Toad went up to town by an early train this morning. And he has ordered a large and very expensive motorcar.

Kenneth Grahame – The Wind in the Willows


As the automobile made its initial impact, how was the collective dream that lay behind it projected into the popular cultural texts and discourses of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries? History is a domain of contested voices — traced from the moment they rise above common murmurings, through their time of cultural ascendancy and, finally, through their period of decline and dissolution.  As Michel Foucault (2007) suggests in his History of Madness, while historians traditionally distinguish between discourses deemed significant and those regarded as ‘fill’, the cultural archaeologist is interested to interrogate those whisperings that resist being coerced into meaning and that sit in cultural apposition to dominant discourses. (xxxi) With reference to technology generally, and the motorcar specifically, the subject of this paper is precisely this ‘noise’: a cultural chatter cast by Foucault as ‘those obscure gestures’ that constitute a ‘hollowed-out void’; a ‘white space’ that ultimately, and ironically, gives culture the very face of its positivity. (ibid.) In History of Madness — and as is the case throughout his oevre — through a painstaking process of cultural retrieval, Foucault unearths certain discursive formations from the background and places them in the foreground.  In so doing, he reorients our organs of cultural perception so that the unheard, the unseen, the forgotten, and the banished might be perceived anew.


At the risk of plagiarising Marinetti’s explosive Manifeste du futurisme (1909), through a process of cultural archaeology, this series of papers seeks to retrieve the largely forgotten clatter, rumble, and roar of the internal combustion engine as it (quite literally) erupted onto the stage of the modern world.[i] In pursuit of this objective, the present paper poses some central questions. How did early manufacturers represent the automobile? What were the preoccupations of their marketing and advertising executives? How did the earliest incarnations of public relations people position the machine? How did the columnists and journalists of the era respond? And did mass media messages about the motorcar somehow manifest themselves in high culture — especially in modern fiction, and particularly in the fictions of E. M. Forster and F. Scott Fitzgerald? These questions are central to this paper — which also considers how it was that we came to lose sight of the automobile; how it was that we became deaf to such a raucous engine of change.


Writing of the confinement of the mad, Foucault (2007) provides part of the answer to the last question. ‘From its originary formulation’, he observes, ‘historical time imposes silence on a thing that we can no longer apprehend…’ (ibid., p. xxxi) Unlike the mad and the venereal, however, the motorcar has not been culturally ‘concealed’ in any out-of-sight, out-of-mind manner, yet a habitualised perception has inevitably hidden from us the essential meanings of the machine — hence the broader relevance of Foucault’s statement.  In what is arguably one of the most important essays written in the area of cultural theory, in his Art as Technique (1917), Viktor Shklovsky explains how familiarity breeds contempt or, at least, a certain indifference.  He argues that the familiar becomes so familiar that we simply no longer see that which is before our eyes: ‘[t]he object is in front of us and we know about it, but we do not see it.’ (p.13) In other words, when we see or hear a thing enough times, we cease to see or hear it at all: its essence — its true meaning — is lost to us. By means of overexposure (rather than the reverse) it becomes one of those ‘obscure gestures’ to which Foucault alludes. Returning to the reception of the automobile, it may be observed that an indubitably habitualised perception renders us blind and deaf not so much to the automobile’s physical presence but to its cultural significance.[ii] With the curiosity of the twentieth century having become commonplace, rather than occupying a substantive rhetorical space at the centre of culture and cultural narratives, over time the motorcar has come to be regarded as more or less epiphenomenal. We may say ‘more or less’ since we are certainly alert to the motorcar when the highways upon which it travels bisect our suburbs or when, for other reasons, it is foregrounded in the headlines of our newspapers—but, in general, as anyone who lives on a busy road might attest, we no longer truly see or hear the automobile. It is this complacency and shallowness of reception and interpretation that perhaps accounts for the complete absence of major secondary texts that interrogate the place the automobile in modern fiction.  Yet, even the most cursory consideration of novels and short fictions written between 1900 and 1925 (when the motorcar was a comparatively new technology) reveals that the machine was regarded as something far more than industrial end product and background noise.  Rather, it was seen as praxis of sorts: a reified symbol of profound significance. (Jameson: 43)  Thus, the fictions of Kenneth Grahame, E. M. Forster, D. H. Lawrence, F. Scott Fitzgerald and many other authors of the era offer a perspective on the automobile informed by the historical dreams expressed in old high culture, by the imagery of popular culture, and by the writers’ artistic intuition that the automobile represents a competing complex of liberating and destructive forces.


At the beginning of the twentieth century, when it was a novelty, writers of fiction received the automobile as an engine of culture and cultural change.  Quite literally, they saw it anew — and considered it iconic: a material representation of powerful, enduring, and profoundly paradoxical ideas. Some even adopted it as a narrative engine: a structural device that would drive narratives to the point that should we take the automobile away, the wheels would simply fall off. In the century since, only a handful of progressive artists such as Jack Kerouac, Hunter S. Thompson, and Bruce Springsteen have so consciously and comprehensively acknowledged the automobile’s function as a cultural and narrative engine. Of the early twentieth century writers themselves, E. M. Forster and F. Scott Fitzgerald display a particularly acute perception of the motorcar’s remarkable duality.  Accordingly, in their fictions, the automobile is represented as a semantic and structural mechanism of near oxymoronic significance: on one hand a vehicle of agency and conquest, and on the other a machine of death and destruction.


By way of completing a setting up of the series’ methodological engines, I acknowledge, especially, Foucault’s notion of discursive formations (competing discourses that may be uncovered by processes of cultural archaeology) and Shklovsky’s theory of estrangement. In conjunction with Marshall McLuhan’s Media Effects (tetrad) Model, these are powerful mechanisms through which we might retrieve meanings long since lost.  Formalism, especially, provides an effective modus through which (an admittedly limited) cultural and literary study of the automobile might be undertaken. As the present paper begins to consider re-presentations of the motorcar in modern culture and in the fictions of E. M. Forster and F. Scott Fitzgerald 1910 to 1925, metaphor, in its various guises, is highlighted as a pivotal means by which our jaded perspectives might be reframed.[iii] In his pursuit of the idea that only art might truly ‘render new’ the thing that no longer registers, Shklovsky (1917) offers his theory of estrangement: a mode of revealing in which the senses are dislocated and reoriented so that the unheard or unseen might be apprehended once more. Also known as defamiliarisation, estrangement (or ‘ostranenie’, in Shklovsky’s original essay) is the principle that lies at the artistic heart of modernism.[iv] In musical form, estrangement gives new meaning to the concept of resurrection in Mahler’s Symphony No. 2. It breathes new life into the idea of seasonal change in Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps.  In dance, it is responsible for the bold challenges to academic tradition offered by Serge Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. In visual form, it is how the Expressionists, Dadaists, Vorticists, and Cubists sought to reveal the dark essence of the electro-mechanical age.  In dramatic form, it is how early twentieth century playwrights sought to confront and represent the dislocating dynamics of their era. It is how Yeats, Eliot, and Pound sought to offer ‘an image / of [the age’s] accelerated grimace.’ (Pound, 98) And, among other things, it is how modern novelists sought to foreground and interrogate the destructive power of emergent technologies.


But, taking historical leads from literary predecessors and cultural cues from contemporary manufacturers, marketers, public relations people, advertisers, columnists, and journalists, in their fictions (and this is a particular focus of the present paper), E. M. Forster and F. Scott Fitzgerald also present the automobile as the triumphant culmination of a collective dream: one having its foundation in the Classical Age.  Of course, informing their narratives are other important messages among which is that, as it swept older technologies from the road, the automobile represented a remarkable manifestation of the new — offering unique sounds and rhythms that find their way into the very texture and syntactic pulse of modern narratives. Moreover, as it roared into the twentieth century the motorcar spoke always of ‘elsewhere’.  Thus, the speeding car facilitated sundry freedoms: avoidance of physical exertion, escape from dull schedules and the teleology of the timetable; transcendence over familiar territories; and triumph over the limitations imposed by class, race, and gender. In addition, the fictions of Forster and Fitzgerald foreground the transgression and non-accountability facilitated by the automobile — advantages obliquely alluded to in the more daring advertisements of the day.  Furthermore, as Wolfgang Sachs broadly observes in his For Love of the Automobile, the motorcar is represented as offering to the tourist enhanced opportunities to sojourn; to the amateur academic, an education ‘on the road’; to the socialite, a whole new set of connections; to the voyeur, glimpses into the forbidden; and to the lover, the mobilisation of the libido and the possibility of remote liaisons.  The fictions of the day also signpost the motorcar as an emblem of industrial and technological might and as a symbol of the élan vital: the engine of the conqueror — an idea pursued, with vigour, by Shaw in his 1902 play Man and Superman.  Thus, and here McLuhan’s Media Effects Model comes into its own, the automobile retrieves and reanimates the tradition of the knight-errant — becoming the mechanism of extended, magnified man; even the salvation-machine of the modern God (a throwback to the deus ex machina of the Classical Age). Inspired by popular representation (and, sometimes, by their own driving experiences) Forster, Fitzgerald, and many other authors of the 1910 to 1925 era certainly celebrate the arrival of motorcar — though not unequivocally.


Where Forster and Fitzgerald part company with the denizens of popular culture is in their assessment of the automobile as an unreliable, untamed, and unnatural artefact. Just as Shaw had seen in 1902 and as Kenneth Grahame had perceived in 1908, Forster and Fitzgerald sense that while produced to magnify human powers, the motorcar paradoxically compromises agency, art, and authenticity.  By way of simple example, both writers point out that while promising freedom from schedules and responsibilities, the prohibitive cost of owning and maintaining an automobile (even a mass-produced one) may leave us destitute and immobile.  Both also advance the proposition that should we remain solvent and achieve the social and economic horizons promised by the automobile — and here is the crucial point — such freedoms come at absolutely crippling cost to the motorist’s fundamental consciousness. By way of example, both authors introduce characters who, thorough their identification with technology, become comprehensively and catastrophically colonised by what Martin Heidegger calls ‘instrumentality’: ‘the fundamental characteristic of technology.’ (p.12) For figures so afflicted (including Fitzgerald’s Tom Buchanan and E. M. Forster’s Charles Wilcox), cognitive operations themselves become slavishly machine-like — ironically echoing the mechanical operations of their automobiles. In the fictions of Forster and Fitzgerald, then, the motorcar comes to communicate the capitalist impulse: every inch of the automobile finally speaks of mass production’s crippling rationalities and an over-reaching of the ego. For both authors, while the motorcar whispers of subtle arts and originality, it also bespeaks its fundamental essence as a counterfeit: a base commodity that compromises any sense of the authentic, including the natural world itself.


While the popular texts of the era naively – or perhaps shamelessly – promote the automobile’s capacity to facilitate connection with the natural world, it is surely a great irony that a machine that permits escape from the manifold impurities of urban milieux tears past pastoral paradises making our apprehension of them quite impossible. And when the motorcar does access the garden, it utterly destroys its beauty. As if all this is not enough to condemn the motorcar, both Forster and Fitzgerald highlight that while the machine magnifies force by unleashing the power of many beasts, it contemporaneously robs us of the human strengths that might bring us closer to the hortus.  As Ralph Waldo Emerson once observed with reference to the coach, quite simply, we no longer walk. The two authors go on to assert that our infatuation with the motorcar encourages a machine-driven hubris that brings us to eventual catastrophe — a central aspect of which is the acquisition of a deracinated, homeless mind: an inevitable consequence of the kind of technical consciousness, or enframement, alluded to above. (Heidegger: 5) Thus, Forster and Fitzgerald explore the idea that the marauding motorcar becomes a second home and that this profound identification with the technological results in a failure to properly ‘dwell’ — causing one’s authenticity to be hopelessly compromised. According to the authors, we connect with neither place nor person. Indeed, Forster’s exhortation to us to ‘only connect’ falls on depressingly deaf ears.[v] In contrast to, and perhaps in defiance of, popular representations that celebrate the tearaway, these novelists therefore consciously foreground the restless minds of figures who enthusiastically embrace the automobile as symbolic confirmation that they neither ‘belong’ nor seek to ‘belong’. Such figures represent a restless, often insouciant, generation intent on usurping the social, economic, and moral orders of their day.  For them, the motorcar becomes a symbol of rebellion and a refusal to put down roots. Of course, herein lies a profound problem: that through its extraordinary hubris, humanity out-paces itself — leaving only a sense of giddy nausea.  While not a message promoted in the media of the day, Forster, in particular, registers this bleak irony.  Nor is it one lost on Fitzgerald.


Inevitably the fictions of Forster and Fitzgerald position the motorcar as a symbol of breakdown and cultural wreckage.  Again, in contrast to the optimistic imagery of contemporary popular texts, in modern fiction the motorcar frequently signposts disruption, collision, and breakdown: accidents and catastrophes; physical and emotional collapse; the shattering of natural linkages; the wrecking of human relationships; and the renting of characters’ communion with the divine.  As suggested above, both Forster and Fitzgerald are aware that, more than any other symbol of the technological order, the motorcar confirms humanity’s propensity to worship the mechanical thing. Finally, of course, the fictions of Forster and Fitzgerald foreground the wretched truth that we are quite literally torn apart by the object of our desire.


Things are seldom what they seem, then.  While the manufacturers, advertisers, public relations practitioners, columnists, and journalists of the era enthusiastically embraced and amplified culture’s latest mechanical murmurings, Forster and Fitzgerald criticise the manifest in order to reveal a disturbing essence. Both are concerned that should the machine be received as only a machine, only its ostensible power might be understood.  While acknowledging that the motorcar enlarges our capacity to conquer, through a range of metaphoric and stylistic contrivances, they are also anxious to highlight that it redoubles our tendency to destroy.  This latter thematic formation emphasises that the conquests of the motorcar are hollow; that its victories are pyrrhic — meanings to which we have become uncommonly deaf and blind. In modern fiction (as in modern poetry), from our increasingly distant postmodern perspective, the occasional roar of a passing aeroplane or the throb of an idling motorcar may be received as a sign of cultural authenticity; as vraisemblance, and nothing more.[vi] After all, and as asserted above, the automobile has become so fundamental a component of our milieu that we have ironically and habitually accepted it as a more or less natural element of our world.


Before turning to popular representations of the motorcar, and manifestations of such in modern fiction, I pause to note an ultimate ‘modernist’ duality: the proposition that even while our identification with the motorcar results in verfall (a catastrophic fall), it is in the midst of that grave danger that there may be hope of redemption. In the fictions of Forster and Fitzgerald the motorcar erupts through narratives as a structural engine: on one hand foreshadowing and occasioning death and, on the other, facilitating a profound, though often temporary, turning away from the technological.  Following Hölderlin’s ‘…where danger is, grows / The saving power also…’ and Heidegger’s notion of vorgängigkeit (that which is prior), the two authors consider the hope that humanity might abrogate its appetency for ‘metalled ways’; that ‘worshippers of the machine’ might rather return to, embrace, and encourage an authentic mode of self-revealing.  (Eliot: 193; 205)


Having introduced themes apropos the automobile that are pursued by modernist authors — and the particular theoretical and methodological engines to be employed in processes of cultural ‘retrieval’ — I return now to the idea of the automobile as a sign of desire in both popular culture and modern fiction.  As suggested in the opening paragraph, a (here, far from complete) process of cultural archaeology provides a useful starting point. By tracing the history of the automobile in terms of imaginative conception and practical development, I establish its cultural significance as a long-held emblem of desire.  From there, I traverse the space between the advent of the automobile and the development of the motorcar.  While showing how dreams of automobiles have excited the imaginations of people for at least three thousand years, I begin this part of the discussion in the era of Charles the First — a period in which the coach supplanted the sedan chair as a means of personal transport.


Modes of conveyance have always invited comparison and, in the seventeenth century, an anonymously penned pamphlet of 1636 records a comedic debate between a personified coach and sedan chair (and their respective supporters).  Central to Coach’s claim that he should rule the road is that he is the preferred means of conveyance for ‘Dukes, Marquises, Earls, Viscounts, Barons, Knights, and Gentlemen…’ (Coach & Sedan: B2)  As measures of status, then, the wealthy increasingly showed off coaches from simple, pared-down racing models (inspired by the military chariots of earlier eras) to refined and ornate ‘calling’ carriages.  Complementing an extensive vocabulary that had grown up around the appreciation of horseflesh, the coach attracted its own lexicon of relative approbation.  And, because it registered pecuniary prowess over several horizons, from the seventeenth century the coach inevitably became a quintessential sign of social hegemony — one that would endure until the late nineteenth century.


By the mid-nineteenth century there existed a breathtaking variety of coach styles: the gig (not a generic term as is often supposed), the public stage coach, the mail-coach, the hackney coach, the curricle, the chaise, the post-chaise, the plain phaeton, the perch phaeton, the sporting phaeton with double perches, the landaulet, the tilbury, and the barouche. Such coaches, and the list offered is far from exhaustive, were subject to examination in minutiae. Commentary included judgements on the standard of chassis construction, the quality of coachwork, and the calibre of interior detail.  On Four Wheels observes that adjectives such as ‘plain’ or ‘dull’ were typical of those applied to plebeian (public) coaches, while approbation was expressed in terms such as  ‘elegant’ or ‘grand’.  (134: 4) Accordingly, a ‘curricle pulled by four well-matched, quick-actioned beasts’ was the mid-nineteenth century equivalent of the modern convertible: a far swifter and more attractive proposition than a ‘dull gig’ pulled by a ‘badly-matched team of tired nags’. (ibid.) While the curricle was the coach of preference (especially for a younger set), the post-chaise was well admired by a more mature community.  For example, James Boswell recalls ‘Dr. Taylor’s large, roomy post-chaise, drawn by four stout plump horses and driven by two steady jolly postillions…’ (Boswell: 295)


Horse and coach clearly facilitated independent mobility and fulfilled the desire to register one’s social hegemony over multiple milieux.  But inherent physical restrictions ensured an ongoing quest for a better means of conveyance.  Wolfgang Sachs has pointed out that the bicycle followed the coach as a mechanism for social agency, but he also observes that, because it depended on animal energy for its motive power and had an even more limited range than did the coach, it is unlikely the bicycle mobilised demand for the automobile.[vii] (p.7) As noted above, the fantasy of a machine that would bestow on mortals the superhuman agency and liberty of gods has, for millennia, excited the collective imagination of humankind. While Coach and Sedan were slugging it out in a popular pamphlet of the 1630s, in 1645, perhaps inspired by the plans for an automobile that may be found Leonardo da Vinci’s Atlanticus Codex, Parisian Gui Patin recorded the dreams of ‘a certain Englishman, son of a Frenchman, who propose[d] to construct coaches [that would] go from Paris to Fontainebleau and return within the same day, without horses, by means of wonderful springs.’ (in On Four Wheels: 135: 1) ‘If this plan succeeds’, enthused Patin, ‘it will save both hay and oats.’[viii] (ibid.) But well before the Englishman’s efforts, and even before Leonardo da Vinci had produced his plans, in around 1470 the latter’s countryman, Francesco di Martini, had designed a clumsy-looking four-wheeled carriage. Each of these wheels was to be driven by a complicated hand-turned capstan. It was thus, with a characteristically Italian optimism, that Martini claimed to have invented the world’s first automobile — a word he coined from the Greek ‘autos’ (self) and the Latin ‘mobilis’ (to move). (ibid.)


It is, however, in the literature of the classical world that images of automobiles find their most impressive manifestation.  The sense of flight and escape suggested by the deus ex machina of classical drama is well known, but less recognised is the remarkable set of automobiles that, according to Homer, were created by Greek fire god Hephaestus.  Featured in The Iliad, these twenty ‘self moved’ vehicles drive to a meeting of nonplussed deities. (Homer: 18, pp.373-377)  While humanity would have to wait until 1769 to see long-held dreams of the automobile turned into a historically verifiable reality, the Chinese may have invented such a vehicle three thousand years ago.


During the Zhou dynasty, an anonymous inventor is thought to have created a fire-cart with independent steering. Translators, including Roger Bacon, brought accounts of the fire-cart to Europe. In a letter written in 1270, Bacon writes of the early automobiles running under their own power ‘being neither pushed nor pulled by animals: cum impetu inestimabli’.[ix] (Bacon in Gimpel: 144) By 1277 Bacon had opined that ‘a chariot can be constructed, that will move with incalculable speed without any draught animal…’ (ibid.) Much later, in the seventeenth century, astronomer and Jesuit priest Father Ferdinand Verbiest (a self-proclaimed, but rather doubtful, inventor of steam-carts) sneered at Bacon’s gullibility.  His interlocutor, Chinese Emperor Kang-Hi, rapidly rebuked the priest — pointing out that records of the fire-carts might be found in the Chinese Imperial Library.


In the late eighteenth century, developments in steam technology intensified moves to make an automobile.  With the invention of Watt’s second (double-acting) steam-engine, ‘a prime mover [was] found that begot its own force by the consumption of coal and water; whose power was entirely under man’s control; that was mobile, and a means of locomotion…’ (Marx: 184) Carried out between 1763 and 1775, Watt’s work led to the development of what can, with some legitimacy, be called the first automobile: Nicholas Cugnot’s steam-driven, three-wheeled creation of 1769. Further significant developments, most notably the advent of the ‘flash-boiler’, guaranteed that a more practical automobile might soon take to the roads of the developed world.  Indeed, in America, and in spite of construction difficulties and painfully prohibitive maintenance bills, the steam-car remained popular until the early twentieth century. There is a reference to one in Shaw’s Man and Superman.  In general terms, though, by the mid 1880s attention had turned away from steam as a source of motive power.  Electricity was now the thing.[x]


But, as did the steam-car, electric automobiles posed significant problems.  Short battery life, limited range, and, once again, heavy running costs ensured that such vehicles would not endure.  On Four Wheels reports that, at the turn of the century, ‘running costs often reached a staggering seven-hundred pounds per annum – a small fortune.’ (30: 594) It is, therefore, less than surprising that the electric car was widely regarded as a plaything for America’s richest families.  However, and despite inherent limitations, in both steam and electric cars, humanity’s dreams of a self-moving vehicle were realised. With this extraordinary historical, cultural, and literary pedigree behind, the enthusiasm with which the motorcar was greeted just a few short years later is all the more understandable.


In 1885 Karl Benz offered to the world his famed three-wheeler. It sported electric ignition, mechanical valves, and a carburettor: the essential components of the internal combustion engine.  It was the world’s first motorcar, ironically patented as a ‘carriage with gas engine’. (Pizer: 29)  While Benz’s machine initially received a lukewarm reception, it soon confirmed a social aesthetic hitherto only partially realised: a simple-to-operate, self-propelled mechanism that would facilitate the conquest of time and space. To ensure this happened, in 1888, together with the couple’s two sons, Benz’s concerned wife, Bertha, pulled off a public relations coup.  While the inventor was sleeping, she and the boys pushed Benz’s latest vehicle out of their shed and Bertha successfully drove it the sixty-odd miles from Mannheim to Pforzheim.  Benz himself learned of the audacious move through a note his wife had left on their dining room table. Despite the fact that vehicle broke down a number of times and that it frightened a number of the people it passed, Bertha Benz’s feat is generally credited with sparking a surge of demand.  The potential of the motorcar was quickly appreciated and in 1889 Gottileib Daimler invented a V-slanted, two-cylinder, four-stroke engine that would drive future developments.  Published as Anticipations in 1901, but written much earlier, H. G. Wells’ (popularly read) mechanical prophecies were soon reality. ‘There will first’, wrote Wells, ‘be the motor truck for heavy traffic [and] in the next place…there will develop the hired or privately owned motor carriage.’  ‘This’, he claimed, ‘will add a fine sense of personal independence…[and will] be capable of a day’s journey of three hundred miles or more…one will be free to dine where one chooses, travel asleep or awake, stop and pick flowers…’ (Wells: 4-15)  Horse and coach were clearly doomed, and the motorcar became the new totem of cultural achievement.


From about 1895 to 1910, contributors to popular and special interest magazines recorded (and almost celebrated) the disappearance of the horse.  An 1896 edition of the one-year-old specialist magazine The Autocar, for example, vaunts the new technology.[xi]  In an untitled article, staff writer Harry Lawson writes that regardless of the weather, the owner of a motorcar may relax and not concern himself about his horse ‘eating its head off in the stable, requiring constant feeding and grooming, and getting out of condition for want of exercise…’ (pp.1-2)


The year after, the following ‘advertisement’ for Daimler appeared in a European newspaper:

A Daimler is a worthy beast,

Pulls like an ox, seen west and east.

It doesn’t feed whilst in the stall,

And only drinks when work’s the call.

It threshes, saws, and stands your loan,

When you fall short, a common moan.

Ne’er ill in foot and mouth and bite,

And never up and goes on strike.

It doesn’t scorn, attack with horn,

Does not consume your hard-grown corn.

So buy yourself just one such beast,

Forevermore you’ll lack the least.[xii]

(in Sachs: 7)


In 1898, Scientific American published what is popularly believed to be the world’s first conventional automobile advertisement. Headed up ‘Dispense With A Horse’, the advertisement by the Winston Motor Carriage Co. of Cleveland, Ohio, sported a sketch of the manufacturer’s automobile and urged readers ‘to save the expense, care and anxiety’ of owning a beast by investing in ‘the best vehicle of its kind’. (p.80) By 1899 the fate of the horse was sealed.  In that year ‘Akron police traded their horse-drawn paddy-wagon for a motorised truck and a particularly prescient Boston resident lodged an advertisement offering a stable for renting, sale, storage, and repair of motor vehicles.’ (Pizer: 70) According to Pizer, this was likely America’s first garage and a sure sign that the horse and coach had had its day — a view confirmed by a growing number of advertisements and the observations of social commentators and columnists. (ibid.) In 1900, for example, automobile manufacture Orio and Marchand published a telling advertisement.  In it, a man gazes at a billboard that heralds the arrival of the motorcar.  To this figure’s right, lightly etched and with its head drooped in a gesture of submission, is a blinkered draught-horse.  While the motorcar depicted to the beast’s left itself looks ghostly, the fact that its headlights are uncovered and that is pointing away from the horse suggests the forward-looking promise of a new era.[xiii] (in Roberts: 20)


In Anticipations, Wells added his voice to a gathering chorus of popular condemnation.  ‘The horse’, he complained, ‘refuses most resolutely to trot faster than fifty miles an hour, and shies and threatens catastrophe at every point and curve.’ (p.13) Such sentiments found their way into a broad range of popular media. Wolfgang Sachs records the sentiments of L. Baundry de Saunier, a French proponent of the automobile who, in 1902, declared: ‘It can…be said with certainty that the horse — a weak, dangerous, costly, and dirty motor, easily broken and hard to repair … is destined to disappear.’ (Saunier in Sachs: 5-6)  By 1910 a hand-drawn picture appeared in the (increasingly popular) magazine Auto Week. From the back seat of a chauffeur-driven motorcar, a small child is depicted looking over her shoulder at a dray.  She is exclaims to her mother: ‘Look Mamma, there’s a horse!’  (Roberts: 42) Again, the beast’s head is down in a now familiar sign of submission to the machine while all around it may be observed the silhouettes of marauding automobiles. But it still took time for the new technology to substantially separate itself from its cultural legacy.


As noted above, the world’s first motorcar was patented as ‘a carriage with gas engine’.  In fact, a good many early automobiles took their names directly from the specialised vocabulary of the coaching era.  For example, in 1908, as he contemplated the manufacture of the Silver Ghost, C. S. Rolls referred to the ‘Rolls-Royce landaulet’ and, as late as 1925, the Hispano-Suiza was badged as the ‘H6B Double Phaeton’. There were also certain architectural characteristics that betrayed the parentage of the early motorcars.  Most significantly, it took designers quite some time to move the engine to the front of their vehicles and so replace the awkward contrivances meant to mimic the head of a horse.[xiv] It may be suggested, then, that H. G. Wells’ metaphoric assertion — ‘before every engine…trots the ghost of a superseded horse’ — is quite literally true.  (Wells: 13) It was in 1894 that Frenchman Emile Lavassor broke with tradition by offering the Systeme Panhard: a layout that would characterise all but the most exotic of motorcars for the next seventy years.  It required a front-mounted engine, rear wheel drive, clutch, and gearbox. As improvements came on apace, journalists, in particular, could hardly contain themselves. An 1896 edition of England’s Ashburton Guardian enthusiastically confesses that: ‘[t]he Press generally laud the advent of the motor cars.’ (“The Autocar” Race, p.3)  In the same year the Ellesmere Guardian opined that: ‘[m]any people do not seem to realise the enormous change that will shortly come in our vehicular methods…. [T]he autocar has been brought to such a pitch of perfection that it may be used safely and cheaply. … The Leeds man will hold himself independent of railways, and after the day’s toil will join his family at Scarborough in a few hours, thanks to the autocar.’ (“The Future of the Autocar,” p.2)


While this, and the various popular representations of the motorcar already referenced, confirms the dawn of a new era, the passing of the horse age and the new appeal of the petrol-driven automobile are also observed in high culture.[xv] In Howards End (1910), a novel that might broadly be said to deal with a clash of cultures in late Edwardian/early Georgian England, there is a poignant moment when Margaret Schlegel asks Mrs Wilcox the fate their pony (now that a garage has been built in its paddock).  The latter’s abstracted reply — ‘The pony? Oh, dead, ever so long ago’ — foregrounds the passing of a genteel age, and what will be the new reign of the motorcar in the era of George V. To this end, Forster consciously identifies the Victorian sensibility of Margaret and her effeminate, romantically-inclined brother, Toby, with the horse and cart rather than with Mr Wilcox’s new automobile — which Margaret ironically admires as a ‘creature’ both ‘new[er] … and … fairer’ than its owner’s previous model.  (p.135) While a certain semantic undertow may be detected (something explored in a later paper in the series), this personification of the vehicle positions the motorcar as conqueror par excellence. In his essay “Discovering England: The View from the Train (1997), John Lucas calls the motorcar a ‘symbol of intrusive…power’ that rides over the rural pleasaunce — of which horses were a significant part. (p.38) Later in Howards End Henry Wilcox’s machine ‘[passes] by the stables of Buckingham Palace’: a subtle comment on the aristocratic order’s propensity to cling to the past — something the author ultimately encourages us to consider a good thing vis-à-vis the new capitalist’s determined drive for commercial and technological ‘advancement.’ (p.136) Similarly, while obviously signs of the conspicuous consumption and social agency of the leisure classes, Tom Buchanan’s stables and string of ponies in The Great Gatsby represent one of many (often ironic) attempts in the novel to reclaim the past.


In Forster’s A Passage to India, too, the author’s preference for aboriginal culture and technology is expressed in the sixteenth chapter: a motorcar fails to achieve the mysterious Marabar while an elephant cavalcade succeeds. (p.70) We may observe identical preoccupations in D. H. Lawrence’s fiction, most notably in his short story St. Mawr where the horse from which the tale takes its title is clearly identified with an older, more authentic culture.  But, in this story, and as is often the case in fin de siècle fiction, the old world’s encounter with the new is generally emblematised through the complete conquest of horse and cart by automobile technologies.


Of course, in English literature, the arrival of the motorcar (and the demise of the horse and carriage) finds its unparalleled expression in Kenneth Grahame’s 1908 children’s classic The Wind In The Willows:


‘The old grey horse, dreaming, as he plodded along, of his quiet paddock, … drove the cart backwards towards the deep ditch at the side of the road.  It wavered an instant – then there was a heartrending crash – and the canary-coloured cart, their pride and joy, lay on its side in the ditch, an irredeemable wreck.’

             (Grahame: 27)

Here, the collision of carriage and motorcar culture is celebrated in a chapter appropriately entitled ‘The Open Road’.  Toad of Toad Hall takes his friends Ratty and Mole out for a few days’ ramble in his ‘beautiful cart’ but the simple pleasures of the countryside will be disastrously disturbed.  From far behind, the company hear ‘a faint warning hum’.  They glance back to see ‘a small cloud of dust, with a dark centre of energy, advancing on them at incredible speed.’  It is the irrepressible energy of the motorcar, a machine about to wreak havoc.  The automobile’s horn sounds its brazen cry, the animals catch a glimpse of a glittering and rich interior of plate glass and morocco, and the motorcar ‘immense, breath-snatching, passionate, with its pilot tense and hugging the wheel’, flashes past.  The excerpt above tells the rest. Although the two other animals are outraged, especially the Rat, Toad sits rapt in the middle of the road proclaiming that he is ‘done with carting forever’, and that motoring is the ‘only way to travel’. (Grahame: 26 -31)


The whole episode is a modern metaphor: the relative ennui of the Victorian age is left behind in the wake of the energy, vibrancy, and new mobility of the late Edwardian era.  And so in Lawrence’s ‘St. Mawr’, the horse shies at a furniture van while in ‘The Captain’s Doll’ Hepburn and Hannele’s hired motorcar scatters a herd of horses, the machine’s driver expressing a gruff indifference by complaining ‘If it isn’t a cow, it’s a horse.’ (Lawrence: 531) Similarly, in Katherine Mansfield’s ‘The Garden Party’, a man is thrown from his horse when it rears at a traction engine and in Forster’s Howards End, on returning from their motor-tour, Henry and Evie crash into ‘a wretched horse and cart’ driven by ‘a fool of a driver.’ (p.96) Here, then, is another unfortunate meeting of two cultures and two sensibilities.  But there is no impasse.  The new world, as represented by the motorcar in the fiction of the era, consistently rides roughshod over the old.  The desire for the new cannot be reversed.


From the outset, motorcar manufacturers made all kinds of appeals to all kinds of desires — and the desire for the new thing was readily identified as a major driver of an emerging consumer culture. While other desires undoubtedly mobilised demand for the automobile  — among these, the desire for freedom, the desire for ease and comfort, the desire for safety, the desire for high fashion, and the desire for reliability — above all others, the desire to replace the old thing with the new is at the heart of the love of the automobile. Even before the turn of the century, the idea that innovation is amelioration had found its way into popular discourse.  In the inaugural edition of The Autocar, for example, the editor embraces the ‘horseless carriage’ as ‘the latest’. (November, 1895: 1) Then, in an effort to justify the relevance of his periodical, he asserts that ‘[t]he latest is the best’ and that ‘the best deserves to be celebrated.’[xvi] (ibid) By 1909, however, it seemed that technology was at its limits.  In July of that year The New York Times ran a feature article in which a subheading proclaimed ‘Auto Has Reached Such a High Standard of Perfection that Only Minor Improvements Will be Made.’  (Motorcars of 1910 will Show Few Changes, NYT: 04 July, 1909: S4)  Inevitably, though, motorcars improved dramatically and it became the norm to apply to them adjectives such as ‘better’, bigger’, ‘faster’, and ‘stronger’.  By 1920, Alfred Sloan (GM of General Motors) was telling his assistant executives that demand for the motorcar should be based on a ‘certain amount of dissatisfaction with past models.’ (Sloan in Flink: 124)


As one might expect, writers of the early twentieth century enthusiastically picked up on this theme of technical amelioration.  Motoring enthusiast Bernard Shaw, of course, saw the motorcar as a quintessential emblem of improvement.  With the exception of Pygmalion, in which Eliza tells Higgins that he has the finesse and tact of a motorbus, the playwright sees the automobile as a sign of the superman ideal.  Shaw writes: ‘…[the motorcar] cannot be suppressed: it is improving our roads, improving the manners and screwing up the capacity and conduct of all who use them; improving our regulation of traffic, improving both locomotion and character as every victory over Nature finally improves the world and the race.’ (Shaw: 214)  F. Scott Fitzgerald, of course, also leverages the automobile as a sign of the new and utterly desirable.  In The Beautiful and Damned, by juxtaposing her with the ‘newest and most beautiful designs in automobiles…out on Fifth Avenue…’, the narrator reinforces Gloria’s role as a notional fashion-leader (p.116) And in The Great Gatsby Nick employs the following metaphor to estrange (and thus convey the essential spirit of) the hero’s romance with Daisy: ‘fresh and breathing and redolent of this year’s shining motorcars…’ (p.140)


From 1908, and the publication of The Wind in the Willows, through to the mid-twenties and the publication of The Great Gatsby, literary texts acknowledge a new consciousness: one positively attuned to the energy of the motorcar.  While these and the texts of the intervening years also condemn the vehicle, there is an undeniable genuflection to the sentiment of popular culture.  It seemed that everywhere, everyone was welcoming the petrol-driven automobile. The following words, which appeared in the News-Tribune of 04 February 1900, suggest that reporters had woken up early to the rhythms of modernity and that discord did not necessarily mean disapproval.


‘There has always been at each decisive period in this world’s history some voice, some note, that represented for the time being the prevailing power.  There was a time when the supreme cry of authority was the lion’s roar.  Then, came the voice of man.  After that it was the crackle of fire … And now, finally, there was heard in the streets of Detroit the murmur of this newest and most perfect of forces, the automobile, rushing along at the rate of 25 miles an hour… . It was not like any other sound ever heard in this world.  It was not like the puff! puff! of the exhaust of gasoline in a river launch; neither is it the cry! cry! of a working steam engine; but a long, quick, mellow gurgling sound, not harsh, not unmusical, not distressing; a note that falls with pleasure on the ear.  It must be heard to be appreciated.  And the sooner you hear its newest chuck! chuck! the sooner you will be in touch with civilisation’s latest lisp, its newest voice…’.

(in Lacey: 47-48)


As Julian Symonds writes in Makers of the New, it would not be long before artists would attune themselves ‘to the noise, clatter, and movement of the internal combustion engine….’. (p.35)


So it was that, in response to Filippo Marinetti’s exhortation to artists to interpret ‘the musical soul of … trains, tanks, automobiles, and aeroplanes’[xvii], in ‘The Art of Noises’ (March, 1913) Futurist musician Luigi Rossolo pleaded for musicians to cross the great modern capitals ‘with [their] ears more alert than [their] eyes’. (Rossolo in Apollonio: 75) Here, he also called for modern music to be ‘PARALLELED BY THE MULTIPLICATION OF MACHINES…’.[xviii] (ibid.) And it was here that he also called for the ‘palpitation of valves, the coming and going of pistons, [and] the howl of [the mechanical]’. (ibid.) Rossolo divides his preferred noises into two groups: the first comprising ‘rumbles, roars, explosions, crashes, splashes, and booms’, and a second comprising ‘the whistle, the snort, and the hiss.’ (ibid.)  Of course, the motorcar did it all, and so it was little wonder that Rossolo’s greatest musical triumph came with the development of the composer’s infamous noise intoners. Unveiled in June 1913, through its ten halftones, the first of these monolithic ‘instruments’ unleashed the shocking roar of an unsilenced internal combustion engine.[xix] In 1914, not long before performing hisThe Meeting of Automobiles and Aeroplanes’ at the Coliseum, Rossolo set up several intoners in Marinetti’s home. He was to give a private performance. Among the guests were Igor Stravinsky and Serge Diaghilev: aficionados of the Eastern and Western manifestations of Futurism. Francesco Cangiullo writes that when Rossolo fired up one of the intoners, Stravinsky ‘leapt from the divan like an exploding bedspring’ and ‘with a whistle of overjoyed excitement, Diaghilev quavered “Ah Ah”… for him the highest sign of approval.’[xx] (in Bozzolla & Tisdall: 118)


For the Futurists, then, the motorcar was an ally of unparalleled potency.  It encapsulated everything they were about and through it, as Tim Benton writes, artists like Marinetti and Rossolo sought to realise their Nietzschean fantasies.’[xxi] (Benton: 19) Prized for all sorts of things, then, the automobile was also celebrated by the Futurists as a sure sign that the world would have to adapt to a new rhythm: ‘Let us break out…make the music lovers scream…[i]t’s no good objecting that noises are exclusively loud and disagreeable to the ear.’ (Rossollo in Apollonio: 76)  Painters, too, were keen to represent the noise of the internal combustion engine, a particularly striking example being Charles Demuth’s ‘No. 5’ (1928) — completed as a complementary text to William Carlos Williams’ poem ‘The Great Figure’ (1920).[xxii]  In a spirit of remarkable fidelity to the poem, Demuth’s painting depicts a profoundly defamiliarised fire engine screaming through darkened city streets. There is a confronting, yet magnificent, sense of cacophony and irrepressible energy: a perfect image of Williams’ ‘gong clangs / siren howls’ and rumbling wheels.[xxiii] (online, p.81) This celebration of mechanical noise was an aesthetic also embraced by the writers of fiction.


Almost inevitably, novelists including Kenneth Grahame, E. M. Forster, D. H. Lawrence, and F. Scott Fitzgerald appropriate the sound of horns and motors.  Even before the Futurists had positioned the motorcar as ‘totem par excellence’ of modernity, in The Wind in the Willows the brazen ‘poop-poop’ of the gentlemen’s automobile seems more a celebration than a ‘double note of warning’.  (p.26) And, at the other end of our era, in The Great Gatsby, the ‘burst of melody’ from the ‘three-noted horn’ of the protagonist’s Rolls Royce heralds a riotous magnificence. (p.63) While only partially apprehending the structural and semantic significances of the motorcar in his essay “The Automobile as a Central Symbol in F. Scott Fitzgerald”, Luis Echevarria does point to Fitzgerald’s use of the semi-echoic ‘snorting’ to personify an automobile in The Price Was High and to the suggestively ‘throbbing’ taxicabs mentioned in The Great Gatsby.[xxiv]  (Echevarria, p.175) Between the publication of The Wind in the Willows and The Great Gatsby we may find many approbatory references to the sound of motorcars.  For example, Sewell Ford’s novella Honk, Honk!! Shorty McCabe at the Wheel (1909) takes as part of its title the triumphant blaring of a motor-horn while Philip Meldrum, protagonist of Ian Hay’s 1914 novel A Knight On Wheels, sees ‘poetry in the curve of a radiator and…[hears] music in the whizzing of a clutch’. (p.146) Later, this same ‘twentieth century Galahad’ announces his arrival with ‘the melodious toot of a well-modulated Gabriel horn.’ (p.146, 185) For Septimus Smith, of Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway (1925), ‘the throb of…motor engines sound[s] like a pulse irregularly drumming through an entire body.’ (p.11) For him, ‘the voices of birds and the sound of wheels chime and chatter in a queer harmony’ (p.49) and he hears in the sound of horns and motors the anthem of the twentieth century: ‘It is a motor horn down in the street, he muttered; but up here it cannoned from rock to rock, divided, met in shocks of sound which rose in smooth columns (that music should be visible was a discovery) and became an anthem.’ [xxv] (ibid.)


The rhythm of the internal combustion engine, then, echoes across modernity’s entire artistic landscape.  No art form was immune and, although not acknowledging as much explicitly, in The Rest is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century (2009) Alex Ross indubitably implies that the musical dissonance that had manifested itself since the late nineteenth century seemed predicated, in part at least, on the roar and clatter of the mechanical world. (pp. 62-63) Predictably, though, it was T. S. Eliot who, in 1921, properly perceived the cognate forms that underpin modern musical expression — in particular, those that inform Stravinsky’s score in The Rite of Spring. According to Eliot’s biographer, having attended a performance of Le Sacre, the poet ‘stood up and cheered.’ (Ackroyd: 112)  Acknowledging the seminal importance of Le Sacre in the ‘Dial’, Eliot claimed it metamorphosed ‘the rhythm of the steppes into the scream of the motor-horn, the rattle of machinery, the grind of wheels, the beating of iron and steel, the roar of the underground railway, and the other barbaric cries of modern life…’ (Eliot in Crawford: 139) Inspired, in significant measure, by the jarring juxtaposition of Le Sacre, as the first quarter of the twentieth century drew to its conclusion, Eliot worked and reworked the tortured forms, discordant voices, and profoundly defamiliarised images of his own modernist opus: ‘The Waste Land’ (1922). Here, with the assistance of amanuenses Ezra Pound, and in accordance with the Eliot’s sensitivity to the auditory imagination, broken rhythms and fractured cadences (including the sounds of horns and motors that Woolf and Fitzgerald would echo just three years later) give full voice to the quickening — and dislocating — spirit of the age. It is precisely toward this emergent aesthetic and its inherent paradoxes that a forthcoming paper is steered.





[i] The motorcar makes its first physical appearance in stage drama in Joseph Holt’s 1908 play The Great Millionaire. According to anonymous reviewer ‘Footlight’, Holt, who is better known as ‘Bland’, has his ‘villain’s car rush[ing] round a corner (of the stage) and over a cliff.’  (‘Dramatic and Musical’, p.14) Another, equally anonymous, reviewer, this time for the Otago Witness, refers to the same ‘motorcar incident’ as a ‘sensation’. (“The Bland Holt Season, The Great Millionaire”, p.70)

[ii] This habitualised perspective is likely to explain the failure of those great many anti-speeding campaigns that relentlessly and unimaginatively bludgeon viewers with the same images. Thus, one of the accepted rules of advertising, ‘repeat the message,’ is likely to engender precisely the opposite response to that intended.

[iii] In Formalist theory, metaphor is favoured as the artistic device by which one might make new the familiar.

[iv] Estrangement is not a technique, as is often supposed.  It in fact refers to a range of devices, including metaphor, that disrupt our customary perceptions, thereby rendering experience ‘strange’.

[v] The words appear in the epigraph to Howards End (1910) and again in chapter 22 of the same novel. We are reminded, too, of Eliot’s The Waste Land where a tortured soul laments that he can ‘connect / Nothing with nothing.’ (l. 301-02)

[vi] While Eliot’s throbbing taxi in ‘The Waste Land’ receives very little explicit acknowledgement from academics, Fitzerald’s oblique (defamiliarised) allusion to it in The Great Gatsby prompts us to consider it anew.  See note # 24, below.

[vii] In 1790 Frenchman Comte Mede de Sivrac invented the bicycle.  Because bicycle manufactures often became motorcar manufacturers it is commonly, but erroneously, assumed that the invention of the bicycle informed the invention of the automobile.

[viii]  It is not known whether a working prototype of Leonardo da Vinci’s automobile was ever built in his own lifetime, but in 2004 Italian scientists interpreted the drawings and built the vehicle complete with two spring-driven torque converters. It ran perfectly, but would turn in one direction only. (Kennedy, online). References to other spring-driven automobiles may be found in later literature.  In 1769, in Boswell’s Life of Johnson, the author records a conversation between the doctor and a Mr. Ferguson wherein the latter boasted of ‘a new-invented machine operated by ‘a man who sat in it [turning] a handle which worked a spring which drove it forward.’ (Boswell: 171)

[ix] Bacon’s account of the Chinese automobile appears to have inspired Leonardo da Vinci who mentions Bacon in one of his notebooks.

[x] Sometime between 1832 and 1849 (the exact date remains uncertain) Scotsman Robert Anderson developed the first electric vehicle.

[xi] The Autocar, the world’s oldest surviving motoring periodical, was formed in 1895 when there were fewer than ten machines in Britain.

[xii] Decades earlier Karl Marx had written: ‘Of all the great motors handed down from the manufacturing period, horse-power is the worst, partly because a horse has a head of its own, partly because he is costly, and the extent to which he is applicable in factories is very restricted.’ (Marx: 183)

[xiii] In the same year, the first major US automobile exhibition opened in New York City. Billed as a ‘horseless horse show’, it featured a prototype of the first mass-produced motorcar — Ransom Olds’ ‘Curved Dash’, manufactured from 1901 to 1907.

[xiv] Some designers had actually gone to the trouble of attaching false horse heads to the fronts of their vehicles.

[xv] The proliferation of automobile clubs also suggested that a new era had arrived. Formed in 1895 in Paris, the first of these was the Automobile Club de France. Similar clubs soon appeared in Great Britain, Belgium, Germany, and Switzerland. The American Automobile Association was established in 1902 and by 1924, just five years after Edward Bernays had opened the first officially recognised public relations firm, the new National Automobile Club of America set up a publicity department to develop goodwill and to publish a national motoring magazine. (National Auto Club, online)

[xvi] This notion of eternal amelioration lives on in the promotional literature of the post-modern era.  The front page of an Autocar supplement announcing the arrival of the ‘all new’ 1996 BMW 5-series is subtitled:  ‘Probably the best car in the world’. (BMW, 1995) The next page announces that ‘BMW’s new 5-series is bigger and better than its predecessor.’ (ibid.)

[xvii] See Marinetti’s Manifeste du futurisme (1909), in Apollonio, p.17)

[xviii] The text is capitalised in the original.

[xix] The late New Zealand motoring icon, Sir Len Southward, remembered the early motorcars as being ‘terrifically loud’.  In a 1993 interview with the author he observed that, prior to 1914, many models lacked silencers — instead opting for straight, uninterrupted exhaust pipes. Several makes, including the 1912 four-cylinder Buick, were banned from New Zealand roads. (Southward, 1993)

[xx] It might be speculated that Stravinsky’s response was less a sign of approbation than an expression of sheer terror.

[xxi] The Futurists adored Nietzsche.  Mussolini’s grossly over-simplified 1911 interpretation of Nietzsche met with the unequivocal approval of Marinetti and associates who concurred with the notion of the destructive libertine.  As Bozzolla and Tisdall put it: ‘Futurism shared at least three characteristics with Fascism — romantic and uninformed glorification of the machine [that is, technology] in society, the use of physical violence against opponents, and infatuation with youth… .’ (p. 200)

[xxii] The poem is otherwise known as ‘I Saw the figure 5’.

[xxiii] Addressed to a Mercedes touring car, W. E. Henley’s poem ‘A Song of Speed’ (1903) also employs concatenated syntax and pounding rhythms to express and celebrate the new metre of the motoring era.

[xxiv] In ‘The Waste Land’ (1922), T. S. Eliot likens the human engine to that of a ‘throbbing taxi’: something with potential that nonetheless remains stationary. (Pt. III, l.217: p.71 ) In the next line, the androgynous Tiresias is said to be ‘throbbing between two lives’. (ibid. l.218)

[xxv] Cf: ‘But at my back from time to time I hear / The sound of horns and motors… (Eliot, ‘The Waste Land’, Pt. III, l.196-197: p. 70)





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