Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

bidden on week days as well as on Sundays. Other holiday resorts, as the English quaintly term them, do not allow tennis, dancing, or even solitary swimming, on the Lord's Day. This is indeed a sour reward for all that the travel bureaus, statesmen, and public citizens have done 'to make known the amenities of British holiday resorts.' The Westminster Gazette, in which the sad news appeared, wistfully remarked that everyone 'recognized not only the monetary but the political value to the country of attracting foreigners to Britain, while keeping our own people at home.' Although the 'political value' of numerous visitors to England remains distinctly dubious, the political wisdom of keeping Englishmen at home would be endorsed in many of the backward countries. On the whole, it seems too bad that the movement is not gaining ground any faster.

Found - One Gainsborough THE other day Lieutenant-Colonel Arthur Morton Grenfell turned in despair to his local picture dealer. It appeared that the Colonel's new house at 9 Connaught Place possessed an enormous expanse of empty wall space which had to be filled somehow or other. When the dealer heard the dimensions required he heaved a sigh of relief, and sent around a huge landscape measuring nine feet by twelve. The picture was attributed to Van der Meulen or Termeulen, or, as the art critic of the Morning Post puts it, 'some such name,' and the bill was one hundred and ten guineas. It was several days before Colonel Grenfell's suspicions were aroused, but the more he thought about it the more he felt that he possessed an early Gainsborough and not, as the dealer had led him to suppose, a doubtful master of minor importance. One of Christie's

men was summoned, and at once pronounced the canvas an authentic Gainsborough, painted during the artist's twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth years, while he was most under the influence of his Dutch teacher, Wynants. More experts arrived, and assured the proud possessor that the Victoria and Albert Museum contained a sketch by Gainsborough for one of the groups, and that other groups repeated certain wellknown bits that appeared in his later work. Unfortunately no mention was made of the estimated value of the picture, and we must leave that sum to the conjecture of our readers.

Scrutator Retorts

THE end is not yet. Scrutator, whose article on "The Impertinence of Mr. A. G. Gardiner' we reprinted in our March 1 issue, now replies to the reply made by Mr. Gardiner to Scrutator's original attack. Since we gave Mr. Gardiner's letter in our April 15 issue, we are now giving Scrutator his final hearing. More we cannot do.

To the Editor of the Empire Review:

Mr. A. G. Gardiner's letter to you in your current issue is based on an error. My article examined, not, as he wishes to suggest, his pacifist views 'in the years preceding the war,' but his attitude, or rather series of attitudes, in August 1914. I demonstrated that he showed hysterical folly at the greatest crisis of our history, and that, when his doctrine of neutrality (in order to poach trade) became unpopular and his predictions of immediate famine were falsified, he sprinted into the other camp, babbling of 'honor.' This, I showed, makes him in the highest degree unfit to asperse the ability, consistency, and honesty of our public men.

He complains also that, whereas his sneers 'have always been under my own

name,' I remain anonymous in exposing him. Mr. Gardiner (otherwise 'Alpha of the Plough') has failed to recall the long campaign of calumny against the leaders of the Conservative Party in the anonymous leading articles of the Daily News under his editorship. Apart from this, however, his importance is not such that I need to present personal credentials to him before quoting him against himself.

Yours, etc.,

SCRUTATOR

Morals and the Dance

CHURCH and dance hall have lately been at odds in Vienna over the questionable morality of modern dancing. In one of his Lenten pastoral letters Cardinal Piffl complained that the new steps were harming the youth of Austria and threatening Christian family life. With this interesting point of view the local dancing-masters violently disagreed. They insisted that the Charleston and Black Bottom, when properly executed, are just as nice as the waltz and polka. To prove their point they politely invited Cardinal Piffl and Monsignor Seipel, Chancellor of the Republic, to witness a pure and private exhibition of modern dancing at its best.

The Chancellor refused on the ground of not being himself a dancing man, and the Cardinal felt it would be wiser to be represented by purely unofficial observers. The show was therefore attended by two priests, one missionary, one member of the Government, and a group of welfare workers. No opinions were demanded or offered, even when Herr Mayr, an eighty-twoyear-old hotel proprietor from Salz

burg, took the floor. An entertaining time was had by all, and, as the modern steps were demonstrated in their full natural austerity, blushes were not in order. The jury gave no verdict.

A Modern Methuselah

RECENT explorations in Turkey have revealed an elderly gentleman of one hundred and fifty-four who claims to be the oldest man in the world. Born at Bitlis in Turkish Kurdestan, he has taken part in four wars, not including the eleven times he has been married, and has been blessed with twenty-eight children. Three years ago one of his sons died, a stripling of ninetyseven, and he has only one child left, a teething youngster of sixty-four, to cheer him in his old age. The ambition of his life is to visit England, which he regards as the most powerful and wonderful country on earth.

Interviewed by a correspondent of the Westminster Gazette, Zaro Agha, as he is called, complained that the spaghetti he ate four years ago in Italy spoiled his digestion for life, and that since that time he has not been able to sleep more than two hours a night.

'I lost all my teeth at ninety,' Zaro announced, 'but in my hundred and second year two new teeth appeared in my lower jaw. A dentist is now preparing a complete set of false ones for me.

'I have never drunk a drop of alcohol, nor smoked tobacco or cigarettes. For the last fifty years I have drunk nothing stronger than tea, which I take regularly.'

This is indeed a wonderful story, but more wonderful still would be the person who believed it.

BOOKS ABROAD

James Bryce, by H: A. L. Fisher. London and New York: Macmillan and Co., 1927. $8.00.

[Lord Charnwood in the Spectator]

THE Life of James Bryce, by Mr. H. A. L. Fisher, may arouse many readers to a wide survey of the world to-day and suggest profound thoughts upon its problems; but it demands of a reviewer the humbler task of welcoming it heartily and immediately. Bryce came terrifically near omniscience, and his biographer, the Warden of New College, is himself a very learned statesman; but the consequent alarm with which this book may be approached vanishes as soon as it is opened. If it had to be in two volumes, yet they are not bulky volumes, and they are surprisingly easy to read. They cannot have been easy to write. To the vast range of ground which Bryce literally traveled, and the vast regions of knowledge in which he was figuratively a voyager, the reader is introduced so genially that he is relieved of all sense of oppression, without loss of interest or of respect. For the biographer - if one may guess without impertinence is in one way at least like his subject; a certain fundamental modesty keeps his touch light and human, through passages where the least self-obtrusion must have made his ripe knowledge a bore.

James Bryce, born in 1838, drew his nurture from Belfast, Glasgow, and Oxford. He got a fellowship, went to the English Bar, and about the same time made a lasting mark with a book on the Holy Roman Empire, very short and dreadfully condensed, but illuminating to a surprisingly large and varied circle of readers. Alert, retentive, untiring, wiry, and intrepid, he, through a long life, studied - both in books without number and afoot in remote solitudes and among motley crowds-jurisprudence, botany, geology, the whole course of history, almost the whole face of the globe, and the manners of many strange peoples. His constant and eager contact with English political life and social progress was equally unremitting. He was an active Member of Parliament for over twenty-six years and more than once a Cabinet Minister; founded the study of law in Manchester and helped to re-create it in Oxford; twice in his life did valiant service to the cause of English secondary education; lent a helping hand to many forms of social service; was all his days the persistent and fearless champion of

obscured and oppressed peoples far away whom he knew and loved; and, most notably of all, — by his most laborious and most famous book, made the by no means oppressed people of America intelligible to Europe and to themselves. Taught by early experience, and unhampered by early prejudice, he played a rarely independent and far-seeing part in regard to the Irish question, and in his seventieth year — when Mr. Fisher's admirably rapid first volume ends was discharging, not more unsuccessfully than his predecessors, and less so than his successors, the eminent but thankless office of Chief Secretary for Ireland, when the unlooked-for opportunity for which his whole career had trained him came, and he went to Washington as Ambassador. All the while his heart had remained anchored in the love of a few lifelong friends — in later years of a lady well fitted to share in all his joys and endeavors - and in a childlike, unmetaphysical, and untroubled loyalty to some great, simple truths early learned.

The American, and also, let it be added, the Canadian, people appreciated fully what we at home realize with perhaps less adequate appreciation - that the crowning adventure of Bryce's life in the untried field of diplomacy resulted in a signal achievement with solid results which must outlast any eclipse. From it he returned, well stricken in years (via, of course, most quarters of the globe), in time for the outbreak of the war. Bryce, for all his personal toughness and daring, loved peace and gentle ways; distrusted martial propensities; loved the old Germany that he had once known well; and was slow to believe in the potency of wrong and unreason there, or anywhere, except in Turkey. It is therefore no little thing that, from the moment of the invasion of Belgium, the old man, who for days past had faltered, threw his soul into the war. Perhaps in his unwavering conviction that the war must be fought out at all costs to the end, and therewith his passionate desire that the ensuing settlement should lay in righteousness the foundations of lasting peace, he represented as completely as could be the best mind of his own people. But, of course, his public career was almost over, though his Report as a chairman of a Commission upon German atrocities was a great war service; and the bulk of Mr. Fisher's second volume is but the record of a shrewd observer and a wise but unavailing counselor. Every cause for which

1

1

he cared was in his last years faring ill: the Great War ended in the Little Peace; the American people, whom he loved and trusted better than he did their institutions and public methods, were, after one splendid effort, signally failing to make good; in his own country democracy, the object of his temperate faith, seemed about to perish through slack tolerance of 'direct action.' It was an amazing achievement that, amid all this and when well over eighty, he wrote his memorable book-up-to-date, immensely well informed, sober, and sweet-tempered-on Modern Democracies. The comparative diffuseness of Mr. Fisher's later chapters may well be pardoned. He was himself an important member of an Administration which Bryce bitterly condemned, and could not have told his tale so fully or so fairly had he tried to write with greater grip. He succeeds in keeping us aware that, if his hero died much disappointed, he died undefeated and undismayed.

Already, since his death, much has happened which forbids younger men, who partake in any of his enthusiasms, to indulge in very gloomy views. But in closing the pages of a biography we think rather of the man than of his times. A slight acquaintance could easily take stock of James Bryce's defects, and might be assured that he knew them all but did not know all his strength. He lacked the dramatic quality; and he lacked repose. With his incessant activity, his rapid utterance, and his manner, in casual intercourse, as of a brusque man who has to catch a train, the House of Commons, which attended little to his unanswerable arguments, and, like Charles Lamb, is somewhat antiCaledonian, was not wholly to blame. Again, he had no great literary faculty, and he knew it; the multitude of facts, often petty and dry, which poured into him and poured out of him might create the illusion of a mind wanting in philosophy, and, which is worse, in poetry. But a great illusion it would be. This man who loved facts, and who also loved men, and whose love for both drew its strength from a deeper source, did, it may well be, more than any other man of modern times to make possible the growth of understanding and sympathy between widely separated nations of men. And, without appraising the fruit of his labors, we are led by Mr. Fisher's simply told story to the ruling thought of a poet whom he valued deeply:

Who would not give,

If so he might, to duty and to truth, The eagerness of infantine desire.

It was granted to James Bryce that he might do this; and he did it.

The Russian Revolution, 1917-1926, by L. Lawton. London: Macmillan and Company, 1927. 218.

The Memoirs of Baron Wrangel. London: Benn Brothers, 1927. 15s:

The Reign of Rasputin, by M. V. Rodzianko. London: Philpot and Company, 1927. 12s. 6d.

[Outlook]

EACH of these books is the complement of the others, and taken as a whole they portray such a scene of human folly and degeneration as has rarely been witnessed in so brief a space during the history of mankind. One passes from the degradation of serfdom to that of Bolshevism, and on nearly every page is some example either of a want of stamina on the part of the upper classes or of brutality mistaken for firmness. If it be true that nations get the government they deserve, then the merits of Russia during the period covered by these three books must have been very small indeed.

Mr. Lawton's knowledge of his subject is encyclopædic, and his work is the most scientific study of Bolshevism in practice that has yet appeared in English. There is not an aspect of the present régime in Russia which he does not discuss in a wholly impartial manner, and for this reason his unfavorable judgment is the more convincing; for far from considering the country to be an earthly Paradise, Mr. Lawton roundly declares in one passage that 'the whole of Russia has become one vast slum,' and in another that it is 'one vast madhouse.' From world revolution alone can the present system hope for success, and, as this becomes every day more improbable, the only question to be solved is whether the end of Bolshevism will come by evolution or by revolution.

The chapters which the author devotes to a consideration of the position of women and of the laws relating to marriage and divorce will repay careful study, for no aspect of Bolshevism has attracted more invidious attention in Western Europe, though it hardly appears to deserve the opprobrium that has been cast upon it. The Bolsheviki declare that they have merely admitted in law what is everywhere the custom in fact, and in this one respect they certainly have public opinion behind them. For the rest, Mr. Lawton proves conclusively that the only equality which the Russian Revolution has brought about is that produced by universal squalor, and his work is an excellent antidote to any partiality toward Bolshevist doctrines.

Baron N. Wrangel was the father of the White general of that name, and his reminiscences cover the period from the later years of Nicholas I down to his own death in 1920, Two facts above

all others emerge from the pages of his book the streak of brutality which runs through the Russian character, and the growing weakness of the governing classes during the last half-century of the Tsarist régime. A story which the author tells of a landowner, an elder contemporary of his own, who to prevent his serfs running away had the soles of their feet burned and horsehair inserted in them, and of another who kept six or seven houses each containing a harem recruited from the wives and daughters of his serfs, explains, if it does not excuse, some of the Bolshevist atrocities. Baron N. Wrangel's book, however, shows Russian life at its best as well as at its worst, though even in the very highest circles one has the feeling that savagery was never very far below the surface. The author himself ascribes the weakness of the ancien régime to the policy of Peter the Great, who in Westernizing the upper classes created a gulf between them and the rest of the population. The theory is an attractive one, but on the Baron's own showing the veneer of Western culture was very thin.

M. Rodzianko was President of the Duma, and in this book he proves himself to have been, what Sir Bernard Pares calls him in the Introduction, 'no great man.' Some readers, indeed, will be prepared to describe him in considerably stronger terms, for this work reveals such an incompetence in high places that it is little wonder that on one occasion Lord Milner 'could scarcely control his feelings,' but 'kept throwing himself back in his chair, and groaned audibly.' The author has little fresh light to throw upon the disreputable career of Rasputin, though it must be confessed that the latter's amatory successes reflect no very great credit upon the morals of high society in Tsarist Russia, and the real value of M. Rodzianko's book lies in the account it gives of the relations which existed between Nicholas II and the Duma, and of the character of that unfortunate monarch: for this reason it should be read by all who wish to understand why the fall of the Romanoffs was inevitable.

Hans Andersen: The True Story of My Life. Translated by Mary Howitt. London: Routledge and Company, 1927. 78. 6d.

[Times Literary Supplement]

HANS ANDERSEN was one of the real instances of a creature which might otherwise seem to be a fabulous monster, 'the boy who never grew up.' He lived his life as if it had been a fairy tale, in an attitude which is frequent with most children and rare with most grown-ups; so that, while he was always odd, he was much less odd as

a child than he was as a grown man. When he was young he was more of a child than most children, but when he was older he was less of a grown-up than most grown-ups. As a child be did the things that all children want to do; he left his home and went to seek his fortune, and found it. But though he grew up, he was never able to behave quite like a grown-up; he remained a rather perplexed stranger among his contemporaries. This perplexity accounts for the only pages in this book which are not good reading those which describe his relations with his critics. They are interesting, all the same, because the experience which is behind them bore good fruit afterward in the story of "The Ugly Duckling.' Andersen began to write too young, and his delight in any praise that he received was unbounded; it was natural that both his friends and his critics should think it their duty to admonish him against vanity. But he was not vain. What seemed like vanity was really a simplicity which left him as defenseless as a child against both praise and blame. When he was a rising young writer at Copenhagen he received reproof or ridicule in much the same way as the small boy at the charity school at Odense had received the jeers of his companions at his passion for the theatre: 'I hid myself at home in a corner, wept and prayed to God.' But he was, as he says himself, ‘a child of good fortune.' These bad days passed when once he had discovered his proper business as a writer. The derisive critics were silenced, and his friends gave up trying to make him behave 'like anybody else.' The Ugly Duckling became a

swan.

He had so far discovered only the difficulties of his position as a Betwixt-and-Between, a grown-up in fact and a child in fancy; now he found out its opportunities. He began to write his fairy stories, and found that they 'furnished reading for children and grown people, and that assuredly is a difficult task for those who will write children's stories.' The difficulty, of course, lies in the different way in which children and grown people imagine, or pretend. The child alters his real world, making his porridge and milk into mountains and lakes, and his chair into a horse, simply for fun, and all he asks of his 'made-up' world is that it shall be more exciting than the one out of which it is made. But the grown-up artist pretends seriously, and requires of his imaginary world that it shall be in some way as real as his actual world, or even more real. Hans Andersen knew how to pretend in both these ways at once. 'It was his accomplishment' — just as it was the accomplishment of the Elfin King's daughter to be able to put a white wand between her lips and vanish. So he deserved what he calls 'the

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]
« ElőzőTovább »