The intertextual links between Stokes’s unpublished essay ‘In Short’ (1942) and his other writings of the period justify his own estimation of it as ‘a summing up of all I have ever thought incorporating experience of six years of daily psycho-analysis’.This and other texts, now found among Stokes's papers in the Tate Archive, reveal him, especially in the first half of his career, to be a writer continually engaged in a retrospective integration and adjustment of idea and expression.The typographically differentiated portions of text indicate how the original passage has been split up, re-ordered and inserted at different points of the ‘Envoi’, having in some instances first been used in the ‘Notes’.
I would mirror then, all patterns to which the clue is our conception of ourselves, what seems to us enclosed within the physical body, everything of which the microcosm is the ego: and that is everything except that the outer world is essentially otherness or non-ego extending beyond the ego, a projection, therefore, of the ego in the form of non-ego.13 The omission of this passage and its continuation is perhaps explained by personal ambivalence towards abstract speculation as such,14 more or less openly declared in the first entry made in the manuscript after its initial thirty-eight leaves had been typed up (although the above opening reflections are not instanced in justification of the resolution there expressed): When re-writing all of this, I must not start in quite so rapidly with a philosophical, contemplative attitude to the external world …
All that seems nonsense when engaged on practical things.
And in as far as it was an attack on intellectuals, it was an attack on Horizon.18 ‘This was palpably absurd’, Stokes complained, ‘since the only “attack” was the suggestion that intellectuals were not nearly intellectual enough’.19 By which he meant, most immediately, that they did not actively oppose such ‘exploitation of stupidity’ as was exemplified in Connolly’s editorial note on Miller’s article.20More generally, intellectuals were not nearly intellectual enough in that they did not face up to the simple ultimate facts of life, facts whose honest admission entailed metaphysical disillusionment and the embracing of an unadorned dualism, or interrelated series of dualisms – life and death, fact and fantasy, subject and object, inner and outer, reality and image – which now supplemented the earlier opposition between prose and poetry.21 ‘A less anthropomorphic conception of the universe’, Stokes claimed, ‘adds poignancy to the relationship of inner with outer’: Since we may now accept in terms of our science the complete otherness of things, the poetry of things is purer, and the prose … That is both obvious, and the sum of all we know, all we need to know for a complete philosophy, a complete aesthetic; since life and death define each other.22 Many leaders in contemporary art and thought – I think it is fair to say all of them – are in varying degrees unaware of this potential essence, a purer prose which entails a purer poetry, in the above sense of these terms.
With boost propaganda, religion and personal mysticism they seek to rationalize for themselves some life-saving myth.23 The world of the image is unending.
Stokes’s letter is undated but must have been written between November and December 1942: he there makes reference to an article ‘about American industrial civilization’ in the ‘current’ number of the magazine which clearly corresponds to one by the American novelist Henry Miller in the November issue.17 The outcome of the essay’s submission, as reported to Macleod, was that Connolly sent it back with a note saying that he couldn’t understand it, but as far as he did understand it [it] appeared to be an attack on intellectuals: not a lucid & documented attack i.e.
intellectual, which would be the only kind he might publish.
To do so prematurely and in a hurry is half-baked, half medieval still.
But only such a one as yourself whose inner harmony, as well as inner fire, is irrevocable, is strong enough to approach this astonishing new correlation and the deeper poetry it implies. Immediate aims must be abandoned: it is perverting and popular to think in public.26 A year later, under pressure no doubt of the deepening world crisis, Stokes evidently felt himself ready to ‘think in public’ to the extent of issuing a statement encapsulating – in the manner he so often predicated of the work of art – the thought of many years and the ‘attitudes to the contemporary scene’ devolving from that thought.
What justification for such a claim may be found in the writing?
What is the connection between the ‘subject-matter’ of and the psychoanalytical theory with which Stokes was now indeed intimately acquainted, that inaugurated by Sigmund Freud and developed by his own analyst Melanie Klein, and to which he would himself begin to contribute only a few years later?