‘Macflecknoe’

The question is: who was ‘Macflecknoe’? I don’t have an answer as yet, only some evidence. The pseudonym (I think it’s a man) comes from a Dryden satire on Thomas Shadwell, or Sh——-, as Dryden unsubtly calls him. Although ‘Mackflecknoe’ doesn’t write in pentameters all the time (though he does resort to them), he certainly likes rhyming AABBCC and so on. He contributed 162 poems to New Statesman from February 28 1931 to October 6 1934 – that is to say, he was part of the furniture of the magazine. When he’s not there, it seems most likely that he is simply on holiday (a stint away is actually mentioned in a late poem). Kingsley Martin had inherited him from The Nation and Athenaeum, although there is evidence in some issues in the late 1920s of the The Nation and Athenaeum that Macflecknoe was writing for The Nation before the First World War. The Nation had swallowed The Athenaeum in 1921; the New Statesman swallowed The Nation and The Athenaeum with it in 1931. It may be that Martin, or indeed Macflecknoe, felt that the poem was at odds with the New Statesman and Nation. Maybe Macflecknoe gave up. Maybe he died: I don’t yet know. What is curious is that the historians (Hyams, Martin, Rolph) of New Statesman ignore him, while both Sagittarius and Reginald Reynolds receive a good press.

Macflecknoe was far more regular than Sagittarius or Reynolds. Not until Roger Woddis in 1970 would there be a writer with such a regular pitch (as happened later with Sagittarius, Macflecknoe usually, but not invariably, appeared after ‘Y.Y.’ (Robert Lynd), and before the letters page or pages, the dividing line between the ‘front’ and the ‘back’, i.e. political and literary, halves of New Statesman). I will add some more in due course, but here is Macflecknoe on the outcome of the 1931 General Election (after which Ramsay Macdonald presided over a National government, let’s call it a coalition, consisting of Baldwin’s Tories, the more senior Labour ministers from the outgoing 1929 government, and most of the Liberals (notably not the Lloyd George faction). The opposition, consisting of fewer than 20% of the MPs, were either disaffected Liberals or Labour MPs: so the Prime Minister was from the same party (until this was quickly sorted out) as the Leader of the Opposition. The New Statesman and Nation had supported the Labour Party elements that made up the Opposition.

Published Oct 31, 1931, the 34th of Macflecknoe's poems

Published Oct 31, 1931, the 34th of Macflecknoe’s poems

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