Scanned image of the page. Keyboard directions: use + to zoom in, - to zoom out, arrow keys to pan inside the viewer.

Page Options

Download this Issue


Something wrong?

Something wrong with this page? Report problem.

Rights / Permissions

This collection, digitized in collaboration with the Michigan Daily and the Board for Student Publications, contains materials that are protected by copyright law. Access to these materials is provided for non-profit educational and research purposes. If you use an item from this collection, it is your responsibility to consider the work's copyright status and obtain any required permission.

October 14, 1923 - Image 3

Resource type:

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

John Cowper Powys
An Analysis of a Critical Genius
If some of our extravagant cultists LISLE himself may think about his tech.
have their way they will go ar to nique, those who know it well hold
ward destroying two writers who are it in high esteem The style, like the
just now attaining general apprecia- of his own to give except what he may (for these are what ultimately count) man, emerges from the ruck.
tion. These men are Arthur Machen have been able to arrest of fleeting the sly sotto voce comments of the We need more like him-I refer to
and John Cowper Powys, names sensations: but he is supremely fitted supreme spectators-Milton, Hardy, him now not merely as a writer but as
known for some years to the discern- to receive complete the conceptions of Nietzsche, Dickens, France, Shakes- a complete personality. It is well, I
Ing, but only of late brought before the great creators, and to transmit peare. If he can do that beautifully, suppose, that there should be men to
the ordinary reader. And it seems a these unchanged unmarred by per- it is enough. se, th trehould e men
ophese see ffer our comforts and even men
great pity that fulsome flattery should sonal opinion or prejudice. This dis- He does it beautifully. Those who to see after the regulation of our
almost at once start in to injure auth- interestedness must needs reside in busy themselves about the technique lives; it is well that there should be
ors who merit intelligent study and the true critic, who is to show no de- of writing will probably know that preachers and moralists; there is per-
understanding, sire for whittling the world to his Powys is a master stylist. From Ar- haps a place in the scheme of things
Powys is the more unfortunate. Ma- will, above all no desire for whittling nold and Pater he has learned some- for reformers: but we shall get only
chen, although he cannot be given too away at some other man's world-a what of the Grand Style. His worst a little way in the art of tling until
much praise for his entrancing style mean and poor business. defect is in consequence an occas- we find other Paters and Brookes and
and above all for his devotion to his In Powys' method, true enough, lies tonal tendency to the bombastic: But Powyses-the combination is not in-
art, is but a minor writer and a minor danger, danger of inconsistency, of the beauties of his prose more than congruous-who, without self asser-
-personality: Powys is possibly the self-contradiction. But Powys would atone for the few flaws. Nor are his tion, without dogmatism, taking the
most penetrating and lucid of con- deny that these are sins; may they beauties of the florid sort, just escap- world as a mystery to be inquired
temporary critics, and an interesting not indeed be virtues? The genuine ing weakness. He salts his essays into surely but by no means to be
psychological study besides. If this skeptic holds himself free to follow well with irony and sardonic mirth- vaingloriously "solved," see man's
last seems like anti-climax, I cannot :all roads, uninterested in the solemn the Confessions is rich in passages highest destiny to consist in the pa-
help it: our language unluckily has question whether they lead to Truth. like the following: tient and urbane acceptance of his
no more exact and worthy term. It Placed for a brief while in a world of "It is difficult to idealize the stom- lot before he departs.
is, indeed, as a psychological study whose substance, purpose, and end ach. It is not an agreeable thought
that Powys expressly considers him- we know nothing, we can only make that one's end, when it does come, BLOSSOM TIME
self in his confessions, published with dark guesses at the riddle, and for will probably be due to some unlovely (Continued from Page Two)
those of his younger brother Llewelyn the rest, enjoy what is given. Old fungold growth at the centre of one's Oaufort, slaying the role of Kranz, is
under the title, "Confessions of Two doctrine, hackneyed doctrine; but nervous sensibilities." a good actor. He made ridiculous
Brothers." Throughout some hundred how salutary! More, how seldom fot- Memorable also are some of his con- faces, absurd noises, acted silly, and
seventy-flve pages J. C. Powys dissects lowed, even by those who profess it. cise phrases: "the narcotic power of made everybody tugh. But he lacked
and scrutinizes his actions, thoughts, Not the least of our critic's excel- critical analysis;" "I am all for the subtlety-even irony, and without a
and desires, in what we must believe lences is that he follows it, of course bare, bold, merciless determinism of little of that, one is apt to get tired
to be a sincere attempt at portraying at the risk of appearing to stupid folk drastic conformity with fact;" "a ra- o it all. Yvan Servais was realty the
a character unusual and provocative; a variable, sndependabte fellow. If tional religion is a contradiction in only fine actor in the cast. It's a pity
antagonistic as it is to the generality now he seconds Rabelais in immense terms, and only thoroughly stupiti he played only the short role of Count
of men. Of course, since no man can laughter at sex and all its nonsense, people are interested in such an ano Shartoff.
be an absolutely correct judge of him- and then agrees with Hardy that sex maly." But the thing itself-it ought to be
self, parts of Powys' analysis will be is the one thing of importance; if now Considering the individuality of his scrapped! It not only grates on train-
found doubtful, to say the least. But he dismisses Oscar Wilde as a "great style, it is surprising to come across ed ears, but it makes the average per-
his self-interpretation seems substan- Uranian baby," and later pays tribute :this statement: "I have, in fact, unless son think he is hearing Shubert, when
tially accurate, and worth summariz- to that "unconquerable insolence it be impossible to catch the flavor of in reality he hears-yes, just what
ing. worthy of the very spirit of hard, one's own manner, no style at all. My does he hear?-angel music, arranged
Unfortunately, any brief considera- brave, flagrant youth"-what does writing is as colorless and fluid as my by Satan's musician; and, as was the
tion of a character so rare, so com- that mean except that life itself shifts, mind. I fear that it is the style of c:se. played by them, as well.
plex, so fine, as Powys', cannot fail to changes, is seen constantly under dif- every ordinarily intelligent person
be insufficient and on that account un- ferent lights? who 'reads the recent writers'." No -le that has marrteu once and mar-
fair. Yet from even a slight and! Powys' task, remember, is merely greater mistake was ever made. But rios yet again
clumsy sketch may be got some Idea (to watch the tremendous-drama, and I strongly suspect the man of laugh- Is like a shipwreckedman who once
of the man's peculiar distinction. He to set before us who are more obtuse ing at us a bit, lingering to watch our more tempts the main."
is of that choice company who live the reasoned explanations, still more puzzlement. And, no msaar 'ci,.- e (Greek Anthology)
out of time; who live with and for
sensations, and not under the tyranny ...... ... .... . .......... .
of ideas. He goes his way with a de
Mcious unconcern about our trivial
terrifying ethical problems, a delicious
unconcern about our abysmal "knowl- fi d wy o
edge," a fine disdain also for our ani- ! Wi J T HINK of this process of securing an educa-
mat selfishness. Me is, mark you, ego-I
tistic, greatly egotistic; but he is not thon as a business proposition-and run it ac-
meanly selfish. His concern is to ru n Vy 0u r'cordingly. It will be an addition to your education
taste deeply, to savor exquisitely; but
for the fortunes of hi body eiter not mentioned in the catalog of the University.
now or after death he has an aristo-
cart's contempt. Feeling man's in- b usin ess
significance before the terrible and
grand mystery of the universe, Powys,:
considers futile, even presumptuous;
any attempt on his part to conquer3
life by forcing this world to arigid , RY, then, to save some of it rather than
comforting mold or by hoping to pro-: pe it " It is no uncommon n for
ject his feeble personality into some
future world. Nothing need be done seniors, about to attempt self-support to begin think-
except, as spectator, to keep oneselflngof economy. not be as careful of another's
aware of all the beauty in our pageant, - n feooy Wyntb scrflo nte
to realize it acutely, with the senses money as you are of your own.
and with the mind. With the mind,
observe; for it must be obvious that
Powys is not of the vulgar Epicureans
who dwell in sense from lack of mind.
He has instead a keen intellect; but
of this intellect he is distrustful, dis-
trustful of all ideas except "the im- ESIDES paying you handsome dividends at the
pression of Fate," which "is not an of the year, it will give you necessary
idea; it is a fact." Of this belief ofe tt
Powys's each man must judge for him raning and i sense of satisfacion in your own
self, not only as to its general truth,
but also as to Powys's self-consistency ability to handle finances suCCeSSfuly & k
in holding it. At any rate, his mind
is Protean, receptive to varied inter-
pretations of life, so they be worthy

of "man's tragic destiny.' We find
him, in short, a man living for sensa-
tions, alert (precisely because of his
refusal to drug himself with any one
philosophy) to all the tragedy and
beauty of existence, and finally, cap-
able of apprehending a multitude ofc
ideas while holding himself aloof from The Ann Arbor Savings Bank
Here, manifestly, is a predestined U N I V E R S I T V A VE N U E B R A N C H
critic. Though he may try his hand
for awhile at novels and poems, it Is
to the interpretation of others' thought 1
..hat he will alwalf~ fffff fMfietiMOrn.ffl He has fifWlftfslie fff. .. ~a -.---f f-. .-.-. f Nlf-...ff M........... ..ifA..+

Back to Top

© 2021 Regents of the University of Michigan