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Title: While I Remember
Author: McKenna, Stephen
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                         WHILE I REMEMBER

                          STEPHEN McKENNA

_By Stephen McKenna_


_New York: George H. Doran Company_

                         WHILE I REMEMBER

                          STEPHEN McKENNA

                             NEW YORK

                      GEORGE H. DORAN COMPANY

                         COPYRIGHT, 1921,
                    BY GEORGE H. DORAN COMPANY


                       THOSE WHO MAY FORGET

"Two men I honour, and no third. First, the toil-worn Craftsman
that with earth-made Implement laboriously conquers the Earth, and
makes her man's. Venerable to me is the hard Hand; crooked, coarse;
wherein notwithstanding lies a cunning virtue, indefeasibly royal
as of the Sceptre of this Planet. Venerable too is the rugged face,
all weather-tanned, besoiled, with its rude intelligence; for it
is the face of a Man living manlike. O, but the more venerable
for thy rudeness, and even because we must pity as well as love
thee! Hardly-entreated Brother! For us was thy back so bent, for
us were thy straight limbs and fingers so deformed: thou wert our
Conscript, on whom the lot fell, and fighting our battles wert so
marred. For in thee too lay a god-created Form, but it was not to
be unfolded; encrusted must it stand with the thick adhesions and
defacements of Labour: and thy body, like thy soul, was not to know
freedom. Yet toil on, toil on: _thou_ art in thy duty, be out of it
who may; thou toilest for the altogether indispensable, for daily

"A second man I honour, and still more highly: Him who is seen
toiling for the spiritually indispensable; not daily bread, but
the bread of Life. Is not he too in his duty; endeavouring towards
inward Harmony; revealing this, by act or by word, through all
his outward endeavours, be they high or low? Highest of all, when
his outward and his inward endeavour are one: when we can name
him Artist; not earthly Craftsman only, but inspired Thinker, who
with heaven-made Implement conquers Heaven for us! If the poor and
humble toil that we have Food, must not the high and glorious toil
for him in return, that he have Light, have Guidance, Freedom,
Immortality? These two, in all their degrees, I honour: all else is
chaff and dust, which let the wind blow whither it listeth."

                             THOMAS CARLYLE: _Sartor Resartus_.

"People who are old enough to write memoirs," says my friend Shane
Leslie in _The End of a Chapter_, "have usually lost their memory."
They have always, he might have added, lost the enthusiasm which
once inspired and is alone able to explain their part in what they
are trying to remember. Going farther, he might have challenged in
words, as his book challenged by implication, the belief that there
is any day in a man's life on which--though not an hour before--he
is entitled to set down his reminiscences; yet one page from the
journal of Alcibiades at twenty might well be more instructive than
three volumes of the wisdom of Socrates at seventy.

My reason for writing the present book is that I wish to record
certain impressions of a vanished generation while I remember
them clearly and sympathetically; my excuse for publishing it
is that the opinions and recollections of middle life are so
seldom articulate. Reminiscences of childhood, where they survive
undimmed, find their place in fiction and in autobiography;
reminiscences of youth and manhood, collected and chastened from
the sober angle of old age, are compressed into one patronising
chapter of every standard life; but we are hardly ever allowed
to look through the spectacles of thirty at the world as it
appears to the eyes of thirty. Sometimes we are, indeed, admitted
to the intimacy of a diary; but, if it has been composed with a
view to publication, we may suspect that behind the pretext of
self-communing the author is striking an attitude; if it was never
intended for publication, we may wonder whether it should ever have
been published. Possibly there is still room for recollections
that have frankly been written for publication before age has too
greatly blurred the outline of memory or distance eliminated too
ruthlessly the unimportant.

As the art of the novelist demands of him that he should first
and foremost be a spectator of life, so the accident of race
makes of him an involuntary critic if his lot be cast amid alien
surroundings, however congenial; and the further accident of health
not always robust may remove him a yet greater distance from the
active life of his generation. In so far as this detachment gives
him a separate standard of comparison, it may be not without value
in the review of past manners and ideals.

It is with the life of that generation and not with gossip
about this or that member of it that I am concerned. A new and
inexcusable terror is added to social intercourse when the
confidence, the indiscretion or the malice of a dinner-table is
industriously recorded and published; and it is still believed
by some who were trained in a tradition of reticence that
intimate portraits and studies should be withheld so long as the
originals or their friends can be offended or hurt by unsought
publicity. While a man of even thirty-three, spending most of his
life in London, may have met more than a few of the statesmen
and financiers, the sailors and soldiers, the artists, authors
and actors who have now chief place in the interest of their
countrymen, I feel that it would be impudent for him publicly to
scatter his unsolicited opinion on those whom he has been invited
to meet privately. This book will therefore be free from what has
been called an "index of improper names."

It would be no less impudent for him to assume that anyone is
interested in the insignificances of his private life. I venture
to write of this epoch because I hope to present some aspects
of it which might elude the historian who ranges over a wider
field, preeminently the aspect from the standpoint of youth. Any
autobiographical matter deserves no more honourable place than a
footnote and is included only to explain how and why one super was
found at certain times on a certain stage.

The generation which ended with the Peace of Versailles in 1919 is
likely to be cut off from all that follows more completely than any
of which we have record: a higher proportion of its youth has been
destroyed, and of those who remain hardly one has been left in the
place that he filled before the war; the standard and distribution
of wealth have changed; and former lines of social demarcation have
been obliterated. Though the old forms continue, the life that
inspires them is new: the schools and universities, the learned
professions and public services, the government itself are manned
from a different class and actuated by different ideals. It may be
not altogether wasted labour to sketch a corner of that old world
as it was known to the men who were reared in time to be sacrificed
in the late war.

Impelled by a common interest in changing fashions, Professor
Sir Denison Ross, Mr. Hugo Rumbold and I once agreed to compile
an encyclopædia of the catch-words and cant phrases, the popular
songs and popular dances, the endearments and greetings of the
last twenty years; though the work has not yet been begun, I am
not without hope that there may be published in our lifetime
a social survey of England which shall contain some few of the
things commonly considered to be below the dignity of history,
for the change in manners during the last generation is worthy of
an exhaustive treatise; it is at once the effect and the cause
of a corresponding change in morals; and, whatever progress
the future have in store, those who first drew breath in Queen
Victoria's reign may congratulate themselves, if it be a matter
for congratulation, on having passed in thirty years from the
civilisation of the Stone Age to that of the Cities of the Plain.

This book is as deliberately incomplete as the sketch-book of a
traveller who records some few of the scenes that he most wishes to
conjure up again and none that he would prefer to forget. Whether
my reminiscences and reflections at thirty-three or at any other
age are of interest to anyone I must leave my readers to determine,
comforting myself with the thought that the years through which
I have lived are themselves of interest and reminding those who
regard memoir-writing as a prerogative of septuagenarians that in
the life of most men there is a time when they are unable to look
forward with confidence and must be deemed fortunate if they can
look back without regret.

I have striven to avoid inaccuracy, but I have been compelled to
write at a distance from all works of reference.

                                                        S. McK.

       31 January, 1921._


  CHAPTER                                       PAGE

     I WESTMINSTER                                 17

    II A SETTING AND A DATE                        40

   III CHRIST CHURCH                               59

    IV LONDON AND ELSEWHERE                        80

     V THE FRINGE OF POLITICS                      100

    VI ON THE EVE                                  132

   VII THE FRINGE OF WAR                           154

  VIII AT THE LIBERAL GRAVE-SIDE                   183


     X LONDON AGAIN                                226

    XI DEMOBILISATION                              244

  XII LITERARY TOTEMS                              268


  XIV A MEMORY RETOUCHED                           314

                         WHILE I REMEMBER

                         WHILE I REMEMBER



 "A man, whom the fond imagination of his worshippers invested with
 the attributes of a god, gave his life for the life of the world;
 after infusing from his own body a fresh current of vital energy
 into the stagnant veins of nature, he was cut off from among the
 living before his failing strength should initiate a universal
 decay, and his place was taken by another who played, like all his
 predecessors, the ever-recurring drama of the divine resurrection
 and death.... The sceptic ... will reduce Jesus of Nazareth to the
 level of a multitude of other victims of a barbarous superstition,
 and will see in him no more than a moral teacher, whom the
 fortunate accident of his execution invested with the crown, not
 merely of a martyr, but of a god...."

                                J. G. FRAZER: _The Golden Bough_.


On the last Sunday of July, in the year 1906, Little Dean's
Yard filled slowly with sixty or seventy boys in evening dress.
All but about ten wore the black gown, which is one mark of the
Westminster Scholar, and, over the gown, a white surplice open
or buttoned according to the seniority of the wearer. It was not
yet ten o'clock in the morning; but on Election Sunday all King's
Scholars and Major Candidates appear in evening clothes, the Major
Candidates distinguished by carnations of the prized Westminster
pink which has been worn since the day, nearly a hundred years
ago, when the school rowed against Eton and settled that colour
question by trial of strength: the victors were to have pink, the
vanquished blue; and the deeper pink of Leander derives from the
Westminster founders of the club.

These were the last few flying moments of the last scene. Six years
ago the seniors in the swelling group, escaping from the thunder
of traffic in Victoria Street and Broad Sanctuary, had entered
the silent backwater of Little Dean's Yard as Minor Candidates;
their parents or the masters of their preparatory schools led
them under the arch and past the fives' courts; they turned shyly
wondering eyes at Home Boarders, Rigaud's, Grant's, College and
Ashburnham, at the Bursary and the head master's house; then they
were shepherded through the Inigo Jones doorway and up the steps
into School. It was the first day of the Challenge, wherein the
candidates of other days met all-comers in a disputation--lasting a
week or more--on the elements of learning and those who outlasted
their opponents were elected to scholarships. Now, after six years,
they were competing for the close scholarships and exhibitions at
Christ Church and at Trinity, Cambridge. The written work was over;
on Election Monday would come the _viva voce_, then the annual
cricket match between the King's Scholars and the Town Boys on
Vincent Square, then Election dinner in College Hall enlivened by
the Greek, Latin and English epigrams which Westminster subsidises;
then on Election Tuesday, still in evening dress, they would attend
the school service in Abbey for the last time and for the last time
answer "_Adsum_" at roll-call; the results of Election would be
read out, the prizes distributed, the office-holders would divest
themselves of office and they would walk down School for the last
time, into their houses, out of them again and into the world.

The Captain of the King's Scholars came out of College; the Head
Town Boy joined him at the entrance to the cloisters; next to them
were the other two School Monitors. The involuntary began; and the
procession passed through the nave and under the organ loft: first
the choir, then the Abbey clergy and the Dean of Westminster; the
Dean of Christ Church and the Master of Trinity; the examiners from
Oxford and Cambridge; the Head Master of Westminster; the assistant
masters in gowns and hoods; the King's Scholars in surplices, gowns
and evening dress, those of them who were leaving chastened by the
thought that, after the Election Tuesday service two days later,
they would enter the Abbey as members of the public only.

Westminster is so much the embodiment and shrine of English history
that even the alien and the iconoclast cannot spend six years in
the shadow of the Abbey without becoming steeped in the spirit and
associations of the place. It is the influence of such foundations
that makes of English life its present compromise between the
rational and the traditional. From their places in the stalls
could be seen the arches of the triforium which are filled at
coronations by the Westminster Scholars: no king, they assert, can
be duly crowned unless he is acclaimed by their triple shout of
"_Vivat Rex_". It is their privilege to be present in Palace Yard
when the soveran opens Parliament; Scholars and Town Boys walk,
of unchallenged right, into the gallery of the House of Commons,
Scholars--in cap and gown--into the gallery of the House of Lords
and, on Sundays, on to the Terrace; when the Courts of Justice
were at Westminster, they could wander unchecked into Westminster
Hall. Their daily service takes place in the Poets' Corner; they
are present at State funerals, their confirmation is held in Henry
VII's chapel; and the whole Abbey is their heritage. Is not the
school descended lineally from that group of lay scholars whom the
monks of Westminster taught? Is not the monks' dormitory their
Great School? Among the documents discovered of late years in the
Abbey Muniment Room is a record, under the year 1284, of _expensæ_,
being provision for the teaching of scholars, and a further record,
under the year 1339, of payments for "Westminster School." Already
old when Winchester and Eton were founded, with its roots struck
deep in the Abbey's earliest history and with its life immemorially
intertwined with the life of the Abbey, the two have remained side
by side until Westminster is the last of the London schools to
resist the pressure which has already urged younger rivals from
their seats. Changing slowly with the slow unfolding of English
history, the school was refounded by Queen Elizabeth on a secular
footing; and the monitor of the week, kneeling with his back to
Busby's birch-table[1] and facing the school, returns thanks "_pro
fundatrice nostra Regina Elizabetha_" on the spot where Robert
South prayed "_pro rege Carolo_" on the 30th of January, 1649. It
retains, by the Act of Uniformity, its "almost unique privilege of
using Latin in religious offices", though--as a concession to the
Reformers--the monkish pronunciation was abandoned for that which
was the universal English form until misguided empiricists set
up confusion where none existed before by introducing a "modern"

Since that new Tower of Babel was erected, Westminster has watched
other foundations arguing and striving to discover the correct
pronunciation of classical Latin. Despite the periodical rebukes
of its rivals, it has held stubbornly to its course, knowing
that there is no sure means of recreating the speech of Cicero
and that Westminster at least is too deeply bedded in the past
to bend before each new breeze of educational fashion. A hundred
customs are preserved to teach new generations that progress need
not be divorced from the historic sense: when the bell rings for
prayers at the end of afternoon school, a Second Election knocks
with his cap at the doors of the form-rooms adjoining school and
calls out, "_Instat quinta_", or, on "plays" (half-holidays),
"_Instat sesquiduodecima_", although the actual hour is now nearly
one o'clock; a Second Election has knocked thus since the time
was told from a single clock and shouted through the school by a
junior; before prayers begin, the doors are locked, and, when they
are opened, one of the School Monitors[2] mounts guard outside to
repel a chance raid by the "sci's"[3] of the neighbourhood who in
less orderly days carried on a town-and-gown warfare against the
school. At the lowest, such customs are a picturesque survival,
like the Latin play acted in College Dormitory, the Pancake Greeze
on Shrove Tuesday, the countless phrases and customs which only a
Westminster understands and which all Westminsters love; perhaps,
too, they foster, in the alien and the iconoclast, a sense of the
past. Abbey and School are a monument to continuity and ordered
progress; in 1906, they were a monument at which the leaving
seniors had been involuntarily staring for half a dozen years.


It is probable that few of them had much attention to spare for
the sermon on that Election Sunday. At eighteen they had spent a
third of their life at Westminster; it is a foundation in which
son succeeds father and brother follows brother, as witness the
carved and painted names of Madans and Waterfields, Goodenoughs and
Phillimores up School, and on a September night of 1900 tradition
had set them in the footsteps of their families and had sought a
place for them in the old houses, there to serve and perhaps to
suffer, to learn and, later, to rule.

"You will sometimes be punished when you do not deserve it", was
the wise parting advice of one preparatory-school headmaster;
"before giving vent to your indignation, reflect how much oftener
you have deserved punishment without receiving it."

It is but fair to say that this consoling philosophy was little
required at Westminster: provided that he incurred no suspicion
of "side", there was so general a disposition to help the strange
newcomer that he suffered little; and even his service was
made easy for him. The "shadow", in Westminster language, was
instructed at once in the rules and customs of the house by a
senior fag, his "substance", who shouldered his sins for the first
fortnight and was theoretically liable to suffer vicariously
for his shortcomings; after the days of grace a new boy could
be fagged, though this involved little more than fetching and
carrying, washing cups, filling saucepans and preparing call-over
lists; he could also be "tanned", with an instrument appropriately
designated a "pole"; but, though this was less agreeable, corporal
punishment was not employed with undue frequency. There was always
a right of appeal, too, with the menace of two extra strokes if the
appeal was dismissed; but, as it was a point of honour never to
appeal, the sufferer could only comfort himself with the thought
that a tanning was over more quickly than "lines" or "drill" and
with the hope that he might fall into weak or inexpert hands. Of
bullying there was little; of systematic oppression and torture
of the weak by the strong there was none at all, though the small
boys of that generation (as of every other) believed that, if a
companion was offensive, their right and duty impelled them to drum
the offensiveness out of him.

The war has caused the English people to examine searchingly its
scheme of education and especially that public-school system
which trains the sons of the well-to-do for future eminence in
government, the public services and the learned professions.
There have been many books and much discussion: the English love
of finding fault with cherished institutions while approving the
result has led to a hazy belief that the English public-schoolboy
is the finest raw material in the world, but that only his inborn
superiority has saved him from destruction by a burthen of useless
learning, devastating ignorance, insane athleticism and vicious
associations. It is more than time to suggest that his excellence
is a delicate bloom nurtured and saved by the public school from
the criminal neglect of his parents and that most critics, failing
to distinguish between the phases through which every boy passes,
have written down as chronic disease what was but temporary

Few men can speak with knowledge of more than one school, but
there is little risk in the assertion that the natural history of
the public-schoolboy is broadly the same at all times and places.
Withdrawn at an early age from the dry-nursing of his natural
guardians, he is flung into a vast adolescent society and left to
struggle through as best he may: his parents commonly escape the
embarrassment of explaining to him the elements of physiology,
preferring that he should learn them from the gloating confidences
of other boys hardly less ignorant than himself. Native chastity
of soul keeps some unsmirched, but most go through an ugly period
of foul tongues, foul minds and sometimes foul propensities which
the school seeks to circumvent by vigilance and hard physical
discipline. During the middle phase, this blind, misunderstood
groping towards maturity comes to be gradually controlled; and, in
the last, the adult boy is seen as a clean-living, clean-speaking,
rather solemn blend of scholar, sportsman and despot, very
conscious of his responsibilities and zealous to repress the
primitive exuberance by which he himself was afflicted two or three
years earlier.

Before public schools are denounced for making boys licentious of
habit and obscene of tongue, parents might ask themselves what
preventive measures they themselves have taken. And, before any
one attacks the insistence on athletics in public schools, he
might ask himself what better physical discipline he can propose
and whether this derided love of sport is inculcated at school or
at home. If a boy were not compelled by fear of punishment to take
part in games, he would be coerced by the opinion of parents who
would not understand nor tolerate a son without the Englishman's
normal and natural preoccupation with sport; and, though compulsory
games are easy to ridicule, they do not kill the chivalry of good
sportsmanship: an early Westminster memory is of a football shield
passing, after long and honourable contest, from one house to
another; while the head and captain of the winning house fetched
away the trophy, the losing house lined up to cheer their victors
and, if possible, to drown the cheers of the winning house for the
one that had lost.

A defence of the public-school system would deserve at least as
much space as the critics have given to attacking it. This is
neither the place nor time to engage in the endless controversy;
it was not the place nor time, fifteen years ago, for any who sat
thinking of their own school and of the days that they had spent


Many of those who were leaving must have wondered where the
outgoing draft would be in another six years' time. Westminster
contains about three hundred boys, drawn chiefly from the
professional classes, and in turn sends a steady stream of recruits
to the civil service and the learned professions. Barristers and
doctors abound; government servants are to be discovered richly
distributed through Whitehall, India and the colonies; the school
has its share of clergymen and more than its share of soldiers.
In less than six years all would have come down from Oxford
and Cambridge, unless any had had the good fortune to secure a
fellowship; and, while those who were destined for a profession had
already decided on their careers, those who dreamed of public life
and looked, perhaps, towards the north transept where, in white
marble and late-won peace, Beaconsfield and Gladstone stood side
by side, may have preferred to keep locked in their own hearts the
ideals which they had diffidently set before themselves.

The changing and strengthening aspirations of a boy have won as
little space in all the crop of analytical school literature as
have the vagaries of his religious faith or the evolution of
his civic morals. The Victorians, indeed, in strict accordance
with formula, loaded their hero with vague disquiet which was
only relieved when he recalled that he had ceased to receive
the sacraments; a later generation arrested him in full flight
to perdition by intervening opportunely with a soul-steadying
preparation for confirmation; the Catholic propagandists habitually
threw a sympathetic priest across his path in the course of a
holiday ramble; and, if there be a school literature of dissent, I
doubt not but that some harassed hero found peace in the practice
of Congregationalism. It was recognised, therefore, that the
faith of childhood is not infrequently discarded at school; it
was assumed with less justification that boys undergo spiritual
distress at such a time; and, as the hero of a novel is not
expected to suffer as long or as acutely as any one in life, one
or other of the conventional escapes could always be chosen. It
is hard to remember a book in which the hero sheds his belief
in super-natural religion as lightheartedly as once he outgrew
his faith in Santa Claus; and, even if it be assumed from private
knowledge and experience that many schoolboy heroes have passed
through this spiritual transformation, it is harder to recall even
one who has been described as constructing a new system to take the
place of that which has been overthrown.

This reconstruction, nevertheless, was being attempted twenty
years ago, in the aftermath of the higher criticism, by all boys
with a speculative bent of mind; they were distinguished from
their predecessors by inherited scepticism; and their natural
history, to venture once more on a generalization from admittedly
incomplete data, was roughly the same everywhere in England.
Were it reasonable to fancy for a moment that modern boys were
distressed when their faith left them, severe blame would attach
to the timorous, indolent or dishonest parents who shirk the
burden of explaining and who teach as truth what they themselves
believe to be untrue, hoping that, when their children are older,
they will somehow have learned better at the hands of masters,
who are debarred from religious controversy, or of boys, who can
only contribute an equal ignorance. In fact, the boy who lost his
faith in revealed religion lost it more slowly, but no whit more
painfully than his belief in fairies; he no longer wrote to his
fellows, as Gladstone and Manning would write, to discuss the
state of his soul; he sought no spiritual director and asked no
one to pray for him, though he may have wondered why his parents
preserved a grotesque imposture for so long. In reading and in
discussion he had absorbed ideas of biological evolution, of
geological testimony and of religion studied comparatively; he
applied to historical Christianity the tests which he had been
taught to use on the history of Greece and Rome, accepting nothing
that could not be proved by evidence and rejecting the pretensions
of faith as he rejected the statements of a secular historian
that his history was literally inspired. Already he had heard
that the Old Testament was no longer accepted as heretofore; he
may even have learned that, for thousands of years before Christ,
countless gods were sacrificed annually by crucifixion or other
means and that a Barabbas was annually released to the people;
the distillation continued until he was left with the residuum
that a man named Jesus Christ, claiming or having claimed for him
a divine fatherhood, was crucified after a short life of healing
and teaching; there were, he found, no independent contemporary
documents, and the fullest accounts, written many years after
the events they described, were inspired by the devotion of his
followers, whose critical judgement, however, was on a level of
education to be expected in one harassed and turbulent corner of
the Roman Empire.

The concluding passage from _The Golden Bough_, of which a few
words have been quoted at the beginning of this chapter, defines,
in prose of rare beauty, the attitude of an agnostic towards
Christianity. "A man," wrote Sir James Frazer, "whom the fond
imagination of his worshippers invested with the attributes of a
god, gave his life for the life of the world; after infusing from
his own body a fresh current of vital energy into the stagnant
veins of nature, he was cut off from among the living before his
failing strength should initiate a universal decay, and his place
was taken by another who played, like all his predecessors, the
ever-recurring drama of the divine resurrection and death.... It
was played in Babylonia, and from Babylonia the returning captives
brought it to Judæa, where it was acted, rather as an historical
than a mythical piece, by players who, having to die in grim
earnest on a cross or gallows, were naturally drawn rather from
the gaol than the green-room. A chain of causes which, because we
cannot follow them, might in the loose language of daily life be
called an accident, determined that the part of the dying god in
this annual play should be thrust upon Jesus of Nazareth, whom the
enemies he had made in high places by his outspoken strictures
were resolved to put out of the way. They succeeded in ridding
themselves of the popular and troublesome preacher; but the very
step by which they fancied they had simultaneously stamped out his
revolutionary doctrines contributed more than anything else they
could have done to scatter them broadcast not only over Judæa but
over Asia; for it impressed upon what had been hitherto mainly an
ethical mission the character of a divine revelation culminating in
the passion and death of the incarnate Son of a heavenly Father.
In this form the story of the life and death of Jesus exerted an
influence which it could never have had if the great teacher had
died, as is commonly supposed, the death of a vulgar malefactor. It
shed round the cross on Calvary a halo of divinity which multitudes
saw and worshipped afar off; the blow struck on Golgotha set a
thousand expectant strings vibrating in unison wherever men had
heard the old, old story of the dying and risen god. Every year, as
another spring bloomed and another autumn faded across the earth,
the field had been ploughed and sown and borne fruit of a kind
till it received that seed which was destined to spring up and
overshadow the world. In the great army of martyrs who in many ages
and in many lands, not in Asia only, have died a cruel death in
the character of gods, the devout Christian will doubtless discern
types and forerunners of the coming Saviour--stars that heralded
in the morning sky the advent of the Sun of Righteousness--earthen
vessels wherein it pleased the divine wisdom to set before
hungering souls the bread of heaven. The sceptic, on the other
hand, with equal confidence, will reduce Jesus of Nazareth to the
level of a multitude of other victims of a barbarous superstition,
and will see in him no more than a moral teacher whom the fortunate
accident of his execution invested with the crown, not merely of a
martyr, but of a god. The divergence between these views is wide
and deep. Which of them is the truer and will in the end prevail?
Time will decide the question of prevalence, if not of truth. Yet
we would fain believe that in this and in all things the old maxim
will hold good--_Magna est veritas et prævalebit_."

The sceptics of the last Victorian decade left school as agnostics;
of their number, the more reflective set themselves to fill the
vacuum. As a boy, with a prospect of life too long to measure,
has an equal distaste for the sentimentality of heaven and for
the melodrama of hell, he probably concerned himself little with
the condition that he could only attain eternal life by believing
in the divinity of Christ. Scepticism may have forced him to
doubt whether eternity was intelligible and to be certain that it
was undesirable; but his knowledge of history and his taste for
speculative enquiry suggested that eternity in another existence
might be less important than the conditions on which his present
existence was carried on: the ethics of Christianity were more
valuable, in his eyes, than its dogma.

It is here that the reconstruction commonly began, with the
question: "If there be no God, no eternal life, no reward for
virtue, nor punishment for evil, why should any one strive after
godliness? The policeman, indeed, watches for a breach of the
civil law, but only a fool would clothe the naked or feed the
hungry without thought of reward. Hitherto this was said to be
'right', 'charitable', 'kind'; but why _should_ any one be kind or

The answer of history was that every member of every community
gained in security and comfort by the comfort and security of the
community and that none was tolerable in which fear and injustice,
want and cruelty were permitted; in his own interest every man must
strive to eradicate them, for the other members were his daily
neighbours. Side by side with the teaching of the biologists, who
destroyed with their theory of evolution the belief in a special
creation, there came into the common stock of ideas the teaching
of the utilitarians, who offered a new criterion for private and
public conduct. While Christian dogma might be an obsolete shortcut
to an eternity which few desired and fewer still could contemplate,
Christian ethics remained the noblest and gentlest counsel to
perfection. At length reconstruction found itself back at the
injunction that a man should love his neighbour as himself.

Each with his own formula, the young agnostics of the last
generation worked by discussion, reading and reflection to a new
imperative; and those who found satisfaction in Christian ethics
as a guide to conduct found also that the Christianity which they
had fashioned for themselves was a militant faith. Injustice and
fear, suffering and cruelty are not to be eradicated by private
renunciations and protests; those who care enough for beauty to
wish the world beautiful have to make the world beautiful. And the
machine in which the form of the world is changed seemed in those
days to be politics.[4]

Vast as had been the progress of recorded history, vaster progress
remained to be accomplished if civilisation was not to be judged an
hypocrisy or a failure; and, though the saddest limitation of youth
be its utter misunderstanding of the obstacles in the way of any
change, its most glorious endowment is surely its impulsive desire
to realise its ideals. Impatient of muddle, intolerant of laziness,
sensitive to beauty and fiercely sympathetic with suffering, youth
glances with disgust at the meanness and squalor that desecrate
every part of its world and offers the generous ardour of a
world-builder to set it right. Childhood with its wooden blocks and
sand-castles, boyhood with its tools and engines, youth with its
instruments and diagrams are the constructive times of life: there
is little that lusty youth will not make, nothing that impatient
youth is afraid to reform; its heroes are the great conquerors
and builders who tidied some corner of a dilapidated world, the
explorers who sought new worlds to tidy, even the prophets and
lawyers who tried to bring uniformity into religion and society.

In a thousand hours of meditation or wrangling the boys of that
generation hammered out each his own formula of political change.
The ethics of private property and communism, of war and peace,
of equal democracy and paternal despotism, of the national ideal
and the ideal of internationalism were argued at school from the
standpoint which had been taken up at home and at home from a
standpoint which had been startlingly occupied at school. Whatever
had been the inherited preconceptions, every political doctrine
was now required to justify itself: the party which had enjoyed
almost unbroken tenure of office for nearly a fifth of a century
fell from power in 1905, to be succeeded by one which brought up
for settlement or readjustment all the old problems of domestic
controversy and many that were new.


It is easy to guess the political path chosen by an Irish boy
brought up in England and sent to a tory stronghold by a father
who had reared him on the pure milk of late-Victorian radicalism;
it is not difficult to imagine what lions beset that path. The
way of the minority politician in a public school is hard but
stimulating: while the Boer war continued, any doubts of British
wisdom or justice in South Africa were ill-received and answered by
violence; for two years more, since free trade had been abandoned
by Mr. Chamberlain, a solitary free-trader would be beaten to
his knees by phrases about dying industries, dumping and unfair
competition; and, all the while, there was little chance of
agreement between those who would have solved the Irish difficulty
by holding Ireland under the sea for five minutes and any one who
was never able to forget the sailing of crowded emigrant ships from
Queenstown and the keening which rose to Heaven in acknowledgment
of British rule.

Only in the dignified atmosphere of the Debating Society, when a
general election had sent hundreds of radicals to Parliament and
proved that radicals existed, in hundreds of thousands, outside
it, did radical policy get a hearing. Political interest revived
sharply in 1905 and 1906: more than ever did the rising politicians
use their privilege of attending debates in the House of Commons.
It has been said that politics are made tolerable in England by
the fact that hardly any one takes them seriously except the
politicians, who are for the most part not English; but they are
dangerous food for the young in the expectations that they arouse
and in the disillusionment that they entail. After nearly twenty
years of tory rule, the liberals in 1905 were healed of their long
domestic dissensions and assured of a majority; the ministry so
judiciously chosen by Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman was overwhelming
in its varied strength; with the pacification of South Africa
and the repatriation of the indentured Chinese labourers, the
dark infamy of the Boer war and of a calamitous plunge into Rand
politics were to be forgotten; social reform was sketched with a
bold hand; a message of peace and good-will was sent to the other

So vast was the ministerial majority after the election of 1906
that a liberal prime minister, for the first time since 1880,
seemed able to fulfil his promises without having to balance the
claims of ill-assorted groups or to consider the vague menace of
the House of Lords; the ambitions of the Liberal League had been
defeated, Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman had survived the efforts
of his more spirited colleagues to kick him upstairs. In 1906,
for those who cared to see the world beautiful and would spend
their ardour to make it beautiful, there was still a sufficient
part of the population illiterate, hungry and diseased, rendered
miserable by fear and savage by injustice to keep the social
reformers employed; Ireland, Egypt and India all demanded a change
of administrative system. Those were days in which it seemed good
to be a liberal.


It would have been a meagre tribute to the spell of Westminster
if some of those who, in passing out of Abbey on that last Sunday
of Election Term, passed also out of their pupilage, did not look
forward from the threshold of manhood in a spirit of dedication; it
would have been an admission of dubious gratitude if, in bidding
farewell that afternoon under the trees of College Garden, they
had not confessed their debt to the school. In six years some few
of them had developed into fair scholars along lines of education
which had not then been so bitterly attacked as they have been
since: no one, indeed, aimed to make them proficient in preparing a
manifest and detecting an escape of sewer gas; in their curriculum
the financial possibilities of Spanish and Russian were ignored,
like all other adjuncts to a sound commercial training; and, though
the art of Asia and the letters of Ethiopia have since been urged
as an alternative to Greek and Latin, they stuck insularly to the
literature and history of the civilisation from which all the great
modern civilisations of Europe derive. Those who cared to work
contrived to cover a wide field even in that English literature
which is popularly thought to be excluded from public-school study;
for the rest, it should be recognised that a point is quickly
reached at which those who do not wish to work can no longer be
compelled. At the lowest computation, all had received at least a
grounding in the humanities and an equipment for profounder study
of subjects that by pressure of time could not be exhausted at

In addition, they were for five or six years disciplined to a
system, yielding obedience as unquestioningly as afterwards they
exacted it.

  "This we learned from famous men,
      Knowing not its uses,
  When they showed, in daily work,
  Man must finish off his work--
  Right or wrong, his daily work--
      And without excuses....

  This we learned from famous men
      Teaching in our borders,
  Who declared it was best,
  Safest, easiest, and best--
  Expeditious, wise and best--
      To obey your orders.

  Some beneath the further stars
      Bear the greater burden:
  Set to serve the lands they rule,
  (Save he serve no man may rule),
  Serve and love the lands they rule;
      Seeking praise nor guerdon...."

They learned initiative and responsibility; they were trained to
subordinate the individual to the community; and they acquired
a code which at its worst was limited and foolish, at its best
exalted and honourable. If the panorama of a public school has
its ugly patches, so has the panorama of life; if the prejudices
were many, they were fewer than the prejudices encountered on
leaving school; if the honour was circumscribed, its boundaries
were reached perhaps less quickly than the boundaries of honour
in later life. The convention that there is at best an armed
neutrality between boy and master leads the boy to a diplomatic
economy of truth not always distinguishable from disingenuousness;
in his dealings with seniors, contemporaries and juniors he is
honest, truthful and substantially just. As he is taught to accept
undeserved punishment without complaining, so he learns to avow the
undetected misdeeds by which a fellow might suffer; never to fail
the team, the house, the school or a single friend, always to hide
emotion and to be in hard physical condition may be crude social
ethics, but they are neither unworthy nor fruitless in their effect
on public life. Twenty years ago it would have been unnecessary
to put forward these claims, but the querulous aftermath of the
war has involved the public schools in ill-defined suspicion; yet
the leader of a crusade would find no more ardent, generous and
upright spirits than in old British public-schoolboys of seventeen
to twenty-two; and, before the worldling discharges his gibes at
their honour and their code, he might stay to reflect whether the
administration of empire, as carried out in two hemispheres by the
sons of these long-suffering schools, must yield pride of place,
for integrity and devotion, to the public services of Germany
and France, Italy and Spain, America and Japan, whether, too, the
scandals and treacheries which have broken the monotony of English
public life in the last ten years are due to excess of these
derided qualities or to want of them.

If, on the last Sunday, many lacked the detachment to set out in
detail their debt to Westminster, all could acknowledge their love
and treasure their last moments. Next morning the Major Candidates
were imprisoned in a form-room leading to School and summoned
one by one to stand before a long table for the _viva voce_
examination. There followed the match between the King's Scholars
and the Town Boys. Next morning those who were leaving rose and for
the last time put on dress clothes and a gown for their last day at

After the breaking-up service in the Abbey, they assembled in
School for call-over. The results of Election and the removes were
read out, the prizes distributed, the prize epigrams recited by
their authors and rewarded with one of the silver pennies that
come to Westminster in the distribution of the Maundy. Armed with
a birch ("rod"), one of the School Monitors was despatched down
the gangway between the lower forms to find and escort to the
head master's dais a young offender who paid for his too frequent
presence in penal drill by being publicly flicked across the back
of the hand. Then the Captain and three School Monitors stood up
and in turn were handed the birch which they reversed and gave back
to the head master; as soon as they had been discharged of their
dignity and duties, the new School Monitors were handed the birch
in token of office. At the "_Oremus_" the new Captain knelt facing
the school and read the Latin prayers; with the "_Ire licet_" was
born a new generation of Old Westminsters.

In an interview with the Dean of Christ Church, those who had been
elected to the House were told the day on which they had to present
themselves in Oxford.



 "I am the captive of your bow and spear, sir. The position
 has its obligations--on both sides.... Brainy men languishing
 under an effete system which, when you take good holt of it, is
 England--just all England.... If you want to realise your assets,
 you should lease the whole proposition to America for ninety-nine

                                   RUDYARD KIPLING: _The Captive_.


The men who in 1914 were of military age, as that definition was
used on the outbreak of war, were born at earliest in the middle
of the eighties. Queen Victoria was to reign for half a generation
longer, Lord Beaconsfield was but lately dead, Mr. Gladstone had
ahead of him more than a dozen years of life and one more term as
prime minister, and Mr. Parnell was appearing for the first time as
the maker and breaker of ministries.

Abroad, Prince Bismarck was still chancellor to the Emperor
William I, and the third French Republic was young enough to be
still unsteady on its legs; but, since British fears of Russian
aggression had been for the most part interred with the bones of
Disraeli's spirited foreign policy, the chief imperial problems
related to the yet new British responsibility for Egypt and to
border wars and punitive expeditions on the fringe of empire.
At home, the conservatives, wagged by the tail of the "fourth
party," were coming to terms with the liberal-unionists who had
seceded from Mr. Gladstone in 1886; the liberal party, committed
to home rule as a first charge, unless the findings of the Parnell
commission should discredit its policy, was shelving the rest of
its programme and secretly waiting for its leader's death in order
to infuse a stronger radicalism than was palatable in the lifetime
of a man who had first held office under Sir Robert Peel.

On either side of either house, as on either side of the Irish Sea,
the dominant political problem from 1885 to 1895 was the problem
of Irish self-government: on this old parties were split and new
parties formed; from this proceeded the policies and controversies
which filled the life of Parliament to the exclusion of almost
everything else for the twenty years from 1895 to the great war.
In the first home rule bill and the liberal defeat of 1886, in the
Parnell commission and the second home rule bill, in the Parnell
divorce and the defeat of Mr. Gladstone's last administration, in
the constitutional struggle between Lords and Commons from 1893
to 1911, in the Wyndham land legislation, the devolution scheme
and the fall of Mr. Wyndham, in the Irish councils bill, the
third home rule bill, the threat of rebellion and the outbreak of
civil war, English political history lay under the sable shadow
of Ireland, English political interests and developments were
sacrificed to Irish demands, and English political parties, jointly
and severally, one after another, paid for their failure to give
Ireland an acceptable form of self-government.

Though an Irishman brought up in England may lose the faith, the
speech and the nationality of the one country without acquiring
those of the other, he will inevitably be forced into an
alternating sympathy with both; and, while he may hesitate to
explain the English to the Irish or the Irish to the English, he is
bound, by any affection that he may feel for either, to disperse by
any means in his power the cloud of tragic misunderstanding which
has for so long poisoned the life of both. It was said, in seeming
paradox, at a time of diplomatic tension between Great Britain and
the United States, that both countries laboured equally under the
curse of a common language; and at all times, unless the same words
embody the same ideas to both disputants, they will encounter less
confusion by translating, however cumbrously, from one language to
another. When an American says "gotten", he means "gotten"; but an
Englishman is too ready to imagine that he meant to say "got", but
unhappily knew no better--until, perhaps, set right. Similarly, a
full half of the immemorial friction between Ireland and England
arises from the vulgar belief that, because the two peoples employ
roughly the same language, they must be one people; the other half
from the abysmal ignorance of Ireland exhibited by the English
and the no less abysmal ignorance of England exhibited by the
Irish. Apart from those who for reasons of sport or business are
taken regularly from the one country to the other, there is little
intercourse between them: a hundred Englishmen go to France or
Italy for one who goes to Ireland; and, without a steadying glimpse
of reality to check a too exuberant imagination on either side,
the Irishman deduces an England made up of commercial travellers
from Liverpool and of six-day trippers to Killarney or Portrush,
while the Englishman constructs a figure from the novels of Lever
and half persuades himself that Irishmen habitually brandish
shillelaghs and welcome bad government for its own sake and for
love of a grievance. The literary conception[5] has been somewhat
refined by the writings of Shaw and Synge, of Somerville and Ross,
but he would be little out of pocket who offered a reward to any
Englishman who could distinguish between the intonation of a Galway
fisherman and the accent of Sir Edward Carson.

Some progress towards understanding will be achieved when it is
realised that the Irish derive from an older and different wave
of westerly migration and were a civilised and proselytising
nation when the English were a pagan collection of barbarian
tributaries distracted by the withdrawal of the Roman legions
from Britain. Insulated from Europe by a second sea, Ireland
has retained a faith, a poetry and a mysticism which in England
could not withstand the materialising influence of commercial
development nor the imperial fruits of participation in European
politics; the Irish have never regarded industrial pre-eminence as
the goal of human energy and ambition, they never will; and they
are deaf to the lure of imperialism. Those who confound mysticism
with sentiment mistake the most mystical people in Europe for the
most sentimental; the Irish are without sentimentality, and their
cynicism, once realised, tempts the bewildered alien to doubt their
spiritual quality until he discovers that cynicism may be used as
protective colouring. In conflict with neighbours of sometimes
less generous soul the Irish forgive easily, perhaps they forgive
too easily; they never forget, and perhaps it would be for their
good if they learned to forget. They are more chivalrous than most
of the nations in Europe and more chaste than any. In common with
the rest of the world they believe that a man is worthless unless
he will die for his ideals; they believe also that an ideal is
worthless if men will not die for it. To the English, who in normal
times will do anything for an ideal but sacrifice themselves for
it and who will risk their necks for anything but an ideal, this
fanaticism is as inexplicable as it is exasperating.

In all political relations an Irishman interprets patriotism to
mean his love for Ireland; in all relations with the British
Government Ireland is offered, a year too late, what she would have
accepted thankfully a year earlier. When English political parties
are vying with one another to press upon Ireland a remedy for which
the time has passed, it is hard to recall the days when coercion
bill trod on the heels of coercion bill and "twenty years of
resolute government" was proposed as the blunt, common-sense method
of curing a nation that aspired to independence: Ireland turbulent,
it was said, was unfit for self-government, Ireland at peace no
longer wanted it. In two hundred and fifty years England had tried
every expedient, from the Cromwellian massacres to the Wyndham land
act, with the exception of just that political autonomy which she
blessed so fervently when it was won by Greece and Italy, Bulgaria,
Servia and Roumania. Still the Irish dreamed of a national destiny,
still the imperial genius of the English bled Ireland slowly to
death. More than a century after the act of union, a conservative
ministry discovered that perhaps the Irish really desired to
control their own fate; and the twenty years of resolute government
ended in an abortive scheme of devolution. It is true that Mr.
Wyndham, a great scholar, a greater gentleman and one of the
greatest friends that Ireland ever had, was denounced, betrayed and
left to die heartbroken; his work lived after him; and, when the
Liberal party returned to power in 1906, it was agreed, though not
admitted, by all that some concession must be made to the Irish
demand for home rule; all in turn now prescribe milk, when brandy
is required, and brandy, when oxygen alone will save the patient's

Day after day and year after year, the political youth of any one
who was born after the first home rule bill has been overcast by
Ireland; for a moment the dream of O'Connell and Parnell seemed
likely to be realised by Redmond; but the shadow descended again in
the hour of his death to darken the youth of another generation,
as it descended in the hour of Mr. Gladstone's last defeat and


If the party of reform in the last years of the nineteenth century
seemed to be waiting for the death of its leader, the whole
English world seems, in retrospect, to have been waiting for the
death of the older generation and for the passing of an era which
was arrested in its decay by the venerable presence and vigour
of the queen and Mr. Gladstone, of Cardinal Manning and Cardinal
Newman, of Dr. Spurgeon and Miss Nightingale. The great Victorian
age, solid and stable, rich in discovery and invention, richer
in literature and art, spanned the historical chasm between the
eighteenth century and the twentieth: the political unrest and
transition which perplexed the sons of George III had given
place to an order so settled that, in the last years of George
III's granddaughter, it seemed to defy change; the licence which
endured as a legacy of the Napoleonic wars and as a memory of
the Regency had been ended by the example and influence of the
queen; in material strength and in the bewildering splendour of
imperial pageantry, England stood higher than at any time since
the last years of Queen Elizabeth. There is a tendency among
the shallow-minded of the present day to see only the stiff
conventionality and smug complacency of Victorianism, to ridicule
its solemnity and to castigate its occasional tastelessness: in
the eyes of such critics, Victorianism is to be remembered only by
the Albert Memorial. Already in the Queen's last years there might
be heard murmurs of revolt against the bloodless rectitude of life
which she inspired; hopes were entertained that, when at length the
Prince of Wales came to the throne, cheerfulness might be allowed
to break in; the English had been on their best behaviour for too
long and were profoundly bored.

When those who opened their eyes on the second half of the eighties
were still young children, the first attack was made on the
outposts of Victorian "respectability": the "new woman" made her
appearance, defiantly smoking in public and--until threatened with
violence by an outraged and susceptible mob--bicycling about the
streets of London in "bloomers"; new ideas were spread, new rights
suggested and an alarming new freedom of discussion inaugurated
by the plays of Ibsen; a new wave of riches poured into England
from the Rand, their possessors resolute to enjoy them without
the restrictions of an outworn decorum. The epithet which has
become the historic description of these years is "roaring," and,
if it described something which by modern standards was mild and
blameless, the vigour of the word registers the public misgiving
and astonishment at the thing which it described. Nevertheless,
though this brawling exuberance gave an earnest of what would
come when the brawlers had discredited Victorianism, as yet
they misconducted themselves clandestinely or "under the eye of
perpetual disapprobation": the nod and frown of the court were
still potent; and the rulers of half-a-dozen great houses decided
effectively and subject only to the veto of the queen who should be
received in the small and envied world known as "society."

In the realm of literature, where the writ of social rulers did
not run, a steady movement towards intellectual freedom, more
permanent in its results and less open to criticism in its course,
made itself felt; and few more illuminating contrasts between the
mental range of late Victorianism and that of the present day
can be presented than by a study of the once forbidden problems
which may now be discussed in novels, on the stage and in the
press. The free lover and the unmarried mother have escaped from
the tribunal of the moralist into the consulting-room of the
pathologist and the workshop of the artist; diseases never before
mentioned have supplied the dramatist with a motive; vices still
unmentionable furnish a hinted explanation to the psychologist. And
between men and women of almost any age there is an unembarrassed
interchange of opinion, not always free from the gratification of
morbid curiosity, which exceeds the limits even of what may be
debated in print. The belief in safety through innocence has been
replaced by a belief in safety through knowledge; the war went far
towards completing the work begun by the early prophets of women's
rights; while the change in outlook must be recorded, there has
not yet been time to judge it in its effects on the well-being
of the nation or on the spiritual quality of the individual. The
revolutionaries of this, as of all other epochs, are too much
concerned in pursuing liberty as an end to regard it as a means.

To them the restrictions of Victorianism would be as intolerable as
its pleasures would be insipid. London, in the nineties, formal and
unvarying, was only in session from Easter until Goodwood; and the
slave of routine followed his appointed path from Sussex to Cowes,
from Cowes to a foreign watering-place or to Scotland and from
Scotland, by way of long visits in different parts of the country,
to the shires, returning to London in the spring after a taste of
cosmopolitanism in the south of France. Once more in England, he
attended a succession of parties as punctually and conscientiously
as he murmured the responses in church; if they grew irksome,
there was no alternative, and, if he absented himself, he incurred
the suspicion, in that intimate small world, of having been left
uninvited. So for seven days a week and for twelve weeks of seven
days: the week-end party, which now diverts a few and exhausts the
rest, only dates from the early nineties; Sunday was always passed
in London, with church and church parade, a luncheon party and
ceremonial calls to urge the lagging hours.

Though the young girl unchaperoned was the young girl abandoned,
it is probably the young bachelor who would have most reason to
dread the obligations entailed by a plunge back into the nineties.
Etiquette ordained that he must leave cards at any house where
he had dined or danced; and a call in those strict days, when no
one but a sloven would dare to be seen without a tall hat between
the months of May and July, postulated that the caller must array
himself in frock-coat and all its concomitants and, for a reason
still obscure, must carry his hat into the drawing-room. Later,
as a concession to human weakness and in imitation of the bar, a
morning-coat was permitted; serge suits and bowler hats, exhibiting
themselves tentatively at either end of the week, were excused by
a presumed sojourn in the country; and then, with the speed of an
avalanche, the reign of dandified dowdiness set in, tidying itself
slowly into comfort that was also presentable.


Politically, too, it was felt that the passing of the Victorian era
would be accompanied by upheaval and a transference of power.

The middle-class electorate which ultimately ruled England from
1832 to 1867 was extended by the reform bills of the latter
year and of 1884 to include the vast majority of the adult male
working-classes. At the time of this generous dilution Robert
Lowe caustically suggested that it would be well to "educate
our masters," and in the middle of his 1868 administration Mr.
Gladstone introduced universal elementary education into England.
The first children to benefit by this belated afterthought were
men and women who were in the early twenties by the time that the
generation which is now being described was able to read and to see
what others were reading; its members grew up side by side with
the numerous progeny of a popular, cheap press, and its future
rulers were in a state to digest and discuss political problems for
themselves and by themselves.

This is not to say that a knowledge of letters gave to democracy
political wisdom; it is probable that, while new classes were
enabled to spread and to receive political doctrines, later to
unite and organise themselves into political bodies, their instinct
for affairs became blunted and debased. "Some of us," wrote Lord
Bryce in _Modern Democracies_, "remember among the English rustics
of sixty years ago shrewd men unable to read, but with plenty of
mother wit, and by their strong sense and solid judgement quite as
well qualified to vote as are their grandchildren to-day who read
a newspaper and revel in the cinema. The first people who ever
worked popular government, working it by machinery more complicated
than ours, had no printed page to learn from.... These Greek
voters learnt their politics not from the printed, and few even
from any written page, but by listening to accomplished orators
and by talking to one another.... It is thinking that matters,
not reading.... In conversation there is a clash of wits, and to
that some mental exertion must go.... The man who reads only the
newspaper of his own party, and reads its political intelligence in
a medley of other stuff, narratives of crimes and descriptions of
football matches, need not know that there is more than one side
to a question.... The printed page, because it seems to represent
some unknown power, is believed more readily than what he hears in
talk.... A party organ, suppressing some facts, misrepresenting
others, is the worst of all guides.... That impulse to hasty and
ill-considered action which was the besetting danger of ruling
assemblies swayed by orators, will reappear in the impression
simultaneously produced through the press on masses of men all over
a large country."

It is possible that the last thirty years may come to be regarded,
in the development of democracy, as the history of the press rising
victorious over the political mass-meeting, even as the political
mass-meeting, since the days of Mr. Gladstone's electoral campaign
of 1880, had been gradually rising victorious over the House of
Commons. It is possible again that the present moment registers
the highest point which newspaper influence will reach and that,
during the next thirty years, the publicity of the cinematograph
and of the poster will rise victorious over the press. The
patriotism of the public during the war was kept alive by direct
and simple appeals to enlistment and economy; they issued their
message from every hoarding and competed for public interest with
advertisements for patent foods and soaps. Though its want of
dignity may have offended the fastidious, this method of propaganda
permitted neither argument nor contradiction; the government stated
its case and plastered the countryside with an exhortation or
declaration for which the public paid and which the press could not
overtake. Since the war, the government has employed this method of
propaganda in more than one industrial dispute: wages and profits,
nationalisation and private ownership are debated on convenient
walls; it is recognised that, in a democracy, knowledge must not be
denied to the people; and, as in the first French revolution, it is
believed that the information can be supplied most attractively by
the government itself. Robert Lowe, were he still alive, might feel
malicious satisfaction in seeing the use to which democracy had put
its long-deferred education and the manner in which the ultimate
masters of democracy are educated.

The immediate effect of diffused, cheap printing and of the power
of reading and expression was that democracy became articulate and
organised, ready to play in the business of government that part
to which it was entitled by its votes, but to which others were
by no means ready to admit it. In the conversation and literature
of these years may be traced a profound uneasiness at the onward
march of labour, and the opponents of democracy vented their fear
and hostility in outbursts of almost hysterical bitterness against
the ignorant, gullible, self-seeking and rapacious proletariat into
whose hands the welfare of the empire had been surrendered.

In 1833 Carlyle's Teufelsdröckh had written: "Two men I honour,
and no third. First, the toil-worn Craftsman that with earth-made
Implement laboriously conquers the Earth, and makes her man's.
Venerable to me is the hard Hand; crooked, coarse; wherein
notwithstanding lies a cunning virtue, indefeasibly royal, as of
the Sceptre of this Planet. Venerable, too, is the rugged face,
all weather-tanned, besoiled, with its rude intelligence; for it
is the face of a Man living manlike. O, but the more venerable
for thy rudeness, and even because we must pity as well as love
thee! Hardly-entreated brother! For us was thy back so bent, for
us were thy straight limbs and fingers so deformed: thou wert our
Conscript, on whom the lot fell, and fighting our battles wert so
marred." In 1850 the fear of Chartism had purged Carlyle's mind
of this veneration, pity and love for a man living manlike, a
hardly-entreated brother and a conscript who had been marred in
fighting the battles of others. "Consider, in fact," he exhorts
his readers, "a body of Six-hundred and fifty-eight miscellaneous
persons set to consult about 'business' with Twenty-seven millions
mostly fools assiduously listening to them, and checking and
criticising them--was there ever since the world began, will there
ever be till the world end, any 'business' accomplished in these

For fifty years, from Carlyle to Kipling, this scorn for a
deliberative assembly and this contempt for an electorate which had
hitherto been sedulously denied all political education frustrated
all attempts to modify the old machine of government and to
assimilate the new rulers to the old. "Bigots," said Macaulay, "...
never fail to plead in justification of persecution the vices which
persecution has engendered. England has been to the Jews less than
half a country; and we revile them because they do not feel for
England more than a half patriotism. We treat them as slaves, and
wonder that they do not regard us as brethren...."

With little change of language, the disabilities of the Jews
could be paralleled by the disabilities of labour; and both were
defended by the same spirit of blatant intolerance which rose in a
self-satisfied _crescendo_ during the second half of the nineteenth
century, till a cynic might have said that, as there had been no
class-antagonism, it would become necessary to create one. Of
the present conflict between classes and of any conflict in the
immediate future the seeds were sown in the last years of Queen
Victoria's reign.


The men of this epoch grew up half-way between the second harvest
of great nineteenth-century literature and the first crop of
the twentieth. In their early boyhood, Tennyson was still Poet
Laureate, Browning was still prolific and Swinburne's last song
was not yet sung; George Meredith and Thomas Hardy were still in
practise as novelists, and Robert Louis Stevenson was approaching
the climax of his powers; John Ruskin, though silent, was still
alive; the influence of Walter Pater was at its zenith; the
reputation of Herbert Spencer stood higher than at any time before
or since; and John Morley was in his prime. Among the younger men
who were winning fame--with the surge and thunder that heralded
the youth of the nineties--was Rudyard Kipling; the seething
brain of H. G. Wells was boiling over into scientific romance;
and old romance was brought to life by the charm of Anthony Hope.
Among those who were doing the work for which a belated fame was
reserved were Samuel Butler and Joseph Conrad. For experimenting,
adventurous youth the pages of _The Yellow Book_ lay open; "the men
of the nineties" flashed meteorically across the deafened heavens,
and, when they had passed with their falsity and clamour, there
was discovered in their train the more abiding genius of Whistler
and Beardsley, the precocious, detached perfection of Beerbohm,
the occasional beauty of Gray and Dowson, the alternate paste and
diamond of Oscar Wilde.

These were the last working years of Leighton and Watts, of Holman
Hunt and Morris, of Tenniel and Crane; the heyday of Ricketts and
Shannon; the morning of Phil May. They were the years, too, of the
first illustrated magazines and of those _Strands_, ever memorable
to the boys of that generation, in which _Sherlock Holmes_ appeared
month after month.

A new chapter in dramatic history was opened by Pinero with _The
Second Mrs. Tanqueray_; and, though Shaw and Barrie were not yet
come into their own, though Galsworthy and Barker were not yet
articulate, the last decade of the nineteenth century was the
summer time of the British stage for a hundred years. Irving ruled
still imperially, with Terriss, Forbes Robertson and Wyndham among
his marshals; Boucicault, Toole and Bancroft were still alive; it
was not yet impossible to find a theatre for serious drama, and
the seductions of burlesque and of musical comedy were confined to
Daly's and the old Gaiety.

The music-halls of that period did not come within the purview of
a boy: the humour was too broad, the air too much tainted, the
associations too squalid; but in those days the true "variety
entertainment"--exhibiting hardly less continuity than the modern
_revue_--was still to be seen, the old-fashioned chairman still sat
at his table surrounded by privileged friends, the prices were
half those of the theatre, it was exceptional for a man to appear
in evening dress and inconceivable for a woman of repute to appear
at all.

The memory of a child is pierced, deeply and without order, by
quarter-comprehended sights and sounds. Those were the days of
Lottie Collins and _Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay_, of _The Man Who Broke
the Bank at Monte Carlo_ and of _The Bicycle Made for Two_--this
last to commemorate the safety bicycle which took England by storm
and urged the citizens of London in endless, untiring circles
round Regent's Park on Sunday mornings. These were the days of
May Yohe and _Honey, ma Honey_, of Hayden Coffin and _Sunshine
Above_, of Albert Chevalier and his coster songs; of Dan Leno and
Herbert Campbell in immortal partnership at Drury Lane pantomimes,
of Corney Grain--and a piano; of Sims Reeves at the Queen's Hall,
old and inexpressibly sweet; of Maskelyne and Cook at the Egyptian
Hall, of Moore and Burgess at the St. James' Hall; they were the
days of "Niagara" and the old Aquarium.

It was in the middle nineties, when the "knife-board" omnibus
was still to be seen in the streets, that London was excited by
an exhibition of "horseless carriages," though for a few years
still a small boy might be driven to Berkeley Square on a summer
afternoon, there to draw up under the trees opposite Gunter's and
consume raspberry ices. In those days the cows and milk-stall
were not yet evicted from St. James' Park; Booksellers Row had
not been sacrificed to the improvement of London, which was then
more picturesque and less sanitary. Those were the days of the
long frost; the days of the Klondike gold-rush, the Jameson raid,
the Græco-Turkish war; days in which a boy heard dying rumours
of a "baccarat case," of the Parnell divorce, of Barnie Barnato's
death, rumours more active but less intelligible of vast financial
operations and vaster crashes.

The first five years of life, perhaps the first seven, are the
hinterland of memory in which a trail is blazed by word or name
and, later, a road straightened and made durable by reading. After
seven, memory is in ordered cultivation: after 1895 public events
marshal themselves and stand out against the uneventful background
of the child's daily life. The fall of the Rosebery government
seemed less important than Mr. Gladstone's retirement the year
before and, to a boy, neither equalled in excitement the Diamond
Jubilee with its thanksgiving-service and procession, its songs and
marches, its bunting and illumination. A year later the news-bills
stopped every passer-by with the words: "DEATH OF GLADSTONE"; and
children who had never seen him cried in the streets of London as
they had cried in America or Italy at the passing of Lincoln or

A year later still came rumours of discord in South Africa; and
the patriot of the private school waited eagerly for a declaration
of war, less eagerly for news that President Kruger had yielded
to pressure; the memory of the Spithead review which had followed
the massing of an empire's troops at the Diamond Jubilee was still
vivid, and in a hundred thousand truculent hearts there lurked the
sinister thought that an army and navy were useless if they did not
fight and that small nations existed, in the scheme of creation,
to be taught sharp lessons. The handful of opponents who cried out
on an impious war of aggression were shouted down or manhandled as
"pro-Boers" until the cheers of the Irish and of a few radicals,
when a British reverse was announced in the House of Commons,
convinced the wondering militarists that opposition might be
prompted by a moral sense as well as by native factiousness. These
were the days of _The Absent-Minded Beggar_, of "Black Friday"
and the Fall of Ladysmith, of the aged queen's recruiting-tour in
Ireland, of the relief of Mafeking and "Mafeking Night" in London;
the days when Lord Roberts and Lord Kitchener were sent out to cut
short the retribution which the arrogance of a swollen power had
called down upon its head, the days of concentration-camps and "the
methods of barbarism," of the "Khaki" election, of _The Islanders_
and the last despairing shriek of that vulgar ferocity which had
brought about this needless and iniquitous bloodshed; the days of
Queen Victoria's last illness and death, the approach of peace.

The chapter of imperialism which opened with Mr. Chamberlain's
ultimatum and ended with Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman's grant of
self-government to the Union of South Africa was only symptomatic
of a wider-spread arrogance and savagery. While the war was still
in progress, another chapter of history, shorter but not less
infamous, was being enacted in the suppression of the Boxer rising
and--incidentally--in the looting of the palace at Pekin. It was in
the middle of these two excursions that there began the six years'
sojourn at Westminster, to which reference was made in the last



 "Come, doctor," said Euphranor, suddenly, "you, who find such
 fault with others' education, shall tell me how _you_ would bring
 up a young knight, till you turned him out of your hands a Man."

        *       *       *       *       *

 "I doubt I shall be content with him," said I, "if (at sixteen
 say) he shows me outwardly ... a glowing cheek, an open brow,
 copious locks, a clear eye, and looks me full in the face withal;
 ... the blood running warm and quick through his veins, and easily
 discovering itself in his cheeks and forehead, at the mention of
 what is noble or shameful.... Candid of soul I hope he is; for
 I have always sought his confidence, and never used it against
 himself.... He is still passionate perhaps, as in his first
 septenniad, but easily reconciled; subdued easily by affection and
 the appeal to old and kindly remembrance, but stubborn against
 force; generous, forgiving: still liking to ride rather than to
 read, and perhaps to settle a difference by the fist than by the
 tongue; but submitting to those who do not task him above Nature's

 "And this is your education," said Euphranor, "for all boys
 indiscriminately, without regard to any particular genius they may

 "But without injury to it, I hope," said I; ... "if Sir Lancelot
 not only _has_ a Genius, (as I suppose all men have some,)
 but _is_ a Genius--big with Epic, Lyrical or Parliamentary
 inspiration,--I do not meddle with him--he will take his own
 course in spite of me. What I have to turn out is, not a Genius,
 but a Young Gentleman, qualified at least for the common
 professions, or trades, if you like it. Or if he have means and
 inclination to live independently on his estate, may, _in spite_
 of his genius, turn into a very good husband, father, neighbour,
 and magistrate...."

               EDWARD FITZGERALD: _Euphranor: A Dialogue on Youth_.


At noon on Friday of the second week in October, 1906, a slow
procession of cabs jingled down the slope from the Great Western
station at Oxford and turned under the bridge towards the middle
of the town. At Carfax they separated east, north and south,
bearing through the High, the Corn and Saint Aldates their burden
of expectant, fluttered freshmen, who had been summoned, on this
first day of the term, to present themselves early for admission
to their colleges and university. At Tom Gate the newcomers to the
House enquired for their rooms, paid their cabmen and left their
luggage to follow them. Over the doors in Peckwater or Canterbury,
Meadow Buildings, Old Library or Tom they found their names
painted in black on a white ground; they introduced themselves to
their scouts--who alone in all Oxford affected interest in their
existence,--ordered luncheon and sat down to recall the more
pressing advice on deportment which had been bestowed on them.

To a freshman, the etiquette and technique of Oxford abound in real
and, still more, in imaginary pitfalls. He may live for years on
the same staircase as a man one term his senior, but, unless they
have been introduced, he must never bow nor say "good-morning"
to him. The senior would, perhaps, leave a card on the freshman,
choosing a moment when he was not at home; the freshman must return
his call, but it was not enough to leave a card: he must go on
calling until he ran him to earth. In all things a freshman must
comport himself humbly, taking a distant seat in the junior common
room and leaving the arm-chairs in front of the fire to those
who better deserved them. There were rules of dress and rules of
conduct; there were clubs which a man would feel honoured to join
and clubs which he would prudently avoid; there were games worth
playing and games that were waste of time.

When the appointed day came, the ordeal was refreshingly light
and quickly forgotten in the joyous sense of possession which a
man's own rooms, with his shining, black name painted over the
door, gives him more fully, perhaps, than he ever knows later; the
sense of protection, too, at a time when he feels more solitary and
unwanted than ever before. Though the carpet were threadbare and
the curtains dingy, though sofa and chairs needed recovering and
the meagre blankets on one bed bore the name of "Arthur Bourchier"
and a date four years before the new owner was born, the rooms
belonged to him _de facto_, and within a few hours he would _de
jure_ belong to them; it was time to unpack books and pictures
and to study the regulations and hints embodied in the brochure
libellously known as "The Blue Liar."

After luncheon the freshmen were collected in Hall for presentation
to the Dean.[6] The Old Westminsters gathered together to discuss
their rooms and to exchange whispered confidences. From Hall
they were ushered to the Old Schools and admitted members of the
university by the vice-chancellor. Then they drew breath.

The bond of an identic school held them in small groups which
explored one another's rooms and perambulated Oxford to purchase
bedroom ware and such other necessaries of life as had not been
included in the equipment taken over, at a valuation, from the
previous tenants. They made a preliminary inspection of picture
shops and turned over the books in Blackwell's; they bought
tobacco--and refused to buy pipe-racks and tobacco-jars enriched
with the college arms, because these were "freshers' delights" and
a mark of juvenility to be avoided. Then they returned to college
and discovered that already a few of their senior friends had left
cards. And then it was time to discover which were the freshmen's
tables in hall.

If for an hour or two it had seemed that no one but their scouts
was interested in their existence, they were to find within their
first week a flattering competition for their company. First of
all, their tutors invited them to call and arrange what lectures
they were to attend; after that, the president and secretary of
innumerable clubs solicited their patronage. Then came the turn of
the literary and debating societies, in which the House abounded.
It was a matter of no little importance to have a club-meeting for
at least six nights in the week: only the more serious members
stayed for anything but the highly personal questions and motions
of "private business," but during that first stimulating half-hour
the visitors and their hosts could feast richly and variously on
the abundant dessert supplied by the club; at nine o'clock they
could leave, pleasantly sated, to work, talk or pay calls, while
the club stalwarts remained to read plays or, unwillingly and at
short notice, to deliver conscientious speeches on the political
problems of the day.[7]

Outside the college there was an almost unlimited choice of
university clubs: the Bullingdon, Vincent's and the Grid were
purely sporting or social, the O.U.D.S. was primarily theatrical,
while the Union--though it was not popular at the House at this
time--provided the biggest audiences and the most serious
debating. In addition, the Canning and Chatham, the Palmerston and
Russell, the Strafford and Gladstone, the St. Patrick's and a dozen
more offered a varied bill of fare to every political appetite and
entailed on their members the obligation of reading a solemn paper
once in every few terms and of listening to the solemn papers of
other members once a week. At their annual "wines" and dinners
the young politician met such of the leading liberals as could be
enticed to Oxford; after the arid detachment of politics at school,
one meeting with a single minister seemed to bring the pulsing
heart of government nearer; there followed cards for receptions in
London and invitations to join the Eighty Club.

Perhaps by reason of its size, the House escaped or defied any
effort to impose a uniform spirit or code. Its members were indeed
united in such practises as dressing for the theatre and in such
conventions as a general disinclination for the society of other
colleges; but this was largely because they were numerous enough
to provide every one with the friends, the clubs and the interests
that he required without seeking them abroad. Rival foundations
charged them with superiority and sectionalism; but, if they had
ever made a claim for themselves, it would only have been that
they allowed their neighbours to live unmolested. There was no
Sunday-evening "After," at which the whole college met; no concert;
no "Freshmen's Wine." All were left free to choose their friends
and to pass their time as they liked, provided that they did not
offend against public taste or make a nuisance of themselves to
their neighbours.

New friendships came rapidly in those first few weeks. At the
freshmen's tables in hall, the freshmen's pews in the cathedral, on
the football-ground, in the common room and clubs and at a score of
breakfast-parties given for their benefit, the men in their first
year came to know one another. There followed testing, sifting and
an occasional change of value; the bond of the identic school was
gradually relaxed; and small groups broke away from the general
tables in hall and established messes of their own.


Oxford is a loose confederation of jealously independent states;
and a man must have considerable personality or prowess to be known
outside his own college. There are always one or two men[8] with a
reputation extending beyond their own walls and promising a later
distinction; but there are seldom more than a handful of exceptions
in any undergraduate generation. Of the House this is especially
true, as it is almost a university in itself, and no one need go
outside it. The patriotism and hero-worship of a public school had
made it inconceivable that a new boy should pass one week without
knowing who was the Captain of Cricket; at Oxford in every year
there must have been hundreds unaware who was President of the Boat
Club. The greatest emancipation that came to all on leaving school
was just this freedom to be interested in what they liked. The
tyranny of games was broken; the snobbism of pretended enthusiasms
sank into abeyance; and many who had been despised and rejected at
school began suddenly to shine as unexpected social lights.

The choice of friends marched step by step with the tentative first
efforts in hospitality. Entertaining is made easy in a college
where a man orders breakfast or luncheon for as many guests as
his rooms will contain, where the epicure descends to the college
kitchen and chooses an apolaustic repast, where wine and cup
are as easily had from the buttery and where the junior common
room supplies the coffee and dessert. His scout and scout's boy,
prepare the table and attend to the waiting (how they do it when
several parties take place simultaneously on the same staircase
is a craft-secret which is handed down from one generation to
another); when his own cutlery, glass and china run short, his
scout borrows from the abundance of a neighbour. And, when the
feast is done, the host is not disturbed by the frugal housewife's
concern for the broken meats, for they have been decently packed
and discreetly removed by his scout. The imagination of the curious
may sometimes exercise itself to picture the internal chaos of a
scout's digestion: for six days he subsists chiefly on superfluous
butter and remainder loaves; the seventh day is one on which every
undergraduate seeks to give a luncheon-party or to attend the
board of a friend. On that day the scout must fare bewilderingly
on undetected treasures of dressed crab, unwanted drum-sticks of
chicken, trembling ruins of fruit-jelly and the unmortised halves
of meringues; yet longevity is the reward of their imprudence.

There is, furthermore, a guest-table in Hall;[9] there are
dining-clubs; and, when a man is grown weary of monotony, the Grid,
the O.U.D.S. and Vincent's supply relief to their members. For the
first weeks, indeed, the hospitality comes all from the seniors;
then it is time for a freshman to repay it and to strike out for
himself in entertaining the new friends of his own year. It is a
delicate and embarrassing enterprise, for all the mechanical aid of
kitchen and scout: the inexpert host fears that he has not ordered
enough, he never knows how long to wait for a fourth-year man who
lives out of college and has perhaps forgotten the invitation, he
fails to realise--until he has himself ceased to be a freshman--the
devastating horror of a three-or four-course breakfast at half-past
eight with obligatory conversation. And, not content with one
venture, he repeats it in cold blood.

The emancipation in being allowed to choose friends and amusements
is hardly greater than the latitude in arranging the work of three
or four years. A mathematical scholar is, indeed, not expected to
read the Modern Language School; but for the commoner there is
almost unlimited range of optional subjects to take and varied
lectures to attend. Here is a further step in emancipation and
responsibility: when a man has satisfied the bare minimum demanded
by authority, he must work out his own salvation; there is a point
at which, if he will not read for himself, it is not worth any
one's while to compel him. Many of those who kept a political goal
ahead of them elected to study Modern History, for which it may
be asserted that in scope and variety, in the volume of reading,
the mental discipline and the practical benefit of knowledge and
perspective it excels even the final school of _Literæ Humaniores_
which has been for so long the peculiar glory of Oxford. Touching
the ancient world at one end and modern politics at the other,
interlaced with geography, economics, political science, law and
modern languages, it does indeed exclude natural science and
Asiatic languages, but it excludes little else.[10]


Some of the most common English phrases are also those which most
obstinately defy exact definition. It is related of an obscure
enquirer that he gave his life to elucidating the significance of
"a man-about-town," having met the phrase but not the type to which
it is applied. For years he wandered moodily about London in search
of a specimen, growing ever more abstracted and becoming in time a
familiar figure in the streets, until his researches were cut short
on the day when he was knocked down by a motor-bus and fatally
injured. Though carried promptly to the nearest hospital, he
survived only a few hours; as the end approached, one of the nurses
sought to strengthen his resistance by shewing him an account of
the mishap in an early edition of an evening paper; the last words
that he ever read were: "ACCIDENT TO WELL-KNOWN MAN-ABOUT-TOWN."

       *       *       *       *       *

A fate as disappointing, if not so tragic, awaits him who seeks to
find a definition of "the Oxford manner." It is seemingly a blazon
borne by every man who has been at Oxford and quickly recognised by
every one who has not. When Herrick in _The Ebb Tide_ anchored in
the lagoon of an uncharted Pacific pearl-fishery, something in his
speech or bearing caused Attwater to ask: '"University man?" ...
"Yes, Merton," said Herrick, and the next moment blushed scarlet at
his indiscretion. "I am of the other lot," said Attwater: "Trinity
Hall, Cambridge. I call my schooner after the old shop...."'
Without delay Attwater then made himself insolently rude to the two
men who had been neither at Oxford nor at Cambridge. The fact that
Stevenson was himself an Edinburgh man may explain his creature's
ability to detect the Oxford manner; for Oxford men the task is
less easy and is but made the harder by the involved analysis which
explains it as "the expression of a superiority which every Oxford
man is too superior to shew."

So little sense of superiority clouds the brain of most Oxford
men that they are humbly grateful, their whole life through,
for their good fortune in spending three happy years, howsoever
little distinguished, in the most beautiful of all kingdoms of
youth. No city in the world has been so decreed, constructed,
endowed and ordered for the benefit and enjoyment of the boys
who there reach a privileged manhood. The university returns
its own members to parliament and preserves order among the
undergraduates by means of the proctors and their satellites; the
vice-chancellor's court stands between debtor and creditor; and a
member of the _corps diplomatique_ in a foreign capital is hardly
more "extra-territorial" than the undergraduate at Oxford. This is
partly the law and partly the custom of the constitution; but to
the visitor it is less impressive than that the entire economic
and social dispensation should have for object the comfort and
happiness of three thousand men between the ages of eighteen and
twenty-two. The colleges, their gardens and pleasances; the river
and its barges; the theatre and clubs; the shops and streets; all
have been designed on the presumption that Oxford contains no women
and that the men are of an age that never changes.[11] In their
midst there are, indeed, "townees," but even the shops at which
they buy their meat are not suffered to desecrate the beauty of the
High; there are straggling acres of houses in North Oxford, but
they exist in the undergraduate scheme as unwelcome destinations
for a duty call on Sunday afternoons in winter; the undergraduate
horizon is bounded by Christ Church Meadows and the Broad, by
Magdalen Bridge and Carfax; their world consists of those who live
within these limits.

Of the three thousand who for three or four years gloried in that
kingdom, a few did no work at all and, when their days of grace
expired, went down for good or until they had passed the necessary
examinations; those who hoped for a high class in an honour school
perforce worked hard during term and harder in vacation; the
average man of average intelligence, reading a pass school, could
be content with four or six hours' work a day and an untroubled

More than six hours is not easy to maintain, for, though the
term is but eight weeks long, a man is living at high pressure
in a low-lying city. Those who had their schools at heart would
get up at half-past seven and keep a chapel at eight, read the
morning paper, breakfast with friends or by themselves and begin
work at nine or ten; on most days they would have lectures or a
"private hour" with their tutors and for the rest of the morning
they worked in their rooms or in the library. At one o'clock the
quadrangle woke to sudden life with men returning from lectures,
men on their way out to luncheon, men in stocks and breeches
assembling at Canterbury Gate to drive in brakes to a meet of the
House beagles. They exchanged the news and badinage of the day,
from the middle of Peck to an attic window, and from one window to
another; the quadrangle emptied and sank again to silence, as they
repaired to the common-room for a light repast of bananas and milk
or toast and honey. And in turn the common room, which had filled
suddenly, as suddenly emptied; within a quarter of an hour all had
dispersed to the football ground or the House barge, a private
gravel tennis-court or the hockey ground; one or two went sailing
on the Upper River, one or two more hacked slowly out of Oxford
for a gallop on Port Meadow or Shotover; and, as every generation
discovered for itself the beauty of the surrounding country and
fell anew under its spell at the whisper of the old unforgettable
names, the pedestrians struck north-west or south-west to "the
warm, green-muffled Cumner Hills", "the stripling Thames at
Bablock-hithe", "Godstow Bridge, when hay-time's here in June",
"the skirts of Bagley Wood" or "Hinksey and its wintry ridge".

Convention and climate ordain that no one in Oxford shall work in
the early afternoon; when the sacred exercise has been taken and
all are refreshed by tea in common room or at home, there is time
for two hours' reading before Hall. After that, a man may go to
the theatre, where he will find a tolerable selection of companies
and of "London successes";[12] he may look in at a club or retire
to finish a belated essay in his rooms; he may dawdle over coffee
in the common room and stroll back with a friend for one of those
endless disputations which clear the head and suggest a new point
of view--raw, paradoxical stuff, it may be, but earnestly argued
and perhaps making up in idealism what it lacked in experience.
Whatever is "universal" in university education comes chiefly
from the men of one's own age and from the distillation of three
thousand minds seething with youth and a new encouragement to
self-expression which had been rigorously withheld at school.[13]
If the scope of reading is limited there, the limitations are
broken down to some extent by the sum of all the reading in all the
public schools. It was in the intimate late hours when some club
had dispersed that one man would talk of Browning's Jewish blood
and reproduce the savage indignation of _Holy Cross Day_; another
would give forth the magic music of Synge's plays; and a generation
which had hitherto escaped the theological preoccupation of the
Victorian era argued Renan and discussed _The Golden Bough_ in
comfort of mind.


If in the pooling of their enthusiasms the men of this vanished
generation advanced even one step towards the universality of
spirit which is the intellectual vision of a university, they
advanced many steps nearer to a social universality than had been
possible at school. Eton, by virtue of its size and repute, is
fed, within the limits of one plane, by the greatest number of
tributaries; but Westminster and Harrow, Winchester, Rugby and
Charterhouse are filled each from its own well-defined source.
At Oxford, in greater or lesser degree, hitherto unfamiliar
types mingled for the first time and, in social and political
debate, encountered the embodiment of what had hitherto been
malevolent abstractions: an Orange land-owner lived over the head
of a rebellious home ruler; the hereditary legislator sat in
Hall beside the radical who expended his eloquence in trying to
abolish the House of Lords. There were Catholics, Presbyterians
and an occasional Jew; rich men, poor men; scholars, dunces;
sceptics and fanatics; prigs and worldlings; incipient swindlers,
congenital debauchees and a vast representation of the vast average
English class which is between rich and poor, which is shrewd
without being subtile, tenacious but practical, self-satisfied
but self-depreciatory, with conservative instincts and radical

To all and to each, Oxford smilingly proferred her inexhaustible
tray of _cotillon_ favours. There was and is and, seemingly, always
must be a class debarred by poverty from entering this kingdom;
but, once inside, there is an unmatched equality of opportunity
for rich and poor, exalted and humble, an unprecedented freedom
for each to express his individuality in the choice of his work
and recreation, his friends and life. Though there, as elsewhere,
the deepest pocket commanded the greatest material comfort,
narrow means were no obstacle to the enjoyment and profit which
every man could extract from four years of the most democratic
life that England provided outside the House of Commons; nowhere
was a man taken more ungrudgingly on his merits, nowhere did the
eccentric--were he poser, experimenter or monomaniac--obtain a
better run for his money.

In these days of fifteen years ago, came the first batch of Rhodes
scholars. Nothing but a war will drive the average Englishman
to look at a map; and nothing less than the late war would have
stirred the imagination of the English to concern for the size
and cohesion of the British Empire. Cecil Rhodes had been dead
nearly half a generation before South Africans and Australians,
New Zealanders and Canadians--to name but a few--met together on a
single battle-front; but his vision embraced what the war of 1914
made actual, and he, who confessedly owed more to Oxford than to
any other phase of his career, made Oxford the trial-ground for
the greatest historical experiment in imperial education. With the
effect of Oxford on the Rhodes scholars only a Rhodes scholar is
competent to deal; the influence of the Rhodes scholars on Oxford
was marked. They were the picked men from the universities of the
world; not only from the dominions and colonies of the British
Empire, but from Germany as well, for Rhodes felt that conflict
between the two countries could most surely be avoided by making
their peoples better acquainted. Chosen for general prowess--in
sport, in work, in the popularity and position which they had
attained in their own universities,--they came somewhat older than
the generality in years and much older in experience; they brought
new intellectual standpoints and a deliberate wisdom to leaven the
facile cleverness and omniscience of British Oxford.[14]

Those three or four years resolve themselves into a collection
of exquisite memories in miniature; but, day after day and term
after term, nothing ever happened to shake a man's soul from its
seating. There were glorious parties in college and on the river;
there were great rides and walks; there were splendid disputations.
During Eights Week a man invited his sisters and friends to lunch
with him; shy and self-conscious, he met them at the station and
piloted them informatively through the cathedral and hall, the
cloisters and library and kitchen until it was time to stroll
back to his rooms, where through the flower-boxes and open
windows could be seen cold salmon and roast chicken, meringues,
strawberries-and-cream and cider-cup spread out in monotonous
invitation, where, too, the prudent host had enlisted his most
socially gifted friends to ease the burden of hospitality. Replete
and a trifle weary of so much good behaviour, he and his friends
threaded their way through the crowded Meadows and took up their
position on the barge, returning between second and first division
for tea. Utterly exhausted, he at last drove his patient guests to
the station and returned for dinner and uninterrupted celibacy.[15]

Hardly had he recovered from the social exigencies of Eights Week
than Commemoration was upon him with sterner demands, longer
drawn out. For anxious weeks he debated which balls he would
attend and who should be invited to go with him; parties were
arranged, rooms engaged; and for one, two or three nights he
danced indefatigably from nine till five or six, then shivered in
a wind-swept quadrangle or on the pavement outside the Town Hall
while he surrendered to the undergraduate herd-instinct of being
commemoratively photographed. Then, perhaps, he would go to bed
for a few hours, rising wearily to take part in a picnic on the
Cher and returning in time to dress for the next ball, and the more
conscientious sort--hosts and guests alike--would insist on being
present at the Encænia.[16]

Before Commemoration is over, many were laying their plans for
Henley. After that, the pleasure-lovers went to London for the last
weeks of the season; and, for the serious workers, the coming of
August marked the beginning of a long ten weeks of uninterrupted

So from term to term and year to year. Every summer carried away
the older friends, every autumn brought a new draft to take their
place. With time came better rooms and perhaps greater dignity of
position; a man worked through the lower offices of various clubs
and succeeded in time to the chair; he woke to find himself a
senior member of the college, setting to freshmen the tone which
had been set to him in his own first year. With abrupt suddenness
he discovered that he must begin looking for digs. out of college;
if he had idled or overspent his allowance, he would perhaps retire
to a distant monastic cell to retrench or work; otherwise he looked
for good rooms near the House and a friend to share them with him.

Life out of college diminishes the sense that a man is a living,
breathing part of a community which wakes to life in hall, common
room and cathedral, if indeed it is not always awake in the
quadrangle. So long as he is back in digs... by midnight, there are
few restrictions on his liberty; he can entertain, he can get up
and go to bed when he likes, he can see as much or as little of the
college as he chooses. And, with comfortable digs.., an excellent
cook and work which swells like a banking cloud as his schools
approach, there are many temptations to stay at home and only
to visit the college for Sunday evening chapel, hall and a club

The last year, for those who find time to think, is depressing,
for they are watching the O.U.D.S. or the House Grind for the last
time, and the menace of their final schools throws a gloom over
everything. Some of the subjects are being read for the first time;
others, that seemed to have been mastered two years before, are
now almost wholly forgotten; losing confidence, a man speaks of
himself as "lucky to scrape a fourth," he grows fatalistic and
says that he does not care; and his tutor wisely sends him away for
a few days' holiday and reestablishes his confidence with a word of

Then for a week he faces his examiners, two papers a day, three
hours for each paper; and at the end, when they have laid him bare,
he cares very little indeed for any other result than that he will
probably never again be compelled to study English political or
constitutional history, political economy and economic history,
political science and European history, a special subject or even a
modern language. The taut nerves become of a sudden very slack.

And then it has to be realised that within a week all will be over.

One last Commemoration. A day or two of unbearable farewells.
Instructions for the packing of books and pictures which he had
unpacked so very lately, yet at the distant other end of his Oxford
career. And then that overwhelming day when a man drives to the
station and, as the train gathers speed, looks for the last time
on Tom Tower. He will come back again, no doubt, but no longer as
a resident undergraduate; the Kingdom of the Young has passed to
another dynasty. In three or four years he has progressed, in age,
from boy to man; but the development has been chiefly intellectual,
and, for all his greater knowledge and experience, he has changed
little in character or essential instincts. The rigour of school
discipline has been relaxed, because it is no longer needed; but
the simple school ideals of honour and loyalty, restraint and
self-control, clean living and hard condition remain unaltered. Had
he chosen to defy opinion and to disdain the protection with which
Oxford surrounds him, the opportunity was at hand for drinking
too much and for getting into debt, for idling and for discarding
the fastidiousness which impels English boys to keep women at
a distance. There are men in every generation who will collect
experience at all costs, but at Oxford they are not regarded with
admiration: the undergraduate who drinks or boasts of his exploits
with women is voted noxious or boring or both.

A month or six weeks after the end of term comes the viva; then the
class lists. In the following October the curtain is rung down for
most, when they meet again--and, perhaps, for the last time--to
receive the grace of their college and to proceed to the degree of
Bachelor of Arts.



  "... These homes, this valley spread below me here,
  The rooks, the tilted stacks, the beasts in pen,
  Have been the heartfelt things, past-speaking dear
  To unknown generations of dead men,

  Who, century after century, held these farms,
  And, looking out to watch the changing sky,
  Heard, as we heard, the rumours and alarms
  Of war at hand and danger pressing nigh.

  And knew, as we know, that the message meant
  The breaking off of ties, the loss of friends,
  Death, like a miser getting in his rent,
  And no new stones laid where the trackway ends.

  The harvest not yet won, the empty bin,
  The friendly horses taken from the stalls,
  The fallow on the hill not yet brought in,
  The cracks unplastered in the leaking walls.

  Yet heard the news, and went discouraged home,
  And brooded by the fire with heavy mind,
  With such dumb loving of the Berkshire loam
  As breaks the dumb hearts of the English kind,

  Then sadly rose and left the well-loved Downs,
  And so by ship to sea, and knew no more
  The fields of home, the byres, the market towns,
  Nor the dear outline of the English shore,

  But knew the misery of the soaking trench,
  The freezing in the rigging, the despair
  In the revolting second of the wrench
  When the blind soul is flung upon the air,

  And died (uncouthly, most) in foreign lands
  For some idea but dimly understood
  Of an English city never built by hands
  Which love of England prompted and made good...."

                                 JOHN MASEFIELD: _August_, 1914.


Whatever the success of English public schools and universities
in training the sons of the wealthier classes for their part in
the professional and public life of the country, one result of an
educational system which takes charge of a boy at seven or eight
and releases him only at twenty-one or twenty-two is that he
enters upon his adult life and work later than the young men of
other countries, including those which impose a term of military
service. As all but a negligible few in England have to earn their
own livings and as several years of preparation are required before
the barristers, doctors or solicitors are qualified to practise
and before artists, politicians or men of business are of any use
in their calling, the English also make their entry into public
affairs later than other nations; they also marry later, but, as
the climate of England does not necessitate early marriage for men,
this influences the lives of the women more deeply and goes some
way towards explaining the social and psychological position of
girls who remain unmarried for some years after they are ripe for

While the value of general experience, gained in other parts of
the world, may outweigh that of the technique, the atmosphere and
the moods of parliament, gained from within, it is indisputable
that most young men cannot enter the House of Commons even if
they wish.[17] On leaving Oxford, those who had not to earn their
living entered the army or returned to manage their estates; the
politicians dispersed for the most part to the Temple, to Fleet
Street and to the City, there to forget that they were politicians
until they had mastered the business of making themselves
independent. And a few spent the whole or a part of the next years
in acting as _aides-de-camp_ to colonial governors or in travelling
privately for the study of imperial and foreign conditions.

Those who remained in London and those who periodically returned
thither in the five years before the war alike discovered that they
were in a new imperial Rome in a new silver age. All who had waited
for the passing of Victorianism were rewarded for their patience
by finding a vacuum which they were free to fill in what way
soever they chose; and to the task they brought unbounded energy,
almost unbounded wealth, a vigorous dislike of restraint and an
ingenuous ignorance of tradition. Never, in the recorded history
of England, has the social power of money been greater; never has
the pursuit of pleasure been more widespread and successful; never
has the daily round of the educated and reflective, of the wealthy
and influential, of the stolid and slow been brought nearer to
the feverishness, the superficiality and the recklessness which
characterized one section--but one only--of the French in the years
immediately before the first revolution.

Until his receptivity and taste for mild excitement became blunted,
a young bachelor, who found in London at this time an indefinite
prolongation of his most careless and gregarious undergraduate
mood, could contrive to divert himself with enviably little effort:
one dance was, indeed, very like another, the only difference
between two _débutantes_ was that of name, and--like Disraeli's
young exquisite--he might come to relish bad wine as a relief from
the monotony of excellence; but, before he grew jaded, there was
nothing, save a substitute for his own attendance, with which his
hostesses refused to provide him. Morning after morning, in those
spacious years, brought to his bedside a thick pile of invitations;
as he breakfasted and dressed, his telephone was only released by
one anxious friend in order that another might use it; luncheons
and dinners, theatres and operas, balls and week-end parties poured
down upon him in promiscuous welcome. The enervating suspicion
that he was achieving a personal triumph by being passed from
house to house and from list to list was quickly dissipated when
he recognised himself as one of six men whom his dinner hostess
had pledged herself to bring; but his self-respect could always be
restored by the reflection that, if his entertainers were solely
concerned to collect so many male heads, he himself only wanted a
place where he could smoke, dance and sup between the moment of
leaving the theatre and the moment of going to bed. Every one was
the gainer by his presence.

While the excess of demand over supply set a premium on young
bachelors, it forced down the value of those who entertained them
and drove entertaining to a lasting discount. In 1910, a few of the
Victorians still left cards at the houses where they had dined; by
1914, the custom was suspect as a weak admission of thankfulness;
and, when the gracious days of the great small courtesies were
voted obsolete, an uncaring telephone invitation from the lips of a
butler was inevitably met by an acceptance or a refusal as careless
of even formal obligation. The despised prim decorum of Victorian
social intercourse was replaced by head-hunting on the one side
and by moss-trooping on the other; and, as, in three years, there
was more entertaining and less hospitality in London than in any
other part of the world, so there was also less gratitude and more
greed. The young girl with social gifts, and the young man without,
were not only enabled but encouraged to live from Tuesday until
Friday at the expense of those whom they would have disdained to
call their friends; and the parasite had by no means exhausted
the flow of hospitality when he bade farewell to his party in the
early hours of Saturday morning. If he played golf, lawn-tennis
and bridge, if he played any one of them, if--playing no games of
any kind--he could satisfy his hostess that he would be content to
slumber in the country for two nights and a day, he would receive
more invitations than he could use.


In the engaging or tragic folly of the æsthetes, in the literary
and artistic adventures of the nineties, in the blatancy and
arrogance of the new imperialism, the death-knell of the Victorian
age was sounded before the death of Queen Victoria. Between the
end of the South African war and the outbreak of hostilities with
Germany, there was time for the whole face of English social life
to be changed.

There was time, and there was a will. English society, so defiant
of definition, had hitherto been founded on an aggregate of
families deriving their influence from landed estates and made
sensible of their obligations by their territorial position. The
original nucleus was gradually increased by recruits from among
those who made fortunes in commerce or rose to a commanding
position in politics or the public services; but the new blood
filtered in so sparingly that it was absorbed and transmuted by the
old. The existing order was not threatened until the personality
and power of those who clamoured without the gate exceeded the
resistance of those who wilted within.

The balance of strength began to be reversed when one of the
periodical waves of new riches coincided with a sharp depreciation
in the old media of wealth: the industrial millionaire, the Rand
magnate, the American heiress and the cosmopolitan Jew, hitherto
suspect and shy, made a simultaneous appearance at a time when to
the afflictions of agricultural depression was added the capital
taxation of the Harcourt death duties. Welcomed by the most august
and forced upon the most repellent, new and alien faces appeared
at Cowes, on the turf and at Covent Garden; new names among the
birthday honours and in the list of those who rented grouse-moors.
Faced with the choice of marrying money or of economising and doing
without it, the old aristocracy of land crossed its blood with the
new aristocracy of commerce, hoping no doubt that the system by
which isolated newcomers had been tamed would prevail to convert
the barbarian host in companies and to baptise it in platoons. On
either side lessons were given and received; but, while interest
urged the stranger to acquire ready-made an air of breeding, the
fading memory of a waning prestige could not preserve to the older
society the arbitrament in manners which it had held unchallenged
before this surrender to wealth.

A few families resisted the lure and kept their doors straitly
barred; but, as Dane-gelt, instead of buying security for English
soil, only tempted more Danes in search of more gold, so the first,
partial capitulation brought more invaders with ever more and more
gold to offer in exchange for a slice of England. As influence
and importance were focussed on money and no longer on land,
power shifted from the landed estates to London; the steadying
responsibilities of a territorial position, which was already
threatened by subversive democratic ideals, were allowed to dwindle.

By the end of the South African war London had become a
cosmopolitan place of entertainment with more money, a greater
zest for pleasure, a larger proportion of sycophants and a weaker
control by any recognized group of social leaders than any other
European capital. The first flood of Rand, Jewish, American
and native commercial wealth, which had been at least in part
unobtrusively absorbed, was followed by a second flood which
English society was still too much saturated to take in; and for a
dozen years the tottering sea-wall of society was buffeted by angry
and uncontrolled waves of wealth. As the new rich of those days had
abandoned one social sphere without establishing their position
in another, their first task was to surround themselves with men
and women who would accept their hospitality and mitigate their
solitude; a few impoverished promoters furnished lists of eligible
names; money and the amenities of the big hotels, which were then
springing up in London, accomplished the rest. During those years
there was on one side a steady stream of rich newcomers who asked
only that their parties should be well attended; on the other, a
stream no less steady of those who saw in this opportunity the
finger of God.

A temporary check was imposed in 1910, when the sudden death
of King Edward plunged the country into mourning, but in 1911
London crowded two seasons into one. Perhaps there was a fear that
the new reign would usher in simpler manners and a more austere
way of life, perhaps the pleasure-loving, who had lived for a
twelve-month, murmuring in undertones behind shuttered windows,
grudged their days of abstinence. The coronation gave legitimate
excuse for carnival; and in 1912 the fear of reaction merged into a
resolve to postpone the reaction until carnival had spent itself:
the resources of the new rich, not yet exhausted, began to seem
inexhaustible; and every day, by unfitting the parasites for any
other life, multiplied their number. By 1913 the lust for amusement
had become constant and was whipped by a neurotic dread of
anticlimax; by 1914 there was a panic feeling that this old order
could not last. Already war had rumbled distantly since Agadir;
twice in the Balkans the rumblings had given place to storms which
suggested how the suffering and ruthlessness of twentieth-century
fighting would transcend all that had been known before and had
demonstrated how strong were the meshes which held all European
diplomacy involved, how weak the paper safeguard of peace. The
labour world had half risen in the great railway strike of 1911 and
might any day rise in its full strength; Ireland was at the mercy
of two lawless armies; and the government was powerless even to
prevent a determined body of women, already opposed by overwhelming
public opinion, from breaking windows and burning churches.

"How long, O Lord?" asked one.

"Après moi, le deluge; mais après le deluge ...?" asked another.

And in the first week of August, 1914, the cynics who had been
watching the growth of hostility between classes agreed that, if
there had been no war, it would have been necessary to create one.

These were the mad, neurotic years of private horseplay and public
lawlessness, when no hoax was too gigantic, no folly too laborious
to be undertaken for a wager and when ill-conditioned defiance led
every class in the land to proclaim that, if it disliked a law,
it would disobey it. They were days of great costume-balls, of
freak dinners and of nascent night-clubs. Perhaps they are best
regarded as the years which, of all in recent times, the ingrained
puritanism of the English would most gladly forget.

Under the shock of war it became fashionable to look upon this
wanton life as an offence to God, which the scourge of God was
being used to end; and from an audience whose heart is not yet
healed the satirist of those years can always be sure of applause.
It is easy to paint too glittering a picture and to foster a new
sense of superiority which is not justified. For a dozen years
before the war there was much ostentation and polite mendicancy,
much frivolity of head and vulgarity of soul among a world of
merrymakers who had been born without a feeling for responsibility
or who had shaken off the restraints of tradition. Was their crime
more grave than that?

Every vulgarian must be vulgar in his own way; so long as the
institution of private property continues, rich and poor are
equally free to misspend their money; and, though they differed
in their means and in their tastes, rich and poor were equally
guilty of waste, display, lawlessness and sloth; a just sumptuary
law would have borne as hardly on one as on the other. In the
absence of a civic conscience, all struggled to obtain the maximum
of personal enjoyment with the minimum of exertion, protesting
self-righteously the while against the idleness and improvidence
of their neighbours; and, if the poor murmured at the misuse
of surplus wealth, the rich were sometimes amazed at their own
moderation in not resenting the sight of so much leisure with so
little taxation among the working classes.

While those who mocked at the primness and overthrew the decorum of
the Victorian era constructed a social system which to Irish eyes
seemed intolerably vulgar and mercenary, it may be pleaded that the
new and alien arbiters of taste, lacking any tradition of breeding,
could hardly be expected to know any better and that Providence
would surely have made allowances for this before unloosing the


The breach between Victorianism and that which succeeded it was not
more complete in manners than in art and literature. By the time
that King George V ascended the throne, the great lights of the
preceding century were, almost without exception, flickering out
or already extinguished; those who survived the transition in time
were none the less influenced so deeply by the change in atmosphere
that their later work differs from the earlier as much as one man's
from another's. This is so much more than the normal advance from
youth to maturity that it suggests a revaluation, a new point of
view and a reaction to changed psychological conditions without.
While Kipling's art as a supreme story-teller attained by natural
development to a rarer perfection, his change of standpoint may
be measured by the distance from any one of the _Plain Tales_ to
_They_ or _The Brushwood Boy_; with Conrad the change is from
_Nostromo_ to _Chance_; with James from _The Wings of a Dove_ to
_The Awkward Age_.

The younger men, untrammelled by memories of what they had tried to
express in a previous incarnation, worked with a freedom of which
they only became conscious when they paused to compare it with
the restrictions under which their predecessors laboured. It has
been said that, in the early nineties, _The Second Mrs. Tanqueray_
opened a new chapter in dramatic history; when it was reproduced a
dozen years later, it hardly seemed, for all its skill and power,
so daring as before; and, if it were reproduced again to-day after
another dozen years, the younger critics would doubtless continue
to praise its technique, but they might be unable to realise its
psychology. In 1920 it is felt to be surprising that any one
should bother when a man marries his mistress; that she should
commit suicide when another old lover comes back into her life is
inconceivable: to the modern playwright that is not a dramatic
theme worthy of his mettle, to the modern English world that is not
a problem to cause more than passing embarrassment to any one.

Whether England has become morally more lax or merely less reticent
about its laxity is a problem which no one can solve; but the
greatest change that has overtaken literature and art in the last
twenty years is in the new freedom to choose any theme and to
treat it by any method. The plays of Shaw and the novels of Wells
had embraced every subject from brothels and baldness to God and
gunpowder-factories, from patent medicine and politics to love and
linen-drapery. The form of the medium has changed as profoundly
as the content; the play and the novel have been made an avowed
platform for the dramatic or narrative discussion of any thesis
that interests the author at any given moment.

This new emancipation has been accompanied by a new receptivity,
welcome at first and only dangerous when criticism seeks to
navigate without a compass; a new willingness to explore unfamiliar
spaces and to experiment with new instruments. The twenty years
which have passed since Queen Victoria's death have seen the
literary birth, development or at least general recognition of a
company so varied as Synge and Barker, Housman and Yeats, De Morgan
and Galsworthy, Masefield and Rabindranath Tagore, to take but a
few; it has seen translations of Russian novels and Chinese lyrics,
of Belgian mystical essays and Scandinavian realistic plays; there
is no form of literature, whatever its atmosphere and language, to
which a hearing has been refused.

Nor is this merely an Athenian craving for something new. All--and
perhaps more than all--that was worth rescuing of Oscar Wilde's
perverse wit was restored to circulation as soon as the English had
satisfied their love for a legal separation between art and morals;
Samuel Butler was one of several to enjoy a posthumous vogue; and,
if the other heroes were rearranged in the national pantheon, many
were brought into prominence who had long languished in obscurity.
This period saw an immense flood of cheap reprints issuing from a
dozen different publishers; more experiments were tried on more
Shakespearean plays than ever before; and theatrical societies
produced Elizabethan and Restoration dramas which had been left
long unplayed.

These years were enriched by two repertory seasons at the Court and
Duke of York's Theatres, in which some of the maturest work of Shaw
and Barker, Galsworthy and Barrie was seen; and the Abbey Theatre
company came annually from Dublin to delight new audiences with
some of the greatest comedies, the greatest tragedy and the finest
teamwork in acting that had been seen in London for a generation.
As a rule, however, the stage was more fortunate in what it
revived than in what it presented for the first time; dramatic
literature has lagged so far behind other forms that playwrights
would compose and managers produce what no conscientious novelist
or self-respecting publisher dared to expose for sale. The level
of acting, too, was no higher than might be expected in a country
where actors and actresses "starred" on the strength of a single
part and continued in one groove, with plays written down to them,
because they had not endured the discipline of a diversified early
training. To suggest that the English get the drama that they
deserve would be unfair to a nation which, on the whole and with
startling exceptions, enjoys and supports the rare good plays
offered to it; yet there rests unexplained the mystery that,
although the dramatic is the most lucrative form of writing,
although managers and public were clamouring for plays, although
the theatres were filled with erotic comedies, brain-saving revues,
emasculated French farces, clattering American melodramas and
perverse, senile sentimentalities, there were not in these years
more than three British playwrights who could be trusted to give a
recognisable representation of life.

The mystery is deepened by the fact that, during the same period,
the English, who accept with resignation if not with pride the
stigma of being unmusical, crowded a lifetime of musical progress
into a few years. Covent Garden has always been a battleground
between those who wish to hear the greatest number of the most
interesting operas in their best rendering and those who find a box
and the second half of a tuneful banality the best place and time
for meeting again the friends whom they have not seen since dinner.
For a generation the two armies existed amicably side by side on
a compromise by which the music-lovers secured that, whatever the
opera, it should be competently given and the others conceded
that it might be competently given so long as no experiments or
innovations were made. Year after year the hackneyed _Rigolettos_
and _Lohengrins_, the _Traviatas_ and _Tannhaüsers_ soothed the
conservative hearing of any one whose musical education had been
arrested in childhood; from time to time the _Ring_ was given, but
the inordinate length of each part provided a plausible excuse
for those who stayed at home, and a martyr's crown or at least a
victor's laurel for those who attended.

Then, without warning, the new artistic receptivity spread to
music, and a trial was offered to new men and to new works. _Der
Rosenkavalier_ and _Elektra_ were given in those years; _Parsifal_
was played for the first time in England; and all whose knowledge
of ballet was limited to the Empire and Adeline Genée found
themselves led to a mountain-top and invited to regard the new
world wherein Pavlova and Mordken, Karsavina and Nijinski lorded
it. With the Russian ballet and under the shadow of war came the
Russian opera; and, while the old repertory was played at Covent
Garden, a new ecstacy was offered at Drury Lane by _Prince Igor_,
_Boris Godounov_ and _Ivan le terrible_. With the Russian opera
came an artist whose admirers have not yet determined whether he
is greater as a singer or as an actor, though they agree that as a
combination of the two he is the greatest figure on any operatic
stage in the world. The incomparable voice and superb presence of
Chaliapin blew a new vigour of youth and a new conception of beauty
into the stale dust of the London theatre.

Though the spirit of the emancipation breathed also on the
graphic and the plastic arts, as yet its breath has produced only
intoxication. For ten years one experiment has succeeded another,
one school has hustled another out of the way; and the artists
whom the public is enjoined to admire of a morning are devoured
by their own children in the afternoon. Beyond a contempt for the
academic and a revolt from the traditional--not always supported by
technical proficiency in the method rejected--the impressionists
and post-impressionists, the cubists, vorticists and dadaists have
not made plain the goal of their exploration and as yet, though
they have formulated new theories of art, they have not achieved a
new beauty. As, in the reaction from Victorian stiffness, social
emancipation led to a gilded hooliganism, so, in graphic art,
the reaction from the strictness of the pre-Raphaelites led to
chaotic lawlessness. If all England went mad for five years before
the war, her madness is registered, though--it may be hoped--not
immortalised, in the painting of the period.


It was in these years of change and upheaval that the men of the
vanished generation served their apprenticeship and came to first
grips with life. Their fathers and grandfathers, seeing England
riven by a new political dispensation, had acquiesced grudgingly
in the transference of power without seeking to understand the
aspirations of the newly emancipated millions and without striving
to create a new and united community. The fact of social, economic
and racial antagonism, impressed upon them as the legacy of
the French revolution by a hundred years of riots, strikes and
wars, came to be buttressed in the middle of the century by a
biological doctrine which taught that antagonism of beast to beast
and of man to man, of class to class and of creed to creed, of
nation to nation and of hunger, cold and pestilence to all was an
eternal and ineluctable decree of nature. It was easier to repeat
half-comprehended phrases about a struggle for existence and the
survival of the fittest than to attack the disorder which is the
ineluctable and eternal result of antagonism.

After a hundred years of ill-will and dissension, a new generation
arose to protest against the confusion of this endless antagonism.
Impatience with disorder, hatred of ugliness and preoccupation
with the government of man by man--a normal part of youth's mental
equipment--were stimulated in the dawn of the twentieth century by
the literary challenge of each year: in play after play Bernard
Shaw was attacking some social abuse with the penetration of an
old controversialist, the ferocity of a fanatic and the wit of
an Irishman; in novel after novel H. G. Wells cried out on the
slovenly thinking and spiritual laziness which barred beauty and
order from life; and in play after play and novel after novel John
Galsworthy pleaded for gentleness and explored with unanswerable
questions the place where a civic conscience should have been. At
no time since the days of the _philosophes_ has literature been so
much engrossed with the shortcomings of civilisation; at no time
has it appealed so fervently nor experimented so widely. The waking
dream of beauty was reinforced more than ever before by a sense
of personal responsibility; and a higher proportion of the young
men from twenty-two to twenty-seven were waiting only until they
were equipped to undertake it. With a background of new ethical
standards and of new political ideals, in an atmosphere of artistic
experiment and of social revolt, amid a shifting social population
and an unceasing redistribution of wealth, under the menace of
war abroad and of revolution at home, they first measured their
strength against the difficulties of the career that each had

Between 1909 and 1914 a few married; but, as the necessity for
earning a living was their first concern in those days, the
majority were for the present as much debarred from matrimony as
from public life. A few went utterly to pieces, ranging in their
downfall from the squalor of touting among their friends for
insignificant loans to the supreme waste of suicide. One or two
flashed meteorically to the highest plane of their professions.
The rest followed an average course and in diplomacy or in the
civil service, in the army or in holy orders, in commerce or at the
bar, in medicine or in journalism worked with what patience they
could muster through the unproductive years of early plodding. By
1914 the original fortunate three or four who had entered public
life as soon as they came down from Oxford were reinforced by a
dozen more who had made enough progress in five years to fight an
election or at least to nurse a constituency; and five years were
long enough to enable the rest to decide whether they had made
wise choice of a career. Some of those who had been called to the
bar now abandoned their wearisome inactivity in order to make a
livelihood in the City; the young soldiers who had been sent into
the army to be kept out of mischief now assumed that they had
reached years of discretion and resigned their commissions; and any
one who had obstinately cherished the ambition of a literary life
might well, after five years, be deemed incurable.

It was the fate characteristic of nearly all that generation that,
as their training neared completion, they were called away for
ever from the work for which they had been trained and lost to the
peaceful service of mankind. By 1914 their seniors had completed
their apprenticeship and made their transition; though their
uprooting was greater, they had at least found for a moment their
place in the uncaring void. The apprenticeship of their juniors
had not yet begun: they passed from school or university to their
war-service, and the survivors postponed until the end of the war
their practical preparation for civic life. This is not to say that
one is to be envied more than another; in every country at the
outbreak of every war, one generation is more violently dislocated
than the rest; when all loss of life is waste of a nation's
resources, it may be felt that the most grievous waste is among
those who have completed their scholastic education and prepared
themselves for work which they can never fulfil. "Childhood makes
the instrument, youth tunes the strings, and early manhood
plays the melody." The vanished generation never played upon the
instrument; it was hardly tuned before it was struck to the ground,
and music of another kind was heard.

It is useless to speculate how much the loss has cost humanity; to
the men in the middle twenties at least as much as to the men of
any age it was left to pay for the madness of the world and the
crimes of its rulers. They were at the summit of their physical
condition; their spirit and training carried them unfalteringly
into the war; and, enrolling themselves in the first days, they
supported the chief burden of a game in which the odds lengthened
against them with every hour of immunity. A strange marching-song
sent them to their death: strident and shrill cries of impatience
with everything, revolt against everything; catches of crooning
waltz and clattering rag-time to bring back memories and to twist
hearts; the craving for excitement and the whimper of fretfulness;
the sigh of a world in despair heard in the silent pause of mankind
bewildered; all blended their notes to a thunder of confusion,
banishing thought. The onlookers cried in rival tumult that this,
at all events, would be the last war in history; and an echo of
their consoling philosophy carried to the departing troops and, in
the belief that this was a war to end war, furnished them at last
with a ready explanation of their going.

A few perhaps wondered why war could only be ended by war and
whether this was indeed the last war; hardly any one risked the
odium of penetrating official propaganda in order to enquire why
war had been made possible, though some liberals searched their
hearts to discover how the historic peace-party of Great Britain,
elected on other issues and periodically fed on professions of
good-will, had been persuaded in a day to honour, by payment in
flesh and blood, international obligations whose existence the
government had more than once denied.



 "It makes all the difference in the world whether we put Truth in
 the first place or in the second place."

                 WHATELEY (quoted by Lord Morley in _Compromise_).


Though by the outbreak of war, their progress towards the House
of Commons had brought but few of the younger politicians to a
constituency and fewer still to a contested election, a great
part of the years from 1909 until 1914 was inevitably taken up by
political studies in a highly-charged atmosphere. The controversies
of that time were waged with a bitterness of which the straitest
recluse could not remain unaware; and the unsated passions of
Westminster were carried to Pall Mall and fed to new inspiration in
the adjoining, ever-open temples of the two great parties.

The Reform Club, own sister to Bridgewater House, standing between
the Travellers' and the Carlton, is the home constructed by Sir
Charles Barry for the supporters of the reform act of 1832 and
for their successors. A necessary qualification for membership is
that the candidate shall be a "reformer", though the rules do not
indicate whether it is sufficient for him to support the reform of
the divorce law or of the tariff; and until 1886 a reformer and a
liberal were synonymous. After the home rule split of that year,
the Gladstonians in this as in every liberal club blackballed
a Hartingtonite candidate, the Hartingtonites blackballed a
Gladstonian candidate, and both combined to blackball an uncertain
candidate till a truce had to be declared if the club was to
survive. In the headquarters of the liberal party, so loveless a
union was doomed to a short life; when incompatibility of temper
passed beyond patience and hope, judgement was given for the home
rulers; and, though a few of the unionists kept their names on
the books, the majority of the seceders drew daily closer to the
conservative party, and the club once more became the headquarters
of liberalism.

So it has remained to this day; and the chief party meetings,
such as that in December 1916 when Mr. Asquith announced to his
followers the resignation of the first coalition, take place within
its walls; though mercifully free from the control of the party
whips, it is still to liberalism very much what the Carlton is to
conservatism; a liberal member of Parliament takes precedence of
other candidates in the order of election; and the only problem
that can now perplex the club is the old question, "What is a
liberal?" and the new rider, "Who is leader of the liberal party?"

It was not to be expected that the conditions of life in even the
oldest and most famous clubs could escape the social revolution
which was observable before the war and which the war accelerated.
For several years before 1914 the peculiar glory of club life
in London was coming to be regarded as one of London's departed
glories: the parsimonious father no longer automatically entered
his infant son's name for five or six clubs, the impatient
candidate was no longer content to linger indefinitely in the upper
reaches of a waiting-list, and the growing absence of restraint
in all social relationships broke out into intolerance of the
crusted conservatism to which young members of other days had
submitted uncomplainingly. The war, in checking the normal flow of
fresh blood, caused some clubs to waste and die, others to turn a
more anæmic scrutiny on the qualifications of their candidates;
and, with the coming of peace, the cry has again been heard that
even the most historic institutions must modernize themselves or
forfeit the allegiance of those who require a place where they can
play squash racquets and invite women to meals. It is so doubtful
whether club life will ever regain its Victorian popularity and
prestige that a student of changing manners may perhaps be forgiven
for halting to uncover at the sound of one more passing bell.

As the nebulous quality of being a reformer is the sole positive
requirement of a candidate for the Reform Club, the membership is
more varied than in most. Naturally, liberal politicians abound;
the bar and civil service are well represented, but probably no
association which is primarily political contains also quite so
many non-political elements. From the days of Thackeray and James
Payn to those of H. G. Wells and Arnold Bennett it has always bound
a spell on men of letters: Henry James had a bedroom there in his
later years; and novelists, whether or no they can boast the honour
of membership, alike seem unable to keep it out of their novels.
Jules Verne laid the first and last scenes of _Round the World in
Eighty Days_ in the card-room of the club, and it is chastening for
a vegetarian to reflect that in those virile days your reformer
breakfasted succulently off steaks and chops; it is impossible not
to suspect more than one sly description in some of H. G. Wells'
later novels, while in _Marriage_--beyond doubt or cavil--one
character leaves the ice and idealism of Labrador, if not for
the flesh-pots of the Reform Club, at least with the knowledge
that "pressed beef, such as they'll give you at the Reform, too,
that's good eating for a man. With chutnee, and then old cheese to

From a corner of the Reform Club young political aspirants had an
unrivalled opportunity of watching for ten years the history of
liberalism in the making. With hardly an exception the ministers
were all members; and most of them used the club regularly.
The great liberal triumph of 1906 had brought everything but
homogeneity: there was enthusiasm, authority and numbers, but there
was also suspicion and a memory of old feuds. The Liberal Leaguers,
it was generally believed, would have liked to banish Sir Henry
Campbell-Bannerman to the House of Lords; but both he and his
backing of nonconformist radicals were too strong for them. On his
resignation the liberal party presented the anomalous spectacle
of a radical, peace-loving, nonconformist body with a Liberal
League head; and the first election of 1910 was required to unify
the party. In the cabinet and in the House of Commons there is a
difference, almost incomprehensible to those outside, between the
position of a prime minister who has succeeded to the heritage won
by another and the position of a prime minister who has gone into
action at the head of his army and has been invoked and acclaimed
in five hundred single combats. Though he had squandered the vast
majority which Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman bequeathed to him, Mr.
Asquith returned in 1910 with enhanced prestige as the leader of a
party which had gone to the polls in his name.

The years from 1906 until 1910--the "Mad Parliament"[18]--had been
primarily a time of political education or disillusion for the
liberals who entered the House of Commons with unlimited idealism,
limited experience and unbounded ignorance of parliamentary
forms. In the first flush of victory they cleared the Rand of its
indentured Chinese labour and carried out the settlement of South
Africa by a grant of self-government: to such an avalanche of power
the opposition could offer no resistance, and, so long as the
government effected its reforms by executive action, the reserve
of the old guard could not be brought up. It was when, with a
curiously negative passion for reversal, ministers tried to upset
the Taff Vale judgement and the Balfour education and licensing
acts that new legislation was needed; and to new legislation the
conservatives could offer an opposition to overcome the most
bloated of majorities. The Birrell education bill and the new
licensing bill were destroyed by the House of Lords; the trades
disputes bill, after hanging by the neck, was cut down before it
was dead. Of the three, this was the one most open to attack in
that it placed trades unions, in some respects, above the law; it
was allowed to pass, amid salvos of abuse, because the House of
Lords would not then risk a direct challenge to organized labour;
and this cynical opportunism discredited the Lords far more than
had their partial and reactionary assault on all bills submitted by
a liberal government.

Either of these rebuffs constituted, in the eyes of the party
stalwarts, an occasion for war; and those who remembered the
dismal policy of "filling up the cup" in the Gladstone-Rosebery
administration yearned for a short, sharp contest in which the
malevolence of the House of Lords should be fettered for all time.
Nevertheless, the memory of even a successful election is so
little alluring that the liberal majority of those days did not
wish to engage in a second: the politician of detached judgement
surmised that, when the Nationalists had secured special favours
for Catholics and when all parties had united to concede them to
the Jews, it was invidious to refuse similar treatment to the
Church of England. In rejecting the education bill, the House of
Lords aroused little practical hostility, however much its action
may have offended doctrinaire democrats; and so artificial was the
tattered passion aroused by the Balfour education act of 1902 that,
when it ceased to furnish platform capital, it was left to function
unmolested and is still operative after nearly twenty years.
Similarly, when the licensing bill was thrown out, the House of
Lords was so far from being reprobated by any but prohibitionists
and professional partisans that it even won the sympathy of the
average man by preventing an intolerable interference with his
personal habits and by securing to the threatened license-holder
his means of living. Some such reflections, occurring even to the
less detached politicians, disposed them to wait for a more certain
triumph than was promised by the half-hearted support accorded to
their rejected bills; an opportunity was provided by the budget of
1909; and Mr. Asquith's first general election of 1910 was fought
to reaffirm the hitherto long unquestioned control of finance by
the House of Commons.

If the new liberal majority was smaller and now dependent on the
nationalist vote, it was at least inspired by an unanalytical
admiration for its chief such as no prime minister had enjoyed
since the fanatical personality of Mr. Gladstone drew an equally
fanatical devotion from his followers. Personal shyness and
intellectual aloofness deprived Mr. Asquith of the love felt for
Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman by all who came in contact with
him; he never pretended passionate enthusiasms nor roused in
others the passionate enthusiasm which caused Mr. Lloyd George
to be cheered through a division-lobby; he was never the sole
hero of a great bill as Mr. Lloyd George was the sole hero of
the 1909 budget; outside the House he never won the adoration
of the proletariat as Mr. Lloyd George won--and to some extent
kept--it by his Limehouse campaign; and, when fire was needed in
debate, Mr. Lloyd George or Mr. Churchill was left to supply it.
Nevertheless, lack of temperament and limitation of heart were
compensated, in Mr. Asquith, by the unlimited ascendancy of his
head. Eloquent, emphatic, and unruffled, patient, experienced and
resourceful, the intellectual and dialectical superior of the
oldest parliamentarian in the House and the wisest tactician on
either side, a survivor from Mr. Gladstone's last cabinet and Mr.
Gladstone's most brilliant discovery, Mr. Asquith exacted, even
from those who resisted him in the Liberal League days, a blind
loyalty which carried him through four years of the hottest and
most unintermittent domestic fighting in English political history;
it carried him, with closed ranks, into the war and through nearly
two and a half years of the war, though many felt in their hearts
that, by the policy which made war possible, he had betrayed
liberalism and that, by the unheralded formation and dissolution
of the first coalition, he had betrayed the liberal party. After
the December crisis of 1916 the loyalty of his followers, with
their English love for an old, popular favourite, insisted that he
should still remain at their head; and, when he lost his seat in
1918, he retained his leadership. The general election in that year
extinguished his party; it was characteristic of the men he led and
of the leader they followed that, when all was lost but faith, they
set loyalty to their old chief above private and public interest.


From the budget crisis of 1909 until the party crisis of 1916
Mr. Asquith, as the Nestor first of his party and then of his
coalition, was by so much the most commanding figure in public
life that posterity seemed likely, in reading the history of those
years, to concentrate upon his name as exclusively as this age
concentrates on that of Mr. Pitt, while forgetting the names of his
lieutenants as completely as the casual reader in these days has
forgotten the names of Mr. Pitt's. Had he remained in office till
the armistice to enjoy the fruits of this early war-administration,
his fame would probably have transcended Mr. Pitt's, as the late
war transcended in magnitude the war against Napoleon; had he
resigned voluntarily, with every honour that could be bestowed
upon him, three months before the December downfall, he would have
shared with his successor whatever credit history may accord to
the political leaders in the war. The time and the manner of his
resignation dwarf his personality and his achievements before
those of Mr. Lloyd George as the achievements and personality
of Lord Aberdeen were dwarfed before those of Lord Palmerston.
"Nothing in Mr. Asquith's career is more striking than his fall
from power," writes the anonymous author of _The Mirrors of Downing
Street_; "it was as if a pin had dropped."

Seven years earlier he seemed to his supporters, inside the
House and out, a leader who could wrest a party victory from
the jaws of political death. Whoever unloosed the winds, it was
always Mr. Asquith who harnessed and rode them. Thus, Mr. Lloyd
George, confident that the House of Lords had, by constitutional
convention, no power to tamper with a money-bill, departed so
far from the traditional conception of the budget as a means of
balancing expenditure and revenue that the House of Lords was
threatened with loss of control over any measure which could be
shielded by a financial clause. It was a bold challenge, boldly
accepted; the House of Lords threw out the budget. No general
election could paralyse their powers more completely than the
device which the chancellor of the exchequer was seeking to
introduce. With equal boldness the prime minister followed up his
challenge by advising a dissolution.

Mr. Asquith's ministry was returned to power with authority to
piece together and carry its mutilated programme, though the
authority was by now so much diminished that the opposition
regarded itself and the country as lying at the mercy of a
small and tyrannous junto: had they voted by inclination, the
nationalists would have assailed the budget, but they gave their
support as a consideration for the later help of British liberals
who indeed called themselves home rulers, but were more interested
in other issues. From 1910 onwards log-rolling by groups became the
first condition of the government's existence; and, before ever the
House met, the whips' office was conscious of the change. Political
history from 1910 to 1914 is the record of the government's
attempts to meet its liabilities. The great bills were introduced:
home rule, Welsh disestablishment and electoral reform; they were
rejected, and the parliament bill was drafted to secure that these
and other bills, when passed by the House of Commons without change
in three consecutive sessions, automatically became law. There
was another election, keenly resented by those who regarded it as
unnecessary and complained that they had been misled by the prime
minister's Albert Hall speech; and Mr. Asquith was empowered to say
that, if the House of Lords rejected the parliament bill, new peers
would be created until the government had a majority; the bill

After less than ten years, many are forgetting the political
passions of those days. To a radical this contest was far the
greatest democratic victory since the first reform bill, and Mr.
Asquith, after nearly twenty years, seemed to be buckling on the
sword which Mr. Gladstone laid down when, in the last speech
delivered by him in the House of Commons, he warned his party of
the conflict which had been forced upon them: to an Irishman, it
was the promise of freedom and self-government. Nowhere could there
be found room for compromise, though the opposition saw only the
coming of mob-rule and confiscation, the betrayal of Ulster and the
spoliation of the church. It is small wonder if war was carried to
the knife and fork, if old friendships broke, as in the days of
the first home rule bill, and if stern, unbending tories stalked
disgustedly from drawing-rooms when ministers and their families

Many, too, are forgetting how closely fought was the contest.
Blood, it was boasted, would flow under Westminster Bridge before
the "backwoodsmen" gave way; the whips' office was reported to
have its lists ready, and new peers were to be created in batches
until their opponents abandoned the futile opposition; while the
final debate was taking place in the House of Lords, the first
commissioner was at work on the plans for converting Westminster
Hall into a chamber capable of seating the new creations. No one,
even as the last division took place, could predict confidently how
the votes would be cast.

The victory of the government brought to an end the greatest
constitutional struggle of a century. Henceforward the will of the
majority, expressed through its representatives in the House of
Commons and thrice affirmed, could no longer be withstood by the
House of Lords in its existing or in any reformed state; for the
second time in twenty years Ireland looked through an open door
at the vision of freedom. It may be that the war, in overturning
all political conditions, has caused the parliament act to be no
longer needed: the days of conflict between the two houses may
have passed away in 1914, and from the present disorder and sorrow
of Ireland may emerge a settlement not less enduring than was
foreshadowed in the third home rule bill; but, whether or not there
be one to mourn its death, all must recognise that the parliament
act is dead, and, unless its fruits are to be secured by other
means, it were better that it had never been born with its promise
of hope and its fulfilment of despair. If war with Germany was
inevitable--an hypothesis which increasing numbers find themselves
unable to accept--democracy and nationalism would have fared better
by its coming in 1911; if the act of God had displaced the liberal
ministers on the morrow of their victory, it would have been better
for their reputation and for the principles which they professed.
For a moment they and their redoubtable leader loomed big as any
of the greatest parliamentary figures in history; neither Canning
nor Grey, neither Palmerston nor Gladstone could shew a fairer
record of achievement in the long battle for democracy and the
untrammelled development of small nations.

It was only for a moment. Political history from the passing of
the parliament act is the history of liberalism in its decline
and fall. Were ministers exhausted by their effort? Were they
men who could only do a piece of work when it was forced upon
them? Among his great qualities it is doubtful whether the prime
minister could include enthusiasm, though he worked in office with
the mechanical efficiency and speed of a hard-pressed barrister;
it is certain that he could not be credited with imagination: the
Irish ideal and the Ulster ideal floated at an equal distance
above the practical head of a man who had been taught and trained
to distrust enthusiasm and to reject idealism. His biographer may
search through his speeches and writings for one hint of vision
or a single glimmer of sympathy with anything but material logic;
he might as profitably search through the sole published speech
of Gallio and the comment of his chronicler. Want of vision was
temporarily compensated by adroitness in escaping the consequences
of this defect. For the next five years, friends and enemies agreed
that there was no one to equal Mr. Asquith in his tactical retreat
from a crisis; the enemies added that, until a crisis arose,
he never exerted himself; the friends began to wonder whether
the highest statesmanship consisted in overcoming one crisis by
creating another, by exchanging an Irish crisis for a European
crisis until, in the final crisis of December 1916, when for the
last time he bade his followers choose between Nicias and Cleon, a
majority voted for any change from the long and precarious policy
of brilliant improvisations.

As an instrument of government, the liberal ministry declined
in power as its prestige declined; and its prestige suffered a
severe blow on the day when the public was informed that Mr. Lloyd
George, the chancellor of the exchequer, Sir Rufus Isaacs, the
attorney-general, and the Master of Elibank, chief liberal whip,
had been buying American Marconi shares. The attorney-general's
brother was associated with the English company; and the more
credulous section of the public, never reluctant to learn or to
invent a scandal among the highly-placed, jumped to the conclusion
that ministers with access to information withheld from the public
had been speculating in stocks which their official position
enabled them to influence in their own favour. A widespread outcry
arose, a commission of enquiry was set up, ministers were examined
and the findings of the commissioners were published. As a cynic
observed at the time:

"The tories don't care a damn, but they have to pretend to be
shocked; the liberals are shocked, but they have to pretend not to
care a damn."

After weeks of excited recrimination, public interest gradually
cooled; the hostile press had to admit that there had been no
corruption, however injudiciously the ministers had behaved. The
episode might have been forgotten, the prestige of the government
might have recovered if a concession had been made to the virtuous
indignation of those who were shocked by the "scandal" and of those
who persuaded themselves that they were shocked; no prime minister
is strong enough to despise with impunity the suspicion that,
because he cannot afford to lose them, or because he is indifferent
to their offence, he is retaining colleagues for whose resignation
he should have asked. Too lofty of soul to regard the prejudices
of the vulgar and perhaps reluctant to present Mr. Lloyd George to
the labour party or to the radical wing of the ministerialists, the
government listened only to the dictates of logic and loyalty: if
the three ministers were innocent of dishonest purpose or practice,
they must not be persecuted; indiscretion was not a hanging
offence. The Master of Elibank soon afterwards abandoned political
life to take up, as Lord Murray of Elibank, a responsible position
with a firm of contractors; Sir Rufus Isaacs left the House of
Commons to become lord chief justice; Mr. Lloyd George remained
guardian of the public purse; and the less punctilious governments
of the world from Mexico to France warmed to a feeling of cordial
fellowship with methods which they seemed to recognise and with men
whom they seemed to understand.

This obedience to the findings of the commission was strictly
logical; and in refusing to be swayed by ignorant prejudice the
prime minister gave one more instance of his unfailing loyalty
to colleagues who, it cannot be said too often, were innocent of
all dishonesty. Nevertheless, in the mouths of weaker men there
lingered an unpleasant taste; and, if no one was seriously
surprised or hurt by the conduct of the principals, even the most
cynical member of parliament was offended by the unprotesting
tolerance of such men as Mr. Asquith and Sir Edward Grey, of whom
a more inflexible standard was expected. It was felt that, when a
speculating chancellor of the exchequer continued in office, it
must be because his chief was insensible to the undesirability of
such practises, or because he was too sensible of his lieutenant's
value as a vote-catcher; it was regretfully surmised that the prime
minister would throw a protecting mantle over his colleagues,
whatever they did, and that his colleagues could do what they liked
because the head of the government would never call for their

The sense that the prime minister would only stir himself to use
his authority in a crisis encouraged a spirit of lawlessness which
in the years following led to active disorder and the threat of
civil war; secure in the belief that they were too valuable to
be dismissed and free from fear that the head of the government
would call them to order, his less temperate colleagues were
stimulated to a license of speech and to an independence of action
that threatened the solidity of cabinet rule and prepared the rift
which ultimately broke the party. These were the days when the
blood of Marlborough, warming in Mr. Winston Churchill's veins,
urged him to take personal part in a military campaign against
a couple of hooligans in the east end of London; they were the
days of Mr. Lloyd George's more finished Limehouse manner. And,
while it is fair to assume that the prime minister's intellectual
fastidiousness recoiled from this exuberance of action and speech,
he did nothing to dissociate himself from it publicly.

The same lethargy brooded over the beginning of every new crisis.
In addition to a long succession of labour troubles, occasionally
composed at the eleventh hour, but usually flourishing to the
general discomfort of the community at the thirteenth, ministers,
in their lofty refusal to be stampeded, allowed two incipient
rebellions against public order to reach a point of success and
determination at which one could put a pistol to the head of the
government and the other could demonstrate that the executive
lacked power to quell unruliness. During these years the agitation
in favour of female suffrage is only of interest in so far as
it encouraged the enemies of England in their belief that the
strength of the government was paralysed. The parliamentary vote
has now been conceded to women; Mr. Asquith, its most stalwart
antagonist, has seen that he mistook a prejudice for a principle
and has repaired his mistake. In the three years before the war,
however, he was not yet so well convinced of women's fitness to
govern that he would allow female suffrage to become a line of
party division. The suffragettes spoke and stormed, burnt and
broke; their adherents in the House of Commons were not numerous
enough to force a bill through; and the government was amply
justified in not lending support to a cause which had no certain
popular backing in the country.[19] But, if the time was not yet
ripe for a parliamentary contest, the executive had at least a duty
in maintaining public order. The weakness displayed by ministers
in handling this series of sporadic rebellions suggested to other
discontented parties in England, Ireland and Germany that ministers
were powerless to govern; a critic with any detachment wondered, in
spite of himself, why the English fancied that they had any genius
for self-government.


Salvation by violence, never a healthy doctrine to inculcate, was
peculiarly dangerous teaching for a section of the Irish who had
been told for almost thirty years that they would be justified in
offering forcible resistance to any attempt on the part of the
imperial parliament to press home rule upon them. When ministers
honoured their obligation to the nationalist party by whose votes
they had been kept in office since 1910, the Orangemen announced
that they would resist by force. Cynics in England may have been
amused, seekers after truth outside England must have been shocked
to find the Irish "loyalists"[20] threatening armed resistance to
an act which could only come into force on the authority of the
king of Great Britain and Ireland and of the imperial parliament;
if not shocked, even the avowed anarchist must have been surprised
to find the experiment in constructive treason blessed and headed
by the Right Honourable Sir Edward Carson, K.C., M.P., one time
a law-officer of the crown and a man committed by his privy
councillor's oath to loyalty towards his soveran. But these were
restless and unbalanced times, in which constitutionalism came to
be regarded as an outworn shibboleth: the bitter struggle over the
1909 budget, the two general elections within a single year and
the more bitter struggle over the parliament bill had familiarized
the people of Great Britain with a new violence of language,
of boast and of threat. The Ulster covenant and the Ulster
volunteers, appealing to the twin boyish love--in such men as Mr.
F. E. Smith, K.C., M.P.--of a secret society and of playing at
soldiers, afforded a new thrill to jaded spirits who were perhaps
disappointed that, though the parliament bill had passed, no blood
had flowed under Westminster Bridge.

Behind Sir Edward Carson stood a young Englishman in a hurry and a
Canadian, no longer young, who had been entrusted with the delicate
task of teaching the conservative party a newer and better style
of parliamentary opposition than Mr. Balfour had been able to
inculcate; the Irish problem united the three indissolubly, and for
present violence and later responsibility there is little to choose
between them.

"I could contribute," said Mr. F. E. Smith on 18.6.12, "very little
to the military efficiency of those who were resisting the Regular
Forces or the still more formidable invasion from the South,

"I can imagine," said Mr. Bonar Law, on 27.7.12, "no length of
resistance to which Ulster will go which I shall not be ready to

"We will shortly challenge the Government," said Sir Edward Carson
on the same day. "They may tell us if they like that this is
treason. We are prepared to take the consequences."

"I do not care tuppence whether it is treason or not," proclaimed
Sir Edward Carson on 21.9.12.

"Supposing," Mr. F. E. Smith suggested on 25.9.12, "the Government
gave such an order, the consequences can only be described in the
words of Mr. Bonar Law, when he said, 'if they did so it would not
be a matter of argument, but the population of London would lynch
you on the lamp-posts.'"

"The Attorney-General," boasted Sir Edward Carson, himself an old
solicitor-general and a future attorney-general, on 11.10.12, "says
that my doctrines and the course I am taking lead to anarchy. Does
he not think I know that?"

"If you attempt to enforce this Bill ...," threatened Mr. Bonar Law
on 1.1.13, "I shall assist them in resisting it."

"We will set up a Government," announced Sir Edward Carson on
7.9.13. "I am told it will be illegal. Of course it will. Drilling
is illegal ... the Government dare not interfere."

"Ulster will do well to resist, and we will support her in her
resistance to the end," promised Mr. Bonar Law on 28.11.13.

"The red blood will flow," prophesied Sir Edward Carson on 17.1.14.

"To coerce Ulster ... no right to ask army to undertake," decided
Mr. Bonar Law. "Any officer who refuses is only doing his duty."

"The day I shall like best," said Sir Edward Carson on 20.6.14,
less than six weeks before the beginning of war with Germany, "is
the day upon which I am compelled, if I am compelled, to tell my
men, 'You must mobilize.'"

"If the occasion arises," Mr. Bonar Law undertook on 28.9.14, eight
weeks after war had broken out, "we shall support you to the last
in any steps which Sir Edward Carson and your leaders think it
necessary for you to take."[21]

While the leader of the unionist party, a former solicitor-general
and the rising hope of the spent and broken tories were restrained
from using language that could be borrowed by malcontents less
highly placed, their followers imposed less check on the unaffected
poetry of their natures.

"There is a spirit spreading abroad," declared Captain Craig
(_Morning Post_, 9.1.11[22]), "which I can testify to from my
personal knowledge that Germany and the German Emperor would be
preferred to the rule of John Redmond, Patrick Ford and the Molly

"If they were put out of the Union ...," proclaimed Major F.
Crawford, a Larne gun-runner, on 29.4.12, "he would infinitely
prefer to change his allegiance right over to the Emperor of
Germany or any one else who had got a proper and stable government."

And even Mr. Bonar Law ventured to state, even in the House of
Commons, on 1.1.13:

"It is a fact which I do not think any one who knows anything about
Ireland will deny, that these people in the North-East of Ireland,
from old prejudices perhaps more than from anything else, from the
whole of their past history, would prefer, I believe, to accept the
government of a foreign country rather than submit to be governed
by hon. gentlemen below the gangway."

"It may not be known to the rank and file of Unionists," announced
_The Irish Churchman_ on 14.11.13, "that we have the offer of aid
from a powerful continental monarch who, if Home Rule is forced on
the Protestants of Ireland, is prepared to send an army sufficient
to release England of any further trouble in Ireland by attaching
it to his dominion, believing, as he does, that if our king breaks
his coronation oath by signing the Home Rule Bill he will, by so
doing, have forfeited his claim to rule Ireland. And should our
king sign the Home Rule Bill, the Protestants of Ireland will
welcome this continental deliverer as their forefathers, under
similar circumstances, did once before."

Since the consequences of their menace have been observed in
the desolation of a hundred million homes throughout the world,
Orangemen have not dwelt with pride on this aspect of their
campaign; and, even at the time when the last threat was uttered,
the more temperate souls felt that the controversy was being
pushed beyond the limit of fair government-baiting. Weapons of an
older type were brought into play: Ulstermen, who of all dour,
independent races can best look after themselves, were depicted as
the future spiritual and financial victims of "Rome rule"; and of
the plea that Ulster only wished to remain a part of Great Britain
and Ireland much was made by controversialists who would not
consent to be governed for a day, had the tables been turned, by an
insignificant minority of Ulster nationalists, backed by political
sympathizers in another country.

With the thunder of opposing oratory mingled the rattle of
grounding arms and the tramp of marching feet; but, though the
Orangemen warned the government that the Ulster rebels were too
much in earnest to be disregarded, ministers were by now grown
indifferent to the bluff of their enemies, the counsel of the
disinterested and the public insults which highly-placed ladies
showered upon them with impunity at court and in private houses.
Whether the anarchy and treason, preached and admitted by Sir
Edward Carson, would ever have flamed into civil war is a matter of
guess-work. The nationalist leaders, rightly or wrongly, thought
that it would not; the prime minister who afterwards discounted
the strength of nationalist idealism from August, 1914, until the
Easter rising was unlikely to give its true value, whatever that
might be, to the strength of unionist idealism two years before;
by now, moreover, he was too well used to actual crises to be
alarmed by a crisis which had not yet arisen. Mr. Birrell, the
chief secretary, was too busily engaged in concealing his defects
as an administrator under his brilliance as an epigrammatist to
supply the imagination that his leader lacked. No attempt was made
to scotch the rebellion or bring the ringleaders to book; enrolment
increased, drilling continued, arms were purchased and imported. In
the spring of 1914 some uneasiness made itself felt in the bosom of
Colonel Seely, the secretary of state for war, and a confidential
question directed to the loyalty of the troops stationed at the
Curragh elicited that a number of officers, holding the king's
commission, would refuse to obey orders if commanded to proceed
against the Ulster rebels.

Though it was still a matter of guess-work whether the Orangemen
would rise, no one could doubt that, in the event of a rising,
there would be difficulty in making the army obey its orders. No
less a person than the leader of the opposition had said that the
officer who refused would only be doing his duty. For a few hours
the House of Commons tried heatedly to assert itself against this
attempt to establish a military ascendancy over parliament; the
tail wagged and came near to lashing the dog; but the creation of
a crisis created with it an opportunity for the prime minister
to shew his adroitness in overcoming crises; Colonel Seely
resigned, and Mr. Asquith undertook the administration of the War
Office, thereby surprising the Curragh and the House of Commons
so completely that the revolts in both places flickered out. The
government, however, had only escaped from one difficulty by
plunging into a greater; ministers, at last realising that Ulster
must be coerced or conciliated and that Sir Edward Carson, relying
on his volunteers, was pressing them harder than Mr. Redmond, who
could only rely on a government's honour, decided to conciliate.
It was announced that the home rule scheme must be amended; a
conference was summoned; the Orangemen were comforted by a promise
that the home rule act would not be enforced without an amending
act; and ministers committed themselves to a formula which has
become an accession-oath to succeeding administrations: Ulster must
not be coerced. To a liberal, the idea of coercion is so hateful
that he welcomes any declaration which undertakes to circumscribe
its tyranny; if it has to be applied, he would sooner see one man
in bonds and three at large than one at large and three in bonds;
but the liberal loathing of oppression, as expressed by Mr. Asquith
and Mr. Lloyd George, seems to have been confined to onehalf of one
province of Ireland. To the tortured and distracted other three
provinces their process of thought has never been satisfactorily

In the venerable story of an international gathering which was set
to write an essay on the elephant, it will be remembered that,
while the Englishman wrote on "Elephant-Hunting" and the Frenchman
on "The Love-Affairs of the Elephant", it was a German who evolved
an elephant out of his inner consciousness and a Pole who devoted
himself to "The Elephant in Relation to the Polish Question." For
a subject-nation to be obsessed by concern for its nationality is
perhaps tiresome to others; not to be so obsessed is despicable;
and the Irishman and the Pole have at least escaped the degradation
of a deracialised Jew. None the less, though nationality be the
first, it is not the only concern; and even an Irishman may have
felt, during these years, that Irish independence was being
purchased at the cost of a liberalism that was not confined by
national bounds. Political science has changed so little in two
thousand years that, whatever the origin of the state, it now
exists primarily, as it existed in the days of Aristotle, to
make life possible: the personal safety of the individual must
be assured and he must be guaranteed the essentials of living.
On this foundation there rises now, as in the days of Aristotle,
the second law, which alone separates an assembly of men from a
pack of wolves, that the state exists to make possible a life of
excellence; the individual must be afforded a chance of living a
nobler life. Despite sporadic crime and external war, the first
condition of safety was satisfied in England; and, though death by
starvation was not unknown, the existence of work-houses testified
that none need starve. Because the second condition is still so far
from being fulfilled and because the chance of living a noble life
is confined to an infinitesimal handful of the population, a party
pledged to social reform came into existence and will justify its
existence so long as oppression or fear of oppression, injustice,
insecurity, disease, ignorance, poverty and squalor remain to
be removed. It was the business of liberalism to remove these

How far did it succeed? The violence of political controversy
in those days hid from most observers how little was being done
to improve the lot of man, woman or child in England. After the
passion for reversing the legislation of their predecessors had
run its course, ministers did indeed carry a courageous measure of
old-age pensions; their insurance act was generous in intention
even if it was unneeded and ineffectual in practise; and the
parliament act created a procedure for expediting social reform in
the future. But how much else did they find time to achieve in the
intervals of the constitutional crisis and of the unending clash
over Ireland?

While they wrangled, the possibility of a noble life was brought
no nearer. Hundreds of thousands were insufficiently fed, ill-clad
and verminous, with insufficient air, light and warmth; millions
were corrupt with phthisis, cancer or venereal disease. On these
physical wrecks and starvelings education left little mark; and a
century of labour combination and industrial legislation had not
laid that spectre of unemployment which stunts the soul and turns
cold the heart of even the healthiest and most independent when
they live within sight of the margin of subsistence. Day after day
the opportunity of noble living was withdrawn from the thousands
of women who through moral weakness, poverty, indolence or greed
were pressed as recruits to prostitution; it was withdrawn from the
homes that were ruined by drink and gambling. The shadow cast by
the cloud-capped towers and gorgeous palaces of modern civilisation
was so dense that there still existed in England, in the twentieth
century, private societies to preserve animals and children from
being tortured.

From time to time a sudden attack was made on the trade in
human bodies and souls known by timid English euphemism as "the
white-slave traffic"; the criminal law was amended and made more
vigorous; the defencelessness of children was recognised and
safeguarded. For what they were worth, let all credit be given to
these gingerly attempts to heal unsightly sores, provided that no
one mistake part cure for complete prevention. A prison flogging
may deter the pander from dealing in human flesh, but it does not
dispose him to noble living for its own sake; this is begotten of
a sense of beauty by education. During these years a cartoon by
Max Beerbohm depicted Lord Lansdowne trying, with all the amenity
of his kind, to understand just what Mr. H. G. Wells meant by the
barrenness of official politics; the successive education bills
of the liberal administration sacrificed the elementals of good
citizenship to an ingenious game of protecting church of England
children from the perils of religious instruction in the tenets of
dissent; and whether in after life a man starved his children or
lived on the hire of his wife's body mattered less than that for
the first twelve years of existence a unitarian should be secured
from believing or even understanding that God was Three-in-One and

While only those who are equally ignorant of politics and of
history imagine that the party system can be ended without a change
in all the practises of English representative government, it is
unquestionable that the sometimes artificial antagonism of two
parties set eternally in opposition to each other causes undue
importance to be attached to politics on their tactical side; the
content is sacrificed to the form. If man's hope of noble living
went unstrengthened in the years from 1906 to 1914, this was
because the trustees of the nation were too busy squabbling for
possession of the machine.


Throughout July, 1914, all parties were working industriously
to amend the home rule bill in such a way as to compensate the
"ascendancy" party for the loss of its ascendancy. That solution
had not been discovered when war broke out. To present a united
front in face of the enemy, Lord Lansdowne and Mr. Bonar Law
patriotically promised the prime minister their support in this
latest crisis; the prime minister, not to be outdone in patriotism,
undertook to postpone controversial legislation for the duration
of the war. The contentious bills were left to hibernate in the
statute-book; the constitutionalists in Ireland were left to
compare the failure of constitutionalism with the success of
treason; and the political historian observed that, once more, the
major crisis had saved the government from the consequences of the

Unhappily, as controversial legislation was only postponed, so the
consequences of this surrender to rebellion were only postponed;
more unhappily still, they were not postponed for so long. Certain
lessons were learned in the years from 1911 to 1914; and they have
not been forgotten.

First, the government, as the suffragettes and Orangemen had
shewn, could be bullied; it either would not or could not keep
order. And for more than two years it was bullied by strikers,
conscriptionists, "war groups", newspaper proprietors and those
who wished for a coalition; it was bullied in open session and in
secret session by private members, ex-ministers and commissions of

Secondly, officers of the British army could refuse to obey orders
if commanded to suppress a political agitation with which they
might sympathise; it was not made clear by the army council that
privates had the same freedom if commanded to suppress a labour
agitation with which they might sympathise.

Thirdly, a privy councillor might, with impunity, preach armed
resistance to a law, though the result of his preaching were local
bloodshed or a general war; Sir Roger Casement might not practice
armed resistance in protest against the suspension of that law.

Fourthly, the word of a British minister could no longer be
accepted. A political bargain is as binding as any other; and since
1910 the government had depended on nationalist support of which
the price was the home rule bill. When pressure was applied, the
government refused to honour its bargain; payment was to be made
on new conditions and in debased coinage. It is instructive to
read the list of those who acquiesced in this surrender, for the
dishonour of the prime minister was shared by all of his colleagues
and supporters who consented to the act of betrayal: they are
English, Irish, Scotch, Welsh, Jewish and hybrid, so that the
disgrace is not confined to a single nationality; they are men who
probably pay their tradesmen, certainly their opponents at bridge.
And many of them made eloquent speeches of righteous indignation
when the Imperial German government abrogated the Belgian and
Luxemburg treaties. In Ireland to this day and for many years to
come there is not a man, woman or child who will take the British
government seriously. For defence it is urged that, if the home
rule act had been enforced in 1914, there would have been civil
war in Ulster; temporary peace was bought at the price of civil
war throughout the rest of Ireland from the Easter rising onwards,
as the rest of Ireland learned from British ministers and from
Sir Edward Carson that "the great questions of the time are to
be decided not by speeches and votes of majorities but by blood
and iron." Faced with this choice of evils, it was unfortunate
that ministers selected the alternative which carried with it the
repudiation of their own bond.

As the unconstructive critic is no less irritating and no more
helpful than a howling child, the Irish policy of the liberal
government may only be attacked by those who are prepared to
suggest an alternative. The present first essential is that the
imperial parliament should reestablish in Ireland a belief in
its own good-faith; the second, that, as nationalist history has
advanced rapidly since 1914, the Irish should be given a measure
of independence relatively as great as that promised to them in
the third home rule act; the third, that they should determine its
form for themselves. All Ireland should be divided into electoral
areas to choose a constituent assembly which would contain Ulster
Protestants, Ulster Catholics, Southern Protestants, Southern
Catholics and Sinn Feiners (who can enter no conference so long
as there is a price on their heads). When a two-thirds majority
of this constituent assembly has agreed upon a constitution, the
imperial parliament should undertake to enforce it, if necessary by
arms, whatever its form and without favour for any recalcitrants;
and every section of parliament should pledge itself, jointly and
severally, to this. The minds of those who are disturbed by talk
of an Irish republic may be soothed if the word "commonwealth,"
sufficiently honoured in other parts of the world, be substituted.
Those who see in Ireland a base of attack on England in a future
war are not entitled to be heard until they have stated (1) what
war they anticipate; (2) where Ireland is to find the money to
build a fleet or to equip an army, and (3) how, in any war, Ireland
is more immune from the supervision of the British navy than are
France, Belgium and Holland.

Until Ireland has been pacified, the reciprocal murdering and
incendiarism of this new Thirty Years' War will continue, at
the lowest, to hinder succeeding governments in their task of
reconstruction after the war, as the unsettled Irish problem
hindered the task of social amelioration which had been entrusted
to the liberal government in 1906. Month by month, as the shadow
of Ireland advanced farther into British politics, the authority
and usefulness of a great reforming party receded; and, at the
end, the bruised, the broken-hearted and the disillusionised
agreed that, if the liberal ministry which the genius of Sir Henry
Campbell-Bannerman had contrived and which the biggest liberal
majority in history supported so long and faithfully could have
been caught up to heaven on the morrow of the parliament act, every
liberal would have said: "_Felix opportunitate mortis_."

The outbreak of war marked the death of liberalism. Freedom of
speech was curtailed and suppressed until one scrupulous patriot
asked in the House of Commons whether the Sermon on the Mount
should not be regarded as subversive of military discipline;
freedom of action was drowned by a wave of collective hysteria
in which governors and governed vied with one another to impose
new burdens and to bend submissive and welcoming necks to receive
them. The theory of representative government, shaken to its
foundations when a House of Commons which had been elected to
carry the parliament bill engaged--as a parergon--in a European
war, was finally destroyed when conscription was imposed without
election or referendum. The lusty growth of autocracy soon choked
such sickly flowers of liberalism as a care for the rights of
minorities and a concern for the pleadings of conscience; though
a moment's reflection would have shewn that, if Christianity is
persistently thrust down the throats of all English children, a few
will almost certainly accept it literally, those who looked for
no qualifications to the injunction that a man must not kill were
quickly taught that Christianity was not a practicable creed for
times of war; and a country which prided itself on a traditional
love of fair play first reviled and then persecuted conscientious
objectors with so little discrimination that, when one Quaker
who had acted as a stretcher-bearer received the Mons medal, he
could only wear it in the prison to which he had been confined for
refusing to undertake military service.

Whenever, in the first two years of the war, an article of liberal
faith came in conflict with the heterogeneous policy of a coalition
government, the article of faith was thrust aside. The resolutions
of the Paris economic conference committed Great Britain to a
tariff war with her enemies; the treaty of London converted a
war which had been undertaken to satisfy British obligations to
Belgium into an imperialist war in which the present and future
allies of Great Britain were invited to help themselves at the
expense of their neighbours; gradually there was heard less talk
of a crusade on behalf of small nationalities, and the liberal
party committed itself to a "knock-out blow". So committed, it
could neither utter nor listen to proposals which involved less
than unconditional surrender; and, though Belgian neutrality might
perhaps have been vindicated and reparation secured before the war
had run half its ultimate course, the imperialist policy in which
liberalism acquiesced allowed of no check to hostilities until
Europe was exhausted and revolution had been unloosed in Russia, to
spread no man knows whither. The peace party in English politics
finally assented to a settlement of which any militarist in France
or Prussia would have been proud to acknowledge the authorship.

It was not to be expected that any set of political principles
could remain unchanged by war, though liberalism would have been
less violently mutilated if it had appealed to the heart rather
than to the head of liberal leaders. How far their foreign policy
contributed to the war which destroyed liberalism must be discussed



 _Τῶνδε δὲ ὄυτε πλούτον tis τις τὴν ἒτι ἀπόλαυσιν προτιμήσας
 ἐμαλακίσθη οῦτε πενίας ἐλπίδι, ὡς κᾶν ἒτι διαφογὼν αοτὴν
 πλουτήσειεν, ἀναβολὴν τοῦ δεινοῦ ἐποιήσατο. Τὴν δὲ τῶν ἐναντίων
 timôτιμωρίαν ποθεινοτέραμ αὐτῶν λαβὀντες καὶ κινδύνωυ ἀμα
 τὂνδε κάλλιστον νομίσαντες ἑβουλήθησαν μετ, αύτοῦ τοὺς μὲν
 τιμωρεῖσθαι, τὼν δε ἐφιεσθαι, ἐλπίδι μὲν τὸ ἀφανὲς τοῦ κατορθώσειν
 επιτρέψαντες, ἕργῳ δὲ περὶ τοῦ ἤδη ὁρομόνου σφίσιν αυτοῖς
 ἀξιοῦντες πεποιθέναι, καὶ ἑν αὐτῷ τῶ ἀμύνεσθαι καὶ παθεῖν μᾶλλον
 ἡγησάμενοι ἢ [τὸ] ἐνδόντες σώζεσθαι, τὸ μὲν αἲσχρὸν τοῧ λὀγου
 ἔφυγον, τὸ δ' ἔργον τῷ σόματι ὑπέμειναν καὶ δι, ἐλαχιστου καιροῦ
 τύχης ἃμα ἀκμῆ τῆς δόξης μᾶλλον ἢ τοῧ δέος ἀπηλλάγησαν_

                                          _Thucydides_, II. 42.


In choosing the late summer of 1914 for the "inevitable war",
which, to the eyes of Bernhardi and of his school, was to lead
ultimately either to "world-power" or "downfall", the German great
general staff chose the moment when its own organisation was most
efficient and when its adversaries were jointly and severally less
well able or inclined to accept the challenge than at any time
since the Anglo-French _entente_. At home, the Kiel Canal had been
reconstructed and the western strategic railways completed; abroad,
Russia, with her slow, cumbrous mobilisation, could be left out of
account for three weeks; and three weeks was thought sufficient
to crumple up an army which the French, true till death to their
policy of giving everything to their country but the money in
their pockets, had neglected to equip. Politically, too, France was
distracted by one of her periodical Caillaux scandals.

There remained Great Britain; and, if the French were uncertain
of armed support until the first units of the expeditionary force
landed, the German general staff may be excused for thinking that
the expeditionary force would never embark. For months it was
believed at the German Embassy in London that England was faced
with volcanic labour disturbances; Sir Edward Carson and Lady
Londonderry on one side, Mr. Asquith and Mr. Birrell on the other
had brought Ireland to the brink of civil war; and a government
which could not restrain unruly women from breaking windows and
burning churches was not an efficient machine for waging a war
in which the last ounce of ability and determination would tip
the balance. Never, since the day when the triple _entente_ first
loomed in the delirium of German statecraft as an aggressive
encircling movement in diplomacy, had it seemed flimsier and more
vulnerable to the first shock of the "inevitable" war.

This, as will be seen later, is not to hold the German government
solely responsible for the war nor to admit that war was
inevitable. The ancestral voices of the Chauvinists who in 1914
took most credit for their prescience in prophesying war might have
been stilled by the reflection that from the Fashoda incident to
the Lansdowne _entente_ they had predicted a no less inevitable
war with France, as, a generation earlier, they had predicted one
with Russia; the good-will, moreover, which Great Britain for
half-a-dozen years before the war extended to Russia and France had
its exact counterpart in the former good-will which obtained when
Lord Salisbury presented Heligoland to Germany and when, earlier,
English sympathy was on the side of Prussia in the war of 1870.
No war is inevitable until it breaks out, if then; and successful
diplomacy in effect and in intention is the history of inevitable
wars which have never taken place.

By 1914, as indeed in 1911, the blundering of four Foreign Offices
had produced a state of tension in which war was very difficult
to avoid; but the phrase-fed population which repeated in solemn
tones that Germany had "been preparing for this war for forty
years" seemed never to enquire why the war had not been fought by
instalments (as, all were told, Germany would assuredly do if Great
Britain did not play her part in 1914) and why the first attack had
not been launched in 1905 when Russia was exhausted by her struggle
with Japan in Manchuria and distracted at home by revolution and
experiments in constitution-making. So she might have rid herself
for many years of the Russian menace; and, if France had been drawn
in, it is inconceivable that so early as 1906 Great Britain would
have been drawn in too. The reconstruction of the Kiel Canal was
therefore unimportant; and, for an occasion of war, nothing less
flimsy than the assassination of an archduke was ever necessary.
And archdukes were plentiful. That Germany did not provoke a
conflict in 1905 suggests that she had not in fact devoted forty
years to preparing for a world-war and, further, that in that
year she did not regard a war of any kind as inevitable. By 1914
her view of world-politics had swung round; and, if other nations
contributed to bring war nearer, Germany must bear full and sole
responsibility for provoking it.

What had happened between 1905 and 1914 to bring about this change
of heart? Now that the war is at last over and truth is no longer
disguised or concealed for the purposes of propaganda, now too
that every nation of the world is wondering what benefit any one
has secured by nearly five years of unequalled sacrifice and
suffering, it is interesting to examine why this war should have
been considered inevitable. It is more than interesting, it is
vital; for the horrors of war are being forgotten even by those
who suffered most from them, and, in a few years' time, another
government of men who are themselves over military age may see,
with one eye, the "necessity" of war and, with the other, its
romance or glory, as, before 1914, the youth and age of England
alike saw chiefly the "romance" of the Napoleonic wars without
remembering the brutality of the press-gang, the nightmare
tortures of field surgery unaided by anæsthetics and antiseptics,
the calculated atrocities of the Peninsular campaign and the
unromantic, hideous reality of killing and maiming at all times.
If the war was inevitable, someone should surely have benefited by
it materially. Belgium, a pawn on the board of inevitability, has
been dragged from the conflict of the great powers and restored
for a few years at least to the number of small nations; and all
who went to the succour of Belgium may feel that they risked the
world to gain their own souls. Nevertheless, if Belgian neutrality
was indeed but the occasion of a war which the great powers could
no longer avoid and if no one of them is richer, stronger, safer,
healthier or happier, it would have been better not to undertake
it; and, before any have time to forget, all should take steps to
make other wars impossible.

Yet not even this boon has been secured. Since 1914 mankind has
gained the creed of the league of nations, which is reverently
mumbled with as much conviction as would be exhibited by a
well-bred agnostic who found himself shepherded to church and
discovered his neighbours mumbling the apostles' creed. The league
of nations has been accepted with the blithe vagueness of a man
who proclaims that he "believes in progress and all that sort of
thing." M. Clemenceau accepted it, with the reservation that it
must not remove the foot of France from the neck of her adversary;
President Wilson accepted it, with the reservation that he could
not bring pressure to bear on Congress if Congress refused to take
a hand in policing the world; Mr. Lloyd George accepted it, with
the reservation that the work of the league was to be entrusted
indefinitely to the supreme council of the allies.

It would be foolish to disparage a machine which is being
deliberately kept from functioning by a number of men too
suspicious or too lustful of power to give the fly-wheel its
preliminary spin: if that international duelling which men call
war is to be stamped out as, a hundred years ago, duelling between
individuals was stamped out in England, every nation must make a
vast preliminary sacrifice by surrendering the right of private
vengeance and aggression, as the individual perforce surrendered
his private right to punish an enemy or to protect his own
honour at the sword-point; there must no more be reservations in
arbitration between states than there are reservations to the
English law under which aggressor and aggrieved submit their case,
even where it involve their fortune and honour, to the judgement
of an impartial court. Want of courage or of honesty has kept
most champions of the league[23] from admitting, still more from
insisting on, this repugnant idea of sacrifice; the league remains
an abstraction; and already there is talk of an "inevitable" war
between the United States and Japan, "inevitable" rivalry in
ship-building between Great Britain and the United States.

Much is to be hoped from sane historical education; but, whatever
contribution the League of Nations may make to the peace of the
world, the first preparatory lesson, which no one as yet should
have had time to forget, is that every modern war is a complex
which includes "men disembowelled by guns five miles away" and
that a war between several of the great powers, conducted with
modern methods of destruction, is one in which no one, probably,
gains anything. The second lesson is that, as the late war struck
at combatants and noncombatants, neutrals and belligerents
impartially if not with the same force, involving German women
and children in the starving grip of the allied blockade and
spattering the walls of English coast-towns with the brains and
blood of British women and children slaughtered in some naval
bombardment or air-raid, so any future war, with its call for the
last resources of the nation, will convert into belligerents and
potential victims the old men who are left to till the fields and
the boys who stand at a lathe, the girls who fill a shell-case
and the mothers who suckle future soldiers: all are providing the
sinews of war; and the sinews of war have to be cut without too
nice concern for age or sex. The third lesson is that there is no
inherent, life-and-death antagonism between a Stettin dock-hand
and a Bristol dock-hand, between a London physician and a Berlin
physician, between Professor Gilbert Murray and Professor von
Willamowitz-Moellendorff. So, at least, one school would be
inclined to assert; and, if the assertion hold truth, it was no
less true in 1914. Why, then, was this unnecessary war, which has
impoverished the world in everything but bravery and suffering,
considered necessary?

There was much ill intention, it may be submitted; more ignorance;
and bad faith most of all. Russia and Germany stood, like every
autocracy, to gain by a successful blood-bath; the triumph of
a "spirited foreign policy" deflected attention from domestic
politics and strengthened the bonds of discipline. France nurtured
a spirit of hatred and revenge against the power which had after
many years curtailed her privilege of exploiting and disturbing the
German states for her own profit; she hankered, also, to recover
two provinces which had been torn from her side as ruthlessly
as she had torn them from the side of another. So much for ill

There was ignorance in the epidemic of international fear which
arose and spread from the day in 1892 when Germany made overtures
of friendship to Great Britain. Before the government of the day
had time to promulgate its historic doctrine of insularity, France
was overtaken by panic at the possibility of being encircled; to
counter an Anglo-German alliance which never came to birth, she
purchased the alliance of Russia by financing the trans-Siberian
railway and acquired at second-hand an interest in the thieves'
kitchen of south-east Europe and a responsibility for its
periodical conflagration. It was now Germany's turn to suspect an
encircling movement directed at her immense double frontier; the
uneasy suspicion turned to active alarm when the pacific geniality
of King Edward and the cautious diplomacy of Lord Lansdowne added
the resources of the world's greatest naval power to those of the
world's most numerous and of Europe's most scientific armies.

In such an atmosphere of suspicion, the "race of armaments"
progressed apace and was fostered by an economic hallucination
that, if Great Britain or Germany could destroy the other's trade,
the survivor would be roughly twice as rich--with the embarrassing
richness of a seller who brings his goods to a market where no
one has anything to offer him in exchange. In brief sun-bursts
of sanity, the manipulators of British foreign policy sickened
of the suspicion-disease which themselves had spread; there were
"peace talks" and peace missions: Mr. Churchill proposed a naval
holiday; Lord Haldane visited Germany, flitting between Potsdam and
Windsor, from one soveran to another, with a pregnant gravity and
consequence that would have turned the head of a man less prone
to personal vanity. By this time, unfortunately, the suspicion
was too deep-seated to be charmed away by the bilingual fluency
of a philosophic chancellor; the offer of a naval holiday, by a
power which was already predominant at sea, suggested some kind of
confidence trick; and the German government not only believed that
an attack was impending, but knew well that, if the parts had been
reversed, a boat-load of German Churchills and Haldanes would have
been sent with messages of good-will to England. And no one outside
the ranks of labour had proclaimed the simple doctrine that the
Nürnberg toy-maker had no inherent, life-and-death quarrel with the
toy-maker of Birmingham. So much for ignorance.


In England at least there was also bad faith.

A new chapter in British foreign policy began with the Anglo-French
_entente_: designed originally to end a long period of friction in
North Africa, it effectually ended the longer period of British
isolation from continental politics. So successful was its work as
an instrument of peace that a similar _entente_ was established
with Russia; and, as soon as London and Paris had disposed of North
Africa, London and Petersburg turned their attention to unsettled
problems in Persia. It was speciously claimed that the _entente_
principle reduced the menace of war: henceforth all international
differences could be accommodated by friendly chats between the
foreign ministers of _entente_ powers; if Germany would join the
happy family, the menace of war would vanish.

Those who sincerely hoped to see growing from the first _entente_an
informal United States of Europe revealed one blind spot in their
imagination. The object of war, seen from one angle, is to upset
the existing order in the interests of one belligerent; the object
of the _entente_ was to preserve the existing order; but, though
this brought substantial advantage to Great Britain, France and
Russia by putting North Africa and Persia out of bounds for
diplomatic skirmishing, it brought no corresponding advantage to
a country which joined the _entente_ after the spoils had been
divided. "You have helped yourselves," the German imperialist
might fairly say; "you not only refuse to let me participate,
but you wish me to guarantee you in permanent possession." The
German government refused to recognise the right of three nations
to distribute among themselves the unallocated territories of the
world; it presumed, further, to doubt their power; and the Agadir
episode was an experiment to test the strength of the _entente_. A
mailed fist and shining armour had prevailed against Russia when
Bosnia and Herzegovina were annexed; they were worth trying again.

The international crisis of 1911 proved that, _on this occasion
and on this subject_, Great Britain and France were not to be
intimidated; here, at least, the _entente_ was impregnable.
Would it always be as solid? Throughout Europe, after 1911, the
dominating question in foreign politics was whether the diplomacy
of Great Britain and of France could always count on the armed
backing of the other. Was there an offensive and defensive
alliance? In the absence of an alliance, was there a binding
obligation on either power to come to the assistance of the other?

The question was asked in the House of Commons:

"There is a very general belief," said Lord Hugh Cecil, on March
10th, 1913, "that this country is under an obligation, not a treaty
obligation, but an obligation arising owing to an assurance given
by the Ministry, in the course of diplomatic negotiations, to send
a very large armed force out of this country to operate in Europe.
That is the general belief."

To this Mr. Asquith replied:

"I ought to say that is not true."

A fortnight later he amplified his assurance by stating that
this country was not under any obligation, not public and known
to parliament, which compelled it to take part in any war. In
other words, if war arose between European powers, there were no
unpublished agreements, which would restrict or hamper the freedom
of the government, or of parliament, to decide whether or not Great
Britain should participate in a war. The use that would be made of
the naval and military forces, if the government and parliament
decided to take part in any war was, for obvious reasons, not a
matter about which public statements could be made.

If the House of Commons had received any assurance less
unequivocal, it is more than possible that the ministerial party
would have split and that the government would have fallen.
Though heavily reduced in numbers, the liberal majority was
identical in spirit with that which had been returned to support
Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman; it was strongly radical, straitly
nonconformist and essentially pacific, knowing little of history
and nothing of foreign policy, neither understanding nor liking
continental adventures and occasionally resisting vehemently a
quarter-comprehended drifting which demonstrably absorbed in
armaments a revenue which might have been devoted to social reform.
It disliked Mr. Churchill's activities at the Admiralty, it
distrusted the liberal-imperialist elements which had risen to the
top of the cabinet in the persons of Mr. Asquith, Sir Edward Grey
and Lord Haldane; it had no quarrel with any one and, if its fears
had not been lulled by the prime minister's explicit assurances,
it would have taken steps to dissipate that danger of a European
war in which Great Britain began to be involved on the day when
she involved herself in continental politics. If the "obligation
of honour," disclosed in 1914, had been made public any time in
the three years preceding, if the government had fallen, if the
commons of Great Britain had shewn themselves to the pacific
minorities and majorities in every country of Europe as backing
their peace-talk with deeds, there would have been reality in the
professions of the foreign secretary; the naval holiday and Sir
Henry Campbell-Bannerman's hopes for proportional disarmament might
have had a hearing.

Perhaps there would have been no war.

When there was no obligation to participate, there was no cause for
uneasiness. It was not until August Bank Holiday, 1914, that the
House of Commons and the country discovered that "no obligation"
was the same as "an obligation of honour." Sir Edward Grey, in
guiding the House to war, used the words:

"For many years we have had a long-standing friendship with France
... how far that friendship entails ... an obligation, let every
man look into his own heart, and his own feelings, and construe the
extent of the obligation for himself."

There was no "obligation," as stated by Mr. Asquith; there was
"a debt of honour," as implied by Sir Edward Grey. "I ought to
say that is not true," Mr. Asquith had replied in reference to
an alleged "assurance given by the Ministry, in the course of
diplomatic negotiations, to send a very large armed force out of
this country to operate in Europe"; yet, to judge from another
passage in Sir Edward Grey's same speech, there was so much
telepathic harmony between the naval staffs of Great Britain and
France that the French fleet had already withdrawn to protect
their joint trade routes in the Mediterranean and was leaving
the northern and western coast of France to the hypothetical
protection of the British navy. An Irishman, unversed in the
niceties of parliamentary good faith, has to pause for thought.
Bishop Thirlwall, when challenged to say whether he did not
prefer compulsory religion to no religion at all, is reported
to have confessed that the difference was too subtile for his
comprehension; any one of sensitive conscience must confess that
his comprehension is not subtile enough to detect any other
difference between an "obligation" and a "debt of honour" than that
the debt of honour, unbacked by such sanction as is purchasable by
a sixpenny contract-stamp, is the more strongly binding. Because
there had been no exchange of signed notes, it is arguable that Mr.
Asquith was justified by legal training and usage in denying that
an obligation existed; Sir Edward Grey appealed to the chivalry of
the House of Commons and defied it to say that there existed no
obligation of honour.

Chivalry was stronger than resentment; the pacific majority, which,
in its innocence of legalism, had kept the government in power on
the assurance that no continental commitments existed, voted the
country into war on the assurance that its honour was involved.
It only remains to put on record the impression left by this hazy
obligation on the mind of one party to it:

"We had a compact with France," said Mr. Lloyd George in August,
1918, "that, if she were wantonly attacked, the United Kingdom
would go to her support."

In reply to an objection he added:

"There was no compact as to what force we should bring into the
arena. In any discussion that ever took place, either in this
country or outside, there was no idea that we should ever be able
to supply a greater force than six divisions."

Later still he borrowed the qualifying language of predecessors
who had tried to keep faith with France and Great Britain at the
same time:

"I think," he said, "the word 'compact' was too strong for use in
that connection. In my judgement it was an obligation of honour...."

So much for bad faith. The people of England, apart from occasional
panics and blood-lusts, are justified in claiming that they did not
want war; misled--and it is hard to refrain from adding "wilfully
misled"--by their rulers, they were given no chance of preserving

The public, which was left to pay the bill, is unlikely to know for
many years how many members of the government shared with the prime
minister and the foreign secretary the responsibility of misleading
the House of Commons and the country. It is fair to assume that the
terms of this compact, which was not an obligation, but only a debt
of honour, were divulged to Lord Haldane before he carried out his
peace mission to Potsdam; and to so consistent a champion of peace,
of retrenchment on armaments and of social reform as Mr. Lloyd
George, before he lectured Germany in his Mansion House speech
during the Agadir crisis of 1911; and to Mr. Churchill, before he
changed in a night from a "little-navy" man to a "big-navy" man;
and to any one else who, like Mr. Lloyd George and Mr. Churchill,
forced the cabinet door to see what manner of skeleton lay behind.
It is equally fair to assume that the smaller fry of the ministry
were not admitted to the guilty secret; nothing but ignorance could
justify so egregious a speech as that in which one member informed
the public that "he could conceive no circumstance in which
continental operations would not be a crime against the people of
this country."

From Agadir to Armageddon, those who believed in the word of
the government believed also that nothing in the international
position of those days could involve Great Britain in a continental
war. Sir Edward Grey's adroitness and love of peace had steered
Europe through a Moroccan crisis and two Balkan wars; when Austria
hurled her bullying ultimatum at Servia, it was hoped that his
intervention would again be successful and that, whatever the
foreign ministers might achieve, the world would not commit suicide
in revenge for the assassination of an Austrian archduke.

No one troubled; no one, surely, had reason to trouble. London in
1914 was an exaggerated caricature of London in 1913 or 1912. The
carnival moved with the inconsequent speed and false recklessness
of a _revue_. Of the thousands who besieged every railway-station
on the last Friday of July, bound for all parts of England and for
every kind of holiday, few can have fancied that it was their last
holiday in a world at peace.


An average group, assembling at Paddington, found the train
service disorganised by a minor strike and whiled away its time
of idleness enforced by exchanging news of the Buckingham Palace
conference and of the menace to peace in south-eastern Europe.
One of the party had been lunching with the Pilgrims and retailed
a rumour that there had been a slight run on the Bank of England
that morning; this was in the early days of rumours, and all
listened respectfully, though it was difficult to see why English
depositors should be alarmed at the Balkan imbroglio. Another of
the party enlivened the journey by exhibiting new maps of Servia
and south-east Austria, but, once away from the neurosis of London,
no one was interested in anything but the threatened civil war in

Any one who asked perfunctorily for news of Servia was assured that
she would yield to superior force at the last moment. Though a
journalist might whisper confidentially that the fleet had sailed
from Portsmouth with coal stacked on deck, this was very far from
making war unavoidable: if Servia refused to comply with the terms
of the ultimatum, Russia would indeed come to her protection
against Austria; but then Germany would come to the aid of Austria
against Russia, while France would hasten to help Russia against
Germany. The same automatic widening of the conflict had been
threatened when Austria annexed Bosnia and Herzegovina; but, as it
was then recognised that one great power would bring in another, so
it would be recognised now and prevented; as Great Britain could
not face a European war for Bosnia, so she could not now face it
for Servia.

Similar conversations were taking place at that hour in thousands
of similar houses. Few of all who took part in these last meetings
imagined that within a few days they would be training for
commissions; no one dreamed that, before a year had passed, almost
every man at all these tables would have entered the army, that
some would be wounded, others already killed. To most, a general
war only became conceivable two days later, when the Sunday
newspapers reported that German troops had crossed the frontiers of
France and Luxemburg.

Thereafter, more quickly than dazed minds could take in, the
impossible became the actual. On Monday, though Kuhlmann's
efforts to localise the conflict brought a moment's hope, letters
and telegrams, flying from one part of the country to another,
convinced even the most sanguine that war--in which Great Britain
would be involved--was inevitable; and, before nightfall, every
town and village was ringing with Sir Edward Grey's speech.

"How far that friendship entails ... an obligation, let every man
look into his own heart, and his own feelings, and construe the
extent of the obligation for himself...."

The thousands who had scattered four days earlier to every part of
England poured back, on a common impulse, to London. There, all
felt, they would gain readier news, perhaps better news, when the
silence and isolation of the country had become unbearable. They
assembled at hundreds of country stations, debating to the last
whether the peace-trained navy would stand the test of war; and,
as they read the morning papers, they found that the full text of
the foreign secretary's speech made war a certainty, unless Germany
submitted to a diplomatic rebuff more disastrously humiliating than
the worst defeat in the field.

London that afternoon lay at the mercy of the first war-expositors.
Those who had most vehemently attacked the 1909 ship-building
programme now most loudly thanked God that England was an island
protected by a strong fleet; a few railed against the earlier
course of a foreign policy which had embroiled Great Britain
in continental rivalries; no one at that time or in that place
suggested that war could be averted. When the major issues had been
discussed, confidences were exchanged about the ministers who
had resigned and wobbled and withdrawn their resignations. Lord
Morley and Mr. John Burns had left the cabinet, followed by a small
number of minor office-holders; Lord Beauchamp and others, who had
refused to support a war for which the sanction of the country had
been neither obtained nor sought, renewed their allegiance to the
government when the neutrality of Belgium, which Great Britain
was bound by treaty to defend, was violated; but the champions of
peace, who had vowed that British troops should only leave England
over their dead bodies, and the opponents of intervention, who had
explained to wavering colleagues that Great Britain was under no
international obligation to take part, remained snugly if silently
in office. The fleet, it was now heard, had been ordered to take
up war-stations and to seal the German forces in port before
the ultimatum was issued; the expeditionary force, it was also
heard, had received at least preliminary mobilization-orders while
war hung yet in the balance; and so quickly do moral standards
decline when personal security is threatened that those who had
attacked Germany for her too timely massing of troops congratulated
themselves that in England also there were men of laudable
vigilance and decision.

And, like punctuation-marks at the end of every sentence, came
interruptions from men torn out of familiar surroundings and flung
into a world whose very language they did not understand:

"They say there will be a run on the banks for gold ...," murmured

"They say the Government will have to declare a moratorium ...,"
murmured another.

"They say there will very likely be bread riots...."

"They say that special constables are to be enrolled...."

"They say you ought to lay in a certain amount of food...."

At eleven o'clock at night a state of war began between Great
Britain and Germany.


From the moment when the ultimatum took effect until the day when
the first reports of military activity reached England, political
speculation and prophecy raged unconfined. In the betting-book of
one club stands recorded a wager that, in the event of war, there
will within ten years be not one crowned head in Europe. Now that
war had come, every one was calculating how long it could go on:
for all her preparation, it was said, Germany would soon run short
of certain essentials; but a decision must be reached quickly,
as banking experts were already predicting a general collapse of
credit in November. Memories of the Franco-German war suggested
that, with the precision of modern weapons and with the size of
modern armies, no nation in the world could support the strain for
more than a few weeks.

Nevertheless, whether peace were signed within three months or six,
the old national and international conditions under which the men
of military age had grown up were destroyed for ever: most of them,
though even now they did not realise it, would be killed or maimed;
a long war would bleed the world slowly to death, a short war would
be followed by such frenzied re-arming and re-equipment as would
exhaust every country not less surely. The days of general luxury,
perhaps even of common comfort, were over; taxation would close the
great houses and disperse the old retinues. Ethically, politically,
intellectually, economically and socially every war marked a
transition from one epoch to another; and, before the first unit
of the expeditionary force had landed in France, every one felt
dimly that an era had closed. As yet there had been no call for
more men, as yet none knew whether there was time to train them,
as yet it seemed likely that the casualties would be confined to
the professional soldiers of the regular army and to the volunteers
of the territorial forces; but, though imagination refused to
contemplate such an upheaval as took place within even one month,
the men between twenty and thirty felt that their world had passed
away. Before five years had run their course, the best of them had
passed away, too; and of one generation the finest work in the most
fruitful period of construction was lost for ever.

This was a time of meditation and heart-searching. So staggering
was the shock of war that men's minds refused to conceive of it as
the human punishment of human malevolence or folly: Fleet Street
dragged in Armageddon and laid the responsibility on God, while
finding an excuse for Him in the depravity of man. The moral
laxities of France and the perversions of Germany were to be
punished by a retribution not less overwhelming than that which
had fallen upon Sodom and Gomorrah; as Belgium, Russia and England
were included in the general destruction, it was explained that
they were being punished, respectively, for the Congo atrocities,
the Jewish massacres and the attempted disestablishment of the
Welsh church; only Servia, which suffered first and longest, and
Japan, which was far enough away to be forgotten, were overlooked
by those who set themselves to justify the ways of God to man. It
would take too long to trace the workings of providence in so many
countries, but of England at least it may be claimed that there
was a disproportion between her offence and her punishment: at the
worst her people were indolent, vulgar, selfish and lacking in
an imaginative conscience, but a nation would not seem ripe for
destruction when four or five million of its members voluntarily
offer themselves for mutilation and death.

Meditation passed away with the first bewilderment and was
discouraged with every forward step of a nation arming itself for
defence. From time to time spirits dwelling in isolation struggled
to preserve detachment, the young poets who lay out under the
stars in momentary expectation of death raised their voices in
challenge to incomprehensibility; but the first were arrested as
sedition-mongers and the second were dismissed as poets. Meditation
was not allowed to become articulate until the armistice. It
were fruitless and ungracious to dwell on the epidemic delusions
and organised fury of those first days: they are common to every
country in every war;[24] though they broke out periodically,
their grotesque violence abated as new work called for undivided

Not for long did it seem that the casualties would be confined
to the regular army and the expeditionary force. Officers of the
special reserve received their mobilisation-orders and reported
for duty on the south coast; after long and anxious silence, during
which it could only be assumed that they had crossed the channel
and were being hurried into Belgium, some of the survivors at
length wrote that they had been in the great advance and the great
retreat, that they had lost almost every part of their kit, but
were enjoying a moment's breathing-time. After the Marne, they
moved up again, "dodging death and danger, without rest or food
or drink ... till death seemed relaxation and a wound a luxury."
Although for more than four years hardly a day passed without
bringing news of the death, disablement or loss of some relation or
friend, for the men under thirty the casualties crowded thickest
in the early weeks; their generation was the most plenteously
represented in the first months; and, after four years, of their
generation fewest remained.



 " ... In a few hours at most, as they well knew, perhaps a tenth
 of them would have looked their last on the sun, and be a part
 of foreign earth or dumb things that the tides push. Many of
 them would have disappeared for ever from the knowledge of man,
 blotted from the book of life none would know how--by a fall or
 chance shot in the darkness, in the blast of a shell, or alone,
 like a hurt beast, in some scrub or gully, far from comrades and
 the English speech and the English singing. And perhaps a third
 of them would be mangled, blinded or broken, lamed, made imbecile
 or disfigured, with the colour and the taste of life taken from
 them, so that they would never more move with comrades nor exult
 in the sun. And those not taken thus would be under the ground,
 sweating in the trench, carrying sandbags up the sap, dodging
 death and danger, without rest or food or drink ... till death
 seemed relaxation and a wound a luxury. But as they moved out
 these things were but the end they asked, the reward they had come
 for, the unseen cross upon the breast. All that they felt was a
 gladness of exultation that their young courage was to be used.
 They went like kings in a pageant to the imminent death. As they
 passed from moorings to the man-of-war anchorage on their way to
 the sea, their feeling that they had done with life and were going
 out to something new welled up in those battalions; they cheered
 and cheered till the harbour rang with cheering. As each ship
 crammed with soldiers drew near the battleships, the men swung
 their caps and cheered again, and the sailors answered, and the
 noise of cheering swelled, and the men in the ships not yet moving
 joined in, and the men ashore, till all the life in the harbour
 was giving thanks that it could go to death rejoicing. All was
 beautiful in the gladness of men about to die, but the most moving
 thing was the greatness of their generous hearts...."

                                       JOHN MASEFIELD: _Gallipoli_.


"For various reasons," wrote William Glynne Charles Gladstone to
General Sir Henry MacKinnon,[25] "I feel the time has come when I
ought to enlist in His Majesty's Army. Heaven knows, so far from
having the least inclination for military service, I dread it and
dislike it intensely; consistently with that I have no natural
aptitude for it, and what is more, no training of any sort. I have
never done a single minute's military training in my whole life,
I am a rank although not a very robust civilian; even my love of
shooting has somehow never led to my learning to shoot with a
rifle. I recall all that to your mind because I want to put it to
you that under these circumstances there is only one thing for
me to do, and that is to begin at the beginning and enlist as a
private. I am not prepared to face the possibility, however remote,
of being put in some post of responsibility without knowing the
ropes very well and from the beginning.... I have decided not to
enlist in any force which is confined to home defence, but one
which in its turn will be called upon to go to the front."

Had William Gladstone been elected spokesman of the men under
thirty, he could not have expressed their collective and individual
attitude to the war in apter terms than those which described his
own mingled sense of diffidence and duty. All who had loved and
followed him at Eton, at Oxford and at Westminster shared his
hatred for a war which arrested human progress and destroyed human
life, as they shared his ignorance of warfare and his dread of
assuming inexpert responsibility for the lives of other men; all,
or at least all who mattered, living or dead, offered themselves,
no less resolutely than he did, in the first hours of war for any
purpose to which the government might put them. The rank civilians
who were even less robust than he was laid siege to the doors of
any organisation that would make use of them and, with no more
training in their whole life than he had of military training,
enlisted as substitutes in place of those who were accepted for
the army. Before the government, with its counsel of "business as
usual," attempted to set going again the arrested pulse of the
national life, those who had time, energy or aptitude, how little
so ever, to place at the service of the community were already
absorbed in new work or awaiting a call to fresh duties.

Sheer inability to sit idle, no less than patriotism, urged them
to drive cars and ambulances, to raise funds and equip hospitals,
to take the places of their own clerks or gardeners and to toil at
the routine of a public office. Dependent on censored newspapers,
jejune letters and ill-informed gossip, England was an uneasy home
in the unfamiliar days when the whole world was first seething
with war. To men past middle-age the news-bills recalled the names
of places which they had forgotten since the time, forty-four
years earlier, when another German army was pouring into France;
would this onrush, all wondered, be as irresistible? Morning after
morning the converging black lines of the German advance raced
down the map, ever nearer to Paris; one Sunday the notorious
"Amiens despatch" prepared its readers for the news that the
entire expeditionary force had been encircled. Men, more men and
yet more men were the crying need; the order had gone forth and
volunteers were to be enrolled by the hundred thousand; but, until
they could be trained to an equality with the professional soldiers
of Germany, a veritable human breakwater was required to prevent
France from being submerged.

It is small wonder--the wish being parent to the thought--that
some accepted unhesitatingly from excited neighbours that twenty,
fifty, a hundred thousand Russians, secretly embarked at Arkangel
and disembarked at Aberdeen, were passing as secretly through
England to a southern port; letters from Scotland told of cars
commandeered to divide the stream between the east-coast route
and the west; the amateur strategist demonstrated with atlas and
encyclopædia that Arkangel could be kept ice-free until September;
and it was both pleasanter and easier to believe the man who
claimed to have spoken to the mysterious troops in Russian than to
enquire what facilities existed for transporting a single brigade
to the northern coast of Russia.[26]

At the same time, in London and in the country, impromptu local
committees of relief applied for unoccupied cottages and houses,
for furniture and bedding, for food and money to be distributed
among the Belgians who had sought asylum in England; in those
days, though the Englishman and the Belgian never pretended to
feel personal cordiality towards each other, the decision of King
Albert to uphold the neutrality of his country was ungrudgingly
voted one of the bravest political acts in history; the brief
defence of Liége was at least long and unexpected enough to hold
up the annihilating German advance for precious hours while the
British expeditionary force effected its union with the French
army; nothing, in consequence, was too good for the victims of
German treachery and of their own honour; and, until it became a
legitimate form of English humour to describe a Belgian refugee as
a Belgian atrocity, these dazed and ruined outcasts were received
with liberality and general kindness.

From them and from the press England learned a little of the
savagery which had been let loose in Belgium and North France:
murders, single and wholesale; raping, private and public;
mutilation worthy of a necrophile; burning and pillage. After
six years some memories may be dulled, the superior may affect
a toleration that they did not feel in those days; some of the
stories were exaggerated, and before the end every belligerent
had perpetrated a certain number of atrocities. Nevertheless, the
original charges were investigated by a commission working under
the chairmanship of Lord Bryce, who must be credited with some
knowledge of the rules that govern historical and legal evidence;
and, even if other armies followed a vile lead, it was the Germans
who set the example and enshrined "frightfulness" in their
war-book. There was no effective protest in Germany; and, though
the need for propaganda and apologetics has lessened, there has
been no recantation, no hint of repentance nor sign of grace. It is
not surprising that, among those who remember, the name of a German
stinks and the presence of a German is an outrage.

Until she appears bare-footed and draped in a sheet, Germany must
remain branded with the mark of bestiality: though peace has been
restored, though trade has been resumed, there can be no good-will
between humane, just-minded men and a barbarian nation which has
not repented of its misdeeds. It is not an excuse to say that
"frightfulness" was imposed from above, for the humblest private
has an inalienable right to disobey such an order and to gain his
soul at the loss of his life; frightfulness, so far from being
resisted, was applauded and spread by the women who mocked and
spat in the faces of enemy prisoners. Never has a nation been more
solid; never has the collective responsibility been heavier. As it
is at least conceivable that this will not prove to be the last
war, the present result of impenitence on the one side and of short
memory on the other is that, if ever there be another, it can be
begun in comfortable certainty that murder, rape, arson, pillage
and mutilation go unpunished and are a form of warfare for which
there is an unchallenged precedent.

The civil and military population of Germany has not made even
a coward's show of repentance by choosing scape-goats for the
burden of its sins; and repentance has not been forced upon it
from without. In the general election of 1918, Mr. Lloyd George
promised that the war criminals should be brought to trial; in 1921
we are still waiting to see them punished. Already the Kaiser has
one party claiming indulgence for him as the creature of his own
general staff, while another would leave him unpunished and even
untried for fear that apparent persecution might make a martyr of
him. But was not the Kaiser _Kriegsherr_? Is not the _Kriegsherr_
responsible for his own war-book? Is it not an offence against
humanity and even against the laws of nations to use a human screen
when advancing through hostile country? On that count alone he
should be hanged.

The fear of making martyrs is based on the misunderstanding of a
single historical example: Louis Napoleon fostered the Bonapartist
legend a quarter of a century after his uncle's death as a romantic
appeal against the unromantic dreariness of the Orleanist rule; it
is forgotten that the "martyrdom" of Napoleon I. bore no fruit
until the French, with their paradoxical blended love of logic and
sentiment, found themselves more than twenty years later under a
government which satisfied neither craving; it is forgotten that
Marshal Ney, "the bravest of the brave," was executed in a way
which shewed that French chivalry was dead, yet no one called
him martyr. The former German emperor, ruling by right divine,
strutting and phrase-making by the affliction of congenital
insanity, may be excused as the Emperor of the Sahara was excused,
or confined with his fellows in a criminal-lunatic asylum; if he
assert his sanity, then his place is on a cart and his fate a
noosed rope. Yet one more party, its sentiment stirred by the sight
of Count Hohenzollern chopping trees in a Dutch park, pleads that
in his downfall he is paying longer and heavier penalty than that
of instant and painless death; it may be suggested that inglorious
exile is a blessing unexpected and undeserved of the degenerate who
flitted across the frontier when the country that he had misruled
was in its death agony. The pantaloon of Europe gave up his
mumming when the game grew dangerous; with it he gave up his last
opportunity of ascending from the ridiculous to the sublime.

Where no imagination is required, the English are a kindly race
who find it easier and more congenial to forget than to inflict
punishment even when it is deserved, even when the criminal
unpunished becomes a model for future crime. Every murderer may
be sure of his petition for reprieve; in the excitement of the
present an Englishman will always forget the excitement of the
past, even when this shortness of memory leaves a debt unpaid. The
war is so long over, its later stages were so different from the
earlier that few now remember their obligation to Lord Kitchener
in those first months. It is for soldiers and statesmen to decide
whether he outlived his own usefulness, whether he reduced the War
Office to chaos, even whether the new armies would not have been
formed without the inspiration of his name; others may be grateful
to an imagination and a courage that led him to warn the country
that he was preparing for a three years' war, when the country was
wondering whether war on such a scale could possibly drag on after
Christmas. Those who were then living on the remote fringe of the
war may recall the indefinable sense of security which was brought
by the news that he had been appointed secretary of state for war.

More quickly forgotten than anything else in these days was the
nation's debt of gratitude to Lord Haldane for reorganising the
army and for preparing, in the expeditionary force, the finest
fighting weapon in recorded history. His admiration for Germany,
his visits to the Kaiser and his study of German methods led a
people which prided itself on its dogged common-sense to charge
him with treacherous German sympathies; political opponents,
eager enough before the party truce to discredit the ministry by
destroying one of its most prominent members, encouraged the belief
that Lord Haldane, while in temporary charge of the war office,
had obstructed the mobilisation of the expeditionary force; and
the man who had made the new model army was credited with designs
on the country which it saved. When once it is recognised that the
English, in their present credulity and ignorance, are unfit for
self-government, these aberrations become easily intelligible;
it is not so easy to understand or to justify the action of Lord
Haldane's colleagues who, for all their worthless moral support
and for all their entreaties that he should remain in the cabinet,
allowed him to be sacrificed to popular clamour without raising a
voice or stirring a finger to protect him publicly.[27]

These early impressions are perhaps the deeper for that there was
so little in those early days, before each man had taken up his
new work, to disturb a course of general reflection. When the
morning and evening papers had been read, there was nothing to do
but to brood over this spectacle of a world gone mad. Everywhere
in England there was the same chatter and speculation, the same
spy-rumours and epidemics of hoarding; the same competition in
war-economies and rivalry in war-services. Every day brought
news of new recruits to the army, the civil service and a score
of services no less unexpected, until, at the end of September,
one who was equally without training or aptitude for teaching
returned to Westminster with cap and gown, to become a temporary


There would be a smaller public-school literature if the privilege
of describing or criticising public schools were restricted to
those who had seen them from both the form-room and the common
room.[28] "Ian Hay" speaks somewhere of the schoolmaster's life
as being the worst paid and the most richly rewarded; and, if no
remuneration compensates the damage to nerves, temper and faith
when a man tries simultaneously to maintain order, to excite
interest and to impart instruction to fifty or sixty boys of
fourteen to seventeen, reward comes from contact with the minds
of boys first stirring to wakefulness and with the characters of
boys who, for all their mischief and resourcefulness of attack, are
lovable in their ingenuousness, their humour, their chivalry, their
conservatism, their strict and strictly-circumscribed honour.

And, if faith is sometimes tried, faith in public-school education
was justified in the years from 1914 to 1918. If it be granted
hypothetically that the war was won for England and, further, that
it was won by soldiers in the field rather than by ministers,
munition-makers, bankers and military correspondents, it was won by
the leadership of the officers and by the fighting quality of the
men; and the leaders were supplied first to the old army and then
to the new, for the first years of the war, almost wholly by the
public schools. When, at the end, the net was thrown more widely,
the quality of the officers deteriorated; though they lacked
nothing of courage, they could furnish no substitute for something
indefinable but recognisable--never so quickly recognised as by the
men they led--which only a public school provides.

Apart from its training in character, public-school education
was justified in that, if the aim of education be to teach a
man how to learn, the versatility of the old public-schoolboy
was a rare tribute to his education; and versatility is not
confined to knowing the commercial or even the scientific jargon
of half-a-dozen languages. Hardly a man was not in some degree
uprooted; and all took to their new work and to their new
responsibilities as lightheartedly as they would to a new game.
It is in this sense that the British may fairly claim to be an
imperial people: the empire, since the days of Warren Hastings
(an Old Westminster), has been administered by public-school boys
with public-school methods and the public-school tradition of
responsibility; if the empire disintegrate, it will be because the
time has come for the administration to pass into native hands or
because the work of the public schools abroad is stultified at
home. It was the public-schoolboy who officered the new armies, the
new civil service, the whole of a new nation organising itself for

Though outward forms change little in a school so old as
Westminster, the war had brought a new spirit and a new vent for
enthusiasm: all but a handful were in the uniform of the officers'
training corps; most of the time out of school was given up to
parades and drills, shooting-practise, lectures and instruction in
map-reading; and war was the one subject that competed with the
narrower interests of the school.

Neither in 1914 nor ten years before the testing of war would an
unbiased observer have suggested that English public schools were
incapable of improvement; at both times, however, he might have
insisted that the improvement must come from the homes of the boys.
In effect, English parents try to get their sons, who are destined
for a controlling position in the life of the nation, educated
for half-a-dozen of their most critical years at a price which is
less than they would pay for an equal time at a moderate hotel.
The emoluments of a schoolmaster, as of a soldier or a clergyman,
would tempt no one who had the assurance or the contrivance to
support himself in commerce, in the civil service or at the bar;
and for that reason a fellow of All Souls is not commonly found in
the army, on the staff of a school or in holy orders. The vaunted
long holidays give a schoolmaster the leisure to keep his mind
fresh with travel; they do not supply the means. To marry on his
salary is to look forward to years of sordid economies, rewarded at
length by the grant of a house and of the right to make money as an

The establishment fees like those for tuition and board are so
insufficient that most schools are hampered for want of money
to build, to rebuild, to equip and to replenish; the sanitary
accommodation is usually inadequate and sometimes scandalous. This
cannot be remedied until parents are willing to pay more; and the
mental attitude of many parents is one of irresponsible relief at
getting rid of their sons for three-quarters of the year and, with
them, of the educational and moral problems that they have artfully
shelved until their sons reach school age. Between that which a
parent expects a boy to learn at school and that which the school
expects him to have learned at home, many unnecessary lessons are
taught and many necessary lessons are left untaught.

If, in care and training, a boy were regarded as not less important
than a race-horse, the public schools would need to ask nothing
more. An adequate payment for the responsibility of education
would attract the best scholars in the country and would enable
them to retire in affluence after ten years' service and before
their hearts were broken by routine. The schoolmaster could dictate
to the parent not less than a trainer dictates to an owner, and
in this way the gaps in public-school education might be filled;
if music, French and German were taught abroad during the school
holidays, if the rudiments of divinity and English had been
imparted at home in the first twelve years of a boy's life, if the
intellectual atmosphere in which a boy is brought up were less
fog-infested, the foundations on which the schoolmaster has to
build would be more secure.

Amateur and professional schoolmasters, temporary and permanent
civil servants, with those who were over age or unfit for the
army, met to the number of many thousands in these days on one
field of war activity which deserves a few words of commemoration.
To relieve the regular police, already depleted, in their normal
duties and to furnish an additional force to guard railway-bridges,
power-stations and similar vital parts from enemy attack, the
government authorized the enrolment of special constables; for
those who were engaged by day, a separate unit with distinctive
duties was established in the headquarters central detachment.
Divided into sections manned from the clubs and government
offices,[29] this detachment was entrusted with the task of
patrolling the grounds of Buckingham Palace nightly from 9.0 until
5.0; in addition, its members were required to report at Scotland
House at every alarm of air-raid or riot and to hold themselves
in readiness to be sent whithersoever required. Organised under a
commandant, inspectors, sub-inspectors and sergeants, arrayed in a
uniform of its own, equipped with truncheons, whistles, brassards
and torches and drilled--whenever it could be collected--in the
gardens of the Temple, the headquarters detachment watched and
waited through four years.

The spirit of the men was better than the use that was made of
them. It would be consoling to think that the mere existence
of such a force discouraged enemy agents from their work of
destruction; certainly moral influence was seldom backed by a
successful trial of strength; and, when the truncheons were
surrendered, very few had been drawn and fewer still blooded. Once
or twice, when German shops were being looted, the headquarters
detachment was sent to Limehouse or Shoreditch, there as a rule
to be mewed up in reserve at the local police-station while the
necessary work was done by the ordinary constables; once or twice
a cordon would be made round a shattered building or a fallen
aeroplane; but for the most part the detachment sat in Scotland
House from the summons until the dismissal or patrolled Buckingham
Palace gardens through the night, waiting for a conflict which
never took place. Before the end, each constable must have sat
in the guardroom for one or two hundred hours and patrolled the
grounds for one or two thousand miles; the biscuits and tobacco
that he consumed are to be reckoned by scores of pounds, the coffee
that he drank by tens of gallons; and, though some at least had
seen the sun rise more often in the summers before the war, none
ever fancied that he could see it with such weariness and loathing.
For men who were already overworked by day, the additional fatigue
was mistaken patriotism; and many dropped out before the armistice.
If, however, few members of the detachment can look back on their
service with much sense of pleasure or profit, some can at least
hold themselves indebted for new friendships.


The speed with which men threw themselves into unfamiliar work
during the war was only equalled by the speed with which they were
transferred from one kind of unfamiliar work to another; and to a
man who had as little knowledge of administration as of teaching
there was nothing surprising in the lightning conversion of an
amateur schoolmaster into an amateur civil servant.[30]

One serious gap in the history of the war remains to be filled by
a comprehensive account of the origin and growth of the temporary
departments. Their number is to be reckoned by the score, their
strength by scores of thousands; in function they ranged from
encouraging thrift and translating enemy newspapers to ordering
heavy artillery, commandeering ships and controlling the supply,
distribution and price of food. Some were vast expansions of a
sub-department in Foreign Office, Admiralty, Board of Trade or War
Office, others--like those of Food and Shipping--were created by a
minister out of a museum or hotel, a private telephone-exchange,
a code of instructions, a supply of official stationery and an
assortment of male and female clerks; some were set to function by
an old civil servant borrowed from another office or resuscitated
from retirement, others evolved their system by imitation or by the
light of nature. If in five years there was a heavy bill to pay
for overlapping and waste, for errors of judgement and blunders
in execution, for interdepartmental warfare and magnification of
private bishoprics, any one who saw the temporary civil service
from the inside may feel that it was yet light in relation to
the multiplicity of interests involved and to the amount of work

In its genesis and development, the Trade Clearing House of the
War Trade Department[31] was typical of most temporary offices.
On the outbreak of hostilities, the National Service League found
itself with premises, furniture, a staff and a number of at least
temporarily obsolete functions. For a time a special censorship
was established in connection with the Admiralty; one recruiting
officer scoured the clubs of London, another the colleges of Oxford
until a big and varied personnel had been collected; when more
hands were required, each of the original members would recruit
a friend, for whom he could vouch. As the work of the department
was concerned with every kind of export trade, no one was admitted
who could turn to private account any knowledge that came to him
in his official capacity; and, though military service was not yet
compulsory nor departmental exemption the desire of the gun-shy,
the recruiting for the office was almost entirely confined to men
who were over age or unfit.

The "department" had at first no official status; and, when a
report of its activities in censorship reached the home secretary,
he suggested that it should regularise itself if it wished to
escape heavy penalties for interfering with his majesty's mails.
At this time the Customs were thrown into difficulty and confusion
by the proclamation of the king in council, forbidding all trade
with the enemy: in the absence of records, investigation and an
intelligence department, it was impossible to say whether goods
cleared from London would ultimately reach enemy destination; and
the censors who were watching the cable and wireless operations
of Dutch and Scandinavian importers seemed the natural advisers
to approach. At this point the embryonic department, which had
risen from the ashes of the National Service League, joined with
a licensing delegation from the Customs to form the War Trade
Department and Trade Clearing House.

The formal executive authority lay with the Privy Council, but the
department was a joint administrative and advisory body, receiving
and transmitting information between War Office, Admiralty, Foreign
Office, Home Office, Scotland Yard, the new Censorships and,
indeed, any other department that would give or accept information
designed to strengthen the blockade, to check espionage at home and
the transmission of information abroad and to prevent trade with
the enemy. As the work became organised and the records increased,
there arose further duties of editing, compiling, summarising and
translating, too numerous and technical to be described here.

The staff was recruited from dons and barristers, men of letters
and stockbrokers, solicitors and merchants; but, until an
incapacitated officer was here and there drafted on light duty
to a government department, there was not one civil servant. The
independent tributes of Lord Emmott and, later, of Lord Robert
Cecil are the most convincing testimony that, even without the
guidance of those who had been trained in the civil service,
these temporary civil servants acquired its methods and imbibed
something of its tradition. Within a few days the raw newcomers
felt as if they had lived all their lives in a world of registries
and files, of minutes and memoranda, of "second-division clerks"
and messengers, as in a few days they were acclimatised to the
universal office equipment of trestle-tables and desk-telephones,
of card-indices and steel filing-cabinets, of "in" and "out" trays,
of rubber stamps and "urgent" labels. The work was done first in
congested corners of Central Buildings, Westminster, later in
Broadway House and later still in Lake Buildings, St. James' Park.
Everywhere the duties of the department expanded more quickly than
its accommodation; and, though it began with apparently sufficient
space in each new home, within a few weeks the big rooms were being
divided by temporary partitions and the small were being filled
with additional occupants.

As the civil service has undergone some slight modification in the
last hundred years, it is encouraging to find that there is also
a slight modification in the public estimate of it since Dickens
satirised the Circumlocution Office. As yet, justice has only been
done to it by ministers who recognise thankfully that it has no
rival in the world for intellectual ability, conscientiousness,
loyalty, honour and integrity. Recruited by a most searching
examination from the best brains of the Oxford and Cambridge type,
it receives fewer rewards and less payment than any other body
of men charged with equal responsibility. No "budget secret" has
ever leaked out, though it is in the power of a Treasury clerk
to become rich beyond the dreams of avarice; during the war no
man worked harder than the civil servant. Whether the "business
men" who were acclaimed and imported so eagerly contrived to run
their departments more cheaply can be answered by any tax-payer
who chooses to enquire; that they ran them more efficiently may
be doubted by any one who recalls the nightmare of confusion in
which, say, the Ministry of Munitions came to birth; that they ran
them with equal integrity may be challenged by small men who were
compelled to disclose to powerful competitors their organisation
and secret processes.

The temporary civil servant may be glad of his experience in a
public department for many reasons, of which not the least is that
it gave him some idea of the size and complexity of the government
machine; he might sympathise more with a business man's complaints
if in his correspondence with a government office the business
man were sufficiently businesslike to read what was written and
sufficiently intelligent to understand what he read.

From the first, the personnel of the War Trade Department was
remarkably varied and variedly remarkable. The chairman of the
Trade Clearing House, (Sir) Henry Penson was an Oxford economist;
the head of the Intelligence Section a translator.[32] In a
neighbouring room worked Alfred Sutro; in another, H. W. C. Davis,
of Balliol; in others again would be found a professor, a poet, a
publisher, a critic, a novelist and a historiographer royal.

Before the end of the war, the department had grown so big that few
could have known more than half of the men and women in it; during
the early days, when the machinery of the blockade had still to
be erected, a small and amazingly harmonious body, contributing
diverse experience from many countries and callings, established
a freemasonry with hard-driven men in other departments; there
was little obsolete routine; and other offices were not slow to
recognise sympathetically that an immense burden of work had to be
accomplished with few hands in a short time.

It has been said that the department changed its domicile several
times; it also changed its constitution and title. When Lord Robert
Cecil was appointed Minister of Blockade, the Trade Clearing House
severed its connection with Lord Emmott's War Trade Department and
became the War Trade Intelligence Department, under Lord Robert and
in conjunction with such blockade organisations as the Contraband
Committee and the Foreign Trade Department. At the end of the
war, its decomposing remains were buried under the Department of
Overseas Trade.

The task of preliminary organisation was not made easier by
the uncertainty into which all government offices were plunged
whenever a section of the press proclaimed that every department
was sheltering companies of potential recruits. This is not
the place to engage in a general discussion of the policy or
the morality of conscription as imposed, without reference to
the constituencies, on a country which, six years earlier, had
supported a liberal government in its contest with the House of
Lords. The constitutionalists may object that such a course made
mock of representative government; the idealist may feel that the
achievement of the voluntary system in the first eighteen months of
the war was the greatest in English history and that no victory is
worth a press-gang; and every critic who is not also a militarist
will wonder how the army, alone of the services which require to
draw from the limited common reservoir of man-power, is allowed to
say that it can fix no maximum but requires all the men that it can
get and then still more.

These are general reflections on compulsory service; and, as it
had been imposed before the summer of 1916, criticism was then
only relevant when directed to the method of its application.
If industry was kept in the same uncertainty as the government
service, it is amazing that industry was not destroyed. The first
principle of applied conscription seemed to be that there were no
principles: the system of one day was discarded the next; and no
permanent arrangement of work was secure from the risk that a man
exempted on Monday would be called up on Monday week. All men of
military age were periodically reviewed and subjected to medical
reexamination; apart from the waste of time to all concerned
and the occasional incivility of medical boards which attributed
physical defects to temperamental malice, no personal hardship was
involved at first, though, when the doctors were encouraged to pass
as fit for general service a man who had with difficulty qualified
for "sedentary duty at home," the civil service too often lost a
valuable worker in presenting to the army a confirmed invalid. The
hardship fell rather on those who were responsible for organising
the work without being sure who would be left to do it.

When once the machinery of the blockade was perfected, the chief
concern of the department was to improve and to economise in its
working. The year 1916 lacked the excitement of those earlier
months when the temporary organisations were playing a game,
picking up sides and inventing the rules as they went on; for one
amateur civil servant interest only revived with the adhesion of
America to the allies. On Easter-Eve, 1917, the department was
requested to choose a representative to join the diplomatic mission
which was being sent to Washington with Mr. Balfour at its head.


The late war has been described a hundred thousand times as a
life-and-death struggle. While a soldier may engage in such a
struggle without allowing his reason to be overmastered by his
nerves, the civilian population at home, learning little and
understanding less, is always in some degree influenced by fear
in the formation of its opinions:[33] credit in excess of its
military deserts will be given to the power that joins the war on
the right side, while opprobrium in excess of its moral turpitude
will be poured on the power that joins the war on the wrong side or
omits to join it at all. Italy, which forsook the triple alliance
and ran away at Caporetto, is loaded with territorial rewards and
praised as a champion of civilisation, while Turkey, which had no
alliance to forsake and entered the war--like many another--for
what could be got out of it, is first vilified and then skinned
alive. It is the fortune of war: by throwing in its lot with the
enemy, the Turkish government embarrassed the allies and increased
their despondency; by throwing in its lot with the allies, the
Italian government relieved that embarrassment and lightened that

The allies would have been strengthened beyond calculation
if, on the outbreak of war, the United States had upheld the
neutrality of Belgium by force of arms; or if, on the sinking of
the _Lusitania_, they had maintained by force of arms their own
prestige; or if, at any time before 1917 and on any pretext, they
had eased by military and naval assistance the strain under which
Great Britain was suffering. It is interesting and, unhappily, not
wholly academic to speculate what Great Britain would have done
or would do in the future if the government of a central or south
American republic appealed to the great powers for assistance in
repelling an unprovoked Japanese invasion; it is conceivable that
the notes in which President Wilson defended his neutrality from
1914 to 1917 would constitute a valuable precedent and model for a
British foreign secretary in defending his. The public in England
did not pause to sympathise with a people which aimed at keeping
itself free from the costly heritage of European politics, nor to
understand a country in which the interests of the Atlantic coast
were unintelligible on the coast of the Pacific and both were
different from the interests of the middle west. It did not even
pause to record or feel gratitude for the moral, financial and
charitable support of a big section of the United States.

From the day when President Wilson elected to stand aloof until
the day when he declared war, Great Britain, despairing of help,
gave herself over to sullen murmuring and periodical explosions.
That a nation would sooner swallow an indignity than sacrifice its
ideal of standing apart from all wars, that it should hope and work
for a peace in which the victor should not be able to leave the
vanquished only his eyes to weep with was unpalatable in a country
which was threatened with starvation at home and with defeat or
stalemate abroad. And no attempt was made to conceal this feeling
of distaste.

Nevertheless, no enthusiasm was too extravagant when at last
America abandoned her neutrality--and abandoned it on the
unidealistic ground of material self-protection. By the autumn
of 1916 the allies had reached their low-water mark. The summer
campaign on the Somme had cost more than half a million casualties
without breaking the German line; the Russian thrust in the
south had been repelled and the Russian armies flung back with
such violence that they required long leisure for recovery and
re-equipment, if indeed they were ever again to play an effective
part in the war; Servia, left to the undivided attention of
Austria, had been put out of action; and Roumania, entering the
war precipitously, was now almost expunged from the map of Europe;
if the French had succeeded at Verdun, they had failed everywhere
else; forgetting everything and learning nothing from the tragedy
of the Dardanelles, the British government had been persuaded
by the French to lock up another army in Salonica; the battle
of Jutland was still widely believed to have been the greatest
defeat in British naval history; Ireland was smouldering with a
half-extinguished half-revolution; and a wave of "defeatism" was
spreading through England and France until even the armies were

When the belligerents took stock before settling down to the
trench-warfare winter campaign of 1916-17, all must have felt that
the war had reached its climax. The general exhaustion was so
great that, even if hostilities had ceased, every country would
have been crippled; if hostilities continued, they would continue
on a scale of unlimited effort in which no reserve of strength
would any longer be husbanded. Set free on her eastern frontier,
Germany must mass all her resources in one last effort to break
through the western line; the allies must hold out till the attempt
had spent itself and then strike one last blow at a worn enemy;
Germany must in turn prevent the allies from holding out by cutting
their sea-communications. If unrestricted submarine warfare ranged
America on the side of the allies, it must have been felt that
either the war would be over before any effective help could be
given or else that, in the final, hopeless, death-grapple, a few
million soldiers more or less would not substantially change the
degree or character of Germany's defeat.

Many of those who meditate on the war from its climax in 1916
to its end in the Versailles conference may wonder whether they
did wisely in execrating and howling down any one who shewed the
courage to advocate peace before the sphere of war underwent its
last desperate expansion. The government stood by its policy of a
"knock-out blow"; the knock-out blow has been dealt. Is any one the
better for it? The fire-eaters who proclaimed that anything less
than the unconditional surrender of Germany would entail another
German war within a generation now proclaim with no more doubt or
qualification that Germany is preparing her revenge and has already
recovered more quickly than any other of the belligerents.[34]
The added two years of war, then, have not brought such security
as Rome enjoyed after the destruction of Carthage; the added
bitterness of those two years, on the other hand, has made more
difficult any good-will and any common effort to substitute a saner
and better system of international relationship.

Worst of all are the world-wide economic depression and political
unrest for which the protraction of the war was responsible. Had
negotiations been opened in 1916, the Russian revolution and its
consequences might well have been averted; Germany, Austria and
Turkey might have been left with stable governments and yet with
enough experience of modern warfare to discourage any taste for
further adventures; and Italy, France and Great Britain--in that
order--might have been saved from insolvency. The war, if ended at
that time, would have been ended without American help; and peace
would have been concluded without American intervention. This last
result might by now be a matter for regret if thereby the world
had been cheated of an equitable and permanent peace, such as
President Wilson sought to impose on the militarist party of the
Versailles conference; but it would perhaps have been better for
the terms to be drawn by M. Clemenceau and Mr. Lloyd George on
Carthaginian lines than for the world to be tantalised by a glimpse
of statesmanship that revealed the universal spirit and then to be
fobbed off with a compromise which embraced even the good faith of

Of peace negotiations there was much talk in the last months of
1916; even the cabinet was alleged to have its peace-party; and,
though the first coalition fell for other reasons, its fall was
made possible by a vague general belief that one faction was
indifferent whether the war was won or lost and that, if the war
had to go on, it must be controlled by the faction which was most
vociferously identified with the policy of the knock-out blow.
Whether the most tentative offer was made to Germany or by Germany
has not been admitted; but informal communications were passing,
from the beginning of the war till the end, through unofficial
channels, and it would interest any one who is dissatisfied with
the present settlement to know whether the German government
refused or would have refused a peace in which Belgium, northern
France and Russia were evacuated and repaired, in which the authors
of all atrocities were surrendered for trial and in which there
were neither territorial acquisitions nor indemnities on either
side. For more than this the allies were not entitled to ask, when
the gamble of war was at its height; with less than this they could
not be content.

Returned to power for a second term of office in the November
elections of 1916, President Wilson made a final attempt to open
peace negotiations; but the unrestricted submarine campaign
frustrated his efforts and impelled him reluctantly to issue a
declaration of war: if the allies were defeated, as now seemed
more than possible, America lay exposed to any power with a fleet
in being. The United States engaged in the war independently and
without entering into alliance with any other power; but the
closest cooperation was expected and invited. To assist this
cooperation, the Foreign Office proposed that a representative
mission should be sent to Washington; and, when the United States
government received the proposal favourably, the mission was
assembled to discuss war-measures with the government of a country
at which the British public and press had been scoffing on the
ground that it was "too proud to fight."



 " ... 'I am no goatherd,' said Faiz Ullah. 'It is against izzat
 [my honour].'

 'When we cross the Bias River again we will talk of izzat,' Scott
 replied. 'Till that day thou and the policeman shall be sweepers
 to the camp, if I give the order.'

 'Thus, then, it is done,' grunted Faiz Ullah, 'if the Sahib will
 have it so'...."

                         RUDYARD KIPLING: _William the Conqueror_.


Those who left London for a rare, short holiday between 1914
and 1918 were liable to find that the war followed them into
the country with agitated headlines and with the daily rolls of
honour, inevitable and inexorable, with gloomy letters and with
vast departmental files bursting through their official envelopes.
Those who were drawn to America at any time before the end of
1917 found there a people which seemed to realise the war as
little as the English had realised it in 1914: the bitterness of
death was not yet come. The excitement and preparation of her
first entry into world-politics sent hardly a shiver through
that warm atmosphere of peace and plenty; only the hard-bought
experience of disorganisation and want, of jealousy and mistrust,
of disappointment and impatience could bring home to America
the suffering and losses, the occasional hopelessness, the
recriminations and intrigues, the decline and abandonment of
ideals which had overtaken one after another of the belligerents.

It was only two and a half years since idealists in England had
talked of a "war to end war," of international justice and the
rights of small nations, of self-effacement and sacrifice, of a
crusade and a new way of life. For a few weeks England displayed
a great religious enthusiasm: the futility and squalor of the old
world was sloughed off; a wave of disinterested pity swept over
the country; there was a rush to arms and to work; old feuds were
forgotten in a magnanimous handshake. How and why did the change

Perhaps the conversion was too abrupt; perhaps long uncertainty
and fear, long expectation and sudden knowledge of loss impose too
heavy a strain on tender, unhardy greatness of soul. Death had
hitherto been, for most, a release from suffering or the gentle
termination of old age; for very few the mutilating rape of youth.
At one moment, every one in England was clamouring to serve up
to and beyond the limits of his capacity: in the race to the
recruiting-stations, the old and the halt disguised their age and
hid their infirmities; at another, each man inclined to see first
what his neighbour was doing. Why should A fight while B shirked?
Why should C give all he had, while D amassed riches? Why should
E's husband be left alive when F's had been killed?

Trust was driven out by suspicion; and for the suspicion there
was but too good ground. Some men did evade military service or
shelter themselves in fire-proof billets; some made their country's
necessity their own opportunity; some hoarded coal and gold, food
and oil; there were mistakes of policy and errors of judgement,
as there were German spies and pro-German agents. Of all such,
however, there is abundance in every country in every war; and it
is illuminating to find that Ludendorff holds up the morale of
Great Britain as a model to his own countrymen. Was the strain,
were the people's defects of character sufficient to justify the
wholesale jettisoning of all the early ideals?

Or was their sacrifice rejected, were their early ideals betrayed
by a government which cared too little about everything to see
clearly about anything? Two and a half years of war achieved a
series of contrasts so violent that a man might well rub his eyes
and wonder whether he was in the same country. Great Britain,
at least by the letter of her professions, had entered the war
disinterestedly to uphold the neutrality of Belgium and to pay a
debt of honour to France; she had since surrendered so completely
to the acquisitive side of imperialism that she was collecting vast
tracts of territory in Asia, Africa and the Pacific, promising
Constantinople to Russia, Trieste and the Trentino to Italy--the
former ally of Austria--and Alsace-Lorraine to France. In 1914
the prime minister had stirred the world with the eloquence of
his plea for the small nationalities, but the stress of war
induced him, with colleagues, supporters and opponents bleating
joyous acquiescence, to suspend the home rule act which promised
independence to at least one small nationality. In an England
lately taught to loathe militarism and autocracy, the life and
liberty of the subject lay so much at the mercy of autocratic
regulations that criticism was stifled. Conscription had been
imposed, with every kind of base capitulation, first to the
incompetence of the War Office, then to the urgency of the press,
then to sectional rivalries between married and unmarried men. The
rights of minorities and the pleadings of conscience were left to
assert themselves within the four walls of a prison-cell.

And hardly a voice had been raised in protest. When they found that
the policy of the cabinet was committing tens of millions, without
their knowledge, to war, a handful of ministers did indeed resign,
with less commotion than a man would cause in leaving a table where
the cards were marked; but of the others who had raved and argued
for non-intervention all were snugly ensconced in office. The major
complaisance made easy the minor; and the party which had left its
principles on the threshold before drifting into war drifted into
conscription without realising that it had any more principles to
abandon. Sir John Simon, who had stood forth as the champion of
the voluntary system, argued half-heartedly from the standpoint
of expediency and resigned when his political influence had
evaporated. And yet this servility to the dictates of government
was not the result of a splendid resolve to close the ranks and to
support the ministry in its hour of crisis: there was no union of
hearts comparable with that effected between the republicans and
the democrats in America. The united front at home broke down after
the battle of Neuve Chapelle; and from May 1915 till December 1916
there was such an orgy of political intrigue as Great Britain had
not seen in living memory.

The battle on the home front was joined on the morrow of the
campaign which registered the failure of the first British
offensive. Owing to disagreement or misunderstanding between the
military experts, Sir John French at General Headquarters and
Lord Kitchener at the War Office, the battle of Neuve Chapelle
was fought with much shrapnel and little high explosive; Mr.
Asquith, basing himself on his secretary of state for war,
spoke reassuringly at Newcastle on the shell position; but the
commander-in-chief had by now discovered that high explosive was
what he wanted, and on this subject it was impossible to speak
reassuringly. To secure an adequate supply Sir John French put
himself, through the medium of Captain the Honourable Frederick
Guest, into communication, not with the prime minister nor with
the secretary of state for war, but, behind their backs, with the
chancellor of the exchequer. Mr. Lloyd George, though equally
responsible with the rest of the cabinet, now posed before the
world as the one minister seriously concerned to supply the
army with munitions, and in his support the godliest and the
greatest rubbed shoulders: Bishop Furze of Pretoria hurried to the
assistance of the military experts by giving it as his considered
opinion that the Neuve Chapelle failure was due to lack of an
unlimited supply of high-explosive shells; _The Times_ lent its
weight in the same direction. A debate was threatened at the moment
when Italy was at last deciding to abandon her neutrality; and,
though Mr. Asquith had announced but a few hours before that he did
not contemplate forming a coalition government, his colleagues were
invited a few hours later to place their resignations in his hands
so that a coalition ministry might be formed.

The liberal party was not consulted until the decision had been
taken; and the men who had answered every demand on their loyalty
for five, six and eight years were sufficiently disgruntled to
call a meeting of protest. With the prime minister's entrance,
indignation turned to sympathy; he was urged into the chair, and
after an explanation in which nothing was explained, the meeting
dispersed, bright-eyed with emotion, to a murmured chorus of "Trust
the P.M." In the reconstruction of the ministry, room had to be
found for as many unionists as liberals; and, as at this time Mr.
Lloyd George was advertising for "a man of push and go" to control
the supply of munitions, the principle of coalition government was
defined as one in which the tories pushed and the liberals went.

This idea of fusion, with its amnesty of principles, its
abandonment of awkward party controversies and its escape from
embarrassing party opposition, was perhaps a greater novelty to
the House of Commons than to the new head of the new Ministry of
Munitions. To the coalition principle he is said to have been
attracted for years before the war;[35] he remained faithful to
it until the end; and, with the conclusion of the armistice, he
exalted it into an article of political faith, which to reject
was tantamount to instant death at the political stake; even now,
when peace has been signed, the need for coalition government has,
in his eyes, not yet abated. The change that overcame Mr. Lloyd
George's mind between the battle of Neuve Chapelle and the December
crisis of 1916 was that, in addition to the need for a coalition,
he saw the need for himself at its head.


Before the House of Commons and the country could be prepared for
the change of government in war-time, they had to be convinced
that the old administration not only had failed in the past, but
was doomed to fail in the future. One bird in the coalition nest
had to foul it until the offence cried to heaven; thereafter the
nest could be rebuilt and repopulated. So, for a year and a half,
there was always one member of the government to dissociate himself
from his colleagues and to point sorrowfully to mistakes for which
his sorrow appeared to absolve him from responsibility. Owing to
delay, mismanagement or lack of preparation, Neuve Chapelle, Loos
and the Somme by land, Jutland by sea had achieved no decision;
the Gallipoli and Mesopotamia campaigns had ended in smoke and
blood. The difficulty of raising new drafts, of equipping them and
of feeding the civilian population was magnified by a press which
ministers scorned to make sympathetic. Ireland had been goaded into
revolt and was being held quiet by force. As a record of failure,
much platform capital could be made out of the government's
succession of disasters.[36]

Whether any other government made fewer mistakes absolutely,
whether it was generous to emphasise these catastrophes and
to disregard the practical achievements, future historians
must determine. The whole of Great Britain and of the British
Empire had been brought unanimously and enthusiastically into
the war; an unmilitary nation had raised and armed millions of
men; it was spending thousands of millions of pounds each year;
it was blockading the enemy and policing the seas. It was not,
unfortunately, breaking the German line in the West nor the Turkish
line in the East. Generosity was not a conspicuous quality among
the men who were engaged in breaking the home front.

To Mr. Asquith's eternal credit he rated unity in cabinet and
country higher than any tactical advantage that he might have
secured by a dialectical brawl with his energetic lieutenant. Mr.
Lloyd George, who was now so anxious to "get on with the war," had
been less anxious to follow his chief into war at the outset; "too
late here," he complained, "too late there," but in every decision,
were it the Dardanelles expedition or the shell controversy, he
shared full and equal responsibility with the head and every member
of the cabinet, he could have resigned in protest--and with greater
dignity than he shewed in rounding upon his colleagues for mistakes
in which he participated. From the time of Lord Kitchener's death
until the December crisis, he was himself secretary of state for
war with a predominant voice in all military decisions.

It was easier to forget his own record and to focus the attention
of his audience upon the future. After the failure of the Somme
offensive, the apparent failure of the Jutland action, another
winter campaign became inevitable; food was running short and
would become shorter if German submarines were given free play;
the evidence collected by the Dardanelles commissioners threw
a disturbing light on the happy-go-lucky methods of cabinet
government; ministers were allowing themselves to be bullied
in the House of Commons; and from a hundred different quarters
there gathered a hundred thousand wisps and wreaths of fog which
intensified in a tarnishing cloud of mistrust and disapproval.
Under the military service act a man could appeal for exemption on
the ground that he was indispensable in his present employment;
from the first days of the war Mr. Asquith was hailed as the
indispensable prime minister. It is impossible to draw any chart
to shew the change in psychological attitude towards him; but by
the autumn of 1916, perhaps on the day when he persuaded parliament
to accept conscription and imposed it upon the country without
a revolution, he was no longer indispensable; very soon the
antagonism strengthened into a feeling that the war would never be
won so long as he remained at the head of the government.

This feeling was crystallised by Mr. Lloyd George in a memorandum
which proposed that a committee of three, excluding the prime
minister, should have full direction of the war. Discussion and
correspondence followed; the proposal was made public in _The
Times_ of December 4th; there was one day's more correspondence,
ending with Mr. Asquith's abrupt announcement on December 5th that
he had tendered his resignation to the king. It seemed unlikely,
to the outside spectator, that either Mr. Bonar Law or Mr. Lloyd
George would be able to form a new administration, if, as was
expected, the liberal and unionist ministers remained loyal to
their old chief in resisting an ambitious colleague's effort to
supplant him; but those responsible for the upheaval were leaving
nothing to chance in the "well-organised, carefully engineered
conspiracy" which Mr. Asquith described as being "directed" in
part against some of his late unionist colleagues, but in the
main against Lord Grey and himself. Mr. Bonar Law lost no time in
handing on to Mr. Lloyd George the opportunity of an experiment
in cabinet-making; the unionist members had been approached in
advance, Mr. Balfour and Lord Robert Cecil consented to take office
and the small fry followed their lead.

So perished the first coalition, the liberal party and the
political ascendancy of Mr. Asquith. Now, as before, his supporters
were not consulted any more than when he plunged them into the
first coalition or incurred that earlier debt of honour which
was not an obligation, but which had the compelling force of an
obligation in committing them to hostilities; though he expected
and received their fealty throughout the first two and a half
years of war, he never found it necessary to take them into his
confidence before sacrificing every principle of liberalism,
placing every liberal pledge in suspense and, at the end,
abdicating from his half of the political throne. Ministers had an
unchallenged, victorious majority; there was no adverse vote; the
white flag fluttered into view before a shot had been fired; and
it was not until he assembled the liberal party at the Reform Club
on December 8th and hinted at the conspiracy before which he had
retired that the party knew its fate. By that time the majority of
the party was grown restive under this one-sided loyalty.

Those were days of terrible passion and bitterness. No abuse was
too strong for the perfidy of Mr. Lloyd George on the one hand or
the lethargy of Mr. Asquith on the other. Ingratitude and bad faith
were spluttered from one set of lips; incompetence and indifference
from the other. A "defeatist" cabal in the cabinet was discovered
or invented; and ministers were accused of not winning the war
because they did not want to win the war. More than four years
have passed since that black week and it is still too early to
return an impartial verdict. No one is likely to question that Mr.
Asquith's loyalty and generosity to his colleagues are without
parallel in our political history: throughout the vulgarity of the
Limehouse campaign, the tragi-comedy of Mr. Churchill's Sidney
Street offensive and the squalor of the Marconi scandal, the prime
minister's wide and indulgent cloak was ever at the disposal of
the intemperate youngsters of his cabinet; never was indulgence
repaid with blacker treachery. Those who like to fancy the workings
of providence in human affairs may think that, as Mr. Asquith
neglected and misled his party more thoroughly than any other prime
minister, so he was overtaken by a more malignant nemesis.

To suggest that he would have lost the war, if he had continued in
office, is hardly less fantastic than to believe that Mr. Lloyd
George won it. A press-ridden people is liable to exaggerate the
difference between one prime minister and another; by 1917 a
number of amateurs had learned something of war, and the new prime
minister profited by experience as the old would have done; but
through the organised clamour and dust of the next two years it
is hard to discern a single act of courage or of decision which
ranks higher than the day-by-day courage and decision displayed
by the government in the first half of the war or which entitled
Mr. Lloyd George more than Mr. Asquith to be regarded as a great
war-minister. It was under Mr. Asquith's rule that the country was
converted from peace to war, that the great armies were raised and
all but one of the great alliances concluded. If Mr. Lloyd George
can claim credit for the unification of the higher command, he must
allow that from no one but Mr. Asquith would conscription have
been accepted; his own effort in 1918 to raise the age-limit and
to include Ireland was hardly a triumph of practical efficiency or
of political honesty. The difficulties of administration had, if
anything, decreased by 1917: if Russia was no longer dependable,
America--with all her resources of food, money and men--came to
redress the balance. While Mr. Lloyd George's buoyant and inspiring
optimism deserves all praise, Mr. Asquith's optimism, if more
restrained, was no less constant; his determination, even when no
longer in office, to prosecute the war with all possible vigour
was a cause of perplexity and of offence to those of his party who
wished him to lead a movement in favour of a negotiated peace and
to those who hoped to see him retaliating on the new government for
the guerilla so long waged against himself.

As the fate of the country they governed is more important than
that of either man, so the fate of the party they led is more
important than the transitory fortune of its leader. One who
lunched at the Reform Club on December 8th, in sight of Sir Henry
Campbell-Bannerman's portrait, may perhaps be excused for thinking
of the library overhead and of the shattered host that listened
there to the belated apologetics of its leader; he may be pardoned
for putting on those kindly, shrewd lips the words: "_Vare, legions


Even the rout of the liberal party is inconsiderable by
comparison with the death of liberalism which took place that
day. The old shibboleths of peace, economy, personal liberty and
internationalism were discarded; when next liberal candidates
made profession of faith, they deafened themselves with a cry for
revenge and for indemnities which could not be exacted, until the
"war to end war" culminated in a peace to end peace. Forgotten were
the aspirations of August 1914; nationality was blessed in the
distant security of Czecho-Slovakia but ignored in Ireland; of the
ideals with which Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman's lost legions had
come into power there remained not one, of practical achievement
their record shewed little more than a statute-book cumbered
by bold acts of parliament which their authors had rendered

The generation that saw the liberalism on which it had been
reared stricken to the ground by the annihilating onrush of war
still hoped that, with the halting approach of peace, liberalism
might raise its head again. Among the faithful are numbered the
ardent and generous spirits of every generation; and the faith
is imperishable even though from time to time it lack a prophet
or a leader. It is inspired by compassion for all who are any
way afflicted in mind, body or estate and it exists to relieve
affliction by the gift of freedom. Liberty to sleep and wake and
work and love, secure from the oppression of a despotic ruler or
a strong neighbour; liberty to win the best from life, unhampered
by hunger or thirst, by cold or disease, by ignorance or fear;
liberty to enjoy the fruits of labour and to engage in the pursuit
of happiness; liberty for a man to do whatsoever he wishes,
provided that he does not infringe the liberty of his neighbour:
all this is included in the faith of liberalism, which embraces
also the liberty of the smaller aggregates, which we call classes,
and of the larger aggregates, which we call nations, to mould their
own destinies and to pursue, each in its own way, its own ideal of
happiness. It is a militant faith, for, when compassion slumbers,
the need for liberty and the faith in liberty are dead; it is kept
ever alert and brightly armoured by the just young, who cannot
tolerate that millions of their fellow creatures should begin
life handicapped, and by the merciful, who believe that active or
passive cruelty is the root of all evil and the mark of original
sin. What a man becomes in later life is conditioned by the scars
which the struggle for existence leaves upon him; for the man who
was not a liberal in youth, there may be pity, but there can be no
hope. The men who risked anything or everything in the war attached
various labels to their political beliefs, but the act of sacrifice
made liberals of them.

After the crisis of December, 1916, fewer tears were shed for
fallen liberal idols than for unpedestalled liberal ministers,
and compassion was too much needed at home to be spared for
export; now, as then, less righteous indignation is engendered
by the collapse of liberalism than by the defection of prominent
liberals. Captain Guest and Mr. Shortt, Sir Alfred Mond and Mr.
Churchill, Dr. Addison and Mr. Macpherson, Sir Hamar Greenwood and
Mr. Harmsworth, Sir Gordon Hewart and Mr. Montagu are felt by "wee
free" liberals to have sold their master; a year ago,[37] some of
them were publicly acclaimed as "rats" and denied a hearing. Those
who remained loyal to Mr. Asquith dropped gently out of political
prominence until the general election of 1918 dropped them less
gently out of public life. A British political faith has never been
so completely and tidily demolished as was British liberalism, with
its organisation and its army, at the hands of a Welsh solicitor,
an Irish newspaper proprietor, a Canadian financier and their
satellites, aided by the inexorable logic of events.

The funeral of liberalism was carried out with more despatch
than solemnity. On the night of Mr. Asquith's resignation the
politicians separated at once into those who had surrendered
office and those who hoped to fill the vacant places. _Le roy
est mort; vive le roy!_ Though Irish, English and Scotch were
being killed on a dozen fronts, no time was being wasted at home;
as in the political crisis after Neuve Chapelle, more than one
soldier-politician had returned to London in full readiness to lay
aside his sword in exchange for a portfolio; and before Mr. Bonar
Law had visited the king, a "new gang" leader might have been
overheard enquiring of an "old gang" minister how much he had got
out of the "pool" of ministerial salaries. The mission to America
offered to its members a welcome holiday from English politics.

In those days any holiday from London would have been acceptable.
Most of those who passed their time in government offices were
overworked; almost all of them _ex hypothesi_ were in one way or
another unfit; all were stale. Their blood unfired by hand-to-hand
fighting, they became unconscious victims of despondency which
bore no accurate relation to the fluctuating fortune of war. While
it is probably true that in the winter before America entered the
war, when the reservoir of men was running dry, when food had first
to be rationed and England was threatened with the "unrestricted"
submarine campaign, there was better reason for depression than in
September 1914 or March 1918, when the danger was past before it
had been fully realised, it is also true that depression continued
when improving news from the front should have relieved it. There
is a close connection between a temporarily weakening morale and
the first decline in the standard of living: by the end of 1916
food was deteriorating in quality and quantity; digestion and
nerves were affected; bodily vitality became impaired. There is
a connection no less close between mental vitality and light; an
ill-lit room produces low spirits, and London was ill-lit after
the first threat of an air-raid. Further, the health of mind and
of body is dependent on sleep; and, if a civilian may criticise
the strategy of the German air-service, it may be suggested that
it would have done better to aim at breaking British morale by
keeping Britain awake at night. The material achievement of the
raiders must have been disappointing to the German general staff:
the destruction of life was insignificant; the damage to property
trifling; it may be doubted whether the bombs dropped on railways,
munition works and public buildings retarded the pace of the war by
an hour; there was no widespread panic; the civilian population was
never driven to sue prematurely for peace, the seat of government
was never transferred. To this extent the air-raids were a failure.

If this contention be just, the most successful phase of the
campaign was reached one week when there were six raid nights in
succession. London was, in consequence, fretful and neurotic. While
no one had the honesty to admit that he was frightened by raids,
a few would admit their effect on the nerves of others. With the
approach of evening the anxious Londoner calculated from the age of
the moon and the height of the wind that it was, perhaps, a "good
night for the Gothas." "I wonder whether they'll come to-night,"
he would observe conversationally, as he went in to dinner; and,
whether they came or not, the atmosphere was affected by vague,
hardly perceptible uneasiness. When the attack was inopportunely
timed, dinner would be interrupted while children were flushed from
bed and littered down in hall or cellar. Every taxi disappeared
from the streets, the tube stations were filled with highly
scented aliens and the anxious Londoner walked home between the
bombardments of the anti-aircraft guns, perhaps to find that he was
homeless, roofless or windowless. After a broken night, he awoke
with a headache; and, if government offices were representative of
London as a whole, a proportion of the morning would be spent in
exchanging anecdotes of the raid.


At mid-day on the Wednesday in Easter week, after one or two false
starts, the members of Mr. Balfour's mission entered a private bay
at Euston, where the presence of a special train aroused among
the porters mild speculation which died away in the opinion that
the king was making an unadvertised journey. The Admiralty was
represented by Rear-Admiral Sir Dudley de Chair and Fleet-Paymaster
Lawford; the War Office by Major-General (Sir) Tom Bridges, Colonel
Spender-Clay, Colonel Dansey and Major Rees; the Foreign Office by
Lord Eustace Percy, Mr. Maurice Peterson, Mr. A. Paton and (Sir)
Geoffrey Butler; the Board of Trade by Mr. F. P. Robinson; the
Wheat Commission by (Sir) Alan Anderson; the Ministry of Munitions
by Mr. W. P. Layton and Mr. M. L. Phillips; the Bank of England by
its governor, Lord Cunliffe. Mr. Balfour's personal staff consisted
of Sir Eric Drummond, (Sir) Ian Malcolm and Mr. Cecil Dormer. A
later boat was to bring others who joined the mission in Washington.

At two o'clock the special train left Euston for a port chosen
by the Admiralty, but not disclosed. At a time chosen by the
Admiralty, the mission was to embark on an unknown ship for an
unknown destination on the western side of the Atlantic, there to
escape for a few weeks from the imminence of war and to look upon a
country which seemed own sister to the England which all had known
before August 4, 1914.



 "Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth upon this
 continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the
 proposition that all men are created equal.

 "Now we are engaged in a great ... war, testing whether that
 nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long
 endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war.... It is
 for us, the living, ... to be dedicated here to the unfinished
 work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.
 It is ... for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining
 before us; that from these honoured dead we take increased
 devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure
 of devotion; that we here highly resolve that these dead shall
 not have died in vain; that this nation, under God, shall have a
 new birth of freedom; and that government of the people, by the
 people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

         ABRAHAM LINCOLN: _Address at the Dedication of the National
                                          Cemetery at Gettysburg_.


Some extracts from a diary of the next two months will give the
history of the mission's movements and may recall, to those who had
occasion to travel during the unrestricted submarine campaign, the
sometimes romantic mystery and the always exasperating uncertainty
of those days.

       *       *       *       *       *

  _Wednesday, April 11th, 1917._

_Non-stop to Crewe and again to Carlisle, where we changed engines
in a hidden backwater of the station. Dormer_ [Mr. Balfour's
assistant private secretary] _explained programme: viz. dine on
train, reach unnamed port at 11.0 p.m., embark, land to-morrow at
second unnamed port, train till mid-day to third unnamed port and
embark in real earnest. Query: Stranraer, Larne, Loch Swilly and
the "Olympic?" ... Rival rumour speaks of a cruiser or two. At
Carlisle we stretch our legs...._

_Left Carlisle 15 minutes before scheduled time, thus missing
Admiralty telegram. This, however, caught us at Dumfries, where,
dining agreeably and looking out over measureless wastes of snow,
we were told that we must wait four-and-twenty hours, as the
weather was impossible. Mission, which is so far taking everything
in best spirit, clutched its despatch boxes and F.O. bags,
indicated heavier luggage to obliging soldier-servants and tramped
through snow to Dumfries Station Hotel...._

_Until mid-day no orders were received.... Dormer then announced
that we board train for dinner at 7.15 and start at 8.45. The
mission is so much wrapped in mystery, and the S. of State so well
known that he has been confined to his own room all morning...._

_On reaching station at 7.15 we were presented with further
Admiralty telegrams suspending our departure ... then told that we
were to proceed to Greenock. It was low water when we arrived at
11.0 p.m. and ... illumined by the precarious flash of an electric
torch, we descended a perpendicular gangway, much as a vampire
descends the rain-water pipe on the outside of a house.... Greenock
Station rumour says that our mission of twenty, with ten servants
and sixty to eighty pieces of baggage, is carrying bullion....
Some little time on a perishingly cold tender, before boarding
"Olympic." This ... has been for some little time a troopship;
it is in fact heavily loaded with ... Canadian ... wives who are
being repatriated; it contains three hundred to four hundred ...
babies, all with ... a yell on their lips; finally, it has been
waiting for the mission some six days, being ready to sail last
Friday.... Consequently, when the Secretary of State mounted the
gangway, followed by a score of men carrying a despatch-box in
either hand ... the cheers rang out over the grey waters of the
Clyde. "I cannot help feeling that they were ironical," murmured A.
J. B., as we sat down to sardines on toast, cold ham and whiskey at
midnight.... Unconscious of their doom, the little victims cheered,
not guessing that the Admiralty's reason for stopping us yesterday
was the discovery of a brand-new minefield outside Loch Swilly.
I am told that we shall not start till Saturday, as a further
mission, principally from the W.O. and M. of M. is due to start on
that day; perhaps we shall wait for it. When, therefore, we arrive
or start back, no man can say. Drummond_ [Mr. Balfour's principal
private secretary] _thinks it probable that we shall spend a week
in Canada before returning._

       *       *       *       *       *

  _Friday, April 13th._

_An inauspicious day for starting, say the superstitious; but,
though the Blue Peter tremble in the breeze, I see no likelihood
of our moving.... Rumour, which is as busy on board the "Olympic"
as elsewhere, has discovered that the midnight mission was not a
mission at all, but a clandestine escape and that the £800 suite
'midships contains not the Secretary of State, but the ex-Czar of
all the Russias.... No hopes of a start till to-morrow...._

  _Saturday, April 14th._

_Worked industriously ... until noon, when ears were caught by
welcome sound of anchor being raised. Guns, four forward and
two aft, were swung into position; three destroyers, like angry
dragon-flies, appeared from nowhere and flew ahead; orders issued
for every man, woman and child to put, and keep, on life-belt.
Bidden by Drummond to lunch with Secretary of State in his

       *       *       *       *       *

  _Sunday, April 15th._

_Twenty hours out from Greenock. Our escort has left us, we no
longer steer a zigzag course; and high speed, coupled with a bit
of a roll, a bit of a pitch and considerable cold has thinned the
ranks of the passengers.... The Atlantic, considering its size, is
amazingly deserted._

       *       *       *       *       *

  _Monday, April 16th._

_Fairly smooth, settled down to work in earnest.... Dormer told
me that, the night we were due to sail, every British west-coast
port was carefully mined. Hence our stay at Dumfries. The ship's
company has been very busy making a wood-and-canvas imitation of
a submarine periscope; this is to be flung overboard to-morrow,
and punctually at 11.0 our guns will try to sink it. Hope they
succeed; otherwise, a lifelike periscope cruising at large over
wide Atlantic will distress a number of innocent packets._

       *       *       *       *       *

  _Tuesday, April 17th._

_Delightfully warm; steaming well south. This an agreeable surprise
after being told that we were due to run into a cold patch over
the Banks.... Gun practise took place, as advertised; £7 per shell.
As the wood-and-canvas mock-periscope sank shortly after being
launched, there was no very satisfactory target, but the gunners
had still the wide Atlantic at which to shoot and on several
occasions I observed them hit it. Noise disconcerting, but nothing
to consequent uproar, when 400 children all began to cry at once.
However, if they had not been crying at the guns, they would have
cried at something else.... Vernon Castle, who in happier times
waltzes in and out the supper-tables of New York and London in
company with his wife, happens to be on board, as an airman._

       *       *       *       *       *

  _Wednesday, April 18th._

_Weather getting warmer each day. Sighted first ship of any kind
since leaving territorial waters.... The F.O. News Department is
apparently collecting a series of autobiographical sketches of the
mission. Infinite possibilities in this.... Dined with Secretary of
State. A concert on behalf of Sailors' Families Fund...._

       *       *       *       *       *

  _Thursday, April 19th._

_Passing over Banks: bitterly cold; going slow to make Halifax
early to-morrow morning.... The wireless communiqués seem to grow
more satisfactory each day. Confidential memorandum circulated to
mission, hinting what should and what should not be communicated
with members of pertinacious U.S.A. press._[38]

       *       *       *       *       *

  _Friday, April 20th._

_We came in sight of land this morning between 7.0 and 8.0.
Yesterday evening was beautifully calm and clear, and, shortly
before sundown, we met four transports and a cruiser escort
steaming parallel to us to the south. By midnight we ran into a
dense fog and spent the night almost motionless with the fog-horn
blowing at three-minute intervals. An escort came out to meet
us, but turned tail on failing to find us. Halifax harbour is
imposing[39]--an immense stretch of water with hills on either
side and an October-morning haze gradually disappearing before the
sun. The mission will shortly disintegrate, as the M. of M. and
the Wheat Commission are going to New York. On dropping anchor,
we were boarded by an embassage from the Governor-General of
Canada, consisting of Admiral Browning, his naval staff, the G.
G.'s military secretary and others. We are bidden to lunch on the
"Leviathan." Telegrams are flying between Halifax and Washington to
discover when the U.S.A. Government would like us to arrive...._

_Went on board "Leviathan" ... and was entertained most hospitably
by ward-room officers; taken ashore in launch and spent hour
inspecting Halifax. Returned to tea on board "Leviathan"; then
ashore again and entered private car. Expect to reach Washington in
forty-eight hours. Papers full of mission and arrangements for its

       *       *       *       *       *

  _Saturday, April 21st._

_An airless and seismic night ... until we lay in St. John siding
for an hour or two.... Due to cross frontier at 9.0 a.m...._

_Meeting at frontier between mission, press, secret police and
representatives of State Department and Embassy, Secretary of State
and Long, Assistant Secretary of State Department.... Mission must
not arrive before 3.0 p.m. Accordingly drew up in siding for three

       *       *       *       *       *

_Sunday, April 22nd._

_Crossed the Hell Gate Bridge, an amazing piece of railway
construction, only opened three weeks ago, into New York, where we
put down the Ministry of Munitions and the Chairman of the Wheat
Commission, who will join us at Washington to-morrow night. Part of
the Mission will be bedded out in a house provided ad hoc, the rest
will go to the Shoreham Hotel.... Two days in the hottest train on
record rather trying...._

_Arrived safely at Washington.... We had a pilot engine running
from the frontier before us, another following, the line guarded
and the route not disclosed. Despite this, the U.S. head of the
Eastern Command states that sleepers were laid across the line last
night with intent to wreck the train._

_The mission was received by Secretary Lansing and most of the
British Embassy Staff, a U.S. naval band, a crowd and several
cars, which were then escorted by troops of cavalry.... Called
at Embassy.... Summer weather prevailing; and spring leaves and
flowers everywhere._


The Balfour mission remained in Washington from Sunday, April
22nd, until Thursday, May 24th, when it set out on its return
journey through Canada. During that time Mr. Balfour and some of
his colleagues paid short visits to other places, and almost the
entire mission went up to New York for the week-end which had been
set aside for its reception. Apart from this, as soon as they had
established contact with their respective departments, most members
were kept too busy to leave Washington: for seven days a week,
all day and part of the night, they divided their time between
the Embassy, the various departments, the headquarters of the
mission in Mr. Secretary Breckenridge Long's house and the mission
offices--opposite the Embassy--on Connecticut Avenue.

No one who has ever been to the United States needs to be told
that the mission was shewn the most lavish hospitality: city and
country clubs extended honorary membership to it; public and
private parties and receptions were given in its honour; and the
State Department seconded Mr. Winslow and Mr. Hugh Gibson to the
special duty of looking after it. While it would be of doubtful
interest and undoubted impropriety to describe the negotiations
and discussions which took place, it may be said in general terms
that the mission was charged with the duty of collaborating in all
war measures which the United States government took, furnishing
information and coordinating the work of the corresponding
departments. A few further extracts from the diary already cited
will indicate everything, not closed with a confidential seal, that
happened to one member of the mission during his four or five
weeks' sojourn in Washington.

 _Monday, April 23rd._

 _ ... Conference at Embassy at 10.20 to apportion work of
 mission.... Made exhaustive inspection of city: Washington
 Memorial, Capitol, Congress, Congressional Library, River Potomac,
 baseball grounds, Federal Museum and the like. Returning to
 luncheon at hotel met my friend Sir Hardman Lever, Financial
 Secretary of Treasury, who has been regulating Anglo-American
 finance in corner of J. P. Morgan's office for four months and has
 now come up from New York to join mission. Invited to lunch with
 him, Lady Lever and private secretary...._

 _Reception at White House; presented to President Wilson. Similar
 receptions in England would be made more tolerable if we adopted
 American practise of encouraging guests to smoke._

 _Tuesday, April 24th._

 _Paid visit to Trade Department of Embassy to ascertain how
 Washington conducts its end of our work.... Dined with Assistant
 Secretary of State Polk and attended reception by Secretary of
 State Lansing to meet A. J. B. Immense mob present; introduced to
 whole of Congress and most of judiciary...._

 _Wednesday, April 25th._

 _Walked to Embassy and engaged Assistant Commercial Adviser
 in talk on blockade questions until interrupted by order that
 Embassy staff and mission should assume gala costume and cheer
 French mission on its way. Sped back, rejoicing at opportunity
 of wearing silk hat and morning coat so carefully carried 3,000
 miles; thence, with Chairman of Wheat Commission and Financial
 Secretary to Treasury, motored to rendezvous, disembarked and
 stood ... cheering as Joffre and Viviani drove by.... How many
 more missions are coming, God alone knows...._

 _Reception at Embassy._

 _Thursday, April 26th._

 _Most of the mission and part of the Embassy staff met at a 2½
 hour conference at missions house, to arrange programme of work.
 Secretary of State in chair supported by Ambassador and senior
 Canadian representative. My work, already known to me, officially
 defined: now have only to wait for State Department to come and

 _ ... Wrote memorandum on export trade prohibitions.... Bidden
 to lunch with Secretary of Navy on Sunday aboard "Mayflower" and
 proceed to Mount Vernon...._

 _Saturday, April 28th._

 _The worst feature of being the accredited representative of the
 War Trade Intelligence Department is that you are expected to be
 omniscient on war and trade and intelligent in the intervals.
 Received deputation ... on national registration, substitution
 and compulsory service.... Attended conference at Embassy....
 Party at Alibi Club, a miniature Savage Club with many trophies
 and no rules. Speeches in American, English, German (pour rire)
 and Anglo-French. Half British and half French military missions

       *       *       *       *       *

  _Sunday, April 29th._

_To Embassy.... Then, in tall hat, to Navy Yard and embarked on
President's yacht, "Mayflower," to be received by Secretary of
Navy Josephus Daniels, in company with entire British and French
missions and fair slice of administration and Congress.... On
coming level with Mount Vernon, the band played "The Star-Spangled
Banner," officers and men saluted, and the rest stood to attention.
Put off in launches, landed and climbed hill to Washington's tomb
where for first time in history Union Jack was flying (in company
with the Stars-and-Stripes and Tricoleur). Eloquent speech by
Viviani, who ended by placing wreath on tomb; followed by Secretary
of State, shorter and even more eloquent, who in turn laid wreath
on tomb in name of British Mission;[40] Marshal Joffre and General
Bridges mounting guard the while beside the tomb. Proceeded
uphill to Washington's house, which stands on a magnificent site
overlooking Potomac with beautiful scenery all round. House itself,
white-walled, red-roofed, colonnaded and decorated in best Adam
style, is preserved by pious body of female Regents in almost
exactly same condition as when Washington was alive: there is the
same vista which he cut through trees so that he could see guests
coming miles away over richest English lawn at lodge gates. The
house and out-houses, running in crescent away from river, are
as he designed and left them, including smoke-house for curing,
spinning-house and a dozen more. The gardens are as he laid them
out, with box hedges, now grown to breast height, enclosing just
such flowers as he knew in his day; and there are trees planted by
Lafayette, when staying with him. To me two most interesting relics
inside house were large wooden trunk marked "Geo. Washington:
Virginia" and, at other end of life, key of Bastille, sent him by
Lafayette shortly after 14th July, '89. Altogether an object-lesson
in preservation of public monuments._

       *       *       *       *       *

  _Sunday, May 6th._

_Sunday is, of course, a day of rest. I worked half the morning
at the Shoreham, the other half at the Embassy; lunched at the
Metropolitan and returned to Embassy till 6.0 p.m. At 6.0 repaired
to La Fayette Hotel, thence to a business dinner given by Eustace
Percy at the Shoreham. We sat down at 6.30, of all ungodly hours,
talked shop throughout the meal and sped away to the Department of
Commerce. There until 1.30 a.m. we did the real work of the Trade
Section of the Mission: Eustace Percy, Peterson, Broderick (our
Assistant Commercial Adviser) and myself...._

_Returned to Shoreham at 1.45 a.m._

       *       *       *       *       *

  _Monday, May 7th._

_ ... Introduced to ... Winston Churchill, the American

  _Saturday, May 12th._

_After hot and restless night reached New York at 7.0 a.m. Motored
down town, called on publishers and drove to Equitable Buildings,
where on 39th floor, reached by express non-stop elevator, the
Bankers' Club is palatially installed. A considerable view of New
York is obtainable from a thirty-ninth floor.... Drove slowly up
Broadway_ (_the height of the buildings and the slowness of traffic
are the two most noticeable things to a newcomer_)....

_Dined at super-palatial Metropolitan (on Fifth Avenue) with
American committee of British Red Cross. ... Adjourned to Carnegie
Hall, where grand patriotic show had been arranged. Mission
comfortably housed in half a dozen first-tier boxes; house
decorated throughout with flags of the Allies; war-pictures,
patriotic songs and national anthems ad lib.; suddenly everyone
leapt to his feet and cheered, looking in our direction. Reason
was that Secretary of State had just entered his box with Choate,
formerly U.S. Ambassador in London.[41] At end of performance
entire house rose once more and cheered itself hoarse, shouting
"Balfour! Balfour!" until Secretary of State consented to deliver
short speech...._

       *       *       *       *       *

  _Monday, May 14th._

_Reached Washington in time for breakfast. Then to the Department
of Commerce, then to the Capitol. Heard Senate debating the
Espionage Bill, of which one or two provisions will affect the
war trade policy and powers of the U.S.G.... Crossed to House of
Representatives and heard debate on Revenue Bill._

       *       *       *       *       *

  _Thursday, May 17th._

_Divided morning between Embassy and Hotel. At noon drove to
Mission House for interesting ceremony. The Senate and Alpha of
Virginia Chapter of the Phi Beta Kappa Fraternity were convoked to
elect into its membership Arthur James Balfour, Cecil Spring-Rice
and members of the British Commission. The Phi Beta Kappa was
founded at William and Mary College, as a quasi-masonic students'
fraternity, in 1776; and, though its secret ritual has now been
made public and its oath is now largely formal, it has continued
ever since and has spread all over the States. One or two of
the most distinguished members of a college are, I understand,
admitted to it every year, but honorary membership is the rarest of
compliments, reserved hitherto for a handful of men such as Lord
Bryce. To quote the President and the Secretary of State, it was
the highest academic distinction that America could confer or we

_Assembling in an ante-room, the ten of us who happened to be
graduates of Oxford or Cambridge marched in and were greeted by the
President of the Federation on behalf of the Senate and Deputies
of the Alpha of Virginia. Our names were called by one Senator,
and the President made an admirable speech. The President of the
College of William and Mary initiated us into the history and
mystery of the Fraternity, and the Rector of the college presented
each of us with a leather case, stamped with our name, containing
the gold key of membership, also stamped with our name, the date,
the device of the fraternity and the date of its formation. The
oath was then read, and the grip was explained and given. A speech
in reply by the Secretary of State on behalf of the mission ended
the proceedings, and the Senate was adjourned. We thereupon
divested ourselves of our robes and drove to the apartment of
Senator Hollis Godfrey, where we were entertained to luncheon.
Altogether a charming and most interesting ceremony._

_After luncheon I was introduced to Sir Ernest Shackleton, the
antarctic explorer, who is staying in Washington. An early
dinner, after which I attended the Colonial Memorial Hall to hear
Shackleton deliver a most interesting lecture, illustrated by
admirable photographs, on his last "relative failure," as he calls
it, in antarctic exploration._

       *       *       *       *       *

  _Sunday, May 20th._

_Rose and appeared at Department of Commerce to be greeted by
muscular janitor with six-shooter.... Spent morning arranging what
I hope will be almost last details of department as it is to be set
up here, ranging in my stride from the cubic feet of office space
to be occupied down to the number of dollars to be paid weekly to
the char-ladies.... Motored out to Arlington, Robert E. Lee's old
home, now the military cemetery of America and the most beautiful
that I have ever seen. It stretches over 6,000 acres of valley,
with magnificent timber and winding drives and an open circular
temple, from which addresses are delivered on Thanksgiving Day.
The arrangement and style of the graves are in excellently simple
taste. For the unknown dead of the Civil War there are plain square
stones, a foot high; when the identity of any number is discovered,
the stone is rounded at the corners and the name engraved._

_On leaving Arlington, we motored past the great wireless station
with the Potomac and Washington lying below, back to the city._

       *       *       *       *       *

  _Thursday, May 24th._

_To President's private entrance at station. Dansey and Butler
who are staying behind, saw us off on behalf of mission, Tom
Spring-Rice on behalf of Embassy; U.S. Ministers present in
force.... The Ambassador accompanies us to Ottawa...._

       *       *       *       *       *

  _Friday, May 25th._

_Ran through Buffalo shortly after breakfast and left train at
Niagara. Our American escort, Mr. Secretary Long, Hugh Gibson of
the State Department and others provided us with trams and drove
us down to the Rapids, then back to the Falls, from the American
side. In size, beauty and volume of water they came fully up to my
expectations: it is a strange sensation to stand, as it were, on
the edge of the world and see a gigantic lake pouring over within
a foot of where you stand. The spray rises in a snow-white cloud
as high again as the length of the falls, and it is impossible to
penetrate it to the other side. Our American escort then turned
us out of the cars, which the leading citizens of Niagara had
thoughtfully provided, and restored us to our tram, in which we
proceeded half-way across the bridge. There we took an affecting
farewell, and, as the Americans left by one door, the Canadian
escort, composed chiefly of lieutenant-governors and custodians
of the Niagara property, entered by the other. We were then shewn
the Canadian side of the Horse Shoe fall, conducted over the power
station which supplies Toronto and driven out to the Canadian side
of the Rapids and the Whirlpool. There is an aerial car running on
cables over the Whirlpool (at a sickening height, say the timid)
and almost all of us, myself included, were induced to risk our
lives on the principle that where the Secretary of State leads the
rest of the mission follows...._

_At Toronto, I was told off to help lieutenant-governor's
secretary; so sorted procession into carriages, jumped into private
car and drove ahead of the band's sound and fury to Parliament
Buildings, where I got in touch with a cable office, thanked Sir R.
Borden in suitable terms for his telegram of welcome and strolled
out to front, where, as on scaffold, Secretary of State was being
subjected to native eloquence of mayors, lieutenant-governors et
illud genus omne. His speech in reply aroused great enthusiasm,
and, after interval for cinematograph men to ply their task, party
moved away from scaffold.... Hurried away to bombard Government
House and porter's office for several pieces of missing baggage;
... and drove in haste to Government House for dinner...._

       *       *       *       *       *

The mission went from Toronto to Ottawa, thence to Montreal and

       *       *       *       *       *

  _Saturday, May 26th._

_Nine hot, dusty hours wherein I was almost too tired to smoke or
look out of window; general coma.... Peterson met me at Montreal
Station at 6.35 p.m., and we drove to his house. Sir William[42] is
at present in nursing-home, so we have place to ourselves. Heaven
be thanked for the peace and quiet of it! No elevators, no bands at
meals, no Middle-West-Congressman's wife being "paged" throughout
the living rooms, no telephone calls, no expectant pressmen,
nothing but simple English food, a silent house, deft female
servants, a comfortable room, a warm bed, a spring-mattress and, in
general, the conditions necessary to the mental peace of one whose
nerves are rather quickly breaking up under the strain of the last
six weeks._

_After a tête-à-tête dinner, Peterson and I walked round to the
Mount Royal Club.... The rest of the mission is timed to leave
Toronto this evening for Ottawa, where we are due to join it in
three days' time; as, since the Parliament Buildings were burnt
down, there is nothing much to see or do in Ottawa, and, as the
mission is expected in Montreal on its way home, unless the
anti-conscription riots become unduly intense, it would be highly
satisfactory if we could arrange to join forces here instead of
toiling back to Ottawa and from Ottawa to Montreal._

       *       *       *       *       *

  _Monday, May 28th._

_Awaiting telegraphic reply from Dormer to our request for leave
to stay in Montreal until the mission picks us up here on its
homeward journey. Tried to arrange meeting with Stephen Leacock,
who lectures to the students of M'Gill in the intervals of
writing his immortal books; unhappily he is away from Montreal at
present.... Caught Dormer by a long-distance call to Government
House, Ottawa.... I may remain at Montreal until Wednesday, when
mission comes to present Secretary of State, General Bridges and
Admiral de Chair for honorary degrees and to pick me up en route
for the boat...._

       *       *       *       *       *

  _Wednesday, May 30th._

... To Grand Trunk Station and waited for arrival _of mission
train in company of Montreal's more distinguished citizens and a
naval and military escort which whiled away time by practising
"Maple Leaf." Great reception when party arrived and was driven
to Windsor Hotel, where Canadian Club of Montreal, to number of
800, including guests and pressmen, presently sat down to crowded
luncheon. Speeches by President, Secretary of State, Ambassador
and Lord Shaughnessy, all delivered amid terrific cheers.... Then
to Royal Victoria College.... Introductory speech by Principal,
followed by presentation of Admiral de Chair, General Bridges, Sir
C. Spring-Rice and Secretary of State for M'Gill degrees.... So to
Grand Trunk Station. The mission, though impoverished by loss of
Eustace Percy, Phillips, Paton, Rees and Peterson, is now enriched
by presence of Judge Amos, J. H. Thomas and others._

_Dined on train, drew up opposite Quebec, and left for better view
of Heights of Abraham by moonlight...._

       *       *       *       *       *

  _Thursday, May 31st._

_Rose to find that we were steaming into Matepedia, on border of
Quebec and New Brunswick. As we are a valuable mission, not lightly
to be sunk by first Hun submarine, as General Pershing of the U.S.
Expeditionary Force may meet us at Halifax and cross with us on
the "Olympic,"[43] and as part of his staff is already with us, we
are seeking to elude the omnipresent Boche by lying in siding in
peculiarly deserted portion of Dominion from 9.0 a.m. till 1.30
a.m. to-morrow. Unfortunately for General Bridges, Governor of Bank
of England and other noted anglers, the salmon have not yet come up
the river; the rest of us, however, availed ourselves of fishing
club-house and sat in verandah reading and smoking for portion of
morning. In afternoon walked for several miles. No better place
could have been chosen for our 16 hours' delay. Two rivers join
here and flow down at rapid pace, bearing ceaseless burden of rough
lumber, cut and marked miles nearer source and floated down to
depot where it is collected. Tree-clad mountains all round, which
will be in leaf in a few weeks' time, and on top of the mountains
wide-stretching prairie land, now almost free of snow and gradually
being put under the plough._

       *       *       *       *       *

  _Friday, June 1st._

_Secured a little sleep in morning hours as train, discovering
dozen derailed cars 12 miles ahead, elected to retire into siding
while the breakdown gang got to work. As line cannot be cleared for
many hours and as we have to leave Halifax about sunset, we shall
be 24 hours' late in starting and can look forward to another
night in the train._

       *       *       *       *       *

  _Saturday, June 2nd._

_Left train about 10.0 a.m. and proceeded by tender to "Olympic,"
where commander, surgeon and purser greeted us as old friends....
Taken off by picket boat to lunch on Admiral Browning's flagship
"Leviathan" once more and met same charming ward-room mess as had
entertained me six weeks before. Rejoined ship after tea. We carry
no repatriated Canadian wives this trip, Heaven be thanked; but
troops to the number of 6,000 are round, above, below and in the
middle of us...._


  _Sunday, June 3rd._

_After a long night in a comfortable stateroom, I felt better than
I have done for weeks. As a troopship we are restricted in liberty
and comfort to some extent. Shrill bugles have exasperating knack
of blowing a reveillé at 5.0 a.m. and repeating same at half-hour
intervals; troops assemble on deck for physical drill, and between
parades there is never any room to walk anywhere. As a set-off, we
have a tolerable military band, now, alas, temporarily hushed to
make room for fog-horn as we steam slowly through the mists of the
Newfoundland Banks._

       *       *       *       *       *

  _Monday, June 4th._

_The day promised to be so lacking in incident that a solicitous
management arranged an impromptu submarine scare. As we sat over
our afternoon coffee and cigars, a bugle sounded a call unknown to
me, but evidently familiar to every officer in the smoking-room,
who took up his position in the "Birkenhead" manner on deck with
his men. Within a few seconds bugles were calling all over the
ship, one call after another, and every door and companion-way was
filled with troops racing to their places. With a view to avoiding
crowded promenade deck I sauntered on to boat deck, which by happy
coincidence chanced to be the station accorded to the mission. As
soon as the tumult and the shouting had died, we returned to our
former places and avocations, and I was gratified to see that in
the disorder I had got rid of a very uncomfortable life-belt in
favour of one both more comfortable and more becoming._

  _Tuesday, June 5th._

_The climate has grown trying, as we run in and out of the Gulf
Stream, alternating tolerable cold with moist heat. I devoted my
morning to work and dined with the Secretary of State._

  _Wednesday, June 6th._

_A tranquil day was only disturbed by the necessity of preparing a
report on my activities in Washington, to be added by Drummond to
that volume of reports in which each member of the mission strives
to ascribe to himself the credit for the mission's general success.
In the afternoon there came the customary submarine alarm...._

  _Thursday, June 7th._

_Last night we entered the danger-zone, and our precautions were
redoubled. The military police march up and down, treading with
heavy foot on any who carry life-belts instead of wearing them;
armed sentries also stand by every life-boat to the end that, when
the deadly torpedo has done its work and our ship's complement
of 7,000 is tossing about in life-boats and on rafts, there
shall be attached to each party at least one man with a rifle,
making life unpleasant to the submarine crew, if any question
of machine-gunning the survivors arise.... As a compliment to
the United States Navy, the convoy was made up of two American
destroyers, subsequently increased to four. In the evening, by
urgent request, the Secretary of State addressed the officers of
the various Canadian regiments in the saloon. There followed a
concert, principally contributed by Madame Edvina, whom we have
the honour of carrying this trip.... Having discovered a native
aptitude for the game of chess, I left the concert to take care of
itself and competed with Judge Amos.[44]_

       *       *       *       *       *

  _Friday, June 8th._

_Escorted by a varying number of U.S. destroyers, we slipped by
eight submarines, and by the end of dinner were in sight of the
Irish and Welsh coasts. After the officer commanding the Canadian
troops had proposed the King's health, J. H. Thomas proposed the
health of President Wilson and the U.S. Navy. A presentation
is being made to the Secretary of State by the members of his

       *       *       *       *       *

  _Saturday, June 9th._

_We dropped anchor in the Mersey at about 2.30 a.m. Immediately and
for the short remainder of the night some 6,000 troops mobilised
for disembarkation. Called at 6.0, but did not enter special
train until 11.15. Read that J. H. Thomas has been made a Privy
Councillor, which left pleasant taste in the mouth at end of long,
varied, interesting and very pleasant mission._



 " ... After a little while He saw one whose face and raiment were
 painted and whose feet were shod with pearls. And behind her came,
 slowly as a hunter, a young man who wore a cloak of two colours....

 And He followed swiftly and touched the hand of the young man and
 said to him, 'Why do you look at this woman and in such wise?'

 And the young man turned round and recognised Him and said, 'But I
 was blind once, and you gave me sight. At what else should I look?'

 And He ran forward and touched the painted raiment of the woman,
 and said to her, 'Is there no other way in which to walk save the
 way of sin?'

 And the woman turned round and recognised Him, and laughed and
 said, 'But you forgave me my sins, and the way is a pleasant

 And when He had passed out of the city He saw seated by the
 roadside a young man who was weeping.

 And He went towards him and touched the long locks of his hair and
 said to him, 'Why are you weeping?'

 And the young man looked up and recognised Him and made answer,
 'But I was dead once and you raised me from the dead. What else
 should I do but weep?'"

                                  OSCAR WILDE: _The Doer of Good_.


London during the second half of 1917 differed from London during
the late months of 1916 in that, so soon as the United States
abandoned neutrality, the Allies were assured of victory unless
the German submarine fleet obtained the mastery of the Atlantic
and prevented troops and food from reaching Europe or unless the
German army, no longer menaced on the eastern frontier since the
Russian Revolution, could break through on the west and capture
Paris or the channel ports. The second course was tried in March,
1918, the first never ceased to be tried until the armistice; but,
whereas in the winter of 1916-17 there was widespread doubt in
England whether the war could end otherwise than in a stalemate,
from the middle of 1917 it was evident that the war could and would
be fought to a finish and that the ultimate military decision lay
with the inexhausted and inexhaustible armies of the west.

It was to Washington, therefore, that the centre of interest now
shifted; and those who had lately returned from America were
bombarded with enquiries about the feeling and condition of the
United States. The corporate life of the Balfour mission came to
an end with the welcome accorded to its head at the Guildhall and
at the Mansion House luncheon on July 13th; and, when its members
had reported their return to their departments, they were free to
study the psychology of London in what, even then, was known to be
the last phase of the war. Since 1914 they had been too busy to
catch more than a passing glimpse of their friends as they flashed
to and from the front or from their work at home; and the novels
and memoirs of this period will be an untrustworthy guide to future
social historians in so far as they suggest a life of unrelieved
frivolity and pleasure-seeking when the greatest war effort had
yet to be made. There were certainly days and nights of epidemic
excitement, which occasionally turned to sporadic insanity; now,
as in every phase of the war, there were men and women who made of
the public disorganisation an excuse for abandoning all recognised
restraints; but the general change was little more than a universal
restlessness in which the nerves that had been kept tense by
the daily demands of the war refused to be relaxed in hours of
leisure. If there were more distractions in 1917 than in 1915,
there was also more work done, and it was better organised; the
novels and memoirs, naturally enough, give little space to daily
routine; but it is less true to suggest that those who lived in
London were grown indolent or callous to the war than that they had
accommodated their private lives to public requirements. No one was
surprised if a man went from his office to dinner without dressing
or if he was made late for luncheon by a daylight air-raid.
Informality, first imposed by necessity, was found to be amusing in
itself; and an element of impromptu picnic crept into most of the
parties of that time.

This deliberate attempt to preserve as much of the old life and
interests as the war would allow was in part a self-imposed
discipline and a refusal to be stampeded; in part it was an effort
to make London tolerable for those who were on leave from their
service abroad and at home; and in part it was an instinctive
struggle to retain something familiar in an unfamiliar world and to
refresh the brain with a diversion in which war had no share. The
years from 1915 to 1919 saw a prodigious output of new literature
and music; and, if it is still too early to judge of its quality,
there can be no question about the intellectual stimulus which it
supplied. Every kind of book was read and discussed; every new
school of painting had its followers; and love of music, ceasing
to be the foible of the few, became the craving of the many.
Though not yet conspicuously prompt in payment, the gratitude
of thousands is due to the devotion of Sir Thomas Beecham and of
his supporters for the opera which they maintained at Drury Lane
with untiring enterprise and energy; without their labours, Covent
Garden would be as dead as the London Opera House; no opera in
English would ever get a hearing; and in 1917 and 1918 London would
not have had its mixed programme of English, Russian, French,
Italian and German opera.


Early in 1918 came the black days of the last German offensive.
All the optimism and relief of 1917 evaporated before the quick,
merciless rain of blows that battered Amiens and threatened Calais,
shattered Rheims and overhung Paris. In the southwesterly onrush of
1914 the French declared that, if Paris fell, they would transfer
their seat of government to Bordeaux (as they did) and, if need
be, to the foot-hills of the Pyrenees; in 1918 any defeat was
temporary, for in time the new American levies must burst by sheer
weight of metal through any army that had been carded down by four
years of fighting; but by 1918 many were asking themselves whether
the French spirit would still be equal to this last desperate
resolution, whether the British could carry on with a spear-head
through their line at Amiens and whether the Americans would make
headway in a country as completely overrun as Belgium had been.

To civilians, the crisis of March 1918 arose suddenly; they may be
thankful that it ended no less suddenly, but the results of the
crisis outlived the crisis itself. In so far as it is true to say
that the English ever lost their heads, they lost them between the
March offensive and the December general election of 1918. For more
than four years there had been the relaxation of bonds which is
natural when life is no longer secure: sexual relationships became
increasingly promiscuous, marriages were contracted, abandoned
and dissolved with reckless disregard of private morals or public
responsibility; and the craving for such excitement as would bring
forgetfulness led to the excessive indulgence of every physical
appetite. While this relaxation continued at a steadily increasing
pace, it was only in the final months of the war that the loss of
self-control became inconsistent with a balanced mind. The sordid
scandals of this last phase, born of intemperance in drink or drugs
and stimulated to their climax by undisciplined passions, were
occasionally dragged to light in a police-court or at a coroner's
inquest; but in degeneracy, as in crime, it is usually the
inexpert who is detected, and any one who lived in London during
those feverish months had forced upon his notice a spectacle of
debauchery which would have swelled the record of scandal if it had
been made public but which is mercifully forgotten because it was

This is neither the place nor time to pass a judgement on it;
and perhaps it does not deserve to be too strictly condemned. In
threatening all and in fulfilling with many the unexpected fate
of material ruin, physical mutilation and premature death, a war
which strikes at the normal security of life must be accepted
with abnormal resignation or resisted with abnormal resolution.
As the instinct of self-preservation, rising sublime into pride,
sinking into base fear and ranging through every spiritual state
between these extremes, automatically precludes the alternative
of surrender, the abnormal resistance has to be fortified by an
abnormal appeal to primitive reserves of endurance and courage
which modern man, inheriting from his earliest ancestors, keeps
stored for rare moments of emergency. The bodily and mental
tortures of an unanticipated catastrophe, be it war, earthquake,
shipwreck or fire, are only made supportable by the aid of
qualities so primitive as to be extraneous to the character of
civilised man; and, as it would be unreasonable to expect that
he should be able to unbar an ancient door and to release one
potent force while keeping all others enchained, the additional
fortitude by means of which the war was borne at least with general
dignity had to be accompanied by the accession of qualities less
conventionally admirable.

In short phrase, the restraints of modern civilisation were
burst on the resurgence of primitive man. Honourable, kindly,
fastidious, gentle and reserved spirits, dragged back across the
ages, lied and cheated, fought and bullied in an orgy of intrigue
and self-seeking, of intoxication and madness. Only in this way
and at this price could those who had fared delicately and lived
softly endure hardships which for generations or centuries had been
removed from the average experience of civilisation; the bravery
of the savage emerged hand in hand with the savage's ferocity, his
licence, his superstition and his credulity.

While time and tranquillity are needed before these unruly forces
can be finally subdued, the panic rush of mob-madness passed

With the second battle of the Marne even a civilian knew that it
was a matter of months or weeks before the Germans capitulated.
Casualties would still be recorded; agony would be endured,
uncertainty would continue; there might be a final berserk outburst
on sea and land, but ultimately the German government would sue
for peace. No one was surprised when the "fourteen points" were
flashed on the sky from Washington; no one was surprised when the
Germans saw in the west the grey, hopeless light which was yet the
only light that they could ever hope to see. Capitulations poured
in until some of the onlookers, in the spirit of Horace Walpole,
searched eagerly through their papers of a morning to see which new
enemy had surrendered.

And yet, when the maroons burst the stillness of London at the
eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, all
were surprised; not by the fact of peace but by the imponderable
significance of peace. Did this ear-splitting salvo mean one last
raid by every aeroplane in the German fleet, an _auto-da-fé_
which should at least achieve that, when peace was negotiated, it
would be elsewhere than in the smoking, brain-splashed ruins of a
shattered London? In late afterthought, with an air of discovery
and a dread of revealing emotion, every one decided that the
Germans must have accepted the armistice terms.

Ten minutes later the government departments were belched forth on
holiday. Along the Processional Avenue moved slowly a double line
of cars and taxis, packed inside and out and above with atoms of
a vast concourse infected by a lust for moving from any one place
to any other. Beyond this, no one knew what to do. The king had
already spoken from a window of Buckingham Palace. Superficially
it was all a little boring; and, below the deliberately suave,
unemotional surface, all knew that the day was so tremendous that
none dared look at it yet. A child-typist from a Government-office
hut rushed into the Mall, white-faced, bareheaded and delirious.
"The war's over! Now daddy'll come home!" By her side a woman
winced and looked, groping after sympathy, for someone who, like
herself, knew that the armistice had come too late. Throughout the
world there were houses in which the glory of peace would be turned
to mourning by news of a son who had been killed in the last few
hours of fighting: the roll of honour is not yet complete; and,
more than two years after the armistice, there are still men in the
blue jackets and trousers of their hospital.


With the armistice another chapter would seem to open; but, in
spite of the tangible fact of victory which should have divided all
that came before from all that came after, the abrupt transition
to peace was effected in the psychological atmosphere produced by
the last months of war. Had this not been so, there would have
been no purpose in making more than a passing reference to the
war insanity which followed the dread and despair of the March
offensive; unhappily for the peace of the world and for all hopes
of a universal spirit, the Versailles conference was inspired
by frenzied memories of the mad election of December 1918 and
the mad election translated into actuality and crystallised that
mood of madness whereof a mental pathologist would have said that
epidemic hysteria was abroad, others--in the words of an old
chronicler--that "Christ and His angels slept."

Public degradation in England has scored many good totals; in the
vulgar abuse showered upon O'Connell, in the salacious persecution
of Stead, in periodic waves of insensate arrogance, cruelty,
ignorance and injustice; the English have had their South African
war, their yellow labour and their persecution of conscientious
objectors to remind the world that, whatever their pretensions,
they are still human. The personal experience of the oldest and
the historical reading of the most erudite would have difficulty
in finding a greater collective degradation than was reached in
the public attitude, during the last months of the war, to what is
known as the "Pemberton-Billing case."

The slightest reference may unprison the foul gases of that trial;
it is best to regard it as the necessary result of a nervous
and physical strain too great to be borne. Day after day, in
an English court of law, before a British jury and the senior
judge of the King's Bench Division there was recited a tale of
intrigue and debauchery from which the librettist of a melodrama
would have turned away in unbelief and the alienist in disgust.
Honoured names were introduced as pegs for the charge of treason
and sexual perversion; the educational influence of the press was
exerted to secure that a hundred thousand villages should be made
acquainted with the bewildering nomenclature of infamous vices.
When the original newspaper charges were met with a countercharge
of criminal libel, the direction of the judge and the intelligence
of a British jury resulted in a verdict of "Not Guilty." And there
was cheering in court and in the street. And some people believed
that, as the prisoner had been acquitted, the charges must be true.
After three years we can look back on judge and jury, prisoner
and public with less disgust than pity; to the psychologist the
Pemberton-Billing trial is a reminder that he must be on his guard
whenever he hears stereotyped phrases about the political instinct,
the justice and sanity, still more the chivalry of the English. Not
even as a political manœuvre was it successful.

The "low intelligence and high credulity"[45] of a public which,
periodically and in the last resort, is entrusted with an imperial
mission among several hundred millions of people may be measured
by the belief accorded to a single allegation. In the course of
the trial frequent reference was made to a "black book," then
romantically entrusted to the blackmailing custody of Prince
Wilhelm of Wied, in which were recorded the names of at least
47,000 people who occupied some prominent position in English
society and who lay, by reason of their vices, at the mercy of the
first enemy who threatened them. Any one whose work has taken him
among books, any one who has had occasion to consult a card-index,
would know that it requires a bulky catalogue to print, even in
"brilliant," 47,000 names with enough crimesheet to each to ensure
that its bearer could be hushed or drummed out of public life. The
book, whatever its size, was filled with matter so confidential
that, when a taste of its contents was to be offered to an officer
who was conveniently dead before the case came to trial, it had to
be carried beyond the reach of spies and eavesdroppers and laid
bare under the sky of the English countryside; there was no room,
there was no open space in London where its guilty secrets could
be revealed. The limits of a novelist's daring are more quickly
reached than those of a jury's simple faith.

This case, with its startling blend of melodrama and pruriency,
wounded and injured in greater or lesser degree everyone whose
name the learned judge tolerantly allowed to be mentioned. That,
perhaps, was the fortune of law as administered, with all the
responsibility and decorum attaching to his great office, by Mr.
Justice Darling. What was said really does not matter so much as
that thousands of people believed it to be true. By this test,
if it were indeed ever needed, a big part of the British public
shewed itself to be as ignorant, suspicious, cruel and base-minded
as any big part of any other public, including that which had
persecuted Dreyfus--to the righteous indignation of the equitable
English. And, though perhaps the ignorance and suspicion, the
base-mindedness and cruelty were the after-result of fear, from
which the Englishman suffers as much as any one else, the public
temper at the time of the Pemberton-Billing trial--not wholly
unlike the temper of a mob in a southern state when a negro is
being lynched--survived when fear had been laid to rest: ignorance
and suspicion, fear, revenge and greed provided the atmosphere of
the conference in which the statesmen of the world met together to
contrive a peace which should end war.

It was in the power of the prime minister to allay these evil
passions or to stimulate them. With the unbounded prestige that
attaches to the head of any government still in office at the end
of a long war, he could have united all parties in his struggle for
a great and durable peace not less certainly than he had united
them in his prosecution of the war; as they had responded to every
demand in war, so they would have made every sacrifice for peace;
as he had curbed their impatience and lightened their despondency,
so he could check their greed and set an ideal before their eyes.
Mr. Lloyd George saw the light and turned his back upon it. With
all an old demagogue's art in playing on popular passion, he outbid
the wildest and outdid the most sanguinary: the cry for indemnities
and the howl for revenge were drowned in his own shouted promise
that England should have her fill of blood and gold if she would
but return him to power.

It is at least arguable that Germany in defeat should have paid
not less than she would have exacted, in victory, from another
power; one school considers that to leave the ex-Kaiser and his
associates unpunished is to condone the atrocities for which they
were responsible and to make these the permissible minimum in
any future war. No armistice terms would be complete unless they
made provision for bringing the war-criminals to book. Equally,
no armistice terms deserve serious attention if they promise that
which their signatories know to be incapable of fulfilment. Mr.
Lloyd George's offence against the people of his own and of all
future generations lay in his giving pledges which could not be

For this turpitude no excuse can be suggested; and of explanations
there is none less discreditable than that the old electioneering
hand could not resist its opportunity and that the old mob-orator
played instinctively with the known and proved shortness of the
public memory. The allies were not taken unawares by the idea of
an armistice: for more than four years they had been declaring
their war-aims and modifying them in accordance with the shifts
and changes of fortune; their agreement was sealed in successive
pacts; the utmost limits of what was possible in monetary
payment and territorial redistribution had been assigned in
the elaborate memoranda of countless experts; and, though this
work of preparation was speedily abandoned in the turmoil of the
Versailles conference, it should have controlled the exuberance
of the prime minister's electoral campaign and saved him from the
more flagrant forms of bad faith. Though he deceived others, he, a
former chancellor of the exchequer, could not have deceived himself
with the figures which were proposed as an estimate of German
indemnities; and thirteen years' unbroken tenure of office were
more than enough to teach a cabinet minister that the asylum which
the Dutch government was extending to the ex-Kaiser could not be
disturbed save by an unwarrantable declaration of war.

All this could have been explained to the public until the fever
of 1918 had abated. There was no need for a general election, and
no justification has even been attempted; but the opportunity was
irresistible, and the election was conducted on lines calculated to
wipe all opposition out of existence. Coalition conservatives and
coalition liberals consolidated their alliance by means of a system
which offered to candidates the choice of unconditional surrender
and of annihilation; ministers constructed their programme
of peace from the hysterical savagery of their most violent
supporters; and the government swept the country in triumph. It
would have made little difference to the result if the independent
liberal opposition had shewn the courage and justice to offer an
alternative programme, though the unseated liberals might have
consoled themselves with the thought that they had fallen in a
struggle for honesty and moderation. Against madness so widespread
not one dared to raise his voice in protest.


Whether or not electors, who are amateurs in politics, deserve the
government which they get, at least they get the government for
which they have asked; however disagreeable, this is a necessary
part of their political education, and they might be left,
philosophically enough, to reap the wild oats that they have sown
if the harvest of disaster were confined to their own country and
to their own generation. Unhappily, the results of the mad election
are more far-reaching: not only is there no guarantee of peace at
the end of an unparalleled war, but bad blood has been created
between the three powers which, in the absence of an effective
league of nations, are responsible for even the temporary peace of
the world.

The German army, it is sometimes forgotten, ceased fire on
accepting the fourteen points promulgated by President Wilson.
Before the British would consent to an armistice, they reserved
liberty to alter certain naval provisions; otherwise it was
reasonably well understood that the American formula bound
President Wilson's associates and limited their utmost demand. At
the Versailles conference, as Mr. Maynard Keynes and Mr. Lansing
have shewn, the President was outwitted and overruled by M.
Clemenceau, who stood for a second Brest-Litovsk peace, and by
Mr. Lloyd George, who stood for everything in turn and nothing
long. A cynic observed of the completed treaty: "Gentlemen, in
this document we are sowing the seeds of a great and durable war";
whatever else may be said of it, no one could easily trace even
a faint resemblance to the settlement outlined in the fourteen
points. It was impossible for the British representatives to
keep faith at the same time with the president and with their
electors; the French prime minister was more in sympathy with the
blatant materialism of England than with the intangible idealism
of America; and before long Mr. Wilson was first deserted and then

Though he has since been repudiated by his own people, the
divergence of opinion at Versailles has grown into a wide and
dangerous antagonism between the peoples of Great Britain and
of America; each feels that it has been betrayed by the other;
and, so long as the antagonism lasts, there can be no cooperation
between the two in world-politics. The ill-feeling is more than
the critical and petulant jealousy which breaks out among allies
at the end of every war: any one might have foretold that France
would impute to Great Britain a niggardly expenditure of men and
that Great Britain would resent the price charged by France for the
privilege of using her railways, occupying her trenches and finally
driving the invaders from her soil; Great Britain and France have
agreed privately that Italy has received more in proportion to
her sacrifices than any of the allies, that America and Japan
have feathered their nests and that the very name of Russia is
anathema; and America murmurs that, instead of thanking her for
coming to their rescue, the western powers of the old world only
calculated how much of their burden in money and casualties could
be transferred to the shoulders of the newcomer. There was the same
carping after the Napoleonic wars and after the wars of Marlborough.

Between America and Great Britain the antagonism is deeper-seated
because each has lost confidence in the good faith of the other.
Who, cries the one, could trust a nation which threw over its own
representative and shirked its share in the labour of policing
the world? Who, cries the other, could trust a nation which broke
faith from the beginning of the war, when it used the plight of
Belgium as an excuse for imperial expansion, until the end, when
it used the American armistice-terms as an excuse for disarming
and despoiling Germany? When once the recriminations begin,
every old cause of difference is dragged in to support one or
other side; and the vision of a lasting union between the two
greatest English-speaking peoples fades from sight and even from
imagination. This is the price which the English have to pay--the
price which they have also made others pay--for the dishonest
election of 1918.

As no protest was heard while the election raged, so, while
the peace conference was sitting, the only protest against
its activities came in occasional blustering telegrams from
self-important members of parliament who conceived themselves to
be responsible for keeping the prime minister up to the mark. The
great, unpolitical mass of the English people was addressing itself
to the new upheaval of demobilisation, to the prospect of hard-won
idleness and, more remotely, to the problems of reconstruction; the
professional politicians were more concerned with personalities
than with principles; and the centre of gravity shifted in 1919
to Paris. Of the great restless army of women who believe that
they influence domestic and foreign policy all who could secure
a passport and a ticket hurried abroad, there to compete with
the cosmopolitan army whose life is an imperceptible gliding
from Ritz to Ritz in waiting with loaded dinner-tables on the
fringe of the conference. One staked out a claim on one hotel and
statesman, another on another; London, on their return, was filled
with stories of their _protégés_ and listened patiently to what
Colonel House or "Clemmy" had said to each and, less patiently,
to what each had said to Mr. Balfour or to President Wilson; all
who remembered how the Germans had striven to divide the allies
during the war kept a vague look-out for attempts to sow dissension
between them in the making of peace and were vaguely comforted by
each new proof of solidarity among the high contracting parties. In
questions of detail it was agreed that there must be differences
of opinion; but, so long as a rupture was avoided, the principles
of peace were left to take care of themselves. President Wilson
might indeed, with a Disraelian gesture, order his ship to get
up steam; but, as he remained at the last moment to see one or
two more of his cardinal points rejected by the British and the
French, it was assumed that they were impracticable. The treaty
was signed on July 19th, and it was not until Mr. Maynard Keynes'
_Economic Consequences of the Peace_ had been digested that the
political army and the camp-followers ceased gossiping about the
personalities of the conference and turned their attention to the

They then discovered that their representatives had imposed on
Germany terms which could not be fulfilled and which the fourteen
points gave them no right to impose; the league of nations was
left as a nebulous aspiration; and the pacific future of the world
was based on the twin hope that the central powers were now bled
too white ever again to rear an aggressive head and that, if they
did, the association of Great Britain, France and America would
endure to beat it once more into the dust. To the old-fashioned
system of secret diplomacy, of defensive and offensive alliances,
of competition in armaments, of exploitation and intrigue and
of "preventive wars"--the system which had given birth to the
greatest war in history--the wisdom of the Versailles conference
could offer no alternative; the one new idea which it contributed
to international politics was that of sharing with America the
privilege of suffering again in the future from a system which had
lately brought the whole world to the brink of ruin and dissolution.

This privilege the people of the United States declined; and Europe
in 1919 differed chiefly from Europe in 1914 by the eclipse of
Russia on the one side and of Austro-Hungary on the other. The
old system and the old spirit have remained. It does not lie in
the mouth of those who threw overboard the fourteen points to
reproach those who repudiated the covenant and mandates of the
league of nations. President Wilson pretended to more power than
he possessed, and his political opponents took their revenge by
disowning him; Mr. Lloyd George carried out, so far as he was able,
the policy of spoliation and punishment which he had promised to
the electors as the price of their support in the election that
gave him his revenge on his political opponents.

So the needless, mad war, fed year after year with the life-blood
of an entire generation, came to an end in a hopeless, mad peace.
If those who cried loudest in their frenzy of greed and revenge got
the peace which they deserved, it was not the peace for which one
man, turning his back on the splendid promise of youth, had gone
forth to die.



  _Nelson_: What are you thinking, that you speak no word?

  _Hardy_: ... Thoughts all confused, my lord:--their needs on deck,
           Your own sad state, and your unrivalled past;
           Mixed up with flashes of old things afar--
           Old childish things at home, down Wessex way,
           In the snug village under Blackdon Hill
           Where I was born. The tumbling stream, the garden,
           The placid look of the grey dial there,
           Marking unconsciously this bloody hour,
           And the red apples on my father's trees,
           Just now full ripe.

  _Nelson_:                   Ay, thus do little things
            Steal into my mind, too. But, ah my heart
            Knows not your calm philosophy!--There's one--
            Come nearer to me, Hardy,--One of all,
            As you well guess, pervades my memory now;
            She, and my daughter--I speak freely to you.
            'Twas good I made that codicil this morning
            That you and Blackwood witnessed. Now she rests
            Safe on the nation's honour....

                                      THOMAS HARDY: _The Dynasts_.


On the morrow of the armistice the population of the emergency
offices was sharply divided into those who wished to leave, but
were required to stay, and those who wished to stay, but were
required to leave. Though the raising of the blockade was almost
automatic, the blockade departments took time to wind up; and the
temporary officer was not infrequently demobilised several months
before the temporary civil servant was released.

These days of transition were a time of endless comings and
goings, of unexpected returns and abrupt departures. Men who were
thought to be dead reappeared suddenly from East and West Africa,
from Palestine and India, demanding news of their scattered and
decimated friends; women who had been lost to view for nearly five
years emerged from hospitals, offices and factories; and all of
a stricken generation who had survived set themselves once more
to make a career or a livelihood. By now they were in age nearer
thirty-five than twenty-five, uprooted and unsettled by the war,
with greater experience and smaller hope, more resignation and
less resiliency. The time ahead of them was ten years shorter than
when they came down from their universities; many had married
and begotten children; they could not long afford to wait; their
"common problem" was no longer

  "to fancy what were fair in life
  Provided it could be,--but, finding first
  What may be, then find how to make it fair
  Up to" their "means; a very different thing!"

By an oversight, excusable enough in hard-driven ministers who
could not be expected to think of everything, no provision had been
made by the government to secure that every soldier on leaving
the army should be at least no worse off than when he joined it,
at the risk of his life, to fight in defence of his country.
Machinery was indeed erected for liberating first in order those
for whom work was waiting; officers in search of employment were
encouraged to submit themselves and their qualifications to a
hastily constructed labour-exchange; the king and Field-Marshal Sir
Douglas Haig invited all employers of labour to give preference to
ex-service men; funds were collected, speeches were made; and, as
it is always impolitic to foster a sense of grievance, even the
grievance of hunger, in men who have been drilled to shoot and, in
shooting, to hold their own lives cheaply, a system of temporary
doles was instituted to bridge the interval until industrial
conditions became normal, or, in less pretentious language,
until something turned up. Admirable as were these remedies, the
demobilized officers and men felt that the hands which had waved
them forth to die were chill of touch when extended in welcome to
those who had not died after all.

For two years the men who were once so deafeningly acclaimed as
heroes that, for their own protection, less heroic but still
appreciative patriots were forbidden to stand them drink have
been advertising daily for any work that will keep them fed; in
times of trade depression they have marched through the streets of
London under banners inscribed with the device "WANTED IN 1914: NOT
WANTED NOW"; and the passers-by feel that it is very sad (though,
to be sure, some of these mendicants are impostors; and, of the
unemployed, some are always unemployable), but that, if anything
could be done, it would have been done long ago. While it would be
foolish to minimise the difficulties of employers who are asked
to replace tried men and women with unskilled soldiers, it may be
submitted that the government which caused and the society which
sanctioned such an upheaval as the late war are responsible for
restoring order when war is at an end. If a civilian can within
six months be turned into a soldier, the soldier can in little
longer time be turned back into a civilian; as, during his military
training, the state maintained him, so it should maintain him while
he is being trained for civil work; as he was fed and clothed
in camp, so he should be fed and clothed until he is needed in
field or mine, office or shop. The voluntary organisations and
patriotic appeals are being launched among the descendants of
Nelson's countrymen; they have an opportunity of wiping out their
great-grandfathers' disgrace. To suggest that the whole community
is responsible for the men who have faced death on its behalf
is to court the terrific imputation of "socialism"; yet war is
the greatest possible socialisation of society, and it is not
unreasonable to propose that public responsibility shall continue
until the first dislocation of war has been corrected. By now
hundreds of thousands have been found employment; but, so long as
one suffers from want, the whole community is disgraced. The price
of a woman's dress would keep him in affluence for half a year.

In the first weeks of demobilisation the problem was more difficult
in that those who needed and wanted work needed and wanted a
holiday first. The best-intentioned efforts to regulate or retard
the flow of men from the army until there was a sure position for
them outside it were met with desertion and mutiny till the sluices
were opened wide and only sufficient troops retained to enforce the
terms of the armistice. The countries which had been devastated by
the war and those which were threatened with ruinous indemnities
set to work at once to repair the damage and to build up their
resources; England, which had endured as long a strain as any
without having iron driven into her soul at the sight of her land
laid waste or of her industries ruined, settled down to drowsy
recuperation until the next crisis should rouse her with the threat
of financial disaster, revolution or another war.

In those first months of peace there was much talk of
"reconstruction,"[46] but the only thing reconstructed at this time
was one part of the leisured, social life of the country. To some
extent this was inevitable at a time when political interest was
centred in Versailles and when a new House of Commons, filled with
"hard-faced men who looked as though they had done well out of the
war," chafed at the long-continued absence of the prime minister
and tinkered with such unimportant legislation as was entrusted
to the control of Mr. Bonar Law. In an atmosphere of suspense and
unreality, the graver issues were postponed; and all energies were
concentrated on creating a life as similar as possible to that
which had been interrupted by the war and one in which the war
could be forgotten. Foreign and domestic responsibilities, which
in a democratic country are the concern of every adult man and
woman, were lost to view in the preoccupation of a "Victory Ball"
and of the first "peace Ascot." In 1919, for the first time since
1914, there were garden-parties at Buckingham Palace and a gala
night at Covent Garden; the Derby was run; great balls were given
in historic houses; entertaining and sport reached a perfection and
profusion only inferior to 1914 standards in the number of those
who, killed or maimed by four and a half years of war, were unable
to attend. They, were they able to see the "reconstruction" of
the country which they had redeemed and of the people whom they
had reprieved, would have known at last what they had sacrificed
everything to preserve.


If at the first calling of the half-forgotten roll they were unable
to answer to their names, others stepped quickly forward to take
their place. In breaking down social barriers, the war continued
and went some distance towards completing a process which had
been going on for twenty years. It has already been suggested
that, in the last decade of Queen Victoria's reign, "society"
was a word with at least a fairly definite negative connotation:
certain acts or qualities expelled a man from it; certain other
qualities were needed to admit him to an intimate and interrelated
community of a few hundred men and women who drew their prestige
from land, basked in the sunshine of the court, supplied drafts
for the diplomatic service, the foreign office, the brigade of
guards, the household cavalry and a chosen few other units and
felt neither need nor desire to know any one outside their own
world. The first American invasion abolished the pedigree test;
later, the monied-cosmopolitan invasion abolished every other.
The close corporation was disbanded; and, though a few hostesses
received only their old friends--without their old friends' new
friends,--the others scattered in search of distraction; and even
before the outbreak of war the two essentials in almost every
gathering were that wealth should secure the generous minimum
of comfort and that brains or eccentricity should provide the
amusement. If in 1890 social success could be roughly appraised
by the number of people that a man did not know, in 1920 it was
measured by his industry and skill in getting to know everybody:
aristocratic London and artistic London, diplomatic London and
political London, financial London and theatrical London have all
overflowed their old boundaries and now meet in the undefined vast
pool of London.

To dwellers in other capitals that is London's distinguishing mark;
to many it is, within limits, London's greatest charm: the city
is big enough to find room for every one, and each may lead his
own life among his own friends. The _rastaquouère_ is not penned
within his own fold, as in Paris, nor the actress in hers, as in
New York; soldier and civilian meet on an equality that would amaze
Berlin; Jew and gentile, pre-Conquest family and new rich in a
way which Vienna would not tolerate. Diplomats in London have no
corporate life of their own; ambassadors and _attachés_ scatter and
lose themselves in a more numerous community; lawyers, merchants,
politicians and newspaper-proprietors are everywhere. Above the
super-tax limit London is wholly democratic: those few houses which
struggled to exclude all but their owners' friends are one by one
being sold or closed; a grave scandal is required to bar the road
to court; a title is still to be had without any "damned nonsense
of merit."

As society has been diluted, its political power has evaporated.
For some years yet the old charm will indeed work fitfully in
a country so well trained to the exercise of "influence"; but,
outside the sphere of recommendations and minor appointments, the
aspirant to office will now carry to Fleet Street the ambitions
which in former years he laid on the doorsteps of Downing Street;
when every woman is a "political hostess," the most hardened
wire-puller must feel that she does not change the course of
history by inviting a labour member to luncheon; the game has
become so easy that all can compete without training or practice.
Politics were finally desocialised when Mr. Asquith moved to
Cavendish Square; they were commercialized and put on a business
footing when Mr. Lloyd George took his place. No longer, as in
the novels of Mrs. Humphry Ward and in the plays of Oscar Wilde,
do high-born undersecretaries and omniscient editors chaffer away
state secrets to sinister millionaires and seductive adventuresses
at a glittering reception in the townhouse of a cultured duke; it
may be doubted if they ever did. Nowadays, politics and the press
meet over a hospitable breakfast-cup of coffee in a minister's
house or engage in a friendly round of golf, with the minister's
press-secretary ever at hand to carry the clubs and to dart back
with telephone-messages; at night all take their places at the
table of some untiring woman to whom society means the collection,
under one roof, of the greatest number of most incongruous guests.

The war lent a powerful impulse to this promiscuity. The old
entertaining was perforce suspended; but London still contained
several hundred men and women who were bitten with a craving to
meet the celebrity of the hour; and war is prolific of celebrities.
Every day threw up on the patient shores of England the man who
had invented the new collapsible machine-gun, the man who had
dropped bombs on Bagdad, the man who knew President Wilson's real
feelings, the man whose slim volume of war-sonnets had convulsed
the tea-tables of Chelsea. Night after night, they were to be met
at dinner; as their eyes lost the early dazed look, they became
men with a message; later, as their message, whether on Bagdad or
the White House, became crisply stereotyped, they faded to the back
of the room and made way for some one yet more arresting.[47] Had
the heroes of the hour passed like lions in an itinerant menagerie,
there would have been no congestion; but, inside the theatre and
out, London is loyal to its old favourites.

Thus, by the beginning of the first season after the war, London
had so far completed its gradual transformation that its numbers
were wholly unmanageable; and, though timid efforts were made
to dislodge the tentacles of war friendships, it was easier to
break down a barrier than to build one up. The former rulers had
deliberately abdicated; and, though a man has only himself to
blame for admitting to his house any one of whom he disapproves,
nowadays he cannot help meeting in the houses of others many
who would not have been tolerated in the stricter days of his
youth. The degeneration of society is to be reckoned less by its
promiscuity than by its abrogation of all moral standards. It is
still true, presumably, that, in a country as much addicted as
England to bridge, those who are caught cheating at cards will not
be received, though toleration is extended to those who do not pay
their card-losses; for any other offence there is no such thing
as what used to be called "being turned out of decent society":
if one door is closed in a man's face, he has only to go to the
next; the enclosure at Ascot may know him no more, but he will be
in excellent company outside. No longer is there a social taboo
for the corrupt politician, the fraudulent financier, the habitual
drunkard, the sexual pervert and the professional correspondent; to
wish for one marks the critic as "old-fashioned" or "provincial";
and, in an age of universal toleration, these are the two moral
kinks for which there is no forgiveness. The mad orgy which broke
out in 1918 seems, indeed, to have spent itself; but it came to a
natural end and was not cut short by the influence or opinion of
any individual or group; no one has the power, perhaps no one has
the desire to set and to insist on a standard of seemly conduct.

A drawback more serious in the eyes of those who think that life
should go with a swing is that the democratisation of society tends
to suppress all individuality. There is probably as much wit,
charm and wisdom in London to-day as at any time, but over the new
vast area it is spread so thin that it is almost imperceptible.
The strident egotism and resounding, inverted platitudes with
which Oscar Wilde once held dinner-tables in marvelling subjection
would now be drowned in the more strident babel of _cliché_
patter and the stolen humour of public comedians. The intelligent
foreigner, revisiting London after twenty years, would find
difficulty in discovering the new great hostesses, the new great
conversationalists, the wits, the beauties, even the eccentrics.
The most famous Duchess of Devonshire is dead; Stafford House is
a museum; where are the new stars shining? Who are the successors
to the "Souls"? Among the authors and statesmen, the artists and
actors, the soldiers and musicians, the journalists and financiers
of the day there is abundant wisdom and wit, their women are
sometimes radiantly beautiful; but it would be difficult to name
more than six of the younger generation whose force of personality
or strength of lung could prevail over the clatter of a society
wherein a machine-gun-fire of colloquialisms, Robeyisms and the
signs and countersigns of an exotic group do duty for intellect.
Not until society has subdivided into manageable groups will a
single weak human voice be able to make itself heard; and, until it
is less blatantly vulgar, it would be surprising if a voice worth
hearing cared to try.


After five years of food-shortage and servant-problems, the
country-houses were, in 1919, beginning to open their doors.
Everywhere the first year of peace was one of interlude and
experiment; as the war was being wound up and the war-machine
dismantled, thousands of officers, hundreds of thousands of men
were being demobilised; the government-offices, the factories and
hospitals were pouring forth their supernumeraries; every one
explored cautiously to see how far the old life could be resumed;
no one could forecast the condition of public finance, wages,
prices or labour a twelve-month ahead nor predict whether he would
be able to keep his house open in a year's time.

Fortunate, in those days, were the few to whom demobilisation meant
leisure to continue long-interrupted work; more fortunate the yet
smaller company of those who were financially independent of the
necessity to join in the hunt for paid appointments. The doctrine
that a man's best work is done at the spurring of poverty has lost
its former popularity: those to whom creation is a fiercely urgent
need will express themselves in sickness and in health, at leisure
and in the brief intervals of annihilating labour, when they have
to beg for food and to borrow for ink and paper; those who are
enervated by comfort and made slothful by luxury have not been
impelled by love of creation for its own sake but by creation as a
means to soft living and easy applause. The true artist works in
spite of himself, the quality of his work is conditioned not by the
public market but by his private conscience; and poverty is not so
much a spur to his spiritual ambition as a thorn in his material
flesh, distracting his mind with squalid cares when he would fain
keep it serene and tempting him to youthful prostitution that
he may later have the means of living in virtue. "Pot-boiling,"
writing to order and self-advertising are more commonly the fruit
of poverty than is the accomplishment of a masterpiece.

For even the most conscientious, some degree of independence is
essential for the free development and play of their genius. Not
only must they be secured freedom from interruption and from
competing demands on their energy, but they must enjoy full liberty
to work as they choose without regarding the blandishments of
publishers or the exhortations of critics: the one would restrict
them to working a single rich vein until it was exhausted, the
other would lop or lengthen them until they fitted the Procrustean
bed of the day's fashion. Rightly or wrongly, the creative artist
claims to choose his own theme and to treat it in his own way;
sooner or later the veering standards of criticism will concentrate
upon him a massed attack to resist which he needs the fortitude of
independence. At one moment the long novel, pardoned in Dickens,
is condemned in De Morgan; at another the novel-sequence, praised
in Balzac, is deplored in Compton Mackenzie; at another, again,
the social and political world which Thackeray and Disraeli painted
is put out of bounds for Galsworthy. In some years the drab life
of grey skies and mean streets is commended as the novelist's
single hope of salvation; in others he is urged to study Conrad
and the Russians, as Prince Florizel advised the young men in holy
orders to study Gaboriau. This urgency the novelist withstands
at his peril, for his impenitence is likely to be rebuked with a
magisterial reminder that the critics have spoken about this sort
of thing before.

The happiest moment in the existence of all who live by their pens
must surely be that in which they attain sufficient independence
of position, temperament or pocket to write without regarding too
much the jeremiads of a publisher or the cautioning of a reviewer;
and this happy moment comes earlier and more often into the life
of the novelist to-day than at any time since novels were first
written. In spite of enhanced cost for producers and of diminished
incomes for consumers, the prospects of the novel have never been
more bright; the number of those who before the age of thirty
enjoy an honourable reputation all over the world has never been
higher; and the deference paid in private to the novelist and in
public to his opinions has become so great that some may think it
exaggerated and undeserved. The columns of the press lie open to
him when he wishes to air an opinion of his own subject; and hardly
a week passes without bringing him a prepaid telegram in which he
is invited to enrich the common stock of thought on any theme from
"youth" to "the future of the cinematograph industry." During the
war he was the supreme court of appeal in strategy and politics; he
is regarded no less seriously than was the musical-comedy actress
of ten years ago; and, when his books are used as the basis of a
film scenario, his name is quite frequently printed in company with
those of the adapter, the producer and the chief actors.

This last is perhaps a chivalrous concession by the victor to
one who continues to put up a game fight. As time and money are
limited, it is probable that, when film dramas have worked through
their present ingenuous crudity, they will develop at the expense
of the novel and of the stage; at present they have much progress
to make and, even in their highest imaginable perfection, they will
only compete with that novel in which every other ingredient is
subordinated to action. At present they are for many novelists a
source of unearned increment.

Though the practice of their craft bring, at least to the more
fortunate of story-tellers, honour, affluence and friendships more
precious than either, most of them find their richest reward in the
results of their creative energy. This does not mean the elation
which comes to a man when he feels that he can call his work good:
such gratification he shares with the painter and the sculptor,
the poet and the dramatist; nor does it mean the sensation that,
after working at what he loves best and perhaps winning honour and
riches from it, he is possibly leaving behind him something that
may endure when the tongue of the statesman is silent and when the
hand of the surgeon is cold; alone in all the world of art, the
novelist, working in rivalry to the first creator, fashions men and
women in whosesoever image he pleases and sets them in a garden of
his own planning, where with the knowledge of good and evil and
with the power of life and death he controls their destinies and
makes the span of their existence long or short. It is impossible
for a man to love Balzac or Dickens, Thackeray or Stevenson without
taking up his abode in their company: Paris becomes a city wherein
he may at any moment encounter Vautrin, Nucingen and Lucien de
Rubempré on one night and in one setting of streets and clothes,
Pinkerton and Loudon Dodd on another; the infinite spaces of
London are star-spangled with the cigar-divan in which the former
prince of Bohemia led his Olympian if sedentary existence, with
the Goswell Street lodgings from which Mr. Pickwick set out on his
journey to Rochester and with the academy in Chiswick at which
Becky Sharp, already a lost soul, hurled her copy of Dr. Johnson's
"Dixonary." To the novelist of imagination these people and places
are more real than the usurpers whom he finds in their stead.

Much more real, however puny the imagination, are the men and
women whom he carries so long in the womb of his own fancy. Their
features and their clothes, their speech and their mannerisms, the
greatness and the meanness of their characters are better known to
him than is the single thought of a child to its mother. In their
company he withdraws from what others would call "the real world,"
forgetting alike its general ugliness and its occasional flashes
of startling beauty; when he walks abroad and rubs shoulders with
the passers-by, he is still in their company, their shadows are
more potent than the clumsy substances among which he dodges in and
out, their voices ring clear above the drone of traffic and the
broken mutter of the street. London, if they were born there, is
different from any London that other eyes have seen: an hotel in
Piccadilly, crowded with officers in uniform, is for him the place
where before the war the transparent shade of a girl stood at the
foot of the stairs to receive the guests at her coming-out ball;
a shuttered house in Curzon Street, under renovation for a rich
American, is the scene in which an engagement was made or broken
off; Pall Mall is overlaid, as in a palimpsest, with imaginary
clubs; and the narrow, silent streets behind the Abbey are roused
to life by the hoot or jingle of phantom cabs on their way to a
political dinner.

It is a world complete in all its generations, all its social
grades. They are born and educated, these dream-children; they
love and quarrel, marry and separate, make money and lose it, live
and die. Another generation presses upward to take their place;
but, if, as in life, they are forgotten by the newcomers, they can
never be forgotten by the parent who gave them life and who lives
among them so continuously that he can shed tears of pity for their
imaginary sorrows, while the "real world" of which others speak
becomes shrouded in twilight unreality.

Any one who holds that a book--like a picture or a statue--should
be its own explanation, grows quickly suspicious of introductions
and footnotes; but a defence or even a postulate may be allowed
against a school of criticism which threatens the former, late-won
freedom of artistic choice. If it be granted that a story-teller
may take what theme he likes, it must be granted also that he may
tell the story of an epoch as freely as of an episode, the story of
a class or nation as freely as of an individual; he may select as
his model _War and Peace_, in which Tolstoi chose for subject the
life of all Russia under the cloud of the Napoleonic wars; he may
copy Romain Rolland in describing the intellectual history of two
generations; he may bow his knee to Balzac, who with superlative
genius and daring planned his human comedy to cover no less a
subject than the whole of French life under the restored Bourbons.
An English author is entitled, if he have the presumption, to write
in ten or in fifty volumes, each linked to its predecessor, of
the whole English world as it existed before the war and as the
war transmuted it; if he make it unreadable, it is his fault; if
no one read it, his misfortune; but, so long as ambition remain
obdurate, he is unlikely to be persuaded into other paths. If he be
independent of sales, he is beyond the reach of fear; if the world
into which he withdraws be real to him, he needs no other than
this, the story-teller's, reward.


The period of demobilisation, that twelve months' interlude between
war and peace, is a convenient time for pausing to take stock of
English literary and artistic development since the end of 1914.
The æsthetic lives of those who were born in the eighties fall
naturally into three divisions; there is first the period in which
the Indian summer of Victorian literature paled before the new
suns of the nineties; there is then the period in which a quieter
and more reasoned revolt against the self-imposed limitations of
Victorianism expressed itself in a mood of universal experiment
among writers and of universal receptivity among readers; before
the second phase had worked to a natural end by discarding novelty
for its own sake and by choosing among the new forms and methods
those which yielded the most fruitful results, the third period
crashed into existence at the impulse of a war which upset all
orderly progress.

It may not be superfluous to recall the names of at least a
few of those who occupied the forefront of the stage in 1914.
Conrad, after long neglect by all but a tiny _intelligenzia_,
had lately come into his own; Galsworthy continued to break new
hearts with the exquisite tenderness and beauty of each new
book; Wells, no less prolific than versatile, was pouring out an
astounding profusion of challenges to religion, official politics,
conventional morals, accepted economics and established education,
with an occasional glorious lapse into such skylarking as _Boon_
and into such immortal comedy as _Mr. Polly_; Bennett, most expert
of craftsmen, was completing his great series of giant miniatures
and taking an occasional holiday with _The Card_ and _The Regent_.
At long intervals there came a new volume of Kipling stories, more
restrained than of old and lacking the early generous fire. Moore
and James had foregone novel-writing for autobiography and the
retouching of their earlier work.

It would not be difficult to make a longer list of men with settled
and deserved reputations who at this time were continuing to
produce work of first-rate technique and achievement; but in 1914,
as in 1921, the public was less interested in reading catalogues
of names than in looking at the men who had won chief place of
honour and in asking who would reign in their stead when they were
gone. In a famous article which he contributed before the war to
the literary supplement of _The Times_, Henry James discussed
the form of some half-dozen of the younger novelists; and, since
that date, there has raged without intermission an informal
competition to name the winners among the writers of the future.
How far this usurpation of posterity's prerogative diverts a living
writer from the unembarrassed prosecution of his work might be
argued at length; some may feel that no critic, breathing the same
intellectual atmosphere, can pass more than ephemeral judgements on
the writers of his generation; the game continues, however, despite
the awful example of those who, forty or fifty years ago, tried to
place the fame of their own contemporaries beyond challenge, and,
if it be regarded as no more than a game in which no finality is
possible, it is a harmless intellectual pastime.

In 1914 the younger novelists of promise included Compton Mackenzie
and D. H. Lawrence, J. D. Beresford and Hugh Walpole, Gilbert
Cannan and W. L. George. The poets received less attention, in
part because there were fewer of them and in part because poetry
was less read before the war, though Masefield in his narrative
poems enjoyed a greater popularity than had befallen any one since
Kipling. The younger dramatists were generally ignored: apart from
Houghton, Brighouse and Knobloch, few had succeeded in making their
names known; and the stage was the almost unraided preserve of
Barrie and Shaw, Pinero, Barker, Bennett and Maugham, Sutro and
Jones, Carton and Chambers.

The impact of the war, unexpected and incomprehensible, beggaring
the resources of language and yet demanding that it should be
described and expressed even as it was felt, urged to write those
who had not written before and urged those who had written before
to write differently. It is not to be expected that the permanent
literary fruits of the war will be seen for another ten years in
the work of the younger and more impressionable writers.[48] Young
authors of either sex were for the most part engaged in grimmer
business than that of writing; and, alike among old and young,
balance and perspective are not to be found in a time of dazing
shock, of fierce indignation and of numbing grief; the repose in
which great work is planned and executed was shattered by the noise
of war; calm vision was disturbed by the vivid blaze of sudden
contrasts; and, though inspiration has charged the atmosphere, the
form in which it will materialise has not yet been revealed. The
literature of the last six years should be regarded as contemporary
documents to illuminate the psychology of a war in progress rather
than as the considered and definite contribution made by the
creative artists of a generation which had been shaken by war from
the seating of tradition.

Among these contemporary documents many are of the highest
quality.[49] _Mr. Britling Sees It Through_, _Peter Jackson: Cigar
Merchant_, _The Dark Forest_, _The Pretty Lady_, _Saint's Progress_
and _Naval Occasions_ each commemorate, in a way that has not yet
been excelled, a phase of experience, an attitude of mind towards
the war, a mood of hysteria, a changing ethical standard or an
unchanging spirit first interpreted and proclaimed. The authors
of these documents were for the most part well known before the
war; but the last six years have seen emerging the less familiar
names of E. M. Delafield and Clemence Dane, Stella Benson and Enid
Bagnold, Rebecca West and Dorothy Richardson, Frank Swinnerton,
St. John Ervine and Eimar O'Duffy. While it is not surprising
that war should give an unequalled opportunity to women writers,
it is remarkable that in half-a-dozen years six young women of
individuality so strong and so distinctive should all have made
good their claim to a place in the sun; it is encouraging for the
future free development of the English novel.

And individuality is sorely needed at a time when so many writers
shelter themselves behind an illustrious model or conceal their
native talent by using eccentric tools. In novel-writing the
worst original is usually more valuable than the best copy; but
the atmospheric effects of Dostoevski and Conrad, the exhaustive
analysis of James and the sweeping abruptness of Wells prove too
strong a fascination for many young writers. Of late, the study of
psycho-analysis has obsessed more than one brain and distorted more
than one novel. If a criticism may be ventured on the present phase
of novel-writing, it would be that the whole is subordinated to one
overgrown part: much is heard of "the novel of realism," "the novel
of manners," "the novel of atmosphere," "the novel of psychology";
less of "the novel of perspective." In the hands of the great
masters, realism and romance, manners and atmosphere, psychology
and discussion had each its allotted place and proportion. It would
have been as inconceivable for Thackeray to write a "novel of
psychology"--so proclaimed--as for Vardon to play a championship
round with a putter. This preoccupation with a single tool has
injured the story-teller's art to the extent that the younger
generation is less concerned than were the great masters with the
business of telling a story.

If poetry be the highest form of literary expression and lyrical
poetry the immediate response to the keenest stimulus, it might be
expected that the war would have effected a rich output of the most
precious material and that we should not have to wait ten years
while the shock of war was absorbed. Although, once again, the
judgement of a contemporary is impotent to predict what posterity
will or should admire, there is a present test by which the poetry
of the last six years must be regarded as disappointing: though
its technical excellence has seldom been higher and never more
widely diffused, it has not been assimilated into the thought,
the language or the life of its own generation. While the novels
of the war were read, discussed and quoted, while a passage from
this one or that may seem the classic description of an episode
or the flawless expression of a mood, the poems of the war have
seldom caught and held an emotion so inevitably as to pass into the
currency of a plain man's daily reflections. Two poems by Rupert
Brooke and one by Masefield fix the mingled anguish, wonder and
elation of the early days when the world was wrenched from the
security of peace; they indeed register a frame of mind as clearly
and finally as did _The Loss of the Birkenhead_ and may become as
much a part of the common stock as did _The Charge of the Light
Brigade_. It is difficult to recall another of which the same can
be said.

That modern poetry should remain so obstinately divorced from
modern sentiment and modern life is the more disappointing in that
it has never enjoyed more generous opportunities of making itself
heard and accepted. Poetry is more read and bought than at any
time within living memory; its single blossoms, too fragile to
burgeon alone, are gathered into yearly anthologies; it is coaxed
with prizes and encouraged with unprecedented space in weekly
reviews and monthly magazines; but almost always it fades in the
season that gave it birth.

The fault does not lie wholly at the door of an unappreciative
public, for, though the English submit with incredible docility to
the tenth-rate, they welcome the first-rate when they can get it.
Within the last six years the normal conservatism of the London
stage has been assailed by new writers, new plays and new modes
of production. Drinkwater and St. John Ervine have established
themselves; the long rule of inanity has been overthrown in places
by _The Lost Leader_ and _Abraham Lincoln_, by _The Skin Game_ and
_John Ferguson_, by _The White-headed Boy_ and by the revival of
_The Beggars' Opera_, all of which reflected as much credit on the
audiences as on the authors.

Genius works at unexpected times and in unexplained ways: there
is no obvious reason why the last months of the war should have
been chosen for an experiment in biography which has upset the
old-fashioned biographer's every standard. Lytton Strachey's
_Eminent Victorians_ occupies a place by itself in the literature
of any period. Its wit and irony, its learning and lightness,
its humour and mischief make of it a unique literary sport; its
appearance at the close of an epoch encourages the hope that, in
the new epoch, it will be the model for future biography.

How, then, should this stock-taking at the end of the war be
summarised? Among old and young there was much activity; the
former never fell below their standard, the latter gave promise of
a standard not less high. The enthusiasm, the conscientiousness,
the efficiency and versatility of those who stand in the front rank
of contemporary literature are hopeful portents for the future.
Into the Jellaby and Postlethwaite game of awarding premature
immortality it is foolish to be drawn.



  Illa tamen gravior, quae cum discumbere coepit
  laudat Vergilium, periturae ignoscit Elissae,
  committat vates et comparat, inde Maronem
  atque alia parte in trutina suspendit Homerum.
  cedunt grammatici, vincuntur rhetores, omnis
  turba tacet, nec causidicus nec praeco loquetur,
  altera nec mulier. Verborum tanta cadit vis,
  tot pariter pelves ac tintinnabula dicas
  pulsari. Jam nemo tubas, nemo aera fatiget;
  una laboranti poterit succerrere Lunae.
  imponit finem sapiens et rebus honestis;
  nam quae docta nimis cupit et facunda videri,
  crure tenus medio tunicas succingere debet,
  caedere Silvano porcum, quadrante lavari.
  non habeat matrona, tibi quae iuncta recumbit,
  dicendi genus, aut curvum sermone rotato
  torqueat enthymema, nec historias sciat omnes,
  sed quaedam ex libris et non intellegat. Odi
  hanc ego quae repetit volvitque Palaemonis artem
  servata semper lege et ratione loquendi
  ignotosque mihi tenet antiquaria versus
  nec curanda viris opicae castigat amicae
  verba: soloecismum liceat fecisse marito.

                                      JUVENAL: Satire VI.


While there is excellent authority for the statement that the Holy
Roman Empire was not holy nor Roman nor an empire, the reader of
mediaeval history has, for a century and a half, been left without
an equally trenchant definition of what that empire was. In like
manner, while it is comparatively easy for the student of modern
manners to assert that "literary London" is neither London nor
literary, he might find it difficult to amplify this in positive
terms unless he described it as "cultured Kensington." The first
phrase, like its baffling brethren "a man-about-town" and "the
Oxford manner," to which reference has already been made, is part
of modern currency and is tendered by the press and accepted by the
public without a thought on either side whether it represents any
value as an idea. Is the literary London to which newspapers refer
synonymous with the committee of the Authors' Society? Is it to be
found, of a Sunday afternoon, at Mrs. Leo Hunter's house? Does it
lurk, unrecognised and fiercely retiring, in that district which
cabmen call Chelsea and more poetic spirits "the Latin Quarter of

Or is it but a flight of fancy, like "the upper ten" or "the middle

Regret is sometimes expressed that there is no assembly in which
all men-of-letters can gather and explain--in a phrase beloved of
H. G. Wells--"what they are up to." Though the experiment had often
been tried, it has always failed. There is, indeed, an abundance of
literary societies which meet for dinner and damnable iteration in
honour of one or other "immortal memory"; there is a plethora of
the larger, looser associations which have been formed to entertain
authors and, in sheer lust for culture, to submit to their
lectures. There are houses from which no author is long secure;
there are clubs, founded to aid their members in life, liberty and
the pursuit of happiness, where authors meet in large numbers. But
there is no one literary clearing-house, there is nothing that can
be called "literary London." For this, the unreflecting world is
not always sufficiently grateful.

The first business of a poet, it may be submitted, is to write
poetry rather than to talk about what he has written; the
second, to write it by himself, as the pure, unaided expression
of his genius, rather than to labour under the limitations and
confusions of a school; the third, to let his poetry stand as its
own explanation and apology to the critics and to the public.
If, in the end, his readers persist in wishing to discuss it
with him, he may not always be able to escape, though he may
forestall disappointment by warning them that, because a man can
express himself on paper, he need not be able to express himself
in conversation and that the poet in hours of idleness is not
necessarily better worth meeting than the dentist on holiday. This
_caveat_ once entered, he can offer no further resistance, short
of a blunt refusal, to the hostesses who are still eager to secure
"the distinguished author" of this or that: sooner or later his
neck will be bent over their dinner-tables.

There follows one of two inevitable results: the author, from
modesty or self-consciousness, curvets and shies from the one
subject which he has been summoned to discuss and takes refuge in
the Russian ballet and Ascot;[50] or else he resigns himself to his
apotheosis and gobbles more complimentary sugar-plums than are good
for his soul's digestion; he is fated to spoil the party or to be
spoiled by it.

Next in the preparation of his spiritual downfall comes the bland
assumption that the creator must also be a critic; when he has
adequately descanted upon his own books, he will be required to
give an opinion on the books of others. These, unless he loftily
(but impressively) refuse to admit that there have been poets
since Shelley, he never wholly condemns for fear of seeming vain
or small-minded, though he may sometimes admit that he has not had
time to read them; it is easier to disparage by flattery and to
say that his rival has not yet done his best work or that he will
never give rein to his genius until he is less influenced by the
spell of Swinburne (within an hour this has been crystallised into
the judgement that "X writes such dreadful Swinburne-and-water");
it is easier still to shake a regretful head and to hope that X is
not sacrificing Art to Popularity. As a rule the creator-critic
praises vehemently, thus gaining for himself a reputation for
generosity and doing service to a friend who is doing him the
same service at that moment in another part of London. Mutual
admiration and log-rolling have not changed since Du Maurier
satirised them in the _Punches_ of the eighties; and the gentle
art of self-advertisement has at least not diminished in the
resourcefulness of its technique during the last forty years. There
are, however, so many opportunities of securing a wider publicity
that the author who shews himself off in a drawing-room is wasting
his time and energy: the columns of the press are already open to
him, and, as his new book draws near to publication, he can always
direct attention to himself by inaugurating a discussion on the
pagan tendency of modern poetry or on the victimisation of young
poets by unscrupulous editors; he can let himself be persuaded into
speaking at public dinners and having his speeches reported; he can
be affably at hand when professional writers of paragraphs are
short of copy. If it be his ambition to keep his name before the
public, he can without difficulty emulate the methods of one author
who backed himself to be mentioned in the press on every day of the
year--and won his wager. It may be doubted, nevertheless, whether
public or private popularity-seeking is good for the fibre of a
man's soul.

If a writer should avoid the food and flattery of the professional
lion-hunter, so, for a different reason, he should resist the
temptation to closet himself with those who are plying the same
trade. If it produce nothing else, the inevitable discussion of
himself and of his work produces self-consciousness; and a man
will commonly achieve less valuable results by harkening for the
applause of a clique or by trying to follow lines and tendencies
set by a committee. The great work of art is individual; and,
though a painter may have his school, though the technique of
painting is usually taught in a school, there is no ground for
thinking that a man may be taught to write by those who are
themselves learning.

As an author should work by himself to produce what is in him,
so, when he has produced it, he should neither explain nor
complain. It is perhaps a counsel of perfection to say that
authors and critics should never meet. Mr. Walkley has expounded
this difficulty in dramatic criticism: is the critic to eschew
the actor's company? Is he to rise from the same dinner-table and
slay his friend in print? Should he disparage a friend for fear of
partiality or praise an unknown playwright because he is unknown?
The difficulties are not less great when the novelist and his
critic are on terms of friendship; but literature and criticism
both suffer when this personal relationship is used to influence
the author or the critic. As a rule the press, turning its back
on the brutalities of the early nineteenth century, encourages the
new writer and relieves its feelings at the expense of one who is
considered to be "established"; in dramatic criticism it generally
ignores the newcomer and atones later for its neglect by praising
indiscriminately the man who has won his niche. Either practise may
be considered as at least no more senseless than any other which
criticises the writer rather than the book that he has written. No
reasonable man will object so long as criticism is independent of
personal obligations, advertisement-revenue, æsthetic prejudice and
private predilections; so long, too, as the reviewer is neither a
careless young man in a hurry to create on his own account, nor an
embittered old man who has tried and failed; so long, finally, as
the critic brings to his task as much experience, self-discipline
and labour as the author has given to his.

The danger which threatens the deliberate formation of a literary
society is that authors and critics will both lose something of
their independence. In other callings there is often a rigid
etiquette to protect social intercourse from professional abuse:
the barrister who dines too regularly with solicitors will expose
himself to suspicion, and the surgeon is expected to shew by his
demeanour that his guests are friends and not potential patients.
Among writers there is no recognised etiquette and, though the
man whose friendship with reviewers secures him a good press may
be despised by some, he is envied by more. This is no new vice;
and its ill effects are limited by the logic of facts, whereby a
good press cannot for ever sell bad books. Vested interests in
criticism only become formidable to literature when the spheres
of creation and criticism overlap and when critic-creators combine
to organise a crusade. The complaint has of late been heard that
literary criticism in London is being syndicated: six or eight
papers are said to be inspired by four or five critic-creators who
set their own standard of taste and value, praise one another's
work and advance across literary no-man's-land in massed formation.
It is easy to make too much of this. The amiable practise of mutual
back-patting has always existed; the honest zealots of literature
have always tried to define a formula for exclusive literary
salvation; and those who stood outside the ring have always fumed
and protested.[51] Is there anything new in Fleet Street? Or in
those who accept Fleet Street at a pontifical valuation? When
will authors learn how very little influence the press can exert
over a book? The favourable review of a good book may hasten its
recognition; the unfavourable review of a bad book may retard that
measure of success which even the worst book achieves; but, after
the first indeterminate months of life, favourable reviews will not
sell a bad book, nor unfavourable kill a good.[52]

If, then, an author shews to disadvantage at his apotheosis
enforced and if he cannot be left alone with fellow-authors lest
he preach that his doxy is orthodoxy and that every other doxy is
heterodoxy, is there any virtue in a literary clearing-house where
any one man of letters can be sure, sooner or later, of finding
every other? The _salon_ is not acclimatised to London; while it
flourishes in Dublin and Paris, it languishes here for want of a
hostess to inspire it. Daily and nightly throughout the year there
are parties at which eminent men of letters are present in force,
with a flanking claque of women who have expressed vague desire
to meet them; the general judgement on them is as true now as the
particular judgement which Oscar Wilde passed some thirty years
ago on "Lady Brandon," who "tried to found a _salon_, and only
succeeded in opening a restaurant."


If there is no literary London, most men of letters must have
encountered a widespread belief that there should be, even that
there is. The appropriate atmosphere is sedulously cultivated;
undaunted explorers divide the map into private reservations.

Left to themselves and in the absence of a general meeting-place,
authors--who are at heart quite normally human, liking and
disliking what other men like and dislike--assemble in ordinary
clubs and ordinary houses. In the first they are still liable
to be from time to time disturbed by an epidemic delusion that
they are conversationalists of unusual power and charm: more than
one club has suffered from the belief that, because A and B are
authors, they must be conversationalists and that, because they
are conversationalists, the club must be exceptionally well worth
joining; when the premises are sound, more than one club has been
ruined by the reputation of its conversationalists; the performers
become occasionally despotic and tiresome; and, as in the long run
even club bores die, their death leaves among their mute audiences
no one to succeed them.

Despite this recurrent danger, certain clubs stand apart from
the rest in the love which they inspire among authors. For them
the Athenæum ranks first, with its long list of members who have
achieved distinction in literature; and the privilege of membership
carries with it, by implication, the honour of having been weighed
and found worthy of admission to a society which is without
rival, among the clubs of the world, for the volume and variety
of its learning. To the Reform Club and to its literary roll from
Thackeray to Wells reference has already been made; the Garrick can
on occasion mobilise an even braver army of authors; and the Savile
list is not to be ignored. To men of more Bohemian intention, the
Savage has long made a catholic appeal; and the Beefsteak, with
its genius for securing a little of the best of everything, has
not disdained the man of letters. The clubs in which a veneration
for Dickens or Thackeray, Johnson or Omar Khayyám furnishes a
pretext to the members for dining together are too numerous to be
set out, but no club or group of clubs can constitute anything
that may be called literary London; and, though each may foster
friendships which might otherwise have been retarded, it remains
true for normal men that the largest number of the pleasantest
meetings takes place in private houses where the author is invited
as a friend instead of being summoned as a purveyor of "literary"
atmosphere. There is no law against mental vivisection; but authors
might welcome one.

It is not necessary to seek a more recondite explanation than that
they are wonderfully like the rest of their fellow-creatures and
should be treated no differently. They eat and sleep, they marry
and beget children, they entertain and are entertained, they serve
on juries and pay income-tax, for all the world as though they were
bill-brokers and average-adjusters; if they know their own subject
as well as a staff-officer and a cotton-spinner know theirs, it
takes little longer to discern their limitations. "All mad--but
wonderfully decent" was the verdict passed by Master Stubbs, the
budding banker, on M. and Mde. Berthelini in _Providence and a
Guitar_; but the modern imaginative artist is almost distressingly
sane and practical; of the leading English novelists several began
as schoolmasters, one or two as barristers, one as a solicitor's
clerk, another as a merchant-seaman. It is hard to believe that
they enjoy being treated as a class apart. A few, indeed, may wear
eccentric clothes, for reasons of health, comfort or eccentricity,
but then so do a few cabinet ministers, peers of the realm, civil
servants and masters of hounds; a few have pronounced mannerisms,
but then so have certain bishops, bankers and family-solicitors.
A sparse handful may segregate themselves in an artistic secret
society, but this same boyish trait can be found in religion,
politics and finance. When the conscientiously eccentric have been
eliminated, such authors as are to be found in London incline to
the same collective average as any other class: there are bores
and prigs, rich and poor, puffed-up and humble, dandies and
scarecrows, courtiers and hobbledehoys, fanatics and men of the
world; and it is only when a man differentiates his species by
frank advertisement or by less frank posturing about his art that
the rest of humanity has to be careful.

Of convincing any one but an author that this contention is true
no hope need be entertained: the glamour and mystery of art are
as indestructible as the appeal of the stage. An atmosphere is
cultivated for the artist and imposed upon him. "With Rothenstein,"
says Max Beerbohm in his tender study of Enoch Soames, "I paid my
first visit to the Bodley Head. By him I was inducted into another
haunt of intellect and daring, the domino room of the Café Royal.

"There, on that October evening--there, in that exuberant vista of
gilding and crimson velvet set amidst all those opposing mirrors
and upholding caryatids, with fumes of tobacco ever rising to the
painted and pagan ceiling, and with the hum of presumably cynical
conversation broken into so sharply now and again by the clatter of
dominoes shuffled on marble tables, I drew a deep breath, and 'This
indeed,' said I to myself, 'is life!'

"It was the hour before dinner. We drank vermouth. Those who knew
Rothenstein were pointing him out to those who knew him only by
name. Men were constantly coming in through the swing-doors and
wandering slowly up and down in search of vacant tables, or of
tables occupied by friends. One of these rovers interested me
because I was sure he wanted to catch Rothenstein's eye. He had
twice passed our table, with a hesitating look; but Rothenstein,
in the thick of a disquisition on Puvis de Chavannes, had not seen
him. He was a stooping, shambling person, rather tall, very pale,
with longish and brownish hair. He had a thin vague beard--or
rather, he had a chin on which a large number of hairs weakly
curled and clustered to cover its retreat. He was an odd-looking
person; but in the 'nineties odd apparitions were more frequent,
I think, than they are now. The young writers of that era--and I
was sure this man was a writer--strove earnestly to be distinct
in aspect. This man had striven unsuccessfully. He wore a soft
black hat of clerical kind but of Bohemian intention, and a grey
waterproof cape which, perhaps because it was waterproof, failed
to be romantic. I decided that 'dim' was the _mot juste_ for him.
I had already essayed to write, and was immensely keen on the _mot
juste_, that Holy Grail of the period...."

       *       *       *       *       *

Max Beerbohm was writing of 1893; and, though it is presumption to
criticise this sketch of the domino room, he has not explicitly
described one aspect of the Café Royal which was observable in that
year, which is observable still and which, no doubt, will endure
as long as the building itself. Though the cape, perhaps because
it was waterproof, failed to be romantic, it enclosed a spirit
hungry for romance; the Café Royal is still full of souls no less
hungry, though it has never yet succeeded in being romantic. Odd
apparitions are frequent enough; some writers of this era try to
be distinct in aspect; they have not outgrown their keenness for
the _mot juste_; and all their spirit's striving is of Bohemian
intention. In the hour before dinner vermouth is still drunk; there
is still a hum of presumably cynical conversation.

The Café Royal, indeed, changes but little because it satisfies an
unchanging need: a literary conception of Bohemian life has created
a demand for its embodiment in a "haunt of intellect and daring,"
tentatively Parisian if a little self-conscious, very fearless if
never quite at ease. Year after year, wide-eyed new generations
say to themselves, "This indeed is life." The Café Royal is
more than a literary institution, it is a social safety-valve:
romance, after its little seething, disappears in steam; an hour's
cynical conversation, a glass or two of vermouth, a display of the
distinctive aspect enable many a young man to return home healed
in spirit to tidy himself and to reappear next morning as a sober,
laborious and punctual British subject.

If chance or design closed this safety-valve, the pent passion
for romance would be driven inwards until it exploded in the
very heart of domesticity. Intellectual adolescence must play at
Bohemianism as youth plays at soldiers; it is better to restrict
the game to one lawful area than to allow it to rage unconfined,
for the English home is not adapted to absinthe-drinking, and a
general repudiation of morality shocks without elevating. Under
the unsettling influence of war, which closed the Café Royal at
night before the taste for literary romance had been satisfied,
there was a severe outbreak of studio-parties at which every one
shewed himself conscientiously unrestrained and fearless; poets and
painters discussed the aims and methods of their art; strange food
and drink appeared disconcertingly; conversation was carried on in
shouts; there was more colour than line in the dresses; every one
sat on the floor until the host gave the signal for dancing; only
Virginian cigarettes were smoked; and, at the end, it was never
possible to find a taxi. It is to be hoped that the artists worked
the better for this breezy liberation of soul; it is to be wished
that they had done more and talked less of what they were going to
do; but it is to be realised that they were unwitting and perhaps
unwilling victims of a conspiracy to make London literary.

This craving finds its frankest expression in the meetings of
certain more formal literary seminars. Here, though the dresses,
the intellectual freedom and the insufficiency of chairs are the
same, there is strict procedure: the guest of the evening is
received with deference and heard with attention; there follows
a grave debate in which conventional compliments usher in a set
speech of destructive criticism; after a vote of thanks, the
address is once more examined in the candid atmosphere of lemonade
and sandwiches, and the guest is asked whether he really meant all
that he said. Rash is the man who trifles with such earnest desire
for improvement: he might well find himself not invited a second


So much for the atmosphere which is imposed upon an author.
If he be more man than peacock, flattery will bring him less
gratification than embarrassment; and he may ask in modesty and
wrath why he should be subjected to treatment from which others are
exempt. The barrister is not forced to expound the principles of
pleading to a hushed dinner-table; no one collects a party to meet
the chairman of an insurance-company. The answer, presumably, would
be that, while there is a legal London and a financial London, no
one has yet created a literary London and all are entitled to try.

The initial procedure is commonly the same. Dotted over a wide
expanse between Chelsea and St. John's Wood are scores of houses
in which one determined woman has, in the first instance, caught
and tamed a single author: he is as much a member of the family as
the butler; and his employer would be justly incensed if any one
tried to tempt him away with an offer of better wages. At first
he is a prize in himself, and in his honour parties are given
until his owner has established her reputation as a patron of
literature; later he is a decoy for other prizes; and B., who might
not come of his own accord, is invited to meet A. Here the artistic
ambition is reinforced by the social: the Duchess of Stilton, who
has hitherto ignored Mrs. Ponsonby de Tomkyns, is lured by the
bait of Mr. Cimabue Brown and Mr. Postlethwaite; and the churl who
tosses all invitations unread into his waste-paper-basket may quite
possibly do for the Duchess of Stilton what he has always refused
to do for Mrs. Ponsonby de Tomkyns. _Noblesse oblige_ has been
freely rendered: "One must be obliging to duchesses." From this
point the game develops automatically; and the triumphant hostess
realises her ambition as the acknowledged ruler of one or other
postal district of London. If any one would meet this Bloomsbury
impressionist or that Hampstead sculptor, he must meet him in her
house; she has proclaimed her reservation, and henceforth, so long
as she can maintain herself, Westminster or Pimlico, Chelsea or
Golders Green, with all that they contain, are hers. Ceasing to
court others, she is herself courted.

Whether she is repaid in the result for her necessary first
humiliations she alone can decide. Her pretensions are ridiculed
by those who accept her hospitality; she is too busy adding to her
acquaintances to spare time for making friends; and amid all the
insincerity of her life the one thing brutally sincere is the
ingratitude of those who treat her house as a free menagerie. So it
has been since the days of Du Maurier; but, in spite of satire and
ridicule, her breed continues. Perhaps her only alternative is to
look after a husband and children; perhaps she is consoled by the
magnitude of her achievement in founding a _salon_ on the strength
of a resident poet; perhaps she is unconscious of the figure which
she cuts. Literary snobbishness is no more attractive than any
other kind; and it is to be hoped that she sins of ignorance rather
than of malice.

If, no longer hoping, some continue to wish that her breed were
less hardy, that is because all efforts to create a literary London
inspire misgivings for the free development of literature. It is
an author's own fault if he submits to being petted by otherwise
sensible men and women who will lavish on novelists, actors,
musicians and artists a flattery of which they cannot spare one
thousandth part for scientists, philosophers, humanitarians and
the great industrial rulers;[53] it is a fault for which he shares
responsibility with his maker if he allows his head to be turned by

The danger to author and reader from any organised or even
stimulated literary discussion is one which he cannot control; and,
realising that there is, indisputably, a "musical London" and that
its existence has sent musical snobbishness to a premium and the
freedom of musical development to a discount, he fears the same
fate for literature. It is the common vice of the _salon_, of the
critical syndicate (if such exist) and of any unofficial "academy"
that they tend equally to pass premature judgements and to force
uniformity upon the hangers-on. They hustle their heroes into the
Pantheon or the pauper-grave before life is out of their bodies.
Prizes are now awarded for the best imaginative work of the year.
The critics are already trying to decide which of the younger men
and women are qualified to succeed H. G. Wells and Arnold Bennett.
Macaulay himself could not have displayed a wilder passion for
class-lists and labels.

Side by side with the thoughtful articles which undertake to spot
literary winners are articles no more thoughtful but perhaps
playfully philosophical in which to-day's tipsters expose the
folly of their predecessors. Who now reads Mrs. Humphry Ward? Yet
it is less than forty years since _Robert Elsmere_ marked her out
as the successor to George Eliot. Who now reads George Eliot?
"Herbert Spencer," recalls Mr. Edmund Gosse, "... expressed a
strong objection to the purchase of fiction, and wished that for
the London library no novels should be bought 'except, of course,
those of George Eliot.' While she lived, critics compared her with
Goethe, but to the disadvantage of the sage of Weimar.... For Lord
Acton at her death 'the sun had gone out'; and that exceedingly
dogmatic historian observed, _ex cathedra_, that no writer had
'ever lived who had anything like her power of manifold but
disinterested and impartial sympathy. If Sophocles or Cervantes
had lived in the light of our culture, if Dante had prospered
like Manzoni, George Eliot might have had a rival.' It is very
dangerous," adds Mr. Gosse judiciously, "to write like that...."

In fifty years' time will any one read Herbert Spencer? Or Lord
Acton?[54] It was stated at the time of George Meredith's death
that his executors refused for him the honour of burial in
Westminster Abbey because one of them believed that in a hundred
years' time he would be unread; his admirers are even now divided
over the question whether he was a great novelist who wrote less
great poetry or a great poet who wrote less great novels. The
same fate lies ahead of Thomas Hardy. Battle has already been
joined over the body of Henry James: to one school he is the
great analytical psychologist who revolutionised novel-writing,
the perfect artist, the subtile craftsman with the inimitably
personal style; to another he is the pretentious, untidy amateur,
the man who never learned to select or to compress, the pompous
pet of a Chelsea group, the windy impostor with thumbs for fingers
who partially buried under involution his lack of style and his
ignorance of punctuation. One school swears by "the novels of the
middle period"; another harks back to _Roderick Hudson_; a third
prays _The Turn of the Screw_ in aid and proclaims him less a
novelist than a master of the short story; one of the three most
highly esteemed living English novelists likens him to an elephant
trying to pick up peas with its trunk; and he was decorated with
the Order of Merit.

What hardly any one will do is to suspend judgement; and the first
business of literary society is to ensure that judgement shall not
be suspended. Not only has a label to be fixed, but the humblest
amateur feels obliged to say whether it was rightly fixed: praise
and proscription are bandied among those who have hardly learned to
read and those who have never been trained to think. When the Henry
James cult became fashionable, he received equally rapt devotion
from those who disliked him, from those who did not understand
him and from those who had not read him. James was elevated into
a literary standard; he collected a following of disciples; those
who flattered him by imitation were flattered in turn by his
frank approval. The bellow of the herd drowned the voice of the
individual. In all the calendar of critical crime there is no more
soul-destroying dishonesty than a second-hand opinion.


The same premature labelling may be seen in "musical London" with
the appearance of every new composer and the exhumation of every
old score. While Verdi is tolerated and Gounod deplored, Ravel
is--at the moment--a safe winner, and a liking for Delius commands
respect, Debussy holds his own; Richard Strauss is still a bone
of friendly contention; de Lara and Ethel Smyth are encouraged as
British composers by a perplexed audience which has been taught to
distrust British compositions; but "musical London" has decided
that it is time for a reaction against Puccini.

Does "musical London" ever turn an introspective eye to watch the
manufacture of musical opinion? The spectator who wanders from
box to box on the first night of a new opera, may see the gentle
herd-hypnotism at work.

_The Honest Ignoramus, who goes to Covent Garden to see his friends
between the acts._ "Well, what d'you think of it?"

_The Languid Woman who will not give herself away._ "I heard it in
Monte Carlo, you know, this winter."

_A Voice._ It's a pure crib from _The Barber_.

_Another._ Rossini and water.

_Another._ It's quite too deliciously old-fashioned.

_The Honest Ignoramus strays into the next box, shedding some of
his honesty by the way._ "Rather Rossini and water, don't you
think? I don't know anything about it, of course, but it seemed to
_me_ a mere up-to-date _Barber_."

_A Voice._ It's very modern certainly. I confess I'm rather

He moves on. "D'you like all this modern stuff? If we _are_ to have

_A Voice (impressively)._ He gets no value from his orchestra ...
Rossini? Who's talking about Rossini?...

_He beats a retreat and recuperates in the corridor._

_A Voice._ I was lunching with George to-day. He'd been to one of
the rehearsals and he said that no one since Wagner had understood
the wood-wind like this man. A pure genius. I'm giving you his
actual words. Whether it'll _pay_ I can't tell. It's rather modern
for Covent Garden....

_The Honest Ignoramus returns to the first box._ "Only one more
act? I'm rather enjoying this. I suppose some people would call
it a bit modern, but it's rather a relief to find a man who's not
afraid to use his orchestra. The, er, wood-wind...."

_All (gratefully)._ "Too wonderful!... Were you here on

The press-notices next day will add a few more technical terms,
but regular attendants at the opera can say whether this is a
caricature of the manner in which contemporary musical opinion is
formed.[55] None will wait to think; few will shew the courage
to express their own unsupported feelings; every one will pass a
criticism of some kind. And, when the aggregate judgement has been
launched, all will be half converted to it. Perhaps only financial
good or harm is done to a contemporary work, but "musical London"
will not so circumscribe its criticism: there must be an opinion on
everything, a label for every one; and against the verdict of the
hour there is, in all eternity, no appeal.

Here, indeed, is the weakness of all artistic criticism: the critic
is as greatly influenced by atmosphere, fashion and the æsthetic
limitations of a period as the creator; sometimes it is the same
atmosphere, and each new novel by George Eliot was acclaimed a
classic because her critics believed as strongly in her formula as
she did; sometimes the atmosphere is different, and readers in this
generation may praise Wordsworth and belittle Byron as vehemently
as another generation praised Byron and belittled Wordsworth. Will
it never be understood that in æsthetic taste there can be no

There is little harm in awarding a Nobel or a Hawthornden prize
if we remember that the judges are breathing the same atmosphere
as the candidates and that their verdict concerns an author of
their own generation; in forty years' time their taste may
seem as grotesquely perverted as that of the mid-Victorians who
exhausted their superlatives on George Eliot or of the assassin
who struck down Keats. That is the price exacted of the critic by
posterity for the infallibility which he enjoys in his lifetime.
The harm is done when these verdicts are accepted at second-hand
by a public which has not read the evidence nor heard the trial.
It is neither practicable nor desirable that the work of to-day
should be pusillanimously referred to the judgement of to-morrow;
but an artistic assessment, to have any value, must be the sum
of individual and independent opinions. That independence would
disappear with the birth of a literary London. The propaganda of
a coterie, the direction of critics, the explanations of authors
and the herd-voice of literary society narrow artistic sympathy
and stunt artistic originality. Long may England be spared the
unofficial Academy.



        Often when warring for he wist not what,
        An enemy-soldier, passing by one weak,
        Has tendered water, wiped the burning cheek,
        And cooled the lips so black and clammed and hot;

        Then gone his way, and maybe quite forgot
        The deed of grace amid the roar and reek;
        Yet larger vision than the tongue can speak
        He there has reached, although he has known it not

        For natural mindsight, triumphing in the act
        Over the throes of artificial rage,
        Has thuswise muffled victory's peal of pride,
        Rended to ribands policy's specious page
        That deals but with evasion, code, and pact,
        And war's apology wholly stultified.

  1915.                    THOMAS HARDY: "_Often When Warring._"


In the life of the English generation which found its climax and
catastrophe in the war, the last chapter opened on armistice day
and closed with the signature of the German peace treaty on July
19th, 1919. As with the armistice terms, so with the treaty: no one
doubted that it would be signed, but, until it had been signed, all
efforts at reconstruction, all attempts to resume a normal life
of peace were tentative and provisional. The House of Commons in
effect declared a legislative moratorium and, in the absence of
the prime minister, marked time to the command of Mr. Bonar Law
with the disciplined noise and the calculated absence of progress
inseparable from that part of infantry drill.

As the general election of the previous December had been won on
the cry that a coalition was necessary to the conclusion of a
lasting peace, it might have been expected that the supporters
of the coalition would have influenced the course of the peace
negotiations. Beyond an occasional question, however, which
seldom brought enlightenment to the questioner, and an occasional
telegram of protest which can never have brought satisfaction to
the protester, coalition members gave the government a free hand.
In part, there were comparatively few with any parliamentary
experience; in part, there was none who could draft a desirable
alternative ministry, if his dissatisfaction with the present
prime minister stimulated him to effective revolt; and, in part,
there has probably never, since 1832, been a House of Commons so
bankrupt in public spirit, courage, independence or conscience.
Since the end of 1918 the government has triumphantly carried its
supporters against their inclinations through a dozen crises of
which any single one would have seen any other ministry disowned
and broken by a less servile house: the peace treaty with Germany,
as mischievous as it was dishonourable, was flung at parliament
with an air of "Take it--or leave it and take the consequences";
the treaty with Turkey established the Ottoman government in
Constantinople with licence to misgovern and to massacre as freely
as in the past; the Russian policy began with invective and threats
of war against the bloody-handed soviet and ended with the cordial
grip of a hand which had only become more bloody in the interval;
Ireland drifted through pats of conciliation and dabs of coercion
to a state of anarchy which ministers hoped to end by means of a
new home rule bill abhorred by every section of Irishmen; and,
while financiers protested that the country had reached its taxable
capacity, the government continued to live beyond its means and the
chancellor of the exchequer complained that it was not in his power
to retrench effectively.

For a similar display of cynical incompetence and reckless disorder
the historian must go back to the days of a great autocracy in
dissolution. The government of Louis XVI or of the last Roman
emperor, would perhaps shew an equal record of vacillations,
lethargy and light-hearted misrule; but in both instances anarchy
ended in downfall; and, if history be past politics, present
politics are future history. It is hardly straining the parallel
to suggest that such misgovernment is always attributable to one
cause, the lack of an efficient opposition; a composite government
unchecked by fear of overthrow and uninspired by any loftier ideal
than a groping instinct of self-preservation, is no less tyrannical
and prone to abuse than a single ruler.

 "These various Cæsars and their successors and their women-kind,"
 says H. G. Wells, "were probably no worse essentially than most
 weak and passionate human beings, but they had no real religion,
 being themselves gods; they had no wide knowledge on which
 to build high ambitions, their women were fierce and almost
 illiterate, and they were under no restraints of law or custom.
 They were surrounded by creatures ready to stimulate their
 slightest wishes and to translate their vaguest impulses into
 action. What are mere passing black thoughts and angry impulses
 with most of us became therefore deeds with them. Before a man
 condemns Nero as a different species of being from himself, he
 should examine his own secret thoughts very carefully."

It is less profitable to condemn the present government than to
enquire why there has been no effective opposition to hold it in
check. The political revolution which placed Mr. Lloyd George
in power was described by Mr. Asquith as a "conspiracy"; it was
generally regarded as a discreditable piece of trickery, and even
the stalwarts of the new order were for the most part reduced to
mumbling that the end must justify the means and that, without a
change, the war would have dragged on for ever. It is possible
to see now that a psychological crisis was reached in December
1916 and that after more than two years of unending and unended
fighting the herd-instinct demanded that someone should be made
responsible. To the bulk of the liberal party who stood by Mr.
Asquith, forgiving his high-handed behaviour in resigning without
an adverse vote and without consultation of his supporters, the
December crisis seemed a trial of strength between two men; it was
believed first that no alternative ministry could be formed and
then that it could not endure; the opposition liberals would have
been more than human if they had cherished no hope of revenge; and
they could claim disinterestedly and honestly that the new prime
minister was at least not superior to the old in scruple and was
certainly inferior in ability.

However great their resentment, however, the new management had
to be given a trial; any show of factiousness would have been
doubtful patriotism and disastrous tactics; and the chief subject
of discussion among the wire-pullers was how long the trial should
continue. Much noise and dust accompanied Mr. Lloyd George's
triumphal progress to No. 10 Downing Street; at last a "business
government" had taken office, and Whitehall became filled with the
unfamiliar forms of shipping-men and railway-men, newspaper-men and
mining-men, all disciplined by practical experience at the head of
great commercial enterprises, though unschooled to the teamwork
of administration in which the pace and independence of each are
regulated by his fellows. For a moment the political crisis seemed
a successful _bourgeois_ protest against the spirit and methods of
Balliol: neither Mr. Lloyd George nor Lord Beaverbrook, neither
Lord Northcliffe nor Lord Rothermere, neither Sir Eric Geddes nor
Sir Joseph Maclay, neither Lord Rhondda nor Mr. Neville Chamberlain
was a Balliol man; and in his strength and in his weakness, in
his mechanical efficiency and blank want of imagination, in his
intellectual aloofness and touching belief that others too observed
an Oxford standard of honour, Mr. Asquith was a typical product of

Nevertheless, when the dust and noise of removal had abated, there
were found to be at least as many defects of administration as
before; the wizard's wand failed to charm food from air or to
conjure up men from the vasty deep in place of those who were being
sent to rot in Salonica; the German front remained impregnable
in the west; the new war-cabinet, for all its dash and fire,
was "too late" to prevent the Russian revolution; and German
submarine-commanders, perhaps in ignorance of the change that had
taken place, continued to sink allied and neutral shipping. No
improvement was observable until the United States entered the
war; and the warmest panegyrist of the new government has never
suggested that the credit for this decision should be given to
the new prime minister. Those who look for a single principle or
detail in which the second coalition varied the policy of the
first are rewarded with an encomium on the blessings of a unified
command; but official rhetoric did not conceal that the French
were being given, with much advertising display, what was waiting
for them whenever they chose to ask for it; and, if this be Mr.
Lloyd George's sole innovation, the assertion that he won the war
stands in need of revision, the more so since the publication of
the memorandum in which Lord Milner, who was sent to "report," is
shewn to have carried out the unification of command on his own
responsibility and without reference to the prime minister.[57]
Liberals of the rank and file, growing weary of phrases about
"instant daily decisions" and the advantage of "doing it now,"
over "waiting and seeing," found so little improvement abroad and
so much calamitous disorder at home that within six months the new
management seemed to have had a long enough trial: in that time
cabinet rule had been abolished, nothing had been put in its place
and the empire was at the mercy of half-a-dozen men who were alike
only in the distrust which they aroused. From time to time the more
ardent liberal skirmishers criticised the government; but their
enthusiasm was damped by consistent failure to "make the red-hats
go over the top"; it was finally destroyed by the faint-hearted
attack of their leaders when at last they called ministers to
account in 1918.

The "Maurice Debate" is of party importance in registering the
death of the liberal party; it had indeed breathed its last
eighteen months before, but the certificate was only written when
Mr. Asquith was defeated on a division which challenged the honour
of the prime minister and certain of his colleagues. Since the
party meeting at the Reform Club on December 8th 1916 some of the
more enterprising had snatched at office, others awaited their
turn; of those who still sat on the opposition benches several
were transferring their energies to commerce; and the division
lists shewed that all but a faithful ninety-nine voted with the
government or abstained from voting. For the next and last six
months of the parliament's life, Mr. Lloyd George had nothing to
fear in the House of Commons from the man whom he had supplanted.

Following up his advantage, he took care in December that he should
have nothing to fear from Mr. Asquith in the country. He that was
not with the prime minister was against the man who had won the
war and who aspired now to win the peace; there was no room for
independence or qualification; a candidate went to victory with a
"coupon" or to defeat without it. At such a time there was no lead
or guidance from "old gang" headquarters; no alternative programme
was offered; and the bemused elector was left to imagine that the
liberals who refused the "coupon" without putting forward a policy
of their own were plotting an assassin's war against a man whom
they dared not fight openly. The coalition swept the country;
the old liberal ministers were hurled from seats which some had
occupied for a generation; and, as empty benches have their value
in a division, the ministerial majority was strengthened by every
vacant place once filled, before the Sinn Fein landslide, by a
nationalist. So complete was the rout that, when Sir Donald Maclean
and his scarred following of "Asquithian liberals" took their
seats, the labour party challenged his right to be considered the
leader of the opposition.


Since the general election a few seats have been won by "old
gang" candidates; the liberal associations in the country have
denounced Mr. Lloyd George, his followers and all their works;
and Mr. Asquith has returned to the House as member for Paisley.
The liberal party, however, is more deeply divided than ever; and
an autocratic ministry has established itself so firmly that,
while no one can defend its misgovernment, no one can shake it
from its seat. The coalition liberals who parted from their old
leader in despair or disgust cannot be detached; the party which
was so wantonly shattered cannot be reconstructed; and, while the
opposition remains numerically small and impotent in all but voice,
the strange bed-fellows of the coalition cling comfortably to what
they have lest a worse fate overtake them. Efforts have been made
to "fuse" liberals and conservatives into one permanent union;
and, though the organizations outside the House refuse to blend,
the ministers within have contrived to discard the old shibboleths
which in other days set men and parties in antagonism.

The personnel of the ministry demands a moment's scrutiny. It was
composed of liberals and conservatives, of the older statesmen and
the young, in roughly equal numbers; it included one or two men,
such as Mr. Fisher and Sir Robert Horne, who were new to political
life and who were first-rate administrators rather than first-rate
party men: while a coalition is fortunate in being able to draw
upon two sources of political talent, it is less fortunate in
having to recognise two party debts instead of one, and Mr. Lloyd
George's second ministry contained probably more men of third-rate
ability than any in modern history; the experiment of giving office
to "business men" was not an unqualified success, and before long
only Sir Eric Geddes remained in an embryonic department where
he was spared the perhaps inevitable friction that occurs when a
business man is brought in contact with civil servants. Labour
has withdrawn from the coalition; the Irish members, with the
exception of Sir Edward Carson, never entered it. When the first
cabinet was formed in 1916, two of the appointments most strongly
criticised were those of Lord Curzon and Lord Milner, who were
felt to have failed in India and South Africa respectively and to
be antagonistic to those ideals of democracy and nationalism for
which, in theory, the war was being fought; it was added that Lord
Milner was of German extraction. No one criticises them now, for
nationalism and democracy have lost in public interest; but the
cynic, with a recollection of former party divisions, may smile at
the spectacle of Lord Curzon of Kedleston holding office under Mr.
Lloyd George of Criccieth.

The government has proved itself more varied than strong; but pure
conservatism, pure liberalism and pure labour have been unable to
organise an alternative. The attempt to perpetuate the coalition
by fusing liberals and conservatives into a "centre party" was
perhaps given new vigour by the fear that the liberal party
would coalesce with labour. There is an engaging belief among
statisticians and poets that they are the born leaders of nascent
democracy, and few popular movements are long secure from their
help and guidance: at the time of the 1918 general election Mr.
Sidney Webb and Sir Leo Chiozza-Money staked out their claim. They
were followed by an eager rush of itinerant intellectuals who were
eager to sign on before a monopoly could be established. Soon a new
formula was constructed for political grouping: the labour party
was to be the party of "earned incomes," and the vast liberal and
conservative middle-class of men and women engaged in commercial
and "professional" work was at liberty to enter it.

Though the invitation has not as yet been widely accepted, there
have been some recruits to labour, and more will no doubt come in;
to the historian the interest of this projected fusion lies in the
change which it marks in political idealism. The old liberal creed
would seem to be forfeiting the sympathy of its last supporters;
politics are losing their soul; and material self-interest is being
made the touchstone of government. It was perhaps inevitable that
there should be a move in this direction at the end of a war which
disturbed the financial equilibrium of every one in the country;
inevitable, too, that more altruistic counsels should have to
wait for a hearing until each man had done the best for himself
in the licenced scramble which economists call the "distribution
of wealth" and the "apportionment of taxation." The problems of
the future, it is urged, are economic; in England at least there
is now as much personal and religious liberty as any one cares to
enjoy; foreign politics only become interesting as they precipitate
or avert war; and war is over for the present. In their existing
state of physical and nervous exhaustion the inarticulate millions
are concerned only to attain the highest possible level of
personal comfort and to bask there with the greatest possible
degree of security. They are profoundly interested in wages and
prices, but here their political interest stops short. Until it
is seen whether this narrowing of political outlook is likely to
be permanent, liberals will occupy themselves more profitably in
studying it intelligently than in deploring it self-righteously.
They must recognise that for the present at least the electors are
considering every issue in terms of money; to nationalisation of
industry they are applying the test: will it make living cheaper
or dearer? So with a crusade against soviet government. So with
the imperial mission of Great Britain in Mesopotamia. So with Free
Trade. So with the resumption of commercial relations with Russia.
It is only at Westminster that the nervous party organisers wonder
whether the middle classes will "vote labour," whether the "old
gang" can retain its hold on the liberal machine in the country,
whether Mr. Lloyd George can form a new party and collect funds.
The electors will vote at the prompting of their pockets. If they
have not broken down the familiar lines of party division, it is
because they are not deceived by any talk of a party which is to
contain all the "earned incomes" and realise that there is no true
distinction between incomes earned or unearned; taxation falls
on the people with money, however acquired. They are as little
deceived by warnings about "Bolshevism" and suspect that it is all
a dodge to make their flesh creep. England, they feel, does not
love revolutions and has a blind, stupid instinct for avoiding
them; preeminently by never allowing too large a proportion of the
population to become too hungry at the same time; prices indeed are
high, but wages have risen to meet them; when trade has recovered
after the war, prices will fall, but wages will tend to remain
constant; the poorer classes will find themselves richer, the
rich poorer; an immense economic revolution will have taken place
without a single soviet. Every one is concerned to safeguard his
own position.

Though political interest in England has sunk to low-water mark in
one direction, it has risen alarmingly in another. The national
tradition of describing parliament as a "talking-shop" and of
demanding machines or men who will "_do_ something" may indicate
some little confusion of thought among those who would make a
deliberative assembly executive, but it prepares the way for a
great constitutional change when men discover more certain and less
dilatory methods of "doing something" than by parliamentary means;
interest has shifted from the House of Commons to Fleet Street, to
Unity House, to the periodical conferences of labour and, indeed,
to any mass-meeting convened for any purpose by men or women
who are in earnest about anything. Representative government is
breaking down; direct government threatens to take its place; and
the gravest problem of domestic statesmanship is to restore faith
in parliamentary institutions.


This temporary dislocation is no new phenomenon. The reform bill
of 1867 became a serious part of the ministerial programme when a
London mob pulled up the railings of Hyde Park: that was direct
pressure from below. Direct pressure from above came when Mr.
Gladstone appealed, over the head of some four hundred critical,
angular supporters, to vast mass-meetings throughout the country;
their verdict and sanction overrode the authority of the discreet
representatives who had been returned to interpret the will of
the people; representative government yielded place, on occasion,
to a direct mandate, to an informal referendum: in a word, to
direct democracy. And, as democracy became articulate through the
press and through public meetings, the doctrine was born that
every political change must be inaugurated by a press and popular

In the last six years every political revolution has been forced on
the House of Commons from outside. The constitutional passage of
home rule was checked in 1914 by a threat of military rebellion and
popular violence; the suffrage was extended to women as the reward
of their extra-parliamentary agitation and in the teeth of press
and popular opinion; war with Bolshevist Russia was stopped by the
labour party, outside the House; and Ireland, despairing of help
or leadership from England, has set up a Sinn Fein government. In
one form or another this is "direct action"; and "direct action" is
the _ultima ratio_ of the governed against their governors when the
elected representatives slip beyond the control of their electors.
The course of legislation and of foreign politics is now determined
by a series of political strikes. In 1920, the labour party tried
its hand on a solution of the Irish problem. Certain railway
workers refused to carry munitions for the government. The National
Union of Railway Workers was urged to support this local strike
and to declare a general strike if the government tried to run the
Irish railways with the help of engineers working under military
discipline. Here, if it had chosen to throw down the challenge,
organised labour would have met and contended with the executive of
representative government on the highest plane. Mr. J. H. Thomas
shewed the statesmanship to avert or postpone this conflict by
asking the prime minister to receive a deputation to discuss an
Irish settlement from the standpoint of labour.

At least for a time parliament has been superseded by the direct
action of men who find themselves impotent as parliamentary
electors but powerful--perhaps, in the future, all-powerful--as
the mechanicians of the communal life. This change from
constitutionalism to direct action, from representation to control
at first hand, is too grave to be ignored. As men meet primarily in
human associations for the comforts of life, they defeat the object
of their association by encouraging or condoning trials of strength
which establish nothing but the momentary triumph of the moment's
victor; what has been secured by the railway strike of 1919 beyond
the knowledge that the railwaymen can to a great extent paralyse
the activity of the country and that the rest of the community
can to a great extent improvise means and services for preventing
complete paralysis?

It is more than time alike for employers and employed to realise
that they are the servants of the public: as every strike comes to
an end at some time and on some terms, there is no reason in equity
why a strike should ever begin; if the individual submits--and
cheerfully submits--his honour, life and fortune to the arbitrament
of a judge and jury, every man or body of men who will not
submit an industrial dispute to a similar tribunal is suspected
of having discarded equity in favour of the doctrine that might,
however temporary, is right. Employers and employed will only win
public sympathy, if indeed they care to have it, when they agree
to compulsory arbitration backed by the severest penalties for
breach of agreement; the status of both is at present that of a
robber-baron. It is more than time, too, for masters and men in any
one industry to realise that they represent but a small proportion
of the organised capital and labour in the country, a yet smaller
proportion of the total life and wealth of the community.

More needful even than the divorce between militant politics and
militant economics is the reestablishment of public order.

As the policeman is a symbol, as organised society depends far less
on the executive officers of the law than on respect for the law,
nothing but chaos can be expected of any successful resistance to
law. When the law-breaker goes not only unpunished but rewarded
and honoured, can it be expected that others will not follow
in the footsteps of those who have risen by anarchy to be lord
chancellor, lord of appeal, chancellor of the exchequer and leader
of the Ulster party? The privy councillor who preaches and prepares
armed resistance to law, the suffragette who breaks a window, the
employer or the workman who breaks a contract, the conscientious
objector who repudiates any liability that the soveran government
may impose upon him is a danger, by contact and example, to the
whole state, a mad dog whose extirpation is the first duty of all
who value the stability of the state. Here, as everywhere, popular
judgement is warped by social and intellectual snobbishness: the
"passive resister," whose "nonconformist conscience" forbade his
paying rates for the support of Church of England teaching was an
object of impatient scorn; the lady of rank who declined to lick
insurance-stamps at the bidding of a little Welsh attorney was
a woman of pride and independence; the officers who threatened
mutiny and the civilians who took up arms against home rule
were regarded as heroes; but the men who preferred prisons and
obloquy to the necessity of trying to take the life of their
country's enemies were branded as traitors and cowards. There can
only be one equitable rule: so long as a man remains a member
of any community--nation, church, profession or club--he must
submit scrupulously to its rules and only seek to change them by
constitutional means.

But, inasmuch as constitutional government is the art of
understanding and coordinating to a common end human beings who
are at once above and below the mute, mechanical conscripts of an
autocracy, the governors have to make obedience easy by making
government human. In the twentieth century man is too imaginative
and too little servile to worship the inexorable soveranty of
Hobbes' _Leviathan_. Men and women will submit still to starvation,
torture and death rather than compromise with an ideal: it is
doubtful citizenship, but it is a psychological problem to be faced
and solved; it is best solved by preventing the martyr's high,
tragic sense of desperation and by facilitating the methods of
constitutional redress. Direct action is a final protest when the
ways of constitutionalism are blocked; in Russia, in Ireland, in
Egypt and India, the man with a grievance has been driven back on
the bomb remedy. England dislikes sporadic violence as much as
general revolution: bombs are unlikely to be thrown in England,
but the political strike will take their place as an alternative
to the methods of representative government unless these methods
can be made more sensitive to opinion. First the mode of election
must be so changed that a minority candidate no longer slips into
parliament over the struggling forms of his majority rivals; then
the life of parliament must be so shortened that a member can be
called to more frequent account; and lastly the constituency must
have power to demand of its member that he submit himself for
reelection when he is acting against its wishes. The representative
must, in other words, become more and more the deputy. Such a
development would have brought consternation to the heart of
Edmund Burke; but it is the only alternative, in a press-ridden,
publicity-ruled state, to direct action.

These are the mechanics of politics, the fundamentals governing
the relations of ruler and ruled in all states at all times.
Politics--in the sense of a conflict between parties organised in
obedience to common principles and in pursuit of common aims--have
lately been shelved. Now--as always--the king's government must
be carried on; now--for the first time--it must be carried on by
the king's present ministers. To secure that consummation, the
unbending partisans of other days have sunk their differences: Mr.
Lloyd George and Lord Curzon, Mr. Churchill and Lord Birkenhead,
Mr. Montagu and Mr. Balfour work side by side; though liberal and
conservative stalwarts retain enough of the old spirit to assure
their constituents that they would resign if a sacrilegious finger
were laid on their cardinal principles, by luck, contrivance or
the requirements of the moment Mr. Lloyd George has been able to
avoid such controversial legislation as might split his ministry;
and, where legislation threatened to become controversial, as in
the latest home rule bill, the greatest living conciliator found
a means of accommodating minor differences until a united cabinet
recognised the absurdity of resigning office.

Though every government falls more or less unexpectedly, there
is no reason why the present one should not continue until its
leaders judge the moment to be ripe for an election. A ministry is
upset by opposition within the House or outside; the coalition has
no organised opposition to fear beyond the "wee free" liberals,
who are numerically unimportant, and the labour party, which is
not yet ready to take control. Coalition liberals and coalition
conservatives have at least one foot firmly planted in the
promised land; before they try to plant the second foot, they
have to remember Aesop's fable of the dog that snapped at the
reflection of his own piece of meat. Outside the House there is
plenty of criticism, plenty of opposition; but, though a little of
the criticism becomes fruitful through the urgency of the press,
there is no visible alternative government, no one wants a general
election, and the public is bored with politics. The warning which
Charles II gave to his ambitious brother might be quoted by any
minister to any critic who wished to supplant him.

Something as great as the war in its comprehensive, intimate
attack on every member of the community will be required to
reawaken general interest in politics: when Great Britain is even
nearer bankruptcy and starvation, when the United States refuse
her credit, when the world shortage of food affects the stomachs
of the world and the hungry, maddened hordes of central and
eastern Europe break raveningly forth, it may be remembered that
the misrule of the present government has an exact parallel, on a
smaller scale, in the misrule of Louis XVI's ministers before the
French revolution.


On the eve of the 1918 election the prime minister expressed his
political ideal in the formula that England had to be made a home
fit for heroes. How far he has realised this ideal in the years
during which he has ruled the House of Commons without opposition
is a question which the heroes themselves are best qualified to
answer; but, exalted as was his vision, some may still feel that,
since England contains men and women of most unheroic stature and
is but a part of the inhabited world, his formula was inadequate.
The young men of the generation which this book has attempted to
describe were, from the first awakening of their intelligence,
exercised over the function of government and divided over its
aim by the political philosophy which they hammered out for
themselves in reading and discussion. From different angles
and by different paths they reached agreement on the postulate
that, before all else, every man should have secured to him the
minimum of essentials. He could not claim food, air and warmth
of natural "right", for in organised society a man enjoys only
those rights which his fellow-men allow him; but the communists
accorded them as a payment on account, and the individualists as
an insurance against revolution. Those who fought shy of party
labels and regarded themselves as having been born fortuitously
and without consultation into a world from which there was no
escape but by death felt that they had every inducement to live,
by mutual consideration, on the best possible terms with their
fellows and that life would be intolerable if a neighbour rifled
their pockets as they slept or broke their heads if they snored.
Those who gloried in the name of liberals and believed that the
end of life was the attainment of beauty included in their minimum
the claim that each man should have secured to him the chance of
making his own life beautiful. With generosity not yet tarnished by
experience and with hatred of injustice not yet tempered by custom,
these young men felt that they could not be wholly comfortable
while others were uncomfortable: the cries of the suffering might
banish sleep, their desperation might threaten security; if they
obtruded it, as they were so tastelessly prone to do, their misery
might disquiet an over-active conscience. Policy joined hands with
humanity in favour of giving every one his minimum of essentials.

It had not been given when the war put an end to dreaming. It
has not been given yet. It will not be fully given until a man
is secure from disease and premature death; from pain, hunger,
thirst and cold; from spiritual and intellectual fear; from terror
of his fellow-man; from the educational inequality that sets him
at a disadvantage with others; from the grievance that comes of
a blow struck to his racial or religious sentiment. Twenty years
ago, before they discovered the limitations of official politics,
young liberals found from the contemplation of those ideals a
vocation: they believed in equality of opportunity and swore by
better housing, better feeding, better education; they sympathised
with the aspirations of nationality half a generation before these
were discovered and forgotten by the rest of England; they were
disturbed by the thought that men were flogged to death in the
Belgian Congo or massacred in Armenia; and, maybe, they wearied the
complacent with statistics of all those who in a single year and
in the richest country in the world died of cancer and consumption
or rotted away with syphilis. The verminous, rickety child seemed
no less a blot on civilisation than the short-lived prostitute
who--they were assured--was irreclaimable, "because that sort of
thing always _has_ gone on; it's the oldest profession in the
world; and, of course, it _is_ a safety-valve...."

Twenty years of work and travel, twenty years of mingling with
average, sensual men and women, twenty years' experience of inertia
may have cured young liberals of their optimism, but it should have
strengthened their faith. By now they have probably seen much of
what, before, was made known to them only from books: they have
walked through factories and seen girls turned into machines by
the monotonous repetition of one part of one process; they have
looked, over the side of a liner, at straining, black, half-naked
men who have already been turned into the semblance of shuffling,
debased animals by the monotony of carrying coal; they are assured,
perhaps, that industrial conditions are better in England than
anywhere else, but they still wonder what life and what vision
of beauty are possible to these slaves of the work-room and of
the coal-lighter, who are not the less slaves because they enjoy
freedom to move from one master to another. Sheltered indeed must
be the life of any who have not found, in twenty years, a daily
vent for the compassion which is the living breath of liberalism.

The communist who seeks to abolish private property has more
chance of success than the impatient reformer who tries to sweep
away all the ugliness of modern life by breaking the mechanism on
which modern life with its ugliness and its beauty depends. It
is too late to make an end of industrialism; and man was harder
used and more brutalised before the advent of machinery than ever
since. His lot is improving daily; and all that the reformer can
reasonably ask is that the rate of improvement shall be accelerated
until the employer of labour no longer imposes on his work-people
conditions that he would himself refuse. In war, a British officer
does not order his men into an action which he is himself afraid
to undertake; at the end of a march, he does not think of his own
needs until he has seen that his men have their food. There is
something perilously like shirking in the attitude of an employer
who expects men and women to undertake hardships from which he
stands aloof; and, directly or indirectly, all are employers.

The mission of liberalism will not be fulfilled until it has
achieved a form of civilisation whereof no part can inspire
misgiving or shame. Every country has its dark places; the
inhabitants of every country turn a blind eye to them until the
upheaval of war, the outbreak of revolution or the spread of a new
faith throws a challenge to every social institution and demands
that it shall justify itself. When more than five million men
voluntarily risked their lives in defence of one system against
another, their decision was less a clean-cut choice than a blend
of herd-instinct, collective hypnotism and that irrational feeling
for associations which is called patriotism; the decision once
taken, they committed themselves to a struggle in which one order
of civilisation would probably maintain itself and another would
probably be overthrown. If they preserved that which was less good
and destroyed that which was more good, they sinned against the
light; if they preserved that which was more good, they were still
obliged to prove it so much the better that no sacrifice was too
great for it; and, if in their scrutiny they discovered blemishes,
they were bound to remove them for fear the enemy would say that
they had sacrificed themselves for something that was not worth
their lives. During the war, of course, every one was too busy to
hunt for blemishes and to remove them.

After the war every one is too busy; and those who once called
themselves liberals have lost interest in everything but the
cost of living, though the youngest of them can recall the days
when the present prime minister's voice throbbed with emotion in
describing the misery of the poor and in championing the outcasts
of civilisation, wherever they were to be found.

It is more than time for the young liberals of twenty years ago to
recognise that the liberal faith has lost its prophets and that the
prophets have lost their liberal faith.



  The nineteenth wave of the ages rolls
      Now deathward since thy death and birth.
  Hast thou fed full men's starved-out souls?
      Hast thou brought freedom upon earth?
  Or are there less oppressions done
  In this wild world under the sun?

  Nay, if indeed thou be not dead,
      Before thy terrene shrine be shaken,
  Look down, turn usward, bow thine head;
      O thou that wast of God forsaken,
  Look on thine household here, and see
  Those that have not forsaken thee.

                             A. C. SWINBURNE: _Before a Crucifix_.


Nearly twelve months after the treaty of peace with Germany had
been signed, a few of the men who had gone down from Oxford ten
or twelve years before met again at their annual college gaudy.
It may be not superfluous to explain that all masters of arts who
have kept their names on the books are invited in rotation, in the
second half of June, to the commemoration ceremony, to dinner in
hall, to a service next day and to breakfast in hall. From 1914 to
1918 the gaudies were discontinued; and 1920 provided the first
occasion on which the men who had taken their M.A. degrees in the
years immediately prior to the war received an invitation.

From the moment that they clambered into their hansoms, men
who had not seen one another for ten years lapsed into a world
which they had known as undergraduates in the last days of King
Edward's reign. They had come together from India and Africa:
clergymen, civil servants and officials of the Woods and Forests;
with or without lasting injury, they had survived the war on one
of its many fronts; some had grown rich, some had married and
begotten children; some had remained as materially unchanged as
they were unchanged in appearance; and, after a longer or shorter
Odyssey of adventure, all were now settled to their work in life.
Automatically they disinterred forgotten nicknames, and the
first of all seemed to cast a spell upon them and to revive the
atmosphere of the last night of their last term. The awnings and
supper-tent lingered on as a reminder of Commemoration; ornate
young men hurried through Tom Quad to the last ball of the week,
leaden-footed young men limped to the bathrooms next day as their
seniors made ready for prayers in the Cathedral.

Ten years before, a world to which their schools and universities
were but a window lay before a disintegrating Oxford generation;
and on its youth and enthusiasm, in an age which aspired to keep
soul and body in hard condition, depended the mark that each member
made in it. Half unconsciously, the young men of that epoch were
reacting to that epoch's literary fervour of humanity and rational
order: Galsworthy was teaching them that life should be gentle,
Wells that it should be tidy, Shaw that it should be ascetic. That
was the open noon of their idealism; those seemed the brave days
for men of democratic faith.

In little more than the hundred years which ended with Queen
Victoria's death an humane spirit of liberalism, not confined to a
single country, had forbidden torture and abolished slavery; it had
achieved political emancipation and religious toleration; in making
the whole of a community responsible for each part, it was slowly
inculcating an idea of fraternity; and, in asserting public right
between nations, it was beginning to merge in that universal spirit
which at intervals of many centuries shines through the world and
teaches men to regard mankind as one whole: the constant spirit of
Buddha, of Christ and of Tolstoi, the transitory half-understood
dream of Alexander and of Napoleon. The trend of history seemed,
in those days, to be a term interchangeable with the progress of
liberalism; whatever stood in its way seemed destined to fight a
losing battle; and the hope of the future was rooted in the record
of the past. Every difficulty that for a moment seemed insuperable
was matched by some old and seemingly insuperable difficulty which
had been overcome: if old age, lazy and without vision, predicted
that there must always be violence and injustice, youth could
retort that injustice and violence were diminishing daily; if war
continued, duelling in England had at least been abolished; if the
modern sportsman fired broadsides into a cloud of driven birds, he
was at least denied, and perhaps disinclined for, the pleasures of
cock-fighting. Life, until 1914, was sacred; and the conditions
under which life was carried on were becoming no less important
than life itself.

The young liberals of those days, taught to feel that every human
being must have a chance, through freedom, of attaining happiness,
believed in their cause and in their leaders; through the pitched
battles of the next four years their faith was undimmed. More than
this dumb allegiance it was not yet easy for them to give: still
little more than boys, most of them had careers to make before they
could participate actively in politics. Later, as a few of them
were ready to take their place in the line, a more urgent war burst
upon them; democracy at home had to be left to take care of itself,
though in August 1914 they hoped and expected their local democracy
would be caught up in a greater democracy; they believed then
that "a war to end war" would prepare the way for ultimate human

Was it so fantastic a dream? In 1914 less than one hundred and
seventy years had passed since the last civil war in which
Englishmen fought against Englishmen on British soil; now England
was consolidated and uniform. Might there not soon be a time
when Europe, disarmed and controlled by an international police,
would be so far uniform and consolidated that war between any of
its component states would be no less unthinkable than war in
England between Lancashire and Cornwall? Until Ireland was driven
to anarchy, the common conscience of Great Britain refused to
tolerate disorder and free shooting; might there not be a time when
the common conscience of Europe refused to tolerate periodical
massacres? In 1914, though perforce their grip slackened on the
reforms nearer at hand, the souls of the young men were touched for
a moment by the universal spirit.

For the survivors who paced the quadrangles after dinner, peering
at the familiar staircases and glancing up at the silent windows,
every comer of the college was haunted by some one who would never
see Oxford again. In 1910 very few believed that a European
war was necessary; very many still believe that even by 1910 a
different and more honest diplomacy could have averted it. In 1914,
when war broke out, it was fancied that those who were offering
their lives would be rewarded everlasting freedom from the fear of
another war; could that still be fancied in 1920? It was felt and
said, too, that, as these men were venturing all for one corner of
the earth, they--if they came back--or their survivors should find
it so swept and garnished that they would know they had ventured to
good purpose. Oxford is still the kingdom of youth, and idealism
still flourishes in its shelter; but, when the gathering speed of
the London train cut short the last glimpse of Tom Tower and of
the cathedral spire, it was not easy to feel that the sweeping and
garnishing were complete.


"Whoever attempts to forecast the course systems of government
will take," wrote Lord Bryce in _Modern Democracies_, "must ...
begin from the two propositions that the only thing we know about
the Future is that it will differ from the Past, and, that the
only data we have for conjecturing what the Future may possibly
bring with it are drawn from observations of the Past, or, in
other words, from that study of the tendencies of human nature
which gives ground for expecting from men certain kinds of action
in certain states of fact. We cannot refrain from conjecture. Yet
to realise how vain conjectures are, let us imagine ourselves to
be in the place of those who only three or four generations ago
failed to forecast what the next following generation would see.
Let us suppose Burke, Johnson, and Gibbon sitting together at a
dinner of The Club in 1769, the year when Napoleon and Wellington
were born, and the talk falling on the politics of the European
Continent. Did they have any presage of the future? The causes
whence the American Revolution and the French Revolution were to
spring, and which would break the sleep of the people in Germany
and Italy, might, one would think, have already been discerned by
three such penetrating observers, but the only remarks most of us
recall as made then and for some years afterwards to note symptoms
of coming dangers were made by a French traveller, who said that
the extinction of French power in Canada had weakened the tie
between the American colonies and Great Britain, and by an English
traveller who saw signs of rottenness in the French Monarchy. Men
stood on the edge of stupendous changes, not discerning the causes
that were already in embryo beneath their feet, like seeds hidden
under the snow of winter, which will shoot up under the April
sunlight. How much more difficult has it now become to diagnose
the symptoms of an age in which the interplay of economic forces,
intellectual forces, moral and religious forces is more complex
than ever heretofore, incomparably more complex than it had seemed
to be before discovery had gone far in the spheres of chemistry,
physics, and biology, before education had been diffused through
all classes, before every part of the world had been drawn into
relations with every other part so close that what affects one must
affect the rest."

In ten years the men who hoped to beautify the world through the
agency of politics had learned something of parliament and of
its limitations; it is not the perfect instrument for a social
reformation or a spiritual revival; such vain imaginings revealed
the reformers' folly or at least their youth, but they were misled
by the resonant beatitudes of public speeches. Parliament and the
whole machine of government are, by their remoteness from the
public life of the nation, always a little loftier in temper than
the basest elements of the population: the House of Commons may be
blind, greedy, vindictive or persecuting, but at such moments it
is never so persecuting or vindictive, so greedy or blind as an
incensed mob would like it to be. On the other hand, parliament
and the whole machine of government never, in their most exalted
moments, attain such a nobility of soul as the mob outside achieves
in its disinterested moods. From the first day of war to the last
and for all their lapses into panic and madness, the uninstructed
silent masses were prompt in every crisis with more patience and
fortitude, more philosophy and more capacity for sacrifice than
parliament knew how to use. It is not through the House of Commons
that England will be made a home for heroes.

"We had no conception of the quality of politics," wrote Wells of
one character then aged fifteen, "nor how 'interests' came into
such affairs; we believed men were swayed by purely intellectual
convictions and were either right or wrong, honest or dishonest
(in which case they deserved to be shot), good or bad. We knew
nothing of mental inertia, and could imagine the opinion of a
whole nation changed by one lucid and convincing exposition....
We rebuilt London by Act of Parliament, and once in a mood of
hygienic enterprise we transferred its population _en masse_ to the
North Downs by an order of the Local Government Board. We thought
nothing of throwing religious organisations out of employment or
superseding all the newspapers by freely distributed bulletins.
We could contemplate the possibility of laws abolishing whole
classes; we were equal to such a dream as the peaceful and orderly
proclamation of Communism from the steps of St. Paul's Cathedral,
after the passing of a simply worded bill,--a close and not
unnaturally an exciting division carrying the third reading....
We were not fools; it was simply that as yet we had gathered no
experience at all of the limits and powers of legislation and
conscious collective intention...."

At one-or two-and-twenty the "mental inertia" of their conservative
opponents had discouraged the reformers from thinking that the more
drastic and dramatic methods of the French Revolution could be
applied to British legislation in 1910; of the entire efficacy of
legislation no doubt was entertained. Everything, it was believed
(and the liberal majority of 1906 believed it too), could be done
by means of a simply worded bill; all that a reformer needed was
those sure voters who would carry the third reading after "a close
and not unnaturally an exciting division"; and they were to be
found in Scotland and Wales, in the north of England and every
other liberal stronghold not yet seduced by factious, independent

In London, it was soon discovered, there was no help to be expected
save in the poor fringe of Camberwell and Hornsey, Stratford and
Battersea; the liberal oratory of the period taught that dukes and
slum-landlords were identical; and the young liberal was convinced
in those days that the London he knew was vehemently opposed to
all amelioration of social conditions. If, later, he found that
the most tory element in society had no greater liking than he for
dirt, disease, crime, misery and hunger, he found, too, that the
world in which his lot was cast for the next ten years was too
busily engaged to spare anything but mental inertia for social
reform. Its members displayed no ill-will; they subscribed hundreds
of thousands every year to charity, they worked like slaves for the
objects in which their interest had been aroused; but they did not
see and they would not be made to see that Europe was an extension
of England, that England was an extension of the village at their
lodge-gates and that they were acquiescing in conditions of want
and suffering, vice and crime which for very shame they would not
allow among their own tenants.

In the course of those ten years young liberals often wondered
what daily spur could be applied to imaginations and consciences
which are active enough when once the spur has been applied.
The work done for the relief of suffering is immense; the sums
subscribed to charity are enormous; and yet by any standard they
are insufficient. For want of a better postulate the reformers
were agreed that it was incumbent on the state for every man and
woman to be secured at least the minimum of essentials; in the
search for a first principle of private conduct they would not have
refused the criterion whether an act would increase or decrease,
in any form or any degree, the world's total of unhappiness. To an
agnostic, the value of Christian ethics lay less in the protection
which they secured to the weak than in the chivalry which they
demanded of the strong; and, if the mentally inert began with a
test even so rudimentary as this, they might progress to a frame
of mind in which a man would be pulled up short by the fear, that,
whatever the gain to others, his act would cause pain to a single
living creature.

Pain of heart, pain of mind and pain of body are within the
experience of all; the desire to escape it is older and stronger
even than the desire to attain pleasure. And directly or
indirectly, by implication, or expression, the most generous and
humane men and women are daily adding to the world's suffering or
are consenting to leave it unreduced. If the war could not inspire
a consecration of life and a crusade for the extirpation of pain,
what other spur can avail to rouse this somnolent collective
conscience? Certain streets in every great city are thronged at
certain hours with the women whom patronage calls "unfortunate" and
superiority dubs "fallen"; the benevolent societies which exist to
"reclaim" them succeed as well as a gardener who tries to give back
its lost bloom to a rose. In misery of soul and suffering of body,
every prostitute adds to the world's total of pain; but no woman
can become a prostitute without the help of a man.

Here is a fate from which every man would save his mother, his
sister and his daughter; to a slumbering conscience, other men's
sisters and daughters do not matter.


In the last ten years, all those who find in mental inertia the
chief obstacle to progress have been forced to enquire what does
matter to the men and women whom they have been meeting. With
comparatively few exceptions these people are temperate, kindly
and faithful within conventional limits; they are as honourable
and veracious as they are expected to be; almost without exception
they are physically courageous, though they have little moral and
less intellectual courage; they have a sluggish pride and hardly
any dignity; they have great energy and resource, versatility
and endurance; many have charm, most have ability and some
have brilliance. A feudal aristocracy leavened by commerce has
produced a society of men and women whom an alien may, with
admiring detachment, consider the finest raw material for any
human enterprise in any part of the world. No nation scored as
high a total in as many different tests during the war. Before
1914, indeed, it seemed as if this incomparable human material was
running to waste; since 1919 it seems to be running to waste again.
The war shewed that in an emergency there was no less available
supply of courage and endurance, of self-sacrifice and ability than
ever before; these qualities are still there if any knew how to
rouse them; but it seems that, though the English will always train
for a race, they will not at other times keep themselves in even
moderately good condition.

In the reaction from the war nothing seems to matter. The _argot_
of London varies from week to week, like the style of dressing
and dancing; but the atmosphere is the same, the restlessness is
the same, the mad striving after effect is the same, the want
of purpose is the same; and it may be doubted whether the money
and energy demanded of such a life are justified by the tepid,
flat pleasure which they purchase. In ten years London has become
steadily and uncaringly more greedy and vulgar. Breeding is a
memory of childhood; manners grew blunt and were discarded during
the years between the South African war and 1914; happiness has
been lost to view in the hunt for distraction; and success is
measured, arithmetically, by invitations.

"Queer place," Mr. Jingle said of Rochester. "Dock-yard people of
upper rank don't know Dock-yard people of lower rank--Dock-yard
people of lower rank don't know small gentry--small gentry don't
know tradespeople--Commissioner don't know anybody."

London, it has been suggested, is less exclusive; and the only
person who is in serious danger of not being received is the
man who is detected cheating at cards. For all this facile
accessibility, however, the tradespeople cannot expect to visit
the small gentry without effort and assiduity. Before the war,
since the war and despite the harrowing preoccupation with war's
intensest crisis, a busy army of soft-voiced, watchful women have
plied their unflagging trade of "getting to know people"; in wealth
or in rank, in charm or in notoriety, in a combination of all or
any, there is always some one to be found on a slightly higher
plane, there is always one greater eminence from which exclusion
is synonymous with disgrace: to cross the threshold they will fawn
on those whom they despise and accept favours from those whom they
detest. Among men the vice is confined to the very young, the mean,
the vain and the insufficient; women are afflicted more widely and
deeply, for they feel their value depreciated when an invitation
passes them by. In the words of 'Algernon Moncrieff,' "Nothing
annoys people so much as not receiving invitations."


A few of the passing generation have retained their vision; many
more have acquired a new vision from the heart-searching of war.
The conscious striving after beauty and the gift of laughter
alone differentiate man from the beasts; and to these few the
attainment of beauty still matters here and elsewhere. London is
still the greatest city of the world; it is no less true than in
Dr. Johnson's day that, when a man is tired of London, he is tired
of life; but it is difficult for any one who has lived for thirty
years in its midst to look patiently on while the lessons of the
war are forgotten and the debt owing to all who died in the war is
repudiated. This lapse into futility is, perhaps, only a temporary
reaction from the war; no man, thinking otherwise, would want to
go on living, for in little more than thirty years the generation
of which the time has now come to take leave has lost the greater
part of those things which it valued. For a few, their country has
been handed over to the blind violence and madness of anarchy; for
more, their political idols have been flung on their faces; for
all, their relations and friends have died in scores. The world of
the survivors, like that corner of it in which they assembled at
Oxford, is peopled with shades; the mood of the survivors is that
of H. W. Garrod, when he wrote his _Intruders_.

  "One day, I knew, it had to be:
  Sooner or later I must see
  Another race of men invade
  Rooms which the men I knew had made,
  With books, with pictures on the wall,
  With pipes and caps, with bat or ball,
  Obscurely individual.
  I hate your steps upon the stair,
  Your vacant voices on the air ...
  I hate your chatter overhead.
  And your jests that fall like lead
  Where only golden things were said
  By the men that are dead, the men that are dead."

It is not a mood of resignation or acquiescence, but of resolution,
hope and preparation to pay a debt and to take up, with hands
howsoever much enfeebled and reduced, the task left unfinished "by
the men that are dead." "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of
the church"; and, unless that seed bring forth a spirit of peace
abroad and of community at home, the blood will have been spilled
to no purpose. The survivors of this decimated generation have to
resist, to control or to convert the languid fatalists who would
drift helplessly and hopelessly into revolution or into another
war; they have to subdue and to convince the anarchist of Hyde
Park and of Park Lane, to drive "blood-sucker" from the lips of
the one and "Bolshevist" from the lips of the other, to mitigate
the credulity alike of those who find Russian gold in the pocket
of every opponent and of those who scent in all opposition a plot
for enslaving the proletariat. In a country that has endured,
bleeding but alive, after four years and three months of fighting,
there must be no talk of class-wars: and it must be realised that
the miscreant who bases political salvation on the lamp-posts of
Whitehall is own brother to the miscreant who would win economic
peace by shooting strike-leaders. If the war has not made of the
English, at least, a united people, the task lies ready to the hand
of those liberals who have survived it; if they lack a leader, it
is only for a moment.

One movement is ended. An _intermezzo_ is playing, perhaps is
already drawing to a close. Soon the new movement will begin.

      "This world has been harsh and strange;
  Something is wrong: there needeth a change.
  But what, or where? at the last or first?
  In one point only we sinned, at worst.
  The Lord will have mercy on Jacob yet,
  And again in his border see Israel set.
  When Judah beholds Jerusalem,
  The stranger-seed shall be joined to them.
  To Jacob's House shall the Gentiles cleave,
  So the Prophet saith and his sons believe.
  Ay, the children of the chosen race
  Shall carry and bring them to their place:
  In the land of the Lord shall lead the same,
  Bondsmen and handmaids...."

                             THE END


[1] Once when Charles II visited Westminster, Busby, the head
master, conducted him into school without uncovering: it would
never do, he explained, for the boys to think that there was any
one greater than himself. When the present king attended the
pancake greeze, Dr. Gow related this story; the king at once
commanded him to resume his cap.

[2] _Mon. Stat._, for _Monitor Stationis_.

[3] A contraction for "_Volsci_", the enemies of the "Romans",
_i.e._, the Westminsters of many generations ago.

[4] In such histories of intellectual development as I have
read, too little attention is paid to the dates at which certain
copyrights have expired and the other dates at which "popular
editions" have been issued. Cheap printing, often aided by this
new freedom to print, made available to the boys of my generation
a vast literature of history, biology, politics, economics and
theology. Darwin, Huxley, J. S. Mill and Carlyle were but a few of
those who lay at our disposal.

[5] Until Irish and English cease to put their trust in allegorical
caricatures, there can be no sympathetic understanding between
them. Mr. Max Beerbohm has written of the disillusion which he
sustained on finding that all bishops were not as Du Maurier had
drawn them for _Punch_; and it seems to be a natural failing
of the English to see themselves and others in the terms of a
Tenniel cartoon. Until the war, every German was blonde, fat, mild
and spectacled, with an equal love for sausages, beer, music,
metaphysics and a long, china-bowled pipe; the Frenchman, in
conical tall-hat, loose tie and peg-top trousers, was excitable
and gesticulatory, but polite and--after the _entente_ and
before the arrival of Carpentier--a man of whom much might be
made if he could be interested in field sports. The American,
thin, tall and chin-bearded, with fob-pockets and straps to his
trousers, was pregnantly deliberate in the artlessly blended
dialect of an East-Side saloon-keeper and a Middle-West farmer,
while the indolent but dogged John Bull was made the emblem of
stupid honesty, good sportsmanship and love of fair play; he was
represented as being charged, rather against his inclination, with
an imperial mission and as being endowed with a special skill in
administering an empire; he was credited with a marrow-deep love
of liberty and a genius for self-government. Even the war has done
little to disturb these complacent hallucinations.

[6] While this book was writing, I learned to my own regret and to
the abiding loss of the House, that Dr. Strong, an Old Westminster,
had been appointed to the bishopric of Ripon.

[7] From time to time the regular speakers went on strike. It was
then usual for one to propose the motion "That something be now
done" and to secure that it was not carried, thus holding up all
public business indefinitely. At Univ., I believe, it was customary
to open the proceedings of the "Shakespeare" with a resolution
"That the Bard be not read."

[8] In these years Ronald Knox, Patrick Shaw-Stewart and Charles
Lister occupied a place once filled by Raymond Asquith and, before
him, shared by John Simon, F. E. Smith, Hilaire Belloc and E. G.

[9] I am informed by my friend, Captain Stephen Holmes, M.C., to
whom I am indebted for many valuable suggestions, that the use
of the guest-table had to be suspended owing to the rush of new
members to the House in 1919.

[10] One man became so much obsessed by the universality of a
school in which all knowledge had a place, if he could but find it,
that he was discovered on the morning of his examination committing
to memory the statement of the _Morning Post_ that Lady X had left
Hill Street for Scotland; somehow, he felt, this had a bearing on
modern history; and I have no doubt that he used the information to
illustrate a point of manorial tenure or to differentiate between
the life of the new nobility and that described by Tacitus in the

[11] I write of 1906-9, before women were admitted to degrees or
accorded an academic position or costume.

[12] Once a year the Gilbert and Sullivan operas came to Oxford;
the booking opened a week in advance, and a queue stretched the
length of George Street and half-way down the Corn. For days
before and afterwards every piano in the college was tinkling
with "The Silver Church" or the "Peers' Chorus." And we, in 1909,
were privileged to entertain at luncheon Fred Billington, a great
comedian and the greatest of all Pooh Bahs; fifteen or twenty
of us, of the true Gilbert and Sullivan faith, shyly fed him
with roast turkey and plum pudding, and he too was a little shy,
suspecting some practical joke.

The visitor is sometimes surprised that the New Theatre contains
no boxes; the reason was supplied, in my day, by a famous living
actor, who explained that he and his friends had attended a
melodrama in the old theatre and had taken an uncontrollable
dislike for the villain's trousers. As Æschylus undertook to finish
any prologue of Euripides with the words "_ληκύθιον ἀπώλεσεν_," so
this undergraduate party qualified the villain's every boast and
confession with the words: "_Not_ in those trousers."

The dialogue ran roughly thus:

  _Villain._ I will carry the girl off and make her my wife----

  _Interrupters._                  _Not_ in those trousers.

  _Villain._ I will be revenged----

  _Interrupters._                  _Not_ in those trousers.

  _Villain._ I will stick at nothing----

  _Interrupters._                  _Not_ in those trousers.

As the curtain fell on the first act, the interrupters leapt from
their box on the stage and pursued the villain down the Corn and
the High until they captured him on Magdalen Bridge. They then
returned to the theatre with the offending trousers but without the

Jowett, as vice-chancellor, decreed that in the new theatre no
boxes should be built.

[13] The late Sir Edward Cook once did me the honour to quote the
words of one of my own characters: "I am tempted to wonder whether
it much matters what a man be taught, so long as he meet enough men
who have been taught something else." Therein lies the difference
between university education and all other kinds.

[14] It is hardly possible to think of Oxford in those years
without thinking of the second volume of _Sinister Street_ and
of the great picture in which Compton Mackenzie's observation,
memory and delicate realization of atmosphere were so triumphantly
blended. At the House we had, no doubt, a stereotyped conception
of the "typical" New College man; Balliol, no doubt, had its
conventional idea of the average St. John's man; it was left to
Compton Mackenzie to shew, from the angle of Magdalen, the reaction
of the Exeter "type" on the imagination of Univ. The book is
confined within the limits which Oxford of necessity imposes on
herself as the theme or background of a novel; Oxford is a phase
through which youth passes, a kingdom wherein it tarries, a hive
where it grows and works towards maturity; it is not generally a
scene of romance, of spiritual crisis or emotional clash; and,
because most novels on Oxford persist in forcing drama into the
least dramatic lives, they stand condemned as psychological
confusions. It is a kingdom of youth because youth is made
comfortably secure from the material conflicts of conventional
drama; and youth, however intensely interested in itself, does not
regard its spiritual conflicts seriously, it no longer agonizes
in doubt nor wrestles in prayer, and, if it fall in love, ecstacy
will disturb its digestion as little as despair will derange its
slumbers. And the novelist of Oxford who writes with perspective
and a sense of the appropriate must treat his material as youth
awakening but not yet awake and as youth snugly protected from

For this reason and under these limitations, all women, all men who
do not know Oxford and even the men who do will, in that order, be
prudently advised to leave Oxford alone; after _Sinister Street_,
with its analysis and atmosphere, its restraint and its consummate
handling of countless figures on a giant canvas, there is no room
for a book conceived on similar lines or scale; the novelist must
force upon Oxford something which Oxford disowns or he may turn
disgustedly away from a place where innumerable people talk and
think endlessly about something that does not matter to any one
else and where nothing ever happens.

[15] The House went head of the river in 1907 and remained there
for the rest of my time, an achievement to be periodically
celebrated with a triumphant bump-supper, fire-works and a bonfire
which once afforded to some an opportunity of venting their
displeasure on the Oxford Pageant stands.

[16] Mark Twain was the recipient of an honorary degree in these
years, and the welcome accorded him was characteristic. By an
unhappy coincidence certain news-bills had appeared with the words:
he was allowed to take his degree, an untiring undergraduate
chorus demanded to know: "Now, Mark, what did you do with the Gold
Cup?" His reply I never heard; it was probably adequate, though
occasionally he met his match in repartee. Once when he was staying
in England as a young man, the income-tax authorities sent him
an assessment form which he referred to Queen Victoria with the
statement that he had not the honour to be one of her subjects; she
must forgive his writing to her, because, though he did not know
her, he had once had the pleasure of meeting her son. "He," said
Mark Twain, "was driving in his coach of state to St. Paul's, and
I was on the top of a 'bus." Many years later, when he returned to
England in his glory, he was presented to King Edward who said that
he was glad to meet him again. "Again, sir?" echoed Mark Twain.
"Have you forgotten our first meeting?" asked the king. "I was in
my coach of state, driving to St. Paul's, and you were on the top
of a 'bus."

[17] Lord Wolmer, the late W. G. C. Gladstone and the late Francis
McLaren are the only exceptions that I recall in my own time.

[18] The phrase is borrowed from my friend, Walter Roch.

[19] The parliament which ultimately conceded the vote was
substantially the same that had refused it in 1913; its "mandate"
was still primarily for the parliament bill and the bills covered
by that; but the war changed, with other things, the responsibility
of a member to his constituents and the new franchise was granted
by men with no more authority to grant it than to abolish the
monarchy or to make marriage compulsory.

[20] The name applied to themselves by members of a party which
is Scottish in origin and which has, in the course of history,
repudiated its allegiance to the Catholic Church and the Stuart
dynasty and threatened to repudiate its allegiance to the
Hanoverian dynasty.

[21] These quotations are taken from Mr. Hugh Martin's _Ireland in

[22] This and the following quotations are taken from _The Complete
Grammar of Anarchy_ compiled by Mr. J. J. Horgan.

[23] But not Viscount Grey.

[24] Anatole France, in _Les Dieux ont soif_, which was written
several years before the war of 1914, gives a few specimens of the
portents and rumours which agitated Paris when the armies of the
allies were marching against the revolutionary government. They
were, almost without exception, reproduced in England in the first
month of the war.

[25] _W. G. C. Gladstone: A Memoir._ By Viscount Gladstone.

[26] I am told that a similar herd-hallucination overtook Paris in
the war of 1870. A rumour that the Crown Prince's army had been
surrounded and that the news was posted at the Hôtel de Ville
brought the inhabitants by thousands into the streets till those
who were pressed against the Hôtel de Ville and those who were
farthest away alike maintained that they had read the official

[27] Generosity and war seem incompatible!

  _Wellington._ It's Marshal Ney himself who heads the charge.
                  The finest cavalry commander, he,
                  That wears a foreign plume; ay, probably
                  The whole world through!

  _Spirit Ironic._ And when that matchless chief
                   Sentenced shall lie to ignominious death
                   But technically deserved, no finger he
                   Who speaks will lift to save him!

  _Spirit of the Pities._  To his shame.
                           We must discount war's generous impulses
                           I sadly see.

                                       THOMAS HARDY: _The Dynasts_.

[28] I remained at Westminster a year, judging that period to be as
long as I could support the daily risk of detection by pupils or
colleagues. Sometimes--now that it is all over--I blush to think
of the subjects that I essayed to teach; and sometimes I blush to
recall the lessons that I actually taught. Since leaving, I have
seen my year's work passed in more candid review than was possible
at the time and have been honoured with a place in the repertory of
imitations in which Westminsters love to indulge whenever two or
three are gathered together. If one or two of my least promising
pupils pay me the compliment of saying that I taught them at least
something, one or two of the most promising now ask me how it was
that I never discovered them cribbing in form or thrusting strange
gifts down the necks of their neighbours. Our warfare was waged
with good humour for the most part, though only a schoolmaster
knows how highly his sense of justice may be tested in dealing
with some one who is personally antagonistic to him. With many
I am proud to say that I made lasting friendships: during the
later years of the war I received letters from every front and
my old pupils came to see me when they were on leave; since the
war they write from Africa and America, I meet them in London and
Oxford, we abandon ourselves to school "shop", and they embarrass
me by occasionally addressing me as "sir". To my friends of the
Modern Transitus from Play Term, 1914, to Election Term, 1915,
to the Classical Transitus, the Modern Sixth, the Mathematical
Sixth, the History Sixth and the Seventh, wherever you may be, I
send greeting; my injustice was unintentional, my incompetence
incurable; I should be well pleased to think that your memories
of me are a hundredth part as kindly as my memories of you. For
perhaps the first three cautious days you were a little awed by me:
the cap and gown were imposing. I was taller than any of you, as an
Old Westminster I knew too much about detention school and penal
drill; above all, I also had lived in Arcady and had sat at those
very desks not ten years before; does it comfort you to know that
my awe of you continued for three terms? If ever the prayer-bell
had not rung before I shewed that I could not solve some diabolical
equation! If you had argued a little more confidently against my
magisterial rulings! If you could have seen into my mind during the
first week, when I took down your names, ranged you in alphabetical
order and guided myself despairingly by the two red-heads in the

[29] I believe that the Education Office section, appropriately
enough, threw into Latin elegiacs the general confession beginning:
"My beat extends from (the sentry-box) to (the gate on Constitution
Hill) and must be patrolled regularly ..."; I never saw a copy.

[30] When Lord Emmott, the Director of the War Trade Department,
invited me to serve under him in the summer of 1915, I intended to
come only for the school holidays; as, however, the work of the
blockade increased steadily, I asked Dr. Gow to release me for as
long as I might be wanted.

[31] As it had been in existence for five months before I entered
it, I can only describe its early history from hearsay.

[32] Six years before, on the first night of _The Blue Bird_, I
remember constructing from the name of Alexander Teixeira de Mattos
a mental picture of some one very tall, very thin, very dark and
saturnine, with a long amber cigarette-holder and a single eyeglass
depending from a broad black ribbon. I had not then seen Max
Beerbohm's caricature of him; and, at our first meeting, I murmured
to myself, as hundreds have done before and since: "Of course! The
old sheep in _Alice Through the Looking-Glass_." As hundreds have
done before and since, I surrendered to his charm; and there is no
friend to whom I owe more. For over three years we worked together,
many hours a day for six days a week; our minds and moods found
something always in common; in five years there cannot have been
many days on which we did not meet or telephone or write. In the
next five years may there be as few!

I am not alone in fashioning an imaginary figure to bear such
a name. I am told that a distinguished black-and-white artist,
meeting the name fortuitously, would walk pensively through the
streets of London thereafter, searching the faces of the passers-by
for one that would fit his ideal, Alexander-Teixeira-de-Mattos
conception. And, when they met, I wonder if the artist was as
much frightened as every newcomer to the department. On my second
morning I looked up suddenly into a white impassive face; eyes
unchanging in expression regarded me through the tortoise-shell
spectacles which bestrid the impressive nose; the mouth was
tightly-shut; neither word nor movement explained this paralysing
figure which had glided to my table like some wandering sphinx. "I
am not sure whether your minute intends to convey ..." he began
at length and to my indescribable relief. Fear departed with that
word, and we collaborated in redrawing the minute. Sometimes the
Teixeira panic spread to distant committees which only knew his
exquisite handwriting and his disabling knowledge of English; they
hastened to do his bidding and to avert his wrath; no chairman
likes to apologize twice for "the curiously pococurantist attitude
of your committee", few care even to have the apology accepted with
the words that consigned so many controversial files to oblivion:
"Pray say no more. A.T."

[33] Sir Ian Hamilton's _Gallipoli Diary_ is one of many military
documents that shew that civilian morale at home cracked before
the morale of the soldiers under fire. There was a fantastic
legend that the English were unvaryingly calm and resolute, with
a calmness and resolution that became calmer and more resolute
with every demand. Nothing is farther from the truth. There
was a panic when the Amiens despatch was published; and every
outburst of popular violence or madness had panic as its origin
and explanation. The spy-mania, the attack on Lord Haldane, the
conscription campaign, the hunt for aliens and, finally, the
Pemberton-Billing case were each in turn the result of a panic
caused by accumulated despondency or by the violent despair induced
by a sudden reverse. The east-end Jews who cowered in tube stations
during air-raids had their own means of shewing fear; but it was
not the only means.

[34] This is becoming a conventional aftermath of any war in
which the vanquished is so heavily defeated that he has to make a
superhuman effort to galvanize his country into new life. The same
alarms were spread by the Germans about the French in 1875.

[35] "It is said," writes Mr. Walter Roch in _Mr. Lloyd George and
the War_, "that as a result of this Conference ('the Constitutional
Conference which sat in secret between the two General Elections in
1910, and tried to reach a settlement of the constitutional issue,
by agreement'), in the course of which a wide range of topics must
have been discussed, Mr. Lloyd George then proposed, and committed
to writing, a scheme for a Coalition Government which would settle
the question of the House of Lords and Home Rule, adopt some form
of National Service, and finance the Navy by means of a loan. But
the details of this scheme are only vaguely known and add to our

I am not aware, however, that the allegation has ever been denied.

[36] I have ventured to enumerate, twice within a few pages,
the chief causes of despondency at the end of 1916: the same
thought-wave, given off from the same psychological effervescence,
convinced President Wilson and Mr. Lloyd George that the allies
were beaten to their knees; the one was inspired to throw the
resources of America into the struggle, the other to take personal
charge of the war.

[37] 1920.

[38] Sir Ian Malcolm was inspired by this memorandum to write
his "rhymed endeavour to convey the contents of a grave
'pronunciamento' on deportment: compiled (it is believed) by Lord
Eustace Percy and issued to the Members of the Mission before
landing in the New World." The poem appears among the "Mission
Hymns" in _Stuff--And Nonsense_. "CIRCULAR NOTES"

_To the Mission_

      In your hours of ease, I beg you
        Missionaries, one and all,
      Read, mark, learn, digest and pass on
        This concise Encyclical.
      You will find its interest chaining
        --Sometimes even entertaining.

      First of all you must remember
        That you go to U.S.A.,
      To a land of candid critics;
        So be careful what you say.
      I shan't mind the least if some
      People think you're deaf and dumb.

      If with questions you are pestered
        By the Press for news athirst,
      Do not risk replying till you've
        Wired home for instructions first.
      Heaven knows what might occur
      If you answered "on the spur."

      _E.G._: "Why bring re-made soldiers
        On your diplomatic stunt?"
      Should the ready lie elude you
        Give a non-committal grunt,
      Or remark with pungent wit
      "_Miles nascitur non fit_."

      (_Note: for General T. Bridges_--
        Please observe a strict disguise;
      Don't appear in medalled khaki
        Or regard their martial cries.
      If they cap you, don't salute;
      If they challenge you, don't shoot.)

      Should they ask if England's starving,
        You may answer, "Look at me,
      Do I seem emaciated
        Or in need of sympathy?"
      If you have the indigestion,
      Ask for notice of the question.

      Very possibly they'll ask you
        "What is happening in Greece?"
      "What about the Spring Offensive?"
        Or what day the war will cease.
      You should say, "I've no idea,"
      And manœuvre for the rear.

      There is just one other matter
        Which diplomacy dictates
      Should be handled with discretion
        In non-alcoholic States;
      'Twould be well received, I think,
      If the Mission didn't drink.

      That completes the list of topics
        I would have you bear in mind;
      To sum up: I urge my colleagues
        To be deaf and dumb--not "blind."
      Please observe punctiliously
      These injunctions.

 _s.s. Olympic._                              A. J. B.

[39] This was, of course, before the great explosion.

[40] It was, I believe, originally intended that no speeches should
be delivered; but, when M. Viviani felt that he ought to say a few
words on behalf of the French, Mr. Balfour could not do less than
speak on behalf of his own mission. There was no time to prepare a
formal oration, but the exquisite phrasing of his inscription was
at least not less impressive than any speech. The original sheet of
paper on which it was written has been, I understand, chemically
treated against fading or decay and preserved among the historical
records of the United States.

"M. Viviani," said Mr. Balfour, "has expressed in most eloquent
words the feelings which grip us all here to-day. He has not only
paid a fitting tribute to a great statesman, but he has brought
our thoughts most vividly down to the present. The thousands who
have given their lives, French, Russian, Italian, Belgian, Servian,
Montenegrin, Roumanian, Japanese and British, were fighting for
what they believed to be the cause of liberty.

"There is no place in the world where a speech for the cause of
liberty would be better placed than here at the tomb of Washington.
But as that work has been so adequately done by a master of
oratory, perhaps you will permit me to read a few words prepared by
the British mission for the wreath we are to leave here to-day:

"'Dedicated by the British mission to the immortal memory of George
Washington, soldier, statesman, patriot, who would have rejoiced to
see the country of which he was by birth a citizen and the country
which his genius called into existence fighting side by side to
save mankind from subjection to a military despotism.'"

[41] It is sad to record that the unwonted strain and exertion were
too much for the advanced age of Mr. Choate, who died the following
day; yet I doubt whether he could have chosen a happier moment for
death than that which saw the great ambition of his life realised
in the cordial friendship and whole-hearted cooperation of the
United States and Great Britain.

[42] Sir William Peterson, then Principal of M'Gill University.
While writing this book, I received by wireless, on my way to South
America, the sad news of his death.

[43] In fact, General Pershing crossed independently.

[44] Judge Amos, now Judicial Adviser in Cairo, endorses
the substantial truth of the report which circulated about
his chess-playing at this time. A tall man with a folding
pocket-chessboard and a coloured silk handkerchief containing an
incomplete set of chessmen might have been observed at almost any
hour of the day or night prowling the deck with a preoccupied air
and seeking to lure any one into playing with him. Those who knew
the moves promptly beat him; those who did not know the moves had
them lucidly explained--and then beat him as promptly. He had, I
believe, exhausted the 6,000 Canadian troops, the ship's company
and the other members of the mission before approaching that corner
of the smoking-room in which, according to the story, I was sitting
with an expression of imbecility calculated to suggest that I
could not play chess and would not learn. He persevered with his
explanation and after five minutes challenged me to a game. I hate
to record that he did not win it.

[45] The phrase is borrowed from Mr. Asquith.

[46] One of the last words, in a long list beginning with
"Armageddon," to hypnotize the newspaper-reader.

[47] One evening I entered Covent Garden after the curtain had
risen. "M. Kerenski?" enquired the sole occupant of the box,
peering at me through the gloom. "I beg your pardon! I see that he
landed in England this afternoon."

[48] At the risk of a prophecy I would suggest that Masefield's
_Gallipoli_ has a lasting place in the treasury of great English
prose, so long, at least, as our present canons of perfection in
prose-style are maintained.

[49] I am not limiting myself strictly to those war-books which had
been published by the date of the armistice.

[50] "Honestly, I do not care about the clever people," confessed
'Lady Maybury'. "I find them _borné_, self-centred, touchy, and
embarrassing. They have _no_ conversation, and they always ask me
if I was at Ranelagh last Saturday. Have you ever observed that?"

[51] At Oxford I first heard the couplet which tells how

  "From out their different tubs
  Stubbs butters Freeman,
  Freeman butters Stubbs,"

it was quoted by one member of a prolific triumvirate which then
filled a considerable proportion of the critical journals. In those
days it was hardly possible to read an article by A which did not
contain a panegyric of B's latest book; it was no less difficult to
read B's book without meeting a reference to what had been "most
justly observed by C."

[52] The volume of hostile reviews, surely too great to be
spontaneous and independent, which greeted _The Autobiography of
Margot Asquith_, was only less remarkable than the success which
the book achieved in spite of them.

[53] It will not have been forgotten that, in 1920, a cinematograph
actress received a welcome to London which may have been equalled
by crowned heads, but has, I should think, never been surpassed.
Wherever she went, the streets were thronged; in its desire to see
her, the crowd at a theatrical garden party nearly crushed her to
death. Would Madame Curie, I wonder, have secured a single cheer?
Would Miss Nightingale have been recognised?

[54] The temptation to make class-lists is almost irresistible: I
have been taken to task for saying in an introduction to Couperus'
_Old People and the Things That Pass_ that it was one of the
world's half-dozen greatest novels; but the temptation should be
resisted, for the proof of our fallibility is ever before our eyes.

[55] On the first night of _L'Heure espagnole_ a devil entered into
one member of the audience and tempted him to murmur at any open
door: "Is this not extraordinarily reminiscent of Aïda?" Complete
and immediate agreement was his reward.

[56] _Naturam expellas furca, tamen usque recurret._ It is natural
for Balliol to gravitate to the cabinet; and distinction was lent
to the business government by the presence of Lord Curzon.

[57]                      _Memorandum_

             CONFERENCE AT DOULLENS, MARCH 26TH, 1918.

The Prime Minister having asked me to run over to France in order
to report to the Cabinet personally on the position of affairs
there, I left Charing Cross at 12.50 on Sunday, March 24th....

On arrival at Doullens I was at once seized by Clemenceau, who
startled me by the announcement that Haig had just declared that
he would be obliged to uncover Amiens and fall back on the Channel
ports. I told him I felt sure there must be some misunderstanding
about this, and that before the general Conference I thought it
was desirable that I should have a short conversation with the
Field-Marshal and the Army Commanders, whom I had not yet seen....

The views of the British Commanders having thus been cleared
up, the Conference assembled.... I asked whether I might have
a word with Clemenceau alone. I then told him quite frankly of
the conviction which had been growing in my mind ever since the
previous day, and had been confirmed by my conversations with
Wilson and Haig, that Foch appeared to me to be the man who had
the greatest grasp of the situation, and was most likely to deal
with it with the intensest energy. Could not he be placed by both
the Governments in a position of general control, and given the
sort of authority which he (Foch) had himself suggested to Wilson?
Clemenceau, whose own mind, I am sure, had been steadily moving in
the same direction, at once agreed, but he asked for a few minutes
to speak to Pétain. While he took Pétain aside, I did the same
with Haig. While I explained to the latter what was contemplated,
he seemed not only quite willing, but really pleased. Meanwhile,
Clemenceau had spoken to Pétain, and immediately wrote and handed
me the following form of words, to embody what he and I had just
agreed to:

_Le général Foch est chargé par les gouvernements britanniques
et français de coordonner l'action des armées britanniques et
françaises sur le front ouest. Il s'entendra à cet effet avec les
deux généraux en chef, qui sont invités à lui fournir tous les
renseignements nécessaires._

I showed this to Haig, who readily accepted it, but suggested that
it should be extended to cover the other armies--Belgian, American
and possibly Italian--that might be employed on the present
Franco-British front. To this Clemenceau at once agreed. We then
all went back to the table. The amended formula, which ran as

_Le général Foch est chargé par les gouvernements britanniques et
français de coordonner l'action des armées alliées sur le front
ouest. Il s'entendra à cet effet avec les généraux en chef, qui
sont invités à lui fournir tous les renseignements nécessaires._

  _le 26 mars, 1918_.

was read out, and after a very short discussion, which amounted
to nothing more than cordial approval of the principle by all the
speakers, the document was signed by Clemenceau and myself, and
the Conference immediately rose with every appearance of general

This quotation is taken from the special supplement to _The New
Statesman_ of 23 April, 1921.

                        TRANSCRIBER'S NOTE

-Plain print and punctuation errors fixed.

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