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The New Age, Volume 24 (November 7, 1918 to April 24, 1919): An Introduction
by Steinlight, Emily


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The New Age, 1918-19

The publication format of Volume XXIV of The New Age is largely consistent with the previous volume, though only twenty-five issues of sixteen pages each were published in the six-month period of the present volume (as opposed to twenty-seven issues in the previous six months). The cover price was raised from sixpence to sevenpence in November of 1918.

With regard to the structure of the magazine, its staff and organization, the unexpected death of J. M. Kennedy (also known as Leighton J. Warnock) at the age of thirty-two marked a significant change in the composition and culture of The New Age. In addition to his translations of Nietzsche and of a number of other scholarly and literary texts, Kennedy's major contribution to the magazine was his weekly (or almost weekly) “Foreign Affairs” column, signed “S. Verdad.” Paul Selver, in Orage and the New Age Circle, writes of the pseudonym,

“ In Spanish this ['Es verdad'] means: 'It is true'. Was it true? Some there were who avowed that it was not. Kennedy, they alleged, went round ransacking the contents of waste-paper baskets in foreign embassies and legations. Here again, no evidence was forthcoming, and this statement, at least, I regard as a blatant slander. ”Selver 20

Selver does not, however, take pains to defend his fellow columnist (of whom he admits to an abiding personal envy) from allegations that some of his translation projects were in fact merely “translations of translations.” He remarks that Kennedy was “a downright mystery-man” and that rumors circulated to the effect that he worked for the secret service and might even have been infiltrating the magazine as an “agent provocateur”(ibid). Whatever Kennedy's colleagues may have thought of his affiliations and of his knowledge, scholarship and journalism, A. R. Orage seems to have entertained little doubt as to his merits. Taking over the “Foreign Affairs” column (still credited to “S. Verdad”) in November of 1918, Orage mourns the young writer's passing and notes in conclusion,

“What he might have done if he had only worked less I do not care to speculate; but I grieve to think that so much talent has been prematurely taken from us. Wanting and wanted — another colleague like him. Any offers?”(NA XXIV, 1:004)
.

Though certainly not “another colleague like [Kennedy],” Major C. H. [Clifford Hugh] Douglas, whom Orage met through Holbrook Jackson, came to play a decisive role in reshaping the politics of The New Age in 1918-1919, and he contributed significantly to the present volume and many which followed. His “Mechanical View of Economics” (9:136) and his occasional “Notes of the Week” (which he took over during Orage's illness), signed “C. H. D.,” stand in stark contrast to the writings of Arthur J. Penty, who continued to advocate an older form of Guild Socialism even in the economic crisis following the war. According to Philip Mairet, Douglas's doctrine of “Social Credit” provided a new theoretical framework for the journal's approach to contemporary political economy (Mairet 74-7).

This is not to say, however, that the entire contributing staff of the magazine took a single position on the economic question; on the contrary, the issue proved deeply divisive in this period, as evidenced throughout this volume in various polemics. Selver describes the beginning of Douglas's involvement with The New Age as “a critical and, in the opinion of many, disastrous turning-point in Orage's activities: Guild Socialism was discarded in favor of the Douglas Credit Scheme,” yet Mairet insists that Orage — though he clearly parted company with Penty on certain crucial points — never changed his position on the importance of guilds: “Far from having abandoned guilds, Orage believed that only the new economic method could make them feasible in principle and practice” (Selver 28; Mairet 75). In response to what appeared to be the end of its editor's advocacy of “Guild Socialism” as such, Volume XXIV of The New Age reflects a renewed interest in economic theories, the status of guilds and the problem of credit in such widely varied articles and series as Penty's “A Guildsman's Interpretation of History,” Douglas's various notes and special features, the uncredited “Reformer's Notebook” series, “The Civil Guilds,” by S. G. Hobson, another series titled “Towards National Guilds,” attributed to “National Guildsmen,” Odon Por's “Towards National Guilds in Italy,” and a number of contentious and interesting letters to the editor.

If the literary side of The New Age appeared at times overshadowed by its focus on debates within the field of economics and foreign and domestic policy, this was not lost on its readership. Indeed, Hugh Lunn's “Any Guildsman to Any Artist” (23:384), printed in “Pastiche” of April 10, 1919, satirically declared,

Henceforth the artist must employ
His gifts as Orage shall decree.
Art must be based on general joy,
And general joy is yet to be.
Till then, my poets, painters, mystics,
Apply your minds to Guild statistics.

C. E. Bechhofer offered a rejoinder, also in verse, in the following issue, but even so, there is much to suggest that other readers and writers were also somewhat nostalgic for a more literary New Age. Orage, in the persona of “R. H. C.” /“Congreve,” remarks upon having received a number of letters expressing the concern that the frequent absence of his “Readers and Writers” column might be a sign of his approaching retirement from the journal. In answer to these inquiries, he writes (as R.H.C.),

“ I sincerely hope that this is not the case; for not even my most indulgent reader is more pleased to discover me here than I am to be here. Readers, I revel in this column of mine. And if I were within my choice to do nothing but this, I should fill not only a page, but several a week. Fortunately, or unfortunately, the choice is not always mine in the matter, any more than it is that of my colleagues. We have to confess our humanity in the first place that disposes us to share most of the ills that are going; and, in the second place, if I may whisper it, there are other people to be considered besides us old 'uns. The purpose of The New Age is not only to instruct and inspire and amuse and annoy its readers; but it has a duty to writers as well.”18:294

It is fortunate, he notes, that the absence of older columnists and the prevalence of newer writers does not in any way alter the quality or character of the magazine, since this serves as “a guarantee that The New Age is an institution and not an accident” (ibid).

Some Dialogues and Conflicts within the Volume

  • Perhaps the most provocative and contentions writer on staff during this period, A. E. Randall, or “A.E.R.,” generated a great deal of controversy within the magazine — not least of all in his criticism of the Catholic Church and his dialogues with Leo Ward. Beginning with Randall's review of M. D. Petre's Modernism, which appeared on January 2, 1919 (9:145-6), a heated debate took place between these two writers in the pages of The New Age. Randall's dismissal of Catholicism provoked Leo Ward in the following issue to write an article in response entitled “Catholicism and Modern Thought” (10:164). This conflict quickly escalated into a polemically charged exchange on issues of religion, science and “modernism.” [See in Vol. 24, Nos. 9:145-6, 10:164, 11:180-1, 12:198, 16:255, and 16:264.]
  • In March of 1919, The New Age published an article by John Eglinton — an Irish-born Presbyterian and staunch Unionist — on the subject of Protestants in Ireland and their feelings about Sinn Fein (19:305-6). The article was challenged in several letters, including a letter to the editor by “E. A. B.” to the effect that majority opinion in Ireland is with Sinn Fein and not with the Protestants in Ulster, and that the majority opinion should guide Ireland's course (20:330-31). Readers of Joyce (whose Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man was turned down for publication by Eglinton) will note that Eglinton appears, along with “A.E.” (George Russell) in the Scylla and Charybdis episode of Ulysses.
  • Also of interest are several exchanges of correspondence between Ezra Pound and himself. Pound wrote letters to the editor in criticism of “B. H. Dias” (his own pseudonym) on the subject of Wyndham Lewis, most likely for the sake of calling greater public attention to the artist's work. [See in Vol. 24, Nos. 17:283, 20:331 and 21:342.]

Regular Columns, Sections and Series

Names and Terms to Know

    Asquith, Herbert Henry (1852-1928)
  • 1st Earl of Oxford and Asquith, he served as Prime Minister from 1908-1916 and was a close ally of France in the First World War. Having served as junior counsel to Charles Parnell, Asquith was a moderate supporter of Irish Home Rule. Under his administration, a number of significant reforms were passed, including the controversial 1911 Parliament Act, which removed veto power on financial legislation from the House of Lords and otherwise reduced their political clout in a number of ways. Asquith worked to form a coalition government in the first two years of the war, but his efforts to prevail over partisan politics were largely unsuccessful, and the Conservatives in his cabinet (with the public support of Lord Northcliffe's newspapers) managed effectively to undermine his authority. He was forced to resign in 1916 and was succeeded by his own War Secretary, David Lloyd George.
  • Belloc, Hilaire (1870-1953)
  • The French-born (but English-educated and later naturalized British citizen) Belloc was an extraordinarily prolific writer, poet, novelist, essayist, historian and historical biographer, and political journalist who wrote for The New Age from 1908-1910. Belloc served as a Liberal MP for South Salford in the House of Commons from 1906-1910, but he soon lost interest in party politics. A sometime member of the Fabian Society, he was keenly interested in economic reform and later became an advocate of “Distributism,” along with his close friend G. K. Chesterton. (George Bernard Shaw referred to the two men as “Chesterbelloc.”) As an ardent Roman Catholic, Belloc staunchly defended and championed the Catholic Church, and his political views were profoundly influenced by his religious faith. In 1911, he became co-editor of The Eye-Witness (in which he and Chesterton famously exposed the “Marconi scandal”). Belloc strongly advocated British involvement in the First World War on the side of France; in 1915, he produced several texts for the War Propaganda Bureau, and he later worked as a war correspondent for Jim Allison's magazine, Land and Water.
  • Chesterton, G. K. [Gilbert Keith] (1874-1936)
  • Gilbert Keith Chesterton and his younger brother Cecil (who wrote for The New Age from 1907-1911) were prolific writers, journalists and eminent public intellectuals. G. K. Chesterton's many contributions to literary biography include studies of William Blake, Charles Dickens and Robert Browning. A convert to Roman Catholicism (from Unitarianism) and a great friend of Hilaire Belloc, Chesterton departed from socialist circles and joined Belloc in advocating a policy of Distributism. Together, the two men wrote a series of articles challenging Fabianism, and in 1911 they began editing The Eye-Witness. An anti-pacifist and in many respects a conservative (joining Belloc in opposing women's suffrage, among other issues), he nonetheless often espoused unpopular political positions and was regarded by his admirers as an independent thinker. He was one of a small number of vocal opponents of the Boer War, and in 1922, he published one of very few outspoken attacks on the project of eugenics.
  • Fabian Society
  • Founded in 1884, the Fabian Society was a socialist organization committed to bringing about change in the economic system, though gradually, and not by revolutionary means. The Fabians, allied with trade unions, played a decisive role in founding the Labour Party in 1900, and they published a number of progressive essays and tracts which often proved influential in political and intellectual circles. H. G. Wells and George Bernard Shaw were some of the Society's most eminent early members. Quite a few prominent writers for The New Age in this period were (or had at one point been) members of the Society, and to a large extent, Fabianism shaped the political and economic positions of the journal in its early days on a variety of issues. By 1918-19, the journal's commitment to Fabian socialism had already dwindled, in favor of Douglasism and the “Social Credit” scheme (see below). The Fabian Society still exists today, with more than 6,000 members, and it is still affiliated with (though “editorially independent” from) the Labour Party.

    Further information can be found at: http://www.fabian-society.org.uk

  • Leverhulme, Lord William Hesketh (1851-1925)
  • Known as William Hesketh Lever prior to being raised to the peerage, Leverhulme was a highly successful industrialist, manufacturer of Sunlight brand soap and magnate of the Lever Bros./Unilever Corporation. Leverhulme purchased the Hebridean islands of Lewis and Harris in 1918. He is the subject of Will Dyson's poem, “The Doubting Demagogue” (17:273-4).
  • Lloyd George, David (1863-1945)
  • After serving as a Liberal MP (for the Welsh district of Caernarvon) in the House of Commons, Lloyd George was named Chancellor of the Exchequer under Herbert Henry Asquith and served from 1908-1915. In 1915, he was named Minister of Munitions, and the following year, Minister of War. Later in 1916, he replaced Asquith as Prime Minister after a Parliamentary upset instigated by Asquith's Conservative opponents, with whom Lloyd George had formed a cautious and temporary alliance. He played a decisive role in the negotiations leading to the final Armistice. Unlike his predecessor, Lloyd George at first adopted an aggressive policy towards Ireland, but he later participated in negotiating the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921, and it was under his administration that the Irish Free State was established in 1922.
  • "Modernism"
  • Though the term, with reference to this period in British history, is now more often associated with a broadly defined aesthetic movement,“Modernism” was often invoked in The New Age in 1917-18 in a very different context: in discussions of Catholic theology and religious observance. Beginning in the 1860s, a few liberal Catholic thinkers in England and France posed a challenge to religious dogma and the orthodoxy of the Church; their school of thought came to be known as “Modernism.” While some modernists considered themselves gnostics and took an interest in various strains of popular mysticism, most proponents of Modernist theology were Catholics who took the position that religion and religious faith are principally the products of human consciousness and not of divine origin. Though met with fierce opposition from the papacy and its defenders, this minority movement gained currency over the years and continued into the 20th century. In 1907, Pope Pius X issued two texts, the Lamentabili sane exitu and the Pascendi Dominici gregis, condemning Modernism and insisting that all Catholic priests swear an oath against it. At the time of this volume's publication, prominent Catholic clergy and thinkers, including George Tyrell, Alfred Loisy and others, had for several years been seeking to redefine the relationship between doctrine and practice in a critique of Catholicism. Debates among Modernists, defenders of the Church and secularists find expression in an exchange between A. E. Randall and Leo Ward in this volume of The New Age: 9:145-6, 10:164, 11:180-1, 12:198, 16:255, and 16:264.
  • National Guilds
  • First developed by Arthur J. Penty in 1906, in his Restoration of the Guild System, and later reformulated by S. G. Hobson, the theory of National Guilds posited that reform of industry would be best accomplished through a system of collective ownership of the means of production by the workforce itself. The idea of the guild, modeled after its medieval counterpart, was based in part upon Catholic theology and on the premise that a return to an older order of social relations was both possible and preferable to the expansion of industrial super-production and free trade. Though initially supported by A. R. Orage, Penty's form of Guild Socialism was later rejected (around the time of publication of Vol. XXIV of The New Age) in favor of Major C. H. Douglas's system of “Social Credit.”
  • Northcliffe, Lord Alfred Charles William Harmsworth (1865-1922)
  • A highly successful publisher, press baron and popular journalist, founder of the Daily Mail and the Daily Mirror and later owner of The Times (as of 1908), Northcliffe's influential and widely circulated papers criticized England's military and tactical shortcomings in the fighting of the First World War and were instrumental in undermining Asquith's government in 1916. David Lloyd George, upon taking office as the next Prime Minister, offered Northcliffe a cabinet position, fearing the prospect of his opposition. This offer was declined. In 1918, however, Northcliffe accepted an offer from Lord Beaverbrook, then Minister of Information, to assume responsibility for war propaganda; he resigned from government on Armistice Day. Northcliffe later (in 1920) took part in stirring up an anti-Semitic frenzy in England and throughout much of Europe by publicizing the fictitious “Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”
  • Sinn Fein
  • Founded by Arthur Griffith in 1902, Sinn Fein (meaning "We Ourselves" or "Ourselves Alone") was an Irish Republican organization at first intended mainly to promote cultural revival, but which later became a radical separatist political movement pledging to use any means necessary in the struggle for an independent Irish republic. On Easter Monday (April 24th), 1916, under the leadership of James Connolly, the “Easter Rising” — an armed rebellion against British rule culminating in a failed attempt to seize Dublin Castle and other British military holdings and to declare Ireland's independence — was carried out by some 2,000 members of the Irish Citizen Army. All of the (15+) leaders of the Rising were tried in courts martial and promptly executed by firing squad. Though the casualties of this insurrection were significant and its effects damaging in more ways than one, the aftermath of Easter Week also served to make clear that a dramatic change in British policy toward Ireland was necessary. In the General Election of 1918 (discussed in several issues of the present volume of The New Age), Sinn Fein ran 102 candidates and won 73 seats, which they refused to take in Westminster, choosing instead to convene in Dublin and to declare their assembly (the Dáil Éirann) the new independent government of Ireland. This boycott of Westminster and declaration of an Irish republic led to the beginning of the Irish War of Independence, or the Anglo-Irish War. In 1921, after the Fourth Home Rule Bill of the previous year had been rendered void, British Parliament finally recognized and entered into negotiations with an Irish Free State (albeit under dominion status) with the passage of the Anglo-Irish Treaty.
  • Social Credit
  • Developed by Major C. H. Douglas (in collaboration with A. R. Orage), the Social Credit scheme was an attempt to provide a succinct theoretical model of the economics of guild socialism. With Orage, Douglas published his first book, Economic Democracy, in serial form in The New Age starting in June 1919. This text calls for the reform of the British economic system and for the redefinition of credit so as to remove the power of issuing credit from the control of private banks and to distribute it instead among voluntary collectives of workers. The theory of social credit is in part a monetary theory which emphasizes that economic production does not “create” money, and that credit is a measure of the reserve of energy of the workforce.
  • Ulster
  • Home of the Volunteer Force of Irish Unionists (most of them Protestant and loyal British subjects) who opposed Home Rule in Ireland. The Ulster Unionist Council, formed in 1905 (the year of Sinn Fein's founding), was resolved to maintain Ireland's relation to the British Empire. In 1913, the Council formed its Volunteer Force — a militia in training to attack the new Irish government in Belfast in the event that a Home Rule bill was passed in British Parliament. When England entered the First World War, this Volunteer Force became the 36th (Ulster) Division, which fought bravely and lost a great number of its soldiers in action in the Battle of Somme. After the war, when conflict between Irish separatists and British unionists resumed and Home Rule legislation was taken up once again in Parliament, Ulster remained the seat of bitter opposition within Ireland. Even after the Irish Free State was declared, Northern Ireland was excluded by an act of partition.

Major Historical Events and Context

    Armistice: November 11, 1918
  • In the November 7, 1918 issue of The New Age, only four days before the Armistice brought an end to the First World War, A. R. Orage wrote in “Foreign Affairs,”
    “It will take a generation to realise the effects of the war upon the psychological map even more than upon the geographical map of Europe. We live in an age of miracles. Four old Empires will have disappeared in the course of four years; and twice four new nations have arisen to take their place. The German Empire has gone; the Russian Empire has gone; the Turkish Empire has gone; and the Austrian Empire has gone. Les rois sont morts; vivent les nations!”1:004
    This expression of optimism, following upon more than a month of difficult negotiations for peace and a number of failed armistices, is understandable, but the aftereffects of the War (to say nothing of the totally unprecedented casualties) proved devastating in many respects. The impact of the First World War and the peace negotiations and economic sanctions which followed are discussed at length throughout this volume of The New Age [see Index, below].
  • General Election: December 14, 1918
  • Though the General Election of 1918 resulted in a Conservative coalition government in England, perhaps the most notable outcome of these elections was a great upset and ultimate dissolution of the Irish Parliamentary Party (which had campaigned for Home Rule) by the radical Sinn Fein, which won 73 seats. This victory testified to the groundswell of support in Ireland for the cause of independence and marked a turning point in negotiations between Ireland and the British Parliament. The elected MPs of Sinn Fein refused to take their seats in Westminster, moving instead to establish the first Dáil Éirann in Dublin as the autonomous Parliament of a free Irish Republic.
  • Women's Suffrage
  • In December of 1918, women in Britain voted for the first time in the General Election, after years of lobbying and legislative struggle for the franchise. The Qualification of Women Act, passed on March 28, 1917, extended the franchise and the right to stand for Parliament to property-owning women over the age of 30. (It was not until the Equal Franchise Act of 1928 that the age and property qualifications were removed, and adult suffrage was made universal.) Several female candidates ran for Parliament in the 1918 election; of these, the only one elected was Constance Markiewicz, of Sinn Fein. A member of the Daughters of Erin who had been convicted of treason for her participation in the Easter Rising of 1916 but whose death sentence was commuted because of her gender, Markiewicz was released from prison under the General Amnesty of 1917. She stood for the St. Patrick's division of Dublin and was later named Minister of Labour in the new Irish government.
  • Peace Conference: Paris, January 18, 1919 - January 21, 1920
  • First convened in January of 1919, the Paris Peace Conference, led by Lloyd George, Clemenceau, Orlando and Wilson, marked a crucial step (both practically and symbolically) towards better diplomatic relations and the beginning of the redrawing of the map of Europe.
  • League of Nations
  • One outcome of the end of the First World War was the creation of the League of Nations, proposed by Woodrow Wilson in February 1919 and established under the Treaty of Versailles as an assembly of the Allied and Associated Powers, based in Geneva, intended to ensure perpetual peace. The United States declined to join the League of Nations when Wilson failed to ratify the Versailles Treaty. The original 28 member states, as of January 10, 1920, were: Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, El Salvador, France, Greece, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, India, Italy, Japan, Liberia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Persia, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Siam, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, South Africa, the United Kingdom, Uruguay, Venezuela, and Yugoslavia.
  • Irish War of Independence: January 1919 - June 1921
  • Beginning with the General Election of 1918 — a landslide victory for Sinn Fein over the Ulster Unionists and a total displacement of the less extreme Irish Parliamentary Party — the Irish Republican cause gained considerable momentum and popular support. After the First Dáil declared Ireland's independence from the United Kingdom, the Irish War of Independence broke out in January 1919, at the instigation of Sinn Fein. The Irish Republican Army (IRA) mounted a series of guerilla attacks on British government property. This war came to an end with the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921, negotiated by Arthur Griffith, Lloyd George and others, which established an Irish Free State. The Treaty did not, however, bring an end to civil strife within Ireland; Unionists from the North fought Irish Nationalists to maintain partition, and years of violence followed.
  • Coal Commission Report: February - March 1919
  • During the War, coal production increased dramatically in much of Western Europe due to the large-scale mechanization of production. In England, however, mining was still primarily manual; the process of mechanization was slower, and increases in production less marked. In February of 1919, the Triple Alliance of Miners, Railwaymen, and Transport Workers negotiated with Parliament to raise their wages and threatened to strike if their demands were not met. Fearing that this wage increase would result in a concomitant increase in the price of coal which might further the problem of inflation, Lloyd George's government stalled at first. The threat of strike being a serious economic concern, however, Parliament created a thirteen-member Coal Industry Commission to study and make recommendations on wages and hours and on the ownership of industry. The Commission met for the first time on March 4, 1919. Agreements were reached with regard to wages and hours, but the issue of ownership proved a sticking point. Justice Sankey advised against private ownership of mines and pushed for the nationalization of the industry, but Parliament rejected this proposition. The coal industry and the official report of the Coal Commission are discussed in several issues of this volume: see 16:249-50, 17:270, 18:285, 19:303, 20:317, 21:334, 22:349, 23:366, 24:385, and 25:402.

Works Consulted

  • Cannon, John Ashton, ed. The Oxford Companion to British History. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.
  • Douglas, C. H. Social Credit. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., Inc., 1933.
  • Gibbons, Tom H. Rooms in the Darwin Hotel: Studies in English Literary Criticism and Ideas, 1880-1920. Nedlands, W.A.: University of Western Australia Press, 1973.
  • Hobson, S. G., with intro by A. R. Orage. Guild Principles in War and Peace. London: G. Bell and Sons, Ltd., 1918.
  • Hobson, S. G. National Guilds, An Inquiry into the Wage System and the Way Out. Ed. A. R. Orage. London: G. Bell and Sons, Ltd., 1919.
  • Mairet, Philip. A. R. Orage: A Memoir. New Hyde Park, New York: University Books, Inc., 1966.
  • Martin, Wallace. The New Age Under Orage: Chapters in English Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1967.
  • Selver, Paul. Orage and the New Age Circle: Reminiscences and Reflections. London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1959.
  • Taylor, Paul Beekman. Shadows of Heaven. York Beach, M.E.: S. Weiser, 1998.
  • http://spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk
  • http://www.bbc.co.uk/history
  • http://www.firstworldwar.com