Classic Writings on Poetry - William Harmon 2003
Laura (Riding) Jackson (1901—1991)
Very few American writers have had a longer or more productive life than that of the woman who began with the name Laura Reichenthal. She was born in New York City and spent three years at Cornell University, where she met Louis Gottschalk, whom she married in 1920. Convinced that Laura Reichenthal Gottschalk was too much to say—and possibly too Germanic—she used “Laura Riding Gottschalk” as a writing name when her first poems and articles were published, beginning in 1923. Poems were published in The Fugitive, the periodical managed by John Crowe Ransom and others of the Fugitive group in Nashville, Tennessee. She was given an award and invited to attend a Fugitives meeting. In 1925 she and Gottschalk were divorced and she moved back to New York City, where she got to know Hart Crane and other important writers.
Robert Graves, who had admired some of her poems in The Fugitive, initiated a correspondence, as a result of which she went to England at the end of 1925 and began an association that lasted for more than fifteen years. In 1927 she legally changed her name to Laura Riding. In the spring of 1929 she attempted suicide; six months later she and Graves left England, eventually settling in Deyá, Mallorca, where they worked on their own individual or collaborative projects and operated the Seizin Press. (They knew Gertrude Stein, who had recommended Mallorca as a good cheap place to live.) Forced to leave Mallorca in 1936 by the Spanish Civil War, they went to England, then to Switzerland, then to France. In April 1939 they went to the United States, where she got to know Schuyler B. Jackson. She broke off her relationship with Graves and married Jackson in 1941. In 1943 they moved to Wabasso, Florida, where they spent the rest of their lives (he died in 1968). In later years she began using “Laura (Riding) Jackson” as her writing name.
She was a productive poet until the early 1940s, when she renounced poetry as an unfit medium for telling the truth. Over the next fifty years she published a few poems but stubbornly maintained her position on the failure of poetry. She was also a productive critic, publishing two books in 1928 alone: Contemporaries and Snobs and Anarchism Is Not Enough. With Graves she collaborated on a number of important books, journals, and publishing projects.
With Schuyler Jackson she turned her interest to language itself and continued an ambitious philosophical work that she had begun during the 1930s. After her death this study was published as Rational Meaning: A New Foundation for the Definition of Words (1997; edited by William Harmon). It is a work of rare seriousness and depth, but is also full of incidental drama and humor. As with many other critics, Laura (Riding) Jackson was most effective on the attack, disposing of weaker critics and poets with an energy like that of Edgar Allan Poe or Ezra Pound.
POETIC REALITY AND CRITICAL UNREALITY
From Contemporaries and Snobs, 1928
The critical problem, then, is not so much a matter of the proper subjects or style-modes by which to ensure the integrity of poetry, as the determining of where the true reality of the poem lies, whether in the gross contemporary mind of which the poet is supposed to be possessed, or in the non-contemporary poetic mind—for poetic must mean non-contemporary if contemporary is understood as anything more than a historically descriptive phrase, if it is used, for example, to describe the mind as shaped by contemporary influences. If the distinction between these two minds is carefully drawn, it will be seen that, in times when the poetic mind has been under the dictatorship of the contemporary mind, the poem has had only contemporary reality; as in the eighteenth century, when the poem had a false poetic reality because the social dictatorship was disguised in the literary dictatorship, and as in the Victorian period, when the poem had a more obvious contemporary reality. In the early nineteenth century the poem had a mixed reality; the contemporary mind, in its caprice and inventiveness, imitating the poetic mind.
If we observe what happens when the poem is confined to one type of reality, to that of the contemporary mind, as in the eighteenth-century satire, or to that of the poetic mind, as in the romantic abuse of the poetic absolute, it appears that both of these are but half-realities and that the true reality of the poem must have a double force: a positive truth, from its origin in the poetic mind, and a negative truthfulness, from the fact that it is not made unreal when brought into contact with the contemporary mind, that is, with contemporary knowledge. When the contemporary mind, or the concrete intelligence, or whatever we please to call it, is seen to be no more, no less, than accumulated knowledge-material, it will be realized how grotesque it is that this should supply the creative origin, and hence the first reality of the poem, leaving to the poetic mind the secondary service of interpretation.
But the slaves of this knowledge-material can imagine no state of activity which shall not be dependent on it; they cannot understand that the poet can have experience of it as an independent mind reducing authoritative mass to unauthoritative ideas; that once the mass of intelligent matter is recognized as a mass of ideas about matter, every man is potentially his own scientist, though not his own poet, since only the poet is fully capable, in this way, of being his own scientist. Therefore, if the poet shows independence, if he is, indeed, not a mere mouthpiece of the contemporary mind, it is assumed by the knowledge-slaves that he cannot have an informed mind; and everything he writes is taken with a grain of scientific salt. This snobbism, which naturally appeals to criticism, because it seems another indulgence by which poetry may manage to survive, in turn drives poets who stand in fear of the knowledge-hierarchy to profess only the single reality of the poetic mind—what we may call the apologetic absolute. The result is poetry whose only subject is the psychology of the poet and whose final value is scientific; which is as it should be, since the snobbism responsible for it tries to treat poetry as if it were a science.
Poetry of this kind thus finally comes to justify itself by an analogy with mechanical reality. France and America provide numerous examples of it. In America industry itself may be said to have an imagination and so to furnish an instructive parallel to the creative mind faced with the problem of employing itself. If it cannot have poems which shall have a place in the world, perhaps it can have poems which shall have a place in themselves, which shall end where they begin; if it cannot have poetry, perhaps it can have purity. The machine is a practical symbol of automatism and may be said to create itself as the psychological poem does, to be its own product. Instead of possessing a life, such a poem possesses a mechanism, a fixed emotional routine that may be called absolute because its effect never varies. In France the analogical element is provided to poetry by the mechanical principle of other arts, by painting, principally by music. The æsthetic purity of the poem is made to consist in its behaving like a machine, in imitating its making and in maintaining an absence of meaning except as a non-conscious cause and instrument of a conscious effect. The history of this theory lies between Poe, in whom it was an amateur’s attempt to defend the independence of the poem on the grounds of its mere pleasure-reality, and Paul Valéry and other musico-poeticians, who further develop the pleasure-reality theory by transferring the centre of the poem from its origin in the poet to its conclusion in the reader. Invention is converted into reaction, poetry into criticism. The pure poem is arrived at by subtracting the poem from itself. Only its limits remain, its points of origin and of communication. The rest is a time and space necessity between them, the place, presumably, which the poetic mind leaves to be filled in by the contemporary mind; the myth, once more, which the contemporary mind is supposed to suggest to the poetic mind, but now a blank myth, since the contemporary mind believes itself to have arrived at the all-in-all, that what is not itself is merely its shadow.
If, in spite of the present surquidry of the contemporary mind and the accidie with which the poetic mind is afflicted, it were possible to conceive of the production of a true poem, to what should we look for evidences of its reality? To those inner circumstances which make up the poetic mind and which the poem is the means of externalizing, as the poetic mind is the means of externalizing the poem, which hitherto existed only unto itself. In this mutuality lies the real clue to the double reality of the poem, its truth as a poem, its truthfulness as a demonstration of the poet’s mind. For we have now come to the point where it is permissible to talk of the poetic mind as the poet’s mind, and of the poet’s mind as the only contemporary mind possible in the poem, its incidental reality. The poem itself is supreme, above persons; judging rather than judged; keeping criticism at a respectful distance; it is even able to make a reader of its author. It comes to be because an individual mind is clear enough to perceive it and then to become its instrument. Criticism can only have authority over the poem if the poet’s mind was from the start not sufficiently clear, sufficiently free of criticism; if it obeyed an existing, that is, a past order of reality, rather than a present order of reality, that is, the order of the things which do not yet exist. How shall this true poem be recognized? By those tests of reality it imposes on the reader; perhaps, then, only by the strength of the hostility it arises and the extent of its unpopularity even with the minority cults, or by its modest contentment with itself and the obscurity to which it is consigned.
False poems, as distinguished from weak poems, are those written to respond to tests of reality imposed by the contemporary mind and are therefore able to satisfy them better than any true one. The creative history of the false poem is the age, the author sensible of the age and the set of outer circumstances involved in his delicate adjustment to the age at a particular moment, in a particular place. Nothing remains beyond this, no life, no element, as in the true poem, untranslatable except in the terms provided by the poem itself. In the true poem these terms form a measurement that hitherto did not exist, and the test of the poem’s reality is: to what degree is it a new dimension of reality? Indeed, in the true poem poetry is the science of reality, so-called science itself the myth—the corpus of knowledge to which poetry has for centuries been an inspired drudge, turning it into the sensible material of a religious mysticism, a gross and flabby self-worship. Poetry, in other words, has been the divine solvent converting knowledge into truth, until knowledge, mad with its own modernity, declared itself the sole source of truth. But if knowledge can dismiss poetry, can it dismiss the poet? If the poetic mind was once the source of truth for knowledge, does it cease to have truth because the corpus of knowledge finds it no longer useful? In its primitive period of usefulness to knowledge it was a superior knowing; itself truth, knowledge its truthfulness: the true poem was at once truth and myth (truthfulness), knowing and knowledge, reality and test of reality. But if knowledge is, so to speak, composing its own monster-poem, has the poem as such necessarily disappeared? Can minds and their perceptions be erased by a piece of self-investigated india-rubber?
The word poem itself is an ever new meaning of an ever new combination of doing and making as one act, with a third inference of being perpetuating these in dynamic form. The only difference between a poem and a person is that in a poem being is the final state, in a person the preliminary state. These two kinds of realities, that of the person, that of the poem, stand at one end and the other of the poet’s mind, which is but progressive experience made into a recurrent sequence circulating between one kind of reality and the other without destroying one reality in the other.
T. S. Eliot observed some time ago that ’the conditions which may be considered to be unfavourable to the writing of good poetry are unfavourable to the writing of good criticism’. This implies that the reality of poetry is externally, not internally derived. But though ’conditions’ may be unfavourably disposed to good poetry, they cannot affect the writing of good poetry if there are poets who insist on writing it. They can, however, affect the writing of such poetry as is actually created by external contemporary conditions; poetry, in fact, that is not poetry at all but the by-product of a period’s spiritual indecision. But such poetry is not a manifestation of the poetic mind but of certain unhappy formations in the contemporary mind acting as individuals whose task it is to present the signs of the times rather than poetry.
We have, then, in a period when the Zeitgeist, the Old Man of the Sea, is working particular mischief, a number of Sinbads drifting at large whose fate it is to be at the mercy of his humours. They may either be washed astride a breakwater (when their balancing gestures are called criticism) or dashed over the sea wall into the Sacred Grove, where they try to feel at home in spite of the Old Man on their back (when their balancing gestures are called poetry).
When such contemporary formations are converted into creative or critical personalities by Zeitgeist humours, a subtle strangeness will, of course, be perceived in them. First something scarcely discernible, except for the feeling of embarrassment it conveys—a faint, but distinct foreign accent; next that dissociation or snobbism which a newly converted Catholic feels toward the born Catholic, or the cabinet-maker who has learned his trade at a school toward one who has inherited it from his father. It is the self-conscious earnestness of an alien doing his best to become acclimatized to his adopted country. Without that natural endowment which makes the creative faculty indifferent to moral justifications of itself (its moral justification being best presented in a work), the chief preoccupation of the factitious creative personality is with the moral values, or the legitimacy, of literature. A blend is thus made of the creative and critical operations, resulting in much interesting self-revelation (’good criticism’), but in too much dull self-concealment in poetry, which comes to be the martyrdom of lack-of-confidence-in-self. Mr. Eliot’s axiom, therefore, which was composed long before he was completely floored by the Zeitgeist, must be brought up-to-date in this way: ’The conditions which may be considered favourable to the writing of good criticism may be considered favourable to the writing of good criticism.’ For in such language poetry is but an incident of criticism. Mr. Eliot wrote several years ago: ’Every form of genuine criticism is directed toward creation. The historical or the philosophical critic of poetry is criticising poetry in order to create a history or a philosophy; the poetic critic is criticising poetry in order to create poetry.’ In a review of two books by two distinguished contemporary personalities, Mr. Herbert Read and M. Ramon Fernandez, in the October, 1926, issue of the New Criterion (a community of contemporary personalities), Mr. Eliot goes still further: ’The significance of the term critic has varied indefinitely; in our time the most vigorous critical minds are philosophical minds, are, in short, creative of values.’
Further characteristics of this snobbism, besides its preoccupations with the moral values of literature, are its emphasis on personal pedigree, learning and literary internationalism. The review referred to above is so generous in examples of these that I cannot refrain from using it as a text, nor indeed this entire number of the New Criterion, which includes an essay by M. Fernandez himself beginning, ’It is pleasant for a French critic to write for the cultivated public on the other side of the Channel’; a poem by Mr. Read himself, The Lament of Saint Denis with a motto From the Institutes of Johann Lorenz von Mosheim, translated by Archibald Maclaine (1764) and three footnotes: Inferno xxviii. 121—2, Paradiso: x. 94, and Böethius: De Consolatione, II., vi., the learned if not the moral justifications for such lines as
’And then a faint rumour in the night
An approaching murmur of enemies
Their hearts were suddenly loud in their still bodies
Fluttering wildly within those livid tunicles of flesh’
(poor Mr. Read, likewise floored by the Zeitgeist, who in his less contemporaneous days could write less ambitiously but more authentically:
’Judas was right
In a mental sort of way;
For he betrayed another and so
With purpose was self-justified.
But I delivered my body to fear—
I was a bloodier fool than he.’);
and a poem by Mr. Eliot himself, Fragment of a Prologue, with two mottoes, one from the Choephoroi, the other from St. John of the Cross, the poem itself being a kind of epilogue to Ulysses, or Ulysses in the Waste Land.
But the review itself is even more illuminating, especially as to the love of pedigree, learning and literary internationalism: ’Mr. Read and M. Fernandez provide an excellent example of this invalidation of the ancient classification’ (critical and creative) because, the next sentence continues, ’They are of the same generation, of the same order of culture; their education is as nearly the same as that of men of different race and nationality can be… . Both were primarily students of literature, and animated by the desire to find a meaning and justification for literature. Mr. Read has the advantage of being European and English; M. Fernandez that of being European and American (he was born in Mexico)… . Both are critics with international learning and international standards.’ All this to prove the invalidation of that ’ancient’ classification.
It is improper to advance that criticism and poetry spring from the same kind of personal impulse, unless it is made equally clear that they must diverge at an early stage toward their respective positions. Criticism and creation do not face the same way, but face each other, criticism forgoing creation in order to be able to describe it. This purpose demands learning in criticism, because it is thus the author not of one poem, let us say, but of the history of one poem and another and another (since when face to face with one poem the critic sees many others as well); but it does not mean that criticism may be substituted for creation, as would follow if that ’ancient classification’ were really invalidated. The novel perhaps shows the danger of such a substitution more clearly than any other kind of writing, being avowedly critical rather than creative, historical rather than poetic: it is a description of poetic reality by contemporary reality. Wherever the novel tries to create poetic values, it becomes false art, as with Proust, Joyce, Virginia Woolf and such American poetic novelists as Waldo Frank and Sherwood Anderson. For, while the novel may suggest them or describe them, it needs to be emphasized dogmatically that there are no true creative values but poetic values—values which can be final without reference to their contemporary setting. (This does not apply to the poetical novel, to Borrow or Melville, poetical referring only to the character of the style, not to the creative intention of the novel.) The novel may be eminently true, or truthful, but it is not truth; and no novelist who held his work in proper respect would claim it to be truth except in this relative sense of truthful. If Mr. Eliot were not so comfortably relaxing against the novel, ’a capital point for every contemporary mind (sic)’ (to start from), evidently because it can be perverted to bring about ’this invalidation of the ancient classification’, he would perhaps reject Proust with Mr. Read and M. Fernandez not so much because Proust was wanting in the moral element as because he falsified the novel—composing it synthetically of those infinitesimal morsels of poetic reality by which the connoisseur’s palate has had to appear uniformly stimulated throughout that long, long from-egg-to-apple dinner.
Proust recalls the snobbism of literary internationalism, which has provided Charles Scott-Moncrieff, George Moore and Ezra Pound among others, with continuous employment. Any serious indictment of it would only assist in prolonging the sufferings of the silent populations whose palates were long ago exhausted by foreign banqueting but who go on because the connoisseurs go on, who go on because they are at the head of the table and cannot escape. Excepting rare instances of personal sympathy with a foreign language arising out of associations of circumstance or temperament; excepting also such a unique case of internationalism as that of America and England, where one is but a historical layer of the other; any persistent cultivation of a contemporary foreign literature is a snobbism inspired, apart from its association with a general programme of literary snobbism, by a romantic purpose to find relief from one dull literary scene in another—a form of literary pornography. Nothing could be more alien to Mr. Eliot’s temperament, for example, than the sentiment and temperament expressed in: ’la littérature est impossible. Il faut en sorter’ which he quotes from Jean Cocteau’s letter to Jacques Maritain on poetry and religion. ’International standards’ of literature are a degraded critical Esperanto and, like Esperanto, comprehensible only to Esperantists.
What unites littérateurs (the successors of the critics and creators of ’the ancient classification’) in this generation is, in fact, not standards of taste or positive intellectual sympathy, but the feeling of panic occasioned by the setting adrift of literature by the time-universe. The reason why contemporary critics are so interested in inquiring into the nature of the function of literature is not, as Mr. Eliot suggests, because they do not wish ’to take for granted a whole universe’, but because a whole universe has given literature its dismissal papers. Naturally endowed creative writers may protect themselves from the present Zeitgeist or remain entirely unaffected by it. But those sensitive spots in the contemporary mind to be identified as littérateurs can neither avoid nor revoke the Zeitgeist nor yet cancel themselves, since they are so organically of the Zeitgeist; and are thus obliged to make a religion of their own post-humousness, a religion so serious that Mr. Eliot himself calls it ’an athleticism, a training, of the soul as severe and ascetic as the training of the body of a runner’. The asceticism on which it is based is the deprivation of the universe which science has forced on literature; and the moral values implied are the coward’s promise to keep up his courage though all is lost.
The most redeeming and yet most unfortunate characteristic of this snob-criticism is its seriousness. Unfortunate because by contrast with the complete frivolousness or inaneness of all other contemporary critical writing it is the only criticism that demands any respect from the independent writer; and in this way likely to make him, in spite of his independence, ingenuously shy of it, and of expressing his normal reactions to the awful gloom that it has cast over the whole literary scene. Such is the science of overwhelming by pomp. Even the London Mercury would not if it could quiz the New Criterion, but would on the contrary feel flattered to be counted amongst its colleagues.
The final effect of this snobbism is the deliberate cultivation of a modernity, a calculated and therefore more ’classical’ quality (’We live’) than mere crude romantic contemporaneousness (’I’m glad I’m alive’ or ’I’m sorry I’m alive’). ’A poem which was never modern will not pass into that curious state of suspended animation by means of which the poems we call classic are preserved active to the palate’, said Edgell Rickword, Editor of the Calendar of Modern Letters, lately next to the New Criterion the most serious community of contemporary personalities. Thus poetic modernism, advertised by its own uplift, reaches the poetry societies of the provinces, who by now have used up all their war and post-war subjects and are grateful for a change. ’At an evening of the Bournemouth Poetry Society’, reports the Bournemouth Echo, ’held at Eight Bells, Christchurch, poetry enthusiasts (one came all the way from Broadstone) were well rewarded by a remarkably live and able paper by Mrs. Leslie Goodwin on “Further Aspects of Modern Poetry”. Mrs. Goodwin called attention to the unappreciated importance of the Left Wing or extreme Modernist Group, who have new ideas as to what is appropriate and beautiful.’ For the Old Man of the Sea must have his joke.
’Modern’, however, is not a contemporary invention: it must not be forgotten that the littérateurs of the characteristic eighteenth century were likewise modernists and likewise invalidated ’the ancient classification’. Their poetry and criticism, although not born of the same impulse, were written from the same point of view, which gave them a mutual consistency if not a reciprocal power. Criticism became, then also, a moral measurement: arbitrary judgments for arbitrary poetic practices. Poetry was a critical convenience, criticism a poetic convenience; the offspring of this union between them had that inbred half-reality which is characteristic of present-day manifestations of the contemporary mind in criticism and poetry. The period was a ’literary’ period. It had been fitting, for example, for Milton some time before, to dedicate Samson Agonistes to a campaign against what he called the corrupt gratification of the people with ’comic stuff’, and to a classical conception and treatment of tragedy. It was fitting for Whitman, long after, to justify Leaves of Grass by an exactly contrary critical attitude: ’that the real test applicable to a book is entirely outside literary tests’. For, though both disregarded the meaning of poetic intention, one accepted the authority of literature, the other that of life and humanity. The authority of eighteenth-century literature was neither of these, but a working compromise between them. Literature was the rationalizing apparatus that added logic to morality; life, the literary demonstration. This code expressed the temper of the age faithfully: snobbism, or conformity of behaviour to a degree where nothing happened at all, where important poetry was prevented from happening. Such literary sterility caused a reaction in the next century, frenzied fertility resulting in an unpedigreed stock. Although a fresh creative basis was found, the preceding century furnished its literary ancestry, which could be revolted against but not cast out of the blood. So poetry was for a time a romantic misfit, until new critical values could be found to match the new poetical values. In Keats we find many Popeish echoes; as we find many nineteenth-century echoes in the poetry of Miss Sitwell. Torn between her inherited Wordsworthianisms and Tennysonianisms and her acquired Popeisms, her poetry no less than Keats’ bears the marks of a conflict. Her nineteenth-century-isms (as Keats’ eighteenth-century-isms) it is possible to indulge because they were inherited; likewise her Gallicisms, as a decorative relief to these. But why should Miss Sitwell, with an abundantly endowed creative faculty, find it necessary to praise The Rape of the Lock as a beautiful example ’of the fusion of subject matter and style’? If not because prevailing critical snobbisms force the independent creative faculty to strengthen its pedigree with artificial critical values which, in turn, act as a kind of protective snobbism (as Elizabethanisms did for Keats).
Nineteenth-century poetry, after a brief period of sentimental debate, failed to develop any real critical values. Instead, it borrowed its titles from the idea of progress, the philosophical demiurge of the century, thus only changing one social god for another without the disguise this time of a literary mask. The popular mode of mysticism resulting from this religiosity was the intelligence—not the intellect. The reason why the intellect is held anti-religious is that it is an individual property rather than a social one and is therefore less likely to accept as final the generalizations of the prevailing community system of faith. Contemporary criticism is endeavouring to elevate the mass-intelligence by making it behave like an independent intellect, the effect of which is to rob the term intellectual integrity of all significance. While ’contemporary’ eighteenth-century poetry cannot be said to have had great intellectual integrity, it did make an honest compromise between the general intelligence and the individual intellect by postulating wit as the common raw material of literature. However wit may be abused by being made to serve moral ends, it is in itself an intellectual competence which is bound to protect itself in some way against the uses to which it is put. Wit may indeed be called the subject-matter of the best of eighteenth-century poetry, as human wisdom forms the subject-matter of the worst of nineteenth-century poetry.
In the earlier period there was at least wit to act as a basis, however artificial, of critical values. In the later there was only a standard of philosophical satisfaction demanding an unrestrained flattering of every possible variety of human activity: poetry being the spiritual sign of practical prosperity and advance, the personified muse of optimism. For this later tendency Wordsworth’s critical commonplaces were principally responsible; which even modern writers find it impossible to reject on the proper ground. Miss Sitwell, for example, thinks that it is time to discard the Wordsworthian tradition, not because it is fundamentally false, but only because it has grown dull in the course of its development. It is time to leave ’the peasant and words suitable to the peasant’. That is, what poetry needs is a general correction of taste, not an independence in which creative values have a lack of conformity according to the variety of poetic minds (the use of poetic mind as a critical abstraction is likely to make us forget that it is a rather than the poetic mind). It is a telling piece of well-meaning literary snobbism to call Wordsworth a peasant poet. Wordsworth, like Miss Sitwell, wanted to ’interest mankind’ in the proper way, ’to correct the present state of the public taste in this country’. ’Humble and rustic life was generally chosen’ because it made a more fluid philosophical language for poetry: the peasant flavour is only a literary manner, as that part of Miss Sitwell’s own poetry which is dedicated to taste is but the exploitation of a literary manner. Wordsworth’s poetry is no more fit for reading by peasants than Miss Sitwell’s is by princesses. Both have the view that poetry is a careful annotation of life. To Wordsworth, poetry is ’the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings’; to Miss Sitwell, it brings ’new and heightened consciousness to life’. Both have a purpose to deal with what she calls the ’common movement of life’, only ’the modern poet has a different stylisation.’ Wordsworth, under the false mask of taste, made moral enlargements on trivial subjects. The modern poet who, like Miss Sitwell, is not overwhelmed by the world or made an instrument of the Zeitgeist, but who in spite of his contempt for its blustering demonstration of power clings to it out of an inherited and old-fashioned sense of duty, wastes himself on that sentimental, self-sacrificing office which Miss Sitwell calls ’showing the world in all its triviality’.
So that present modernism is not even literary in the eighteenth-century sense but a complex of pietist snobberies and sentimentalities.