Far the worst lack in discretion of compilation is the devotion
of 20 pages to Mr. Aleister Crowley, whose over-blown rhetoric
is so well-known that it surely might have been omitted
—The Manchester Guardian, date unknown.
From Mr. Aleister Crowley’s strange and mystical books
the editor has selected some 20 pages of poetry which we have
contemplated with considerable astonishment, but little
admiration, although we recognise a Promethean grandeur which
elsewhere we seek vanity.
—The Birmingham Post, date unknown.
1910-1913. Edited by G.D.H.C., G.P.D., and W.S.V. Introduction
by Gilbert Murray. (Blackwell, 3s. 6d. net.
Poets, 1900-1913. Chosen by Aelfrida Tillyard. Introduction by
A. T. Quiller-Couch. (Heffer. 5s. net)
poetry is produced in spite of all.” So says Professor Gilbert
Murray, who knows something of both universities. And I think
that similar collections of Manchester, or Newcastle, or
Cardiff, or Birmingham poetry, by men of under twenty-five,
would not very greatly differ from Oxford Poetry, or at all
excel it. Cambridge Poets includes the work of women, of men who
took their degrees twelve years ago or more, and men who are
still undergraduates. It may be said of both sets, what
Professor Murray says of the Oxford set, that they are “at one
point or another, in touch with almost all the moving impulses
of contemporary poetry,” while some of the Cambridge poets, such
as Messrs. Aleister Crowley and Rupert Brooke, are already among
those impulses, and still more, such as Mrs. Cornford, “John
Presland,” Sarojini Naidu, and Messrs. Flecker, H. O. Meredith,
Harold Munro., and J. C. Squire are among the marked
personalities of the day. . . .
[ . . . ]
and Drama, December 1913.
Cambridge Poets, 1900-1913. Chosen by Aelfrida Tillyard.
5s. net. Cambridge: W. Heffer & Sons.)
Criticism of this volume is disarmed by the modest claim
which Sir A. Quiller-Couch puts forward in his introduction. It
would seem that the public are asked to accept its contents, not
as offering any achievement of permanent value, but as affording
evidence of a body of poetic sensibility and technical skill out
of which some one worthy of the name of poet may eventually
arise. Taken on this level, the selection may be welcomed,
though it cannot be said that many of the thirty-eight writers
whose names appear are either well known already to the reading
public or are likely to become so. Most of the contributions
must be definitely classed under the heading of minor poetry,
such as demands no very warm encouragement in the interests of
literary art. The writing of verses is an agreeable pastime
which is well fitted to develop the artistic appreciation of
those who practise it; but we do well not to make the approach
to Parnassus too easy. Of the writers represented here, perhaps
the most promise is shown by Rupert Brooke and James Elroy
Flecker, but praise is due also to the work of John Alford,
Frances Darwin Cornford, Aleister Crowley, Dermot Freyer, and
Victor B. Neuburg.
Educational Times, 2 February 1914.
Almost simultaneously have appeared an anthology of Cambridge
Poets (1900-1913) published by Heffer, and another of Oxford
Poets (1910-1918) published by Blackwell. Sir A. Quiller-Couch
introduces the former, and Professor Gilbert Murray the latter.
There is much more performance and much more promise in the
Cambridge volume than in the Oxford one. The Oxford book
suffers, no doubt, from the restriction of date, though unless
“1910-1918” implies (which I doubt) that all the writers
included have been undergraduates at some time during that
period, it might have been improved by selections from recent
volumes by young Oxford men still in their twenties, whose works
have not been drawn upon. As it is, there is not really a
striking serious poem in the collection. The best things are
some of the parodies at the end, especially Mr. R. A. Knox’s
most ingenious Absolute and Abitophell, Mr. Philip Gucdalla’s
Dolarcs, and Mr. Bridges-Adams’ chaste Fragment from the
Elizabethan. Mr. Michael Sadler’s Sic Transit and Mr. R. A. Eric
Shepherd’s Parvula Dorothea are graceful; but the majority of
the other poems are affected and unconvincing. The most
prevalent influence appears to be that of Mr. Belloc, but the
mark of Mr. Mascfield is visible on these lines by Mr. A. J.
And all that night I roared and cried,
And kissed the woman by my side,
And she was very kind to me
And understood my misery.
And I was full of beer and gin
And deadly drunk, and all for sin
To quench the raging flame within.
And all the people in the fair
Could only stop and stare and stare
Till I could bash their faces in. . . . .
The blood went singing in my ears
And in my eyes ran burning tears,
And being out for mighty fun
I did great things I’d never done. . . . .
And now I feel my smashed-up soul
Is clinkered like a burned-out coal.
This is not ostensibly parody.
The Cambridge book contains work by nearly forty writers,
including M. D. Armstrong, Rupert Brooke, A. Y. Campbell,
Frances Cornford, Aleister Crowley, J. E. Flecker, Harold Monro,
and Sarojini Naidu. There are some good poems, and there might
have been more had several of these poets been represented by
their best work. Mr. Brookse’s Dining-Room Tea might well have
accompanied his Grantchester, and better examples might have
been given of Mr. Armstrong and Mr. Flecker. Mr. Campbell, whose
small book published last year contained some remarkably good
work, ought to have had much more space, and one could have
spared the contributions of several uninspired writers who
occupy about a dozen pages each. But the editress (Aelfrida
Tillyard) has helped to demonstrate that there is a genuine
revival in poetry, and if the quality of her anthology has
suffered by the inclusion of so large a number of writers, that
is presumably accounted for by a conscientious desire to cover
the ground properly.
New Statesman, 29 November 1913.
Oxford and Cambridge, said somebody, do nothing together, but
they do the same things at the same time. Some squint of
Providence’s judicious eyes, or perhaps a furtive colloquy
between Mr Heffer and Mr Blackwell, say at Bletchley Junction,
has led to the simultaneous appearance of these two
books:—‘Cambridge Poets, 1900-1913, an Anthology chosen by
Aelfrida Tillyard,’ and ‘Oxford Poetry, 1910-1913,’ edited by a
triumvirate of consonants. Whatever Providence and publishers
may know about it, the two prefaces are blissfully or willfully
ignorant of each other. The very titles are prettily diverse.
‘Oxford Poetry,’ ‘Cambridge Poets’: what is this but the old
antithesis of ‘movements and men?—Cambridge individualistic as
so careful of the type,
So careless of the single life
(though, as for type, the Cambridge book is the pleasanter to
the eye). However, the Oxford preface assures us that the book
‘is in no sense the work of a “school” of poets,’ and that
Oxford for the nonce ‘is not creating a new movement.’ Again,
‘Cambridge Poets, an Anthology’: there is no mistaking that;
but the triumvirs tell us that their anthology is, ‘strictly
speaking, not an anthology at all’—but just pot-luck, so to
speak. Then, ‘1900-1913’ against ‘1910-1913’: subtract, and
Better fifty years of Europe than a cycle of Cathay.
So far, we have just been throwing out a few hints, with all
respect, to our London contemporaries, who will want to make
these two books the ground of a University match.
The rule for anthologies is to read first the poems that you
know, then those that are not there, thirdly the preface, and
lastly, if time allows, the rest. This week time does not
allow, so we suspend judgment. Meanwhile, here are prefaces by
Professor Gilbert Murray and Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch; here is
Mr Rupert Brooks on Granchester; here is Mr R. A. Knox’s
‘Absolute and Abitohell, a Satire in the Manner of Mr John
Dryden upon a newly-issu’d Work entitl’d Foundations.’
Mr Knox has returned to this charge in a prose-work called ‘Some
Loose Stones’—or is it ‘Tiles’?—which we have not yet read; but
the present poem bids fair to be the best thing in either of our
two collections. Incidentally it furnishes a motto for future
But we, for ev’ry one of theirs, have two,
And trust the Watchfulness of blessed Q.
As to poems that are not there, we can only speak for
Cambridge. Is our Minerva unacquainted with ‘Euphrosyne,’ born
in 1905? Does she not subscribe to ourselves? If she does,
where are certain poems on Mike and Barts and CATS, or the jolly
‘Song of the Lecture Room’ by R.F.D., published by us in May of
1909? . . . . .
We have noticed a few surface-blemishes. ‘Euripedes,’ in a poem
by a Johnian mathematician, is doubtless a studied negligence:
but why is our Magdalene oxonically curtailed? Has this
something to do with Mr Neuburg’s poem ‘Under Magdalen Bridge,’
whence he espies meadows damp and trim? For surely these
meadows belong to Another Place. Again, one sees why Mr
Aleister Crowley should have forgotten how to spell the Nevile’s
Court of his old College; but he ought to be more at home on
‘Garret Hostel Bridge.’ And why has Mr G. H. S. Pinsent been
annexed by King’s?
But enough, for the present. By next week we may even have to
read the books.
Cambridge Magazine, 20 November 1913.
After reading first the anthology and then the preface
contributed by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, we discovered we had
taken an unnecessary precaution. His discursive essay advisedly
makes no attempt at detailed praise, and no attempt to indicate
any particular and essential tendencies of the poets
represented. The anthology contains some poems already well
known, notably "The Old Vicarage, Grantchester," by Mr. Rupert
Brooke, which was certainly amongst the half-dozen best poems of
1912. Familiar, too, are "The Golden Journey to Samarkand," in
the austere style of Mr. Elroy Flecker, and "The Railway
Station," by Mr. J. Collings Squire, whose wonderful parodies
unfortunately are excluded from the scheme of the volume. From
Mr. Aleister Crowley's seven-and-thirty strange and mystical
books the editor has selected some twenty pages of poetry which
we have contemplated with considerable astonishment, but little
admiration, although we recognize in the sonnet "Perdurabo" a
Promethean grandeur which elsewhere we seek vainly. Mr. Harold
Munro, a courageous writer whom we admire further as a publicist
in the cause of poetry, contributes a dramatic poem "God." The
asterisks placed against pieces unpublished elsewhere mark a
considerable number of school-exercises such as the "Fragmentary
Views: of Mr. Francis Bekissy, and at least one fascinating
poem, "Mary Ford and Jimmy Price," a ghost story, something
after the tritely-rhymed manner of Mr. Masefield, but with
certain claims to originality. Perhaps the editor's twelve-page
selection from her own undistinguished poetry accounts for some
errors in choice, and yet, reading carefully through the
anthology, we cannot fail to be comforted by many excellent
lyrics from writers well known and unknown. Happily the
laborious pseudo-classic productions of an earlier generation
are absent, and much of the verse—at lowest the manifestation of
the enduring impulse to poetry—is original and underivative. It
would be unjust to condemn even the bulk of the volume as
'prentice-work, for with poets such as those first names, and
Mr. H. O. Meredith, directly in touch with life itself, and
sensitive to its appeal, there is more durable merit than the
outward graces of mere literary craftsmanship.
Birmingham Daily Post, 30 January 1914.
It would be accepting too much to
accept this volume as typical of Cambridge. To begin with, the
compiler is a lady and one who might be accused with every
appearance of reason of having rather too great personal
interest in a book which contains no fewer than eleven of her
hitherto unpublished poems, as against less than eleven for all
the other thirty-seven authors. We begin, then, with expectation
of partiality, and it is, at any rate, to be hoped that this
collection need be taken as no more than the expression of
“Aefrida Tillyard’s” likes. Secondly, Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch
is not typical of Cambridge but leagues from being so; and this
is a refreshing reflection, for his Introduction is
discreditable. The present writer, reading carelessly, supposed
through five pages that the lady-compiler was writing. It should
not have been a shock, but it was one, to discover the truth. We
put it to any reader whether the feminine pen following has not
all the character of a precieuse.
“I shall take it to be conceded at
this time of day, not only that good poetry is worth writing,
but that our language has a capacity and our nation a rather
special aptitude for it; and these admissions—if the reader will
be good enough to make them before starting upon the poems here
collected—will excuse together the authors, the anthologist, and
the contributor of this short ‘Introduction.’ “
Why “at this time of day?”
Shakespeare has been dead a long while and Chaucer longer still.
When, and by whom, was “good” poetry ever considered not worth
writing? “Q.” is certainly thinking of his “Daily Mail.” And
this “rather special” aptitude—what a coy little way of getting
the nation to think well of itself, if the reader will only be
good enough to admit first that fine poetry may be worth
writing, and to excuse our troubling him with our anthology!
Windy silliness is all there is to that, and it is no excuse for
a writer “at this time of day” when all is “conceded” of
whatever there may have been unconceded” by the ignorant
public—it is no avail to a Professor of English Literature that
one or two wounded poets have titled at the bourgeoisie of their
times. But Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch will make you five pages of
colloquialism and archaism over this conceded point and drag in
the naked evidences of his studies, a dozen or so of famous
names. “It takes (I say,” he says, “a great and brave man to
perceive this [the permanence of poetry].” Our Professor is,
then, a great and brave man, for he perceives. We get a little
feminine description of his exact surroundings at the instant of
writing, which description serves to introduce an image of waves
that owe their impetus to the whole sea behind them, this image
illustrating the truism (Arnold formulated it for the Early
Victorians) that a poet owes his impetus to the currents behind
him. Once again we are told that the writer is rusticating, and
then how young men kindly tell him that his enthusiasm keeps
remarkably green, and finally, with a firm vote for the
continued existence of dramatic and epic poetry which have
recently been considered dead by a young poet of Sir Arthur’s
acquaintance—we are quit of this disgraceful performance.
It may, indeed, have been
difficult to say anything original about these “Cambridge
Poets.” Most of them have been uproariously patronized by Fleet
Street, which seems not to have had any terror or doubts
regarding this sort of poetry. And most have been rebuked or
laughed at in THE NEW AGE. . . . Messrs. Crowley, Brooke,
Buxton, Neuburg, Flecker, Freyer, a few Girton and Newnham stars
are these “poets,” with some others among whom are one or two we
mention with respect. It is a change for the good to turn from
Mr. Crowley’s dusty, rusty—we should like to say razzly-dazzly—mystagogery
to the manly “Anima Vagula,” by Archibald T. Campbell, or to the
admirable descriptive piece by Mr. Michaelides, “The Forests of
Massachusetts,” and the poem “To my Father,” by the same author.
Two of Mr. J. C. Squire’s best pieces are included. The Rev. R.
Keable writes two sincere if somewhat fanciful effusions. Mr.
Munroe has a few good lines in his play. But, for the rest, what
is there but perspiration and vocabulary? A ’cute of pretty
phrase drives them repeating it forever and a day; and the
influence of Girton and Newnham is apparently deplorable. “Kiss
me dearest” might easily be taken by the average reader as a
synonym for Cambridge. It is as well to know that there is a
permanent Cambridge which is not the city of these versifiers.
No wonder, though, that the Perse boy sneered of poets “they
droop about in such a tedious row.” One of them implores his
For God’s sake, let us laugh a
little—but himself appears to be most concerned with a certain
“Thoralis”—“my sword-like Thoralis,” he calls her.
But none of them laugh, except in
a cynical, tired fashion like Mr. Rupert Brooke, who curses like
a cavalier to be back in Grantchester, Cambridgeshire—
The shire for men who understand.
Men like Mr. Brooke, you
understand! But imagine a man of understanding ranting is such a
fashion of his ’shire. These much approved lines on Grantchester
are offensive with infantilism.
And is there money still for tea?
A man might say it with a covering
laugh—but write it, publish it?
There is not a specimen of wit in
the whole volume—but remember it is compiled from one of the
parasitical colleges. Except the poems we have distinguished,
here is nothing but feebleness, sentimentality, and
New Age, 25 December 1913.