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Salient. An organ of student opinion at Victoria College Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 2, No. 5 April 19, 1939



Another unfortunate aspect of the literary situation is the low standard of criticism. We are all, of course, affected by the general conditions that exist, and we read less carefully, thoroughly, and intelligently than we should. What we need to keep us up to the mark are good periodicals with a consistently high standard of criticism. These are, unfortunately, few. The serious critical journals have had a thin time during the last quarter century. Some like "Sound and Horn," the "Calendar," "Symposium," have appeared and vanished after brief but honorable careers: others have been forced to combine in self-defense. "The New Statesman and Nation" was once four papers (if that is a fair way to put it), the "New Statesman," the "Nation," the "Athenaeum," the "Week End Review." At present it has the largest circulation among the serious general periodicals, about 27,000. The "London Mercury" and the "Bookman" were combined a few years ago; the circulation is now something under 10,000. The "Spectator" keeps its circulation round the 20,000 mark by devices such as a special half-price rate for schools. Middleton Murry's "Adelphi" is now practically out of action us a literary critic, having become a pacifist organ with a small circulation. "Purpose," a quarterly of uneven quality but sometimes good, is on its last legs.

But "The Times" literary supplement is the journal whose recent history tells us most about the present position of culture. According to Michael Roberts its circulation is at present under 10,000 "in spite of its desperate efforts to gain new admirers by indulging in the indecorous gaiety of mutton dressed as lamb.'" It now publishes reviews of thrillers and defends them editorially; and the general tone of its criticism is flabby and uncertain. It still remains the only paper in which reasonably full information about a wide range of books being published can be obtained, but it's tragic surrender to the middlebrows has robbed it of much of its authority as a critical journal. One good service our Bookshop can do is to introduce the good periodical to more people and so help it to keep going.

We look then to the Bookshop to provide us and the public generally first, with those books, pamphlets, and periodicals that give us the information about what is going on in the world, now inadequately given or kept from us by the Press; secondly, with the best fiction, poetry, and drama; thirdly, with the important scientific, philosophic, and religious literature of the day; and, finally, with the books of criticism and critical journals maintaining standards that deserve respect. We realise that we are faced with a political and cultural problem, at bottom the same problem, and desperately urgent.

W. J. Scott.