Tuesday, March 09, 2010

"The Harvard Aesthetes of 1916 were trying to create in Cambridge, Massachusetts, an after-image of Oxford in the 1890s. They read the Yellow Book, they read Casanova's memoirs and Les Liaisons Dangereuses, both in French, and Petronius in Latin; they gathered at teatime in one another's rooms, or at punches in the office of the Harvard Monthly; they drank, instead of weak punch, seidels of straight gin topped with a maraschino cherry; they discussed the harmonies of Pater, the rhythms of Aubrey Beardsley and, growing louder, the voluptuousness of the Church, the essential virtue of prostitution. They had crucifixes in their bedrooms, and ticket stubs from last Saturday's burlesque show at the Old Howard. They wrote, too; dozens of them were prematurely decayed poets, each with his invocation to AntinoĆ¼s, his mournful descriptions of Venetian lagoons, his sonnets to a chorus girl in which he addressed her as 'little painted poem of God.' In spite of these beginnings, a few of them became good writer."

from Exile's Return by Malcolm Cowley

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