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Vol. VII.


No. 82


IHAVE lately had occasion to read the life of Robert Schum ann and I have learnt two facts which particullnly interest me. One is'that i t was Schumann's desire to call his first Symphony in B fiat ..A Sp1'ing Symphony. He intended to give the movements separate t i t les: The Coming of Spring, Evening, Happy Playmates, and Full Spring. However, in deference apparently to academic prejudice, he gave up the idea and merely wrote a letter to the poet Bottger to tell him that i t was a poem of his about Spring which had inspired him to write the symphony. In a letter to Spohr he disclaimed any intention of descriptive colouring, though he wrote to another musician, who was going to conduct the symphony, urging him to breathe into the orchestra some of that longing for Spring which had obsessed him when he was composing i t . The trumpet call at the beginning was to be a summons bidding Nature awake. After that the music was to suggest the tender green of Spring and the quiver of butterflies' wings. No sooner has Schumann committed himself to this than he hastens to assure the conductor that these are only fancies which came to him after the symphony was finished. Then he obviously feels that he -is being insincere and adds that he cannot help thinking of the last movement as Spring's farewell, for which reason he does not want i t to be taken too l ightly. All this reveals a most interesting struggle in a composer's mind. Schumann, of course, was the perfect highbrow, and though in his day the mark of highbrowism was an exaggerated sensibility which would horrify modern Bloomsbury, the state of mind which revered Jean Paul Richter was essentially the same as that which nowadays reveres Freud. There is always in the highbrow attitude the spirit of a close corporation. I t is always a distinction to be able to enjoy what the mob is incapable of enjoying. Schumann would have enjoyed such a display of sensibility as that Spring Symphony, if he could have been sure that he was not being obvious; but he was not prepared to ignore academic prejudice, and being himself a critic he dreaded the mockery of critics. So in the end the Spring Symphony became the First Symphony in B Flat, Opus 38. I t will be remembered that Beethoven was always anxious that his Pastoral Symphony should not be accused of being what we nowadays call programme music. Musicians have always perceived the danger to music in allowing i t to be what I may call materialised. Yet, i f we examine the development of music, we cannot help recognising that i t has evinced an unbroken tendency to materialise itself more and more; and i t seems to me that the gramophone and the radio between them are going to quicken the pace of this materialisation. I have no doubt whatever that the only future for art in our present megalopolitan civilisationforgive these long words, but the monstrous swarming of modern city life demands verbal monstrosities to express i t suitably-the only future for art, I repeat, lies with music. The tendency of l i terature, unless we are to accept a phenomenon like James Joyce as a mere freak of morbidity, will be to develop into a personal use of words. That means the writer will gradually usurp what was the function of music, for if every writer is to have his own vocabulary i t is clear that most of his emotion and thought will be incommunicable. I t is perfectly easy for any impudent charlatan of words to trade on the eccentricity of a man of genius like Joyce. Paris is haunted at the moment by numbers of halfbaked young Americans who are under the impression that they stand for some new and vital creative impulse in the mind of man, but who are actually mere hobbledehoys of a primitive culture. But we need not go to Paris to find les precieuses ridicules, or Zes precieux either. We may find them in Hampstead and Chelsea without difficulty. The other da,y a. young highbrow hostess asked me if I admired James Joyce's last book. I told her I could not understand more than a word here and there and that I doubted if she could. She assured me she could understand i t perfectly, so I issued a challenge. I said I would read now half a page from Joyce's book, now improvise myself in the same style; and I offered i f she could tell me once where Joyce left off and I began, or if she could explain what I meant by one sentence of my improvisation, I would buy