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JOHN FARRAR, Editor
THE POINT OF VIEW
EW of the critics who have lavished praise on Amy Lowell's fine biography of John Keats know the tremendous strength of will which went into its making. It was only when this New England poet was forced to cancel her trip to England, where she was about to address various learned bodies, that it became apparent how unwell she had been for several years. She was determined to finish the task she had set herself. She brought all of her New England courage to bear upon the problem, and by a system of rigorous discipline completed a work which entailed labors of research and of actual writing that would have been remarkable in one enjoying perfect health. Recently Boston gave her a complimentary dinner, at which various critics and friends told her honestly and sincerely how much they admired and honored her. Then they asked her to read a poem. It was only a few friends who realized, as she read the final moving lines of "Lilacs", how exhausted she was; for she made the New England
lyric dramatic and beautiful, although she was pale and her voice did not have quite its usual ring. Perhaps this tribute to her courage is unnecessary. as an example to young writers old writers for that matter this woman, with her sense of form and of duty, her genius and her intellect brought to bear upon it to accomplish the seemingly impossible, should be an inspiration. Of her "John Keats" many things have been said, but the fact that it is a textbook for the young writer may not have become apparent. No book on how to write poetry, on how to live the artistic life, can equal it. In the mistakes of Keats, Miss Lowell points out the duties of others. One of the reasons why she was able to write so knowingly of the dreams and difficulties of youth is that she has always been unsparing in the amount of time she has given struggling youth. Night after night, she has interrupted her work to go over, line by line, word by word, the poems of aspirants to literary fame in whose gift she believed. Their troubles were her own. Her influence has been far reaching, and many of our
finest poets are ungrudging in their acknowledgment of debt to her vision and honesty. Unflinchingly critical of her own work, she does not spare others, and her advice is never lightly given. We should like to wish her quick recovery from her illness and to assure her that wherever there are lovers of poetry and of the writing craft, they will grieve that she is not well. Miss Lowell can rest assured that her public is a growing and an affectionate one.
DR. SAMUEL JOHNSON in "The
Rambler", No. 64, had something to say concerning "The Wickedness of Loose or Profane Authors":
By the instantaneous violence of desire, a good man may sometimes be surprised before reflection can come to his rescue; when the appetites have strengthened their influence by habit, they are not easily resisted or suppressed; but for the frigid villainy of studious lewdness, for the calm malignity of laboured impiety, what apology can be invented? What punishment can be adequate to the crime of him who retires to solitudes for the refinement of debauchery; who tortures his fancy, and ransacks his memory, only that he may leave the world less virtuous than he found it; that he may intercept the hopes of the rising generation; and spread snares for the soul with more dexterity?
Thus spoke the eighteenth century sage, and his remarks ring with pertinence today. With all the talk of censorship, of criticism of present day theatres and books, it is necessary to reiterate several points.
The lady in
an upstate town who pronounced "Soundings" and "The Constant Nymph" obscene could not in the eyes of this magazine be justified in any degree. It would be difficult to persuade any jury that either of these books "spreads snares for the soul". Never
theless, it is conceivable that any book, no matter how sweet perhaps even "Pollyanna"-might be capable of ensnaring a particular soul. A psychiatrist recently pointed out that in many cases of developing abnormality he had traced the influence of a certain volume published a decade since, a volume not in any sense an obscene book, which could not be suppressed, yet which is harmful. Books and plays are the expression of the hearts and the minds of a people. We cannot change these hearts and minds by frowning on them, or by trying to influence their artistic output. If we try to destroy the works of artists, we shall some day burn a Michelangelo. Decent minded people do well to protest, as did Dr. Johnson, against "the calm malignity of laboured impiety"; but in so doing it is well to look into the heart to discover whether such criticism is justified or merely fussy.
AUTOBIOGRAPHY ON THE INSTALMENT PLAN
T the time of the publication this year of "Mark Twain's Autobiography", reviewers guessed that it was incomplete. Now, to the New York "Times", Albert Bigelow Paine, editor of the Autobiography, discloses "that the full text would fill six volumes similar in size to the two already published". Mark Twain did not wish any vicious statements about living persons or their immediate descendants to appear until long enough after their death, so that there could be no possibility of offense. It does not seem evident to his literary executors or to his publishers his publishers-nor, apparently, did it occur to Mr. Clemens that there would be no possibility of defense, ei
ther. Would it not be more courageous and fairer to the public if the entire book had been published at one time? Did not the occasion demand a firmer statement of fact at the time of publication of this first instalment? Mark Twain's stature will not gain by fumbling over his manuscript effects. Surely, if his convictions were strong enough so that he put them on paper, a man of his greatness need not fear the criticism of time. If enemies are worth having, they can be met in the open; there is an element of cowardice about not wishing to offend the living, while we plan to harass their ghosts in, say, a hundred years. "Mark Twain's Autobiography" as it stands is too good a book over which to quibble; but the full text is undoubtedly better. Mr. Paine's judgment in selection is usually excellent. Nevertheless he now makes a statement, "There is no reason why a considerable portion of it should not be used whenever the public seems ready for it. There are also chapters which it would not do to publish for a generation or two." not? We think the public may righteously demand a statement on that point. In a generation or two will not literary executors be putting Samuel Clemens in the unenviable position of striking blows in the dark?
THE COPYRIGHT SITUATION "OPYRIGHT law is under discus
sion, and there is likelihood of legislation in the next Congress. There is likelihood, too, of disaster as well as aid to publishers and authors, if the matter is not given careful attention. The situation has changed since the discussions of 1891 and 1909. At one time, copyright discussion was chiefly
between authors and publishers. Nowadays the right to control literary and artistic matter is of primary importance to the motion picture producers and theatres, the musical record industry, and the broadcasting stations. The change is quite clearly shown by the extent of the printed testimony before the House Committee in the four long hearings during January and February.
There are two important results which revision of the copyright law should bring about: first, a clearer statement of the rights of the owners of copyright, so that they may successfully control all markets; and second, the entrance of the United States into the International Copyright Union, from which it is the most conspicuous absentee.
A clearer statement of the rights of owners of copyright is needed, because a writer has not only book rights to think of but serial and second serial rights, moving picture and dramatic rights; in all these business transactions, he needs a clear control of his property. Under the present law, copyright protection depends on the act of publication. Oftentimes, in the case of literary material first published in a periodical, editors have neglected to transfer the rights to the author or the magazine has failed before such transfer was made, with the result that the author never can obtain the clear title with which to negotiate profitably for other income.
But the second result, i.e., the entrance of the United States into the International Copyright Union, is of still more importance. Once the United States is in the Union, a book written by an American author play, song, or what not — is automatically protected in every other country of the Union; vice versa, everything of literary and artistic value produced in
the other countries is automatically protected here. At present, an American writer must obtain foreign rights by publishing in a Union country, usually in London.
At the time of drafting our first international copyright law of 1891, copyright was made dependent on manufacture here. Such restrictions are not in accord with the agreements of the Union. American printers felt that a manufacturing clause was necessary to protect their interests, but in practice it has beer four that books are likely to be manufact red here if there is a market for a sufficient quantity; if there is not, no er ount of restriction will induce nacturing. It is expected by those favoring copyright change inters will take this broad
ope, on account of the die language, the problem o COLflicting selling rights on the same book has raised but few difficulties. Paris does not publish books in German to be sold in Leipzig; and Leipzig does not publish books in French to be shipped
privilege of copyright is to give the owner the exclusive right "to print, publish and vend" such a work, and that this exclusive right to vend means nothing if the market is open for any edition which may be made elsewhere. They point out that while the English or Canadian author will not be obligated to arrange for an American publisher, and while he can cover the American market through his London publisher, still his privilege of assigning American book rights should not be invalidated by American legislation, particularly as such a ruling would certainly mean fever books sold in this country.
The American publishers hope that the e 11 with its many improveeville ected, but that careful easie tio will be given to these Parts. isaster to American pubgill certainly be of no advante to either authors or reading public.
A PLEA FOR THE SYMBOLIST
S long as life continues to be de
to Paris to compete with the French A picted in literature, just so long
edition. But, in planning for the succe sful marketing of a book in the English language, the author wants active publishers, if he can get them, in England, the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. It is, therefore, very important that he shall have the power to assign, and his publishers to enforce, restricted territorial rights. The American publisher of English authors can hardly be expected to look cheerfully on the plan, proposed in the new bill, which would permit the American market to be served by editions from London and Toronto as well as by his own, especially after he has carried the burden and expense of promotion.
Publishers point out that a basic
will its exposition in anything approaching impressiveness require symbols. Words, of course, are symbols, and so, too, are images. But there are other symbols. There are symbols of atmospheres, symbols of urges, symbols of desire, symbols of human intents and defeats, symbols of mystical approximations. The shears of Delilah are a symbol and the Dove flying from the Ark is a symbol. In reading the literature of any single season in America, how often do we find a novel that understands the strength, the majesty, the intellectual force, the infinite power of suggestion that may be induced by the supreme use of symbols? There is vast room for improvement here, room
for the author to fling his thoughts and conceptions up on stronger wings than an uninformed and meticulous realism that is accurate enough but no more. It would be difficult to find a masterpiece that is not based upon symbols, the terms of which have more or less passed into the daily parlance of our speech.
If the younger American novelists most of them so informed, so excellent, so keenly reactive to the sensations of life about them could more fully circumscribe their pictures of contemporary life in symbols it is to be suspected that their work would reach infinitely higher planes than it does at present. It is true enough that some of these younger writers sense the power in the symbol, understand that more may be conveyed by its use than by reams of precise naturalism in prose. But they do not carry it far enough. They are too intent upon a photographic recreation. They should retain this effective approximation of reality but, at the same time, they should inform it with a symbolic value. Only in this way can literature be lifted from parochial standards into a universal category.
citing neither nudge nor wink. It was throughout of high moral rectitude, immaculate save for the little tang of suspicion engendered by that word "anonymous", which, biographically speaking, has come to connote the unsavory. It conjures up pictures of sneakings down backstairs, of smugglings out by servants, of eyes at the keyholes of lavatory doors, of furtive jottings on the cuff under the meagre light of street lamps, of watchful lurkings in the club o' nights in the hope of overhearing something good, of dawn spyings in the corridors of country houses: and then at last the trading for thirty pieces of silver. . . . At least "Margot" had the courage of her indiscretions.
It seems to us that self revelation, confession, is the only excuse for anonymity; though, paradoxically enough, the psychology of self revelation seems to make not for a screen but for a megaphone. The unsigned revelations of the faits et gestes of others, living or dead, seem to us to be altogether inexcusable, to be indeed an adult reproduction of the manners of those questionable urchins who scrawl on the school door, "Billy Jones loves Susie Smithers!" and then run away. The adults call it literary biography, or recollection, or reminiscence. We call it the immorality of anonymity and invert our thumbs.