Selected Criticism, 1916-1957

Selected Criticism, 1916-1957

Selected Criticism, 1916-1957

Selected Criticism, 1916-1957

Excerpt

Starting in 1916, Middleton Murry wrote an average of more than a book a year for the next forty years. Several million words. It is arguable that the books would have been better, had they been fewer, and no doubt Murry himself would have thought so. But he had to make a living and, as he once said, the only way he could afford to think about a subject was to write a book about it. He was born in 1889 in South London, to parents whose economic status was on the borderline between genteel and sheer poverty; but, thanks to scholarships, he obtained a good classical education at Christ's Hospital and Brasenose. After editing three small but lively magazines he was appointed in 1919 to the editorship of The Athenaeum; and in what Mr. Eliot has described as the 'brief and brilliant' life of that journal under Murry's editorship most of the outstanding new writers of the post-war years collaborated. Many of them, indeed, must have owed their first success very largely to his encouragement. But The Athenaeum was soon merged with The Nation (later to be absorbed by the New Statesman), and in 1923, after the death of his first wife, Katherine Mansfield, Murry founded a new monthly review, The Adelphi.

This new venture was at first an unexpected success, but in time it alienated many of his former collaborators, including D. H. Lawrence, for whom Murry had intended it to serve as a platform. Murry's association with The Adelphi continued for the next twenty- five years, and during this period his editorials expounded, in addition to his literary interests, an unorthodox Christianity and an equally unorthodox politics. But after 1948 literature regained the ascendancy and his later books are mostly concerned with it.

It is sometimes said that he would have done better to confine himself to literary subjects. But he was a mystic, and his mysticism was of a kind which made a life-long specialization in literary criticism impossible. It involved a kind of resignation and, at the same time, a kind of purposiveness which almost amounted to a state of being 'possessed'. His pen was at most times amazingly well controlled by his critical intelligence, but the force that drove it was passionately intense. And as soon as a book was finished, it was done with. He was resigned to its faults and already absorbed in the next phase of his activity. If you objected that certain passages of a book were off . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.