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This article is taken from PN Review 9, Volume 6 Number 1, September - October 1979.

Edgell Rickword and The Calendar of Modern Letters A.L. Morton

It was my great good fortune that the Calendar of Modern Letters appeared just when I needed it most and was most ready to profit by it. Fifty years later, I can still recall some of the excitement at discovering what seemed, and indeed was, a new kind of criticism, in which serious, if not always successful attempts were made to substitute objective standards for personal preferences. It was the work of a remarkable group of men-mostly little older than myself-but I think there can be little doubt that it was from Edgell Rickword that it took its tone and that it was his acute and wide-ranging individuality which stamped it.

The middle 1920s were in many ways a turning point, especially for the writing and criticism of poetry. Late nineteenth-century romanticism was dead, but the rather feeble naturalism of most poets of the early twentieth century just did not carry enough guns to offer an adequate alternative or to effect a theoretical demolition. Yet it was these poets and their following who still dominated the critical field, as is witnessed by the prestige then enjoyed by the 'squirearchy' of the London Mercury. If young men like myself were reading Eliot and recognized in him a new force, we were still bewildered and critically uncommitted.

The Calendar, then, came as a revelation, affording a whole apparatus of clues by which we could begin to find a path which hitherto we had only believed to exist. ...


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