method of propagating minor poetry is not more remarkable than
the publication of such poetry by the Society.
Manchester Courier, date unknown.
The following advertisement, which has been sent to
me, is, perhaps, of the cosmic variety of humour; at all events,
it is ‘new’ enough, and the reference to ‘The Chance of the
Geologic Period’ bears a moderately cosmic complexion:
OF THE YEAR!
OF THE CENTURY!!
OF THE GEOLOGIC PERIOD!!!
‘Everyone into whose hands this pamphlet may come is sure
to know somebody ambitious to make a name in Literature. Here
is his opportunity. BEGINNERS with BRAINS
have a better chance than professional critics who are perhaps
palsied by prejudice.’
The chance is this. The S.P.R.T. or Society for
Propagating Religious Truth, offers 100£ for the best essay on
the works of Aleister Crowley. I never heard of Mr. Crowley;
but he is the author of Jezebel (21s.), Carmen
Saeculare (hitherto attributed to Flaccus), Ahab, Alice,
The Soul of Osiris, and many, many other works. Competitors
must purchase these, which are being reprinted in a cheap form.
‘Should two essays appear of supreme and equal merit’—say with
‘a perpetual coruscation of the cosmic spirit,’ as Mr. Douglas
writes—then the Society will raise the pool to 150£, and the
winners will divide that princely sum. But first they must read
the works of Mr. Aleister Crowley, so I do not mean to enter: I
do not feel absolute enough. If any reader of these lines wants
to enter, let him communicate with The Secretary, S.P.R.T.,
Boleskine, Foyers, Inverness. Being, in a way, ‘a
professional,’ I am ‘perhaps palsied by prejudice.’
How does it work out as a commercial speculation? Say
that I have written seventy works, and offer a prize of 100£ for
the best essay on them. Let us put the price at five shillings
a volume. Competitors must each pay me three hundred and fifty
shillings. That makes about 17£, and some odd shillings; I am
no mathematician, but it is thereabouts. Now, say that only
five hundred persons are ‘ambitious to make a name in
literature.’ Five hundred times 17£ is 8500£, out of which I
shall refund, as a prize, say, 150£. I net 8350£; not bad. Mr.
Crowley has only written nineteen books, not seventy, but there
may be thousands of competitors for his prize; if so, whether
Religious Truth is advanced or not, the pecuniary results will
be gratifying. I expect to see this plan freely adopted by
modern authors with a genius for advertisement. That sort of
genius, at least, is common, and is rather ill-advised. Men of
soaring powers let themselves be photographed with their
favourite dogs, cats, mongooses, books, pictures, statues, old
hats, to illustrate articles about the shapes of their noses,
the colour of their flashing peepers, their too obvious failure
to use Tatcho, their grandmothers, their conversation, their
royalties, their translators, their lady admirers, their choice
of a sepulchre, their taste in teas or in cigarettes, their
holiday adventures, their old slippers, and all the rest of it.
I do not even believe that it is good business as
advertisement. Thousands of people would swallow this
information—they would read if it were about Jones or x.—who
will never open the pages of the author that is tattled about.
Happily a few writers, and these the best, have not made friends
with this Mammon of journalistic unrighteousness.
Magazine, March 1905.