The Present Age after 1920

The Present Age after 1920

The Present Age after 1920

The Present Age after 1920

Excerpt

It is, no doubt, largely true that an age is reflected in its literature, which reveals the tides of thought, the vagaries of emotion, the springs of action that animated its men and women. But just as it is impossible to see the shape of a wood when you are journeying through the middle of it, so it is virtually impossible for us to see what our own age is like. Trees which seem important, even dominating by virtue of the shade they cast when we are close to them, get strangely smaller as the perspective alters, though some may retain their proportions, or even seem to grow. Till we have got out of the wood, and can see it as a whole, we cannot judge which of its trees are most essential to its general shape.

For the obvious reason that 'the present age' is not 'the present age' of some twenty years ago, this is not a revision of the earlier volume with this title, but a completely new one, replacing that by Dr Edwin Muir. Moreover this volume differs from its forerunner not only in the material that it handles, but in its conception, which again distinguishes it from those preceding it in the series. For the scene today is far more variegated, and one would think, changing with ever-increasing rapidity. Before the last war it seemed possible to discern a pattern; the final volume of the series could to some extent resemble those concerned with earlier centuries. But who now can with any assurance hazard a guess as to the way things are taking shape? 'Movements', which it seemed at one time were growing into forest trees altering the whole woodland topography, turn out to be shrubs, some flowering and seminal, others thorny and barren: 'tendencies' manifest themselves and fade away. One need think only of the 'apocalyptics'. Thus it would be presumptuous at this date to produce a book claiming to be 'The Portrait of an Age' . . .

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