New Books and Reprints
To be insensible of the peril and darkness of their condition is the mark of the unregenerate, and there by many, we fear, who could realize some glimmering of the dark and distressful state of art in this country only from a conscientious study of The Dial, an occasional publication, edited by Messrs. C. Ricketts and C. H. Shannon. The “first Dial,” we learn from an inspired manifesto in the Dial now before us, was accused of “mere art eclecticism.” It was also—though this does not appear in the discreet statement referred to—by superficial persons regarded as the joint effort of a little band of clever artists and writers to be original as well as occasional. We feel not into such errors, being saved therefrom by our reverence for the things of art reverenced by those whose hands direct this Dial—the works of the English pre-Raphaelites, the prophetic soul of William Blake, All the Primitives and the Impressionists—and, to a certain ex- tent, but sympathy with the Décadence fervours of Mr. John Gray’s verse and Mr. T. Sturge Moore’s. Is there in this “mere art eclecticism”? Rather should we class both Dials with those “star dials” of which the poet sings, that “pointed to morn.” For, although it is unhappily true that “dawn itself promises day only to some, not to all,” there remains the consoling reflection that “Art has been, Art is, this is the pledge that will be again” (p. 26). As to originality, since we hold there is nothing, excepting mere cleverness, it is cheering to be assured that The Dial makes “no claim to originality.” And so we thought, from the very moment when The Dial swam into our ken. And now, if there is much that is cryptic and more that is mysterious in this second number, it is precisely what the circumstances warrant. In the glimmering light you can reasonably expect to see, if at all, very darkly. “The Marred Face,” by Mr. Ricketts, is an apologue we cannot profess to have fathomed, and the profundity of “King Comfort,” by Mr. Moore, is as the profundity of a riddle. But Mr. Shannon’s lithographs, “Repeated Bend” and “With Viol and Flute,” and Mr. Ricketts’s decorative cuts in the text, are designs that appeal, as music does, to the artist, and Mr. H. P. Horne’s invocation “To the flowers, to Weep” is a charming lyric.
Since the somewhat severe day of Dr. Currie the biographers of burns have by a natural reaction passed through various phases of the apologetic. Perhaps the apologists had as little right to rule in courts of criticism as the moralists. Sir George Douglas, who edits a selection of Love Songs of Robert Burns (Fisher Unwin), cannot suppose that the poet “stands in need of an apologist.” Altogether, Sir George Douglas, in his brief introduction to this pretty and well-selected volume, is faithful to this sensible point of view. These love songs are not all of the first excellence, but it was a happy idea to collect them all, with the necessary biographical key and comment, and to print them in true sequence.
“The ‘Dial’: an Occasional Publication.” Rev. of The Dial, vol. 2, The Saturday Review, vol. 74, no. 1892, 15 October 1892, p. 462. Yellow Nineties 2.0, edited by Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, Ryerson University Centre for Digital Humanities, 2020. https://www.1890s.ca/dial1-2-review-the-saturday-review-oct-1892/