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This review is taken from PN Review 192, Volume 36 Number 4, March - April 2010.

IDEAS OF ORDER The Georgians 1901-1930, edited by Merryn Williams (Shoestring Press) £13.95

In fictional terms, the Georgians might be bookended between Howards End (1910) and Brideshead Revisited (1945). They were briefly modern enough to have appealed to the forward- thinking Schlegel sisters of Forster’s novel and yet by the mid-twenties their anthologies were part of the ‘meagre and commonplace’ book collection in the Oxford rooms of Waugh’s Charles Ryder.

The brief vogue of the Georgians as the spirit of the age came in five anthologies edited by Edward Marsh between 1912 and 1922 (the year of The Waste Land). They sold extremely well, being dedicated to the proposition that the busy reader might need assistance in finding what was new in the poetry world. However, after the unimaginable devastation of the First World War, the American modernists took over. It was an instance, in T.S. Eliot’s ominous phrase, of ‘the correction of taste’. Individual careers continued to blossom (Graves, Blunden) and the War Poets were to become iconic, but the ‘Georgians’ were passé.

The salient point to remember, however, as Merryn Williams makes clear in the introduction to his welcome new anthology, is that in their time the Georgians were considered very modern - their poems even ‘ugly’. Contributor Lascelles Abercrombie wrote of the first anthology in 1912, that they had ‘completely broken away from Victorianism in manner as well as in matter’ and Williams explains that the poets ‘experimented with verse drama, free verse and half-rhyme; they were willing to tackle several subjects which had been ...


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