Confessions of a Critic. IV. Some Views of Mr. Ernest Newman (Continued)

Hugh Arthur Scott
1917 The Musical Times  
JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact This content downloaded from on Sun In some friendly comments which he passed, in the New Witness, on one of the earlier articles in this
more » ... Mr. Ernest Newman raised one or two interesting issues upon which I may be permitted perhaps to say a few words by way of reply. For a beginning Mr. Newman takes strong exception, I gather, to the view which I had ventured to advance, that musical criticism is at the best a rather thankless business-that it is difficult to write in the first place, and difficult to get read in the secondand that in general the musical critic occupies a somewhat forlorn and unfriended position in the scheme of things. Not a bit of it, replies Mr. Newman in effect, you think that simply because you happen to be one of those unfortunate reporter-critics of the London Press, condemned to spend their whole existence running from concert-room to concert-room penning non-committal paragraphs about mediocrities in the interests of their advertisement managers, and never allowed an opportunity by the miserable conditions under which they ply their trade to attempt anything in the nature of real musical criticism at all. If you and your fellows were not so hopelessly self-centred you would realise that in the provinces we have long since changed all this, and that there, 'on the great provincial papers,' the musical critic 'is more fortunately circumstanced.' He has not so many trivial concerts to attend: he has not the same distances to cover-an important factor in the problem of fatigue-and while the musical advertiser is almost wholly dependent on the one big newspaper of the town for publicity, the paper can afford, generally speaking, to be contemptuously independent of him . In the provinces then the critic generally speaking feels himself freer, not merely to express his opinion, but what is more important, to choose his line of approach or even whether he shall approach it at all or quietly pass it by. Hence according to Mr. Newman it is to the provinces that one should look for musical criticism at its best, and with becoming modesty he cites, in iilustration of his point, not the case of the Birminghzam Daily Post (as he might very properly have done) but that of the Manchester Guardian, the present musical criticism of which he handsomely declares, so far from being 'mere reporting' is absolutely literature-'literature of a kind that one very rarely meets with in the London press.' And he goes on to argue once more that no other result can be expected, having in view the hopeless conditions under which we wretched London scribes are called on to do our work, running about at the beck and call of singers and fiddlers and pianists, reporting as to 'the flexibility of Miss Jones's fingers at 8.30 p.m. Tuesday,' or 'the state of Miss Brown's vocal chords [sic] at 9.15 p.m. Friday,' and racking our brains for the thousandth time to find a new way of saying what doesn't really need saying at all, in other words that 'Miss Smith and Mr. Robinson are just ordinarily capable decent people doing what thousands of other people are doing equally well.'
doi:10.2307/908171 fatcat:wnym33lrunb7tppjlnem7aisya