The New Machiavelli

Page 19 of 114

“We ought to call it the ARVONIAN,” decided Cossington, “and we might very well have underneath, 'With which is incorporated the OBSERVER.' That picks up the old traditions, makes an appeal to old boys and all that, and it gives us something to print under the title.”

I still held out for CITY MERCHANDIZE, which had taken my fancy. “Some of the chaps' people won't like it,” said Naylor, “certain not to. And it sounds Rum.”

“Sounds Weird,” said a boy who had not hitherto spoken.

“We aren't going to do anything Queer,” said Shoesmith, pointedly not looking at Britten.

The question of the title had manifestly gone against us. “Oh! HAVE it ARVONIAN,” I said.

“And next, what size shall we have?” said Cossington.

“Something like MACMILLAN'S MAGAZINE—or LONGMANS'; LONGMANS' is better because it has a whole page, not columns. It makes no end of difference to one's effects.”

“What effects?” asked Shoesmith abruptly.

“Oh! a pause or a white line or anything. You've got to write closer for a double column. It's nuggetty. You can't get a swing on your prose.” I had discussed this thoroughly with Britten.

“If the fellows are going to write—” began Britten.

“We ought to keep off fine writing,” said Shoesmith. “It's cheek. I vote we don't have any.”

“We sha'n't get any,” said Cossington, and then as an olive branch to me, “unless Remington does a bit. Or Britten. But it's no good making too much space for it.”

“We ought to be very careful about the writing,” said Shoesmith. “We don't want to give ourselves away.”

“I vote we ask old Topham to see us through,” said Naylor.

Britten groaned aloud and every one regarded him. “Greek epigrams on the fellows' names,” he said. “Small beer in ancient bottles. Let's get a stuffed broody hen to SIT on the magazine.”

“We might do worse than a Greek epigram,” said Cossington. “One in each number. It—it impresses parents and keeps up our classical tradition. And the masters CAN help. We don't want to antagonise them. Of course—we've got to departmentalise. Writing is only one section of the thing. The ARVONIAN has to stand for the school. There's questions of space and questions of expense. We can't turn out a great chunk of printed prose like—like wet cold toast and call it a magazine.”

Britten writhed, appreciating the image.

“There's to be a section of sports. YOU must do that.”

“I'm not going to do any fine writing,” said Shoesmith.

“What you've got to do is just to list all the chaps and put a note to their play:—'Naylor minor must pass more. Football isn't the place for extreme individualism.' 'Ammersham shapes well as half-back.' Things like that.”

“I could do that all right,” said Shoesmith, brightening and manifestly becoming pregnant with judgments.

“One great thing about a magazine of this sort,” said Cossington, “is to mention just as many names as you can in each number. It keeps the interest alive. Chaps will turn it over looking for their own little bit. Then it all lights up for them.”

“Do you want any reports of matches?” Shoesmith broke from his meditation.

“Rather. With comments.”

“Naylor surpassed himself and negotiated the lemon safely home,” said Shoesmith.

“Shut it,” said Naylor modestly.

“Exactly,” said Cossington. “That gives us three features,” touching them off on his fingers, “Epigram, Literary Section, Sports. Then we want a section to shove anything into, a joke, a notice of anything that's going on. So on. Our Note Book.”

“Oh, Hell!” said Britten, and clashed his boots, to the silent disapproval of every one.

“Then we want an editorial.”

“A WHAT?” cried Britten, with a note of real terror in his voice.

“Well, don't we? Unless we have our Note Book to begin on the front page. It gives a scrappy effect to do that. We want something manly and straightforward and a bit thoughtful, about Patriotism, say, or ESPRIT DE CORPS, or After-Life.”

I looked at Britten. Hitherto we had not considered Cossington mattered very much in the world.

He went over us as a motor-car goes over a dog. There was a sort of energy about him, a new sort of energy to us; we had never realised that anything of the sort existed in the world. We were hopelessly at a disadvantage. Almost instantly we had developed a clear and detailed vision of a magazine made up of everything that was most acceptable in the magazines that flourished in the adult world about us, and had determined to make it a success. He had by a kind of instinct, as it were, synthetically plagiarised every successful magazine and breathed into this dusty mixture the breath of life. He was elected at his own suggestion managing director, with the earnest support of Shoesmith and Naylor, and conducted the magazine so successfully and brilliantly that he even got a whole back page of advertisements from the big sports shop in Holborn, and made the printers pay at the same rate for a notice of certain books of their own which they said they had inserted by inadvertency to fill up space. The only literary contribution in the first number was a column by Topham in faultless stereotyped English in depreciation of some fancied evil called Utilitarian Studies and ending with that noble old quotation:—

“To the glory that was Greece and the grandeur that was Rome.”

And Flack crowded us out of number two with a bright little paper on the “Humours of Cricket,” and the Head himself was profusely thoughtful all over the editorial under the heading of “The School Chapel; and How it Seems to an Old Boy.”

Britten and I found it difficult to express to each other with any grace or precision what we felt about that magazine.



I find it very difficult to trace how form was added to form and interpretation followed interpretation in my ever-spreading, ever-deepening, ever-multiplying and enriching vision of this world into which I had been born. Every day added its impressions, its hints, its subtle explications to the growing understanding. Day after day the living interlacing threads of a mind weave together. Every morning now for three weeks and more (for to-day is Thursday and I started on a Tuesday) I have been trying to convey some idea of the factors and early influences by which my particular scrap of subjective tapestry was shaped, to show the child playing on the nursery floor, the son perplexed by his mother, gazing aghast at his dead father, exploring interminable suburbs, touched by first intimations of the sexual mystery, coming in with a sort of confused avidity towards the centres of the life of London. It is only by such an effort to write it down that one realises how marvellously crowded, how marvellously analytical and synthetic those ears must be. One begins with the little child to whom the sky is a roof of blue, the world a screen of opaque and disconnected facts, the home a thing eternal, and “being good” just simple obedience to unquestioned authority; and one comes at last to the vast world of one's adult perception, pierced deep by flaring searchlights of partial understanding, here masked by mists, here refracted and distorted through half translucent veils, here showing broad prospects and limitless vistas and here impenetrably dark.

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