Yale Bulletin and Calendar

October 20, 2006|Volume 35, Number 7















Margaret Anderson

Beinecke Library exhibit focuses on the Little Review, a magazine that refused to cater to public taste, and its editor

A pioneering art and literature magazine and the woman who founded it are the focus of the exhibition "'Making No Compromise': Margaret Anderson and the Little Review," on view through Jan. 5 at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

Between 1914 and 1929, the Little Review pubished the work of writers and artists who would come to shape 20th-century avant-garde aesthetics and international Modernism, including Hart Crane, Wyndham Lewis, T.S. Eliot, Sherwood Anderson, Ernest Hemingway and Francis Picabia, to name just a few.

Margaret Anderson (1886-1973), a reviewer and literary editor, published the first issue of the Little Review in Chicago in March 1914. "My conviction...," she wrote in her introduction to the "Little Review Anthology," published some 20 years after the magazine's final issue, "was that people who make art are more interesting than those who don't, that they have a special illumination about life; that this illumination is the subject-matter of all inspired conversation; that one might as well be dead as to live outside this radiance. I was sure that I could impose my conviction by creating a magazine dedicated to art for art's sake."

Anderson was joined in this quest by her co-editors: artist Jane Heap, who was known to Little Review readers as "jh" and who was also Anderson's romantic partner, and poet Ezra Pound, who served for a time as a contributing foreign editor and whose connections with the most innovative writers in Europe helped the Review expand its scope and readership, enabling it to become a truly international force in arts and letters.

The editors' devotion to promoting the best in art and literature, regardless of its popular acceptance, was evident from the slogan, printed on the cover of many issues: "Making no compromise with public taste." This motto marked a clear contrast with Harriet Monroe's Poetry magazine, another seminal review being published in Chicago at the time, whose cover bore the Walt Whitman quotation: "To have great poets, there must be great audiences, too."

In addition to the artists named above, the Little Review brought into print works by such innovative writers, artists and composers as Gertrude Stein, Mina Loy, Pablo Picasso, Man Ray, George Antheil, Henri Gaudier-Brzeska and Ford Maddox Ford.

Perhaps the most controversial and consequential work published in the Little Review was James Joyce's "Ulysses," which began to appear serially in the magazine in 1918. Anderson recalled in her autobiography, "My Thirty Years War," that after reading a manuscript of the first chapter, she announced to Heap: "this is the most beautiful thing we'll ever have." As the novel appeared in monthly installments, the U.S. Post Office deemed some segments of the work obscene; it refused to distribute copies and demanded that several issues of the Little Review be burned. As a result, Anderson and Heap became the subjects of a widely publicized obscenity trial. Their difficult and ultimately unsuccessful legal battle -- the women were convicted and fined in 1921 -- nearly bankrupted Anderson and Heap and almost forced them to stop publishing the Little Review. Though the novel was published in its entirety in Paris in 1922 by Sylvia Beach's Shakespeare and Co., "Ulysses" remained unpublished in the United States until 1934.

As the magazine approached its 10th anniversary in 1924, Anderson decided to turn editorship over to Heap, although her name continued to appear on the masthead until it ceased publication in 1929. Around this time, Anderson moved to France with her new companion, singer Georgette Leblanc. Both women became interested in the teachings of G.I. Gurdjieff, a mystic and spiritual leader, and they became members of a select group of women studying closely with him. The tight-knit circle, known among members as "The Rope," included Heap, novelist Kathryn Hulme, journalist and editor Solita Solano, designer Alice Rohrer and writer Dorothy Caruso. Anderson maintained close friendships with these women until her death in 1973.

The materials in the exhibition "Making No Compromise" are drawn largely from the Margaret Anderson-Elizabeth Jenks Clark Collection, housed at the Beinecke Library. Named for Anderson and for her friend Elizabeth Jenks Clark, an American sculptor who joined Anderson's circle in the years after the Little Review ceased publication, this archive includes manuscripts, correspondence, personal papers and photographs documenting the life and work of Anderson and the achievements and relationships of members of her company of friends.

The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library is located at 121 Wall St. It is open for exhibition viewing 8:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday; and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday. Admission is free. For further information, call (203) 432-2977 or visit the website at www.library.yale.edu/beinecke.


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