Alfred Richard Orage Criticism - Essay

Waldo David Frank (essay date 1926)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Frank, Waldo David. “Mystery in a Sack Suit.” In Time Exposures By Searchlight, pp. 151-56. New York: Boni and Liveright, Inc., 1926.

[In the following excerpt from a book of portraits about cultural figures from the 1920's, Frank presents a colorful image of Orage, a man who “despises the world so well that he is at peace with it.”]

With a bird's-eye view of our City, you will have noticed for the past two years growing numbers of little knots of people scattered about town in comfortable places—very intent, largely silent. Closer, you observed that these groups consisted of editors, wives of Wall Street, professors, novelists, shingled girls, restless business men, artistic youths. Here were true intellectuals who despise Greenwich Village. Here were socially elect who looked down on Park Avenue as a gilded slum. Here indeed were men and women dry and fresh, smart and solemn, rich or merely famous—perpendicular extremes of our extremely perpendicular New York. And now if you looked still closer, you saw that they were listening with passionate concern to a man they call Orage (pronounce it precisely like the French for storm): and that Orage was most intempestuously sitting in an upholstered armchair, smoking a cigarette and cavalierly smiling.

He seems a proverbial schoolboy, slightly damaged by the years, yet on the whole intact—as he sits enwreathed in all those seeking brains and eager eyes. He has a hard body in a tight drab suit. He has hair like a cap drawn close upon his skull. The finger tips are yellow with tobacco. The face is gray with thought. And its prominent part is the nose. The nose is the pinnacle of Orage. Intense brow, willful jaw, keen eyes, ironic mouth—they all converge upon this proboscidean symbol of pertinence and search.

Who is he? and what is he telling the good men and ladies, that they should hearken to him—leaders though they are—with humble rapture? He is propounding a simple, matter-of-fact psychologic method. A method too simple, really, to be written down either by him or by me. So what that Method is, you'll have to find out for yourself. What it does—or claims to do—is nothing less than the whole and utter overturning of everything you live by. All your standards—ethical, religious. All your darlings—historical, artistic. From Æschylus to Bertie Russell, he sweeps them off the table. From Pentateuch to Theosophy, he shows them up. All the world's religions are wrong. All the good intentions are bad. All the truths are lies. All self-improvement is vain. With a most humane smile, Orage blights the claims of humaneness. With valedictory sentiment, wipes sentiment off the slate. With logic swift as a machine, he discredits logic. With courteous manner, drops spiritual bombs into the laps of ladies who adore him.

Oh, ho! you say. Another fanatic? Yes—a most cool and balanced one. Another mystifier? Yes—one whose logical gifts gained him, long years ago, the name of the most dangerous debater in all England. He may be a poisoner of traditional wells; but what sweet venom he drips. He may be a revolutionist; but can you gainsay his classical, scholarly words? Perhaps this is a sect. But if the men and women whom he draws are themselves leaders of men and women?

In London they tried to keep pace with Alfred Richard Orage, and they failed. He came to that Metropolis in 1903, from the hinterlands of Birmingham and Yorkshire. He was thirty, then, and already versed in the mysteries of Socialism, Occultism, Nietzscheanism. He had written books on such timid little subjects as The Dionysian Spirit of the Age, Consciousness: Animal, Human, Superman, An Alphabet of Economics. Now he started a magazine with a name similarly modest (The New Age) and proceeded to midwife, prune, or otherwise direct a good measure of the respectable—and some of the infamous—literary...

(The entire section is 1639 words.)

C. Hartley Grattan (review date 11 June 1930)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Grattan, C. Hartley. “The Mahabharata Blues.” The Nation 130, no. 3388 (11 June 1930): 684-86.

[In the following negative review of Orage's The Art of Reading, Grattan finds few ideas of lasting import despite Orage's reputation.]

A. R. Orage has a vast reputation for profundity, and indeed is more than a literary critic in the eyes of his intimates: he is a sage. But I fail to see what it is that so interests our Columbuses of the spirit, for I can find nothing in the man except an Englishman who happens to be a fairly interesting critic. And it would be a gross bit of flattery to say that as a critic he deserves the majuscule.


(The entire section is 969 words.)

F. R. Leavis (review date December 1935)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Leavis, F. R. “The Orage Legend.” Scrutiny 4, no. 3 (December 1935): 319.

[In the following review, Leavis believes that given Orage's powerful influence and literary standing, Selected Essays and Critical Writings of A. R. Orage is disappointing for its lack of originality and critical thinking.]

[Selected Essays and Critical Writings of A. R. Orage] will be opened with some eagerness by those whose acquaintance with the New English Weekly leaves them wondering over the legend of A. R. Orage. They will hope to find some explanation of the influence he is said to have wielded and the enormous impression he appears to have made in distinguished quarters. They will be disappointed. This selection from Orage's writings was, no doubt, undertaken as an act of piety, but it will not help to prolong his reputation. For what it exhibits to us is a mind of no distinction or force of any kind. There is a certain pontifical egotism as of a would-be Arnold Bennett, but Orage has none of the liveliness and vigour that make Books and Persons, Bennett's best journalism, still enjoyable. In fact, he shows here as a very poor journalist, while certainly offering no grounds for being taken seriously as a thinker or critic. He does indeed offer evidence of unusually wide reading (for a journalist), and he accosts with assurance a wide range of topics. But his air of cogency and incisiveness is not even superficially convincing; the effect is lame, limp and dull. He clearly thinks he is thinking, and as clearly doesn't know what thinking is—which, of course, is the almost inevitable result of a journalistic career, however fine the natural endowment the journalist may have started with, and however high the level at which he is supposed to work.

That Orage had some compelling personal quality we are forced, by the nature of his reputation, to conclude. Yet on the evidence of the New English Weekly it is difficult to see why he should have been reputed a brilliant editor, even. Was what followed on that prolonged inaugural fanfare anything but a pitiful flop? One remembers a good contributor or two, but that is all. And it appeared that Orage was ready to encourage the most brassily empty young careerist.

Perhaps you have to be a Social Crediter to appreciate him.

Samuel Hynes (essay date 1968)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Hynes, Samuel. “Orage and the New Age.” In Edwardian Occasions: Essays on English Writing in the Early Twentieth Century, pp. 39-47. New York: Oxford University Press, 1972.

[In the following essay, originally published in 1968, Hynes finds that despite Orage's personal failings, he was ultimately a successful editor who published works from some of the most groundbreaking and original thinkers of the day.]

Alfred Orage was a man who, as Shaw observed, ‘did not belong to the successful world’. He was an editor who never ran a profitable paper, a socialist who backed Guild Socialism against the Fabians, an economist who preached Social Credit...

(The entire section is 3457 words.)

Louise Welch (essay date spring 1969)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Welch, Louise. “A. R. Orage.” Gurdjieff International Review 2, no. 3 (spring 1999): 1-2.

[In the following essay, originally published in 1969, Welch details Orage's expertise in a myriad of fields while simultaneously demonstrating the esteem with which he was held by many literary figures of note.]

The brilliant editor of the New Age, regarded by T. S. Eliot as London's best literary critic of his time, abandons his journal and is next heard of cleaning stables in the farmyard of a French chateau. The magnet is a then little-known Greek named Gurdjieff, called by some a mystic and by others a magician. How could that departure from his lifework be...

(The entire section is 1304 words.)

Tom H. Gibbons (essay date 1973)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Gibbons, Tom H. “Art For Evolution's Sake: Alfred Orage.” In Rooms in the Darwin Hotel: Studies in English Literary Criticism and Ideas 1880-1920, pp. 98-126. Nedlands, Australia: University of Western Australia Press, 1973.

[In the following essay, Gibbons charts Orage's flirtations with many radical movements of the early twentieth century: from socialism, vorticism and Fabianism to his ultimate alignment with G. I. Gurdjieff's brand of mysticism.]

Alfred James Orage, familiarly known as Alfred Richard Orage, was born on 22 January 1873, at Dacre in Yorkshire. When his father died soon afterwards, the widow and her four children returned to...

(The entire section is 10072 words.)

Alan Young (review date spring 1976)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Young, Alan. Review of Orage as Critic, edited by Wallace Martin. Critical Quarterly 18, no. 1 (spring 1976): 84-6.

[In the following review of Orage as Critic, edited by Wallace Martin, Young praises Orage's honesty and conviction of belief in his role as a cultural critic.]

A. R. Orage (1873-1934) wrote weekly columns for Keir Hardie's The Labour Leader and for his own reviews The New Age and The New English Weekly. Wallace Martin has edited a selection from this writing [Orage as Critic] so that we may follow Orage's opinions as they developed on a number of important questions about critical attitudes, principles...

(The entire section is 1273 words.)

Michael Coyle (essay date spring 1988)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Coyle, Michael. “A Profounder Didacticism: Ruskin, Orage and Pound's Perception of Social Credit.” Paideuma 17, no. 1 (spring 1988): 7-28.

[In the following essay, Coyle expounds upon Orage's influence in shaping both Ezra Pound's literary career and his socialist views as well as examining the restless intellectual needs of Orage's that drove him from movement to movement.]

Under these circumstances, no designing or any other development of beautiful art will be possible.

—John Ruskin, 1859

So long as the system of competition in the production and exchange of the...

(The entire section is 9046 words.)

Tom Steele (essay date 1990)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Steele, Tom. “1893-1900: Socialism and Mysticism.” In Alfred Orage and the Leeds Arts Club, pp. 25-44. Hants, England: Scolar Press, 1990.

[In the following essay, Steele traces the roots of Orage's early professional and literary influences in attempting to build a explanatory foundation for his later drift towards radical causes.]

Alfred Orage was twenty when he returned to Yorkshire, the county of his birth, in the autumn of 1893. It was the first time since earliest childhood, when on the death of his father his near-penniless mother had returned with him and his sister to the family village of Fenstanton in Huntingdonshire. He had come to Leeds to take...

(The entire section is 8995 words.)

Charles Ferrall (essay date autumn 1992)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Ferrall, Charles. “The New Age and the Emergence of Reactionary Modernism Before the Great War.” Modern Fiction Studies 38, no. 3 (autumn 1992): 653-67.

[In the following essay, Ferrall examines the New Age and Orage's role in shaping both the modernist political fervor and the debate over the cultural role of art that existed prior to World War I.]

It is well known that the New Age played a vital role in the dissemination of literary modernism and post-Impressionist art in Britain before the First World War. Of the three main polemicists of early modernism—T. E. Hulme, Ezra Pound and Wyndham Lewis—Hulme wrote almost exclusively for...

(The entire section is 6578 words.)