Modern Journals

Rhythm Into Blue Review

Built into the conversation about the short-lived Blue Review is its influential predecessor Rhythm. Rhythm was founded and published in London, edited by John Middleton Murry. Though Rhythm, too, was short lived, (running only from the Summer of 1911 to Spring of 1913), it quickly established its reputation for curating visual art, literature, and the discussions of music at a highly selective level. The Rhythm group were among the first to self-identify as “modernist” artists. Frequently cited are the bookends of the first issue. On the front end is Murry’s article “Art and Philosophy,” within the inaugural pages of Rhythm, in which he embeds the ideologies behind the title of the magazine:

“Modernism...penetrates beneath the outward surface of the world, and disengages rhythms that lie at the heart of things, rhythms strange to the eye, unaccustomed to the ear, primitive harmonies of the world that is and lives” (9).

Then, at the close, a manifesto of sorts, headed by an unattributed quote from J. M. Synge:

‘Before art can be human it must learn to be brutal.’ Our intention is to provide art...which shall be vigorous, determined...and be the rhythmical echo fo the life with which it is in touch. Both in its pity and its brutality it shall be real (36).

Worth observing in the pages of Rhythm is that, though the artists’ visual styles were comparable, many interpretations of “rhythm,” “brutality,” and “vigorous” according to poets and writers were equally acknowledged. Arguably, the unity of the publication is primarily achieved by the prominence and density of the visual art (often a third to half of any given issue).

An insistence on the primacy of perception seems at first to project a more naturalist ethos, except that Murry rejects the “unessential” that comprises realism and exalts the “movement, ferocity” which “[tears] at what lies before.” That is, anything in addition to perception is excess. Though Murry’s own work tends not to push or experiment with form in those ways that are typically described as “modern,” (Smith 104) his championing especially of Katherine Mansfield, D. H. Lawrence and Pablo Picasso do fall in clear alignment with an intensified, vorticist aesthetic. Cornerstone juxtapositions of the magazine are between depictions of women with what would have been considered more masculine physical traits, and language of graceful strength: “What is exalted and tender in art is not made of feeble blood (126).

We have discussed Rhythm at such length in order to construct a clear comparison between it and The Blue Review — sometimes called its “successor” or “sequel” (Demoor 123) but by other scholars considered more of a mutation. Rhythm folded in 1913 with Murry and Mansfield as its editors, and was succeeded by The Blue Review in two months later, this time through London publisher Martin Secker. Both Murry and Mansfield continued with The Blue Review for the three issues it was able to stand. The editors of The Blue Review decided to inherit Rhythm’s subheading, albeit with a slight modification: “LITERATURE DRAMA ART MUSIC.”

The most notable difference between Rhythm and The Blue Review lay in their respective contents, especially the lack of the strong collections of visual art which defined Rhythm. The Blue Review would feature only four or five pieces of artwork total. There was also an observable increase in the amount of critical essays included, at times overtaking the few poems and short stories. The exact reasons why Blue Review folded remain unclear, but later events in Mansfield’s life suggest that it was in part due to her health (Gordon).  

Works Cited

Demoor, Marysa. "John Middleton Murry's Editorial Apprenticeships: Getting Modernist Rhythm into the Athenaeum, 1919-1921." English Literature in Transition, 1880-1920, 52.2 (2009): 123-143.

Gordon, Ian A. "Katherine Mansfield: Overview." Reference Guide to English Literature, edited by D. L. Kirkpatrick, 2nd ed., St. James Press, 1991.

Murry, John Middleton. "Art and Philosophy." Rhythm 1.1 (1911): 9.

Smith, Angela. "Katherine Mansfield and Rhythm." Journal of New Zealand Literature (JNZL), 21 (2003): 102-121.

The Modernist Journals Project (searchable database). Brown and Tulsa Universities, ongoing.