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This article is taken from Poetry Nation 5 Number 5, 1975.

A Failed Humanism Alan Munton


IT MAY seem to some readers that, for the first time in this century, our best writers do not have to struggle for recognition against the malign influence of powerful philistine critics, or against magazines edited without taste or judgement. In the early 1930s young writers had to endure the enervating presence of an established literary outlook, powerfully present in the figure of Sir John Squire, who turned what should have been a major literary outlet, the London Mercury, into a magazine of the utmost dullness. In the decade before that Arnold Bennett was, through his column in the London Evening Standard, 'a kind of book-dictator' (as Wyndham Lewis called him). And before the First World War, according to Ezra Pound, the Egoist ran 'the sort of fool-column that the French call a sottisier, needing nothing for it but quotations from the Times Literary Supplement'. Today the literary situation appears transformed: there is less obvious foolishness, nobody possesses Bennett's influence, and the TLS is intelligent as almost never before.

At first sight, Ian Hamilton's New Review seems to be part of this rise in standards; his magazine relates itself to a distinct 'tradition' of post-war writing, if a provincial one, uses energetic-sounding writers, and prints plenty of poetry. It is undoubtedly an attempt to establish a way of thinking and feeling for contemporary literature in England; and in doing this it registers a claim to being both humane and intelligent. The establishment can rarely have appeared ...


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