Conceived in and for wartime, Horizon aimed to be a magazine that would offer ‘the best writing available; the deepest imagination, the clearest thought of the English, American, French, Spanish, German and Hungarian writers’: in short, a magazine to specifically counter the cultural (as opposed to the political) disintegration of Europe threatened by the war (Connolly, 1941: 376). Sean Latham has argued that ‘[d]espite its editor’s own cosmopolitanism […] Horizon proved to be an essentially British magazine’ (Latham, 2013: 861). Yet this observation has to be considered in relation to the contexts in which Horizon’s internationalism manifested itself. The international outlook of Horizon was conceived in the context of and in relation to the war, and was shaped by Connolly’s particular background, and so should be understood in these contexts. Is it possible to edit an international magazine in wartime, when travel is restricted and even postal exchange with those on the other side of enemy lines impossible? How did Cyril Connolly, as the magazine’s founder and editor, work around such practical restrictions? What precisely was Horizon’s understanding of European culture? Horizon aspired to widening its readers’ horizons in keeping with its title – but had to navigate practical wartime obstacles to accessing foreign material and contributors, as well as struggling with an understanding of Europe that was itself limited and limiting. As a result, the magazine engaged with Europe in two ways: by seeking to construct an idealised Europe of the mind, and by addressing the practicalities of maintaining international networks disrupted by armed conflict and occupation.
A scrutiny of Horizon’s first five years shows a steady commitment to covering European culture and to challenging British insularity. But it also reveals a limited understanding of what European culture meant in terms of its geographical scope, and a desire to clarify the role of writers and intellectuals in safeguarding and promoting this culture. The magazine’s commitment to publishing transnational criticism and foreign literature, while operating under the restrictions imposed by armed conflict for the first four and a half years of its existence, was not entirely limited to Europe, since the magazine also regularly published work by and on writers from outside of Europe. Yet by and large, the international outlook of Horizon constituted a thoroughly British, or indeed English, kind of cosmopolitanism that centred on Western Europe, particularly France, and on the Anglophone world – a cosmopolitanism that stemmed from the same privileged mindset that also equated Britishness with Englishness.
The magazine’s coverage of European literature and culture was partly designed to be a draw for British audiences cut off from continental European publications, and partly served to distinguish Horizon as an upmarket periodical worth the expense of a subscription. The steady flow of articles on European culture and regular contributions by European writers even in wartime are also proof of Connolly’s own commitment to transnational cultural exchange, particularly with France, and his ambition that Horizon should become a successor of T. S. Eliot’s thoroughly European publication Criterion (1922–1939). This engagement, though invigorated when the end of German occupation of continental Europe made it possible once more to access printed material from the formerly occupied areas, was present from the magazine’s inception and continued throughout the war years. Although Horizon included fewer contributions from foreign-language authors than inter-war journals like the Criterion, Eugene Jolas’s transition (1927–1938), or its post-war follow-up, Portfolio (1945–1947), this has to be seen in relation to the wartime disadvantage of being cut off from the international contributors and material that peacetime magazines or those based in neutral countries could access. The war had disrupted the ‘cosmopolitan and border-crossing’ practice of modernist magazine editing that relied on international ‘networks of editors, publishers, reviewers and agents’ (Hammill and Hussey, 2016: 9). Connolly complained repeatedly in his wartime editorials about lack of access to books and periodicals published abroad, as well as the practical difficulties of paper shortages, the increasingly fluctuating quality of the paper available (which began to show in earnest from April 1941 onwards), the implications of a fixed paper allowance (which prevented the magazine from increasing its circulation for the duration of the war), and the impact of military service on contributors’ writing and submitting work to Horizon (a complaint which revealed Connolly’s innate bias towards women and older men as less desirable contributors than men of military age).1 His complaints were echoed by other editors, including John Lehmann, who in April 1942 noted ‘not only the increasing difficulties of the paper supply and labour in the printing and binding trades that a literary journal has to contend with’, but also ‘the steady drain of authors of every sort into the war-machine’ (Lehmann, 1942: 7).
As a result of these wartime limitations, Horizon ended up largely reliant on British contributors for the duration of the war, despite being set up at least in part as an antidote to British parochialism. However, it succeeded in finding workaround solutions to ensure coverage of international and particularly European literature and culture. If Connolly indeed saw himself, as Latham argues, as ‘the embattled guardian of a collapsing culture’, it was of a culture that extended beyond the borders of Britain – albeit one fraught with exclusions (Latham, 2013: 859). Wartime limitations and editorial bias had an impact both on the geographical scope of Horizon’s international coverage and on the contributors that it recruited to provide such coverage. Connolly and his editorial team had to be inventive and flexible in order to provide readers access to European literature, art and criticism. For instance, where fresh literary material by European writers was not available, Horizon opted for critical essays and book reviews penned by British or emigré contributors instead, or included older material in new translations. Reprinting material from European periodicals, published in or obtained via neutral countries, was another strategy, as was offering an eclectic mix of travel writing, philosophical essays, life writing and reportage alongside criticism, poetry and prose fiction. In the following, I begin by outlining coverage of European and international content in Horizon before moving on to discuss the nature of Horizon’s cosmopolitanism, and finally scrutinise the magazine’s definition of European culture through a closer analysis of selected contributions.
Expanding Britain’s European horizons
A breakdown of contributions that either dealt with European literature and culture, or were authored by European writers and critics, shows that such contributions to Horizon averaged 29 percent per year between 1940 and 1945, though with a notable surge once German occupation of France had ended (see Figure 1).2
In the first five years of the magazine’s existence, Horizon published roughly 756 contributions, though this figure fluctuates depending on whether one counts, for instance, reviews of multiple books in one review article, or sets of poems by the same author published under one heading, as one contribution or as several.3 Even factoring in some variation, however, contributions that either engaged with European literature, art and culture, or were written by European contributors, amount to between 25 and 30 percent of material included in Horizon. This is not an insignificant number and paints a picture of Horizon as a relatively outward-looking magazine, especially considering that a smaller proportion of contributions also dealt with literature, art and culture outside of Europe, and of course taking into account the restrictions to accessing the work of foreign writers while hostilities continued. By way of comparison, roughly 12.5 percent of contributions (54 out of 432) published in Penguin New Writing between 1940 and 1945 were by foreign-language authors, with an additional small number of items written by Anglophone international writers from the US, South Africa and New Zealand. In New Writing in Europe, Lehmann claimed that New Writing ‘was the first – and remained the chief – magazine to feature foreign writers as prominently as British’ (Lehmann, 1940: 77). Indeed, though one needs to bear in mind that Penguin New Writing published fewer wartime numbers than Horizon, it included both fewer contributions written by foreign authors than Horizon in the same period, and fewer critical contributions that dealt with non-Anglophone literature and culture (though the latter is also linked to the fact that Penguin New Writing published far less criticism than Horizon). Contributions on Europe in Horizon were, moreover, quite diverse in nature, perhaps reflecting the necessity to commission in line with wartime availability. Broken down into categories, a varied picture emerges:
- 78 critical essays or articles
- 27 book reviews
- 17 editorials (‘Comment’)
- 16 poems or sets of poems
- 15 letters (open letters and letters to the editor)
- 13 political articles
- 9 pieces of life writing (memoir, journal, letter)
- 9 works of fiction (short stories; extracts from longer works)
- 5 interviews
- 5 reportage and travel writing
- 5 works of creative non-fiction (prose sketches, reflections)
- 4 commentaries on artwork
- 3 biographical pieces
- 2 obituaries
- 1 short play
- 1 memorial inscription
Naturally, categorisation of contributions is frequently problematic, as boundaries are fluid between reviews and critical essays, between prose sketches and fiction, and between reportage and political analysis. The poems cited above are exclusively poetry written by non-British authors, and the figure stated does not include poetry written by British poets like Spender or Auden that engaged with European concerns. Among the reviews was one of the new magazine Babel (subtitled ‘a Multi-Lingual Critical Review’), which commented explicitly on the dearth of meaningful engagement with foreign literature in English periodicals and universities.4Horizon’s endorsement of Babel aligned with its own attempts to engage with foreign literature as far as was possible in wartime, and with Connolly’s mission of enhancing its accessibility in Britain. He saw periodicals, including his own, as a crucial vehicle for such enhanced accessibility. His April 1945 editorial, for instance, was dedicated to a short reflection on the revival of little magazines across the world, including Italy, France and the USA, as well as Switzerland, North Africa, Australia and Argentina, harking back to the ‘Foreign Reviews’ section of the Criterion. In this comment, he outlined the ‘important functions’ of the ‘Little Magazine’ and deplored that the war had made ‘cross-fertilization’ between these magazines nearly impossible, noting with chagrin the difficulty, even at this point, of getting hold of copies of foreign little magazines. Connolly duly called for a ‘loosening of restrictions’ that prevented the sale and exchange of these magazines (including, one presumes, Horizon) across borders (Connolly, 1945a: 223–224).
As can be seen from Figure 2 below, few pieces were published only in their original language without an English translation. Untranslated contributions were invariably in French, and all but one were poetry.5 In two instances – some poems by Hölderlin and a memorial inscription composed by Benedetto Croce – material was printed both in its original language and in English translation, but in the vast majority of cases foreign language material was reproduced in English translation only. Translated poetry and criticism (mostly from the French) dominated, followed by life writing and interviews, whereas fiction made up a very small proportion of the foreign language material in Horizon during the war years. I have outlined in greater detail elsewhere that the proportion of fiction to other kinds of contributions in Horizon was generally small, but even out of the 56 short stories published between 1940 and 1945, only five were originally written in languages other than English or by writers whose first language was not English (Einhaus, 2021). These five were Alfred Perlès’s ‘I Live On My Wits’, Arturo Barea’s ‘The Scissors’ (translated from Spanish but without a named translator), Franz Kafka’s ‘In the Penal Colony’ (in a translation from the French version previously published in the Cahiers du Sud by Eugene Jolas, rather than translated from the original German), and Alberto Moravia’s ‘In the Country’ (translated by Vivian Praz). The small number of foreign language short stories may be explained by the difficulties of getting hold of interesting new material that fulfilled Horizon’s ambitious criteria. As Latham has argued, Connolly found himself having to turn to new and emerging writers from further afield, such as Eudora Welty, as new continental European material was hard to come by (Latham, 2013: 867). What he did manage to publish in the way of foreign-language fiction was written either by emigré writers like Perlès – who by this point was working primarily in English in any case, and was a repeat contributor to Horizon – and Barea, who had moved to Britain after the Spanish Civil War, or older pieces like Kafka’s ‘In the Penal Colony’, which, though originally published in 1919, was new to English readers as it had not previously been translated.
Horizon coverage of European culture centred primarily on France, but also gave space to Germany, Spain, Russia and Italy, as well as contributors from Hungary and Austria. Out of a total of 210 contributions in Horizon that dealt in some way with aspects of European culture between 1940 and 1945 (including literary contributions, criticism, articles, comment pieces and reviews, but excluding visual contributions), 87 related to France, 25 to Germany or German-speaking subjects (a significant number of which dealt with Nazi atrocities rather than German culture), 12 each to Spain and Russia, 9 to Italy, 2 each to Greece, Hungary and Czechoslovakia, 1 each to Switzerland and Scandinavia, and 22 to multiple European countries (most of which contributions also refer to France). Material translated from other languages, and in some rare instances untranslated material, made up a relatively small but still significant proportion of contributions, as Figure 2 shows.
The inclusion of foreign-language and translated material, and generally material relating to Europe, might be seen as a substitute for travelling abroad. Michael Shelden describes in detail Connolly’s ‘general feelings of restlessness and frustration after four years of wartime life in England’ while ‘the war had cut him off from the places he liked to visit most – Paris, the South of France, Spain, Italy, Switzerland’ (Shelden, 1989: 106–107). Indeed, Shelden argues that the ‘Where Shall John Go?’ travel writing series, which started with a piece on New Zealand by Anna Kavan in September 1943, was occasioned by this very frustration at being trapped in England, and considers the magazine’s increasing focus on ‘the glories of France and its culture’ as a result of Connolly’s being restricted to Britain (Shelden, 1989: 107).
Connolly’s own contributions reveal his particular interest in and understanding of European culture, which centred on France and the Graeco-Roman world. In June 1943, Connolly published the text of a lecture he had delivered at the Franco-Scottish House in Edinburgh on behalf of the British Council (Connolly, 1943a: 373–85). His lecture is a textbook example of Eurocentrism, as Connolly attributed to Europe and the Western world a virtual monopoly on scientists and philosophers, though he allowed India and China to have made a ‘great contribution’ to art and to mysticism (Connolly, 1943a: 374). Perhaps predictably, African countries were not mentioned at all. Connolly’s Eurocentrism reveals the limited scope of his education and experience. Formed at Eton on an academic diet of Classics and Western European history, Connolly’s intellectual world did not reach far beyond the borders of Western Europe, and he was most comfortable with France, the foreign country whose language and literature he knew best. In his Edinburgh lecture, Connolly stressed the positive influence of French literature on English letters (Connolly, 1943a: 376–77). This view is borne out by the content of the first five years of Horizon: among contributions on literature and culture in languages other than English, France dominated by a wide margin. Indeed, Connolly made this preponderance explicit in a January 1944 editorial, in which he explained the predominance of critical articles on French literature and culture by the appeal of currently inaccessible French literature among British critics.6
Just as Connolly’s oration deprecated English literary achievements in a bid to appeal to his Francophile audience in Edinburgh, a recurring trend in Horizon contributions is to note the superiority of French over English letters, especially in Philip Toynbee’s article ‘Notes on the Literary Situation in France’, published in November 1944. This article offered a thorough appraisal of French literature and criticism published during and just after the period of German occupation, in which Toynbee argued that French writers had responded to the war with more creative vigour and imaginative power than their counterparts across the channel. Predictably (and likely intentionally), Toynbee’s appraisal courted controversy, and was criticised most vocally by John Lehmann in an open letter in January 1945, who deplored the fact that Toynbee felt it necessary to conclude his report by comparing English wartime literary output unfavourably to the French.7 In Lehmann’s view, both French and English wartime literary achievements ought to be celebrated rather than make an ‘attempt to judge between’ the two (Lehmann, 1945: 5). Lehmann’s protest was followed by an editorial note announcing that Connolly had travelled to Paris ‘in search of fuller accounts of the French achievement’, and which argued: ‘That the French should think our books better than theirs, and that we should hold the opposite opinion is part of the sweet mirage of propinquity which is such a fortunate symptom in two countries who in culture, and in historical predicament, are really one’ (Lehmann, 1945: 5). To Connolly, mutual appreciation of an ally’s cultural achievements was an indicator of close ties and was politically (as well as culturally) auspicious.
More broadly speaking, engagement with European culture and European affairs in the pages of Horizon fell into three categories. The first of these was overt political commentary on the situation of Europe at war and Britain’s place in this situation. Though one might not expect much of this kind of commentary in a magazine whose ‘standards are aesthetic’ and whose ‘politics are in abeyance’ (as claimed by Connolly in his first editorial), political interventions occurred with some regularity (Connolly, 1940a: 5). The second kind of engagement were articles, fiction, criticism and poetry that commented on European culture and/or politics. This category included contributions by the well-travelled Scottish Europhile, critic and translator Edwin Muir, as well as Peter Quennell, George Orwell, Stephen Spender and Herbert Read. Finally – in an important though limited category – Horizon included contributions by European critics, philosophers and writers. For one thing, Connolly’s magazine was an important medium for a small number of emigré or refugee writers and critics, including repeat contributors Arthur Koestler, Alfred Perlès and Franz Borkenau, and one-off or occasional voices such as Czeslaw Poznanski, J. P. Hodin, Ksawery Pruszynski and others. Their contributions were an important part of Horizon, evidenced in part by the fact that Koestler won the 1944 Horizon competition, which asked subscribers to vote for what they felt was the best contribution to the magazine in the past year. For another, Connolly strove to publish the work of writers in other languages where possible, mostly in translation, sometimes in the original accompanied by an English translation, and on a few notable occasions untranslated in the original French, apparently the only language that the magazine assumed most readers would be able to read in the original. This assumption is revealing of the audience targeted by Horizon, an issue to which I return below.
The inclusion of foreign writers and critics was based around a discourse of enhancing availability and facilitating a view beyond the borders of Britain. In his February 1942 editorial, musing on the death of Walter Sickert as the loss of a truly European artist, Connolly advocated the necessity of trans-European cultural exchange. True art, he argued, required ‘the freedom of Europe’ and access to ‘the masterpieces of the past’, and those who love art must ‘determine, after the war, to do everything to bring English and European culture together, to recognize that we will never be able to do without Europe again, nor they without us’ (Connolly, 1942a: 74). Asking elsewhere how British ‘men of letters’ and editors like himself could aid literary and intellectual exchange between Britain and France, Connolly argued that a key practical measure was to make foreign literature ‘more accessible’. Strategies he advocated included not only translation, publication and reprints, but also the concerted promotion of modern foreign writers, of new periodicals as yet unknown in Britain, and specifically the sale of classical works of French literature (Connolly, 1943a: 382).
In line with Connolly’s suggestions, part of the mission of Horizon was to make foreign texts more widely available. This mission was a two-way street, as Horizon also aimed to bring the best writing in English to continental European audiences: in September and October 1945, when postal service between Britain and France had been restored, the contents pages of Horizon advertised in all caps to ‘LECTEURS FRANÇAIS!’ that ‘Direct subscriptions may now be sent from France. Price 500 francs per year, postage included’. A French-themed issue for British readers in May 1945 was later followed by one (published in French) that presented British wartime literature to French readers. Earlier that year, in January 1945, an editorial note had already announced that ‘HORIZON will also shortly publish a tentative list of the hundred best books that have appeared in England since the war, which should be of interest both here and in France’ (Lehmann, 1945: 7). As early as November 1943, Horizon had called not only for the import of American magazines that were currently unobtainable, but also noted that some French periodicals would shortly be available, including the review Fontaine and an ‘anonymous clandestine review’, the Cahiers de Libération, published by the Cahiers du Silence to replace the now collaborationist and effectively defunct Nouvelle Revue Française (Connolly, 1943b: 295). In May 1945, Connolly outlined Horizon’s plans for publishing some French works in limited editions (Connolly, 1945b).
Horizon’s brand of cosmopolitanism
As its preoccupation with France suggests, Horizon was a magazine whose attitude towards foreign literature and culture can most accurately be described as cosmopolitan rather than internationalist. Cosmopolitanism here has to be understood in its popular sense as ‘an ethical doctrine with no direct political implications’ (Miller, 2002: 80); that is, an approach grounded in cultural exchange rather than in concrete proposals for political integration or shared international governmental structures. For Connolly and most of his contributors, cosmopolitanism was, in Eduardo Mendieta’s words, simply ‘a way of relating to the world’ (Mendieta, 2009: 242), one that could co-exist with patriotic and even imperialist ideas, and one that was based on personal experience, interests and connections. Connolly’s international outlook was characterised by appreciation of other cultures and their languages and literatures while simultaneously remaining rooted in his own national context and his privileges as a well-connected, well-travelled man with significant cultural capital as a member of Britain’s intellectual elite. Though Connolly occasionally paid lip service to the idea of a ‘United States of Europe’, particularly towards the end of the war, his preoccupation was with cultural and not political ties, and he always envisioned Britain as a leader in post-war Europe.8 Craig Calhoun points to the close alignment of cosmopolitanism with Western states and imperialism, and notes its rootedness in elite circles (whether merchants, clerics or intellectuals), distinct from those ruling powers that necessarily aligned with national interests (Calhoun, 2003: 89). The ability to travel, Calhoun argues, has been and continues to be a key factor in the formation of cosmopolitan identities (Calhoun, 2003: 90). Likewise, Timothy Brennan contrasts cosmopolitanism as a mindset that ‘springs from a comfortable culture of middle-class travellers, intellectuals and businessmen’ with internationalism as ‘an ideology of the domestically restricted’ who realise that transnational solidarity is hampered by practical obstacles (Brennan, 2003: 42). The kind of cosmopolitanism that drove the editorial approach of Horizon was very much a ‘cosmopolitanism born out of privileges: economic; political; cultural; and even linguistic’, as Mendieta argues of what he terms ‘imperial cosmopolitanism’ (Mendieta, 2009: 242). To Connolly, who by virtue of his upbringing and connections belonged safely to the class of leisured travellers despite periods of financial hardship, cosmopolitanism understandably seemed a birth-right interrupted by the war.
Considering Horizon as a periodical project with such an elitist cosmopolitan outlook allows us to note its limitations beyond the practical restrictions imposed by war that are outlined above. Although these wartime restrictions were real and significant, the editorial policy of Horizon was also moulded by the ideological and social limitations of Connolly as editor-in-chief. In a review of Horizon for Irish literary magazine The Bell, Donat O’Donnell acknowledged the quality of most of the criticism published in Horizon, yet he was scathing about Horizon’s ‘egotistical’ lack of political engagement, and voiced his opinion that the only remarkable creative contributions in poetry and prose were by foreign writers (O’Donnell, 1946: 1034). He felt that the lack of good ‘native’ English writing in Horizon was due to the magazine’s aversion to the mundane, and concomitant love of the ‘exotic’ (O’Donnell, 1946: 1035). Rather than publish worthwhile material about the everyday reality of life at war in Britain, so O’Donnell argued, Horizon turned abroad for more sensational material. This was an editorial choice made explicit by Connolly in his January 1944 ‘Comment’, in which he rejected any ‘experiences connected with the blitz [sic], the shopping queues, the home front, deserted wives, deceived husbands, broken homes, dull jobs, bad schools, group squabbles’; these, he felt, were ‘so much a picture of our ordinary lives that unless the workmanship is outstanding we are prejudiced against them’ (Connolly, 1944a: 5). O’Donnell connected this policy against ‘pictures of ordinary lives’ with the magazine’s elitism and what he termed the ‘philistinism’ of Horizon (O’Donnell, 1946: 1038), an assessment that tallies with Connolly’s own recognition, in Enemies of Promise (1938), that his writing was likely to hold little appeal for the working classes and was aimed at his ‘educated fellow bourgeois’ (Connolly, 1949: 5). In a later editorial, Connolly echoed this assessment when he described the outlook of Horizon as ‘liberal-bourgeois-intellectual’ (Connolly, 1942b: 225). In 1941, Horizon had carried out a survey of readers via a questionnaire included in every copy of the January issue, the results of which were outlined in a detailed report in the April 1941 issue. This report revealed that of the roughly twenty percent of readers who submitted a questionnaire, 70 percent were aged between twenty and forty, three quarters were men, two thirds were unmarried, and the majority (roughly 75 percent) were considered to be lower-middle or middle-class, defined by Horizon as earning an annual income between £200 and £1,000 (a rather generous definition at the top end of this range). A survey question on readers’ occupations likewise revealed that the majority were either still students in civilian life or had enjoyed an education that had prepared them for clerical or intellectual work, although the report proudly highlighted the presence of some outlier professions such as farmers, nurses and policemen (Horizon, 1941: 294). Although the report did its best to claim diversity among its readership, the low percentage of readers in the working-class income bracket (defined as earning under £4 per week) and the apparently high level of education among the readership tallies with Connolly’s ‘liberal-bourgeois-intellectual’ assessment.
Connolly himself fitted the mould of the privileged cosmopolitan, and Latham’s observation that Horizon was ‘surveying the rapid transformation of the literary and cultural marketplace while clinging nostalgically to an older formation rooted still in the ideals of autonomy, patronage, and elitism’ is amply borne out by a closer look at the contributors to Horizon in the first five years of its life (Latham, 2013: 857). A survey of contributors reveals that the vast majority of these were in some way connected to Connolly (as friends, acquaintances, fellow literary editors or former employers), that they were wealthy and well connected, and/or educated at the same – or similar – establishments as Connolly. Often, contributors were a combination of all three, revealing a two-way patronage system in which Connolly both granted and benefited from favours and from his considerable social and cultural capital. Horizon was thus moulded by the personality of its editor and benefited from the same kind of ‘serendipitous social connections’ that Jason Harding acknowledges in his work on Eliot’s Criterion (Harding, 2002: 6). Connolly’s biographer Jeremy Lewis paints a portrait of Connolly as a man who loved to travel and delighted in cultivating the air of a sophisticated European, but who still saw himself as fundamentally English. Given Connolly’s credentials as a well-connected, well-travelled, expensively educated man of letters, it is not surprising that Donat O’Donnell found the contributors and readers of Horizon to be mostly wealthy, and mostly educated at the same kinds of institutions as those attended by Connolly – Eton and Oxford – despite Connolly’s explicit pride in targeting a more diverse audience than other literary-critical magazines. Horizon may have been interested in speaking to as well as about ordinary people, but this ambition was at odds with the privileged background of the majority of the magazine’s contributors. Offering contributions that allowed readers who fell in the ‘the man-in-the-street income groups’ to broaden the scope of their knowledge beyond their own borders was presumably part of the magazine’s ‘liberal-bourgeois-intellectual’ mission (Horizon, 1941: 293). Such readers were likely to have fewer opportunities to travel in Europe as extensively as wealthier groups, and arguably Horizon provided material that offered those with no or little direct experience of travelling or living in Europe insights into their neighbours’ cultures.
Defining European culture and the role of the ‘man of letters’
One of the most contradictory aspects of Horizon’s editorial policy was Connolly’s emphasis on the magazine’s literary character and his recurring assertion of its apolitical nature, a maxim which was regularly violated by publishing political material.9 This is perhaps not surprising given the extent to which Nazi atrocities and the destructive events of the war directly affected the literary and artistic milieu with which Horizon was concerned. The effect of the war and Nazi persecution of writers prompted formidable efforts on the part of P.E.N. throughout the 1930s and 1940s, whose advocacy for persecuted writers and practical support of refugees is outlined in detail in Katherine Cooper’s recent work on British P.E.N. (Cooper, 2018). Connolly’s interventions were not always quite so direct and outspoken, but in his October 1943 editorial he explicitly detailed Nazi crimes, condemning ‘the persecution of the Jews, the extermination of Poles, Russians, and of all the victims of the Gestapo in all countries’ (Connolly, 1943c: 221). Condemnation of Nazi atrocities and observations on the impact of war were usually tied to thinking about the role of writers and intellectuals, however. In July 1942, Connolly’s editorial comments developed the idea that a new kind of ruling class was needed to save Britain, and outlined the role of the artist, writer and intellectual in bringing about positive change – yet Connolly’s idea of the ‘man of letters’ as saviour was not limited to Britain, but seemed to encompass the loftier aim of saving all of European culture (Connolly, 1942c). Such ambitions were articulated most clearly in the immediate aftermath of the D-Day landings in June 1944, when Connolly lauded Britain as ‘still the freest country in Europe’ and compared the present moment to the vanquishing of the Persian Empire by the Greek city states at Salamis as a point when once more ‘the peoples who value liberty are about to bring down ruin on those who have despised it’, with Britain taking the lead in this liberation (Connolly, 1944b: 365). He had already used the same analogy in March 1944 while reflecting on the destruction of Monte Cassino. In Connolly’s vision, Britain would ‘return to Europe to draw strength from the continent we have set free until the full tide of Western civilization flows back over the scattered dried-up rockpools that every nation has become’ (Connolly, 1944b: 365). The previous year, Connolly had pondered the role of Britain in a post-war Europe, utilising a racist colonial analogy by calling the rest of Europe ‘the new dark continent’ that Britain had to save and unite so that it could be a match for the USA and Communist Russia (Connolly, 1943d: 5–6). Connolly’s view (shared by many of his contributors) that Europe was embattled in a cultural as well as a political sense tied in closely with broader discourses of European civilisation under threat, as outlined in detail by Richard Overy (2009) and exemplified by the internationally best-selling success of culturally pessimistic works such as Oswald Spengler’s Der Untergang des Abendlandes (1918), whose English translation, The Decline of the West, was published in 1926 and had swiftly become a ‘publishing sensation’ (Rojek, 2018: 420).
It was within the framework of his Eurocentric and often racist views that Connolly was committed to promoting an understanding of foreign literature and culture in Britain. Early in the magazine’s life, in October 1940, Connolly had used the publication of an article about D. H. Lawrence as a prompt to reflect on Lawrence’s open-mindedness in contrast to Baldwinian English limitations and what Connolly saw as the crude complacency of the male English bourgeois (Connolly, 1940b: 148–512). ‘The England of to-day knows how to fight’, he observed: ‘If it would lead Europe, it must also know how to live, for a new Europe cannot be created out of insular virtues: courage, endurance, and zenophobia [sic]’ (Connolly, 1940b: 152). English artists, he argued in February 1942 in an echo of Eliot’s views, must be ‘restore[d to] the freedom of Europe’: great art, in Connolly’s view, depended on transnational, transcultural dialogue and could not truly thrive while denied this exchange (Connolly, 1942a: 74). Connolly’s mission and that of Horizon was consequently to campaign for the restoration of this freedom, and access to the ‘masterpieces of the past’ that Europe held (Connolly, 1942a: 74). As the war came to a conclusion, Connolly’s editorial comments became ever more outspoken on the political as well as the cultural future of Europe, and he repeatedly reiterated his belief that Britain could not be seen as separate from its continental neighbours. In his June 1945 editorial, he reflected on what was effectively the first peacetime number of Horizon. His comment contained ample references to the pan-European future desired by Horizon, and he observed:
One thing is certain. England is now part of Europe: in Europe two instincts have long been at work, a desire for unity, and an urge to the left. If we do not guide these instincts to fruition (and only a liberal or socialist England will give the lead), the United States of Europe will be created without us (Connolly, 1945d: 369).
The preponderance of critical essays and reviews among contributions dealing with Europe and European culture, and Connolly’s emphasis on the importance of ‘little magazines’, show that Horizon, too, subscribed to the view that literary journalism and periodical culture were an essential part of what Harding has called ‘an ongoing cultural conversation’ – in this case, a cultural conversation about the future role of Europe, and of the writer, intellectual and literary critic (Harding, 2002: 5). Where Eliot’s Criterion had cast itself, during the inter-war period, as the ‘self-appointed […] guardian of European civilization’ (Harding, 2002: 6), Horizon followed this up by claiming the role of a leading wartime organ for the rescue and revival of European culture. Connolly’s editorials offered many variations on this theme, as did a range of critical contributions over the five years of Horizon’s wartime existence. French journalist Pierre Maillaud was among several foreign voices that helped Connolly invoke a sense of cultural leadership. In an article entitled ‘War and Peace in Western Europe’, Maillaud not only declared the Second World War to be a war to save European civilisation, but set up an analogy between the present moment and the ‘tremendous setback when the Germanic hordes broke through the Christianized Roman Empire’, arguing that it was the British victory in the Battle of Britain that safeguarded ‘our’ (implicitly European, or at least Anglo-French) ‘conceptions of social intercourse and our faith in the value of liberty’ (Maillaud, 1943: 303).
Connolly’s and by extension Horizon’s commitment to placing Britain at the heart of European culture was evident throughout the magazine’s first five years. In March 1944, Connolly addressed the bombing of Monte Cassino as ‘a terrible warning’ of things to come, given both German and Allied callousness (Connolly, 1944c: 149). He criticised the British press, including and particularly left-wing papers, for ‘gloating’ over the destruction of Monte Cassino, and castigated British society for failing to realise that the British were ‘the trustees of European Culture for Posterity’ – a European culture he argued was not only unified, but commonly owned – and ‘that Europe is its civilization, and that if we strip it of its monuments and antiques, as we are stripping it of its political and economic power, then we will have utterly destroyed its magic, its prestige in the world and therefore our own, and so it will go back into being that miserable appendage of Asia which it was till the Greeks defeated the Persians’ (Connolly, 1944c: 149–50). As Connolly’s phrasing here reveals, Horizon’s definition of European culture was by no means unproblematic, and reflected the magazine’s particular brand of privileged Western European cosmopolitanism outlined above. It also reflected the widespread, shifting and contradictory debates on the meaning of Europe and the future of different versions of European culture endemic among European intellectuals from the First World War to the aftermath of the Second. In these debates, outlined in detail in Mark Hewitson and Matthew D’Auria’s collection Europe in Crisis: Intellectuals and the European Idea, 1917–1957 (2012), magazines like Horizon and contributors like Eliot and Spender took an active part, seeking to define European culture and voicing both optimism and despair for its future.10
The limited vision of Europe and European culture adopted by Horizon is articulated most explicitly in Maillaud’s 1943 article cited above, in which he clarified his understanding of ‘Western Civilization’:
By Western Civilization, irrespective of whether it is now represented by other nations, I mean a Civilization which spread from the Mediterranean to the western seaboard of Europe and which has been most consistently, though not exclusively, represented in Europe by those nations which follow the European coastline from Italy to Norway. It is Christian and liberal, independently of any practised religion (Maillaud, 1943: 307).
This definition, which made some allowances for non-Western European nations and peoples but excluded them from the origins of European culture, might have come from Connolly himself. In his September 1945 editorial comment, Connolly offered a reflection on the aftermath of war in Europe, and especially France. He observed on the first page that European civilisation had been damaged and rendered obsolete by the war, at least in relation to the two conquering rivals, the United States and Russia, both of which he clearly saw as distinct from European culture. Using the metaphor of a derelict marquee at a village fête, with frayed ropes, a broken centre-pole and battered decorations, Connolly illustrated his belief that the ‘gulf between civilizations’ had grown too wide (Connolly, 1945c: 149). As far as Connolly was concerned, the new ‘custodians’ of French, Italian, German and Austrian culture – Russians and Americans – no longer had an understanding of or ‘use for the countries they invest’ (Connolly, 1945c: 149). Connolly here revealed how he delineated European culture: as a Graeco-Roman, Christian construct, but one that was sharply limited at both its Eastern and Western borders, and focused in the main on France, Italy, Spain, Germany and Austria, roughly in this order of importance, besides, of course, Britain. Contributions by other authors reveal a similar understanding of European culture. Alexander Henderson, in a travel piece on Turkey in May 1944, found Turkish hard to learn and the Turks and their mentality impossible to understand, clearly othering Turks as Orientals rather than Europeans. ‘I am quite sure’, Henderson observed, ‘that even if I lived there for twenty years I should still know less than I can learn about any European country in six months.’ (Henderson, 1944: 350) At the heart of Henderson’s appraisal was the belief that between Western European nations, a cultural affinity remained despite several years of war, an affinity that was lacking in its Eastern neighbours – a view shared by Connolly and many of his other contributors.
The war had quickly highlighted Britain’s connectedness to continental Europe in a geographical and political as well as an abstract cultural sense. Latham notes how ‘Britain seemed suddenly aware of its essentially European identity, the “little England” once securely protected by the Channel was now suddenly exposed to aerial bombardment and mechanized invasion’ (Latham, 2013: 857). In addition to putting his readers in touch with European culture and encouraging transnational cultural and literary exchange, Connolly also printed several key reflections on the nature and value of European culture by notable ‘men of letters’. The most prominent of these (both in terms of their author’s lasting reputation in the present and the space they were given in Horizon) were Stephen Spender’s essay ‘Hoelderlin, Goethe and Germany’ in October 1943, T. S. Eliot’s ‘The Man of Letters and the Future of Europe’ in December 1944, and an interview with French novelist and theorist André Malraux in October 1945, celebrated in Britain as an important continental thinker and author at least since the publication of his novel La Condition Humaine (1933). Spender’s essay discussed the use of German literature to rebuild a new Germany after the defeat of the Nazis and simultaneously to enrich English cultural life; Eliot’s article considered the role of writers and intellectuals in rebuilding Europe more generally; and Malraux’s interview was concerned with the author’s views on ‘a new orientation of European culture’ (Malraux, 1945: 236). While Spender’s essay was written especially for Horizon, the pieces by Eliot and Malraux were reprints from other journals, but their inclusion nevertheless reveals much about the way Horizon defined Europe and European culture. All three pieces speak to four issues that were touchstones for Horizon’s understanding of Europe: the place of Germany within or in relation to European culture; the relationship between Russia, the United States and Europe; the role of the ‘man of letters’, and the importance of transnational cultural exchange.
Spender’s piece on Hölderlin, Goethe and the importance of German literature and culture speaks most clearly to the first of these concerns, the role of Germany in post-war Europe. While Connolly himself was primarily a Francophile, Spender (whose mother was of German Jewish heritage) felt a close affinity with German culture, and had lived in Germany and Austria for some years in the late 1920s and early 1930s. His admiration for Goethe in particular was not unusual. British (and French) intellectuals and writers had singled out Goethe as a model European and an antidote to the Prussian militarist version of German culture since before the First World War. Goethe’s open-mindedness and cosmopolitan thinking served those who, like Spender, wished to redeem what was positive about German literature and culture from the taint of German aggression in the present. Spender’s essay for Horizon focused on the necessity of re-integrating Germany into the European cultural community after the war. Spender proposed re-educating Germans by means of re-familiarising them with their own benign literary tradition as the most promising and effective way of removing the ‘principles of gangster trusts’ on which, Spender argued, National Socialism was built (Spender, 1943: 273). Spender singled out Goethe, Heine, Hölderlin and Schiller for the mission of re-education, and stressed the importance of acquainting the British population with these writers, too. The benefit Spender saw in learning more about Goethe and Hölderlin in particular was not limited to benefiting post-war Germany, however, but also held value for the British (and specifically the English) themselves. In his thoughtful appraisal of Hölderlin and Goethe as writers equally indebted to the ancient Greek and German protestant cultural traditions, Spender saw qualities he felt were absent in the works of modern Anglo-American poets like Eliot. In particular, he drew attention to Hölderlin’s and Goethe’s ability to see the Christian tradition as only part of a greater cultural framework, and to understand past and present in a way that enabled them to see life ‘as a point illuminated on all sides by an immense consciousness of past experience’ (Spender, 1943: 279). To Spender, these abilities meant that German writers like Goethe and Hölderlin had something important to add that was lacking in Anglo-American literature, and he encouraged the readers of Horizon to look to the literary heritage of their current enemy for the broadening of their own minds as well as to enable them to create a new Germany from the devastation of the Third Reich.
By contrast, in 1945, Malraux perhaps understandably saw little in German culture that could enrich a broader European cultural framework, not least because in his critique of the idea of Europe he reacted specifically against the National Socialist vision of Europe as unified by a dominant Germanic culture (Malraux, 1945: 236). In this, Malraux was by no means an outlier among French writers and intellectuals, whose views ranged from Julien Benda’s ‘deeply felt anti-Germanism’ (Cornick, 1995: 54) and Henri Massis’s exclusion of Germany from European civilisation proper to the more benign views of André Gide, who nevertheless spoke up on behalf of German culture from a position of French cultural superiority (van Puymbroeck, 2020: 61). However, Malraux’s claim that ‘Europe as an organic unity’ was simply ‘a German hobby-horse’ and that Europe could only be defined against a non-European other, was tempered by an acknowledgement of shared history and a shared Christian tradition (Malraux, 1945: 236). In his reflections, Malraux allowed that ‘there is at least a permeability of mutual culture of the countries of Europe’, and that certain aspects of French, English and even some German thought and culture qualified as ‘universal’ (Malraux, 1945: 236; emphasis in original). In Malraux’s view, there was a ‘subtle affinity’ between East Coast America, England, France, Portugal and even ‘racially partly Germanic’ countries such as Belgium, Holland, Switzerland and the Scandinavian countries, based partly around a shared heritage (Malraux, 1945: 237). It is telling that Malraux, like Spender and indeed Eliot, singled out cosmopolitan Goethe as his only example of German ‘universal’ thought, but he also made it clear that ‘Germanic’ culture only qualified as European in exceptional cases.
Russia, on the other hand, did not feature in Malraux’s understanding of a mutually permeable European culture at all, and was in fact set up as a counter-cultural bloc that Malraux believed would come to form the counterpart to an emerging ‘Atlantic culture’. This ‘Atlantic culture’, whose emergence he felt would be hastened by the failure of Nazi attempts to forge their own version of Europe under German cultural hegemony, would be defined by the USA as a leading cultural force in exchange with its European Allies (Malraux, 1945: 236–7). His understanding of this culture was an eclectic (and rather problematic) mix of thinking in racial and geo-political terms, based on connectedness in the sense of racial affinities, geographical connections and shared historical development that chimed with Connolly’s own rather diffuse thoughts on Anglo-American and European culture. The main difference between Connolly’s and Malraux’s views was that while Connolly believed Britain, and specifically England, to have a pivotal role in post-war cultural reconstruction, Malraux did not consider English letters to have much to offer the rest of Europe. His emphasis was on the freshness and non-intellectualism of contemporary American writers, including several whose talent Connolly and Horizon also recognised, especially Ernest Hemingway. Malraux argued that the fresh perspective of these writers offered something new and complementary to French culture that was lacking in contemporary English writing (Malraux, 1945: 238). The USA, not Britain, would thus become the rejuvenating (though not the dominant) force in a developing post-war ‘Atlantic civilization’ that Malraux believed would emerge from the existing European and Atlantic cultures after the purge of war (Malraux, 1945: 240).
The role of artists, intellectuals and most of all writers, and the importance of transnational exchange, were touched on by both Spender and Malraux, but articulated most explicitly in Eliot’s piece on ‘The Man of Letters and the Future of Europe’, reprinted from The Norseman.11 Eliot’s essay reiterated his belief that European civilisation was grounded in a shared Graeco-Roman and Christian tradition, a position he had voiced consistently throughout the 1920s and 1930s, and continued to expound after 1945 (van Puymbroeck, 2020: 48–71). In this instance, he offered a reflection specifically on the conditions that would allow European culture to thrive, and defined what ‘European culture’ might mean implicitly in the process. Given Connolly’s own views, outlined above, on the important leadership role that ‘men of letters’ ought to play, his decision to include Eliot’s essay is entirely logical. Like Connolly, Eliot believed that while the ‘man of letters’ could naturally not be expected to be entirely divorced from other, political concerns, his interest (and I use the male pronoun deliberately to reflect both Connolly’s and Eliot’s understanding of writers and intellectuals as predominantly male) ought to be directed at the cultural rather than the ‘political or economic map of Europe’ (Eliot, 1944: 383). Eliot’s argument specifically centred on the balance between connection and autonomy. Just as Connolly believed in the fundamental value of transcultural exchange, Eliot believed that free exchange between the different national and cultural units that made up Europe was necessary and salutary, and felt that the inter-war policies of the League of Nations had failed precisely because they had ‘disregarded the unity of European culture’ (Eliot, 1944: 384). At the same time, this beneficial unity was achieved, so Eliot believed, because of its simultaneous diversity: his understanding of European culture was as of a great whole made up of a large number of smaller cultural traditions at national and indeed at regional level, creating beneficial tensions that lead to cultural development (Eliot, 1944: 385). In a similar vein to Malraux, then, Eliot rejected the German (or National Socialist) idea of Europe as based on deleterious homogenisation that would strip European culture of the strength it derived from its very diversity. His stress on the separateness of the cultural and the political sphere – though acknowledging their mutual influence – moreover speaks to Calhoun’s argument on the rootedness of cosmopolitan ideas in elites not tasked with political rule, giving them the freedom to consider broader issues beyond national advantages (Calhoun, 2003: 111).
Eliot’s views that ‘the cultural health of Europe’ and its component parts was ‘incompatible with extreme forms of both nationalism and internationalism’ (both of which he saw as a result of ‘modern industrialism’) is consistent with the culturally conservative cosmopolitanism of Horizon. Both Connolly and Eliot proposed and supported a cosmopolitan rather than a genuinely internationalist vision for the future of Europe, one in which smaller national and regional cultures cross-pollinated but did not become part of a unified whole, and both subscribed to a rather elitist ideal of the ‘man of letters’. In Eliot’s as in Connolly’s vision, the writer and intellectual had an obligation to observe, critique and advise (Eliot, 1944: 387). Connolly articulated this as a ‘double mission’ for artists and writers, which entailed both the production of art ‘to make our culture into something worth fighting for’, and a duty ‘to help both rulers and ruled towards modern thinking’ and promote the intelligent discourse and understanding that Connolly felt were widely lacking (Connolly, 1942c: 3). Eliot, meanwhile, proposed that the ‘man of letters’ ought to be ‘vigilantly watching the conduct of politicians and economists, for the purpose of criticizing and warning’, and especially to take an interest in education (Eliot, 1944: 387). The curriculum that Eliot outlined as desirable was moreover modelled closely on the English public school education Connolly had enjoyed, prioritising ‘those elements in education which the several European nations have in the past had in common’, namely the study of Latin and Greek language and literature, material relating to a shared Christian tradition, and ‘pure’ (as opposed to applied) sciences (Eliot, 1944: 388). The elitism of Eliot’s priorities can be gleaned not only from the selectivity of his proposed curriculum, but from his observation that ‘if we had to choose, it would be better that a few people should be educated well, than that everyone should be educated moderately well’ (Eliot, 1944: 388). Such an emphasis on a highly educated elite in a leadership role was likely to appeal to Connolly’s understanding of the writer’s and intellectual’s vanguard position.
Spender, too, returned to Eliot’s pronouncements in his guest editorial of July 1945, standing in for Connolly. Spender reflected on his own recent visit to France and on the situation in France and Europe after the fall of the Nazis, but particularly the role of poets and intellectuals in recently freed France. Drawing on conversations with fellow poets like Francis Ponge, whose work was published by Horizon post-liberation, Spender emphasised the obligation of poets and thinkers to merge their artistic and political selves and to take an active part in promoting ‘his vision of happiness in a new society’ even more strongly than Eliot, whose ‘man of letters’ was to remain largely aloof from political and economic actuality (Spender, 1945: 9). Indirectly responding to the Toynbee-Lehmann controversy, in which John Lehmann had objected to Philip Toynbee’s claims of the superiority of French over English contemporary writing, Spender concluded his editorial by arguing:
In this situation, we who write in English do not help the French by despising our own achievements, which often have the solidity which is as much a need to them as their freedom is light and sweetness to us. The renewal of contact between French and English intellectual life is of enormous importance and if it can be maintained it will contribute to the construction of a picture of human values against which to measure the politics of our distracted age (Spender, 1945: 10).
Spender’s pronouncements equate Anglo-French cultural exchange with the salvation of humanitarian values, and pitch it against the despair brought on by wartime destruction. Broadly speaking, this stance can be extended to the wartime project of Horizon in general, as a magazine that set out to retain and salvage cultural ties already stretched in the First World War and threatened to be severed altogether in the Second.
In his capacity as editor, Connolly translated his advocacy for a more outward-looking Britain into room for both non-British contributors and articles on non-British literature and culture. While this policy was often at odds with wartime restrictions to accessing international contributors and content during the magazine’s first five years, Connolly circumvented such restrictions. The Europe that emerged in wartime Horizon was a limited Europe, circumscribed by the predilections of Connolly and the at times contradictory views of his team of editors and core contributors. First and foremost this Europe included France, which Connolly knew and loved and where he had many literary connections, and to a lesser degree Germany, Spain and Italy. The effect of English public school education and the echoes of the ‘Grand Tour’ in its modern-day incarnation of post-university travel made themselves felt in the material published on European culture in the pages of Horizon. Connolly also accommodated some contributors and contributions that looked beyond his own sphere of interest. Latham outlines how, after the end of the war, ‘Horizon underwent a substantive transformation as Connolly focused his energy on an emerging global modernity which possessed much of the power and originality he suggested England lacked’ (Latham, 2013: 869). Yet, as Latham argues, while Connolly published a diverse and often exciting array of worldwide literary and critical talent, he was also reluctant to concede that Britain and France would not be the intellectual and cultural leaders of the post-war world (Latham, 2013: 872). Despite the wartime preponderance of British material, Horizon was a magazine with a European outlook, albeit one shaped by the narrow view of Europe as the inheritor of Graeco-Roman antiquity promoted by the English public school system. It is striking, too, that Horizon’s wartime European outlook found its fullest expression through literary criticism and cultural journalism. In the absence of sufficient numbers of creative contributions to publish in wartime, Connolly relied on the discussion of foreign literature and culture to ensure readers’ horizons were, indeed, widened beyond their own borders. This preponderance of critical contributions moreover reflects Connolly’s views on the important role of ‘men of letters’ as mediators, shared with other writers and critics of his time, prominently including Eliot. The result was a cosmopolitan approach to European literature and culture that remained hampered not just by wartime obstacles in the circulation of literature and publications, but by its grounding in elite experience and personal ties rather than broader internationalist views.