1930…Period of depression and unemployment begins.
1939-45…World War II.
1984….Cultural criticism; Jacklight.
The End of Victorian- the Edwardian- Word War I
Cultural movement do not proceed by central and this section, which for convenience we call “the twentieth century.” Begins really with the late 19th, when the sense of the passing of a major phrase of English history was already in the air. Queen Victoria’s Jubilee in 1887 and , even more diamond jubilee in 1897 were felt even by contemporaries to make the end of an era. As the 19th c drew to a close there were many manifestations of a weakening of traditional stabilities.
The aesthetic movement, with its insistence on “art for art’s sake” assaulted the assumption about the nature and function of art held by ordinary middle class readers. Deliberately, provocatively. It helped to-widen the breach between artists and writers on the one hand and the “Philistine” public on the other a breach whose earlier symptom was Mathew Arnold’s war on the Philistines in Culture and Anarchy and which was later to result in the “alienation of the artist” that is now a commonplace of criticism . This was more than a purely English matter. From France came the tradition of the bohemian life that second the limits imposed by conventional ideas of respectability, together with other notions of artist as rejecting and rejecting by ordinary society, which in different ways fostered the view of the alienated artist.
The life and work of the French symbolist poets in France, the early novel of Thomas Maun in Germany (especially Budden brooks, 1901). And Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a young Man(1916) show some of the very different ways in which this attitude revealed itself in literature all over Europe. In England, the growth of education as result for the Education Act of 1870, which finally made elementary education compulsory and universal, led to the rapid emergence of a large, unsophisticated literary publish at whom new kinds of journalism, in particular the cheap” yellow press” were directed. A public that was literate but not in any real sense educated in creased steadily throughout the 19th century. And one result of this was the splitting up of the audience for literature into” highbrow,” “lowbrow” and “middlebrows” although in earlier periods there had been different kinds of audience for different kinds of writing, the split now developed with unprecedented speed and to an unprecedented degree because of the mass production of “popular” literature for the semiliterate. The frog mention of the reading public now merged with the artist’s war on the Philistine (and indeed was one of the cause of that was in the first place) to widen the gap between popular art esteemed only by the sophisticated and the expert. This is part of the background of modern literature all over the Western word.
Another manifestation- or at least accompaniment- of the end of the Victorian age was the rise of various kinds of pessimism and stoicism. The novels and poetry of Thomas Hardy show one kind of pessimism (and it was pessimism, even if Hardy himself repudiated the term). And the poems of A.E Houseman show another verity, while a real or affected stoicism of the last decade of the 19th century and the first decade of the 10th examples of this stoicism- the determination to stand for human dignity by enduring bravely, with a “still upper lip” whatever fate may bring-range from Robert Louis Stevenson’s essays and the theoretically assertive poems of the editor and journalist W.E Henley, to Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book and many of his stories, the last stanza of Housman’s The Chestnut Casts His Flambeaux (“Bear them we can. And if we can we must)and Yeast’s “they know that Hamlet and least are gray.”
Although the high tide of anti-Victorianism was marked by the publication in 1918 of that classic of ironic debunking. Eminent Victorians by Lytton Strachey (1880-1932), the criticism of the normal attitudes and preconceptions of the Victorian middle classes first became really violent in the last two decades of the 19th century. No one could have been more savage in his attacks on the Victorian conceptions of the family, education and religion than Samuel Butler, whose novel The Way of All Flesh (completed in 1884m posthumously published in 1903) is still the bitterest indictment in English literature of the Victorian of life. The chorus of questioning of Victorian assumptions grew ever louder as the century drew to an end; sounding prominently in it was the voice of the young Bernard show one of butler’s greatest admirers. The position of women too was rapidly changing during this period. The Married Woman’s Property Act of 1882, which allowed married women to own property their own right the admission of women to the universities at different times during the Katter part of century the fight for women’s’ suffrage, which was not won until the attitude to won until 1918 (and not fully won until 1928)– these events marked a changes in the attitude to women in the part they played in the national life as well as in the relation between the sexes which is reflected in variety of ways in the literature of the period.
The Boer War (1899-1902) fought by the British to establish political and economic control over the Boer republics of south Africa marked both the high point of and the reaction against British imperialism. It was a war against which many British intellectuals protested and one which the British in the end slightly ashamed of having won. The development of the British Empire into the British Commonwealth continued in fits and starts throughout the first half of the 20th century with imperialist and anti-imperialist sentiment often meeting head on; writers as far apart as Kipling and E.M. Forster occupied themselves with the problem. The Irish question also caused a great deal of excitement from the beginning of the period until well into the 1920’s. As steadily rising Irish nationalism protested with increasing violence against the political subordination of Irish to the British Crown and government. In World War I some Irish nationalist sought German help in rebelling against British and this exacerbated feeling on both sides. No one can fully understand William Butler Yeats or James Joyce without some awareness of the Irish struggle for independence the feelings of Anglo-Irish men of letters on this burring topic and the way in which the Irish literary revival of the late 19th and early 20th century (with which Yeats was much concerned ) reflected a determination to achieve a vigorous national life culturally even if the road seemed blocked politically.
Edwardian England (1901-10) was very conscious of being longer Victorian. Edward VII stamped his character on the decade in which he reigned. It was a vulgar age of conspicuous enjoyment by those who could afford it and writers and artists kept well away from implication in high society (though there were some conspicuous exceptions) in general there was no equivalent in this period of queen Victoria’s interest in Tennyson. The alienation of artist and intellectuals was preceding a space. From 1910(when George V came to the throne) until war broke in August 1914 Britain achieved a temporary equilibrium between Victoria earnestness and Edwardian flashiness in retrospect that Georgian period seems peculiarly golden that last phrase of assurance and stability before the old order throughout Europe broke upper in violence with results that are still with us. Yet even the surface there was restlessness and experimentation. If this was the age of Rupert Brooke it was also the age of T.T Eliot’s first experiments in a disturbingly new kind of poetry.
Edwardian as a term, applied to English history suggests a period in which the social and economic stabilities of the Victorian age-country houses with numerous servants a flourishing and middle –class a strict hierarchy of social classes- remained unimpaired through on the level of ideas there was a sense of change and liberation. “Georgian” refers largely to the lull before the storm of World War I. that war as out selection of the war poet makes clear, produced some major shifts in attitude.
THE POETIC REVOLUTION
A technical revolution in poetry was going on side by side with shifts in attitude. The imagist movement influenced by T. E Hulme’s insistence on hard clear, precise images and encouraged by Ezra Pound when he lived in London just before World War I, fought against romantic fuzziness and facile emotionalism in poetry. The movement developed simultaneously on both sides of the Atlantic and its early members included Amy Lowell, Richard Aldington, Hilda Doolittle, John Could Fletcher and F.S. Flint. As Flint explained in an article in March, 1913 imagist insisted on Direct treatment of the thing’ whether subjective or objective on the avoidance of all words “that did not contribute to the presentation,” and on a freer metrical movement than a strict adherence to “the sequ3nce of a metronome” could allow. All this encouraged precision in imagery and freedom of rhythmical movement, but more was required fir the production of poetry of any real scope and interest. Imagism went in for the short, sharply etched, and distractive lyric, but it had no technique for the production of longer and more complex poems. Other new ideas about poetry helped to provide this technique. Sir Herbert Crierson’s great edition of the poems of John Donne in 1912 both reflected and helped to encourage a new enthusiasm for 17th c metaphysical poetry. The revival of interest in metaphysical wit brought with it a desire on the part of some pioneering poets to introduce into their poetry a much higher degree intellectual complexity than had been found among the Victorian or Georgian. The full subtlety of French Symbolist poetry also now came to be appreciated. It had been admired in the 90’s but for its dreamy suggestiveness rather than for its imagistic precision and complexity. At the same time a need was felt to bring poetic language and rhythms closer to those of conversation, or at least to spice the formalities of poetic utterances with echoes of the colloquial and even the slangy irony. Which made possible several levels of discourse simultaneously and wit, with the use of puns (banished from serious poetry for over 200 years). Helped to achieve that union of thought and passion which T.S Eliot in his review of Grieson’s anthology of metaphysical poetry (19210 saw as characteristic pf the metaphysical and wished to bring back into modern poetry. A new critical and a new creative movement in poetry went hand in hand, with Eliot the high priest of both. It was Eliot who extended the scope of Imagism by bringing the English metaphysical and the French symbolists (as well as the English Jacobean dramatist) to the rescue; thus adding new criteria of complexity and allusiveness to the criteria of concreteness and precision stressed by the imagists. It was Eliot, , too who introduced into modern English and American poetry the kind of irony achieved by shifting suddenly from the formal to the colloquial or by oblique allusions to objects or ideas that contrasted sharply with those carried by the surface meaning of the poem. Thus between, say 1911 (the fist year of the Georgian poets) and 1922 (the year of the publication of The Waste Land) a major revolution occurred in English-and for that matter American-poetic theory and practice-a revolution which determined the way in which most serious poet and critics now think about their art. If one compares the poems in Palgrave's Golden Treasury, a Victorian anthology which was still used as a basic school text in Britain in the 1930s with those in a number of academic anthologies of the mid 20th century, the change in poetic taste will become startlingly apparent. In the critical discussion, if not always in the allotment of space, Donne rather than Spenser becomes the great poet of the 16th and 17 the century period: Gerard Manley Hopkins replaces Tennyson as the great 19th century poet: and in general what one might call the metaphysical-Symbolist tradition and the platonic strain of both the Elizabethan and (in his own way) Wordsworth.
The posthumous publication by Robert-Bridges in 1918 of the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins encouraged further experimentation in the language and the rhythms. Hopkins combined absolute precision of the individual image with a complex ordering of image and a new kind of material patterns.
The young poets of the early 1930’s-W.H, Auden, Stephen Spender Day Lewis-were much influenced by Hopkins as well as by Eliot (now the presiding genius of modern English and American poetry) and by variety of other poets from the 16th c John Skelton to Wilfred Owen. And even when the almost flamboyant new tones of Dylan Thomas were first sounded in the; late 1930’s, the influence of Hopkins could still be heard. It is only since Word War II, that a new generation of young English poets (including Donald Davie, Elizabeth Jennings and Philips Larkin) searching for what has been called “purity of diction” have turned away from both the 17th c and the poetry of Hopkins and Eliot to seek a poetry which avoids all kinds of verbal excess in its desire for quiet luminosity and unpretentious truth.
Meanwhile the remarkable reflecting beginning among career of W.B Yeats stretching across the whole modern period showed how a truly great poet can at the same time the varying developments of his age and maintain as unmistakably individual accent beginning among the aesthetic of 90’s turning later to a more tough and spare ironic language without losing his characteristic verbal magic, working out his own notions of symbolism and bringing them in different ways into his poetry developing in his full maturity rich symbolic and metaphysical poetry with its own curiously haunting cadences and its imagery both shockingly realistic and movingly suggestive, Yeast’s work is a history of English poetry between 1890 and 1989. Yet he is always Yeats unique and inimitable-without doubt the greatest English- speaking poet of his age.
Two important 20th C poets stand somewhat apart from the main map of English poetry in the first half of the century. They are Robert Graves and Edwin Muir. Each has a highly individual voice and, the latter especially, limited range. But they both show that there were strengths in the English poetic tradition untapped by Eliot and his followers. Graves, with a strong sense of tradition combined with a highly idiosyncratic poetic personality, has played a part in English poetry comparable to that played by Robert Frost in American. Muir’s more quietist and mystical temperament was nourished by the unusual circumstances of his life, and his childhood in Orkney. In him, awareness of his native Scotland and a response to the heroic stories of ancient Greece were linked. Both poets were much concerned with time and the human response to time, and both had a deep sense of history.