A History of the Freeman: Literary Landmark of the Early Twenties

A History of the Freeman: Literary Landmark of the Early Twenties

A History of the Freeman: Literary Landmark of the Early Twenties

A History of the Freeman: Literary Landmark of the Early Twenties

Excerpt

A sign of the vitality of the early 1920s in America was the brilliance, range, and intellectual "seriousness" to be found in the pages of the advanced magazines of the period. The Freeman, a weekly journal of politics and the arts, established in New York in the first year of the decade, was one of these. "Designed," as its prospectus said, "to meet the new sense of responsibility and the new spirit of inquiry" which the postwar world had "liberated," the Freeman, like the new Dial, the Nation, and the New Republic, in whose company it can best be described, exerted a solid share of influence on the intellectual life of a wonderfully creative time in our cultural history.

During that period the intellectual awakening which gave us our sense of the modern was in full swing. We recognize it as an international phenomenon, yet we know that in America it took a particular form. Ezra Pound, seeing his country freshly after a stay abroad, had predicted a risorgimento in 1912 and had described its scope and aspirations. It was "to have its effect not only in the arts, but in life, in politics, and in economics"; it implied "a whole volley of liberations; liberations from ideas, from stupidities, from conditions and from tyrannies of wealth or army." Pound's prophecy, with its implication that an organic relationship between society and the arts would substantiate both man's freedom and the growth of his intellect, reaffirmed for the twentieth century what Emerson had declared for the nineteenth. And this prophesy, like Emerson's, was expressive of the energies which a critic of imagination could see latent in a seemingly sterile society. American writers other than Pound, notably Van Wyck Brooks, were also to sense and to focus these energies during the prewar years. Although the war interrupted clear mani-

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