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Manifestos at Dawn:
Nation, City and Self in Patrick Geddes and William Sharp's Evergreen

Julian Hanna

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In a revealing backward glance in 1954, the poet Hugh MacDiarmid wrote to his friend the novelist Neil Gunn to explain what the 1890s meant to him. Gunn began his career as a contributor to MacDiarmid’s short-lived but influential and innovative nationalist periodicals, the Scottish Chapbook (1922-23) and Scottish Nation (1923). He had written two weeks earlier asking MacDiarmid why, in a BBC Radio broadcast, he had ‘placed’ Gunn’s rural novels not among the texts of the Scottish Renaissance of the 1920s, but in the 1890s, the decade that stood (Gunn wrote) ‘for an ultra-sophistication, for men like Beardsley and Oscar Wilde’. MacDiarmid replied by positing a different set of associations, and a different ‘renaissance’:

The ’Nineties stood not only for Beardsley, Wilde, etc. – but also for the Celtic Renaissance (i.e. the Celtic Twilight stuff), e.g. Patrick Geddes with his Celtic Renascene, the early Yeats poems etc. That was the point of my reference so far as you were concerned.[1]

He proceeded to tell Gunn, whose novels have indeed been described as carrying into the twentieth century Fiona Macleod’s ‘vision of a doomed and marginal Celticism’[2], that his intention was only ‘to disassociate myself from romantic idealisations of Gaelic “spirituality”, etc. … in accordance with my own Marxist tenets’. Somewhat surprisingly, MacDiarmid invoked a younger generation of critics to make the case that Gunn did not belong in the ‘Scottish Renaissance Movement’ proper (‘as laid down by me at the outset in the Scottish Chapbook’).[3] In effect he told Gunn — fairly or otherwise — that history had judged him to be ‘something entirely different’: a throwback to the previous generation and an older ‘renaissance’ (ibid.).

The Scottish Renaissance inaugurated by MacDiarmid in the twenties had its share of manifestos, which was not unusual at the time.[4] ‘The Chapbook Programme’ in particular, published in the second issue (September 1922), sets out in straightforward manifesto style an agenda for the magazine and the movement it claims to represent, starting with ‘The principal aims and objects’ and ending with a vow to ‘meddle wi’ the Thistle’.[5] It is a mix of the practical (‘Should you wish to help us, kindly send us the names of friends likely to be interested’) and the polemical, which can be seen in the stated objective: ‘To insist upon truer evaluations of the work of Scottish writers than are usually given in the present over-Anglicised condition of British literary journalism’ (ibid.). Following in the wake of artistic movements like vorticism, imagism, futurism, and dada, and political events like the 1916 Easter Rising and the 1917 Russian Revolution, anyone who wished to formulate a national movement in the arts with accompanying propaganda would have had numerous templates and texts to draw upon for inspiration. But what role did manifestos play in the late-nineteenth-century movements referred to in MacDiarmid’s letter, the twin renaissances – one famous, the other nearly forgotten – led by W. B. Yeats and Lady Gregory, Patrick Geddes and William Sharp?[6] How did they draw up their manifestos, what did they wish to proclaim, and how do their declarations of principle compare with later examples, not only of MacDiarmid, but of Marinetti, Tristan Tzara, Wyndham Lewis, and the other polemicists of the ‘high manifesto’ period in Europe?

MacDiarmid’s Chapbook pays homage in its opening manifesto, the ‘Causerie’, to Patrick Geddes’s Evergreen (1895-96). The earlier struggle for cultural revival is praised not only for its Scottish nationalism but also for its civic and international character. ‘[T]he organ of a band of social reformers in one of the poorest quarters of Edinburgh,’ MacDiarmid wrote, ‘touched an international note, and kept up the spirit of the best ideals in literature and art.’[7] There is, however, a conspicuous omission: the tribute fails to mention William Sharp, who was not only a leading Evergreen contributor (under his own name and as ‘Fiona Macleod’), but who also acted as managing director of both the Evergreen and the affiliated publishing house of Patrick Geddes and Colleagues. MacDiarmid portrayed Geddes, who was still living and very active in 1922, as a worthy predecessor. Years later, in The Company I’ve Kept (1966), MacDiarmid mourned the ‘neglect’ of Geddes in Scotland, describing him as ‘one of the outstanding thinkers of his generation, not merely in Britain but in the world, and not only one of the greatest Scotsmen of the past century but in our entire history’.[8] But the unfashionable Sharp, whose career in the 1890s masquerading as ‘Fiona Macleod’ was preceded by a decade in London doing literary odd jobs, represented all that modernism, and modern Scotland, wished to leave behind. As a result, he is absent from the narrative. Ultimately, however, MacDiarmid judged it necessary to dismiss the earlier Scottish renaissance in order to move forward with a new renaissance. The Chapbook manifesto ends: ‘The Scottish literary revival proved to be a promise that could not be kept.’ This re-enacted demise cleared the stage for the renaissance of 1922. ‘To-day’, MacDiarmid declared, ‘there is a distinct change in the air’ (‘Causerie’, p. 4).

Identity emerges as a central theme in the Evergreen and the manifestos it contains. Various competing identities are at play. The magazine’s conflicted sense of place, its separate loyalties to Edinburgh, Scotland, and London, as well as to a cosmopolitan intellectual community, is one aspect of this complex identity. Another is the sexual identity of Sharp and his more productive alter ego, Fiona Macleod. Like MacDiarmid, Sharp wrote under a variety of pseudonyms during his career; he went to great lengths to keep their identities distinct and convincing. In the case of Fiona Macleod, her reputation as the leading Scottish author in the Celtic revival during the nineties easily overshadowed Sharp’s own modest fame. Given that the two personalities professed different opinions — as well as different religions[9] — it is important to examine what effect Sharp’s split identity had on the identity of the Evergreen. With ‘decadence’ and ‘degeneration’ being prevailing themes for artists and critics in the period in which the Evergreen was published (the first issue appeared only weeks before Oscar Wilde’s case against the Marquess of Queensberry went to trial), another important question is how the magazine attempted to portray itself as an agent of renewal and rebirth. What is the Evergreen’s relationship to a more ‘decadent’ contemporary like the Yellow Book, for example, or even Sharp’s own Pagan Review (1892)? The object of these lines of investigation is to clarify the Evergreen’s contribution to the Scottish renaissance of the 1890s and, more broadly, fin-de-siècle periodical culture. For reasons of length, the particular focus of this essay will not include either the visual or the scientific side of the Evergreen, though both of these aspects would no doubt bring their own rewards. Instead, it will bring into focus new aspects of the history and character of the manifesto, a genre which became indispensable to the early twentieth-century avant-garde, and to nationalist movements across Europe; and a genre which is only now beginning to receive the critical attention it deserves.[10]

Scottish nationalism is given its most explicit airing in the Evergreen in Geddes’s essay-manifesto, ‘The Scots Renascence’, at the end of the first issue (Spring 1895). It begins on an elegiac note by commemorating the death of John Stuart Blackie, the University of Edinburgh professor whose great popularity was manifested in a long funeral procession through the streets of the city. The piece opens: ‘Blackie was buried yesterday’. Geddes describes ‘the working people in their thousands and tens of thousands [who] lined the way from St. Giles’ to the Dean’.[11] The occasion for mourning, however, soon gives way to a jubilant demonstration of hope for the future:

Coming down the Mound, in full mid-amphitheatre of Edinburgh, filled as perhaps never before, with hushed assemblage of city and nation, the pipes suddenly changed their song, ceased their lament, and ‘Scots Wha Hae’ rang out in strenuous blast; the anthem of a Renascent – ever renascent – unconquerably renascent people.

The death of Robert Louis Stevenson the previous December is recalled (‘it is but one step in thought to that solitary Samoan hill’). The two men are named ‘the leader of nationality’ and ‘the leader of literature’, respectively. Geddes uses these winter deaths in the inaugural spring issue of the Evergreen to frame his challenge: ‘What then – save “Finis Scotiae!” – can remain for us to say?’ (ibid., p. 133).

Geddes begins his answer by acknowledging ‘signs that some reaction’ to Scotland’s troubles ‘is at hand’. But this ‘reaction’ is so far negative because it takes the form of a ‘narrower’ nationalism that ignores the true problems facing the country, whether in education, science, law, literature, or medicine (p. 134). ‘Where then lies the true patriotism?’ he asks. The answer is that it lies first ‘in energy for the living; only secondarily in honours to the dead’. This ‘living Scotland’, with its ‘renascent’ architecture and ‘artistic life’, is centred in Edinburgh, in accordance with Geddes’s belief in the metropolis as a concentration of the intellectual life of a nation. Edinburgh is used consistently in Geddes’s writings as a model or microcosm for larger geo-political phenomena. Indeed, at the end of the piece there is a small drawing of the city in silhouette: fittingly, it is unclear whether the time of day depicted is dusk or dawn, though we might assume the latter. The theme of transition between past and future, endings and beginnings, which runs through the Evergreen is reinforced at the conclusion of the piece, again in the context of Scottish (or more broadly, Celtic) nationalism. The closing lines overlay the opening image of a public funeral with a seasonal image of the Resurrection:

Such is our Scottish, our Celtic Renascence – sadly set betwixt the Keening, the watching over our fathers dead, and the second-sight of shroud rising about each other. Yet this is the Resurrection and the Life, when to faithful love and memory their dead arise. (p. 139)

Edinburgh struggles for precedence with the greater Scottish nation in the pages of the Evergreen, but ultimately it is the city that triumphs. If this is not made sufficiently clear in ‘The Scots Renascence’ of the first issue, then it is made clear in the ‘Prefatory Note’ of the second (Autumn 1895) and the ‘Envoy’ of the final issue (Winter 1896-97), two short manifestos which bookend the Evergreen’s four-issue run. The ‘Prefatory Note’ lists the Evergreen’s main concerns as being ‘the Celtic Renascence, now incipient alike in Literature and Art’ – the confident tone already marking a progression from the issue of the previous spring – and ‘the revival and development of the old Continental sympathies of Scotland’ (p. 8). Both these aims appear at first to be national in character, but on closer inspection they can be seen to fix the Scottish capital in an international context, and to emphasize its distinctive cosmopolitanism. The declaration reads: ‘while we would renew local feeling and local colour, we would also express the larger view of Edinburgh as not only a National and Imperial, but a European city’. It further states: ‘we would … share in that wider culture-movement which knows neither nationality nor race’. There follows a reference to ‘our open and growing group’, a community whose numbers swelled with visitors each August for Geddes’s highly successful summer school at the University. In addition the ‘Prefatory Note’ mentions an ‘illustrious guest’ to the summer school of 1895 and to the Autumn issue. This is the French geographer and anarchist Elisée Reclus, who contributes an article on his idea of ‘La Cité du Bon Accord’, which is again in keeping with Geddes’s civic philosophy and focus.

The second short manifesto, the ‘Envoy’, emphasizes the strong local identity of the magazine. It refers to ‘our little group of townsmen and gownsmen, who for these ten years past have been quietly gathering themselves together among the nooks and byways … of our ever ruinous, ever renascent Old Town’.[12] The group’s eclectic membership and sometimes conflicting views — differences that grew more pronounced, not least between Geddes and Sharp, as the magazine reached its final number — are characterised as strengths. The ‘frankly experimental’ magazine, it states, has had ‘no central authority, still less constraint … its artists and writers have been each a law unto themselves’. Now, at the end of this ‘first venture’, the disparate groups involved, including ‘naturalist’, ‘sociologist’, and ‘Celticist’, would ‘develop apart’, ‘in fresh gatherings and meetings … Scottish or cosmopolitan, in new initiatives at home or afield’. This statement makes it clear that the Evergreen was a local project with international connections and ambitions, only secondarily concerned with the issue of Scottish nationalism. The Evergreen’s nationalism is diluted further still by the broader concept of Celticism. Sharp defined this identity cluster in the prospectus for an unrealized second publication, the Celtic World, which was included in a letter to Geddes in March 1895. The magazine, Sharp wrote, was to include ‘Irish, Scottish, Welsh, Manx, Cornish, & Breton writers’.[13]

The emphasis placed on Edinburgh, in both its national and international contexts, may be explained with reference to Geddes’s geographical and sociological interests. The Outlook Tower on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, which Geddes purchased in 1892, is widely regarded as the symbol — and the literal manifestation — of his vision.[14] In Geddes’s care, the building and its eight floors of exhibits, with the famous camera obscura at the top, was a civic museum that aimed to show visitors ‘the universe as seen from this point in Edinburgh’.[15] The survey began at the top with ‘Edinburgh and its region’ (including a view of the street below through the camera obscura), and proceeded down through ‘ever-widening geographical and cultural zones’ – Scotland, Britain, the British Empire, Europe, and the World – to ground level (Welter, p. 78). Like Yeats’s Thoor Ballylee, the Outlook Tower was a manifesto in architecture, a monumental symbol of its caretaker’s vision. Together with the Evergreen and the publishing house of Patrick Geddes and Colleagues, the Tower was the site from which Geddes and Sharp launched their local, national, and cultural renaissance. Its primary goal, in Elizabeth Sharp’s words, was ‘to recreate an active centre and so arrest the tremendous centralising power of the metropolis of London’.[16]

The Outlook Tower acted as a symbol of resistance and a challenge to London’s hegemony as a centre of innovation and cultural production. But William Sharp’s ambition stretched even further than his wife’s letter suggests. He told Geddes, in January 1895, after receiving the offer of a job at Geddes and Colleagues, that his intention was nothing less than ‘to centralise in Edinburgh all the Celtic work now being done by Scottish, Irish, and Welsh writers’.[17] This was a very bold plan given the success of the Irish Literary Revival at the time. In ‘The Scots Renascence’, Geddes calls for a ‘Literature of Locality’ – a phrase that does little to define its own parameters (p. 137). Evergreen readers may have wondered whether Scotland itself was the ‘locality’ described, or if the nation in this context was only a loose coalition of smaller, more distinct regions. In either case, the phrase suggests a radical decentralization, shifting focus away from London and toward the Celtic fringe, where the Outlook Tower would provide a fresh perspective.

The foundations of the Evergreen project were rooted, in a very literal sense, in Edinburgh. Not only was the magazine a reincarnation of Ramsay’s eighteenth-century publication of the same name; it was actually conceived on premises linked directly to Ramsay. Geddes had purchased Ramsay Garden, just up the Royal Mile at the Castle Gate, in 1894, as one of his several renovation projects in the Old Town. His family moved into one of the flats that he converted from Ramsay’s set of garden homes, while the other flats were earmarked for use by university lecturers and visiting scholars, as well as the Sharps (Mairet, p. 70). This property, like the Outlook Tower, is a perfect symbol of thought and action united: Geddes and his circle meeting on the spot where Ramsay himself once lived and worked on his own Ever Green and his own renaissance. On the subject of the previous Ever Green, Geddes wrote: ‘This little collection of old-world verse, with its return at once to local tradition and living nature, was as little in harmony with the then existing fashion of the day in literature as its new namesake would hope to be with that of our own, – the all-pervading “Decadence”’ (‘The Scots Renascence’, p. 136).

Israel Zangwill, writing in the Pall Mall Magazine in February 1896, saw in Geddes’s renovation projects an attempt to ‘make of Edinburgh the “Cité du Bon Accord” dreamed of by Elisée Reclus’.[18] The author, writing on the Evergreen and ‘the regeneration of Old Edinburgh’ for his regular column, described being led by Geddes on a tour of the Old Town, where he was clearly impressed by the physical manifestation of the Evergreen’s rhetoric of renewal. ‘There stand the houses he has built – visible, tangible’, wrote Zangwill, ‘concrete proofs that he is no mere visionary!’ The strong practical element of Geddes’s programme for a cultural renaissance sets it apart from the plethora of utopian visions suggested by Zangwill’s dismissive phrase, ‘mere visionary’. The activities overseen by Geddes in the mid-nineties, which combined literary and scientific experimentation with grassroots civic projects, were given expression in the Evergreen manifestos and form in the architectural symbolism of the Outlook Tower and Ramsay Garden. What Geddes later called ‘Civism’ (a term he used in 1917 in his manifesto for The Making of the Future) was already at the centre of his philosophy in the Evergreen period.[19] ‘Civism’, combined with Geddes’s internationalism, eventually led to the proposal for a ‘Congrès International des Villes’ (1910), to work toward peace and stability outside the nexus of nation states (Welter, p. 75).

Sharp’s own cosmopolitan ideology is summed up in his ‘Notes’ to Lyra Celtica, a volume of the Celtic Library series published from the Outlook Tower. Here he declared, in relation to Yeats: ‘In the world of literature there is no geography save that of the mind’.[20] The Evergreen editor, according to Flavia Alaya, sought to ‘support national movements while opposing political nationalism’.[21] He was not alone in this aim: ‘Behind him … were his Edinburgh colleagues of the Evergreen group … who seem to have been totally reluctant to make their own Celtic “renascence” either an entirely Gaelic movement or a nationalistic one’ (p. 150).[22] Alaya quotes a passage in the second volume of Geddes’s Memoir, where he states: ‘our little scholastic colony in the heart of Edinburgh symbolises a movement which while national to the core, is really cosmopolitan in its intellectual reach’ (p. 50).

Sharp’s letters to Geddes at this time speak to the confusion of interests. One letter, for example, sees Sharp propose a ‘series of short books of fiction’ by international authors which ‘might be called “The Evergreen Series”: or, say, the “Cosmopolitan” Series’, making the two names appear interchangeable.[23] In her book on Geddes, Helen Meller provides a simple solution to the dilemma of nationalism and cosmopolitanism in the Evergreen project. Using Alaya’s chapter on Sharp’s cosmopolitanism as the basis for her argument, she writes: ‘the paradox was resolved in that their sense of national identity was built on a perception of place, and it was a romantic sensitivity to place which was the key to cosmopolitanism’.[24] However, the strain of these competing ideas of place and identity is not so easily overcome as Meller’s statement suggests. One result of these tensions, in fact, is Fiona Macleod, who embodied Sharp’s romantic idea of Scotland. It is almost as if this second identity was necessary to contain the side of Sharp that was not compatible with urbane cosmopolitanism. This ‘identity crisis’ is linked to the manifesto by the important fin-de-siècle motif of the mask, so beloved of Yeats, and the practice of concealing and revealing. These themes also testify to the manifesto’s ambiguous and problematic authorship, and the strategic uses to which its attribution – group, anonymous, pseudonymous, or otherwise – is put by those seeking a safe position from which to make contentious, even dangerous, declarations.

Manifestos make their declarations implicitly as well as explicitly. A good illustration is the Yellow Book’s omission, in thirteen volumes, of any clear manifesto. This absence, in effect, ‘declares’: it creates a negative or anti-manifesto that is perfectly suited to the message of l’art pour l’art. The magazine serves no larger purpose than the display of art; it does no ‘work’ of any kind, and has no message to relate other than itself. The Evergreen, by contrast, does include a number of manifesto-like statements, some of which are discussed in the present essay. Sharp was not a signatory to any of the Evergreen’s explicit declarations, but with his dual presence in each issue, as William Sharp and Fiona Macleod, he made a bold declaration of cultural and sexual identity, even if this declaration would have gone undetected by the majority of readers. During the winter of 1895, immediately preceding the Evergreen’s first issue, Sharp made a solo journey to the Isle of Arran. From here, he wrote to Elizabeth about his increasing feeling of being ‘two people’:

There is something of a strange excitement in the knowledge that two people are here: so intimate and yet so far-off. For it is with me as though Fiona were asleep in another room … I am eager to see what she will do – particularly in The Mountain Lovers. It seems passing strange to be here with her alone at last … (Quoted in Memoir, p. 244)

In Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, Jack Worthing, the confessed ‘Bunburyist’, admits that although he is Jack in the country he chooses to be ‘Earnest’ when he stays in London. Eventually he learns, much to his surprise and satisfaction, that he really is called Earnest; ‘naturally’, as he tells Gwendolen.[25] Sharp made a similar arrangement, and also found his true self in the mask. Fiona Macleod was country-born, reclusive, and given to mysticism, while ‘William Sharp’ was, in Elizabeth’s words, ‘of the intellectually observant, reasoning mind — the actor’ (Memoir, 223). For Sharp, in contrast to Wilde’s character, the rural self took precedence, and became what Sharp called his ‘truest self’ (ibid., p. 227). To meet the demands of modern life, Sharp, like Jack and Algernon, found it necessary to be two people at once. Fiona represented Sharp’s new interest in all things Celtic and spiritual, and his retreat from the life he lived previously: rootless (though London-based), cosmopolitan, and materialistic. He used the Evergreen, in conjunction with the publishing firm of Geddes and Colleagues, to give Fiona a voice and further her career. The question that must be asked is whether this new identity represented the commodification of an exaggerated or artificial self (of the type that Regenia Gagnier has described in relation to Wilde[26]) or whether she embodied a more sincere quest for the ‘truest self’, albeit through the mask. Alaya notes that, for all his connections with aestheticism, ‘there is yet nothing amused, indifferent, or cynical’ in Sharp’s commitment to radical politics, including feminism, and his belief in the social relevance of art (p. 8).

It is admittedly very difficult to believe that Fiona Macleod was an invention entirely untainted by commercial concerns. Sharp was known in London circles, after all, as something of a hack. Richard Le Gallienne recorded Wilde’s remark that ‘Whenever a great man dies, Hall Caine and William Sharp go in with the undertakers.’ (Both Caine and Sharp published books on Dante Gabriel Rossetti immediately following his death. Sharp’s first three books, including the Rossetti biography, were all published in 1882.)[27] Wilde made Sharp the subject of more than one quip, despite the fact that Sharp had included two of his early poems (‘Libertatis Sacra Fames’ and ‘On the Sale by Auction of Keats’s Love Letters’) in Sonnets of This Century (1886). ‘Have you heard Oscar’s last good thing?’ Yeats asked Katharine Tynan in a letter sent on 28 February 1890. ‘He says that Sharp’s motto should be Acutus descensus averni (sharp is the descent into Hell)’.[28] Although he admired Fiona Macleod, Yeats shared Wilde’s contempt for Sharp as a mere go-between. He made his feelings known when Sharp offered to chair a meeting of the Irish Literary Society in 1897. Yeats declared that Sharp’s presence ‘would bring ridicule on the whole movement’, and the arrangement was cancelled.[29] Even so, Fiona Macleod does seem to be an identity that was felt deeply and passionately by Sharp — much more so, for example, than his earlier use of pseudonyms (for largely practical reasons) in the Pagan Review. The unavoidable fact, however, is that in his alter ego Sharp created a perfect author for the nineties, sufficiently ‘other’ by way of both culture and gender to become, for a brief time, the bestselling novelist that Sharp himself was not. Since he was, to those who met him, more Londoner than authentic Scotsman in his accent and manner, the revelation of Fiona Macleod struck many observers as a cunning trick.

Alaya, writing in 1970, described Sharp as ‘a literary figure in utter disrepute’ (p. 4). Decades of anti-romantic criticism in the earlier part of the century helped to establish the general bias against him, but it was the ‘Celtic siren’ (as Edmund Gosse described Fiona Macleod) who prompted the most disdain. Some critics, like Paul Elmer More in The Drift of Romanticism (1913), sought to isolate and exorcise Fiona Macleod from the more ‘hard-headed’ writing done by Sharp under his own name.[30] Alaya concluded that to distinguish between two ‘Sharps’ does no favours to his oeuvre, and she pointed out that this practice had been used mainly to ‘pass judgement’ on the part of his work more closely associated with ‘decadence’ and the ‘Celtic Twilight’ (p. 7). Nevertheless, it is hard to avoid reaching the conclusion that there are indeed two styles: in the Evergreen, at least, Sharp speaks with two distinct voices. What is important is to see how the pseudonym is used to express something that could not previously be expressed, and to give this expression the feeling of authenticity.

The difference in the Evergreen pieces is chiefly between the odes to nature that Sharp publishes under his own name and the ‘Celtic’ stories and poems that appear under the name Fiona Macleod. Sharp’s poems, one in each of the first three issues, celebrate in turn the north wind (‘Spirit of dauntless life, / And Lord of Liberty!’), a mountain brook (‘Brown, wandering water, / Dear, murmuring water’), and the ocean (‘O Sea, thou terror!’).[31] The poems show neither great depth nor detail, being content mainly to follow the conventions of their genre. They are simple and restrained, despite frequent exclamations. The Fiona Macleod pieces are more numerous and varied: they include four stories and seven poems in a range of styles. To write from a woman’s perspective is evidently not Sharp’s simple concern. In one poem, 'A Summer Air', Fiona Macleod assumes a male point of view, asking 'Where ... / Am I to roam / To find my bride, / To reach my home?'.[32] In fact, Sharp used Fiona Macleod as a means to greater extravagance, both in style and in content. Whereas the poems in Sharp’s own name are conventional and relatively impersonal (allowing for the passionate tendencies of the romantic ode) the poems and short stories of Fiona Macleod are much riskier ventures, more energetic and at the same time darker and more ‘decadent’ in style. They seem to be, in effect, more revealing – a contradiction given the ‘lie’ of their authorship, but consistent with Sharp’s claims about finding his ‘true’ voice. It is the Fiona Macleod pieces, taken as a whole, that make up Sharp’s personal manifesto in the Evergreen.

Sharp also explored the use of multiple pseudonyms in the single-issue Pagan Review, an earlier solo effort in magazine publishing. Here, as in the Evergreen, his authors had well-developed separate identities, which Sharp went to some lengths to protect from disclosure. Again there is a parallel with MacDiarmid, who supplied fictional contributors for his early publishing ventures including the Scottish Chapbook and the Scottish Nation.[33] Wyndham Lewis, too, used the magazine format and the mask as outlets for his prodigious polemicizing, although his aliases (most notably the Enemy) were not kept secret. Sharp’s Pagan Review featured stories, poems, plays, and essays by no less than seven fictional contributors, as well as employing a fictional assistant, W.H. Brooks, to handle correspondence. At least one contributor, W.S. Fanshawe, was even said to have published under his own name. A note explained that Fanshawe’s book must be ordered through Mr. Brooks, ‘Lest any miscarriage or delay occur, owing to Mr. Fanshawe’s absence abroad’.[34] A story entitled ‘The Pagans: A Romance’, written under the name Willand Dreeme, is typical of the content. Wearing its literary flamboyance on its sleeve, it opens with a quote from Wilde. Another contributor is named Verlayne, and if this allusion is not enough, the editorial notes at the back draw curious attention to it, pairing the pseudonym with its source while conversely trying to reinforce the illusion of the pseudonymous author’s existence by attacking him (that is, Sharp attacking Sharp). ‘Mr. Verlayne’s motive is at least original,’ the note states, ‘if, possibly, in its treatment, as Paul Verlaine said of a certain pièce de fantaisie by Rimbaud, un peu posterièure à cette époque’ (p. 41).

The most striking piece in the Pagan Review is its manifesto, which is simply signed ‘The Editor’. The ‘Foreword’, as it is called, is an exemplary declaration of intent. It so thoroughly lays out the character and intentions of the magazine that after reading it one understands completely Elizabeth Sharp’s point that ‘the one number had served its purpose’ and no further issues were necessary (Memoir, p. 204). The values espoused in the manifesto, including atheism, equality between the sexes (‘copartnery’), the cult of youth, and ‘the sacredness of the individual’, were typical of progressive thinking at the time. The rhetoric, however, has more in common with pre-war avant-garde periodicals like Blast than with the Yellow Book. It begins by declaring: ‘We aim at thorough-going unpopularity’, and proceeds to shun the interest of ‘“They”, “the general public”’ (Pagan Review, p. 1). Slogans, rather than carefully phrased sentences, mark the piece: ‘The new paganism is a potent leaven in the yeast of the “younger generation”’, is one example (reminiscent of the futurist Marinetti’s claim to be the ‘caffeine of Europe’); another reads, ‘It is LIFE that we preach … Life to the full, in all its manifestations, in its heights and depths’ (pp. 2-4). At the same time, it steps outside its own rhetoric to make an interesting confession about the relationship between the manifesto and the movement, or in this case the magazine, for which it speaks: 'These remarks, however, must not be taken too literally as indicative of the literary aspects of The Pagan Review. Opinions are one thing, the expression of them another, and the transformation or reincarnation of them through indirect presentment another still'.[35] The review also aims at sexual openness, which was perhaps intended to be its selling point (and one of the meanings implicit in the term ‘paganism’). Men and women being of ‘profound and fascinating’ interest to one another, it argues, ‘it is natural that literature dominated by the various forces of the sexual emotion should prevail’. The editor promises, however, to resist the extremes of ‘some of our French confrères’ (p. 3).

A contemporary review of the Evergreen in the Sunday Times called it ‘the first serious attempt we have seen … to combat avowedly and persistently the decadent spirit which we have felt to be over-aggressive of late’. The reviewer apparently skipped over the Fiona Macleod pieces in reaching this conclusion; it would not be surprising, in fact, to learn that the reviewer’s impression had been derived entirely from William MacDonald and J. Arthur Thomson’s ‘Proem’, which opens the first issue of the Evergreen. The ‘Proem’ is a manifesto of ‘Renascence’: reflecting the spring theme, it declares, ‘behold! the world is young again and visionary’.[36] At the same time, it states: ‘we do not ignore the Decadence around us, so much spoken of’, and decries the ‘clever writers emulously working in a rotten vineyard … healthy young men eager for the distinction of decay’ (p. 10). The authors attack ‘moral vulgarity’, ‘egotism’, and even the epigram, which is judged ‘a means of masking its emotional impotence, its bankruptcy of generous human qualities’ (pp. 11, 15). The programme outlined ‘against the background of Decadence’ is one of civic pride, a return to nature, and practical plans for urban renewal (‘So we may draw a little nearer to the City Beautiful’). The focus of these aims is not Scotland per se, but Edinburgh: ‘Before all others there is our own, unique in the world … what might not this city become!’ (pp. 12-15). The theme of regeneration against the prevailing tide of ‘decadence’ was translated into sociological terms in an article by Geddes in the same issue, ‘Life and its Science’. In these terms the broad aim is ‘to cleanse and change the face of cities, to re-organise the human hive’, metaphors suggesting the possibility of eugenics.[37] Sharp’s contribution to this push for renewal was to be a lecture at the summer school of 1895, entitled, ‘Disintegration: Degeneration: Regeneration’, as well as one on ‘The Celtic Renascence’. The lectures were to be part of a series of ten on the subject of ‘Life and Art’; during the first lecture, however, Sharp suffered a major heart attack, and the series was cancelled in order that he could recuperate (Memoir, p. 251).

Although the Evergreen was a relatively minor event in the full and productive careers of Geddes and Sharp, the magazine is worth revisiting not least as a product of this fruitful collaboration. The Evergreen provides examples of manifestos of an earlier Scottish renaissance, and it was an important influence on the later renaissance led by MacDiarmid. The Evergreen also represents the wider transition or ‘rebirth’ out of the ‘all-pervading “Decadence”’ at the turn of the century. Moreover, it provided a vehicle for Sharp’s unusual expression of his multiple national and sexual identities, his own ‘making manifest’. The success of Sharp’s manifesto is reflected in Yeats’s praise: he called Fiona Macleod the ‘real voice of the Celt’.[38] Finally, the Evergreen, the Pagan Review and the later Chapbook and Nation contribute an important Scottish branch to a broader genealogy of the literary manifesto in Europe.



[1] The Letters of Hugh MacDiarmid, ed. by Alan Bold (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1984), pp. 270-71.
[2] Murray G. H. Pittock, ‘Sharp, William [Fiona Macleod] (1855-1905)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004),, accessed 12 March 2011.
[3] MacDiarmid wrote: ‘There have been a great number of essays on [the Scottish Renaissance] in American, Canadian, French, German & other reviews & books lately and all these writers … omit your name altogether’. Letters, pp. 271-72.
[4] MacDiarmid wrote disparagingly about the lack of artistic manifestos in Scotland: ‘Scottish artists have not written much. They have been unfortunately free from the habit of issuing manifestos.’ See Hugh MacDiarmid, Aesthetics in Scotland, ed. by Alan Bold (Edinburgh: Mainstream, 1984), p. 73.
[5] ‘The Chapbook Programme’, Scottish Chapbook, 1.2 (September 1922), 2. This vow is repeated in Part Three of A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle (Edinburgh: W. Blackwood, 1926): ‘To meddle wi the thistle and to pluck / The figs frae't is my metier, I think.’ The reference is to the famous motto of the Order of the Thistle, ‘Nemo me impune lacessit’, commonly translated into Scots as ‘Wha daurs meddle wi me’.
[6] For a short time, in the mid-1890s, the two separate movements appeared ready to fuse together to create a single Celtic Renaissance. Roy Foster has described a point at which pan-Celticism was ready to take hold, aided by an alliance of two of its leading lights. In June 1896, Yeats ‘had written excitedly to Sharp about the need to further “the mutual understanding and sympathy of the Scotch Welsh and Irish Celts”; this seemed about to happen’. See R. F. Foster, W. B. Yeats: A Life. I: The Apprentice Mage, 1865-1914 (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), p. 166.
[7] Hugh MacDiarmid (C. M. Grieve), ‘Causerie’, Scottish Chapbook, 1.1 (August 1922), 2-5 (p. 4).
[8] Hugh MacDiarmid, The Company I’ve Kept (London: Hutchinson, 1966), p. 79.
[9] Sharp’s background was Protestant, though he might also be described as Pagan, while Fiona Macleod was revealed by Sharp as Catholic. See Flavia Alaya, William Sharp – ‘Fiona Macleod’: 1855-1905 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1970), p. 165.
[10] For recent examples of manifesto scholarship, see Janet Lyon, Manifestoes: Provocations of the Modern (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1999); Mary Ann Caws, ed., Manifesto: A Century of Isms (University of Nebraska Press: Lincoln and London, 2001); Luca Somigli, Legitimizing the Artist: Manifesto Writing and European Modernism, 1885-1915 (Toronto and London: University of Toronto Press, 2003); and Martin Puchner, Poetry of the Revolution: Marx, Manifestos, and the Avant-Gardes (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005).
[11] Patrick Geddes, ‘The Scots Renascence’, Evergreen, 1 (Spring 1895), 131-39 (p. 132).
[12] Patrick Geddes and William MacDonald, ‘Envoy’, Evergreen, 4 (Winter 1895-96), 155-56 (p. 155).
[13] Geddes Collection, National Library of Scotland. Sharp’s ‘very strong list’ promised to include Yeats, Douglas Hyde, and George Russell (AE). Although he would be editor, he told Geddes: ‘I think it best that the Editorial indication should be either | Published by Patrick Geddes and Colleagues |or simply Edited and Published in Edinburgh.’
[14] See, for example, the short section on the Outlook Tower in Volker M. Welter, Biopolis: Patrick Geddes and the City of Life (Cambridge, MA, and London: MIT Press, 2002), pp. 78-80.
[15] Philip Mairet, Pioneer of Sociology: The Life and Letters of Patrick Geddes (London: Lund Humphries, 1957), p. 70.
[16] William Sharp: A Memoir, ed. by Elizabeth Sharp (London: Heinemann, 1910), p. 249. Hereafter cited as Memoir.
[17] Geddes Collection, NLS.
[18] Israel Zangwill, ‘Without Prejudice’, Pall Mall Magazine, 8 (1896), 327-36 (pp. 327-28).
[19] Patrick Geddes and Victor Branford, The Making of the Future: A Manifesto and a Project (London: Sherratt & Hughes, 1917), p. 4. ‘Civism’ is grouped with ‘humanism’ and ‘regionalism’ as the three ‘elements of reconstructive doctrine’. It includes, among other things, ‘repair and renewal of historic cities’ and ‘the tidying up of confused industrial towns’.
[20] Lyra Celtica, ed. by Elizabeth Sharp, introduction and notes by William Sharp (Edinburgh: Patrick Geddes and Co., 1896), p. 399.
[21] For a detailed analysis of this theme in Sharp’s career, see Alaya’s chapter, ‘The New Cosmopolitanism’, in William Sharp – Fiona Macleod, pp. 146-72.
[22] MacDiarmid raised the language issue again in the 1920s, and he, like Sharp, cited the example of the Belgian Literary Revival as an argument in favour of writing in the dominant language. He declared of Scottish literature: ‘Most of it is, of course, and must continue to be, written in English. But it is not English on that account, although it is denounced on that score by the ardent minority bent upon the revival of the Doric.’ See MacDiarmid, ‘Scotland and Belgium’ (1922), reprinted in The Raucle Tongue Volume I, ed. by Angus Calder et al (Manchester: Carcanet, 1996), 28-30 (p. 30).
[23] Geddes Collection, NLS. Letter dated 29 April 1895.
[24] Helen Meller, Patrick Geddes: Social Evolutionist and City Planner (London and New York: Routledge, 1990), p. 100.
[25] At the end of the play, Jack declares: ‘I always told you, Gwendolen, my name was Earnest, didn’t I? Well, it is Earnest after all. I mean it naturally is Earnest.’ Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest, in The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde, ed. by Merlin Holland and others (Glasgow: HarperCollins, 1999), 357-419 (p. 418).
[26] Gagnier writes: ‘The late-Victorian dandy … had no patrons, so he needed a product. He produced himself. The commodification, or commercial exploitation, of the dandiacal self … amounts to the reinscription of art into life’. See Regenia Gagnier, Idylls of the Marketplace: Oscar Wilde and the Victorian Public (Aldershot: Scolar Press, 1987), p. 7.
[27] Quoted in The Complete Letters of Oscar Wilde, ed. by Merlin Holland and Rupert Hart-Davis (London: Fourth Estate, 2000), p. 270. The status of these remarks could be called gossip: Le Gallienne was himself a good friend of the Sharps, and William Sharp stayed with him in London on occasion.
[28] W. B. Yeats, Letters to Katharine Tynan, ed. by Roger McHugh (Dublin: Clonmore and Reynolds, 1953), pp. 111-12.
[29] Quoted in Foster, Life, I, p. 180.
[30] Gosse is quoted in Alaya, p. 6. Her use of More, who propagated the theory of the ‘hard’ Sharp as distinct from the ‘soft’ Fiona, appears on p. 8.
[31] Sharp, ‘The Norland Wind’, in Evergreen, 1 (Spring 1895), p. 109; ‘The Hill-Water’, in Evergreen, 2 (Autumn 1895), pp. 107-09; and ‘Oceanus’, in Evergreen, 3 (Summer 1896), p. 31.
[32] ‘A Summer Air’, Evergreen, 3 (Summer 1896), pp. 104-5.
[33] In fact, as in the case of Sharp-Macleod, Grieve was the editor of these early publications and MacDiarmid was a contributor (MacDiarmid was ‘born’ in the first issue of the Scottish Chapbook, August 1922). See Alan Bold, MacDiarmid (London: John Murray, 1988), pp. 134-35.
[34] Pagan Review 1 (15 August 1892), back cover.
[35] The manifesto ends with another key description of its rhetoric in relation to its realization. It states: ‘“Much cry for little wool”, some will exclaim. It may be so. Whenever did a first number of a new magazine fulfil all its editor’s dreams or even intentions?’ Pagan Review, pp. 3-4.
[36] William MacDonald and J. Arthur Thomson, ‘Proem’, Evergreen, 1 (Spring 1895), 9-15 (p. 9).
[37] Patrick Geddes, ‘Life and its Science’, Evergreen, 1 (Spring 1895), 29-37 (p. 37).
[38] Yeats used this phrase writing in the Sketch (28 April 1897). The piece is reprinted in Yeats, Uncollected Prose, ed. by John P. Frayne, 2 vols (London and Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1970-75), II, pp. 108-10.