an interest in him, or in Dr. Johnson, or
in Lamb, or in Keats ; even Montaigne is prob-
ably ruled out for lack of eccentricity. No doubt

American Intelligentsia

as the Library expands some of these will be add-
ed ; but I do think that a survey of the first batch
suggests that intellectual America has got
" modernism " worse than we ever had it. And
I use the word of that tendency to think that
art and thought began yesterday ; that all
history before yesterday left us only a few
relics worth preserving in the shape of books
which were " modern " before their time ;
that the most foolish question is better than
the most sensible answer ; that a thing is
necessarily great if nobody has ever said it,
or thought it worth saying, before ; that
anything which is abnormal must be good ;
that to be happy is a crime ; and that nothing
is interesting unless it is bizarre and prefer-
ably violent. They have just discovered in
America that respectability is a terrible thing,
and they are going for it with that rather
naive and charming enthusiasm that they
throw into all their campaigns.

I pick up again the book of poor Ernest
Dowson. He is, the publisher explains on
the wrapper, " one of the few poets of the
naughty nineties who have survived the
imperial discriminating taste of those ultimate
connoisseurs, the Years. While others of
the group which made a decade of decadents
have silently folded their purple tents and
gone with the wind, Dowson has steadily
emerged towards the foreground in critical

o 209

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and popular opinion. The fire of this tragic
poet was too intense and true to allow itself
to burn away in grotesqueries and aperies.
He has added some of the very finest lyrics
of the nineteenth century to English verse."
" The naughty nineties " ! Ugh ! But " the
fire of this tragic poet " ! He is not even
violent ; he is not even shocking ; he is not
even odd. He did write one or two lyrics
in which his feelings got through and he made
an original music, but most of his work is a
wilderness of weary prettinesses. He may
have meant what he said, but if so he con-
trived to write precisely like the people who
did not mean what they said. His writing
is Swinburne's decayed and gone thin ; the
late Richard Middleton's shows the process
of degeneracy gone one stage farther. Why
do they reprint him ? It must be because he
was weak and unfortunate.

The Attacks on Mr. Bridges

THERE is (August, 1919) a coal crisis.
The Victory Loan was not a success.
Unemployment and unemployment
pay are rife. No solution has yet been pro-
duced for the Irish problem. The Peace
settlement is not yet rounded off. Koltchak
is retreating, our Army at Archangel is to be


The Attacks on Mr. Bridges

withdrawn, and we have to make up our
minds about our future attitude towards the
de facto Government of Russia. The situation
in India is not all that could be desired ;
relations between Japan and China are strained ;
everything is puzzling and nothing is satis-
factory. But in a ruined and distracted world
some of our political guides still manage to
find time to think of matters less urgent
and not bearing either upon international
relations or our industrial system. Popular
newspapers, the latest I think being the
Evening News, have been inquiring persistently
what was happening to the Poet Laureate,
and on Wednesday the following dialogue
took place at question-time in the House of .
Commons :

" Mr. BONAR LAW, answering Mr.BoiroMLEY
(Hackney, S., Ind.), who asked whether the
Poet Laureate had up to the present written
any Peace ode or other poem commemorative
of Britain's part in the war ; and, if so,
whether a copy would be supplied for the
use of members, said : As far as I am aware,
the answer to the first part of the question
is in the negative ; the second part does not,
therefore, arise.

" Mr. BOTTOMLEY : Is the right hon. gentle-
man aware that part of the remuneration
of the Poet Laureate consists in a cash payment
in lieu of a supply of Canary wine, and will


Books in General

the right hon. gentleman consider the desir-
ability of paying that part of the salary in
kind on the off-chance of his getting inspiration ?
(Laughter.) Mr. BONAR LAW : Before I answer
that suggestion I must ask the Chancellor
of the Exchequer which would cost the country
more. (Renewed laughter.) "

I don't know how far the versatile Mr. Bot-
tomley was serious in his first inquiry ; possibly
it was only a preparation for his second, to
which I am sure that no honest bard would
take exception. But I think that the news-
paper critics who are continually demanding
ceremonial verses from the Laureate should
think out their position before complaining.

As a matter of fact, Dr. Bridges though
it would be unreasonable to expect Mr. Bonar
Law to know it has not been mute on the
subject of the war. I remember at least
three poems one very good in which he
struck the notes of patriotism and courage.
But what his critics apparently desire is a
full-dress ode on all great occasions ; he also,
they suggest, should have produced his " Ceno-
taph " on the appropriate day ; sonnets to
Marshal Foch, Marshal Haig and the King of
the Belgians should have been forthcoming ;
and he would only be fulfilling his functions
if he did his best to reinforce His Majesty's
prose appeal to the nation with an appeal in


The Attacks on Mr. Bridges

metre and rhyme. They are harking back
to the days when no State celebration, no
Royal birthday and no national victory occurred
without its due Pindarics from the State poet.
I wonder if they would like these deliberate
compositions if they got them !

Any man skilled in verse can, I need scarcely
say, make whenever he chooses confections
bearing some of the outward marks of poetry.
Dr. Bridges' worst predecessors in office,
people like Whitehead and Pye, were always
ready to work to order. It is easy. You
begin (if the occasion be one of nuptial rejoic-
ings) " All hail th' auspicious Day, The Royal
Groom leads forth his Royal Bride, The list'ning
Heavens hear a Nation's clamorous Pride."
Or, if a conquering general comes home, what
more suitable, indeed obvious, than :

He comes
Blow, blow i ye trumpets, roll, ye martial drums,

with appropriate sentiments strung behind
the rhymes "rod" and "God," "price"
and " sacrifice." When the late Alfred Austin
was P. L. we used to get a certain amount of
this sort of thing ; and how did it affect the
Press ? The result was that even those who,
when he died, favoured the retention of the
office, said that it was highly anomalous to
expect a man to turn verses out to order.


Books in General

Indeed (it was widely and properly argued)
if the office continues to exist as a national
recognition of the worth and dignity of letters,
it is sheer inconsistency and self-frustration
to persuade its holder to diminish that dignity
by writing when he does not feel inclined.
Ceremonial verses written by and for a parti-
cular date are journalism. Poetry we have
it on the authority of one of the greatest of
Poets Laureate is the fruit of " emotion
remembered in tranquillity." If a man knows
that he must celebrate the Peace on Peace
Day his emotions about it are likely to be
confused, he is in the nature of things not
given time to look back on them, and he will
certainly have little tranquillity. The better
the poet the less likely he will be to write even
tolerable verses even if he attempts to do
anything, and the less likely he is also to
attempt anything merely because he is expected
to. The Laureates who have done the thing
with ease, and naturally, have been those who
never wrote a good thing, who indeed regarded
the stuff of poetry as artificial rhetoric, and
its composition as a mechanical art.

That great patriotic poetry is welcome goes
without saying. That the office should always
be filled by a man capable of it is evident.
That it would be preposterous to have a
Laureate who did not care whether England
sank or swam, and that a man who did care

The Attacks on Mr. Bridges

would in the natural course of things be some-
times inspired to write on a national theme is
also beyond dispute. Dr. Bridges has, in a
body of work still not sufficiently appreciated
by the wider public, nobly expressed his love of
his country. In the finest collection of poems
of landscape that any Englishman has written
he has left a memorial of that love which will
outlast ten thousand Odes on the Peace : it is
indeed an impertinence to mention them in
such a connection. But I at least am happy
to think that not all the criticism and all the
Canary in the world would induce such an
artist to fake.

Will nothing ever kill the prevalent belief
that there is something specially meritorious
about commonplaces in verse ? We all feel,
usually too deeply to express it at all, im-
measurable relief and gratitude at the end
of the bloodshed and the outcome of the
struggle. We have all said " Thank God it's
over." Why should anybody think that if
that sentence be carefully twisted round into
" We sing with heart and voice Glory to God
who gave the victory " that that is poetry and
on a totally different plane ? If we want
that sort of thing it is no good having the
greatest of our living poets, a man of seventy-
five, in the Laureateship. We should appoint
a leader-writer, or a man who has filled two
inches weekly with a humorous poem regularly


Books in General

contributed to a paper. There will be the
mentality. And the thing should be thor-
oughly done. If metrical expression is desir-
able on one great occasion it is" desirable on
all. The Poet Laureate should work to the
calendar, missing no anniversary and giving
their meed to all the openings and closings of
Parliament, all the unveilings of statues, and
all the flotations of national loans. This
means a volume of work calling for consider-
able energy. It would therefore be best to
appoint a young, strong man ; put the post
upon the regular Civil Service Establishment
(Home Office or Office of Works) and fix an
age limit at which the occupant should retire.

Rhymed Mnemonics

SWELTERING in the heat, languid,
thirsty, reluctant to move, still more
reluctant to write, I still thanked the
blessed sun for his munificence. Ought I
not (I wondered) to include St. Swithin ? It
was fine on Swithin's Day this year ; and,
though the Saint could scarcely be expected
to keep his promise literally, he has been
doing his bit. At this point I remembered
there was a mnemonic rhyme about him and
his promise. I tried to repeat it and could not.
As my efforts of memory were inducing a

Rhymed Mnemonics

dangerous state of heat I referred to a Dic-
tionary of Quotations. Needless to say this
did not help me. It told me that John Gay
in his Trivia (which has given a name to
much superior compositions) had observed :

How, if on S within? s feast the welkin lours,
And every penthouse streams with hasty showers,
Twice twenty days shall clouds their fleeces drain,
And wash the pavements with incessant rain.

This passage may be remarkable as containing
one of the few sentences in English literature
in which the welkin does anything but ring,
but nobody would ever use it for a mnemonic ;
the general public would not have sudi
pompous couplets at any price.

Unable to recall this mnemonic rhyme, I
fell a-thinking of mnemonic rhymes in general.
They are, one realises, far more general than

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