Some Aspects of British-French relations during pre-war magazines


Some Aspects of British-French relations in pre-war magazines


In the magazine “Maintenant”, Special issue of October, November 1913, “Oscar Wild is alive”, the poet describe his struggle and incapacity for originality at the moment in Paris. He is wondering between describing romantically his feeling but through the reality of the present moment. As he is describing himself of being ‘paresseux’ lazy to make change, he has recourse to a surrealistic and imaginary visit of the defunct Oscar Wild. I find this article very interesting because it doesn’t follow the French trend of evolution through revolution by rejecting all the past, or being nationalist in the search for a French cultural identity. In the contrary the writer seeks for an international ‘British’ inspiration of the defunct Oscar Wild. In a way we can realize a continuity and not brusque rupture with the past which is quite different from the French tradition of quarrels between Ancients and Moderns that ends with the victory of the moderns and the abolition of the ancients’ literature model. We can see a combination of French romanticism, symbolism and realism all fused together in a surrealist pursue of a definition of something not given yet.
In this article we find reciprocity between past and present as well as between respect for the French classicism -the place and time unites- and Dead poet Oscar Wild’s visit which come to break this unity as a surrealist conquest for a more modernist French Literature. Somewhere between reality and dream the writer is trying to find out how to escape l’ennui of the French classic literature. There is a recall from the past through the example of Voltaire success at both levels as anti-dogmatic ideology and free spirit writings which the poet put in comparison with his incapability for the moment –Maintenant- of achieving similar success in the present status quo. Nevertheless, his revolutionary ‘état d’âme’ tainted with Ennui et Mélancolie has no effect. In a poem the poet describe his revolution as a lion sleeping on the sand but all he can do is swing his hand and indeed strangle it. In his eyes French literature Maintenant is a “ta ta ta ta ta” and needs inspiration from the Oscar Wild modernity. Oscar Wild represents an international literature that the French needs to consider and follow its modernist foot steps without radical rupture with the past. This interpretation is well articulated when the poet raise his tone in page 5. While science is developing and the world is discovering modernity, I am still in Paris and I am too weak and lazy to be able to break free.



Finally, there is a call to open the door for breaking the classicism in order to pursue the exploration.  Art is exploration of an absolute unreachable,.. Oscar Wild is described to be « more Muscial than plastique » and laugthing continuously … into and inside the absolute « riait continuellement … dans l’absolu ». In this special issue the rebel Sébastien Melmoth is or should never stop his creative production through inspiring other poets. Oscar Wild is described as a cheerful music that goes for eternity. In a Nietzsche  interpretation the poet seem to be recalling for a self realization through a stimulated sensibility through culture that should be free from chains and internalized to be transformative as there is no eternal or absolute facts but there is a historical philosophy that the artist need to understand and assess its development and its process of creation. Pursuing this thought, the French writer call not for change as there is no final word in arts but there is a continuous activity of exploring and comprehending the human life and experience through aesthetic values to attain satisfaction and contention.

French-British Relations in Rhythm

For this assignment, I found a piece published in Rhythm in Vol. 1 No. 3 during Winter 1911. It's on page 32 and it's titled "Railway Vision" by Arthur Crossthwaite.


First of all, before I comment on this specific piece, I would like to point out that there are French phrases scattered throughout this issue of the magazine and an entire poem published in French on page 10 called "Petite Poème." This in an of itself says something to me about the relations between France and Britian, that a magazine published in London still includes things that I assume are for French readers since many Brits wouldn't know French. Likewise, by including a poem entirely in French without any translation or explanation of it in English, it's almost as though it is solely for an inclusion of a French audience.

But for the specific piece of "Railway Vision," one of the lines towards the beginning really stuck out to me. It says, "In Paris one talks and talks, in London one dreams and does." This line strikes me as giving an attitude of the time of how British people thought of Parisians- that they are simply all talk and no action. But as the piece continues, I got a little lost in the monologue of the author. It's almost as though he claims that London is where dreams can take place, in the beginning, but then he changes his mind during the course of the piece as he talks about art and the ability of an artist to do as he pleases. One of the last lines says, "And that phrase, 'The Art of Essentials' set me dreaming again of Paris and café-talks, and I saw vague ideal visions of a misty future, until the rasp of breaks and a hoarse 'Victoria!" brought me back to reality and London." So this last sentence is in direct contrast from the start of the piece and I particularly think it's amusing that at the beginning she said that in Paris you can only talk but in London you can dream, and then once she's back in London, she's dreaming about the café talks in Paris. I think in terms of relations between the two cities, this idea can offer some of the mutual fascination between the two cities. The two cultures are interested by one another and try to include one another, as shown in this piece and the inclusion of other French phrases and works in this issue. 

Racism and The Great War in "The Crisis"

In the opinion section of The Crisis, Vol. 10, No. 3, I came across an interesting article entitled "The War," considering what effect The Great War would have on the status of Blacks in England, France, and the United States. The author weighs arguments from several different scholars, the first of whom, Saint Nihal Singh, predicts that the status of Blacks and Indians in the British and French empires will be forever changed due to recognition of their heroism on the battlefield. The second quoted author, Joseph Edward Chamberlin, questions the merit of that argument, and points to historical examples of Blacks fighting on behalf of their country. No improvement in social or economic status resulted from the participation of Black soldiers, going back to the Egyptians and all the way up to the Spanish-American War. While Chamberlin recognizes that "France is the only country that gives equality to the colored man; and presumably, in that country, the service of the Senegalese will not be forgotten," he doubts whether any real change will come about in "the white world at large."

The article goes on to quote a South African newspaper calling on the British to recognize the faithful service of the native African peoples in providing an enormous amount of wealth in gold to the empire during the war, as well as a Toronto newspaper warning against any one nation presuming to impose its values and society upon the world as a whole. It concludes: "Equality for all, because mastership for none!"

The author of this opinion piece reflects more widely-held views of the time, namely that France stands out as being more progressive on issues of race, and that both the British and French empires stand to lose a great deal of power and fortune if they do not recognize the contribution to their societies provided by the native peoples they rule. It is implied that those nations are to provide an example for the United States, where Blacks did not feel recognized for their contributions as soliders in the nation's wars, and where laws governing their treatment were so wildly inconsistent between states.

Considerations in La Nouvelle Revue Française

In the first issue of La Nouvelle Revue Française, Jean Schlumberger provides a mission statement. Unlike Wyndham Lewis' Manifesto, Schlumberger's is much quieter, and taken from a position of a sort of intellectual responsibility. He begins by pointing out that artists are faced with two considerations: those of taste or fashion, which are continually changing, but continually renewing over the course of centuries; and the more difficult considerations essentiels, in which the artist ("dans les moments les plus décisifs de sa vie) compares their own work to the canonical pantheon of past "masters," and utilize past rubrics of artistic "genius."

Schlumberger says that the difficulty of these questions draws together artists who agree on a certain set of answers, into literary groups. The strength of these groups, however, is dependent on agreement over a body of work which they recognize to represent their artistic ideals. So when something new comes along, like free verse for example, there must be a break from the old rules in order to allow new standards for new forms of expression.

This piece echoes much of our discussion from Tuesday, exemplifying the French spirit of renewal. Unlike the British sentiment to build on past traditions, Schlumberger asks the reader of this magazine to be open to styles and methods that will at first seem unfamiliar. In true French fashion, the piece ends insisting conservation of the purity of the French language, even while new stylistic choices are being made. Thus, even the break from tradition is coupled with some sense of cultural superiority. Conversely, the British possess this same sense of tradition in the recognition of past works of art, while the English language is constantly manipulated to fit the fashion of the time-period.

British French relations in "The New Age"

In looking for an example of British-French relations before the war, I decided to look through "The New Age" to find an example.  "The New Age" is a British literary magazine, and it specifically describes at the top that it focusses on politics, literature and art.  The fact that it includes politics gave me the sense that there would be some reference to the relationship with the French.  The pre-war issue that I found is from May 16, 1907.  In browsing through the issue I found that there are references to political topics such as problems with the Irish and liberals and adult suffrage.  The section that I found a reference to the French in was not in the content produced by the magazine, but in the Correspondence section.  This is like a "Letter to the Editor" section of a paper and it gives readers an opportunity to express their views.  It may refer to what "The New Age" included in an issue; negative or positive.

The letter that I read through was called "Imperial Federation," and it was signed by M.D. Eder on page 47.  The author brings up the idea that Imperial Federation is a stage towards International Federation.  The writer questions whether this would cause a barrier that joins already existant ones.  The letter specifically states, "Why seek to gather the Canadians to ourselves sooner than the French, the Australian before the German ? (Eder, 47).  This implies that there is no rush to implement anything before other powerful countries of this time have, including France.  One of the reasons that he mentions that would make it ideal is that there is common language and literature, and that acts as a sufficient reason.  I take this to mean that because the British speak the same language as the colonists means that they should attempt to gain control.

The author goes on to give examples of why just a communiry spirit would not be a good enough reason enough on its own.  He says, "When a Frenchman is as keen as myself about the discoveries of Pastor Gregor Mendel, I have found a friend" (Eder, 47).  This implies that the general similarity in interest would make action more understandable.  It also mentions what would consist of a friendship with the French. 

The overall British-French relationship that I gathered through using context clues in this letter to "The New Age," is that British readers are looking towards the Fench actions in determining what their country should do itself.  This can be seen in the way that the writer wrote that if the French haven't done it yet, why should they?  There was also a small anecdote included that showed how a friendship with a Frenchman could be formed and how that relates to the topic of Imperial Federation.


Marat and Robespierre

 So as I think someone might have said before me, I really had no idea how to approach finding content for this blog post. It seems a bit too over-arching to make statements about pre-war French-British relations from one piece. I did, however, find an interesting piece in The New Age from an English-American author Francis Grierson. He wrote an essay on two historical figures from the French Revolution. I'm not entirely clear as to the timing or reason for the piece (placed in a British journal in 1909, about French revolutionists of the late 18th century, from an American author). It was unique, however, that I found both the style of the piece as well as the "intent" of it interesting. 

The first thing that struck me about the essay was the way it was written--in a fictional, "epic" tone that glorified two specific characters rather than their environment. There was a tone of fate and extreme levels of drama in it. Marat and Robespierre are portrayed as heroes of sorts. Oddly enough, the characters are glorified whereas the situation doesn't seem to be. I'm not sure of its significance, but I considered the need for revolution against the monarchy to not be elevated in a journal of a monarchist society. 


"Dadaism is a diagnosis of a disease of the French mind"

In approaching this assignment, I decided to concentrate on Anglo-American writers and their criticism of current modernist literature.  In my search, I was drawn to T.S. Eliot's "The Lesson of Baudelaire" from the first issue of The Tyro.  Immediately, my eyes alighted on the phrase, "Dadaism is a diagnosis of a disease of the French mind" (Eliot, The Tyro Vol 1, p. 3).  When I began reading the whole article, I expected a full denouncement of the dadaist movement, primarily because of his use of the word "disease" to describe it.  Also, I expected him to maintain that the movement has no bearing on English literature at all.  While proven wrong in my first assumption, the second was somewhat qualified by the rest of the article.  Eliot believes that dadaism cannot be directly applied to London.  However, what I wasn't expecting was Eliot's claim that French readers and writers are not only better read in French literature than English readers and writers, but better read in literature in general.  And, additionally, he notes that English writers are too conscious of themselves to seriously consider any other type of literature, a notion with which he seems to disagree, given the nature of the article.  I can only assume that he considers himself an exception to the rule (unless he places himself in a different category, since he's technically American?).

As someone who emulated Baudelaire in his own poetry, Eliot compares both modernist French Literature and English Literature as a whole to the author's work.  While he seems to believe that dadaism is a part of modernism that does not apply to English literature, he does believe it should evaluated.  However, his evaluation is qualified, contingent on whether or not it can be viewed as a "moral criticism" of French life.  He then presents what he calls "The lesson of Baudelaire," which, briefly stated, is the idea that poetry should address moral issues and wrestle with the implications of good and evil.  This, he appears to believe, is something that French authors have attempted to do for centuries, and which Baudelaire perfected.   

At the end of his article, he adds a phrase in french, "Vous, hypocrite lecteur..."  I surmised that this was probably calling the reader a hypocrite, perhaps because he anticipated an English reader or poet might believe he is being unfairly criticised.

Impressions: The Rare Book Room

I was truly looking forward to seeing Wyndham Lewis' "Manifesto-I" after having viewed the PDF on the MJP (SRY 4 the acronyms...). The pages were just as I imagined: hard-stock almost like construction paper, thick enough to absorb the ink of the block lettering. Now I can truly imagine what it would have been like to hold such a large "little magazine" in one's hand. If I had had something like that at the time in which it was released, I would have thought it some kind of monumental book, and probably would have read it as a coherent text, each section contributing to a unified whole. 

But what I didn't expect to hold in my hand was the copy of "The Little Review" from 1920 which contained the serialization of James Joyce's Ulysses. After a brief review of the section headings (not printed in the version I read), I realized that the magazine which I held in my hands contained the very part that caused the book to be banned in the U.S. and sparked the obscenity trial in which the ban was over-ruled. At that moment, I really felt what it was to hold a piece of history in my hands, and for some reason I couldn't help but read over the (subliminally) "obscene" part, just to make sure I had absorbed it. Also very interesting in this issue was the photo of a young Joyce glued to the cover, one which I had never seen, coming off the page because the adhesive had worn out. If this was a part of the original issue, this exemplifies some of the printing techniques of the time, in which the photo is literally slapped on to the page with some glue. Overall, the Rare Book Room was a great experience. 

Rare Book Library presentation.

Dr. Erwing's presentation was impressive and the effort that go along such imp. project is owesome. But, some words mentionned might slightly raise our attention to a higher level of responsability that goes beyond preserving and scanning books; such as "institution's interest, institution's direction, selective process, no develope;ent collection policy, need to grow the collection within a historical context" and finally and in particular when the process of selection is focused on what work of a precise writter, the talk turned to the "the freedom of speech", "limit" and "something is damaging".I put these words together and I see it primordial to preserve a comprehensive global story of the History -that is better explained through les petites histoires- and not part of it, a so called -choosen part- based on which the next generations will build their own History. I beleive it is imp. to go through it all -even opposites- in order to establish our knowledge with the avalanche of books and journals that "beyond action and reaction we would establish ourselves" to the rest of the manifesto in Blast  

Of course our library is one of the best, Because, it is an impossible mission for one organization single handed to acheive such Moral responsability towards future scholars and intellectuals centuries later. I have no knowledge that one National/International library preserve the whole little stories of our present history for everyone everywhere at his/her finger free. If such digital library exists, pls. post us the url.



Bibliographic coding in the first issue of "The New Age"

Bibliographic coding, according to George Borstein, is connected to Walter Benjamin's concept of  "aura." He uses it to mean distinguishing features of a work (page layout, typeface, etc) that emphasize the work's "presence in time and space." In the first issue of "The New Age," the reader is struck by its similarity in appearance to a newspaper: black sarif font on white paper, with headlines in larger, bold print. There is no cover, per se. The front page includes the title of the publication, the date, its cost, and on the upper right and left corners, placed around the title that calls itself  "an independent socialist review of politics, literature and art," we find small boxed advertisements - one for coffee, another for bread.

There is no table of contents; rather, the first two pages consist of a lengthy article addressing politics, wherein the sections are headlined with subheadings in bold capital letters (one assumes these are written by one or both of the editors, as there is no signature). On the third page, we find letters to the editor (again reminiscent of this type of section in a newspaper). Throughout this issue, scattered among the poetry, reviews, and essays, we find advertisements for lectures, books, and food.

The nature of what is advertised seems to underscore the socialist angle of the magazine - everyday food staples along with intellectual writings and lectures, the simple needs of an everyday socialist. Furthermore, the likeness of the magazine to a newspaper adds a perception of authority to what is said within its pages. The first two pages basically lay out an analysis of the current political situation in Britain, providing a framework through which the reader can then view the contents following it. The impression of authority given by its layout makes the reader less inclined to question the merits of what is being said within, and more inclined to allow the editors and authors published in "The New Age" to set the terms of the debate.