MAKING NO COMPROMISES WITH CRITICAL TASTE:
THE WAR FOR THE LITTLE REVIEW
The annals of American modernism record two myths of origin for the Little Review. The traditional literary history posits a patriarchal male deity, Ezra Pound, as the intellectual center and driving force of the "official organ" where Pound, T.S. Eliot, James Joyce, and Wyndham Lewis had "a place for...regular appearance" (Pound/The Little Review 6). The postmodernist reassessment spotlights a dynamic young woman, Margaret Anderson, as a feminist heroine struggling to keep American literature from prematurely firing off a canon.
Unfortunately, in reporting the legends surrounding the Little Review, relatively few critics seem to care about verifiable facts. Biographers have proven only too happy to accept either Anderson's or Pound's word as truth, rejecting contradictory details as propaganda. Though Anderson titled her autobiography My Thirty Years' War, the real battle surrounding the Little Review (at this point, a sixty-years' war) concerns not just the magazine, but the conflicting definitions of modernism it represents. As the radical Little Review becomes institutionalized -- a revolution in writing recuperated through canonization -- postmodern sensibilities reveal the schisms in the movement referred to by the unified term "modernism."
The old story on the Little Review is epitomized by critic Julian Symons' Makers of the New, which posits "four giants -- Pound, Joyce, Eliot, and Lewis -- and an array of followers -- together with the women who, as patrons and entrepreneurs, made modernism happen by supporting the magazines that supported it" (Symons 10). Like W.G. Rogers in his earlier Ladies Bountiful -- which patronizingly praises the female "angels," Anderson, Sylvia Beach, and Harriet Shaw Weaver, who worked tirelessly in their respective countries to bring James Joyce's Ulysses to press -- Symons views modernist literature as the province of a small clique of rich white male writers. For Symons, Edmund Wilson, Malcolm Cowley, and many other critics, the Little Review is the property of Pound (who was occasionally not-hindered by Anderson as he struggled valiantly to get Ulysses past the post office censors). For such critics, the ne plus avant-garde offerings of the magazine -- the work of Djuna Barnes, Jean Toomer, and the Baroness Elsa Von Freytag Loringhoven, for example -- constitute little more than a peculiar sidelight to the important work of the Fab Four. After Pound lost interest, the magazine lost momentum, declining to a sorry state by its close in 1929.
A reworking of this fable has been cultivated by critics who note that the female poets and editors, the black writers of the Harlem Renaissance, and the lower- class political radicals were the real "makers of the new" during the American teens and twenties. Their Little Review, founded and edited by an anarchist lesbian who renounced her comfortable bourgeois upbringing, is the "personal magazine" of Margaret Caroline Anderson -- who graciously agreed to let Pound send in a few little things. In this version of the history, as presented by Shari Benstock and Hugh Ford among others, Anderson -- along with her lovers Harriet Dean and Jane Heap -- purposefully sought out texts which would interfere with or deconstruct high modernist preconceptions about art and literature. She turned to writers such as Amy Lowell and H.D., whom Pound specifically condemned, to demonstrate the independence and radical aesthetics she wished to promote. But the struggle with the literary hegemony ultimately frustrated her, and by 1923 Anderson decided that her new romantic and spiritual interests superseded her desire to "converse" with the writers she published.
Both these tales narrate well in literary histories, but neither tells the whole story. Anderson, who founded the Little Review in the spring of 1914, certainly deserves far more than the "modest niche in the literary Valhalla" literary historians have traditionally accorded her (Moore 195). Even before minority critics began to attack the prevalent view of modernism, which celebrated a small clique of white male writers while largely ignoring the contributions of numerous black and women writers and editors, Anderson's accomplishment was being celebrated by Frederick Hoffman and Alfred Kazin -- two prominent critics of the literature of the 1920s. But nobody, including Anderson herself, has disputed that Ulysses was the single most significant text published in the Little Review. Nor has anyone questioned Pound's crucial role in securing the manuscript for the magazine.
The postmodern sensibilities of modern critics make Anderson a far more attractive choice as patron saint than Pound, but the Little Review reached its zenith when these two radically different individuals worked together in shaping it. And there was a third party: Jane Heap, for ten years Anderson's lover and collaborator, who was responsible for the design and editing of the magazine between 1916 and 1923 and who ran the magazine herself from 1923 to 1928. The collaborative efforts of the finishing school-educated lesbian leftist, the dour art school-educated transvestite, and the University of Pennsylvania-educated womanizing totalitarian remain the most important archive of an era of little magazines, a record of the struggles as well as successes of a turbulent period in American arts and letters whose effects are still shaping literary studies.
THE EDITORS COLLABORATE: 1914-1929
The Pound legend hardly needs repeating. Not quite sixteen when he first enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania, Pound's best friends in school were poets William Carlos Williams and Hilda Doolittle. He "was writing a daily sonnet" by 1905 and won a fellowship to travel to Europe -- London, Gibraltar, France, Italy, and Germany. When he came home in 1907, full of ambition, desiring to "to write before I die the greatest poems that have ever been written" (Norman 21). The youthful connections Pound made with poets, foreign language professors, and magazine editors placed him in an excellent position to become a powerful force in the emerging American literary scene. He met his future wife while teaching in London and took up permanent residence there.
By the time his first major book, The Personae of Ezra Pound, had brought him instant and lasting fame, Pound had already made the acquaintance of Ford Madox (Hueffer) Ford, Joseph Conrad, and William Butler Yeats. When he briefly returned to the United States in 1910, in the midst of what William Carlos Williams described as his "romantic" period, Pound was already so famous that Harriet Monroe hunted down his books and brought them to the United States (Kenner 56). Pound returned to England in 1911 to stay for the next 28 years. He published four books between 1910 and 1912, but perhaps his most important career move was his agreement to publish poetry in America exclusively in Harriet Monroe's new Poetry magazine.
Pound's role as foreign correspondent and preeminent contributor to Poetry changed the status and style of little magazines in the literary community. Des Imagistes -- as Pound called himself, Doolittle, and Richard Aldington -- shaped not only Poetry but the styles of many emergent American poets:
1. Direct treatment of the 'thing,' whether subjective or objective.
2. To use absolutely no word that did not contribute to the presentation.
3. As regarding rhythm: to compose in sequence of the musical phrase, not in sequence of a metronome.
When Amy Lowell read these rules, published in Poetry in 1913, she is rumored to have declared, "Why, I too am an Imagiste!" (Gould 45). Though pro-Pound modernist critics have tended to mock Lowell's suggestion that she invented Imagism three years earlier than Pound, she had already published poems which were marked by her later style. When Margaret Anderson, who was working at the Dial, read the Imagists, she composed an article consisting "entirely of their sharp pictures" (The Little Review Anthology 99). Even before the founding of the Little Review, Pound and Anderson were thus collaborating, working for the same artistic ends.
Anderson claims in her autobiography that she conceived the Little Review in a late-night fit of desperation, after a fight with the senior editors of the Continent.. Floyd Dell reports that Anderson actually dreamed it into existence by thinking out loud at a dinner party with the literary elite of Chicago. Anderson had become close with Dell, her editor at The Saturday Evening Post, and his wife Margery; she frequently went to their home for dinner and conversation. He recalls her standing up during the meal, "looking immaculate and virginal in a white blouse," and declaiming the need for a magazine of the arts that "would make no compromise with the public taste" (Letter to Jackson Bryer, undated).
Dell's hyperbole concerning Anderson's appeal is not unusual among her biographers. Many writers have found it difficult to restrain from writing about Margaret Anderson in superlatives. Edna M. Levey wrote that "she reminds you of Mary Garden, Isadora Duncan, Lysistrata, Sappho, all packed into one dynamic personality" (Levey 99). Gertrude Stein called her "an hysteric, pure and simple" (Stein 99), while Ben Hecht described her as "a lovely girl quite beyond my -- understanding" (Letter to Jackson Bryer, April 1964); and Ernest Hemingway, who sent Anderson $400 so that she could flee Occupied France, couldn't remember "a more scatterbrained legendary woman, nor a prettier one" (Letter from Hemingway to Janet Flanner, Flanner/Solano Papers, 1933).
Anderson herself denied even her humanity: "I have never felt much like a human being. It's a splendid feeling," she wrote (My Thirty Years' War 99). The eldest of three daughters, Anderson was raised to become an Indianapolis society girl, then a wife and hostess. She resented her mother's bourgeois values and claimed to have had revolutionary sentiments even as a child. "I felt an incredible resentment against God or man for having imposed an incredible stupidity upon the world. And the world had accepted it -- " (My Thirty Years' War 99). When she arrived at the college her mother had selected for her to be educated as a lady, Anderson convinced the faculty to let her forego classes and study the piano. She never practiced. Anderson's first experiences with criticism were musical rather than literary: she gave advice to girls who played with considerably more skill than she.
Anderson's development of musical taste, like her cultivation of literary standards, remains a mystery to her biographers. She readily admitted to being "a dilettante," but "a sympathetic and expert one" (The Strange Necessity 99). When the Continent's book editor, Clara Laughlin, offered her a job, Anderson moved to Chicago without finishing her degree. She arrived in the city at the moment the Chicago Renaissance began. Attracting the attention of Frances Hackett at The Saturday Evening Post, she began to write for him; his request that she renounce clichés, simplify her vocabulary "and at intervals [add] a great word" became one of the bases of her tastes in literature. Pressed for money, she took a job in a bookstore designed by Frank Lloyd Wright which had one other unique benefit: The Dial had offices in the same building. Anderson learned monotype and linotype, proofreading and makeup, by spying on the Dial staff (My Thirty Years' War 99).
Laughlin recommended her young friend to become her successor as literary editor of the Continent., a position which enabled Anderson to travel to New York to interview publishers. But the Continent restricted her literary license; "what they wanted of me was moral rather than literary judgments" (My Thirty Years' War 99). At one of Dell's soirées she met DeWitt Wing of the Breeder's Gazette, with whom she passionately discussed the state of the arts (The Little Magazine 52). Wing agreed that a radical new artistic outlet might create a forum for great ideas and conversation. Anderson hit upon an infallible plan: why not start her own magazine? If Dick could loan her enough money for the office rent and the printing bill -- For reasons he could never completely explain, Wing agreed. Almost overnight, Anderson was on a train for New York to solicit advertisements.
The early issues of the Little Review were funded exclusively as a result of Anderson's passionate efforts. While her benefactor Wing paid her office costs and printer, she convinced advertisers to risk money on her magazine. Finding authors was a bit trickier. Instead of seeking local writers, she wanted to establish a world-class magazine from the first. (F. Scott Fitzgerald, whom Anderson met at Scribner's seeking ads for the first issue, sadly informed her that his work was too "popular" to be included in a magazine of the avant-garde.)
The first issue of the Little Review, in Anderson's own words, "betrayed nothing but my adolescence" (My Thirty Years' War 99). Floyd Dell wrote that he was worried the magazine would be "devoted entirely to praise"; the first issue did not so much analyze new artistic and critical modes as celebrate them. Sherwood Anderson contributed a piece on "The New Note" in art and literature; an editor of The New Republic turned in an essay on the 'cubist" writings of Gertrude Stein; and the founder wrote several articles, book reviews and editorials, praising in the most extreme terms the trends in fiction, poetry and music which most pleased her. The issue was a triumph, though it failed to financially salvage its impoverished editor. It attracted the attention of subscribers and contributors like Gertrude Stein, Amy Lowell, Ben Hecht -- and of Poetry and the Dial, which hurriedly increased pay to writers as the editors feared defections to the new magazine. (Anderson of course could not pay for contributions -- "I don't recall ever having to explain [this] to anyone," she said, though Gertrude Stein would later chastise her for forcing the artists to struggle so.) It also attracted the attention of Pound.
Any piece that Anderson considered "true art" went into the magazine. Following a credo she established out of personal preference, the editor maintained that "intellectual poetry is not poetry," and refused to read any she deemed such; these would eventually include most of Marianne Moore's poems and a few of Pound's as well (The Strange Necessity 99). "Her rejection note, 'Not for us. But I am sure there are scores of other magazines that will be eager to buy it,' was a crusher for art-fevered contributors," according to Hecht. Though she continued to deny that she was a writer, Anderson wrote long editorials.
The Little Review in its early days was best known for "partly comprehensible prose and unrhymed poetry brave with dots, in which the bourgeoisie took the count every month. Who were the bourgeoisie? Anyone who didn't read the Little Review," claims Hecht (Gaily, Gaily 99). Frederick Hoffman writes that the Little Review "cast a sympathetic eye on the more radical departures from conventional realism -- in short -- [it was] concerned with widening the boundaries of an age dedicated to photographic realism and naturalism" (Hoffman 99).
Anderson herself put it more simply: [The Little Review]'s ambitious aim is to produce -- music, art, drama and life that shall be fresh and constructive, and intelligent from the artist's point of view" (My Thirty Years' War 99). The journal's unconventional roots can be traced back to its editor, who was reveling in unconventionality herself. She stated from the first that her magazine would make no compromises with public taste, and personally marketed it throughout the United States, drawing upon a wide readership rather than the highbrow literary establishment for support.
Abandoning the proofs for the third issue of the Little Review long enough to hear Emma Goldman speak, Anderson "just had time to turn anarchist before the presses closed" (My Thirty Years' War 99). Though anarchism was merely the first of a number of political ideologies which interested Anderson, Goldman's speech left an indelible imprint on her. Typically, she got into trouble from day one of her new passion. When Joe Hill was executed, the editor wrote an editorial demanding, "Why didn't some one shoot the governor of Utah before he could shoot Joe Hill?" (The Little Review Anthology 99) -- a query which attracted the attention of the F.B.I. She invited a fellow radical, Harriet Dean -- "Deansie" -- to join the staff. Anderson undertook to campaign for acceptance of alternate lifestyles with an earnestness unusual for her; while she may have suspected that her anarchism was only a phase, she knew her lesbianism was not. She apparently was involved with Goldman herself to some extent; Goldman's letters to anarchist Ben Reitman note "the stirrings as a result of my friendship with Margaret -- expressive of my previous theoretic interest in sex variation" (Falk 99).
Sadly, when the magazine turned anarchist, Wing withdrew his backing. He had no choice, he explained to Anderson desperately: he would lose his position on the Breeder's Gazette if it were known that he contributed to an anarchist publication (My Thirty Years' War 99). At about this time, Amy Lowell, whose independent style and feminine sensibilities caused the European Imagists to shun her, came to see Anderson. "I've had a fight with Ezra Pound," she said, offering to make a substantial financial investment in the magazine if Anderson would let her supervise the poetry department. "No clairvoyance was needed to know that Amy Lowell would dictate, uniquely and majestically -- so I didn't hesitate -- 'It's charming of you but I couldn't think of it.'" Lowell was "furious," but contributed poems to the magazine nonetheless. However, in turning away Lowell, Anderson sacrificed finances she desperately needed.
While one suspects that Anderson's assessment of Lowell is correct, she may have had a more important reason for turning Lowell away: that fight with Pound. The Little Review had gradually achieved a European following, partly because Americans emigrating to Europe brought the magazine with them, partly because the magazine interested itself in European art and literature and solicited manuscripts from both American and European writers living in London and Paris. Anderson was certainly well aware of Pound's standing in the world of letters; in the second issue of the Little Review, Yeats had written an essay praising the young American poet. Anderson first wrote to him in 1914, when he brought out the first Blast manifesto, edited by Wyndham Lewis -- the document that announced Vorticism as the heir apparent to Imagism. Even before his official collaboration with the Little Review began, in 1916, he was sending Anderson manuscripts. Though Anderson knew how important Lowell could be in selling issues in the United States, she also seems to have recognized from the first that Pound had access to the most interesting work written anywhere in the world. However she felt about Amy Lowell, Anderson would not have risked alienating Ezra Pound.
In 1917, Pound wrote suggesting that he become foreign editor of the magazine. Though he offered immediate criticism of many of Anderson's "regulars" -- Hecht, Williams, Vachel Lindsay, and of course Lowell -- he also began sending important texts from Europe immediately. One of the first, which Anderson liked "as well as anything the Little Review ever printed," was T.S. Eliot's "Eeldrop and Appleplex" series (My Thirty Years' War 158). Having regular contributions from Eliot, Ford Madox Ford, Lewis, and Pound himself greatly increased the magazine's scope; it could attract more advertisers and subscribers, and thus attract more at-home-American talent as well. While Anderson was subjected to regular tirades in Pound's letters -- "his letters alone would have made a good magazine" (My Thirty Years' War 159) -- she rarely had to compromise with Pound himself, since he was overseas and it took a letter as long to reach Anderson as an issue to go to press. A typical letter from Pound:
Jan. number arrived. Feeling better. Number looks businesslike, and "about to continue." Damn, damn, DAMN I must pull myself together and DO something.
Bill Wms. is the most bloody inarticulate animal that ever gargled. BUT it is better than Amy's bloody ten-cent repetitive gramaphone, perfectly articulate (i.e. in the verbal section).
Whereas the bleating genius of the HOME product. Hecht might write good DeMaupassant if he didn't try to crack jokes and ring bells; and if he would only realize that he DON'T need to exaggerate to be interesting. ETC.
(Pound/The Little Review 1918)
There was one other person whose editorial suggestions had a major role in shaping the Little Review, and, by extension, American modernism. In 1916, according to Anderson, "the most interesting thing [that ever happened] to the Little Review took place. Jane Heap appeared -- " (My Thirty Years' War 99). Heap was by many accounts the most interesting looking person one could see on the streets of Chicago at the time. She favored close- cut hair, tuxedo jackets, bow ties, and a Russian fur cap that drove Anderson, a statuesque blue-eyed blonde, to distraction. Anderson's love/hate relationship with her co-editor lasted until Heap's death in 1964.
Born in Topeka in 1887, Heap grew up in an insane asylum of which her father was director (Hills 99). "It was a world outside of the world, where realities had to be imagined" (The Little Review July 1916). After graduating from the Art Institute of Chicago in 1905, she studied art in Germany and at Chicago's Lewis Institute. "Her talk was a natural art -- I wanted it for my magazine," Anderson said. At her insistence, Heap began to write for the magazine. She also brought her artistic talents to bear, creating a sharper cubist look for the design. Her columns were to the point, clever and exceedingly stylized, a nice counterpoint to Anderson's predictable hysteria. Heap's instinct was as sharp as Anderson's in selecting manuscripts for inclusion, and her knowledge of art made it possible for the magazine to expand its visual section. The two brought out one famous issue containing twelve blank pages, protesting in an editorial that they had found "no art worth publishing" other than some cartoons Heap drew of Anderson since there was nothing to edit.
Many of the writers and artists who had made the Chicago Renaissance happen were following Pound eastward, through New York and eventually to Europe. From the shores of Lake Michigan, Anderson and Heap found it extremely difficult to keep up with the developments in Greenwich Village. New York was the center of the American theater, of American art, of American cultural development; it was also closer to France and England, which meant that Anderson could reach her European subscribers and writers more easily. Anderson and Heap moved to New York and became part of a lesbian subculture in Greenwich Village which promoted feminist concerns and women's writing. Though Pound kept his feelings about the sexual preference of his co-editors out of his letters, his friends John Quinn, William Carlos Williams, and Ernest Hemingway were much less subtle. Williams recalled seeing the enormous bed in Anderson's and Heap's apartment: "We poor men would look timidly at it and marvel -- [later] I went out and stood up to take a good piss" (The Autobiography 99).
Heap, an artist herself, collected art she received as gifts and purchased when she could afford it and wanted to establish a gallery for new artists. But the political art trend disturbed Anderson, who continued to proclaim that the emotion in art was more important than its "statement"; she and Emma Goldman had had a falling-out because Anderson had recited a poem of Amy Lowell's about a swan, only to have Goldman thunder that "the working-man doesn't care about black swans." Carl Van Vechten, author of Nigger Heaven, had begun to introduce Anderson to his black friends in Harlem. Though the Little Review published Jean Toomer and several of the writers of the Harlem Renaissance, she found "the negro craze like the alcohol craze -- America today seems to be looking toward the negro as a new force -- but -- alcohol isn't a stimulant -- it's a release." She wrote that "identifying with an easy insouciant amused race" was not likely to inspire people to great things. While she was not a racist to the extent that Pound was, Anderson was no fighter for equality.
More than he loved a good salary, Pound enjoyed the prestige, publishing space, and possibility of changing the course of world literature. He sent pieces that were too unconventional for the Dial, too risqué for the Transatlantic Review, and too bizarre to receive serious consideration anywhere else to the Little Review. Among the pieces Pound would have had difficulty placing in any widely circulated magazine were a story by Wyndham Lewis, "Cantelman's Spring-Mate," and a play by James Joyce, Exiles. "Cantelman's Spring-Mate" contained a powerful seduction scene described in visual images, leading to the birth of an illegitimate child. Exiles contained homoerotic speeches, adulterous affairs, and a proclamations about the uselessness of morals. Few editors would have risked their publication's censorship by putting these works on its pages (Wasserstrom 99). Pound warned Anderson that she would probably get into trouble for printing them, but he sent them nonetheless; and Anderson, finding them beautiful, published them. No one was more surprised than she when the United States Post Office condemned her magazine as obscene and burned the issues.
Upon perusing Joyce's new Ulysses, Pound became aware that Joyce couldn't possibly sell the work, and would be lucky if anyone published it at all. It was cryptic, highly stylized, and contained passages sure to irk conservative readers by their unusual rendering alone. He could not send Ulysses to the Dial or the Continent for a respectable sum; the magazines would refuse the work.
Though he warned her that the post office would very likely shut her down if she published it and that he recommended against it, Pound sent the first installment of the manuscript to the Little Review. According to Anderson, as soon as she read the opening paragraphs, "to the line 'signatures of all things I am here to read,' I felt like crying." She and Heap never had any doubts that they would publish Ulysses if it were "the last effort of [their] lives" (My Thirty Years' War 99). It very nearly was, at least, the last effort of their editorial careers. Pound's predictions came true: not only did the post office repeatedly burn issues of the magazine, but the Society for the Suppression of Vice and the New York criminal courts themselves became embroiled in the publication of the magazine which refused to compromise with the public taste. The result was an enormous amount of publicity for Joyce, Pound, and the Little Review, and a criminal record for M.C.A. and jh.
Although reader reactions to Ulysses were decidedly negative, a typical letter describing the text as "the most damnable piece of filth...ever published," Anderson "kept exclaiming, what art!" (My Thirty Years' War 214). She was certain that the masterpiece of the generation had fallen into her hands. The tribulations of Leopold and Molly Bloom, Stephen Daedalus and Gerty McDowell paralleled the struggles of people to find who they were in the complex world of the machine age; it also exemplified the mazelike, intensely personal artistry of the times (Ellman 99). Some readers complained that Joyce's literary tactics rendered the manuscript so cryptic that nobody could fully appreciate the text but the author himself. "It is," wrote Heap, "an intense and elaborate expression of Mr. Joyce's dislike of this time" (The Little Review "Exiles" Issue).
But the U.S. Post Office -- which occasionally received angry notes about the "filth" that passed through the public mails -- became increasingly concerned as the installments became increasingly explicit. Pound, who hated the idea of editing Joyce, attempted to tone down the controversial parts; Anderson further "ruined" Joyce's text by removing scenes with "natural facts -- known to everyone" (The Little Review 1920). When the post office burned copies of the Little Review containing Episode IX, criticism of the piece on literary grounds were forgotten as the artistic community united behind Joyce, Pound, Anderson and Heap to defend the right of the artist to self-expression. Suddenly Joyce's work was acclaimed as a masterpiece by subscribers who had not read it. The Greenwich Village community organized a demonstration against censorship, arousing a sympathetic demonstration in London, and demanded the cessation of interference by the authorities in a magazine which people purchased themselves.
The scandal caused by Ulysses nearly shut down the Little Review; even many subscribers were uncertain whether their editors had gone too far. Pound rushed from London to Paris seeking people to defend the magazine; he had already dispatched his friend John Quinn, patron of the arts, collector, writer, lawyer and publicist, who arranged to have various friends donate $1600 to the journal (The Pound Era 99). "He thought we were stupid, and we knew he was stupid," Anderson said of the man who would represent her (Letter to Jackson Bryer, December 1968). Nevertheless, at Pound's and Quinn's bidding, she agreed to sit quietly and allow him to argue the virtues of Joyce's text to a confused gaggle of judges.
Anderson envisioned a fair trail with a jury of her peers -- "We would have declared Ulysses a masterpiece, and I would not be a criminal," she said -- but the actual trial was higher farce. The judges refused to allow the "obscene" passages to be read in Anderson's presence, asserting that she must not have known what she was publishing. Anderson hoped to go to jail for awhile, so that she could write dramatic letters of protest which would galvanize the world into action, but she received only moderate notoriety, not martyrdom: she and Heap were sentenced to a fine, a criminal record and a stained set of fingers to establish an F.B.I. file on the two subversive women.
Anderson said that her tastes were infallible -- she felt herself "the kind of person who can prove that, in [my] case, the despised terms 'I like,' or 'I don't like,' are important, authentic, 'right'" (Letter to Jackson Bryer, undated) -- but Pound did not always agree. While she felt that the more popular conventional magazines of the period -- Atlantic, Harpers -- were invaluable, as they published Henry James and Edith Wharton, they were missing out on the "art" which could only be found in a little review. She continued to publish pieces that in many cases no other magazine would touch.
But Pound turned many of his duties as foreign editor over to John Rodker shortly after the Ulysses trial (A Trial-Track for Racers 99). Anderson was listening to him less and less often about what to print, and though Pound repeatedly begged her to leave out Amy Lowell and drop the Baroness, she refused; when she permitted two issues in a row on the visual arts and added Tristan Tzara to her list of contributors, he may have considered it the last straw. The Little Review's perpetual financial problems were beginning to aggravate him as well. Quinn of course could not be paid for his services. Abby Ann Arthur Johnson insists that Pound left the magazine because it could not afford to pay him a salary, but this is certainly a distortion of the facts; Pound collaborated with Anderson on several issues after his angry 1918 letter asking for money (359). Pound's real dissatisfaction was with the turn the magazine -- and American modernism -- had taken.
Though the Little Review continued to publish until 1929, Anderson began to leave the magazine at the same time Pound did; she found that she had lost interest in it. "Margaret said she saw the Little Review as an extension of her conversations with her peers, and when she was no longer interested in that conversation, she lost interest in the magazine," says Jackson Bryer (Interview with the writer, 1990). By her own admission, her successes in the literary world left her unsatisfied (The Fiery Fountains 99). She had brought forth "the masterpiece of the generation," Ulysses; what was left for the journal to do? She dutifully edited the Little Review, but found herself believing her claim that they "would never have anything as beautiful [as Ulysses] again," and she found no new causes to champion which could spark her interest in editorializing (My Thirty Years' War 99).
Pound had encouraged her for years to visit Europe; "It was time to go," she felt (My Thirty Years' War 99). From Paris, she told Heap, the Little Review could accomplish things impossible in America; they could meet Stein and Hemingway, Pound and Joyce, Brancusi, Cocteau and Sartre (The Fiery Fountains 99). Many of their intellectual and artistic friends from the Village had already abandoned New York for London and Paris, and planned to take the first opportunity to travel. That opportunity arrived in the person of Georgette Leblanc, a fellow music lover and soprano in need of an accompanist, whom Allen Tanner introduced to Anderson (La Machine a Courage 99). Anderson was to accompany Leblanc -- on the piano and everywhere else -- for the next twenty years. "I am definitely giving up the Little Review ... I'll give it to you," she told Heap, adding that she "considered this just -- as well as interesting" (My Thirty Years' War 99). Ultimately, perhaps out of frustration, Heap accompanied Anderson and Leblanc to Europe.
Upon their arrival, Anderson and Heap set out to meet Pound. The long-awaited meeting was a disappointment for both. "Photographs ... [gave] no indication of his high Rooseveltian voice, his nervousness, his self-consciousness," she wrote. Pound's behavior reminded her of a baby mindlessly performing its antics. He was "patriarchal" toward women; he annoyed her by attempting to kiss her forehead and take her on his knee. "I am very fond of Ezra," she said at the time, "only it will be more interesting to know him when he has grown up" (My Thirty Years' War 99).
Heap returned to New York and opened a Little Review gallery which presented the constructs of the various artistic movements, returning to her early interest in art. She organized the Machine-Age Exposition, a juxtaposition of technical advancements in the arts with advancements in technology. Other projects included an International Theatre Exposition, in which Russian constructivist stage-sets were given their American premiere, and concerts of touring groups from Europe which had created sensations and scandals overseas (The Twenties 99). Anderson, who had sought to conclude the Little Review in 1924 on the occasion of its tenth anniversary, had little to do woth the magazine from that point on. Only Jane's insistence had kept the magazine alive. But by late 1928, she agreed with Anderson and Pound: the Little Review had passed its moment. It was over. In Heap's words,
"For years we offered the Little Review as a trial-track for racers. We hoped to find artists who could run with the great artists of the past or men who could make new records. But you can't get race horses from mules. Self-expression is not enough; experiment is not enough. All of the arts have broken faith or lost connection with their origin and function. They have ceased to be concerned with the legitimate and permanent material of art." (The Little Review Anthology 99).
By coincidence, Heap's choice of a final issue date was singularly appropriate for a magazine which spanned perfectly the time of the "lost generation." The Little Review began publication in 1914, one month after the eruption of World War I fundamentally altered many artists' perceptions of the world; it ceased publication in 1929, one month before the stock market crash drew Americans abroad home to rebuild (Perrett 99). Anderson and Heap had compiled a file of articles to be used if they ever put out a "final issue"; after some thinking, they threw it out. Instead they conceived a questionnaire which was sent, with Pound's assistance, to every artist, intellectual, and public figure they could contact:
1. What should you most like to do, to know, to be? (In case you are not satisfied.)
2. Why wouldn't you change places with any other human being?
3. What do you look forward to?
4. What do you fear most from the future?
5. What has been the happiest moment of your life? The unhappiest? (If you care to tell.)
6. What do you consider your weakest characteristic? Your strongest? What do you like most about yourself? Dislike most?
7. What things do you really like? Dislike? (Nature, people, ideas, objects, etc. Answer in a phrase or a page, as you will.)
8. What is your attitude toward art to-day?
9. What is your world view? (Are you a reasonable being in a reasonable scheme?) 10. Why do you go on living?
While awaiting the results, the editors wrote editorials. Heap's final, disillusioned comment -- which would seem prophetic to artists of the thirties -- was, "Modern art has finally come into its own ... advertising." Anderson was less fatalistic, and had no regrets; she maintained that artists were more interesting than ordinary people. Unfortunately, she found, most of their answers to the questionnaire "sprang from two of the undying human characteristics: vanity and unawareness." It had reached a point where "even the artist [didn't] know what he [was] talking about" (The Little Review, "Exiles" issue).
The final issue of The Little Review could serve as a monument to the literary twenties; buried in a time capsule, it would neatly present the philosophy, art and failings of the age as recorded by the greatest minds of the period. Nearly everyone who was asked responded to the questions, with a few notable exceptions who offered interesting excuses: Einstein was too ill, Picasso was too busy, Mary Garden was too shy. The Baroness was dead, having committed suicide several years earlier. Djuna Barnes wrote that she was not interested in the questions, nor had she "that respect for the public." Brancusi wanted to answer but had no time. Havelock Ellis protested that his answers would fill volumes, some of which he had already written. James Joyce claimed he could think of nothing to say. Wyndham Lewis found the questions too difficult. Harold Bauer wrote that his psyche, "an ill-favored virgin," resented the intrusion. Georgette Leblanc didn't understand all the questions. Tristan Tzara responded with an obscenity.
But a surprisingly large number of people responded, from Joseph Stella, William Carlos Williams and Ben Hecht to Anderson's young nephews Fritz and Tom Peters. Pound refused to answer the questions; he asked Anderson to "print what [she'd] got on hand," a manuscript which Anderson wrote was full of "stale witticisms" and which she had "conscientiously thrown into the waste-basket" (The Little Review Anthology 366). So ended the literary collaboration of Anderson, Heap, and Pound; their personal relationship would continue many years, culminating in an exchange of letters in the 1950s between Anderson's Maryland home, Heap's Gurdjieff center in Europe, and Pound's room in St. Elizabeth's Hospital.
THE CRITICS CONTEND: 1930-1990
"I believe everything that Margaret Anderson says precisely because she is not a writer but a rhapsodist without guile," writes Alfred Kazin in his review of My Thirty Years' War, Anderson's first volume of memoirs, which covered the Little Review years ("The Little Review's Founder Tells Its Story and Her Own" 1). Kazin, a preeminent American literary historian, should have known better. Anderson hedged, fudged, and lied on several occasions in her memoirs. While her "inability" to recall her exact age drips coyness and her description of the breakup of her love affair with Heap uses guarded euphemisms, her assertion that she published "an issue of the magazine made up of sixty-four empty pages, stating that since no art was being produced we would make no attempt to publish any" is utterly false by any standards (My Thirty Years' War 124). Kazin, however, is not the only critic who believed her. "She swore to me that she had brought out a totally blank issue of the Little Review," recalled Jackson Bryer years later (Interview with the writer, 1986). "I've seen the issue she's talking about. There were maybe sixteen blank pages, some cartoons, some advertisements ... the Little Review never did a completely blank issue. But even Frederick Hoffman said they did."
Kazin, Hoffman, Johnson, and numerous other literary historians have accepted the popular legend and written that the Little Review's blank issue looked exactly the way Anderson described it. But while they take Anderson's word on her blank issue, her age (which she usually reported with ten years subtracted), and the apocryphal story about dreaming up the magazine in the middle of the night, they often dismiss her claim as the major influence upon the magazine's editorial content. Perhaps Anderson advertised her "dilettantism" too thoroughly; those willing to accept the traditional Little Review myth have been only too happy to agree with her self-image. Symons, Kenner, Rogers, and Norman give Pound the credit for the major accomplishments, while dismissing Anderson alternately as "an angel" or a virago in conflict with Pound's superior tastes and critical abilities (Symons 93). When Symons writes that "for the most part the editors printed what Pound sent to them" (94), he comes into direct conflict with Abby Ann Arthur Johnson's insistence that the Little Review never became Pound's "instrument" ("The Personal Magazine" 357).
Bryer -- who wrote one of the earliest and best studies of the journal in his dissertation -- privileges Pound's involvement somewhat as well. "While Pound filled her journal with the best work from England, [Anderson] occasionally interjected an essay of her own," he writes in a section on "Pound's two years of control" (A Trial-Track For Racers 253). At the very least, however, Bryer's dissertation is subtitled "Margaret Anderson and the Little Review". Symons lumps the magazine together with several others Pound was (briefly) involved with, in a chapter which insists that Anderson made a fool of herself before Pound saved the day.
But feminist critic Shari Benstock too centers her discussion of the Little Review and Poetry around Pound and how he used the two magazines; even she posits him as the central figure. Benstock writes that "Pound's record with literary women was a poor one: between 1916 and 1923, he had broken with Amy Lowell, Harriet Monroe, Harriet Weaver, Margaret Anderson, and Jane Heap, presumably for the same reason -- they all lacked literary judgment. Rather, they did not always agree with his literary judgment -- [Anderson] hardly needed Pound to remind her that her judgment was often wrong" (363). This statement hardly sounds like a defense of Anderson. What Benstock terms "wrong," other critics have termed "not timely" instead; for example, Johnson comments that Anderson was unduly criticized for publishing the Baroness because the Baroness was ahead of her time.
As Benstock concedes, "It was no doubt to Pound's advantage that the editorial policy of the Little Review was anchored in Margaret Anderson's personality rather than in belabored critical treatises or rigid literary manifestos. Anderson wanted a magazine constituted of 'inspired conversation'...Pound, for instance, might have desired an editorial policy that reflected his own assured beliefs in the purpose and practice of literature" (Benstock 367). She then characterizes the magazine as having three distinct periods: "the 'formative years' (1914-April 1917), a period defined by Anderson's own interests -- including anarchism, feminism, psychoanalysis, and Imagism; the 'Pound period' (April 1917-1921), during which time Pound's literary discoveries (Yeats, Eliot, Hart Crane, Ford Madox Ford, and Wyndham Lewis) were published and Ulysses was published serially (1918-1921); [and] the Paris years, during which time the Little Review became a quarterly and interested itself in new European literary movements" (Benstock 368).
I find it problematic that "the formative years" seem to end with Pound's acceptance of the position of Foreign Editor, since the magazine reformed -- and re-formed again -- several times in the ensuing years. But Benstock's categories are misleading for other reasons. Contrary to her implication, Ford submitted to the Little Review of his own initiative; he knew Pound before he knew Anderson, but it is unclear whether Pound first put him in touch with the magazine. Anderson consistently turned down several authors Pound encouraged her to publish -- in particular, Hart Crane -- because their work did not interest her. On more than one occasion she rejected a Pound manuscript.
It would be fair for Benstock to say that people took the magazine most seriously during the "High Pound" years -- with the explanation that male editors and writers were taken more seriously in general due to the overwhelming influence of patriarchy on literary standards. Late in her life, Anderson gave the credit for the extent of the Little Review's success to Pound: she wrote that "we often printed rot; but our identification with Joyce and Pound finally made the critics oblivious to our shortcomings" (Letter to Allen Tanner, Flanner-Solano Collection, March 1970). But Anderson never gave Pound the credit for making the magazine interesting, and Pound, for his part, always referred to the magazine as "MCA's LR," though he took credit where credit was due him for finding some of its most important manuscripts. Despite Johnson's accusation that Pound left the magazine in 1918 because he wanted a salary Anderson and Heap could not pay him, Pound gave Anderson and Heap money out of his own pocket for the magazine. He did not insist that they agree to publish anything in particular when he made donations (Stock 203).
In return, Anderson and Heap defended Pound and his rhetoric against griping from various sources, including her competitors. In 1918, in response to an essay in Poetry by Harriet Monroe, Anderson wrote that the magazine had at last arrived at the place from which she had wanted it to start. Heap was even more forthright in her defense of Pound:
Miss Monroe is not the first to tell us that the Little Review is under the dictatorship of Ezra Pound. Our idea of having a foreign editor is not to sit in our New York office and mess up, censor, or throw out work sent to us by an editor in London ... we have let him be as ... foreign to taste, foreign to courtesy, foreign to our standards of Art ... because we believe in ... the interest and value of an intellectual communication between Europe and America. (Heap, The Little Review, December 1918.)
Though Anderson's and Pound's letters and memoirs are fair to one another, both shortchange the third member of their staff. Moreover, Bryer has chapters on the influence of Goldman, Lowell, Pound, and Joyce on the Little Review, but he neglects to give one to Heap. In the midst of the battle over Anderson and Pound, critics would do well to remember that the motto of the magazine was conceived by Jane Heap: "To express the emotions of life is to live. To express the life of emotions is to make art." (The phrase most closely associated with the magazine and with Anderson herself, "Making no compromises with the public taste," was suggested by Pound.)
Feminists who try to reclaim the magazine as Anderson's personal success -- like Johnson -- often do so at the expense of Heap. "Heap freed Anderson from, among other matters, some of the drudgery connected with the journal. She answered much of Anderson's correspondence, and she met with many of the young writers eager for publication" (356). This passage makes Heap sound like a housewife who was useful but didn't contribute much to the important task of running a magazine; it is reminiscent of some descriptions of the role of Alice B. Toklas in the life of Gertrude Stein. Johnson writes of the journal as a "personal magazine," a phrase coined by Frederick Hoffman, who writes, "The 'personal' magazine usually reflects the editor's personality on the cover and on every page -- [for example] Margaret Anderson's Little Review" (The Little Magazine 52). But Johnson and Hoffman both neglect to mention that Heap designed the cover, and that for six years her personality shaped the magazine.
Johnson and Hoffman both accept what Anderson writes in My Thirty Years' War as fact in several instances when they should be suspicious of her. Anderson and Heap had been fighting a war of sorts when Anderson wrote the book. In fact, their relationship was apparently somewhat acrimonious from the start; "Remember -- the cruel critical letters Janie used to slip under my door?" Anderson wrote at one point to a friend (Letter to Djuna Barnes, Djuna Barnes Collection, undated). Though she is generally fair to Heap, Anderson occasionally takes the credit for innovations Heap thought up, such as the issue on Brancusi. But Anderson -- as well as Bryer, Johnson, and Hoffman -- are all far fairer to Heap than Symons, who describes her as "a super-typical lesbian of the period," says few people liked her, and accuses her of trying to sabotage Pound's role on the magazine (93).
Just as critics of Pound often read his middle-age fascist leanings backwards through his work, critics of Heap often label her unstable, based on her interest in the teachings of mystics Georgei Ivanovich Gurdjieff and P.D. Ouspensky from the 1930s to her death in 1964. Because Heap retreated into the intensely private life of a mystic, studying and teaching the ideas of Gurdjieff rather than maintaining contact with the literary establishment, critics often dismiss her early claims to fame. When Heap is given credit for her contributions to the Little Review, such as the publication of an exchange on women and madness concerning the Baroness, it is often in the context of criticism; Symons, for example, argues that Heap's interest in the avant-garde stemmed from her inability to fit into her own culture. Both Symons and James Webb link Heap's lesbianism (by which they mean to suggest deviation) to her later interest in mysticism; they continually emphasize that Heap's accomplishments were fueled by her eccentricities.
Anderson often is treated no better. In The Female Imagination, a study of the feminine psyche which explores the ambitions, fantasies, and self-images of women, Patricia Meyers Spacks accuses Anderson of harboring a tendency to dream her life away. Anderson "was never interested" in actual accomplishment that could be assessed in the worldly sense, but in turning her life itself into a work of art, claims Spacks (99). According to The Female Imagination, Anderson remained an adolescent throughout her life, devoting her energies to fleeting emotional states rather than lasting accomplishments. Her assertion that "My greatest enemy is reality -- I have fought it successfully for thirty years," stands as one of the bases for Spacks' argument that many women harbor a tendency to glorify themselves in their own minds at the expense of tangible accomplishments. Anderson is a prime example of a woman caught up in her own myth, like Isadora Duncan.
Spacks fudges critical facts -- such as Anderson's lesbianism and Duncan's diagnosed, not psychosomatic, illnesses -- which explain why her reading of many modernist women is so unsympathetic. Her argument is particularly interesting, however, because it demonstrates that even Spacks, ostensibly engaging in feminist discourse, has distorted history in order to keep a myth intact. It also demonstrates the extent to which Spacks, a Harvard professor, accepts the academic definitions of canonical and commercial success which Anderson herself always rejected.
Recent arguments about Anderson by scholars sympathetic to feminism (Johnson, Ford, Benstock) attempt to portray her as a perfect role model for feminists, and neglect to criticize adequately the questionable decisions she made -- not her choices in selection or editing of material, but in representing and speaking for causes. Johnson asserts that she lived proudly with women, as "no man's wife, no man's lovely mistress, and never a mother," but mutes any criticism that Anderson did not declare her lesbianism publicly as did Gertrude Stein and Radclyffe Hall, resorting to half-truths in discussing Dean and Heap and romantic clichés to characterize her relationship with Georgette Leblanc. Benstock too praises her early interest in feminism, but fails to comment on Anderson's later subsuming of that interest in the somewhat misogynistic practices to which Gurdjieff introduced her No critic that I know of has commented on the racism inherent in her comments on African Americans in the Little Review and in her later correspondence, and relatively few critics discuss her involvement in the cult-like atmosphere surrounding Gurdjieff.
The Little Review reached its zenith at a pivotal moment in literary history, from which it can never be extricated because it contributed to the making of that moment. It is difficult to know how to read its "radicalism," which resembles bourgeois liberalism compared to the more serious extremes of the 1930s, but which definitely rejects many of the conservative trends of the years prior to its inception. Poststructuralist critics have reflected on the impossibility of narrating history adequately, since the formation of an ordered narration works in opposition to the dynamic movements of events within a timeline. Since the language of events cannot be translated into the language of narrative without a vast loss of precision, no historical event can be chronicled completely. But the myths of the Little Review often reflect a deliberate distortion by critics, just as the historical moment of the modernist era, to which the "postmodern" remains connected, is often written in terms of modern subjectivities.
The modern era has no definitive canon yet; perhaps it never will, as we move further from a concept of "literature" and toward the study of "texts." But despite its emphasis on "making the world new," the modernist era rapidly developed an established network of texts by certain hegemonic figures, a network which is self-referential and allusively connects to the texts and literary movements which precede it. An alternative, diverse amalgam of texts, which for various reasons do not fit into the "Makers of the New" presentation of modernism, has also emerged. Feminist and materialist critics in particular have emphasized that postmodernism develops out of the marginal traditions as well as the hegemonic Great Tradition, that the radical political writings and the seldom-anthologized works of women, blacks, and other marginal figures were as much a part of modernism as the Pound/Joyce/Eliot/Lewis monolith. As Houston Baker writes,
The term 'modernism' has something of the character of Keats' cold pastoral. Promising a wealth of meaning, it locks observers into a questing indecision that can end in unctuous chiasmus -- the names and techniques of the 'modern' that are generally set forth constitute a descriptive catalog resembling a natural philosopher's curiosity cabinet. In such cabinets disparate and seemingly discontinuous objects share space because that is the very function of the cabinet -- to house of give order to varied things in what appears a rational, scientific manner -- such naming rituals -- substitute a myth of unified purpose and intention for definitional certainty. (Baker 1,3).
The attempt to define modernism is thus a struggle for coherence, an effort to place some sort of closure on the era through the creation of a narrative. Since postmodernism is linked to modernism by virtue of more than nomenclature, a definition of the boundaries of the modern era would make possible a delineation of postmodernism. Much more is at stake, then, in the argument over who should receive credit for the Little Review than the reputations of Pound, Anderson, and Heap; the definition of modernism hinges on the issue, and by extension the outer limits of postmodern discourse.
Those who argue that Pound made the magazine are generally arguing as well that Pound made modernism; that modernism indisputably has a canon; that that canon includes the work of Pound, Eliot, Joyce, a few other major writers, and several marginal figures; and that the modernist era has clear boundaries defined by the careers of its major figures. Those who insist on Anderson's primal role with the Little Review generally view modernism as the product of a broad community loosely linked through publication and distribution; that no particular subset of the writers, artists, or editors should be singled out for canonization; that the artists of the French Expressionist movement, the Dadaist group, the Harlem Renaissance, and many others contributed to the development of modernist aesthetics; and that the era has no clear boundaries, particularly since modern writing is so heavily under its influence.
Poststructuralist theory privileges the latter analysis, though many critics would be quick to point out that, given our understanding of what Harold Bloom terms "the anxiety of influence" writers suffer concerning prior literary movements, late twentieth century writers have a vested interest in denouncing the accomplishments of the most prominent figures of the preceding literary movement, whether they see themselves as writing into or against an established canon or disregarding the notion of a canon. Many feminist critics who reject the notion of a canon as artificial and misleading -- for instance, Shari Benstock, Janice Doane and Devon Hodges -- nevertheless devote considerable energies to deconstructing the canonical claims of many writers, a move which reasserts the influence of those writers even as it criticizes them. When Johnson must devote several paragraphs to proving that Pound was not responsible for the Little Review's success, she inevitably plants that very notion in the mind of her reader.
As Baker points out, modernism is not a single, unified movement, nor was it while it occurred. The Little Review does not fit into any one literary tradition. Rather, like the era from which it emerged, it created new traditions, reworked old traditions, and sometimes tried out some ideas which don't quite fit into any tradition. It is not necessary to posit Pound, Anderson, and Heap as enemies in the battle for the Little Review; rather, we should be celebrating the collaboration which enabled the magazine to accomplish more than it could have under any single editor, engaged with any single artistic concern.
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