At the Heart of the 1890s: Essays on Lionel Johnson …
At the Heart of the 1890s: Essays on Lionel Johnson
Hunt, however, was too thoroughly accustomed to the rooms
and too indifferent to dirt to be much or long depressed by them.
Having turned up the gas, he took off both his coat and his waist-
coat, for the close office was already uncomfortably warm. Yet it
was bitterly cold without, as became the last night of a March
most lion-like in its departure. Then from his soiled shirt he
removed the perfectly clean and highly polished collar and cuffs.
For neat keeping he placed these in the same drawer in which he
stored his tobacco. Thence he drew forth the next moment a big
briar-wood pipe. Having first regarded this companion of his
nights with much affection, and rubbed the bowl against his nose
to bring out the colour, he proceeded to fill it with tobacco, which
he pressed down with a finely solicitous little finger, and lighted
with deep satisfaction. As the first great puffs of smoke made
vague his features, he threw away the match with a superb dis-
regard of the inflammable piles of paper on the floor, and settled
himself with some show of heartiness to his work.
At the Heart of the 1890s: Essays on Lionel Johnson Gary Paterson, ..
It is easy to say he was born too late. But in the crowded 1890s or amid the many talented Georgians, Gawsworth's imitative tendencies might have made him an inconspicuous lightweight. Operating as he did decades later, as a professional anachronism, his traditional tastes actually gave him a strange strength by way of novelty. Also, he became more modern in desperate self-defense, attempting to purge the sentiment and verbiage that afflicted so many of his heroes. His verse is all the tougher for having been written in the age of Eliot, and later of Dylan Thomas. Its adolescent pain corrodes into a kind of jaded harshness that has its own contemporary tone; such terse brutality offsets his occasional want of imagery. There is also a lack of extended ideas, common enough in a lyric poet. Of course, Gawsworth shunned the long poem, making brevity almost a fault, though it is no less a fault in de la Mare and Emily Dickinson. One of his happiest traits borrowed from his nineties models was the sense of music; with his succinctness, it makes his best poems eminently anthologizable. Quite a few lines stay in the memory, as a glance at the Collected Poems' Index of First Lines suggests. He wrote mediocre verse aplenty, but when the eight hundred or more poems are finally reread, certainly some several dozen should survive as an irreducible Selected Poems. Much of the uncollected verse is at Iowa; countless notebooks also exist with Jon Wynne-Tyson, as yet uncataloged.