The most famous protest against the war in 1917 was Siegfried Sassoon’s. Much less well-remembered is the sudden and vocal conversion to pacifism of Skimpole, of St Jim’s School, as recorded in the Gem comic.
You could write the significant history of English theatre in the twentieth century by tracing the careers of three dynamic women: Annie Horniman, Lilian Baylis and Joan Littlewood. Of these, Horniman is probably the least known, but when she took over the Gaiety Theatre in Manchester a hundred years ago, it was the beginning of the regional repertory movement in England. She asked for plays on local themes, and the Manchester School of playwrights was created.
The Finborough Theatre in West London are celebrating Annie Horniman with a programme of four one-act plays that represent the work of three major Manchester authors – Harold Brighouse, Stanley Houghton and Allan Monkhouse. Six actors on a skimpy set do a first-rate job of showing us why the plays matter, and convince us that they are still very much worth watching.
This November I’ll be giving a talk on the wartime Magnet comics to the Being Young in World War One conference in Manchester. I’ll be arguing that the comics had a nuanced approach to the war, remaining firmly patriotic while suggesting that the demands of war should not make people forget the civilised decencies of peacetime.
The problem with this argument is that on some subjects the Magnet was not very nuanced at all.
Ernst Junger is best known for his 1920 memoir, Storm of Steel, but he wrote a good deal besides. The publishing firm Telos is issuing translations of several of his works, and the latest, published today, is Sturm, a novella of 1923. Telos kindly let me read the text before publication, and here is my review:
I mentioned Lady Chatterley a few weeks back, and since then I’ve been thinking about her again. In fact I’ve won a prize with her.
From time to time I enter the Spectator literary competitions, and a recent task was to imagine a scene from a famous novel if it had been sponsored by some brand or other.
I imagined D.H. Lawrence being sponsored by McVitie’s:
A hundred years ago today, John Kipling died at Loos. The New Yorker has marked the anniversary with an article by Nina Martyris which is not bad till it gets near the end, when she gives us a paragraph that repeats some standard myths, and therefore gets a great deal wrong:
On September 25th, 1915, the Battle of Loos began. Last year I contributed a short account of the battle as a programme note for Doctor Scroggy’s War at Shakespeare’s Globe, in London. Here it is:
The Battle of Loos
‘Loos was no picnic.’ – Richard Hannay, in John Buchan’s Greenmantle, 1916.
You look for one thing and find another. I was checking a reference in the New Statesman of 1917 (in the pleasant Archive Room of the newly restored Central Reference Library in Manchester), and flicked through the rest of the bound volume to see what else was interesting.
Much was – a grudging review of Wodehouse’s Uneasy Money, for instance (‘Mr Wodehouse has an admirably humorous manner of the thinner sort.’) and one of Goldring’s The Fortune that despite many reservations decided that ‘The deep feeling in the whole book distinguishes it from the mass of novels.’ J.C.Squire (literary editor, and with a weekly column under the pseudonym of ‘Solomon Eagle’) was often interesting, especially about the effect of the war on publishing:
The most enigmatic of the songs collected in F.T. Nettleingham’s Tommy’s Tunes (1917) is, in its entirety, this:
(Click the picture for a better view)
The September Kipling Journal arrived here yesterday. It is a special edition devoted to the theme of Kipling and the Great War, marking the centenary of the death of John Kipling, at Loos.
It contains a very useful piece by Tonie and Valmai Holt (authors of those first-rate battlefield guides) on Kipling’s own commemoration of John, through his work with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, and through his History of the Irish Guards in the Great War. The essay does justice to the huge amount of work that he put into this, and gives an idea of the emotional impact the battlefields had on him. From Rouen cemetery (11,000 graves) he wrote to Rider Haggard of ‘this Dead Sea of arrested lives’.