MY “LITTLE BIT”
AUTHOR OF “THE YOUNG DIANA,” “THE LIFE EVERLASTING,”
“INNOCENT,” “ROMANCE OF TWO WORLDS,”
GEORGE H. DORAN COMPANY
By George H. Doran Company
Printed in the United States of America
A. R. M. L.
AND HIS FELLOW-MEMBERS
OF THE CARLTON CLUB
The articles in this book, with the exception of the first two, were all written during the war at the request of the various editors by whose courtesy they are now reproduced in volume form. Most of them, notably those which appeared in the Pall Mall Gazette, were, by my own desire, gratuitous, though payment for them was offered. But, being unable to handle sword or gun, I was glad to offer the free service of my pen whenever such service was desired, or considered useful, just as I would have been glad, had I been a man, to fight voluntarily for Great Britain, without any thought of other recompense than that of the personal pride and joy such action would have given me. The first two articles: “Savage Glory” and “The Great Unrest,” were published some considerable time before the outbreak of war, and while the editor of Nash’s Magazine was generous to a fault in his praise of “Savage Glory” he was so doubtful as to the accuracy of the indictment conveyed in “The Great Unrest” that he felt himself compelled to preface it by a note, stating that he, or rather “we,” could not be held responsible for any agreement with or endorsement of the author’s ideas. Readers can now judge for themselves whether those ideas were fairly prophetic or otherwise. Naturally, no heed was paid to them, except by a huge silent public, the press apparently making it a rule not to notice in any one paperviii what their rivals print in others, unless it happens to be by one of their own special clique, or the utterance of a Cabinet Minister, which they generally misquote. But, such as they are, these various contributions to English and American sections of journalism indicate the straight and loyal road my pen has travelled during the wickedest and stupidest war that ever devastated the world. The stupidity of it was even more glaring than the wickedness of it—especially in the case of Germany. Germany was an advancing and prosperous nation, chiefly through the industrial progress of her hard-working people, and her “peaceful penetration” was conquering every quarter of commerce. She has, for the time being, ruined everything by a blind faith in and following of her scoundrels of finance, for whom the Krupp and other dividends were not sufficiently high or secure; the work of years has now been destroyed and every gain has to be discounted as loss, though there is not the slightest doubt that her cleverness and cunning will enable her to mend the hole in her wall far more rapidly than our dilly-dally statesmen imagine. For the immediate time, her degradation and ruin involve more than her own position; other nations, even our own, are deeply affected, and, like ships in unsafe anchorage, sway from their moorings—all are tormented by a spirit of turbulence which will not let them rest, and men with weak brains and vacillating purpose are playing with the destinies of peoples in a wholly unforseeing and nerveless way, heedless of the fact that there are other more powerful players behind them who are about to make an end of their game and push them far away from the goal. In what I have written,ix however slight and inadequate, I have had but one aim in view: to hold up to the public as far as I can or may, the greatness of this beloved land of ours—its splendid ancient history and tradition, and to resent, as much as a mere pen can do, the disloyal and agitating influences which seek to disrupt unity and belittle the achievements of the noble British people. Of the wicked waste of that people’s money by the most obtuse Government methods, and the iniquitous premium on idleness foolishly given in the “Unemployment dole,” I could say much, notwithstanding that I am told it is “a sop to check Bolshevism.” One does not offer a sop to a mad bull—one kills it. And it is not credible that the sane, sound men of Great Britain, with an Empire of glorious renown at their backs, will ally themselves with Red Riot which means ruin to themselves as well as to its instigators. True it is that Stupidity is the present order of the day among our blind leaders of the blind—that very Stupidity which Voltaire affirmed to be the only crime—and there is little else for us to do in our extremity but “wait and see” whether Stupidity will prove more than a blundering guide to “where the rainbow ends.”
MY “LITTLE BIT”
Lift up thine eyes, Queen Warrior of the world!
Stand, fearless-footed, on Time’s shifting verge
And watch thine everlasting Dawn emerge
From clouds that break and boom in thunderous War!
Lo, how thy broad East reddens to thy West,
The while thy thousand-victoried flag, unfurl’d,
Waves to thy North and South, in one royal fold
Of tent-like shelter for an Empire’s rest;
O Queen, sword-girded, helmeted in gold,
Strong Conqueror of all thy many foes,
Look from thy rocky heights, and see afar
The coming Future menacing the Past
With clamour and wild change of present things,
Kingdoms down-shaken with the fall of kings;
But fear not Thou! Thou’rt still the first and last
Imperial wearer of the deathless Rose—
Crown’d with the sunlight, girdled with the sea,
Mother of mightiest nations yet to be!
AN APPEAL AGAINST WAR
(This article was written for “Nash’s Magazine” in February, 1913, without any other than instinctive premonition of the coming Great War.)
Editorial Note.—Marie Corelli’s remarkable article should be read by every man and woman at all mindful of the welfare of their fellow-sojourners on this little swinging ball of ours, which we call the earth. This contribution is far and away one of the most brilliant pieces of writing Miss Corelli has ever achieved; it is thought-compelling and in the larger sense inspirational; it is wellnigh epoch-making in its new view, its virile logic, its sane and forceful plea for the peace of the world—peace on a basis of common sense, broad humanity, and the honour of nations.
Civilisation is a great Word. It reads well—it is used everywhere—it bears itself proudly in the language. It is a big mouthful of arrogance and self-sufficiency. The very sound of it flatters our vanity and testifies to the good opinion we have of ourselves. We boast of “Civilisation” as if we were really civilised—just as we talk of “Christianity” as if we were really Christians. Yet it is all the veriest game of make-believe, for we are mere Savages still. Savages in “the lust of the eye and pride of life”—savages in our national prejudices and animosities, our jealousies, our greed and malice, and savages in our relentless efforts to over-reach or pull down each other in social and business relations. If any confirmation of such a statement be17 needed it is found in the fact that War is still permitted to exist. War is unquestionably the thrust and blow of untamed Savagery in the face of Civilisation. No special pleading can make it anything else. We may if we like call it “Patriotism” in our perpetual life-comedy or tragedy of feigning, but in sane moments we must surely realise that we are wilfully deceiving ourselves. Patriotism is understood to be that virtue which consists in serving one’s country; but in what way is this “Patria” or country served by slaying its able-bodied men in thousands?—the very men whose peaceful and progressive toil makes the country worth living in? Can any adequate answer be given to this question? Is “Honour” justly due to the heads of Government who, themselves safely out of the fray, send such men like sheep to the shambles—men innocent of all personal or national offence, but who in their fine obedience to duty and the preconceived idea of conquest which has its root in old barbaric periods, consent to be shot down under the murderous fire of unseen guns miles away, simply because their rulers have so ordained it? Is it “civilised” to spread ruin and devastation through the land?—to leave homes desolate?—and to create a wretched surplus population of widows and orphans for no other reason than that one nation refuses to comply with what is demanded of it by the other? Is it not possible to deal with even a difficult and refractory subject of quarrel in the way of reason and argument, brought to bear upon it by the soberly judging powers of all nations? And if reason and argument should fail, then, instead of consigning troops of blameless men to the scientific but cruelly treacherous methods of modern warfare,18 would it not be more normal and humane simply to—Stop Supplies?
Here we touch a vital centre of the question. No nation can go to war without Money. In most cases a very great deal of this same money is required. Who provides it? The nation itself? One may doubt whether any nation could raise sufficient funds to carry on a serious war for any length of time without borrowing. Supposing this to be the case, what financial force behind the scenes so obligingly lends the cash for the purpose of carrying out schemes of wholesale murder? Wherever such cash is obtained we know it must be weighted with an exorbitant rate of interest, so that the price of human blood fills the pockets of the lenders with a certain guaranteed overflow. To stop War, therefore, it should be made impossible to borrow the sums required for warfare; and any loan started with the object of War in view, whether suggested or avowed, should be considered by a National Agreement of United Powers illegal and even criminal, as conspiring against the peace and progress of the world. If, by what is called diplomacy or political subterfuge, this law were cheated, and vast sums were loaned ostensibly for other purposes than War, and it could afterwards be proved that War had nevertheless been, secretly and all along, the actual purpose of such loans, then the lenders should be compelled to forfeit all claims to repayment. For talk fine sentiment and pious platitudes as we will, the brutal truth is that no war can be carried on without money—money fully guaranteed—and if we would strike at the root of the evil, then these guaranteed supplies must be cut off.
A well-known journalist who, through his birth and family connections, may be presumed to have more than common knowledge of the various financial games of chess played by the “Chancelleries” of Europe, is responsible for the statement that “War is popular.” This is one of those brisk surface sayings that shine with apparent candour, like the sparkle of light in the ice on a puddle, but which have no more depth than the puddle itself. War is temporarily “popular”—so long as it is confined to its own pomp and panoply—its martial music, its flying banners, its glittering array of armed men—its marching and countermarching—its sensation and “show,” in fact—sensation and show which appeal to the multitude who are not brought face to face with the disease and death of its darker side. The elemental passions of a mob can be roused as easily by the “savage” beating of a tom-tom as by the “civilised” roll of the drum, or by the fussy cackling of an excitable Hen-Press. That Hen nowadays is always laying eggs of a curiously abnormal nature, in fact so surprising is its daily product that the maternal bird is for ever getting off the nest to look at results, with an evident expectation that mere chicks may turn out to be swans, though, as a rule, they are generally geese. To judge from the incessant cackle and scream, one would imagine them responsible for European opinion, and occupied in raising “nation against nation,” with “men’s hearts failing them for fear,” in startling confirmation of the New Testament prophecy, and some of us are disposed to ask: Why are sinister and disturbing suggestions constantly thrown out by the Press as baits to catch the always restless, dissatisfied and uneasy minds of the populace? Is Finance the fisher20man behind the tree, angling with a long line and a devil’s hook at the end of it? No one with a grain of common sense would call it Patriotism! Our men of science, our pathologists and physicians have of late years been studying to some purpose the mysterious power of “Suggestion”—and if we have sufficient intelligence to understand the discovered facts which have rewarded their researches we shall acknowledge that ideas, started and persistently fostered in the minds of the million by constant reiteration, frequently develop into actions. With how much care and earnestness therefore should we see to it that the suggestions impressed on the brains of Nations are sane, pure and noble, moving all progress forward, with that firm gentleness which is the truest strength, into the ways of wisdom and of peace!
As “civilised” peoples we continue to exhibit the strangest barbaric inconsistency in our manners and methods of justice. If one man or woman is murdered in our midst our laws are set into instant operation to find the murderer, and if the crime is brought home to him he is sentenced to death. But in War thousands are murdered at the mere signal of “brave” commanders, and instead of the wrath and horror aroused by the slaying of a single life, an uproar of jubilation and triumph breaks out over the poor festering corpses that strew the field of so-called “glorious victory.” The “civilised” State protests against the murder of one individual, but looks upon the ghastly holocaust of slaughtered lives in battle as something almost noble and inspiring! Is this reasonable? Is it reconcilable with sane judgment? Is it any proof that our “Education” is of real worth?—or does it not21 rather testify to the amazing fact that in our greed of possession, our thirst of conquest, and our curious conceptions of religion and humanity, we have progressed scarcely a step ahead of our “barbarian” ancestors and their “savage” customs!
“Alas, for men that they should be so blind!
That they should laud the scourges of their kind—
Call each man glorious who has led a host
And him most glorious who has murdered most!”
It is said by certain special pleaders that War is a Necessity. We are referred for verification of this to the world of nature, where it would certainly seem that various tribes of animals and insects do make war upon each other. These wars, however, occur much more frequently among the low grades of nature-life than the high. One may doubt whether eagles as a tribe make war upon eagles, lions upon lions, and so forth. That every animal should fight or work individually for food is the natural law—the spirit of prey is one from which Man himself is never exempt. But has any one ever heard of several thousand lions or bears taking up a stand against each other and slaying each other wholesale for a disputed portion of territory? Ants and emmets make continual war among themselves, but “Civilisation” is supposed to have set Man a trifle higher than the ant or emmet; he is even believed to be superior in mental capacity to the eagle or the lion. He is accredited with fine faculties of reason, and is more or less conscious of22 high spiritual impulses—and in Christian countries he professes a humane creed, and assumes to teach the ethics of a divine moral code. During the far-off periods of his evolution from embryonic animalism towards the higher potentialities of his being, he was doubtless forced to fight his way against such opposing obstacles as threatened to stay or overwhelm him in his progress, but now—now when he stands, or thinks he stands, on a height of intellectual power and attainment which enables him to discard old barbarisms, surely it would be possible for him to control the lurking remains of his original savagery! War may be, as the before-quoted journalist declares, “popular,” but it might be as well, considering the ruin and misery which follow in its train, to inquire into the inward working of its asserted “popularity,” apart from its deceptive outward display.
First then, as already hinted, there are floaters of a War Loan. With them it is undoubtedly “popular,” for it opens several channels for the rapid making of money. Roughly speaking, most of the money advanced at interest for all important purposes comes from the Jews. All nations are more or less under the thumb of Israel, disguise it as we will, or may. No great scheme, either in peace or war, can be started without Jewish gold and Jewish support. The Jews are the cleverest commercial people on the globe; they are also charitable and benevolent to a degree that often shames Christianity. They could, as a race, do much to stop War in its very beginnings if they once unanimously and resolutely decided on such a course of action. But it is not likely that they will ever pronounce their “veto”; the idea would be too23 Utopian and unbusinesslike. Therefore, as things exist, it is scarcely unkind to say, that with their race all over the world War is “popular.” Its commencement, progress, and continuance are in their hands. And they will, from a purely commercial point of view, continue to lend cash for the furtherance and encouragement of National Savagery, so long as National Savagery exists, and is willing to borrow money at a high rate of interest. For with them the God of Israel is still a God of Battles.
Secondly, War is “popular” with the Press. Unctuous newspaper articles lamenting the “horror” of War, and disclaiming all responsibility for fermenting and agitating the motives of quarrel, are only so much meaningless “copy.” Useful “copy,” too, because it conveys to the ingenuous and child-like mind of the man in the street that the intelligent editors and journalists who “manage” his news for him are really peace-loving, unselfish folk, and pious withal. Whereas the very suggestion of War is a paying “sensation” for press-men; it gives plenty of opening for big “headlines” and attractive “posters,” which help to sell their penny or halfpenny sheets to the best advantage. Whatever rumour is abroad, whatever whisper of a “conference of the Powers” flies on the wind, the Press makes more than the most of both rumour and whisper—and if it can only work up a national “Scare” it is as happy as a monkey with a banana. Such a Press as that of America and Great Britain could not exist without “sensation.” Even in “piping times of peace” it resorts to the most ludicrous methods of producing mild excitements, such as “Sweet Pea” or “Giant Carnation” or “Photographic” competitions, or a24 “Symposium” as to whether milk or fish diet is best for the brain. A murder is life to it!—while the useful, brilliant, beautiful or noble work done in Art or Literature gets scarcely a helpful mention. How often we see great space given to the description of a public dancer!—her jewels, her dresses, her opinions!—while a fine poem or picture is dismissed in a flippant paragraph. The reason of this is obvious: it is that many of the persons who assist in the work of daily journalism are only educated up to the public dancer standard—the poem or the picture is lost on the limited area of their abilities. And it may really be said again without either prejudice or unkindness that so far as the press is concerned War is “popular,” because it provides just that particular “sensation” which in its turn commands sales. Therefore if press-men, directly or indirectly, do foster national bitterness or help to stir up strife, we must remember that they are only serving their own interests, and that blame is chiefly due to ourselves if we give credence to their often exaggerated statements. Bismarck is reported to have said on one occasion, “The windows which our Press breaks we shall have to pay for!” This is true enough. Indeed, it is just possible that if there were no Press at all for a few years many dissensions would die out, and many unfortunate happenings would never happen!
But setting aside the two chief forces behind the scenes, Usury and the Press, with all other commercially concerned parties in the quarrels of nations, who can or who dare say that War is “popular”? Let wives and children answer! Let us try to understand what we ourselves mean by our conflicting theories25 and arguments—we who make such ado about a “declining birth-rate,” and fall into hysterical raptures over a family of “soldier sons”! Let us realise clearly that the slaughter of able-bodied men materially assists towards the “declining birth-rate,” and that where there are “soldier sons” they have been brought into the world apparently for no other reason than to be mangled out of it! This is War! Glorious War! Is it sane? Is it truly “glorious” to shoot down thousands of human beings who have committed no fault of their own, but are simply commanded by their Governments to serve as marks for the bullets of an enemy who might never have been an enemy at all but for mischief arising out of idle and often erroneous report, based on what is perhaps only a temporary and trivial misunderstanding? The best of friends are sometimes parted by the stupid gossip of stupid persons who, envious of happiness and grudging it to those who possess it, never rest till something has been done to undermine and destroy it. In the same way nations are set against each other by some persistently irritating and ill-founded rumour—some difference of opinion, which, if taken in hand reasonably and at once, could be satisfactorily settled, provided there be not too much talk, “red tape,” and officialism employed for the purpose of creating general vacillation and muddle. The conventional “ifs” and “buts” exchanged among the Powers may be looked upon with considerable doubt and foreboding under certain circumstances—an overflow of fine words not unfrequently means an outbreak of treacherous deeds.
Unhappily, and in flat contradiction to that “hu26mane” spirit, which we so frequently profess, treachery strikes the dominant note in modern warfare, and this is one of the chief reasons why War should no longer be permitted. The new long-range quick-firing gun is as dastardly as it is powerful, for surely to shoot down men miles away who cannot see their enemies is as reprehensible and cowardly as to stab a man in the back unawares. Another instrument of treachery is the submarine—a truly devilish invention devised for the avowed object of destroying war-vessels by murderous action from the hidden depths of the sea. No one ever seems to pause and consider what an amount of fiendish cunning in the mind of man has evolved the construction of this deadly engine of warfare—still less does the question ever appear to suggest itself as to whether such a perfidious way of compassing slaughter is humane (we will not shame the word “Christian”) or truly “civilised.” If we refer back to what we are pleased to call the “dark ages” or ages of barbarism, we read much concerning “instruments of torture,” such as the rack, the thumb-screw, and other inventions brutally designed by man to injure his fellow-man, but these things for the most part avowed their murderous intention in open daylight—the doomed creatures knew what they had to expect and prepared to die accordingly. But modern science has sharpened our wits to a more merciless edge—we are cunning enough to hide ourselves and our instruments of death from our intended victims after the fashion of assassins lurking in ambush—therefore by the very law of compensation it is scarcely to be wondered at that we are sometimes “hoist with our own petard,” of which the many appalling sub27marine fatalities are proof and warning. And now, not satisfied with attack from the secret depths of the ocean, Zeppelins and aeroplanes shower bombs upon open towns and innocent civilians, so that even the hitherto neutral skies will be made spaces of vantage for pitiless assault. All these “civilised” inventions for the practice of barbarity ought to give so-called “Christian” empires food for serious thought—yet, strange to say, it would seem that every new and more murderous weapon for warfare is hailed with columns of praise in the press, and such general acclamation as may truly be called “savage”—as no “civilised” community educated according to all that we boast of in our advanced state of progress, could or would rejoice over the construction of mere killing-machines for the slaughter of their fellow-creatures! Therefore, it may be asked: Are we truly “civilised” or is it all a Sham? Are we really humane?—or as bloodthirsty as when, in our aboriginal savagery, we cracked the skulls of our enemies open with flint axes?
The continued existence of War is, in the face of all faith and feeling, a shame to the world! So long as nations are slaves to the barbarous idea that Blood and Carnage alone can keep them in their places as authoritative forces for the higher progress and welfare of Humanity, so long will Civilisation be more or less a farce. No one denies the self-sacrifice, the endurance, the patience, and the courage which makes men military heroes—the pity of it all is that such splendid qualities of character should be wasted on the mere consummation of slaughter and conquest. What good to the world has ever come out of Napoleon’s many massacres? Looking down upon the sarcophagus con28taining that Imperial Murderer’s ashes in the gorgeous tomb consecrated to his memory in Paris, one wonders sadly why he was ever permitted to live. We may with the great poet Byron say:—
“To think that God’s fair earth hath been
The footstool of a thing so mean!”
If War is still to confirm us and other nations as Savages, we must behave accordingly. We must train our men and youths to kill, and to use the newest and surest weapons for killing. When we are offered Dreadnoughts, we accept them with salvos of rejoicing and thanksgiving. Yet without War these Dreadnoughts will, in ten years’ time from the date of their completion, be useless, and the millions they cost will be sunk into waste material. Must we have continuous War, then?—just for the sake of employing Dreadnoughts—and proving to our own satisfaction that we can slaughter as many innocent thousands as other Savages if we like? Why should any cause arise for the visitation of such a scourge upon us or any nation! If we have foes who show a threatening front we are naturally bound to be on the defensive—and we should be prepared to guard our kingdom and coast from Savages more savage than ourselves. But when we can get rid of our Savagery we shall lay down our arms. We shall realise that Civilisation means Unity; Unity in all high purpose and progress towards the betterment of mankind.
“Sheathed be the sword for ever—let the drum
Be schoolboy’s pastime—let your battles cease!
And be the cannon’s voice for ever dumb
Except to celebrate the joys of Peace!
Are ye not brothers?—God, whom we revere,
Is he not Father of all climes and lands?
Form an Alliance holy and sincere
And join your hands!”
Surely it is not too much to hope for this—to pray for this!—if our Faith means anything more than mere lip-service and false show!
THE PRAYER OF THE ALLIES
(Written for “King Albert’s Book”)
“What shall we do for our Sister in the day when she shall be spoken of?
If she be a wall, we will build upon her a palace of silver.”
Song of Solomon.
Maker of Heaven and Earth,
Thou, who hast given birth
To moving millions of pre-destined spheres,
Thou, whose resistless might
Resolves the Wrong to Right
Missing no moment of the measured years—
Behold, we come to Thee!
We lift our swords, unsheath’d, towards Thy throne—
Look down on us, and see
Our Sister-Nation, ruined and undone!
Martyred for nobleness, for truth and trust;
Help us, O God, to raise her from the dust!
Be Thou our witness, Lord!
We swear with one accord
Swift retribution on her treacherous foe!
Her bitter wrong is ours
And heaven’s full-armèd powers
Shall hurl her murderer to his overthrow!
Upon her broken wall
A silver palace of sweet peace shall rise
At that high Festival
When Victory’s signal flashes through the skies—
But—until then!—welcome the fiercest fray!
We fight for Freedom! God, give us “The Day”!
THE GREAT UNREST
(This article was written for “Nash’s Magazine” two years before the War, and was on its appearance prefaced by the following Editor’s Note.)
Editor’s Note.—While “Nash’s Magazine” cheerfully presents the following very radical and profoundly interesting article from the brilliant pen of Miss Marie Corelli, this Magazine should not in any sense be held accountable for either the Author’s views or her expression of them.
“Ye hypocrites! Ye can discern the face of the sky and of the earth, but how is it that ye do not discern this time?”
Such was the question put to the people by the Founder of the Christian Faith two thousand years ago—a question not yet answered. Lack of discernment is still as much as ever one of humanity’s chief attributes, or is it perhaps less a lack of discernment than an unwillingness to discern? “Ye hypocrites!” said the Christ. Is it not, after all, sheer hypocrisy which, in the form of social convention, does so obsess Man that, though conscious of approaching storm, he prefers to bury his head, ostrich-like, in a sand-heap of his own delusions in order that he may be as blind and as deaf as possible to the lurid glare and wild uproar of coming disaster? He instinctively knows disaster is imminent—even at his very doors—and that it will presently swoop relentlessly down upon him, perhaps tossing him with other fragments of32 creation into a chaos from which he shall scarcely emerge with a sound skin; yet knowing, he pretends not to know, and plays the fool with himself and destiny!
To-day, now, at this very moment, all over the civilised world, this terrible game of “playing the fool” is going on with reckless speed and continuity. I use the word “terrible” advisedly, for nothing more pregnant with all the elements of positive terror was ever seen than the present-time spectacle of Human Humbug set face to face with that Eternal Equity which has existed always, and which ever will exist without any change in its Divine Source, Cause and Intention. Man, endowed with splendid gifts of reason, imagination and psychic power, is everywhere gambling away his highest birthright for gold; Man, whom the celestial forces have led step by step through carefully measured gradations of intellectual evolution till he has arrived at the open gateways of Science, there to behold the infinitely marvellous benefits he may possess and enjoy, still insults the Giver of all his good by his fumbling forms of faith and worship suited only to barbaric minds in a state of embryo—Man, semi-apathetic and in many cases wholly indifferent to the higher roads of progress and to the steady unfolding of that endless perspective of order and beauty intended for the individual happiness of every individual soul, still makes wilful havoc of his own carefully organised civilisations, like a child who builds a house of cards and blows it down with a breath—and this because his civilisations are mostly of a flimsy structure, having no foundation on any fundamental Law which Nature can or will tolerate for more than33 a very brief time. All history teaches this with stern and pitiless repetition; and the signs and portents which gave warning of the downfall of the Roman Empire were of precisely the same character as the signs and portents which warn us of similar downfalls impending for great nations to-day. The scheme of Creation is plainly meant to be a perpetual movement towards perpetual advancement—this truth is clearly demonstrated in all natural evolution, and Man is perforce compelled, despite himself, to move with the onward and upward process—but he invariably “hangs back” and tries to put a stop on the wheel, with the result that he is himself crushed and ground to powder in the wheel’s relentless revolving. He makes religions, laws and morals for himself which have no prototype in the order of Nature, and he thereby stands rebelliously opposed to the Supreme Intelligence, whose design of life being exact mathematics, swerves not by so much as the shadow of a hair.
Hence arises, and always will arise, trouble. Trouble and unrest! The sum of things never comes right, add it up, subtract, or multiply as we will. We persist in our childish efforts to fit in figures which have no place or part in the Divine quantities. Now and then in some sudden flash of higher consciousness, we see the folly of our actions—but seeing, we pretend to be blind. Some of us devote ourselves to a study of the sciences, and we peep through a hundred loop-holes into a vista of shining truths, any one of which would help us to draw closer to God—yet presently we turn away and talk of predestination and original sin, and feign to believe in a Deity whose rage against34 His own Creation is so insensate and barbaric as only to be pacified by Blood! Blood—blood! The cry of the vengeful, the murderous, the cruel, the tyrannous in all ages of the world!—yet we do not hesitate to insult the Creator of the whole Cosmos by endowing Him with this animal and un-God-like craving! He, who holds the starry heavens in the hollow of His Hand—from whose expressed Thought solar systems are born like blossoms in the fields of ether—He, whose vast love broods tenderly over all that He hath made, even to the nesting bird hidden under a bunch of green leaves—“not one shall fall to the ground without your Father”—even He it is whom daily we wrong and blaspheme by our social methods of life and forms of worship, by our deliberate opposition to His Laws, and by the amazingly insolent indifference we exhibit to His inviolate Will as shown through the reflection of His Mind in visible Nature.
And so it happens that, after a certain space of time in which we are offered fresh chances of amendment or betterment which we seldom take, things begin to go wrong. We know not how or where the mischief first started, because it has stolen upon us by gradual and insidious degrees, and we never dream of looking for the root of the evil in ourselves or in our ancestry. But we do become slowly and reluctantly aware that we are not on the right track—that “something” is about to happen which will upset all our most cherished plans and push us off our present road of what we are pleased to call “progress” in a sufficiently disastrous manner. We have no time to retrace our steps and look for the way we have missed, for we find that we are running down hill with a singular self-imposed35 velocity which would make any sort of a stop almost impossible—while to go back would mean to climb a very steep and difficult ascent, an exercise for which we are neither prepared nor willing. We have no idea how we managed the muddle in which we find ourselves, but muddle it is and muddle it remains.
And then we enter upon the doubtful period—the kind of period in which the whole world is living to-day—a period of vague uneasiness, restlessness, and feverish suspense, looking for we know not what, dissatisfied with things as they are, yet unable to decide how they ought to be. Then is the hour of the brazen-mouthed religious ranter and the political demagogue. The nations of the earth are disquieted mentally and spiritually—the pulpit braggart assumes to teach them, and the upstart in politics offers to reform them. And like the waves of the sea before a storm breaks, the people surge to and fro in billowy masses, with here and there a gleam of hope among them like light on spraying foam, but for the most part moving in darkness and deep unrest. For the time is past when the balm of old tradition can be applied as a soothing salve to the spiritual wounds of humanity. Men do not want to be soothed, but roused—fired to noblest energy, greatest aims and splendid achievement—and they need to feel that their efforts to reach the Highest are worth the making, and that the fight which they enter upon means victory in the end.
This, most unfortunately, is not made plain to them by either the faiths or followings of modern society. The Churches have in a great measure lost their hold upon the people, and the consolidation of family life is a thing of the past. When England was truly great,36 the love of home and country was the chief foundation of her greatness, as it should be with all nations seeking to hold high place and power—but in our present modes of living, both in England and America, “home” is voted hum-drum and a bore—sons and daughters openly profess the gad-about principle of what they term “pleasure,” and are more or less indifferent to the interests or convenience of their parents, showing no more reverence or consideration for them than is necessary to obtain financial “supplies.” They snap the chain that should bind them to filial tenderness and duty, and follow their own particular forms of enjoyment with a cool selfishness which can but astonish any thoughtful beholder—yet even this reprehensible attitude of the rising generation is but a phase of the general “Unrest” pervading all classes and all ages—the vague sense that nothing is going to last very long—that some dire mischief threatens the world—and that one must try to enjoy oneself while one can, because there is no time left to do anything else. And well-meaning fathers and mothers, especially those of the upper classes, adapt themselves more or less compassionately and with regret to the new and often exceedingly bad manners of their children, who, in nine cases out of ten, resemble the Biblical “daughters of the horse-leech,” crying “Give! Give!” and regard their progenitors merely as human banks on which they expect to draw ad libitum till the coin gives out. All this is wrong, hopelessly wrong. Fathers should be supported by their sons, if support is needed—not sons supported by their fathers. And in such strange times as these, when women are so ready to throw off their womanliness and become37 mere roughs in the general fray, they too must be expected to put themselves in harness and earn the right to live. They have wilfully destroyed the ideal of woman, so long and lovingly cherished by man in the days of sentiment and chivalry—and now they can hardly wonder if husbands prove difficult to secure. Men will think a hundred times before entering into marriage with possible window-smashers.
Yet it is all part and parcel of the one thing—the Great Unrest which, like a storm atmosphere, envelops all our modern civilisation. There is no country that does not feel it—no nation that is not uneasily conscious of being on the verge of change. The disruption of family life—the revolt of Woman against her own nature, and the frenzied ultra-stupidity she exhibits in the efforts she makes to reverse her own God-ordained position in the scheme of creation—the pathetic bewilderment and weariness of Man himself, left without any of his old ideals of faith or love, and clinging to gold as the only seemingly tangible good which may procure him some bodily comfort and ease, though feeling in his own soul that even this is little worth—all these things are forerunners of coming trouble to which we are as yet unable to give a name. Most notable and most tremendous of all portents, however, is the earthquake tremor that is shaking the Churches to their foundations, and the growth and extension of what is called the “New Thought.” The New Thought is really the Old Thought—the Thought which was the underlying germ of the mystic religions of the East, and the foundation of the Platonic philosophy. The “Thought” has become overlaid by a multiplicity of differing human opinions, forming,38 as is their habit, into useless and mischievous systems—but in its pure beginning it is the Christ in embryo—the God-in-Man. In simplest truth it is an eternal Thought which by Divine inspiration teaches us that the Soul or spirit of every human being is an individual portion of the Spirit of God—and that as such it is an immortal creature, whose destiny is glorious, whose splendid faculties are for the purpose of evolving itself through phases of wide advancement to wider attainment, and for whom there is and can be no such thing as death. This Earth is its present school and playground—Nature is its teacher, as well as its subject and servant. It is to learn what it can and will by patient study and grateful experience—it is to use what it finds in all things pleasant, helpful, joyous, noble, and gracious—it is to breathe in an atmosphere of love; and with the Supreme Intelligence of which it is a part, it may feed as it will among the lilies of life, and may say, “My Beloved is mine and I am His.”
This spiritual tie between man and his Maker has never been sufficiently emphasised by the Churches. Their religious forms of worship impress upon us that we are miserable sinners whatever we do, that we must try to save our souls, and that we must put as much as we can into the collection-plate. In great sorrow or difficulty these instructions are not very helpful. Sometimes indeed we doubt whether God meant us to consider ourselves such “miserable sinners” after all. Our perpetual whinings and lamentations cannot make sweet music on the Divine records. God gave us our bodies, not to chastise and mortify, but to care for and make healthy and beautiful; and the39 laws He has framed for our guidance and maintenance are such that if one be broken, punishment is bound to follow. There is no forgiveness, because there simply cannot be any deviation in the mathematical precision of the universal plan. And the punishment is measured exactly to the fault. If we refuse to go forward, we must go back—we are not allowed to stand still. If a man elects to throw himself headlong from a steeple, not all the prayers of the saints could alter the law of gravitation which causes him to fall and break his neck. What is true of physical law is equally true of spiritual law, since Matter is simply Spirit substantiated and made temporarily visible in endless temporary forms. And all God-ordained laws, whether physical or spiritual, are framed for the guidance, benefit, and advancement of creation—whereas we, by devising other laws which pull contrary to Divine ways and means, find ourselves “in darkness and the shadow of death” instead of in light and the splendour of life. In our day Science has come to our rescue, and like a great Angel stands at the open door of the Kingdom of Heaven; she shows us the “many mansions” of worlds upon worlds in the Father’s House—she points out the loving care with which even the tiniest organism of life is protected—she instructs us how we may press the lightning into our service and use the waves of the air to convey our messages from one land to the other—and she impresses upon us, even as a loving mother impresses a beautiful truth upon her child, the fact that we—even we—are permitted to be the rulers of this wonderful planet, so full of exquisite beauty and joy—and that we are expected to use the endless gifts bestowed upon us40 with love, wisdom and courage, developing ourselves into a noble race of creatures worthy of ever nobler and higher issues.
Thus it has come to pass that with Science leading us ever onward and upward, we cannot any longer in reason look upon “Our Father” as a capricious tyrant, needing a sacrifice of blood to pacify His wrath against us. Instead of this barbarous conception, we realise that Perfect Justice cannot possibly be angry with what it has Itself ordained—and we are overpowered and brought to our knees in devout adoration before the Great Spirit of Love which is the Generator of the universe, and which out of smallest beginnings works to greatest ends—work in which we are permitted, nay, expected and commanded, to take an active part, our disobedience always resulting in disaster to ourselves.
It is the contemplation of these truths which Science hourly and daily demonstrates to the glory of the Creator that the “New” or “Old” Thought has arisen in all its strength, like Christ from the grave, “walking in the garden in the cool of the day.” Hence the earthquake tottering of the Churches, and the ever-spreading great wave of religious unrest. There is, among many deeply thinking people, an uneasy sense that we have insulted the real and ever present God by our narrow and more or less selfish systems of faith, and that we must hasten to make amends. Therefore, putting the question of the mentally unfit aside in the general sorting of the sheep from the goats, it seems evident that the time is ripening towards a New Revelation of the Divine in Man—a “sign from heaven” for the better guidance of the human soul towards ultimate41 perfection, and a surer means of obtaining peace and happiness in this life as well as in the life to come. But before the sign be given there must and will be heavy tribulation; “nation rising against nation, kingdom against kingdom, earthquakes and divers troubles”—and the very beginning of these “divers troubles” is upon us now.
Hence the Great Unrest. People scurry to and fro all over the earth, like ants disturbed on their hill by a burning match thrown in among them. They do not know what is the matter, but they feel that they must keep moving. The sensation of inexplicable haste is upon them. There is no time for anything. Pleasure easily palls, and the most agreeable society develops into boredom. The days of reposeful leisure, in which the greatest works of art were created, are ended. Everything must be got through quickly nowadays—“scamped” as a matter of fact. Sweetness and harmony in music are no longer admired—it must be discordant and odd to suit the spirit of the age. Fine painting is a drug in the market unless it be the work of an “old master”—a picture must be “sensational” in colour and in execution to suit the perverted taste of the day. Literature and the drama must present “problems” of a questionable nature before their productions can be pronounced “great” by the very few critics who are more than ordinary paragraphists—while Poetry, the highest of all the arts, is practically dead. The abnormal condition of the human mind displays itself in costume, manners, and social observances and over all things hangs the deepening mist of a universal dissatisfaction for which there seems42 to be no cause, and for which we can find no name.
Do we mean to go on blindly, pretending we do not see? “Ye hypocrites! Ye can discern the face of the sky and of the earth, but how is it that ye do not discern this time?”
How is it indeed! For “this time” is one of the most fated and historic times in the history of the world—a time when we may perhaps be called upon to witness the commencement of the downfall of the greatest of Empires—the British;—when we may have to watch its magnificent fabric, once the envy of all other nations, crumbling before our very eyes—its pillars of state pulled down by riotous demagogues—its splendid traditions put to shame by both parties in its Parliament—by the one in sheer outlawry, by the other in no less disgraceful inaction. We can look on at this and wonder what new power will arise from its ruins, but we may not dare to prophesy till after the event! For this is but “the beginning of sorrows.” It little matters that the fools and jesters of the hour make mockery of all those who seek to warn off the misguided people from the quicksands whither they are rushing—fools and jesters there have always been and always will be, ready to toss ribaldry in the face of Deity itself without compunction. But the evil which darkly threatens modern civilisation is too near and too evident to be lightly “laughed down.” Every student of history knows that when the foundations of religious faith are shaken—when it becomes “a house divided against itself,” then national disaster is close at hand. Man, deprived of any high spiritual ideal of life, quickly reverts to mere selfish savagery. The Dean of St. Paul’s, called43 “the gloomy Dean” by a halfpenny daily, because he dares to speak truths which are not altogether pleasant hearing, must have thought long and deeply, and fully made up his mind as to what he meant when he said: “It is the duty of the clergy to maintain that it is ‘other worldliness’ which alone had transformed and could transform this world”—which means that it is only spiritual progress which can make material progress valuable and lasting. The inward enlightenment and uplifting of the soul or spirit of each individual man and woman towards the highest and bravest ideals of life and love, and conformity to the laws of creation as made plainly visible in Nature, is the only true civilisation. This lesson is taught by every scientific truth we are permitted to investigate. It is not preaching or platitudinism—it is an incontestable eternal Fact. Our lives on this planet were intended to be lives of joy, health, beauty, love, and mutual helpfulness—and where we depart from this intention we insult and disobey the Creator, whose design is one of gradual development towards ultimate perfection. We wrong Him when we call this beautiful world “a vale of tears”—for our misfortunes and diseases are chiefly our own fault, and certainly are not His doing. It is time we stood up with a glad courage, giving thanks for all the benefits He has showered upon us without asking for more. Any creed that is selfish and whining is no creed for the soul that aspires to the highest progress. If we invite evils upon ourselves we must expect them to come—nothing will hold them back if we are trespassers against natural and spiritual laws. The Reverend H. Mayne Young,44 preaching in Westminster Abbey itself, pronounced the following words with a noble daring:—
“The day is not far distant when, unless the Church of England freely re-states and re-models her creeds so as to meet the requirements of the age, she will be left stranded on the shores of time, while the tide of this modern life will leave her for ever farther and farther behind—a sad warning of the inevitable results of an iron-bound system of worn-out dogmas and lifeless traditions.”
“Worn-out dogmas and lifeless traditions!” A bold utterance, but true! And what is true of the Church of England is equally true of all the Churches in the world to-day, notably that of Rome. Man, walking in a darkness of destroyed illusions, is at that point when he may well exclaim with the Apostle—“Who will deliver me from the body of this death?”
It needs no gift of prophecy and no special intuition to see that we are on the brink of some tremendous change in the destinies of the human race. Everything points to it—our tottering creeds, our fluctuating standard of manners and morals. What it is, what it may be no one tries to imagine. People instinctively feel they would rather not think too much about anything, or analyse the condition in which they find themselves. There is “no time” for it, they say. Why is there no time? Is the clock of the universe running down and are the works giving out? Materially speaking, we know that the slightest tilt of the earth on its axis would cause a complete redistribution of its continents and seas, sweeping away every vestige of civilisation as we now know it. We never consider this, imagining that such a catastrophe is not possible.45 Yet God has willed it so before, and may will it so again. Every physical movement is preconceived by a mental or spiritual one. The Great Unrest is at present one of Spirit which will gradually dominate Matter and move it to equal but louder disturbance. We spin on our earth in a gathering storm-cloud between two fathomless gulfs, the Past and the Future—our Present is the result of the past, and our future will equally be the work of the Present. We know that there is a God of Love to serve, and his Nature-laws to obey, and knowing this, Ourselves alone must decide whether we will do as we should, or whether we shall be forced to do as we would not!
It has come at last—that great Storm foretold by national weather prophets—it has come with all the devastating force of a fury long suppressed; and the black cloud has gathered over our heads while yet we drowsed in a dream of sunshine. With a sudden thunderous rush, as though a god or a demon should tread the spaces of the air, heaven has let loose the whirlwind—the whirlwind of War, and far more than War—the whirlwind of Destiny. It has come because it was bound to come, by the Unwritten Law and Code Invisible. Men of the world who form governments, make civilisations, and build up empires are always forgetting this Unwritten Law—the Hand behind the scenes—the inexorable and eternal forward movement of the Cosmos, which in its pre-determined progress overrides their best laid plans and makes chaotic havoc of their most sagacious intentions. Yet it is a perfectly straight and simple Law after all—one that has existed from the beginning of things, and that will ever exist—the law of Nature, visibly expressing the Mind of God, and immutably set against the predominance of evil. It is an output of the Divine Will, resolving itself easily into common, even domestic forms, adapted to the needs of individuals and nations alike. Nature often conducts herself like a practical housewife bent on spring cleaning.
“Where there is dirt,” she says, “it shall be removed; where there is confusion there shall be order.”
And her “cleaning-up” day is invariably a frightful thing. The noise of her sweeping and scouring resounds like thunder through the world. It occurs periodically, marking epochs of history, and we read of its results in the past with placid incredulity, setting down much to exaggeration and more to deliberate lying, idly amused meanwhile at the ridiculous notion, suggested by certain fools, that any such uproar and disaster should ever be experienced by Ourselves who have, so we consider, “advanced” in civilisation and wisdom, and thereby in self-control—Ourselves whose “culture” seems to our own judgment a finer and more perfect attainment than divine justice. The tornado of the French Revolution, the pitiless ravages of the Napoleonic wars have appeared to us like a tale that is told, “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”—and we have lazed the time away, getting and spending, in the peaceful high noon of national prosperity and contentment, feeling confident that we should never in our day be shaken from our centre-poise of complacent self-satisfaction by anything of larger disturbance than occasional family quarrels gotten up more for the sake of varying the monotony of peace than with any serious intent. And now, lo!—the bolt falls—the vials of wrath and judgment are opened and poured forth over land and sea—the whirlwind is upon us, and we who slept are awakened by its sweeping rage, its rattling rain, its lightning flashing against our windows of security, and we leap to our feet, startled but not alarmed—unprepared, maybe, but not unready. We realise what the storm48 means, and we know how to weather it; we are not afraid—we only wish we had not slept quite so long!
Nevertheless, though our sleep may have been heavy, it has refreshed our forces and has not diminished our energies. Our waking is to good purpose. The very shame we feel at the length of our slumber is an excellent tonic and invigorates us. Sleep shall no more weigh down our eyelids—we are alert, strong, and resolute, even in the midst of the whirlwind. For it is a storm in which we alone are not involved. It has swept over a smaller nation than our own, all undeservedly—a little sister nation with the heart of a thousand heroes beating in her small bosom—and her unmerited sorrow has served as the keynote to strike all that is in us of Character and Conduct. We see her defaced with blows, insulted and outraged by ravening cruelties; and the chivalry born from centuries of martial glory rises strong and full-armed in every man that claims justice for her wrongs. We of Britain have not warred for ourselves—our fight is for the better, broader freedom of the whole world. The whirlwind has caught us up in the swoop of its revolving wings solely that we may take our part in the purifying of the House of Man. And our victory will be made manifest in the open response to our inward intention.
* * * * *
The militarism of Prussia is a crime, springing from old roots of human savagery and barbarism which should have died long ago. The brutal War, made treacherous and bloody by new devices of destruction, the inventions of fine science misapplied, was an outbreak of stupidity on the part of an obtuse and49 stupid set of men, sodden with selfishness and delirious with a drunken dream of World-Power. The teachings of Treitschke and Nietzsche are the teachings of egotists with unsound and ill-balanced brains. Nietzsche went mad, and howled his philosophies to the walls of the padded room. Treitschke was covertly insane; like the “secret drinker” who in public pretends he cannot touch strong liquor, he assumed to be proud and sagacious when he was no more than crazily self-obsessed. He preached the doctrine of Hate, and no sane man ever did that. The German nation, accepting this sort of “Kultur” as gospel, accepted the ravings of the mentally deficient, and, plunging breast-high into a sea of brothers’ blood, proved itself infected by the same madness as that which poisoned the veins of its mad instructors. To any thoughtful student, looking on at such a frightful, wicked, and overwhelmingly stupid slaughter of men by machinery there can be nothing more terrible, more lonely or more accursed in all the realm of fact or fiction than the figure of the Kaiser—the miserable epileptic who is responsible for shrouding his “Fatherland” in the black veil of mourning, and for drowning its peace and progress in a flood of widows’ and orphans’ tears. Mentally unbalanced, physically inefficient, and morally lacking—living as one pursued by the Furies in an armoured cage, and surrounded by guards on earth and in air, lest by chance his “Gott” should kill him, he moves one to amazement and pity—for the whirlwind has him in its centre, twirling him round and round like a veritable mannikin of sport for the dread gods of destiny—a mannikin who hardly knows how he came to be where he is, or where he will find himself when the storm is50 past. Meanwhile his voice is heard above the storm shouting “To England! England! The one foe! My Mother’s land, which I hate! Would that every drop of British blood in my veins might be drained out of me!”
Well, why not? A calf has been bled before now, and not a drop of its mother’s blood has been left in its carcase—there is nothing to prevent this desirable consummation for the Kaiser since he so devoutly wishes it. The whirlwind may strip him yet, and perform this required kindness! But in the interval the arrogant and half-crazed “War Lord” has sacrificed the best flower and strength of Germany’s manhood to his criminal and insatiable lust of power. The German people have not yet realised the mercilessness of this military despot—but when they do—when they count the desolate homes, the ruined trades, the lost commerce, the ravaged lives and broken hearts which mark the “triumph” of the stagey and spectacular “hero” they have worshipped, there will be an end of the blind credulity with which they have followed a vain ideal.
* * * * *
For us British, the Whirlwind is a grand thing. It is blowing us fiercely clean of Self—it is tearing away from us the silly sophistries of fashion and frivolity and showing us things in their true light. Our ape-like jesters of the press, of the Bernard Shaw type, who have mocked at all things holy, serious, and earnest, are finding their proper level, and shrinking into corners where they are scarcely seen—where it is to be hoped they may be peaceably forgotten. Our “sex-problems,” our “advanced” women, our screaming Doll Tear-sheets51 of militant suffrage—these trouble the air no more with the hysterics which are engendered by having nothing useful to do. We have no time for trifling. We are face to face with the long-despised Obvious—“Life is real, life is earnest”—and we are casting off the slough of political humbug and social sham, and are as one in the splendid bond of patriotism and love of country. We may trust the Storm; we may welcome the Whirlwind. It has come to clear the sky of miasma and vapour—it is making light to show us where we truly stand. If we are honest with ourselves we shall admit that in latter years we have given ourselves over-much to the pursuit of material gain and personal pleasure, we have neglected our faith in divine and high ideals, and Self has been more or less our god; it was time that we received a wholesome check and a warning before we lost all that has made us great. We have responded swiftly to the goading spur—our crust of selfishness was but thin after all, and has broken and melted away in a flood of magnificent generosity and practical sympathy—for never had nation a nobler Cause than ours, when, as brothers in arms with our brave allies, we fought to right the unspeakable wrongs of unoffending Belgium, and to aid in defending France from the invader and usurper. Should the enemy conquer in this mighty struggle the whole world will be the impoverished loser; should we and our allies win, the whole world will gain by our victory and share with us a wider, nobler freedom than before. It is for this cause that the Whirlwind has come upon us—to cleanse a cancer from our midst, and to put away from ourselves and our neighbours the dread contamination of a disease involving the whole trend of civilisation.52 We may thank God for it, despite all its terrors, its rain of blood, its thunders of the air and sea, its swift death dealt to thousands of innocent souls—it is a storm that was needed to clear the air. And when it is past, and the sun shines once more, we shall realise that its causes were to be found not in one nation only, but in many—in ourselves as well as in our foes—and that some great and forceful movement of destiny was urgently called for to sweep away from humanity the accumulating mass of its own self-wrought evil. And if victory should be ours, it will behove us to take it with all humility, giving thanks to God—“lest we forget!”
THE KAISER’S HARVEST OF DEATH
A CRIME OF STUPIDITY
(First published in the “Sunday Times”)
In every great national crisis, when war or revolution brings havoc on existing civilisation and works sudden and violent change in all social, political, and diplomatic relations, we are invariably able to discover One Man—or at the most, perhaps, two or three men—primarily responsible for the general upheaval.
History is impressively explicit concerning these personages. She never fails to show us how, by some strange lack of the most ordinary foresight and common sense, they stumble when apparently on the height of success, and commit irreparable blunders which hasten their careers to a disastrous close. Such was the case with Napoleon and many other would-be Alexanders of ambition; but of all the tragic blunderers of time surely none can equal or surpass the “War Lord” of Germany. Here is a man who had the splendid chance of securing for his country and people the largest share of the commerce of Europe; it lay easily within his grasp. Yet he has let it go, like a handful of sand and shells dropped by a child at play on the seashore. To satisfy the personal cravings of a vaunting, blustering Egoism for blood-and-thunder “effects” he has lost the peaceful conquest of a world!
Amazing, deplorable, and incredible folly!—when such conquest could have been gained without a blow,54 without the boom of a single gun, without the explosion of a single shell! It could have been attained in the only way by which any truly “civilised” nation should ever seek supremacy—through the development of industry and commerce, and the quiet assumption of the power that industry and commerce give. All that we call “progress” should fortify the stand of human resolution on this basis. It is not necessary, it is not even sane or decent that any peoples should tolerate what Carlyle describes as “the spectacle of men with clenched teeth and hell-fire eyes hacking one another’s flesh, converting precious living bodies and priceless living souls into nameless masses of putrescence, useful only for turnip manure”—which is a rough but accurate picture of war deprived of all its devilish excitement and glamour.
To Kaiser William more than to any other monarch of his time was given the glorious chance of becoming the greatest benefactor of Germany which that realm had ever known. He could have created for his people such conditions of peace, happiness, and prosperity as were almost incalculable. He stood in the broad sunshine of ripening trade—the markets of the world were open to him—fields of wealth were spreading around him on all sides, and his cheerfully working millions had but to reap the grain their industries had sown and gather in a rich and plenteous harvest. Why, then, in the name of all that is great, noble, and pitiful, did he choose to make a harvest of death instead of life?
A TRAGIC WITNESS
During the grim and ghastly struggle at Verdun we are told the Kaiser, standing “at safe distance,” watched through his field-glasses the fiery mowing down of his countrymen to the number of forty-five thousand! Does any one, reading this, take the trouble to pause and consider what it means? Forty-five thousand strong, brave men in the flower of manhood (for let us hope we are none of us so unjust as to deny our enemies their strength or their courage); forty-five thousand capable human beings fit for every sort of industrial labour—the blood and bone of future generations—slaughtered like vermin; and their Emperor, their sworn Defender and Protector, within sight-range, looking on!
What a “Harvest Home”! Are we able to conceive the nature and temperament of a monarch who could so look on at this massacre of his subjects and not rush among them to stop the advance of their serried ranks and “massed formations,” resulting in such a wanton and wicked waste of life? The crazy antics of Nero were mere child’s play compared with this callous attitude of William of Hohenzollern; an attitude which even his French foes cannot maintain. For, fired with vengeance for old wrongs as they are, and bent on victorious justice, they have declared themselves “sick with slaughter.”
“Such hecatombs,” writes Colonel Rousset, “cannot last. Our adversary, while carrying his disregard of human life to the point of madness, cannot go on throwing his soldiers into the charnel-house without thinking of to-morrow.”
The losses of the Germans at Verdun have been estimated at 10,000 per day! “I dream at night,” writes one French artillery officer, “of those ghastly crumpled heaps of shattered gray-green bodies! Germany’s wives and mothers must curse the Kaiser in their prayers!”
THE CRIME OF STUPIDITY
Voltaire is accredited with the saying that “the only crime is stupidity.” According to this dictum one must come to consider the “All-Highest War Lord” the greatest criminal of an epoch, his stupidity being almost without parallel in history. What man, not entirely mad, seeing a world of prosperity within reach of his hand would clench his fist and knock the whole splendid sphere away from him at one blow! The proposition seems absurd and untenable, yet it has been and continues to be the Kaiser’s policy, or the policy of his ministers and advisers; clear to all save those who remain perversely and wilfully blind.
For it is not too much to say that before the war Germany was pushing quietly but surely through every branch of commerce. From triumph to triumph she moved easily onward; everywhere her ramifications were spreading like the vigorous roots of a fast-growing tree. In Great Britain she had possessed herself of many of our trades; her goods were everywhere; her cutlery, her glass, her woollens, her linens, her dyes, her silver and copper ware, her chemicals—why, even our very window-frames were “Made in Germany”! She was at work in our mines and coal-fields; she was ahead of us in science, in invention, in industry and general “thoroughness.”
And let us not forget that we were, or appeared to be, supinely indifferent to her inroads on all that we used to claim as our “special line” and particular property. We were, like Hamlet, “growing fat and scant of breath.” We were disposed to indolence and self-indulgence, and, when we saw Germans working for us, and by us, and through us, taking the very tools out of our listless hands, we were agreeably convinced that they saved us a deal of trouble. They worked so cheaply, too!—and cheapness in necessary goods appealed to us, because it gave us more to spend on racing and football. The “Space for Special News” in our Press was not reserved (as intelligent foreigners conceive it ought to be) for serious information on world’s business; but for “Football Results” or cricket, in the respective seasons of these gamesome athletics—and the very word “patriotism” was laughed out of court as “Jingoism.” We gave the honours of heroes to our tennis champions, and played about while the Germans worked. They worked—as many of the British refuse to work; they saved—as many of the British decline to save; they gained their ends, because by our very inertia we gave them every opportunity to do so.
Mr. Hughes, Prime Minister of Australia, said in a recent speech that Germany “had abused our foolishly generous hospitality.” This is not quite accurate, since we were neither so generous nor hospitable as careless and lazy. We allowed our trades to slip through our fingers—the State did nothing for native work, science, or invention—and ambitious men of58 hope and endeavour left the country in shoals to make fortunes in other lands, many firms establishing themselves in Germany in order to win the rewards denied them in their native home!
Germany held a more tenacious grip on every corner of the earth than we in our latter “go-as-you-please” way ever realised. All over the United States, Canada, and Australia her people have spread; you find them in India, in Persia, in Egypt, in Africa; as a matter of fact, there is no country where German influence has not been actively at work while other nations looked on. Antwerp itself was wellnigh possessed by German commerce before its military bombardment; it was already a centre of German trade and German shipping, and in many of its business houses more German was spoken than either French or Flemish. Great Britain was lagging behind in the race; and had peace been maintained for another twenty-five years Germany might easily have mastered the world; and we might have lost all leading hold on commerce.
For let us not delude ourselves on the subject of our own inertia! It is owing to the magnificent stand made for justice and right by the hero-King of Belgium that we have been awakened from long apathy; had it not been for his resolute example, both France and England would have suffered far more than they are suffering now! Friend and Defender of both nations, he stands out as the noblest figure in the struggle—the one who, when victory sits upon our helm, must be the first to receive that which is due to him: the restoration of his country and his throne.
LOSS AND GAIN
And now the rivers of gold that were flowing into Germany through her trade are stopped, “damned up” as the sensational special correspondent would say—by British, French, and German dead! The latest estimate of German losses at Verdun is two hundred thousand! Does the Kaiser, at safe distance, still “look on”? What blessing has this monarch of a great and productive realm brought upon his people? Mourning, desolation, and irremediable misery! No triumph, no victory can atone for such a deluge of blood and tears! That capricious Personage “somewhere in Heaven,” whom Wilhelm calls “Unser Gott,” may possibly resent the deliberate casting away of golden opportunities on the part of his crowned earthly “familiar,” to whom a peaceful world was offered, only to be kicked aside for a battered helmet and broken sword!
“Thrust in thy sickle and reap!” O Emperor of a brief and bitter day! The harvest of death, not life!—the harvest of curses, not blessings! The thousands of dead men—dead in the very strength of manhood—sacrificed in a holocaust on the flaming altar of the wickedest war the world has ever seen, may have their own story to tell to “Unser Gott”; so may the bereaved and wretched women whose husbands and sons have been torn from their arms for ever. May the true God help them all!—for in the unspeakable hell of iniquity around us man is wellnigh powerless; though, like every evil thing, war has its good side. It shows us with each day heroism of the finest, courage of the strongest, self-sacrifice of the noblest, existing60 among us all; and it has reawakened the higher spirit of England. For this we have cause to be devoutly thankful! In a certain sense it has saved us from ourselves; and from the enervating love of pleasure and personal avarice which was slowly undermining our better qualities.
And even the Kaiser, “looking on” at the legions of his own subjects falling like withered leaves in a whirlwind of fire, may one day shake off his frenzied nightmare of battle, and repent—exclaiming with Judas:—
“I have sinned, in that I have betrayed the innocent blood!”
THIS AMAZING WAR
A WOMAN’S POINT OF VIEW
(Reprinted by special request from the “Sunday Pictorial” of March 28, 1915)
What can be said or thought of it? This wonderful massing of nations—this appalling slaughter of men—this relentless rolling on of a Divine Elemental Force, too vast and powerful and resolute for humanity to resist! It is a War so terrible, yet withal so grand, and so pregnant with infinite issues that we, who are swept by the dust and carnage of its fighting millions—we, who are stunned by the clash and clamour of the frightful weapons of modern science which it uses on land, under sea, and in air, are more or less incredulous and stupefied, and we have been only with difficulty aroused to try and understand its fateful import. It is Destiny in labour; and the pangs and throes of her child-birth will give us a New World! For the Old World is fast crumbling and crushing down upon us like an ancient ruin struck by lightning-flash and thunderbolt; the old vices, lusts, and littlenesses are being torn away from us as a storm-wind tears away the parasite ivies from mouldering walls—and we shall presently see a break in the clouds and light through the darkness. This thing of terror and confusion Was To Be; it Had To Be! It has been coming upon us slowly, but steadily, for years—and62 if we are honest with ourselves we shall admit that we have felt its approach instinctively in a general sense of insecurity—in a feverish impulse of haste to live lest we should suddenly die!
Something—we know not what—a cloud or a blight—has visibly lowered over the face of European civilisation, and in order to set aside certain strange and perplexing inconsistencies of such conduct among us as might induce us seriously to Think—we have flung ourselves eagerly into a vortex of “sensations” new and old, bad and good, virtuous and vicious, with a kind of furious recklessness, bordering on insanity. Any lapse of morals, any bizarre or weird “craze” in art, any indecency in literature, has been acclaimed and encouraged as “new” and “strong” instead of being condemned for being old and weak as such things truly are—and in many vital matters the nation has been moved by a petulant spirit of selfish, restless irritability, like that of a querulous old man who has neither the grace nor the courage to accept his age with wisdom, sweetness, and dignity. And among various mad things we have done, one stands out pre-eminently as the maddest—and that is the tacit encouragement given by a section of society and the press to a brood of Atheists, who have trailed their poisonous slime along the pathways of peace where the youth of this
“Happy breed of men, this little world.
This precious stone set in the silver sea,”
have wandered unsuspectingly, gathering the ugly stain on the innocent white of their souls’ garments.63 Never did a sin of this nature occur in the history of nations without Divine punishment inflicted, not so much to destroy as to purify. The chronicles of every civilisation ever known or heard of bear unswerving testimony to the truth that whenever a nation or a people assumes to itself Divine right, dismissing from its mind and conscience the idea of any higher Supreme Power before Whom it should humiliate itself daily with thanksgiving and prayer, that nation or people has been allowed to follow the lure of its own intellectual pride and self-sufficiency to inevitable disaster.
IDEAL WORTH FIGHTING FOR
This is, and this will be, the case with Germany. For years her people have willingly listened to the teachings of egoists and madmen such as Treitschke and Nietzsche—for years they have scoffed at Christianity, its Founder and its ethics; and they have tempted the Divine Spirit in Man with the devil’s whisper, “All these things will I give thee if thou wilt fall down and worship me!” But that Divine Spirit is stronger than all Germany and its rulers; and “Get thee behind me, Satan!” is the keynote of this great War. The Satan of ambition, greed, and cruelty embodied in the creed of Prussian militarism must be driven “hence”; and it is for this holy Cause that we and our Allies are fighting. We must have a free world!—free in the sense of highest, purest freedom—a world of ideas, thoughts, and deeds built up on the golden law of Christ, “Love thy neighbour as thyself.” As a statesman has so nobly expressed it: “We wish the nations of Europe to be free to live64 their independent lives, working out their own form of government for themselves, and their own national development, whether they he great nations or small States, in full liberty. This is our ideal.”
An ideal worth fighting for—worth dying for!—this “glorious liberty of the free!” None of us would grudge life or fortune to attain the splendid goal in sight—a radiant vision of the true “Holy City,” where as we are told—“the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it, and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour within it.”
Glory and honour never accompany the creed of selfish Materialism, which is the “Kultur” of Germany. What a miserable man was he who wrote down in cold blood these words: “I condemn Christianity. To me it is the greatest of all possible corruptions. I call Christianity the one great curse, the one great intrinsic depravity, the one immortal shame and blemish in the human race!” This was Nietzsche—poor, sickly, egoist, Nietzsche! He died mad—yet he was the “guide, philosopher, and friend” of modern Germany! How has his teaching worked? Let the slaughtered thousands of his countrymen on the battlefields reply. And let us take heed that we in our turn be not infected by the poisonous breathings of such insanity! Our nation—our Imperial Britain—has been dangerously far along the road to similar madness—let us hope devoutly that we have been pulled up in time! But—“we have done those things which we ought not to have done”—as, for example,65 we have thrown the sneer of “Jingoism!” contemptuously in the face of many an honest patriot—and now we are loud in our expressions of wrath and astonishment at the “want of patriotism” displayed by certain tribes of working men who “strike” for more pay, indifferent to the country’s needs! What have these working men been taught for the last twenty years? Why, that Money is the only god, and Self the only master! When we reproach them for unpatriotic conduct, we should reproach ourselves still more for the encouragement and applause we have systematically given to every new or revived doctrine of selfishness and materialism that ever infected the world with its sickly symptoms of decay. Patriotism is a mental and spiritual attitude—as heroism is—as love and faith are. Such things cannot be taught; they are the result of ennobling influences brought to bear on life and its environment. Considering how little our educational system holds of such subtle and delicate training, we have reason to be proud of the splendid response of our men throughout the Empire to the call of “King and Country,” and of the real national “grit” which in every Briton underlies his surface show of levity and indifference.
But have I, as a woman, nothing to say of the war, save in its ethical aspect? Oh, yes! I, as a woman, could say much, in a woman’s way. Of the agony of parting from men dearer to us than life, and seeing them disappear behind a veil of impenetrable silence for weeks or months, their fate or fortune all unknown! I could weep all day and night for the cruel loss of young and gallant lives crushed out and left bleeding and festering on the awful fields of contest—and I66 long to speak words of consolation and hope to the dear women who wait in strained suspense for news of their husbands, fathers, lovers, and sons! I know all they feel; and the aching throb of their unuttered misery strikes on my own heart with keenest pain! But with all the sorrow and all the suffering, I would not, if I could, hold back one man from taking his share in the noble struggle for the betterment and future peace of the world! One can die but once; and “Greater love hath no man than this—that a man lay down his life for his friends!”
“ALL WE LIKE SHEEP”
A PEOPLE’S PATIENCE
(First published in the “Sunday Times”)
The words “people” and “popular,” viewed by academic dark-lanterns of literature, are opprobious epithets. Any person designated as “popular,” or favoured by “the People,” falls at once outside the pale of mutual-admiration societies—ergo, is not an academic dark-lantern for the blind to lead the blind, so that both fall into the ditch. Yet it is well understood that those who affect to despise the People and “popular” opinion are the very ones most influenced by both, inasmuch as not one among them but knows that in the long run the People alone are the arbiters of national destiny. Sometimes it hardly appears as if it were so—yet so it is. Though at this present fateful moment of time it would seem that the People of the British Empire are stricken dumb. They are a voiceless multitude, rendered inert by the knowledge that if they speak every effort will be made to silence them, and that though they have much to ask they will not be truthfully answered. For they are only “the People”!—the ruck of taxpayers—the grist that goes to the mill!
But what a People! Consider them as they are to-day, straining every nerve and sinew in the work necessary for the carrying on of a wicked and barbarous world-war, wherein they truly, as a People, sought68 and desired no part, but into which they were plunged unsuspectingly, without fair warning or honest preparation; and now, being involved in the struggle for justice and right, do most nobly acquit themselves—a People who are giving up their sons, their life-blood, their All for which they have worked through years of anxious toil—a People who, when their little harmless children are torn to shreds by enemy bombs falling from hitherto beneficent skies, are told by a fatherly Government that “no material damage was done by the raid”—a People who are cozened with lies and flattered by false news—a People who in the gallant thousands of their slaughtered men are dying that Britain may live!—or, shall we venture to say, that Cabinet Ministers may “take their salary and continue to take it!”—an historic utterance which will ring through the vault of posterity like Nelson’s “England expects”—only with something of a difference! How long will this splendid People endure in sheep-like patience what the Press justly calls “Waste and Muddle” in high places, without giving vent to their forcible but natural outburst known as “popular” feeling?
We read in one of the columns of a sane and non-party daily journal the following:—“No one can say that the nation is satisfied with the way it is governed.” This expresses in one clear phrase the apparent situation. The word “apparent” is used advisedly, for in many spectral things of recent statesmanship some of us feel with Macbeth that “Life’s but a walking shadow.” The present Government, being of a sometimes severe, sometimes indulgent parental character, seems to look upon the public, or “the People,” as a sort of promising Child, that sits quietly waiting to be told69 things, no matter whether the things are false or true. Wedged in a nursery chair with a bar across its bulgy waist to prevent it tumbling out on the floor, this Child is supposed to smile and suck its finger all day long in a state of blissful belief in nonsense rhymes and fairy tales. It is a wonderfully good Child, and Papa Government is pleased to find how easily it can be played with. Its simplicity is delightful! Things printed in large type catch its eye and tickle its fancy, because occasionally (though more in the past than in the present) it fancies that large type means something of national importance. But with all its guilelessness it has a vast amount of natural intelligence, and it begins to understand that it is not, and never will be, allowed to learn the drift of Governmental tactics, or the true state of parties in politics. It is hazily becoming aware that it is kept in its nursery chair to be gulled, not to be enlightened. In happier moments it has shown that it likes to be amused, thrilled, startled, horrified, or moved to indignation, and, so far as the “Censor” permits, the gagged and bound Press tries to do its best on these lines, and dances for its entertainment as well as a poor bear in chains can dance, though growling sotto voce all the while! But, considered as a Child, the public is not thought fit to be told the truth. Its opinion on national affairs is neither sought nor wanted; all that is required of it are Silence and Obedience. These it gives, with what result? Why, as Mr. Asquith said, “Wait and see!”
Yet surely the waiting is long? “All we like sheep are gone astray;” but possibly we have been led astray more than we have gone of our own accord.70 All peoples have a certain sheep-like tendency; they follow a lead. Where the leader goes the flock goes likewise. This is sometimes set down as evidence of weakness, but with the British people it marks both duty and discipline, obedience to law and order, love and maintenance of home and country. Yet—let us suppose NO leader! That is—NO leader capable of leading anywhere save into quagmires and pitfalls of “Waste and Muddle”!
“The hungry sheep look up and are not fed,
But swollen with wind and the rank mist they draw,
Rumour has it that on our East Coast the inhabitants have been “prepared” for a “German landing,” and have been told where to go inland as “refugees.” Whether true or false, such a report should never have gained currency; the word “refugees” should never be even whispered as likely to be applicable to British subjects. Similarly on the East Coast it is openly said that during the last enemy air-raid two Zeppelins were “within easy gun-shot” and could have been brought down, but that our anti-aircraft men were “forbidden to fire.” By whom? Ah! There we touch upon secrets not to be disclosed by Papa Government to any inquiring Child! Though when half a secret comes to light the other half is not far behind! Let us not forget the warning given by the greatest of all Teachers:—
“A man’s foes shall be they of his own household.”
It is idle to deny that there are traitors in our own71 camp; men of position and influence who are more pro-German than British—who would not scruple to pave the way to any dishonour provided they could serve their own personal ends. Is any one so intellectually blind and bereft of common sense as to suppose that even with certain of our statesmen financial interests do not outweigh their patriotism? Time is a merciless revealer of facts, and in its record of this war some strange things will be written!
To those who have eyes to watch and brains to understand, the advent of Mr. Hughes, Premier of Australia, is a wonderful, almost touching, circumstance. Here is a Man at last!—a man who loves his country and is not afraid to say so—a man who appeals to the right spirit of the nation straightly and truly, with courage and conviction. “The People” answer to his voice: that “People” whom snobs abhor! Snobbery is apt to speak of the fine Younger Race of Imperial Britain as “Colonials,” with a touch of contempt, as though they represented something small and negligible, instead of embodying as they do the future power and stability of the Empire. This “Colonial” Prime Minister shows strength, boldness, and sincerity; he is a leader, and “All we like sheep” are disposed to follow him, if he can show us a way out of the thickets where we wander, torn and bleeding. Pray Heaven he be not wearied by specious talk, or repelled by still more specious hypocrisy! or hampered and discouraged by the working of the “wheels within wheels” which move with such secret and perplexing intricacy, crushing honest effort and smothering honest speech! Surely the British people can be trusted to know what their foes know, what their Allies know,72 what America knows? Are they alone to be deceived?—even into purchasing goods “from America” which are German? Mr. Hughes needs to speak yet more forcibly; he must rouse the slothful and the unthinking, and tell them that if they would conquer their skilful and insidious Teuton foe, they must equally conquer themselves; and that when the markets are open for British labour, British labour must not fall back in energy or stint its output. Business must go hand-in-hand with industry and quickness, for “the race is to the swift and the battle to the strong!”
“All we like sheep” are waiting, not for compromise, but for conquest; conquest full, splendid and lasting! The “People” are patient and submissive enough, but they seek to put their confidence in a Government that shows confidence in itself. If they feel that they cannot do this, what then? Should not the following words of Carlyle be remembered?:—
“Urge not this noble, silent People. Rouse not the Berseker rage that lies in them! Do you know their Cromwells, Hampdens, their Pyms and Bradshaws? Men very peaceable, but men that can be made very terrible! Men, who like their old Fathers in Agrippa’s days, have a soul that despises death; to whom death, compared with falsehoods and injustices, is light! Yes, just so godlike as this People’s patience was, even so godlike must its impatience be!”
(Written for the London “Daily Chronicle”)
Women! You are wanted by the Nation! In the words of the recruiting posters “Your Country calls!” It calls even You—you, who for centuries have been the “weak vessels” of man’s passion and humour, are now needed to strengthen man’s hands in the terrific business of a world’s battle. You have helped them already; but you must help them still more. Now is the day and hour to prove your “undaunted mettle,” and not only your mettle but your generosity, your magnanimity, your forgiveness! For in peace times man has denied you the very possession of ordinary common sense; he has thrust you out of intellectual and academic honours; he has grudged you any place in art, literature or science, and he has made you the butt of every cynic, comedian, and caricaturist ever since he arrogated to himself the “everything” of life. You have been and are the grist to the mill of the comic press; your fathers have often been glad to sell you in the marriage market to the highest bidders; your lovers have played with you and deserted you as bees the flowers whose honey they have stolen; your husbands have often been faithless and perjured; and in certain of man’s legal forms, you have been74 classed with “children, criminals, and lunatics,” but now!—now, you are wanted!
You, so often despised, are prayed not to return scorn with scorn; you, with your patience, doggedness, and strongly determined zeal for attainment, are asked to come forward in your willing thousands, and let the men go! For the cry is “havoc!—and let slip the dogs of war!”—war, bitter, merciless, bloody and more savage than the crudest wars of ancient days; war in the air, on the earth and under seas—war that is as stupid, as blind, as criminal and as selfish as are all the acts which men commit when they have so far brutalised woman as to check and restrain her highest impulses, kill her idealism, obstruct her intellectual aspirations, and treat her as the slave and tool of a degrading animalism. Had they from the first dawn of civilisation made her their mental and spiritual equal, by this time there would have been no wars. Her love would have constrained and educated them, her instincts guided them, her inborn maternity shielded them from the wrongs their ambitions and jealousies persuade them to wreak upon each other. Now, in the very midst of the combat which they have brought upon themselves, they are caught within a black cloud of almost superhuman disaster, where but one ray of the veiled sun shines through—that Divine sense of Justice for which all true peoples are bound to fight if indeed they be not wholly given over to the devil of Materialism.
In this, women are, and must be, with them; they, who from the legended days of Eve have laboured under the sense of utter injustice, will be eager to help in any struggle for the Right against Might,75 because it is their own cause—the very essence of their own existence.
Right against Might, women! Be with the men now in their manliest, most pressing time of action! Forget their petty carping and cavilling at “the female element” in workmanship and endeavour; laugh at the rough and childish hands that beat and batter the woman’s breast with all the petulance of spoilt children; fling every other thought aside but the will and intent to help them on to victory! Make, and buckle on their armour—let your hands prepare them for both attack and defence. Nothing nobler will you ever find to do than this!
In old Arthurian legends, many were the fair women eager to buckle on the armour of the peerless Knight Lancelot; but to-day there are a million and more Lancelots in the field—young, brave, dauntless—heroes all! Arm them, women!—and by arming them, defend them! Thousands of you, strong and willing, are already at work—but we want thousands more! Even you “toy-women” who dance half-nude o’ nights at restaurants and in basement saloons of “fashionable” hotels, wreaking a sly vengeance on men by poisonous lure and seduction, even you can be brave and helpful if you will! Give up your foolish sensualities, and take to sturdy, sensible Work; wash the paint from your cheeks, the dye from your hair, and clothe yourselves as fit women who mean to help, and not to destroy men.
And you, too—you who turn your private homes into “Bridge Clubs” where “officers on leave” may become members “without the payment of a fee”—rookeries, where silly young subalterns are “rooked”76 indeed, of every penny, losing not only cash but honour—can you not give up this unprincipled and unwomanly “way of doing business” and come out of your dens? You have hands deft enough for something better than “Bridge”—and eyes that can see how to make shells for killing the enemy, which is better than studying how to change a card that shall cheat a friend! Put these ephemeral nothings of an ephemeral “society” aside, and work! Work is the saviour of both body and soul!
I admit that as Women, we have long and old scores to settle with the men who have denied us any place in their counsels, and who elect of themselves to treat us merely as “toys” and fools. We shall have our revenge upon them, but not now. Now is the time when we have the chance to show our ability, our powers of organisation, our reasonableness, our courage, our industry, and patience. Let us not fail! The curse of the Jew who wrote Genesis and swore to Eve “I will greatly multiply thy sorrow” has been upon woman ever since the days when courteous old Abraham yoked her with his cattle and drove her with his sheep; but there are evidences nowadays that the modern Abraham will not always triumph, even though every true son of Israel who attends religious service in his synagogue still says with Pecksniffian fervour:—
“Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who hast not made me a woman!” (See Authorised Jewish Daily Prayer Book.)
But, despite this most manly thanksgiving, it is paramount that now, whether Jew or Gentile, men want the women!—not for pleasure, not for fooling, not for seduction, not for betrayal, but for work!77 Man’s work must be done in the absence of men. For men must be set free, like uncaged wolves and lions, to fly at the throat of the foe and strangle him for good and all! Therefore, man’s work must be accomplished by women. O women, be glad and proud of this! Lady Frances Balfour, who has a brain sufficing for three of our modern statesmen, has recently written on “The Discovery of Women,” describing it wittily as similar to “the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus.” She reminds us of Lord Lansdowne’s “early Victorian” pronouncement that “the place for women is the home.” But the worthy peer forgot to mention that it is not given to every woman to have a home, or to run the cooking, the child-bearing, and general washing-up business for any special one of the male sex. On the other hand, there are thousands of women who not only earn the money to make a home and keep it, but who also have the affectionate unwisdom to keep a lazy loafer of a man also; some drone who finds as many plausible excuses for idleness as he does for living on the woman’s work. He, by the way, is generally the sort of fellow who speaks of woman with sniggering contempt, and while taking her earnings with the left hand stabs her in the back with the right. But even such rogues as these have to go forth to the battle to-day; so let us not grudge the buckling on of their armour if we can inspire courage in cowards! Just now, when omens and portents are thick in the air, and unnatural threatenings hover above us like shapeless spectres of evil, our Ministers and statesmen are chattering for all the world like the feeblest “patriarchs of the village” that ever waggled grey pates over pipes of78 tobacco. They who complain of women’s “talk” are talking the heads of the nation off into impatience and fury; let women not talk, therefore, but act! Come to work, women of all classes!—the more the better!—the more silently, the more swiftly! There is a great climax at hand; the “push” is about to begin. Every Able-Bodied Man Is Needed to Ensure Victory. Let us make no mistake about that! Every woman is likewise needed, to put her hand to the plough, and not look back. Munitions must not fail us. Show your resolve, brave women of England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, and nerve your slender hands to the task of turning out the weapons of attack and defence that shall flame our conquest of the foe on land and sea and in the air! And—when the war is over—when “Peace with Honour” shines once more above us like a glorious rainbow after storm—shall we—we Women who have worked, sink to our old footing of debasement and exclusion from the counsels of men? No! To paraphrase a famous Asquith utterance: “We have taken our place, and we shall continue to take it, and to keep it!”
THE QUALITY OF MERCY
AN APPEAL TO AMERICA FOR SUFFERERS IN THE GREAT WAR
(Written by special request for the American “Committee of Mercy”)
There is no greater virtue in the human character than mercy; it is the nearest attribute and approach to the Divine Perfection towards Whom all creation instinctively moves. We, the offspring of that infinite Thought and Will, are still far away from such sweet and strong attainment of power as can find infinitude of joy in the infinitude of Giving—but we can in some measure bless and purify our brief poor lives with somewhat of that everlasting plenitude and beauty by an effort, no matter how feeble, towards a God-like perpetuity of grace and pity. The golden opportunity for that effort is Now and Here; we may never have so great a chance again. For Now and Here, in the fair days of spring and summer, when singing, blossoming Nature breaks out in its Te Deum of thankfulness for yet another space of time wherein to express the gladness and glory of life, we are confronted with the hideous, ravaging spectacle of War; War, in its most cruel, pitiless, and appalling shape—War, to the grimmest death! The groans and shrieks of wounded, tortured, and dying men are forced upon our ears; a monstrous Devil of Self, black with the crimes of80 treachery, lust, and murder, stalks abroad seeking what it may devour of faith, freedom, and civilisation—a demon possibly born of mankind’s own neglect of the highest ideals, and indifference to countless blessings long bestowed.
And the most evil part of this evil visitation is that the terrific whirlwind of disaster sweeps over the innocent as well as the guilty, and men of valour and worth in all the nations now at war with one another are driven by the force of a barbarous necessity into the agony of wounds and death for no fault of their own, but for the mistakes and aggressions of their governmental rulers. They are as falling leaves blown before a storm—as smoke before fire—drifting into darkness! Yet every one of them is moved by the inspiration and love of liberty—by the sense of right and justice—and by the desire to help in doing what is good and true for the larger benefit of the whole world. And in this sense every one of them is noble; each life is worth our grateful care. We, who appeal for them, take no part in the contest. To us they are all our brothers in humanity; their mothers, wives, sisters, children, and lovers are ours also! We wish to lift them in our helping arms out of the blood and mire of battle, and by our impartial love and tenderness, to comfort them as much as we may, and relieve their bitter need.
We want every American citizen to help us in this great, this divine, work; for so best shall we prove the largeness of our thought, and the wideness and scope of the civilisation of the Republic and it ideals; so shall we best display the spirit of the young New World, uprising on the waters of this deluge like an81other ark of the covenant, sending forth the dove of hope and promise to those who are struggling for life in the overwhelming waves. We would like to write the noble words of Man’s universal Poet, Shakespeare, across the doors of all our fellow-countrymen upon whom we now call for aid, convinced of their generous response:—
“The quality of mercy is not strained;
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice blessed;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes;
’Tis mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes
The thronèd monarch better than his crown—
… We do pray for mercy;
And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
The deeds of mercy.”
In this mind and mood we appeal for help: for ungrudging, tenderest, quickest help!—the help that brave persons would instantly give if they saw children drowning. For every man disabled, sick, or deprived of his strength is as a struggling child in the flood of adversity, and indeed more pitiful than a child, for the child’s day may be yet to come, while his is past. Moreover, he has been snatched from all that made life pleasant and useful to himself, to fight his country’s battle, for which he, personally, is not responsible, but which he enters upon for the sake of a duty which is purely heroic self-sacrifice. Let us therefore accept this free gift of his manhood in the cause of Right and Justice and Freedom, with no less cheerful and willing gifts and self-sacrifices of our own; let us give and82 still give, in the all-beneficent spirit of the daily sunlight which pours itself out unasked over the fields and pastures to bless and fructify them! And let us never weary of giving! From every man and woman of the teeming population of the United States we ask a donation for our Holy Cause—our new Crusade of the Lord’s Sepulchre—for such it is, inasmuch as we seek to raise from the grave of silence and despair those who have been giving the best of their lives in suffering the horrors of this terrific War. Be the gift small or great it will add to the sum of what we hope to make the most wonderful and munificent gift and act of homage to martyred heroes that has ever been known in the world! We are a Committee of Mercy, and we make this Appeal to all the merciful, in God’s Name, and for the sweet uplifting of a Star of Hope in the darkness!
(Written by request for Mr. Hoover’s “Belgium Relief Fund,” and circulated through the United States Press)
“Six million of people are on the verge of starvation in Belgium!”
Such news as this writes itself across the brain in letters of fire! Great Goddess of Liberty, think of it! You, America!—you, who represent that goddess, with the light of an ever-widening glory on her brow, think of this shame to the very name of Freedom!—this blot on civilisation—this degrading result, as it were, of our long-boasted intellectual supremacy and scientific advancement! Six million people on the verge of starvation!—through no fault of their own, an industrious, peaceful, marvellously heroic little nation, deprived of its honestly-earned right to live, and dragged from its altars of prayer to weep in the dust of beggary and famine! You, America!—you, Star-crowned States of Freedom that have already done so much and are doing so much for this broken and bleeding victim of bitter circumstance—you cannot stay your hand now!—you cannot—you will not! You will do more!—and still more! You cannot see a brave nation die of sheer hunger!—it is not84 in your heart to look on at such a frightful thing unmoved; therefore you will listen to all unprejudiced appeal—even to mine, though I have little claim to your hearing save that of the affection freely given to me by thousands of my readers in your country—an affection gratefully accepted and as warmly reciprocated! I have naught to do with the quarrels and murderous onslaughts of men filled with blind fury and lust of world-power; all that I can see or hear is the sorrow and suffering befalling those who are innocent of any quarrel—the wives, the mothers, the young girls and boys, the little children—the helpless and bewildered old people! Cruel famine is already torturing these piteous and patiently enduring souls, on whom such a black cloud of unmerited disaster has fallen that it seems as if it would never lift! All who have power to visualise their unparalleled distress must and surely will take every possible means to soften and mitigate the horrors of their situation. Generous America!—you have done and are doing much!—you have worked and are working strenuously to relieve the burden of Belgium’s heavy affliction, but work to you is the very pulse of your large life, and bigness of conception in noble deeds is your breathing power! Therefore, no hesitation need be felt in asking you to go on Working and Doing all you can for the tortured, half dying people of a devastated country—a people whose magnificent heroism has blazoned itself in a chronicle of glory for the wonder of the future years—a nation that has faced her foes unflinchingly in the simple defence of her freedom, and whose noble King, a hero to the manner born, has not uttered one undignified85 word of complaint against the sudden and harsh calamities meted out to him by the cruel caprices of a cruel destiny. To America all grand things are possible—America, as yet aloof from combat, can accomplish what other nations, involved in difficulties at this juncture, can barely attempt: America can approach Germany with the ease of one at peace in the midst of strife, and can with humane forethought and certainty secure such distribution of food supplies to the Belgian civil population as may save them from the sufferings which now confront them every day. This is what America can do and with all our hearts and souls we pray that it may be quickly done! We, in Great Britain, are never weary of helping, to the best of our ability, those exiles who have lost their homes and means of livelihood—we strive to make their hard lot less bitter—and to one and all we accord a welcome as to those of our own blood and kindred. But we are at war, and though our Government is using all the means available to prevent the threatening disaster of millions of non-combatants, women, children, and the aged, being sacrificed to what is called “military necessity,” such means are not enough, being perforce obstructed by the difficulties of the situation. The grim idol of Militarism must have its burnt offerings—that pitiless god of Battle so aptly and magnificently described in Lord Byron’s Childe Harold:—
“Lo! where the Giant on the mountain stands,
His blood-red tresses deep’ning in the sun,
With death-shot glowing in his fiery hands,
And eye that scorcheth all it glares upon;
Restless, it rolls, now fix’d, and now anon
Plashing afar—and at his iron feet
Destruction cowers, to mark what deeds are done;
* * * * *
All join the chase, but few the triumph share,
The Grave shall bear the chiefest prize away,
And Havoc scarce for joy can number their array!”
Time presses! The wolf of famine is at the very doors! Our hearts grow cold with terror and with pity as we see once prosperous and happy Belgium, a land of prosperous and happy people, shadowed by the fearful spectres of Hunger and Disease. And while we do all we can and all we may to keep back these menacing destroyers of the innocent, we clasp hands across the sea with America, and look to her reasonableness, her boundless compassion and benevolence, for wider, more continuous help, feeling that she can, and will, most assuredly move the German administration in Belgium to see to the free distribution of food, and to guarantee that such distribution shall be made for the benefit of the Belgian civil population. I believe the Germans would willingly consent to this, if they have not already consented, for it cannot be even to their own advantage that disease should be sown broadcast in Belgium, and the entire industrial population decimated by famine. Indeed, as a matter of fact, Mr. Whitlock, the American Minister at Brussels, has made definite and official statement to the effect that he is satisfied by close investigation on the spot that not an ounce87 of food sent in by the Commission for Relief is being appropriated by the Germans. It should, perhaps, be considered that Germany has a heart somewhere! There are natural emotions in the mortal composition of a German as well as in a Frenchman or a Briton—differently strung, no doubt, and differently placed—but no man of any nationality whatsoever is made solely of “blood and iron,” according to that hackneyed catch-penny phrase which seems to have been coined by some tall-talking journalist. I am not one of the many who “thrill” over the various and sensational reports gotten up by the world’s press, whether such reports emanate from Great Britain or the “Wolff Bureau.” I am as doubtful of statements circulated by British journalism as of those which are unblushingly “made in Germany.” Each newspaper proprietor has his own axe to grind, and not always does honesty or unsullied patriotism have much to do with the grinding. More mischief than can be easily calculated is caused by irresponsible journalists who are allowed to print their wholly useless and unnecessary personal opinions on some great world-crisis in leading newspapers. When Edward the Seventh ascended the British Throne he had something to say on one occasion to “the gentlemen of the Press,” and he expressed the hope that they would “do their best to foster amity and good-will between the British Empire and other nations.” That the “gentlemen” have not so acquitted themselves is a sad and sober fact; and in these very days of the most terrific contest the world has ever seen, many of them show an unworthy eagerness to “work up” suspicion and ill-feeling between the88 combating parties, rather than to hold the balance equably and with dignity. Insult, cheap sneers, and vulgar jesting are all out of place in the present tremendous clash of conflicting powers; when the gods grasp their thunderbolts it is no time to listen to the chattering of apes. And when we are told by the Irresponsible Journalist of more battle horrors and outrages than seem humanly possible of occurrence, it does us good to learn through plain, unvarnished fact conveyed in simply-written, straightforward letters from brave men at the front and in the “firing line,” that, left to themselves, the Germans and their Allied foes would be glad enough to play football together, if allowed, like healthy schoolboys, and that even as it is they give each other cigarettes across the trenches, proof positive that when not acting “under orders,” they are human, normal, and friendly, and have no thirst for each other’s blood. I quote the following from the letter of a brave young Englishman serving in the Third Battalion of the Rifle Brigade:—
“On Christmas morning some of us went out in front of the German trenches and shook hands with them, and they gave us cigars, cigarettes, and money as souvenirs. We helped them to bury their dead, who had been lying in the fields for two months. It was a strange sight to see English and German soldiers as well as officers shaking hands and chatting together. We asked them to play us at football, but they had no time. I got into conversation with one who worked at Selfridge’s in London, and he said he was very sorry to have to fight against us.”
Reading this and various other letters of similar tone from men in the very thick of battle, all bearing ample testimony to the same truth, I cannot believe that the foe is so utterly a monster as to wish to see six million innocent people slowly starved to death; for such a dire business would serve his purpose little, while strongly intensifying his immediate unpopularity. War is war; and if, after all, civilisation is so poorly advanced that war must still play its barbarous part in the world’s policy, then of course there must be exigencies of war which can neither be ameliorated nor minimised. But the deliberate starvation of six million innocent human beings, more or less useful to their kind, does not and cannot come under the head of “military necessity.” Therefore, it should be the proud privilege and duty of “neutrals” to do all that is possible to soften and mitigate the fearful conditions of life as at present lived in unhappy but undaunted Belgium. The Commission for Relief, acting in London, and comprising representatives of the Spanish, Dutch, and Italian Embassies as well as the American, has undertaken a task which is almost herculean. Work as they will—and there is no pause and no shirking—it is like coping with the waves of an engulfing sea. The needs of the people become more urgent every day that the fierce tug-of-war grows closer and more insistent: Great Britain has found it imperative to stop the importation of grain into Belgium, and all this is coupled with the fact that under the Hague convention the German army has the right to requisition food supplies, and is not bound (save morally) to feed the enemy’s population. Nevertheless, common sense and diplomacy, as well as mercy and jus90tice, may here step in and show that starvation and sickness may breed evil among the Germans themselves as well as among the Belgians, by sheer force of contagion—evil of a kind which might just as conveniently be avoided. Any starving nation claims instant help and compassion—the sufferings it is compelled to undergo are too awful to contemplate with any degree of calmness, and may make even the sternest “Teuton” shudder. Therefore, if any of us can, or dare, call ourselves Christians in the face of this un-Christian warfare, which neither religion, science, nor “New Thought,” spiritual or intellectual, has been deep or sincere enough to hinder, let us gather up the fragile fragments of our faith and try to piece them together in one heart-whole, soul-strong effort to save from impending misery the brave little nation, rich in historical splendour of renown, artistic beauty, and industrial progress, whose hard-working people have desired nothing but peace and freedom to attend to their own business unmolested. If Christianity is worth anything in the world we would not let one starving creature go unfed from our doors—shall we leave six million to such an undeserved fate? If we do, then well may the great Powers Invisible chastise us to our own doom, and vengeful Furies whip us to a hell of shame and oblivion! Let us hold out rescue at once with no uncertain hands, and let our practical aid be swift, and “of good measure, pressed down and running over.” In all such deeds of love and sympathy and charity Great Britain and America have led the world by their splendid example. There has been no grudging, no paltry personal discussion as to ways and means. For every good and worthy cause gold91 pours out as from a magical horn of plenty; the more the demand, the greater the supply. And now? Now—when a nation starves! Shall not a veritable argosy of gold make its way across the miles of ocean which divide the Fortunate from the Unhappy, and bridge the gulf of tears and sorrow, striking light from darkness, and hope from despair? This can be so if America wills it! Shall not a radiant Angel of Consolation appear within the deepest gloom of battle, stretching out hands of blessings and sustenance, lifting the fallen, cheering the desolate, soothing the dying, and shedding heavenly sunshine on a sorrow-clouded land? This can be so if America wills it! Shall not the true brotherhood of humanity be re-affirmed and strengthened in the rescue of one nation by another?—in the succour of the smaller by the greater?—in the full acknowledgment of a brave fight for freedom by a power that is more than free? This can be so if America wills it!
“O Liberty! what crimes are committed in thy name!” were the last words of Madame Roland, heroic victim of the French Revolution—but we would say: “O Liberty! what love is perfected in thy name!” when starving Belgium is fed!—because America wills it! Hear my appeal, O Star-crowned States of Freedom!—hear me!—hear all!—Let no pleading voice pass you by un-heard! For the brave Nation that is dying must live!—shall live!—if America wills it!
“THE TIME OF OUR LIVES”
OUR WOMEN IN WAR
(An answer to an American misjudgment)
“You women over here seem to be having the time of your lives!” said an American friend to me the other day. “You lunch and dine at all the restaurants with whatever men ‘on leave’ you can pick up; you go with them to music-halls and theatres and supper dances, and ‘peacock’ about in extravagant clothes as if there were no such thing as a war on!”
My American friend, being a man, took, as is often the case with men, rather a one-sided view of things; but what he said is true, and I fully endorse his statement. I am proud and eager to assure our American sisters “on the other side,” that most surely we are having “the time of our lives”! No doubt about it! But, do you understand, you women of New York, Boston, Chicago, and every other great and growing city in the United States, what that “time” exactly is? Are you able to measure it and give it your true understanding? I think not! It is easy to sit as spectators in your vast amphitheatre of across ocean and watch from comfortably-cushioned points of view the struggle in the world’s arena between Men and Beasts; the contest is terrific, revolting, yet sensational—and provides “thrills” for those who are not actively engaged in combat. But for women whose husbands, lovers, and93 sons are being mauled and crushed and torn by the teeth and claws of ravening and unreasoning brutes, it is a spectacle demanding “nerve,” to say the least of it. This “nerve”—this power of valiant endurance is what Great Britain’s women are displaying in “the time of their lives”—the time of loss and sorrow, danger and difficulty; and I doubt whether the true history of this indomitable pluck, cheerfulness, patience, and resignation will ever be rightly known! They have been, and still are—magnificent!—a glory and an honour to their sex! “The time of their lives” will be recorded in the country’s annals as among the most sublime things witnessed and proved in a century. They have grudged no sacrifice, no pain; they have sent their best and dearest to the great slaughterhouse of Flanders with smiles on their lips, restraining the sobs of agony in their hearts—they have not shrunk in one single instance from any clear duty, however difficult or apart from their own ways of life. Where men’s places have needed to be filled, they have filled them most ably, conscientiously, and loyally, without grumbling or complaint; and though some of their male employers, too old to fight, but never too old to “bully,” have occasionally made things uncomfortable for them by coarse words and coarser actions, they have held their peace for the sake of their men at the front, and are content to bear with insolence and insult in silence rather than interrupt the routine of the work they have undertaken in order to “release” the men, such “release” often meaning for themselves sheer heart-break and desolation. Oh, yes!—we are having “the time of our lives”!—a time such as this world never saw, and which we all pray it may never see94 again!—a time when wives toil in munition works to “release” their husbands, knowing that such “release” may mean their own widowhood—when mothers part bravely from their sons, conscious that they are going into such a hell of barbarous slaughter as never was known even in the days of the Roman butcher, Nero—when girls “release” their lovers, and bend their own slight bodies to the heavy toil usually undertaken by the physically stronger sex, and say nothing of their own fatigue, suspense, and sorrow! There are thousands of such splendid women to set against the few hundreds who “dine at restaurants” and “peacock about,” and even these latter are not so abandoned to self and vainglory as they seem. True, there are women who push their own ends under cover of professing charity, and are never so happy as when they see their own portraits in the lower grade press—this class has always existed in every country and will no doubt continue to exist. And there are plenty of female “decoys” for men “on leave”—who dine and dance at public restaurants in un-dress that would disgrace a savage; but, again, these have always existed, and will probably continue to exist. The good Bishop of London seems to have only just discovered them, which is a great testimony to his guilelessness. Then there is a particularly unfortunate section of the pictorial press which seeks to attract the public eye by indecent pictures of half-nude “women of the town”—dancers, actresses, and titled dames who are equally at one in a voluntary outrage of morals and modesty, and though the public Censor might very well put a stop to these offensive illustrations, he is apparently one of those “blind who will not see.” But you, our95 sisters in America, do see, and rashly pass judgment accordingly! Then there are the ridiculous fashion-plates used as advertisements in newspapers and in the catalogues of leading drapers, which represent women as the merest caricaturess of womanhood, looking more like cockatoos and chimpanzees than feminine humanity, in costumes presented as “the fashion,” but which no decent woman ever dreams of wearing. All this is “the scum of the pot” which rises to the top, thereby becoming noticeable—but it does not represent the actual Womanhood of Britain—the great, Silent Force of patient, brave, unwearying workers. These are scarcely heard of, for they give no chance to the tongues of Rumour, and the press cannot get at them either for portraits or personalities. As noble and exclusive as that noble and exclusive lady, the Duchess of Portland, whose good works are legion, they make no clamour—they are too busy to contend with the already opposing masculine spirit which is beginning to demand of them, “Are you going to dare do our work after the war?” The main fact with them is not the Afterwards but the Now—the resolve to hold together the working necessities of Commerce and Agriculture in Britain—Now!—in time of need—thinking nothing of themselves or of the pleasant little vanities and frivolities dear to them in days of peace, but bracing up all their energies to oppose trouble with valour, patience, and faith. No women in all the world’s history have ever risen to confront a world’s crisis so splendidly and cheerfully as the British—except the French! French women are superb in their magnificent patriotism!—superb in their steadfast hate of the foe. We are often told that the British do not “hate”96 enough—and that if we were better haters we should be better lovers. It may be so, but the general tendency among us is more to despise than to hate. A “Tommy,” for example, would hardly think it worth while to “hate” anybody. Good-nature is the Briton’s strong point; good-nature and a cool, easy, “happy-go-lucky” disposition. These virtues or failings led him into the German traps whereby he was losing his hold on the commerce of the world. He could not be brought to believe that his progressing friend “Fritz” could stab him in the back while he stood unarmed and unready for attack; and, even now, when he is up and full face to the combat, his good-nature still moves him to sing and whistle along the fire-swept path to death or glory, and to stop, regardless of self, among a hail of bullets to give first or last aid to a dying foeman. Is such conduct foolish or sublime? A higher verdict than ours must give answer! In any case we know and may take it for certain that the “Silent Force” of women who are “having the time of their lives” is a great lever to lift the men up to the utmost pitch of their native-born courage and resolution, and to help them meet Death as a fellow-soldier, taking the hand of the grisly skeleton as fearlessly as children might run to look at some attractive novelty. For, back of us all, men and women alike, there is a strong Faith which our enemies have lost. They talk of “Unser Gott” as glibly as though the Almighty were solely exercised in serving their whims and passions—but though our deepest religion be not of the Churches, we cannot so trifle with the Holy Name! We are too conscious of “The Truth that makes us free,” and in the Cause for which97 we and our Allies are fighting, we can best pray with Shakespeare’s Harry the Fifth:
“O God of Battles! Steel my soldiers’ hearts!
Possess them not with fear; take from them now
The sense of numbers!”
For our Cause is the Cause of Right and Justice, Freedom and Civilisation. We are not out for personal gain, either in gold or territory. We have enough of both and to spare. We endure “the time of our lives,” and its wanton and wicked slaughter of the innocent, because we are fighting for all Humanity that it may never be so savagely tortured again. We are fighting for a surer, more impregnable Civilisation—one that cannot be pushed back a thousand years by the ferocious and blind stupidity of any temporary autocrat. Is it possible that there can be people of even average intelligence in the States and elsewhere that do not entirely understand this? The British intervention in the dastardly attack of Germany on Belgium and France was to protect and defend unoffending and peaceable peoples, and in this defence of others we have found Ourselves. We were beginning to lose ourselves among the dreary verbosities of theorists and agnostics and atheists and all the swarm of destructive insects which accompany a setting-in of decadence; we have discovered once again our true spirit, our old and valiant mettle, our pride and love of country, and all the mighty heart of resolution which has made the British Empire what it is. And we cannot but feel that the young and strong heart of America beats in tune with our own—that, despite financial interests and pro-Ger98man intrigues, Right and Justice prevail with the men and women of the United States as with the men and women of this “little isle set in a silver sea”—and that they very well know that they, too, must benefit by the clearance from the world of a monstrous Militarism whose ethics are opposed to every principle of Christian truth and human equity. A great, strong Faith is at the back of us all—a Faith which believes in the utmost triumph of Good over Evil—and this it is which inspires the women of Great Britain and gives them strength to part with their nearest and dearest, so that they endure “the time of their lives” without flinching, knowing that they who endure to the end shall be saved!
THE WORLD’S GREATEST NEED
AN APPEAL TO THE SANITY OF GOVERNMENTS
’Tis a mad world, my masters.—J. Taylor
What is the most urgent need of the world? What would stop war and ensure peace? What would push forward all that is highest and best in our civilisation, and cause men and women to realise that they are not created to brutalise, degrade, and destroy each other in sordid struggles for place and power, but that their purpose in living at all is to educate and uplift each other to noble aims and ends? The great Need stares us in the face at every point of social law and political government; it clamours in our ears and pushes its problem to the front of every question. What is it the world demands in every form of policy, legislation, and statesmanship? A simple thing—one would imagine it to be a natural thing—yet almost undiscoverable in any period of history—Sanity! Sanity, which means health of both brain and body; Sanity which recognises self only as a portion of the greater Whole; Sanity which knows instinctively that mankind must obey the laws of God or else suffer extinction; Sanity, which combines with reason and judgment a comprehensive sympathy for every unit of the human race in its struggle upward from the brute period to the highest realisation of intellectual and spiritual worth.
Judged from this point of view one may doubt, when reading history from its known or traditional beginnings, whether Man, taken in bulk, has ever been entirely sane. Something of the freak, the monster, or the only half human, seems to taint his blood, displaying itself in follies and excesses of the most violent or pitiful nature, which, when dispassionately narrated in the chronicles of centuries, show him to be a crank or a fool at the very time when wisdom might most be expected of him. Some few individuals, notable examples to the race, have stood out in splendid isolation as sane and self-sacrificing teachers and helpers of humanity; but, in the aggregate, from the very beginnings of what we are pleased to call “progress” down to the present day, the desire to trample upon each other and wallow in blood and slaughter seems to prevail with more force over the minds of men than the clearest arguments of reason. Nevertheless this desire is an insane impulse, and if we had any true perception of the laws of right and wrong, we should check it in its very first beginnings. Any man, any body of men, seeking to violate the peace and progress of the world should be dealt with by combined international forces of the Law and Medicine, not by armies—and should either be shot like mad dogs as incurable and dangerous, or imprisoned for life in asylums for the criminally insane. No one man or group of men can be considered in sound mental condition if their actions imperil the existence of their fellow-creatures.
Certain natural laws have been discovered, and proved by physiologists who make the subject their study, as to persons who may marry, and those for whom, through consanguinity or inherited disease, mar101riage is nothing less than a crime. In the “arranged” unions of royal houses these laws have been deliberately set aside with deplorable results. The mad dog of Europe, William of Hohenzollern, is the diseased product of several royal intermarriages, where human convenience and popular complaisance ignored the divine natural law; and as this law is one which prevails “unto the third and fourth generation” we have now a Monster-Abortion of conscienceless cruelty raging loose in the world, who ought to have been smothered in his cradle. There are plain rules of health and sanity which are for ever being disobeyed by civil and social convention; but because they are so disobeyed, we must not flatter ourselves that they do not recoil in vengeance upon the rebels. The Designer of this wonderful and complex universe is proved to be a vastly Mathematical Intelligence; everything great or small, down to a grain of dust, is balanced to the nicety of a hair’s breadth, and do what we will or may, we cannot alter the balance. Our futile efforts in such directions merely display insanity, of the type of an uncontrolled temper in a child which screams itself hoarse because it cannot reach fruit on a tree too high for it to climb. If, therefore, we would have sane peoples, with sane rulers to govern them, we should see to it that they are born and bred sanely, according to the laws of health and mentality which have existed among the “lower” animal creation since the foundation of the world. Every crime is an insane impulse. No healthily organised brain could contemplate the murder of a single individual, much less the wholesale slaughter of millions.
The Almighty has for ever had one gate of Heaven102 set ajar for humanity to peer within and push open a little wider with each succeeding generation—a gate opening to that fair pleasaunce of wisdom and beauty which we call Science. A great logician has written “The basis of all science is the immutability of the laws of nature.” Would that we remembered that “immutability” more often! Yet, while sane pioneers in medicine and surgery are patiently and devoutly following as best they can these complex but beneficent “laws of nature” for the saving of human life and the healing of human injuries, the insane section of the community have been and are still employing all their distorted energies of brain and hand in fiendish ingenuities of invention for weapons of war that shall destroy human life more quickly than it can be saved. And while thus engaged, other insane persons shout in the press and the market place wild warnings about “declining birth-rate,” reproaching unhappy women for their lack of duty in not producing sons for some future slaughter! The Car of Juggernaut was scarcely worse than this! To appeal for a multitude of births during the making of a multitude of guns, which mow down the flower of young manhood like corn, is an insult to bereaved mothers, making their vocation appear less valuable than that of the beasts of the field. For why should they bring forth and rear sons, only that they may go to their deaths at the bidding of this or that Government? The very proposition is an exhibition of stark staring lunacy, combined with a brutish lust of degradation and reckless destructiveness which could only emanate from deficient mental organisms.
SANITY IN RELIGION
Here we touch the vital centre of the whole. On no subject does man ever show himself so violently crazed as on religion. The gods of the past, created by his fanatical imagination, were more or less the deified types of his own vices, or symbols of such virtues as he feebly strove to attain, but he had no real faith in their power to aid or to circumvent his designs. Yet, in lunatic fashion, he behaved as if he thought them omnipotent, though conscious all the while of the silly comedy he was playing with himself. Now, after two thousand years of the pure and beautiful Gospel of Christ which teaches how “god-in-man” might be realised, a lesson to which has been added the strong affirmation of Science, emphasising the fact that “God is a Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth,” Man still plays the crazed crank with dogma, and refuses to realise the Actual Alive Intelligence behind creation, which, from the delicate fluff of a small bird’s feather or moth’s wing, up to the height of solar systems, works in perfection and balance to the exactitude of a pin’s point. This living, loving Presence the dogmatists wellnigh ignore, preferring to move in their own small orbit of creed rather than risk the broader spaces of assured glory. The narrow spirit of self-absorption not only limits their outlook, but holds them bound in a condition of deplorable egotism, like that of an “unco guid” Scotch body who, after accepting many useful kindnesses from a friend to whom she “gushed” affection, changed her sentiments as soon as a slight difference arose between them, and with much unctuous104 piety let it be known that she was obliged to leave that once “precious” friend’s name “out of her prayers”! The monstrous conceit that could imagine God capable of noticing a name left out of a Scotchwoman’s prayers, or out of any prayers whatsoever, would be ludicrous if it were not so pitifully expressive of barbaric ignorance—and who shall count the thousands of similar narrow mind and heart who have a lurking hope that heaven is for them alone, and that their “dear friends” will all be left out in the cold!
Sanity in religion would mean sanity in everything. A sane acceptance of the actual Motive Force of things,—a Force, tenderly embodied to us by Christ’s teaching as the “Our Father” of us all, would do more for our souls and bodies than all the Churches; an intelligent study and comprehension of the minute and careful work of creation, showing us that nothing is wasted, nothing lost—but that all tends in an onward direction to “some far-off divine event,” would help us to find and keep the balance of our brains. We must be brought to realise that Evil, persisted in, works its own recoil on the evil doers, whether they be nations or individuals—the movement of things being always towards Good. “I and my Father are one”—said Our Lord, for which He was stoned. The failure of the Churches is the insanity of dogma, which has supplanted the sanity of Christ.
The brain, as all physiologists know, is a complex and marvellous mechanism—so amazing in its movements, so miraculous in the result of these movements,105 that no scientist has yet been able entirely to probe its powers or foresee its progressive possibilities. Some there are who declare that all impulses, good and evil, are primarily started by the brain—others, more subtly accurate, aver that the brain itself is impelled or “pushed” to action by an influence stronger than itself, mysterious, unnameable, but nevertheless all-potent, which we call “free-will,” but which may more justly be termed “free-spirit”; that is to say the “free” and deathless force which the Creator gives to each human being to use according to the laws He has ordained, but which, turned aside from these, can be debased as surely as exalted. This untrammelled power is bestowed on every man and woman born into the world, and its mode of action is frequently swayed by impressions, sometimes pre-natal, and sometimes by the “afterwards” of early surroundings. If the material brain of a child is sound and healthy, the impulses which move that brain should be sane and pure—but, unhappily, through the physical mentality of irresponsible persons who recklessly take the divine responsibility of parenthood upon themselves, it often chances that a brain, perfectly organised in the matter and placement of its cells, conceives ideas and actions which are little short of devilish in their ingenuity of evil and mastership of cunning. How is this? It is not the forty pairs of nerves which convey sense and feeling to the brain that are guilty of criminal suggestion—they are merely the telegraph wires on which messages are sent. But Who is the sender? Who or what is responsible for the messages which prompt wicked deeds? We feel that we do not have to inquire as to the source of Good, inasmuch as106 that Divine Manifestation is everywhere about us. One thing, however, is certain—that evil propensities corrupt and obstruct the blood-vessels of the brain and distort its images and impressions, so that its powers become perverted—and instead of creating helpful work for the welfare of humanity it dwells on what shall harm and terrorise and destroy. But we must and should realise the fact that an obstructed brain is a more or less insane brain. Its channels do not run clear. From these blocked passages inhuman thoughts are generated as weeds from slime; and fiendish or vicious ideas take shape and action like noxious vermin bred from a stagnant pool. Therefore, if we would have regard to sanity in the race, it should be our business to see to the “Brain-Balance” of our social, ethical, political, and religious conditions, and eliminate from our lives such things as tend towards incipient lunacy. “Crazes” for this or that particular person or fashion are painfully common, and always ludicrous, accompanied as they frequently are by a didactic obstinacy resembling the pompous assertiveness of poor madmen who conceive themselves to be exiled kings. Men and women run about jabbering and gesticulating on the “preciousness” of this or that form of art, when it is utterly opposed to truth and nature, and in this sort of spirit they have held up the “Futurists” and “Cubists” as something worthy to be looked at, much as a child might hold up for admiration a dirty rag doll. Insane themselves, they seek to lead others into the chaos of their own insanity, and this trend towards a warped mentality has of late displayed itself in all the arts, such as the sculpture of Epstein, the crotchets and quavers of De Bussy,107 and the large output of revoltingly sexual fiction and coarse verse. The “pose” of a supreme and scornful egotism marks these devotees of sham and ineptitude, and though they may, in mere numbers, be a negligible quantity, they spread infection, just as one fever-stricken person may infect a whole neighbourhood. From an unsanitary mental outlook no good can come, and the moral filth in which Germany has wallowed for years has so poisoned the German brain that it can devise nothing but treachery and evil. It is a brain that is choked with miasma—and it may be centuries before it is cleansed and restored to sanity.
Meanwhile let us pull the beam out of our own eye before we try to cure other nations’ blindnesses. We have been mad enough in our disregard of honest warnings—we are pretty mad still. We have vied with the old-time “cities of the plain” in reckless orgies of vice and intemperance; but the great War has pulled us back on the road to ruin, and it seems we may be given another chance. Let us begin then by a good try for Sanity. In the first place let us make such laws for those who marry as shall compel them to submit to a searching health examination, so that union may be forbidden to the unfit. A diseased man or woman should no more be allowed to mate than any other diseased animal. The animals arrange this themselves, in a much more common-sense way than humans. They only rear healthy progeny. It is for us to do the same, and to see to it that the mentality of children is safeguarded and set on a sound basis. This cannot be done by forcing education at too early an age, or perplexing young brains with difficulties of learning almost too much for their elders to grasp. The108 brain in childhood records impressions as a disc prepared for the phonograph records sound, and the circles marked on it in early days are seldom or never effaced. Therefore care must and should be taken that such impressions are of the best. Corporal punishment should never be resorted to as a means of training. A blow to a sensitive child frequently means a lasting contempt for the parent or teacher who inflicts it, and excites a rebellious spirit towards life in general. A vicious impulse or an act of crass stupidity does not necessarily mean inherent wickedness or obstinacy—it only shows that there is some “clog on the wheel” in the brain, which a day’s fasting and cooling medicine may remove. At any rate, such a method of cure is better worth trying than the rod and angry threats which have no real effect on “insane impulse.” Sometimes—indeed often—a physical defect in the brain is the cause of evil thoughts and evil deeds, as in the recent case of a man whose warped mind always tended towards murder and mutilation, and who was found to have a thickening of a portion of the cranium which pressed heavily upon certain of the cells within. The operation of “trepanning” was performed by a surgeon who was scientifically interested in the case, with the result that the previously insane criminal is now a person of perfectly normal type and harmless disposition. Who that knows the history of the German Kaiser’s ancestry can doubt that his brain has been more or less diseased from his birth, and that with his approach towards the “grand climacteric” the incipient lunacy bred within him has become more active and less capable of control! No sane man would have acted as he has done, for, prior to the war, the109 trade of Europe was practically in Germany’s hands, and in the interests of his country a sane man would have realised the fulness and value of such a conquest, peacefully obtained without the sacrifice of millions of useful lives.
THE IMPORTANCE OF CHARACTER
The brain is affected by “insane impulse” in the same way as the digestion is affected by improper food. An error in diet will cause pain and general malaise—so will an evil influence or suggestion disorganise the brain cells and create obstacle and confusion within their marvellous formation and movement. A child, from earliest years, needs watching—and those who have that duty to perform should be carefully selected persons who are particular as to general surroundings. A child’s mother or nurse should be a refined woman of soft voice and gracious manners, able to control her own moods as well as the moods of her young charge, so that distinct “character” may be formed and insisted upon. A “no” should be absolute—a “yes” equally so. Character “tells” from the very beginning. The youngest child understands a discipline of firmness conjoined with sweetness and affection—the smallest boy has an ineffable contempt for weakness and vacillation. From the “character” displayed by their elders, children draw their own conclusions. An impatient, hot-tempered father makes callous, indifferent, more or less contemptuous sons and daughters. Children invariably despise and laugh at “temper” in their fathers and “fuss” in their mothers. And the mocking, jeering spirit of scorn is a spirit110 that grows with years, and makes of the person it dominates an often spiteful and vicious influence in society, creating mischief and rejoicing in the unhappiness of others. One sweet, strong, independent character unconsciously forms the nucleus of many others, while one soured malcontent infects a whole community. We have only to consider the “character” of Prussian militarism—how from two or three blatant and braggart egotists it has spread its infection through an entire people, till the brain of the whole German nation has become clogged with thick and poisonous thought and has been driven by “insane impulse” to the committal of the greatest crime in history. If we would avoid such crimes for the future we must see to it first that the race is healthily and sanely born, and secondly that “character” is the only basis on which all education must be founded, or it will be merely a house of cards, toppling at a breath. And the corner-stone on which “character” itself must be reared is a high and reasonable faith in the Supreme Cause of all creation, coupled with an earnest and devout following of the divine order in which that great Force at the back of all things has ordained this Universe to move.
SCIENCE AND RELIGION
Religion is not what the Churches would have us accept as such. It is not man-made dogma. So far as Christianity is concerned, the saying is true that “There never was but one Christian and He was crucified.” No more uplifting faith was ever taught than that of Christ; but it has never been spiritually realised or111 fully practised. Read Christ’s own words in the New Testament, and then ask where shall we find His commands obeyed? In some exceptional cases there have been saintly lives and saintly deeds resulting from the sincere and devout application of the Gospel—but in dealing with this question we have to think of mankind in general, not in an individual sense. This horrible war with its riot of blood and carnage is a damnatory answer to professing Christianity. Man has made of himself his own god—and in the God as revealed or explained in all the conflicting religious “formulas” he has ceased to believe. Faith of any kind must be supported by reason. And Science is the door to the highest heaven of faith. Every new discovery, every new aid to man’s well-being on the planet, is a fresh proof of God. It has taken twenty centuries and more for us to begin learning the wonders of electricity, though the miraculous force, with all its component and divergent radiations, was with us always. It may take us twenty times twenty million centuries to discover God—nevertheless He is with us, notwithstanding our intellectual blindness and lack of Spiritual perception. Science is our peep-hole, through which we may, even now, glimpse Him, but which in time to come will not only be our window, but our open door, through which we may approach Him, full-eyed, without fear. But, to arrive at this, we should remember that Science, like every other power bestowed upon us, must be used sanely; and through “Free-Will”; that is to say, we may bend its force to either good or evil. It is good when we use it for the advantage of humanity—it is evil when we make of it an agent to injure or destroy humanity. The scien112tist who employs his abilities to discover means whereby he may remedy disease, eliminate pain, and assist his fellow-men to the betterment of life, is that “good and faithful servant” who, when God comes, He finds watching—but the scientist, equally brilliant, who devotes himself to the invention of fiendish instruments of destruction and death, whereby he may make the wholesome earth a terror, the sea a snare, and the sky a scourge, is a warped intellectuality, moved by “insane impulse,” which, combined with creative activity, makes of him a devil rather than a human being. Let any thoughtful person try to realise himself engaged day and night on the work of evolving some instrument of death more cruel than any old-time torture, will he maintain that such persistent concentration on the means of killing can mould him into a worthier or nobler individual? But reverse the position and let him imagine himself absorbed in finding out remedies for pain and suffering, aids to happier and more useful living for mankind in general, will he not admit that however difficult his work may be of accomplishment, he knows within himself that he is striving for constructive good, not destructive evil, and that his science is an output of clear sanity which must bring, not only deep contentment to his mind, but also the consciousness that his energies are moving in harmony with the Divine Spirit of law and order.
This is the true and only religion—to bring one’s soul into unison with the infinite beauty and reason which prevail everywhere in Nature. And the Christian Faith, could it but be relieved from ecclesiastical dogma, is the truest symbol we have of our spiritual and immortal destiny, for it teaches the possible god-in-man113 which should be born through the purity of woman. Carry the symbol further, and we find the Crucifixion of Love through selfishness and hypocrisy—yet another step, and we are shown the Resurrection from the grave—“the Light of the World” released from the stone and seal of priestcraft, breaking free from the cerements of prejudice, and ascending to the Father of us all! Search as we may through all the religions of the world, we shall never find a grander, simpler “Symbol” of eternal truth than this—the faith preached by Christ. But it must be divested of its clerical encumbrances. Like a glorious ship that has lain too long in harbour, it must be cleansed of weed and barnacle and launched unhindered into the open sea. And those who man the ship must be free from self-interest, from “cranks” and meddlesome theories and formulas—briefly, they must be sane, with the great sanity of nature and nature’s immutable laws. Without this neither Religion nor Civilisation can endure. They can only be crazed attempts to build that “house upon sand,” of which we have been told that “the rain descended and the floods came and the winds blew and beat upon that house, and it fell; and great was the fall of it!”
HAS CHRISTIANITY FAILED?
Has Christianity failed? No! Men and women have “failed,” but not Christianity. The very question is to my mind terrible and blasphemous—one of the many terrible and blasphemous utterances common to the Press and current literature during recent years.
It is a shame to a professingly Christian nation that such a question should be asked at all. The greatest, purest religion in the world can have no weight with mere apes of humanity, who practise the most appalling hypocrisy in front of the sacred altars, and assume to believe in and to obey Christian precepts, while indulging to excess in their own private and particular selfish vices and passions, without restraint and without regret.
The nations have mocked at God and disobeyed His laws. It is the old story over again. “The earth was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence.” Christ said, “Why call ye Me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?”
Christianity is based on two great laws—love to God and love to one’s neighbour; can any one say that modern civilisation fulfils these demands?
We have only to note the fearful corruption in Church and State, in every phase of politics and business, and the unspeakable vices which pollute so-called “society,” and poison our literature and art, to realise115 that the “cities of the plain” were no whit worse than our own, and merit no less than they a rain of fire.
But Christianity itself, as taught by Christ, towers above all “failure,” despite the apathy and hypocrisy of thousands of its professing priests, who in many instances are as selfish and flagrant blasphemers as the worst atheist and iconoclast in unchristianised and brutalised Germany.
Without that heavenly faith which helps us towards the attainment and reverence of the Divine in all things, what has Germany become? More cruel and callous, more lost to every sense of decency and honour than the savages of prehistoric times, she is sowing the wind and will reap the whirlwind.
But let us take care that we do not join her in her rush towards annihilation. Political shams and treacherous intrigues would drag us thither—“Unfaith in aught is want of faith in all.” If a weak section of men and women fail to find their souls, Christianity itself has not “failed,” nor will it fail; because it is the divine expression of the unconquerable Spirit of Truth.
The most brilliant House of Lies ever built by man’s careful stupidity falls into dust at the lightest breath of a truth based on eternal equities. The microbes in a rotting cheese may deny the existence of the sun because they do not see it, and may ask, “Has the daylight failed?” But the sun pursues its glorious course, lightening the visible universe.
So it is with Christianity. And those who presume to ask “Has it failed?” are but the microbes in the rotting cheese.
Snooks is one of those entertaining persons who makes a point of giving an “opinion” on everything. From the Almighty downwards he has what he calls a “calm common-sense view” on all subjects in heaven or on earth, and his chief object in life is to get that “calm, common-sense view” on all to the front, so that the poor, purblind, uneducated public who seldom have any time to indulge in “views,” and still less chance to express them, may understand that there yet exists one truly great man of sane and sober judgment—namely, SNOOKS.
Before the War he used to write letters to the Times on the urgent necessity there was for complete disarmament. In fervent language he pressed the reduction of naval expenses. He was, and is still, under the impression that the Times is still as it was in ages past—a British Thunderer; an Oracle which manifested itself as “I am Sir Oracle; and when I open my mouth let no dog bark.” He forgets that journalism is now only a monstrous Syndicate, not expressive of thoughts, but of Shares and Dividends, and that if the Times were what it once was, it would not publish any letter from Snooks. But Snooks is “fixed” in his opinions. He admits no change in the course of things—an old-established institution must, without argument, remain always as such, and must not totter to decay. When117 decay sets in, despite Snooks, he firmly denies its possibility.
“Nonsense!” he says—“D’ye think I’ve come to my time of life without knowing better than that? Teach your grandmother!”
Just at the time when he wrote letters about naval expenses and disarmament, one or two other “Snooks’s” popped up and replied. He was not pleased with their replies, as they opposed him. So he took up that Scheme of Idiots, the “Channel Tunnel,” and wasted a deal of ink in seeking to point out what a fine thing it would be to spend needless millions on a tunnel which the Richborough Ferry makes superfluous. His arguments fell a little flat, and he was for a short period reduced to writing about “the first primrose in my back garden”—and “I hope some of your readers have noticed the very early arrival of the wasp this year,” to the indulgent Daily Mail. But he never has found quite enough to do in the way of letter-writing to satisfy his ambition. There are not enough wrongs for a Snooks to set right—people of place and position do not make enough mistakes for a “Snooks” to correct. Daily and nightly he is consumed by the desire to see his name in print, and his craving sometimes leads him to look up familiar Latin quotations, more or less applicable to the political situation, and to send them (with the usual signed letter) to certain small newspapers whose position and reputation make the chance of their editor’s classical scholarship doubtful. To see himself in print, no matter how or when, is Snooks’s joy. And now that the war is blowing the dust of human affairs in all directions, Snooks has, as some press reviewers say: “come into his own.” He finds, so he states with engaging118 modesty, that if HE had been consulted, there would have been no war.
“There was that Algeciras business,” he says vaguely, not knowing in the least what he is talking about. “It should all have been settled then.”
He knows Viscount Grey personally, so he says, but—“he never would take my advice”—and as for Kitchener—ah!—“That’s a man who had immense possibilities!—immense!—but he was obstinate—he wouldn’t listen to a word I told him!”
Here, impressed with the reflections awakened by this melancholy fact, he writes a letter to the Times—a letter which happens to be just the proper quantity of “stuff” to fill up the end of a column: so it goes in. No one pays any attention to it. Snooks shows it to his friends at the club—they smile, half read it, don’t understand it and don’t want to understand it. After some difficulty he gets an old deaf gentleman to look at it.
“What’s this, what’s this!” says the old deaf gentleman nervously—“Something happened to our Allies!”
“No, no!” roars Snooks—“It’s a letter!—a letter I’ve written; I, myself—to the Times about Kitchener!”
“Ah, I wouldn’t do it if I were you!” mildly replies the old gentleman, with one hand up to his ear—“We don’t know anything about his work——”
“I know!” shouts Snooks—“If he had taken my advice——”
“Ah, ah! Did you know him?” inquires the old gentleman, evidently surprised and unconvinced.
“Know him!” Snooks snorts defiance, as much as to imply that if he knows the inside of his own pocket119 he knew Kitchener still better! In irritable impatience he watches the old gentleman’s leisurely perusal of his epistolary effusion.
“Ah! Yes—er—yes! I don’t agree with you,” says the old gentleman at last, putting aside the paper. “I’m not quite sure that I understand it, but it’s not the way I’d put it.”
“Oh, all right!” and Snooks turns on his heel with a superior air of disdain. “I suppose you’re for the wasting of millions! Everybody is, that doesn’t study the subject. Now I——”
Here a stray man comes to the rescue of the deaf old gentleman, the conversation changes, and the famous Times letter is forgotten.
Often Snooks seems to be ubiquitous. His letters appear in numerous papers, especially the provincial ones. Sometimes a Snooks’s “opinion” is squeezed just under the “Space for Special News,” which in many halfpenny rags is not “Special News” at all, but merely the results of—Football!
When all the intelligent world was waiting for war news, a Birmingham paper had a “Space for Special News” in which football results were printed first and the war news second! The absurd folly and incongruity of this sort of thing never seems to strike the syndicated Press. The effect of it on the minds of our French and other Allies is too humiliating to be written. It might draw forth a letter from Snooks, if only Snooks’s opinion carried weight. But it doesn’t. The greatest “opinion” that could be imagined, even that of Plato or Shakespeare, doesn’t much matter to any one. It is not a time for individual criticism; it is only time for inspiration and action. A strong thought is always120 silent; it resolves itself into deeds rather than words. There has been altogether too much talk during the progress of the war; too many “Snookses” in too many newspapers. Snooks has even cropped up in the House of Lords, to say nothing of the House of Commons. And it should be borne in mind that Snooks does nothing; he is not in the smallest degree useful to his country; he merely stands, like an old washerwoman leaning over her tub, and talks. He talks to any one who is idle and stupid enough to listen. He finds out all sorts of “queer things” about General this or Colonel that, and for women he has scarcely a good word to say.
“They’re no use!” he declares contemptuously. “All their sick nursing and sewing was done just for sheer man-trapping! Show them some new hats and they’d forget all about their patients!”
When this heresy is indignantly refuted, he snaps his mouth in a firm, hard line, as though it were a steel box.
“I’d bet you a hundred pounds,” he says, “that if it were women who were wounded in the war instead of men, you’d hardly find one of their own sex to wait upon them! They love fussing round a man! It’s a perfect godsend to them, especially the old maids! There’s an excitement about it; a sort of morbid interest! They delight in washing a Tommy’s face and brushing his hair. If it were one of themselves they’d scrub the face till the skin was ruined and brush the hair the wrong way! I know ’em, I tell you! You give a pretty woman who is ill to an ugly woman who is well, to be nursed, and she’ll ‘nurse’ her! You’ll see what she’ll make of her in twenty-four hours! I121 tell you I take a calm, common-sense view of all this sort of bunkum!”
Unfortunately for Snooks, his “calm, common-sense view” does not appeal to the world in general. It does not even impress the Premier, who, up to the present, has failed to consult Snooks respecting the “conduct of the war,” or to offer him a “portfolio.” He longs to be consulted. He yearns to be displayed on the headlines of the halfpenny dailies or Sunday pictorials in flamboyant beauty, or as,—
“mr. snooks speaks out”; or “the great message of mr. snooks.”
But these things don’t happen. He has still to content himself with letters to the Press, which sometimes get read, but more often are passed over and forgotten altogether. Nevertheless, his “opinion” is in all the newspapers, whether read or unread, and though the King has not sent for him yet, and he has no “portfolio,” he is admittedly and visibly “SNOOKS.” So that when any particularly mischievous comment on affairs in general appears in print, or any “calm and common-sense view,” which gives useful “points” to the enemy, and irritates the patience of the public, we know who it is, and we don’t much mind! We merely say “SNOOKS again!” or “Another powerful letter from Mr. Snooks will appear next week!”
SEA POWER, 1805–1918
Glory and terror and splendid joy of the Sea!
Thunderous Sentinel-Guard of our flowering Isles of the Free!
Fortress impregnable, built with the mountainous waves
Toppling in fury of laughter sheer over our enemies’ graves!
God!… It is all we can ask for!… that still we ever may be
Saved by the glory and terror and conquering joy of the Sea!
Sea that sprang to the keels of the ships of Nelson and Drake,
Billows that leap’d for delight in the battles for England’s sake—
Will ye fail us now? Nay, never! Ye are strong as ye were of yore,
And Victory’s voice rings clearly out in your rush on the rocky shore—
And shark-like Death, at the enemy’s cry, to meet him swiftly runs,
For your swirl and sucking sands are as sure as the fire of a thousand guns!
Glory and terror and conquering love of the Sea,
Circling our Fortunate Isles of Fame, more famous still to be!
Let us praise the Giver of Life for the silver and azure band
He hath set between us and our foes on the other side of the land.
Break, it cannot! Yield, it shall not! England, home of the free,
God keep thee safe in the strength and light and conquering love of the Sea!
THE SPLENDID SERVICE OF THE SEA
(Written by request for the Navy League)
In this greatest War of all history, a War which in extent, in terrifying armaments, and in massed millions of men surpasses in fearful slaughter and incalculable results all the battles ever chronicled from earliest times to now, why is it that in these Isles of Britain, the nucleus of the Empire most concerned, there is so much indifference, apathy, and real ignorance displayed among the general public of the “man-in-the-street” type concerning the silent but ever vigilant work of our Navy? There is no use in denying the fact—indifference, apathy, and ignorance exist; and all taken together constitute an extraordinary, wellnigh alarming national phenomenon. Carelessness arises from what is sometimes called “cock-sureness,” and we are amazingly “cock-sure” of ourselves, especially in naval matters. The levity of our women, apart from those who are engaged in sick nursing and charitable works, and who are happily numerous, is almost unbelievable; their outrageous, not to say positively crazy “new fashions” in dress, their “dinner dances” at London restaurants, their “bridge parties,” and their “night clubs” make one think of the warning words of the prophet Isaiah:—
“Rise up, ye women that are at ease; hear my voice, ye careless daughters; give ear unto my speech. Many125 days and years shall ye be troubled, ye careless women; for the vintage shall fail, the gathering shall not come!”
For truly the “vintage” of prosperity and the “gathering” of good for this country of ours would fail, and fail utterly, if it were not for our resolved and invincible guardianship of the sea—a guardianship which must never be relaxed, and which every one of us should learn to appreciate and help to strengthen by every means that we may.
We are assured by many sagacious essayists and historians that it is the women of the nation who make and who influence the men; and if this be the case, at least one-half of our British women have cause to be proud of the splendid fellows they have sent forth to take part in the vast contest on which such mighty issues depend. But the other half seem deaf to the roar of the guns, or to the call of the Sea. The land forces occupy all the attention of newspaper readers, and very little information can be gleaned about our seamen. The women prattle pleasantly about the grim struggle at Neuve Chapelle or at Ypres; one hardly ever hears them talk about the long, long hours of long, long days and nights spent by our silent mariners, watching from every great battleship and cruiser for the treacherous foe. Yet every woman should, at the present moment, be well on the alert; eager, enthusiastic, and ready to inspire, even to command the youth of the rising generation; and among other duties falling to their lot is distinctly that of teaching their own boys, and other women’s boys too, the inestimable value of service in the Navy.
That grand protector of our islands, the Sea, is to Great Britain more than a hundred million of men;126 and every boy should learn the history of what it has been to us, what it is, and what it ever will be, held by a Fleet which has never been conquered! Every brave lad’s heart is bound to thrill when he is told of the magnificent deeds of daring performed by our naval heroes whose names are household words; but it is to be feared that of latter years boys have been encouraged both at home and at school to think more of “sport” and games of skill than patriotism, and the special training which would help them also to be heroic and to “make history.” Lawn tennis is now regarded as a serious business, but it is only a game, and a country will never be saved by it. Cricket and football are equally “games”; neither one nor the other will drive the foe from our shores should he invade us. Games are good as “games,” but when they become a national obsession the hard and fast line must be drawn before it is too late.
The Sea is our fortress, and so long as that is kept and guarded by a perfectly trained and efficient Navy, we need not fear. Nevertheless, to keep that training and efficiency up to the mark we must show no slackness, no falling-off; there must be a perpetual addition of new, youthful, and ardent blood; brave boys and young men for whom the ever glorious lines of Shakespeare express life’s utmost truth and meaning:—
“This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise;
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war;
This happy breed of men, this little world;
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall,
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands,
This blessèd plot, this earth, this realm, this England,
This nurse, this teeming womb of royal kings
Fear’d by their breed, and famous by their birth,
Renownèd for their deeds as far from home—
For Christian service and true chivalry—
As is the sepulchre in stubborn Jewry
Of the world’s ransom, blessèd Mary’s Son;
This land of such dear souls, this dear, dear land,
Dear for her reputation through the world,
* * * * *
England, bound in with the triumphant sea,
Whose rocky shore beats back the envious siege
Of watery Neptune!”
I wish that every word of this magnificent outburst of noble patriotism were learned by every boy in Britain, and imprinted on his memory, as ineffaceably as his daily prayer. It is the heart’s utterance of the greatest poet and truest lover of his country England has ever produced, and inspires the soul with the same emotion as that expressed by Sir Humphrey Gilbert, of Shakespeare’s time and spirit:—
“Give me leave, therefore, without offence to live and die in this mind, that he is not worthy to live at all that for fear or danger of death, shunneth his country’s service and his own honour, seeing that death is inevitable, and the fame of virtue immortal.”
Great as were the responsibilities and labours of the Navy in the past, they were nothing compared to those128 of the present. In the days of the brilliant and sagacious Queen Elizabeth, there were no submarines, mines, or torpedoes, and the historian Camden tells us:—
“This great Armada which had been three complete years in rigging and preparing with infinite expense, was within one month’s space many times fought with, and at the last overthrown, with the slaughter of many men, not an hundred of the English being missing, nor any large ship lost…. Whereupon several monies were coined in memory of the victory, some with a fleet flying with full sail; others in honour of the Queen, with fireships and a fleet all in confusion, inscribed Dux Fœmina facti, that is, A Woman was conductor in the Fight.”
At that time the enemy Spanish Fleet came forth and showed battle, but up to the present the German Fleet, which took much longer than “three years” to prepare, has not been much in evidence till its humble surrender, and its only exhibited warfare was the treacherous method of torpedoing unsuspecting and mostly neutral vessels, some of which had no means of defence. My own heart thrills when I think of our splendid naval men, whose spirits still respond to Nelson’s undying signal—“England expects that every man will do his duty!” The Germans are not a seafaring race. The British are born and bred “of the sea”; the salt and savour of it are mixed with their blood, and for a thousand years they have been accustomed to it in all its wildest moods.
Herein our Navy has an immense advantage, but because we are thus fortunately bred, there is no need that we should forget that breeding, or neglect the long education we have had, and allow the youth of the129 country to imagine there is no need of their service. On the contrary, there is more need of their service than ever, and for the furtherance of this purpose we are all anxious that as many of our hopeful lads, who have a turn for seafaring and adventure, should join the Navy League at once, and “train” to be defenders of their country as young and smart “sea-dogs” of the old, dauntless, unconquerable mettle. Every help should be given to this end, especially through the women, the mothers of strong and gallant boys, who can influence their sons and imbue them with the true spirit of patriotism, and while we work to strengthen and replenish this vital and necessary force on which we depend so much for our defence and our means of existence, we should think—we who “sit at home at ease,” of the long periods of watchfulness endured by the men of our Fleet at sea in waiting at every turn for each fresh move of an insidious and unscrupulous foe. We should manage to let them know that their work is not all in vain; that there are plenty of young fellows ready to follow them when the time comes, and join in their splendid service of the guardianship of the sea.
In this effort, the Navy League is a fine and necessary institution. It keeps the youthful spirit of the Navy alive and enthusiastic, and it reminds us of what might otherwise be forgotten, that far more than all other defences we rely on the Sea and our Fleet to preserve our existence and protect us from invasion.
We can help them at home by spreading the Spirit of the Navy—the spirit of Drake, Frobisher, and Nelson among all our growing lads who are, in their hearts, eager to be “up and doing.” I should like to see an130 active branch of the Navy League established in every town and village all over Britain—a centre where ambitious boys can be sure of receiving sympathetic attention and assistance for their training; and I think it would be good and serviceable if women would help more than they at present do in this work, by teaching their boys to honour and love the Service, and encouraging them to read the stories of naval heroism and naval conquest, so that their minds may be turned constantly towards ideas of their country’s defence, their country’s safety, their country’s glory. None of these things will, or can, be assisted by football, cricket, or lawn tennis, except as games for physical development; but by discipline, study of the art of navigation, and the wonderful ways of Nature in wind and wave, and by that sincere devotion to duty which brings a man’s life into safe port as surely as a well-piloted, well-guarded vessel. A sea-girt land should breed seamen; we cannot have too many of them. And by early training such powers may be attained as may build a bright British lad into his land’s history as an unforgettable hero. For, as the famous song tells us:—
“Britannia needs no bulwarks,
No towers along the steep;
Her march is o’er the mountain waves,
Her home is on the deep!”
THE LILIES OF FRANCE
(Written by request for “The Golden Book of France”)
Glorious Lilies! Stainless and sweet, they spring from a sacred soil, wet with the life-blood of brave men and the tears of noble women! They are the Children of France and of the Future!—the gracious youth of a happier day, when tyranny and fear are past, and when Peace of the highest and purest is the canopy of safety and honour, under which the nation may rest after long and bitter strife! The Lilies of girlhood and boyhood; the Children, some of them deprived of fathers and mothers, but never entirely orphaned because France is their closest parentage! Oh, beautiful human blossoms, growing up like buds of snow from the black smoke and ashes of battle fires!—we thank God for you, and we pray that you may expand in happy fragrance, nourished by the fresh air of freedom, so that the sufferings your heroic fathers have endured for France may be transformed into joys for you! You are the hope and glory of your land, you fair flowers which even now are beginning to bloom innocently in the dust of many graves; you will be the radiant and triumphant France of coming years, when your wealth of splendid youth and victory shall flame a white aurora against skies of heavenly blue, undarkened by any cloud of treachery! Children of France!—Lilies that grow around the standard of132 Liberty!—we commend you to the Future in faith and in hope! Not without some natural sorrow, for, alas! your garden is the graveyard of many loves!—but though we weep, our tears are tears of pride that those whom we have lost are fallen in honour, and that the blood from which you draw your sustenance is unpolluted by so much as one drop of traitor’s gall! So shall you rise nobly, on stately stems of heroic ancestry and memory to make France once more an earthly paradise, and in the very fairness of your youth we shall see reflected the light of the dauntless spirits that have fought and passed away, leaving you with us as their most precious legacy, which we accept with gratitude—which we keep with all tenderness—holding you reverently to our hearts as the “Annunciation” Lilies of a New Gospel!
“WHOSO SHALL RECEIVE ONE SUCH LITTLE CHILD!”
(Written on behalf of St. Nicholas Home for “Raid-shock” Children at Chailry, Sussex)
Nothing is lovelier than the sight of a perfectly happy child—a little, laughing, dancing, restless, sparkling bit of humanity just beginning to expand into life like a plant putting forth leaves and tendrils and buds that promise fairest flowering—a creature of unspoilt confidence and innocence whose whole consciousness is absorbed in wonder and delight at the strange newness of the world around it, and all the beautiful, amazing things the world offers for its attraction and pleasure. The flight of a bird—the delicate caperings of a butterfly—the flicker of sunshine on the wall—the ripple of water—the sound of joyous laughter and dainty music—all these pleasures and many more captivate and move a child to smiling and pleased gesture—the little voice, the little hands, express wordless ecstasy—the young eyes glisten with unutterable meanings. Fresh from the unseen Power that declared “Let us make man in Our image,” it displays a pathetic faith in good—it trusts all the big, grown-up people around it in an exquisite confidence that none of them will allow it to suffer harm—it accepts life as it finds it, with the beautiful assurance of a flower which opens to the sun, instinctively certain that all is, or shall be, well. Let us remember that a child might never know evil if its134 elders did not instruct it therein! It is as innocent as any other young animal—innocent as a kitten or St. Bernard puppy, than which nothing is more blunderingly simple and touchingly confident. If we watch the unspoilt, natural gaiety and playfulness of all young things we cannot but realise the truth of the Divine pronouncement on creation, “Behold, it was very good!” and that we were meant to be happy on this planet—moreover, that we should be happy, if it were not that we cannot leave each other alone—we must always be backbiting and hurting each other, interfering in our neighbour’s business and grudging our neighbour his or her special form of happiness. No child can be honestly said to know evil till we assure it that evil exists—till we frown and say “Naughty! That is wrong!” heedless of the bewildered eyes that mutely ask “Why?” As the Italian proverb says: “The ‘Why’ of a child is the key of the Universe.” Generally speaking, a child’s attitude towards life is one of complete reliance on unknown but trusted destiny, and in very early years, if that reliance should be broken, the little spirit so startled by some cruel blow is seldom or never the same again. But a few years ago, when we who plead for the children now were all children ourselves, the phrase “a bolt from the blue” was a phrase merely, expressing a possible calamity, too sudden almost to ever take place—and little did any of us dream that we should be forced to realise its literal achievement. The ingenuity of man, warped to devise schemes of wickedness rather than beneficence, has brought about a state of things in which the once secure loveliness of the heavens has become accursed by his vindictive presence, bearing with him through the offended air the means of destruc135tion and death to the innocent and non-combatant populations of peaceful earth places below—and without a generous human thought for the lives of others, he speeds his selfish and devilish flight, insanely convinced that he is a brave man in his efforts to kill his fellow-creatures from the air, as well as on the land and under the sea. Nothing more heroic is left to him by his governments, teachers, propagandists and the like but to kill—to kill! Were he—apart from the red crime of War—to murder man, woman, or child in cold blood, with circumstances of mutilation and burning, he would be condemned to the gallows—but the wind-blown scarecrow of a false “patriotism” speaks, nay, shouts, “Herein killing is no murder!” and he rushes on his way through the air as though to perform an errand of mercy instead of slaughter, dropping bombs of destruction anywhere that seems to him feasible, and when he can have, as he reports, “good results!” “Good” results! “O Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!” Let us look with the eyes of the mind and the heart on such a scene as has been enacted many times recently—a group of little children in a school, singing their little play-songs, or repeating their earliest lessons—happy, innocent, confiding—when, suddenly and without warning, a murderous crash and thunderburst of explosives is launched from the air through the roof above them, and where the young lithe bodies a moment ago disported themselves, there lie mutilated corpses drenched in blood. Our foes call that “war”—but I would fain believe that in their own hearts they know it is butchery, and that they deplore the merciless militarism that compels them to perform such deeds. And even worse than death for these little ones is the136 stunning blow on their mentality—the horrible knock, as it were, on the delicate membrane of the nervous system, which bruises it in a subtle, creeping way that is almost unimaginable. Contrast a healthy, happy child, playing fearlessly in the fields among the flowers, with one who is suffering from “raid shock”—and who sometimes sits lost in a vague stupor, unwilling to move—afraid to look up at the sky lest something fiendish should fall from it! I know one such child who refuses now to raise his eyes from a morose study of the ground. Hour after hour he sits frowningly absorbed. Pressed recently to look at the flight of a butterfly through the air, he gave a terrified glance at it sideways, and then resumed his downward staring. A kindly nurse, trying to rouse him, said, “You mustn’t be frightened of the sky—God is up there!” but he uttered a little pained cry and covered his face, sobbing, “No—no—no! Wicked man up there—not God!”
There is no need to comment on the effect of such impressions on a child’s vivid imagination; it is altogether dreadful and disastrous, for who can tell what damaging results to the brain may be in store for the innocent little victim! Time and care, with healthful surroundings and healing influences, may do much to eliminate the evil and disperse the horror and cruelty of such experiences—and this is why the “St. Nicholas Home” exists to-day, thanks to the loving heart and patience of its founder, Mrs. Kimmins, whose tenderness for children makes one feel that Her guardian angel, as well as the angels who watch over Christ’s little ones, must always “behold the Face of the Father.” No one with even a small amount to spare137 from the multitudinous claims made on the pocket of the unfortunate British taxpayer, whose Governments have dragged him into the incredible wickedness of a war for which he had neither the taste nor the inclination, will refuse that mite to assist the work of the “good Saint Nicholas” in the home over which his childhood-loving spirit presides, while those who are making much of the “filthy lucre” out of the exigencies and demands of the nations’ slaughter-houses will perchance salve conscience by munificence. Some of the donors may call to mind the story of the father who murdered his three sons, and whose crime St. Nicholas discovered in a vision. Going to the inn where the murderer was, the saint forced him to confess his wickedness, and forthwith raised the three boys to life again. In this legend we may find a happy symbol for the “Home” on whose behalf we plead. For the “raid-shock” children are, in a sense, murdered, though alive—murdered in their natural confidence, hope, and gaiety, and crushed by the oppressive consciousness of an ever-looming evil. We wish, as St. Nicholas did with the three boys, to raise them to life again—to re-establish their youthful trust, to make them forget that there are men who are devils—but perhaps to persuade them that there are women who are angels! Women, with mothers’ hearts, ready to put mothers’ arms round them—to play with them and talk “fairy bits”—as a sweet little girl asked me to do the other day—women who will care for them and see that nothing scares them from their healthful sleep at night, or their innocent games by day. This is the object of our appeal for “St. Nicholas Home”—a worthy cause—a noble, humane, and sacred cause, for we must “take heed” that we “offend not one of138 these little ones.” And most earnestly do I join with all who have put their shoulders to the wheel of this great Car of good effort steadily going a stiff way uphill—a strong push, a big push, and a push all together, and we shall stand on the shining summit of success with our saved children gathered round us in the light of happier days!
APPEAL FOR THE FRENCH RED CROSS
(Written for the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, July, 1918)
Dear Friends!—We are here to-day in the name of France; France, the beautiful, the beloved country, now ravaged and desolated by the crudest enemy that ever dishonoured the name of War. I am asked to make an appeal to you,—to you, the people of the land of Shakespeare, on behalf of the people of the land of Victor Hugo,—and I esteem it an honour, a privilege, and a duty to plead this great Cause. I ask you to look away from yourselves, your own interests, your own comforts in this peaceful town, which has never known the horrors of invasion and destruction by brutal foes,—I ask you to think of other towns and villages, once as happy, but now ruined and desolate, where thousands of harmless people have been driven out of their homes and forced to endure miseries such as you have never known! Remember, too, with what heroism they have borne their sufferings!—with what courage and fortitude! Never complaining, they have put their own sorrows and losses in the background for the sake of their country, and when all the tale is told, the splendid and unflinching patriotism of France will shine on the page of history as a deathless example to all the nations of the world!
Think for a moment what it would mean to you, if you had to look on at your beautiful old Church, the140 holy shrine of Shakespeare’s rest, battered into ruins by the bombs and shells of the remorseless German foe!—your houses shattered—your gardens laid waste—your streets broken up by the machines of war, and you yourselves turned forth as homeless wanderers without hope or refuge!—your little children murdered before your eyes! This is what France has had to endure, and it is your happy fortune to be spared these terrible calamities only because brave men are fighting for you and giving their lives for you that you shall never know such desolation! And not only your own brave men but the brave men of France are fighting, for you as well as for themselves! France and Britain are friends and brothers-in-arms; and in the great and terrible struggle they fight as one soul! We, who are protected in our island home by the magnificent heroism and self-sacrifice of such splendid men, can do but little to show our grateful love and admiration towards France for her unmatched endurance, resolution, fortitude, and courage; but such little as it is and must be, let us do it with a full and generous heart! Let us take pride and joy in helping to rebuild the ruined towns and villages,—let us try to comfort the brave people by giving homes to the homeless, and restoring in some measure their lost peace and prosperity. Every pound that can be spared goes to alleviate some trouble. No money brings such divine interest as that which we spend in helping those in need. Therefore let us not grudge our offerings to the heroic martyr of the nations! She is pierced with many swords,—she is scourged and crowned with thorns,—but her invincible faith and honour and patriotism will bring her through the darkness to the light of a triumphant and glorious141 Day! Her cause is Ours; Our cause is Hers! Now is the time when we, who are not in the stress of battle, can cheer and help her by proofs of love and sympathy in her sorrows. Most earnestly do I hope, and most ardently do I pray that the noble, ever-living spirit of the Master Poet of the world whose name and memory make this town honourable, may so influence your hearts that you will give freely all and more than you can spare, in generous tenderness, and with that “quality of mercy” which brings blessing beyond all wealth, and reward beyond all fame!
(The above Appeal was spoken in French on the stage of the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, Stratford-on-Avon, by Monsieur Combet de Larenne as follows:)
Mes Chers Amis,—Nous nous réunissons aujourd’hui en l’honneur de la France, la France, ce beau pays, ce pays aimé, à cette heure ravagé, désolé par le plus cruel ennemi qui ait jamais déshonoré la guerre.
On m’a demandé de m’adresser à vous, mes amis, à vous qui foulez la terre de Shakespeare, en faveur de ceux qui foulent celle aujourd’hui dévastée de Victor Hugo, et je considére comme un honneur, comme un privilége, et an même temps comme un devoir de plaider auprès de vous cette grande cause.
Je vous demande de vous recueillir, de considérer votre situation propre, de jeter un coup d’œil sur votre confort, vous, habitants de cette ville paisible, qui n’avez jamais connu les horreurs de l’invasion, de la destruction causées par le plus féroce des ennemis! Je vous demande de diriger votre pensée vers d’autres villes, vers d’autres villages, autrefois joyeux et pros142pères aujourd’hui ruinés, désolés, au des milliers de malheureux innocents ont été chassés de leur foyer et contraints de subir des misères plus terribles que toutes celles que vous pouvez imaginer!
Rappelez-vous aussi avec quel héroisme ils ont enduré leurs souffrances, avec quel courage, avec quelle force d’âme! Sans se plaindre, ils ont, pour le salut de leur patrie, refoulé dans le plus profond de leur être leurs chagrins et leurs angoisses, et quand l’Histoire parlera, le splendide et inébranlable patriotisme de la France, brillant d’une lumière étincelante, sera pour toutes les nations un noble et impérissable exemple!
Pensez, mes chers amis, un instant seulement aux angoisses qui vous étreindraient le cœur si vous deviez considérer votre vieille et belle église, le sanctuaire vénéré au repose Shakespeare, réduits en cendres par les bombes et par les obus de l’impitoyable ennemi allemand! vos maisons abattues, vos jardins dévastés, vos rues détruites par le fer et par le feu, et si vous deviez vous trouver vous-mêmes errants, hagards, sans espérance, sans refuge! vos petits enfants massacrés sous vos yeux!
Ces sant ces terribles supplices que la France endure! Vous avez la bonne fortune d’échapper à ces épouvantables calamités grâce au dévouement des braves qui combattent et qui donnent leur ire pour vous, et c’est a eux que vous devrez de ne jamais connaître une si abominable désolation! Ce ne sont pas seulement les enfants de l’Angleterre qui se battent pour vous: ce sont aussi les enfants de la France; ils sont frères dans la grande et terrible lutte actuelle; ils n’ont qu’une âme!
Nous qui sommes protégés dans notre île par le143 magnifique héroisme et par le dévouement d’hommes aussi splendidement grands, donnous une preuve de notre amour reconnaissant et de notre admiration pour la France, pour son incomparable ténacité, pour sa résolution indomptable, pour sa grandeur d’âme et pour son courage, et si peu que nous puissions les uns et les autres faire pour elle, faisons—le avec tout notre cœur, avec toute notre générosité! Sayons fiers et joyeux d’aider à reconstruire les villes détruites, les villages anéantis; essayons de donner un peu de confort aux malheureux éprouvés, en leur procurant un abri, en leur rendant un peu de la paix et de la prospérité perdues! Chaque obole allégera une part de souffrance! Nul placement ne peut rapporter d’intérêt plus divinement profitable que celui consacré à secourir les malheureux dans le besoin!
Donc, donnans san hésiter à l’héroique nation martyre! Elle est meurtrie de coups de lance, elle est flagellée et couronnée d’épines, mais sa foi invincible, son honneur et son patriotisme la conduitent à travers les ténèbres vers la lumière éblouissante d’un jour de gloire et de triomphe. Sa cause est la nôtre; notre cause est la sienne. Le moment est venu au nous qui ne sommes pas dans la fournaise de la lutte, nous pouvons venir en aide à la noble nation et lui donner les preuves de notre amour et de la profonde sympathie que nous ressentous pour elle.
J’espère ardement que le noble et vivant esprit du génial poète dont le nom et la mémoire illustrent cette ville, inspirera vos cœurs et que vous donnerez à l’œuvre française ce que vous pourrez, tout ce que vous pourrez, presque plus que vous ne pourrez, dans un élan de144 tendresse généreuse et avec cette qualité de miséricorde dont parle notre grand Shakespeare, cette qualité de miséricorde qui apporte une bénédiction supérieure à toute richesse, une récompense supérieure à toute renommée!
GLORY OF THE WORCESTERS
(Written by request in aid of the Homes for Disabled Worcestershire Soldiers and Sailors)
A TRIBUTE TO A FAMOUS REGIMENT
“You have deserved nobly of your country.”
Far down the long annals of past history we must look for the beginnings of the brave breed of Worcestershire men—the outcome of that ancient heroic blood which nourishes the flower of chivalry and strengthens the spirit to perform imperishable deeds of valour. Between a band of tenacious Britons holding the summits of the Malvern Hills, and a military guard and outpost of Roman warriors at Worcester itself, was seemingly produced that special type of Englishman who, ever since those far-away days, has been famous for courage and conquest. The native fighting force of the Gael, and the trained skill and prowess of the Roman are mingled in his being, and they make him, almost unconsciously to himself, a hero from his youth. Something of the salt of ocean, as well as of the salt of the earth, is in him, bracing his energies and hardening his muscle and, indeed, if we grope farther back in the dark recesses of time, we shall find geology suggesting that Worcestershire was once a sea, and the hills of Malvern, islands, and that the projecting bluffs on each side of the gaps in the opposite range were capes146 standing out from what some imaginative folk called the “Severn Straits,” so that we may be permitted to fancy the earliest progenitors of the Worcestershire breed were, perhaps, bold mariners, sailing round a veritable archipelago of islands, and skilfully steering their primitive craft into harbours sheltered by the very headlands which confront us to-day; or they might have been hunters, chasing the innumerable wild beasts which at one period infested the formerly dense “Forest of Malvern”—a forest that even in the Middle Ages stretched from the plains to the very tops of the hills. Be this as it may, our redoubtable men of Worcestershire must have been born and bred from strong beginnings; they come of a stock which knows no fear, no hesitation, no failure. The “Firm” fighters whom we delight to honour are the product of centuries of heroism. Heroism comes so naturally to them that they think little or nothing of it. Their pride is in each other—not in themselves individually; what is said of one man, must be said for the whole Regiment. Their spirit is expressed in Shakespeare’s lines,—
“In this glorious and well-foughten field
We kept together in our chivalry!”
And though they have performed prodigies of valour in bygone great battles, as in the terrific “World War,” they make no boast of their proved mettle, nor have they called upon the country they so nobly serve for special consideration. It is with difficulty, and only by piecing dry and desultory bits of history together, that we are at all able to read their Golden Chronicle, or to realise the nature and worth of their splendid services,147 splendidly performed in defence of “This dear, dear land, this land of such dear souls—This England!”
* * * * *
We do not know with any certainty the character or military qualifications of their first Colonel, Thomas Farrington, who raised the Regiment in 1694, but we do know many of their brilliant exploits since that far-off day, especially in India, such as the carrying of the Delhi Gate and the storming and capture of Bangalore, which helped to bring about the vanquishment of that notable rebel, Tippoo Sahib; and though the overladen pages of historians find little space for special mention of special companies of soldiers, the Duke of Wellington’s praise of the Regiment after Badajos has not slipped notice, nor is it likely to be forgotten:—
“It is the best Regiment in this Army, has an admirable internal system and excellent non-commissioned officers.”
But the laurels of the past, thickly showered as they were on the “Worcesters,” are little to compare with those of the present, when valour is put to its utmost test, and when war weapons contrary to all international usage, more deadly and treacherous than ever were known before, are employed by the most inhuman and dishonourable of foes. We have only to recall the dramatic scenario of the village of Gheluvelt during the battle of Ypres, when the Worcesters literally saved the day. No page of romance was ever more thrilling! The Germans had carried the village, but the Welsh, true sons of “Gallant Little Wales,” remained, firing, holding their ground and refusing to admit any sort of defeat. Even when they had been given the order to retreat, they hung on with the grim tenacity of their148 Celtic ancestors, and it depended on the merest chance as to whether any company of men could advance to their assistance under the deadly fire of shrapnel which covered and cut them off from the rest of their line. But rescue was forthcoming—a mere handful of Worcesters—six hundred of them, were stationed but a mile off Gheluvelt. Their commanding officer gave the order—“Advance without delay and deliver counter-attack.”
“Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die!”
They responded, and rushed for about half a mile under the battering rain of shrapnel, going for two hundred yards without cover.
“Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
Ran the Six Hundred!”
Shrapnel showered thick and hot in front of them, and on their right flanks the Bavarians poured bullets upon them from rifles and machine guns. In crossing the two hundred yards without “cover” they had one hundred casualties. But what did death or danger matter to the Worcesters? What have they ever cared for shots that have sped their brave souls to Heaven? They pressed on, up on the left of the splendidly stubborn Welsh, and opened fire with so much success that the foe was forced to retreat. The effect of their action was such that the position was entirely changed—the Germans fell back and the British line was reinstated. In Sir John French’s despatch it is written:—
“The recapture of the village of Gheluvelt at such a time was fraught with momentous consequences. If any one unit can be singled out for special praise it is the Worcesters.”
Quite recently, a British General, whose name, for some occult reason or other, was withheld from the public by the newspaper reporter, gave an enthusiastic account of the fine deeds of the Worcestershire Regiment on the Somme.
“The Worcesters have a wonderful record,” he said. “They have seen some of the hardest fighting of this war, and they have won new honours for a fine regiment, which already boasts some of the most glorious records on our military history.”
We shall do well to think of, and to long remember, some of this “hardest fighting.” For example, when they made their wonderful stand against the Prussian Guards, with the Wiltshires. Some of the incidents in that fight have never been recorded, and yet, to those who witnessed them they make the glory of the Worcesters still more glorious. Listen to the stirring account of the stirring action!
“The battalions had been fighting incessantly for weeks, with little or no rest. They had taken trenches from which the enemy had to be flung out. The subsequent German attack or counter-attack was delivered by a force of picked troops, made up of Prussian Guards and other crack regiments. There were at least ten thousand of these crack troops. They were supported by magnificent artillery and had been trained for an attack over this ground for days before they were sent against the Worcesters. Judging by the ordinary standard of things, the weary Worcesters’ battalions150 ought to have been crushed and finished under such an avalanche; but they withstood the fiercest attacks for two days and nights. They captured many prisoners, as many as themselves, and the German killed and wounded were twice as numerous as they. There was one great mound of dead before the trench, after the last attack was driven off, the Germans being simply mown down by the machine guns of the Worcesters.”
“Firm” has ever been the character of the Regiment, as well as its motto. On five several occasions they have held their ground and carried strong positions held by superior enemy forces. They have come triumphantly through every ordeal—shell-fire, machine-gun fire, liquid fire, and poison gas, without shrinking or complaint—and on several occasions the foe himself has been moved to praise of their splendid heroism. Here is another story:—
“On one occasion a battalion of the Worcesters was advancing under great difficulties against a strongly fortified village. The artillery fire and infantry defence was stronger even than they expected. For a moment the battalion seemed to pause. The officer in command sprang forward with the shout, ‘Firm! Firm! Give them Worcester Sauce!’ The men responded with a cheer and laughter—they swept forward, rushing the position and fighting their way to the rear of the surprised and baffled foe.”
Think of the time when a little band of these splendid lads were cut off by a sudden descent of the enemy in force! They were holding a bit of trench, which was powdered to ruins by shell-fire, and they were half-buried under the wreckage; but they dug themselves out again, and fought with such resolved fury that not151 all the forces of the foe could overwhelm or overawe them. They held their ground for three days—though every man who wasn’t killed was wounded. When they were at last relieved they were cheered wildly by the troops who watched their limping march down to billets for rest, heroes all, without a single exception!
Such is the “way” of the Worcesters—such has always been their way from their beginning. Unflinching valour, duty, and love of country beyond all love of life, has made them and still makes them what they are. They, and all their brave and noble kind, have fought and are still fighting for us that we may dwell in our homes in peace. It must now be our pride, as well as our honour, to prove our gratitude to them, not only by words but deeds. Many of them will return to us, broken men, deprived of health, strength, and all ability to work for their living—crippled, blind, disfigured—suffering too from what we may call mind-hurt beyond remedy. That is to say, the awful, ineffaceable impression of ghastly sights and sounds, so inhuman, as to shame humanity. What shall we do for our self-sacrificing defenders when they come home? How shall we assuage their sufferings and seek to make them forget the terrors they have confronted for our sakes?
In matters of this kind, many people incline to the old conventional, rather worn-out business of a “War Memorial,” which conveniently and with all official publicity and importance, writes the names of living subscribers as well as those of the heroic dead, but it is more than likely that the whole face of the Empire will be strewn with such “War Memorials” in so great a number that in a short time no passer-by will pause to look at them. And a monument of cold stone cannot152 come into comparison with the expressed warmth or loving hearts; so that the best and kindest “Memorial” to the gallant “Worcesters” who have passed away “in the stern and grim life-battle, in the morning of their day”—should be of a nature to care and to provide for the “Worcesters” who have come alive out of the Valley of the Shadow, and who remain with us to witness our recognition of their services. Such a “Memorial” is proposed by the Mayor of Worcester, and I, for one, do most heartily wish that his lead could be followed in every County and Town of Imperial Britain. For what a fine scheme it is! Could anything be more practically humane and sympathetic than the idea that small, pretty cottages or bungalows should be erected to provide permanent homes, rent free, not only for the life-disabled men of the Worcestershire Regiment, but also for Worcestershire Sailors and Soldiers in other units, similarly disabled, who have “borne the burden and heat of the day,” and who are entitled to the country’s heart-whole gratitude. I can imagine no more beautiful “Memorial” to these brave fellows than the free gift of charming little houses to live in, fragrant little gardens to tend, and a fair and peaceful prospect to look upon for the rest of their days. Nothing better, nothing kinder could be advised for the permanently injured and maimed, the sad and battered wrecks of once strong and comely men—no more comforting reparation scheme could possibly be thought of—and it is good to know that much has already been done, and is being done, to forward its success. The Mayor of Worcester himself has given the site for building, and one individual has offered five tons of lime to assist operations. Then come the Pharmacists153 of Worcester, who are willing to supply free all drugs and medicaments needed by the dwellers on this “Pleasaunce of Peace”—while the “Old Comrades” of the County Regiment have incorporated an effort of their own with the general plan, which has the approval of the local military authorities. Subscriptions are beginning to flow in; and when it is fully realised how welcome and warm “a Home-coming” can, by these means, be given to the heroes who have sacrificed their own homes to fight for us, surely every one will be eager and anxious to contribute to so worthy a cause. For say what we will, there is a truth in the familiar song,—
“Be it ever so humble,
There’s no place like home!”
And it is within our power to give our broken Worcestershire men that blessed abode of simple tranquillity and content, which, if they had not fought for us they might have earned for themselves. They will have their pensions from the Government of course, but we doubt whether those pensions will be as adequate as they might expect. Anyhow, we of the British People, who have been defended by their valour, cannot do too much for them, and if the Mayor of Worcester’s scheme were copied and carried out all through the British Isles it would lift a considerable burden of anxiety from the State. If any “County” must have a special “War Memorial” to coldly chronicle names of the dead rather than hearts of the living, there is nothing in our “Happy Homes” work to prevent the erection of “marble or the gilded monument,” but to the eyes of thinkers, philosophers, and all teachers and154 helpers of mankind, a little village of clustering cottages on the lovely site which the Mayor has freely given, commanding as it does an outlook over picturesque country—cottages with tiny gardens easy to till, plant, and care for, where in summer the dear old-fashioned flowers which are a liberal education in themselves, may bring their beauty and sweetness into lives that have been blackened by shot and shell—will offer a far greater and more impressive testimony of memory and gratitude.
I, who am privileged to write this brief token of honour and admiration for men whose fine character and splendid courage have been chronicled by infinitely worthier pens than mine, now plead this noble cause, as worthy of the strongest and most loving support of every man, woman and child in the historic county of Worcestershire, and I want the spirit of a fine and active enthusiasm to “catch on” and spread like a prairie fire, not only through Worcestershire, but even farther afield. Why should not every county have its own soldiers’ and sailors’ settlement? It’s own well-organised, picturesque haven and “Pleasaunce of Peace”? It is impossible that any of us should sit down in satisfied comfort at the close of the war and do nothing for the men who have done so much for our defence. A new “Garden City” would hardly be spacious enough to provide them with their well-earned ease—and shall we hesitate to build them villages? Villages so artistically and prettily planned, so dainty and restful that the wandering stranger in future years shall pause, enchanted, to ask what influences have been at work to create such little Edens on earth. And he will be told:—
“These are the homes of heroes!—here dwell men who faced death for duty’s sake and Britain’s honour—and Britain has given them what she can to prove her gratitude, and to make their remaining lives sweet.”
For, of every man that has fought for us in this terrific World-Struggle for nobler freedom and higher ideals, it can be said with Shakespeare,—
“The blood that he hath lost, he dropp’d it for his country,
And what is left, to lose it by his country,
Were to us all that do’t and suffer it
A brand to the end of the world!”
EYES OF THE SEA
(Written by special request of the Directors for the British and Foreign Sailors’ Society)
A TRIBUTE TO THE GRAND FLEET AND ADMIRAL BEATTY
“Then said David to the Philistine, ‘Thou comest to me with a sword and a spear and with a shield, but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of Hosts…. This day will the Lord deliver thee into mine hand!’”
We all know that in Bible history there was a certain Goliath of Gath. His height was six cubits and a span,—that is to say, about ten feet. He had a helmet of brass, and he wore a coat of mail weighing five thousand shekels of brass,—about a hundred and fifty-six pounds. He had brass on his legs, and brass between his shoulders, and his spear’s head weighed six hundred shekels of iron. Taking him altogether he was a fine prototype of the Hun, who is similarly a monster of Brass, Iron, and Brag. And then DAVID, “ruddy and of a fair countenance,” drew near to this Brazen Being, and smote him with a stone in the middle of his forehead, so that he “fell with his face to earth.”
And this is just what our “David” has done. A matter for national rejoicing! Especially for “they that go down to the sea in ships and do business in great waters” do we rejoice that the “David” of the Grand Fleet,—high-souled, brave-hearted DAVID BEATTY,—commands the Sling and Stone of our straight-hitting Naval Power! What better man than he to take the157 place of Nelson?—to carry out with zealous ardour Nelson’s one wish, Nelson’s last desire that “every man should do his duty!” Look at the strong face,—the keen, clear “eyes of the sea,”—the resolute yet tender lines of the mouth,—the whole bearing of this bold and dauntless commander, and then think of the lofty and devout spirit of him expressed in his recent “message” to the nation:—
“Until religious revival takes place at home, just so long will the war continue. When England can look out on the future with humbler eyes and a prayer on her lips, then we can begin to count the days towards the end!”
There’s a challenge for you! Flung out unhesitatingly and manfully in the very face of a swarm of atheists in Church and State, who for the past decade at least, have copied Germany in mockery of all things holy and divine, and have spread their “literary” blasphemies throughout the land, assisted in their work of “tearing down” Christianity by a corrupt section of society and a decadent Press! It’s a challenge we are bound to hear,—given in simple, manly words which echo the high faith of him who won the Battle of Trafalgar, and who, on the eve of the fight retired to his cabin and wrote this prayer:—
“May the great God Whom I worship grant to my country, and for the benefit of Europe in general, a great and glorious victory; and may no misconduct in any one tarnish it; and may humanity after victory be the predominant feature in the British Fleet! For myself individually, I commit my life to Him that made me, and may His blessing alight on my endeavours for serving my country faithfully! To Him I resign158 myself and the just cause which is entrusted to me to defend. Amen!”
Without such faith, such humility and resignation as this, few great victories are won. Even pagan heroes sought the favour of their gods in every high enterprise; but in our time the nations of Europe, assuming an “advancement” beyond either pagans or Christians, have been seeking to ignore the Higher Power Almighty altogether; with what dire results is now witnessed by desolated peoples drenched in blood and tears! Of Nelson it is written: “All men knew that his heart was as humane as it was fearless, and that there was not in his nature an alloy of selfishness or cupidity, but that he served his country with a perfect and entire devotion, therefore they loved him as truly and fervently as he loved England.”
Cannot each word of this be said with equal truth of David Beatty? Every man of the Fleet will answer “Yes!” And every man of the Fleet will endeavour to be a copy of him in all the grand essentials of honour and duty. And here comes in a little story.
Only the other day I received a letter from a lad on board one of our mine-sweepers,—a stranger to me personally, but one who evidently felt sure (as he might) of my interest in his difficult and dangerous work. In that letter he writes:—
“I am in his Majesty’s Navy and I am just twenty. My last ship was Admiral Beatty’s Flagship, the Lion, on board of which I had the honour of being a little over three years under an Admiral whose qualities are magnificent. I want to say this, because people are apt to take doubtful views through articles in the papers about our truly Great Leaders.”
Yes,—“articles in the papers,” written by caterers for mere sensational gabble, are apt to influence the majority of fools; and “doubtful views” are generally entertained by persons who in themselves are more than doubtful. But if a boy of twenty, after serving for three years under Admiral Beatty, can write, “His qualities are magnificent,” it means a very great deal. Young fellows of that age are not always easily impressed by their superiors,—they are more critical than complimentary; and the rules of naval discipline go hard with them unless administered by a kindly as well as just hand. “Eyes of the Sea” must be everywhere vigilant,—watching men’s minds equally with God’s stormy waters,—ever on the look-out for enemies of the soul as well as enemies of the country; and so well and truly do they watch,—so faithfully have they always watched, that sailors’ eyes have grown to be quite different to all other eyes in the world! We know them at once by their far-off steady gaze—by their look of mingled pathos, persistency, and cheerfulness,—by the sparkle of the waves and the light of stars which are somehow commingled in their keen glances, suggesting the wonderful power and indomitable energy of “one life, one flag, one fleet!” The strong lines of Alfred Tennyson, the last worthy Laureate of Great Britain, may well ring in our ears to-day:—
“You, you, if you shall fail to understand
What England is, and what her all-in-all,
On you will come the curse of all the land
Should this old England fall
Which Nelson left so great.
His isle, the mightiest ocean-power on earth,
Our own fair isle, the Lord of every sea,
Her fuller franchise—what would that be worth,
Her ancient fame of ‘Free,’
Were she—a fallen State?
Her dauntless Army scattered and so small—
Her island myriads fed from alien lands,
The Fleet of England is her all-in-all;
Her Fleet is in your hands,
And in her Fleet her Fate.
You, you that have the ordering of her Fleet,
If you should only compass her disgrace,
When all men starve, the wild mob’s million feet
Will kick you from your place,
But then too late, too late!”
But Great Britain “is no longer an island,” we hear. Who says so? Merely brazen Goliath with his big mouth of Brag. “No longer safe from invasion.” Who says so? Goliath again! Our “supremacy of the seas is gone for ever!” Good old Goliath! Submarines and Zeppelins are to bring the invaders along as surely as weeds swept on the sand by the tide! Easier said than done! What says the old song?
“Since our foes to invade us have long been preparing
’Tis clear they consider we’ve something worth sharing,
And for that, mean to visit our shore;
It behoves us, however, with spirit to meet ’em,
And though ’twill be nothing uncommon to beat ’em
We must try how they’ll take it once more!
So be this the toast given,
England for ever, the land, boys, we live in,
England for ever, huzza!
Here’s health to our tars, on the wide ocean ranging,
Perhaps even now some broadsides they’re exchanging,
We’ll on shipboard and join in the fight!
And when with the foe we are firmly engaging,
Till the fire of our guns lulls the sea in its raging,
On our country we’ll think with delight—
So be this the word given,
England for ever, the land, boys, we live in,
England for ever, huzza!”
True enough, we have to deal nowadays with pirates,—not true naval men,—with burglars, not warriors,—and inhumanity being the characteristic of all such folk, the international laws of Imperial Britain and her Allies, regulating the conduct of warfare, have no hold on them. We are not at war with an educated people,—for they have shown themselves openly as savages. But though the wholesome air may be poisoned by the breath of the Hun, and murderous bombs may be flung through those spaces of heavenly blue, once most blessedly free from the presence of humanity, we have already proved equal to tackling the Zeppelins, and shall tackle them yet again. And we shall “manage” the submarines in a way of our own, if only the garrulous and indiscreet Press will leave us alone to do it, and refrain from giving elaborate details of all our newest machinery in their columns for the benefit and instruction of the enemy! We would not “tell it in Gath” to Goliath, how many162 of his under-sea “sneak” boats have already been “bagged” by our sportive captains—that’s a “secret of the Admiralty.” But it is just possible that even Huns may be weary of the certainty of death by fire in the air, and death by “ramming down” to the bottom of the sea! Neither way is a pleasant exit from the world of living men. Both are the result of inventive science put to wrong uses,—namely to injure, instead of to benefit. The old ways of combat were more open and honourable. Better the sword and shield than the gas and the bomb,—better the fair fight between ships confronting each other boldly on the ocean, than the floating mine or the sly torpedo, sneaking like a low thief beneath the waves. There is something cowardly about the new “scientific” weapons of war,—they manifest the assassin’s spirit rather than that of the honest soldier. The long-distance gun, the poison-vapours, the “dum-dum” bullet—all show the inventive faculty of murderers in training, not the sane education of civilised and honourable men. There has been much talk of “advancement”—but if human progress takes the form of “scientific” torture, barbarity, and outrage on our fellow-creatures, it is not progress at all, but terrible retrogression and back-sliding which must be checked before it is too late. No man can do better than see to it that what has been written of Nelson may also be said of him:—
“All men knew that his heart was as humane as it was fearless.”
We say this, think this, and feel this of David Beatty,—and by the Almighty’s grace and power, we want to say, think, and feel the same of every man and boy under his command! And so the Fleet will be as it163 always has been,—the star of victory in the crown of Empire. On the memorable occasion when Mr. Lloyd George rose to make his first address to the House as Prime Minister, Admiral Sir H. Meux, Member for Portsmouth, asked:—
“Will the right hon. gentleman say a word about the Navy before he sits down?”
And the new Premier replied at once:—
“My hon. and gallant friend knows that the achievements of the Navy speak for themselves. I do not think that anything I can say would be in the least adequate to recognise the enormous and incalculable services that the great Navy of Britain has rendered, not merely to the Empire but to the whole Allied cause. Not merely would victory have been impossible, but the war could not have been kept on for two and a half years had it not been for the services of the Navy.”
These words called forth ringing cheers. For it is We,—we Britons—who sweep the seas! It is our heritage to do so. A rumour is about that one of the “peace terms” foolishly proposed by Germany is, that we should “abandon our supremacy of the sea!” As well ask the sun to abandon its supremacy of the skies! It would be an evil day for all nations, not only our own, when Britannia ceased to rule the waves! Her just, wise laws of freedom and fairness would soon be replaced by ruthless piracy, and there would be no security for any coast. It is a good thing for America and Europe likewise that this
“Precious stone, set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall,
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands”
should be the guardian of the girdling ocean, maintaining its highest rights and liberties in the face of all foes. And so may it ever remain!
What stories I could tell, had I the time and space, of heroic deeds “unwritten and unsung” performed by the men of the Fleet, not only in the past, but now!—now, in these actual present days, when great London, plunged to the neck in a flood of gold, poured in for the help, healing, and comfort of our fighting men on land and sea, is striving, like a giant caught in a net, to disentangle its sacred duties from its selfish pleasures,—trying to realise in its vague way that War is really War! Of “Tommy” one hears much; but of “Jack Tar” less,—though they are close comrades in the one spirit of devotion to duty, and each has his own burden of difficulties to bear,—his own sphere of danger to surmount and to master. The story of brave Jack Cornwell thrilled every heart,—putting well into the shade the similar exploit of “Casabianca,” of whom, when we were children, we all learned, in the verse of Felicia Hemans:—
“The boy stood on the burning deck,
Whence all but him had fled;
The flame that lit the battle’s wreck
Shone round him o’er the dead.”
“The noblest thing that perished there
Was that young, faithful heart.”
Only there is no poet among us worthy of the name to “sing the memory” of Jack Cornwell, thanks to the swarm of atheists, pessimists, decadents, and anti-idealists who have been encouraged to darken and disgrace the literary annals of Great Britain. “Casabianca” was a boy about thirteen years of age, son to the Admiral of the Orient, who remained at his post in the Battle of the Nile after the ship had taken fire and all the guns had been abandoned, and perished in the explosion of the vessel when the flames had reached the powder. All who have read the enthralling pages of our sea-history will remember that the Orient was the French Admiral’s ship, carrying a hundred and twenty guns, and that he himself died on her quarter-deck, his little son remaining at the post where his father had placed him, all unconscious of his father’s end. “Soon after nine o’clock,” says the historian, “the Orient appeared in flames, which spread with astonishing rapidity, and by their prodigious light the situation of the hostile fleets could be seen at a distance of fifteen miles. The Orient’s crew, however, continued to fire from her lower-deck to the very last, and at about ten o’clock she blew up with an explosion which was felt by every vessel to the bottom of its keel. To this succeeded a silence not less awful,—the sanguinary conflict ceased on both sides,—and the first sound that broke that portentous stillness was the splash of shattered masts and yards falling into the sea.”
So “Casabianca” perished gallantly—but not more gallantly than Jack Cornwell. Both boys, the one French, the other English, were made of the same heroic stuff that gives worth and honour to the nations that breed it.
Very quaint and poetic it is to read at this time of day, the picturesque record of William Camden, Clarencieux King-at-Arms to Queen Elizabeth, concerning the entrance of the Spanish Armada into English waters:—
“The next day the English discovered the Spanish Fleet with lofty Turrets, like Castles, in front like a Half-Moon, the wings thereof spreading out about the length of seven miles, sailing very slowly, though with full sails, the Winds being, as it were, tired with carrying them, and the Ocean groaning under the weight of them…. But so far was it from terrifying the seacoasts with its name of ‘Invincible’ or with its dreadful Show, that the young Gentry of England, with incredible Cheerfulness and Alacrity (leaving their parents, children, wives, and friends at home) out of their hearty Love to their Country, hired ships from all parts at their own private charges and joined with the Fleet in great numbers.”
I think we, in our present days, have had the word “invincible” thrown at us a good deal from the braggart mouth of the “Hun”—but “so far from terrifying us”—it has had the same effect on our manhood as it had in Tudor days so far as “incredible Cheerfulness and Alacrity” are concerned! And Queen Elizabeth apparently found a prototype of Nelson and David Beatty, for, says Camden, “The command of the whole Fleet she gave to Charles, Lord Howard of Effingham, Lord Admiral of England, of whose fortunate Conduct she had a very great Persuasion, and whom she knew by his moderate and noble carriage, to be skilful in sea-matters, wary and provident, valiant and courageous, industrious and active, and of great authority and167 esteem among the seamen of her Navy. Drake, whom she appointed Vice-Admiral, joined with him.”
Queen Bess evidently knew how to select the best men! And we may justly claim to have kept up the breed. For there is not a word written of Admiral Lord Howard in those old days that cannot be equally written now of Admiral Sir David Beatty. Every man of the Fleet knows it; and is proud and glad to serve under his command. “Skilful in sea-matters, wary and provident, valiant and courageous, industrious and active, and of great authority and esteem among the seamen of the Navy!”
And we shall do well to remember that on the outbreak of war, the country was assured that the Mercantile Marine accepted the risks incurred in maintaining the supplies of food so indispensable to the existence of the people, and in ensuring a path of safety for commerce, and the transport of troops and war material. And British shipmasters, officers, and seamen alike expressed their resolve to keep the seas open at all costs. The result of this inflexible determination is that throughout continuous struggle, exposed to daily and nightly peril from mine and submarine, British ships continue to arrive in British ports and sail again with a splendid disregard of all the difficulties and dangers which beset them in maintaining the overseas trade of the nation. It is time such priceless valour was more absolutely defended and held dear by the Empire which owes it so much. Our merchantmen should be armed. The expenditure would be less than the loss of heroic lives! Merchant seamen should be given every possible means of protecting their own existence and securing the safety of their ships and cargoes. Their foes are168 ruthless,—they should be given ample means of retaliation and defence. For—
“We sing the British seamen’s praise,
A theme renowned in story,
It well deserves more polished lays,
For ’tis your boast and glory,—
When mad-brain’d war spreads death around,
By them you are protected,
But oft when peace again is found,
Your bulwarks are neglected!
Then oh! protect the hardy tar!
Be mindful of his merit,
And when you’re plung’d anew in war
He’ll show his dauntless spirit!”
And no man of any class needs a “dauntless spirit” more. Courage alone makes him what he is. For though I love the sea with an intense love beyond all world-expression, I know how cruel it can be, although so beautiful—and while I rejoice and revel in the splendour of terrific waves breaking in pillars of foam up against rocks a hundred or more feet high, I cannot but hear in my soul the wild and despairing cries of drowning men, and the noise of breaking ships—I see the horror of drifting dead forms and faces swirling on the blackness of the deep, and with my whole heart I join in the prayer:—
“God, Who alone spreadest out the heavens, and rulest the raging of the sea, be pleased to receive into Thy most gracious protection the persons of Thy servants and the Fleet in which they serve! Preserve them from the dangers of the sea and from the violence169 of the enemy, that they may be a safeguard!—and that the inhabitants of our Island may in peace and quietness serve Thee, our God!”
* * * * *
Amen, and many times Amen! And it is possible that Admiral Sir David Beatty, like his great prototype, Admiral Lord Nelson, may have sent the same message to the Fleet on the day of the German surrender which Nelson sent after the Battle of the Nile, thus:—
“Almighty God having blessed his Majesty’s arms with Victory, the Admiral intends returning Public Thanksgiving for the same at two o’clock this day, and he recommends every ship doing the same as soon as convenient.—Signed, Horatio Nelson. August 2, 1798.”
* * * * *
A similar devotional spirit inspires our “David” of the sea, when he says that England must look to the future “with a prayer on her lips.” This great War, the greatest in all history, will, with all its wickedness and bloodshed, prove a blessing, if the cloud of Atheism which has swept over us through perverted and decadent German ideals, is rolled away,—leaving a clear and wholesome heaven of faith and hope for a nation brought back to God through humility, self-sacrifice and splendid heroism!
Eyes of the Sea!
Steadfast and clear as the light of a midsummer morning,
Sure in your vigilance, swift in the flash of your warning,
Pledges of safety for us and our land of the free.
Slumberless Eyes of the Sea!
Eyes of the Sea!
Watchful at midnight, companioning stars in their courses,
Fronting the storm or the fire of the foe in his forces;
Yours be the honour of all that we are or shall be!
Glorious Eyes of the Sea!
IS ALL WELL WITH ENGLAND?
A QUESTION OF THE MOMENT
Yes, all is well!
Or, rather, let us say all will be well! And in our steady progress towards future good we may confidently aver that all is well even now. Even now! though the great “spring-cleaning” of the Empire’s house is scarcely half-way through. Our home is topsy-turvy, familiar objects are thrust aside, our goods and chattels are disarranged and turned out to be swept or beaten or otherwise relieved of their accumulated dust and cobwebs, and the clatter of brooms and pails and general hurry-scurry, with many irreparable breakages, make comfort and quiet impossible. Yet there is a freshness in the air, the windows have been cleaned, and one can see the sky through their lately begrimed and sooty panes, the floors are swept and the furniture polished; deft hands are arranging flowers for the rooms—we may breathe in health and hope if we will.
There is much yet to be done, for the cleansing of a nation is God’s work more than ours, and He leaves no corner unvisited. He has not done with England yet, no, not by any means! The festering mass of diseased moral fibre resulting from a long worship of Self, the canker in the body social and politic, has to be cut out ruthlessly, despite bleeding veins and torn sinews, and God will not spare the remedial knife.
But even so, it is well for England! Well, and more than well! For no greater ill could chance to her than her condition prior to the war.
Far more injurious to her fair fame than the murderous attacks of the most dishonourable and unscrupulous enemy she has ever known was the stealthy undermining of her people’s ideals through the slow but sure rot which had begun to set in at the very core of her civilian life. That rot was eating its way through commerce and crumbling down every bulwark of society. Its ravaging microbes swarmed through every channel—the pulpit, the stage, and all forms of art. Through its influence the abominable crimes of Sodom and Gomorrah were re-enacted and condoned, both in the political and social world. By gradual and subtle process, step by step on the downward grade, the unthinking public were led by certain writers of the Press who are special pleaders for vice, to accept sensuality as the only meaning of love, and every town possessing a bookseller’s shop was flooded with published outpourings of sickly and degrading sexuality, insulting to the self-respect of men and women, old and young alike. Girls and boys hardly in their teens carried these vile books in their hands, and read and discussed them without shame. Their poisonous trail is over many a young mind, and the mischief they have wrought will take years of undoing.
This kind of pernicious literature, coupled with a “sensational” Press, by which I mean that side of the Press which truckles to the baser inclinations of mankind, and flaunts pictorial representations of semi-nude women of the stage and of the demoralised portion of Society in the eyes of decent folk whether they will or173 no, is in a great measure responsible for the recklessness, extravagance, sloth, and selfishness which have disfigured social England for the past decade.
Things were getting worse and worse; men who truckled to vice were paid with baronetcies as “hush-money,” women passing for “ladies,” lower than the lowest of street sinners, because they had education and opportunities which the street sinner has not, were praised as embodiments of all the beauties and all the virtues, and “home,” that dear possession of the faithful soul, was voted “dull” by the younger folk, because of its wholesome restrictions on harmful impulses and runaway passions.
And let us not imagine these clouds on the sun of our country have yet passed away. They are passing, but the full splendour of the light is not yet. “Home, dull Home,” is coming back to its own as “Home, sweet Home” once more, because a dark and threatening destiny has torn sons from their mothers, and has broken up dear associations which were unvalued, because possessed. Now that death has darkened many windows and shut many doors, the bereaved ones begin to realise what “home” really was in the past days of peace, and what it never will be again; while those that are absent on the battlefield, amid the roar of the guns and the storm of shot and shell, turn back wistfully to the memory of days spent “at home,” in a tranquillity of mind and body that seemed “dull,” but that now shines forth in the visions of the brain as a reflex of positive heaven.
Few, I think, have taken the trouble to consider what this Empire would become without the saving grace of “Home”—that oasis in the desert where love174 has its best chance and friendship its surest footing.
It is in very truth the foundation of national safety and the basis of educational progress, and yet it is what a very large majority of us have lately esteemed but lightly, moved as we have been by a spirit of strange unrest, impelling us to wander hither and thither in search of satisfaction which, after all our quest, awaits us at our own door.
Suppose that one and all we ran “amok” in the liberty which speedily degenerates into license, without any restraining hand? Would it be “well for England” then? We know it would not, yet if our young people are brought up to disdain and to neglect their parents, and “friends” so-called, only seek other “friends” in order to make use of them for their own ends, the social code will be one of pure egotism without a shred of conscience to soften its hard and fast self-seeking. This would not be “well for England,” and from this point of view alone we have to be thankful for the scourge of this terrific war. For here God has taken the lead. He has indeed “put down the mighty from their seat, and has exalted the humble and meek,” for the humblest ranks of our British fighting men are heroes to-day, and the true spirit and mettle of the British race, long suppressed beneath a featherbed softness of prolonged peace, have sprung up in splendid and unbroken strength, proving in deeds more than words that “all is well with England!”
No praise can be too high for their courage, cheerfulness, and self-sacrifice; the sword of their unquenchable valour has long been sheathed, but it has not grown rusty—the blade is as bright as ever it was.
This is something to be proud of, something for us175 to remember when inclined to pessimism. We have nothing to fear on the score of our warriors who have gone forth in the flower of their manhood, to contend with and to conquer a brutal foe; and, if the creeping suggestion that all is not well with England steals into our minds, it is on account of traitors at home.
Yes, there is a dire possibility of mischief, a chance of infinite harm being wrought on England, and on the whole British Empire by the avarice and short-sightedness of some of our leading men who have “axes to grind.”
It may be unpleasant to face the truth, but surely it is wiser and safer to do so than to wait till it overwhelms us. And the merest tyro in diplomacy, the most casual looker-on at the moves on the political chess-board, can see how many a man “in official capacity” is playing the German game, and manœuvring towards a patched-up “peace” which shall give Germany every possible trade advantage.
The people’s confidence is being daily betrayed by such treacherous hypocrites, some of whom have financial interests closely bound in with Germany, and who hesitate and shuffle and delay action indefinitely, though the slaughter of innocent thousands may pay the price of their ineptitude.
In such scandalous matters, all is not well with England—and all will never be well, unless the people take a hand against their own spoliation and betrayal. And they cannot begin too soon. The house of the nation is being “swept and garnished.” We shall need to take care that the “unclean spirit” of Germany does not take “seven other spirits more wicked” to “enter in176 and dwell there,” so that “the last state” of that house be not “worse than the first.”
We need the resolved spirit of Queen Elizabeth, whose proclamation against certain troublesome foreigners “which had flocked to the coast towns of England” in 1560, commanded that they “should depart the realm within twenty days,” whether they liked it or not, “upon pain of imprisonment or loss of goods.” Queen Bess did not put on gloves when dealing with treachery; she hit it fair and square in the face. We should do wisely to imitate her example.
No great reforms are ever accomplished without opposition from prejudiced and self-interested persons, and it needs a strong soul to stand firm and full-fronted against malcontents, and to steadily baffle political intrigues. With these latter, the Ministry is hemmed in and environed, and it is a regrettable fact that in some quarters “party” is ready to overwhelm patriotism, despite all plausible assurances to the contrary.
On this point I would venture, as an independent writer who has no favours to seek and no “axe to grind,” to warn our more or less passive, silent, and patient people of dangers ahead.
The people are the nation, the people whose labour makes the wealth of the country are the worth of the country; and for them the name of Britain should represent all things British. But unless they themselves take good care, their trades will be again swamped by Germany in the future as in the past, especially if they put in less hours of work. It stands to reason that if a British workman will only work for eight hours, and a German will work for fourteen or sixteen, the German will score in every kind of labour.
Even now the German is preparing for the relaxing of “restricted” trades. The goods which the British Government declared “unnecessary” in time of war are being “made in Germany,” and at an opportune moment will be “dumped down” on these shores before the Englishman, returned from battle, can so much as set his house in order.
We may think, or we may hope, that protection against such unfairness will be guaranteed by Government—but will it? Does it look like it even now?—when Germans are permitted to run the business of absent Englishmen, and to make profit therefrom!
Sometimes it would almost seem as if there were a certain numbness or apathy in the minds of the British people here at home, which robs them of “the native hue of resolution,” so that in
“Enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry
And lose the name of action.”
There is a general tendency not to take too much personal trouble over any matter, a desire to avoid “being bothered,” and a persistent jog-trot in the same old way, like “dumb, driven cattle,” no matter whether the road lead to prosperity or ruin. This is like the fatal lethargy which overcomes the traveller in heavy snow, when he yields himself to a sleep from which he shall never wake.
Half the people in these islands do not yet realise the full meaning or the real horror of the war in which we have been forced, by all the rights of law and liberty, to engage. They do not think—they cannot.178 Their sense of perception seems stunned as by a heavy blow. All religion, all faith, all hope, have in a great measure failed them. They do not see why they should suffer undeservedly.
A poor woman receiving the news that her son was killed, had no tears—her face grew white and stiffened, as with frost—but she had nothing to say except this: “Ah, well! I couldn’t expect anything else, as there’s no God left to us now! Only man, the devil!” She could but realise that the war is man’s work—the result of his miserable ambitions, his delight in destruction, his selfish pride and cruelty. And the church had taught her little more than that the God she was told to worship was “a jealous God,” and out of that saying little comfort can be drawn for the broken heart of a bereaved mother.
Perhaps one of the most terrible notes struck from the great thunder-echoes of the war is this apparent failure of all churches to cope with the sorrow that has swept over all lands, destroying homes that were once happy.
Our Lord’s pitiful and pathetic words are realised to-day:—“Because iniquity shall abound the love of many shall grow cold.” Ah, yes, love for Him and all the tenderness He taught has “grown cold,” and many of His professed ministers are tongue-tied and spirit-frozen, and seem all unable to raise the broken lives from the dust of despair, or dry the weeping eyes which are too tired and heavy to lift themselves to heaven.
There is a strong instinctive sense among us all, no matter to what sect we belong or what religious formula we profess, that if the churches had ever truly taught179 and truly followed the example of Christ, war and its horrors would have been impossible. For He gave us only two commandments—two instead of the Mosaic ten—thus:—
“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it—thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
Who is there that can deny that if these two commandments had been obeyed by man in his social and civil life, the whole face of things would have changed to an almost divine betterment, and the world’s progress, assisted by a sanity of thought and a clarity of action, would have been towards beauty and spiritual uplifting?
The word “spiritual” is sadly wronged and degraded nowadays by misguided or semi-crazed persons who “blaspheme the Holy Ghost” by their pretensions to psychic power, and play with the names of scared things in order to further their own sinister designs. Our Lord prophesied this evil when He spoke of “false prophets” who should “show signs and wonders,” insomuch “that if it were possible they shall deceive the very elect.”
Is it not a fact that we have come upon such days? Days when the pure, simple, and helpful ethics of Christ are set aside in exchange for an insane credence in the vulgar trickery of “mediumship,” “crystal-gazing,” and other base forms of superstition pertaining to the eras of ignorant barbarism? Does it seem believable that there should be so-called “intellectual”180 men in this country, even statesmen of admitted ability, who are actually partially under the sway of illiterate “mediums,” generally women, who pretend to hold communication with the dead, and even presume to offer advice from the “spirits” on the affairs of the nation and the prosecution of the war? One could hardly imagine a wilder improbability, yet it is an absolute fact! The names of persons in high and trusted positions are on the books of the unscrupulous jugglers and tricksters who earn their wicked living by mischievous tampering with the brains of their dupes and victims, and the wonder is that these notabilities should so feebly allow themselves to be duped and victimized. But one has only to think of the entire submission of the Romanoffs to the villainous machinations of that unspeakable “monk,” Rasputin, to realize that there is no depth of abasement to which the human mind may not fall if it loses its hold on God.
It has to be confessed there are very few indications of real religion among us at present. A large portion of the clergy seem stricken with ineptitude, and one longs for a strong man who would not only preach the truth, but live it. A narrow egotism disfigures the ministering spirit of the Church, and I could name more than one cleric whose absorption in self entirely blinds him to the real duties he is called upon to do.
The service of Christ should be broad and all-embracing, generous, cheerful, ungrudging, and untiring in the aid of all humanity, rich and poor, old and young, sinful and sorry, and only men who are prepared to work on these lines should be admitted to such a high and holy calling.
But things are moving, and will move in the right181 direction presently; when the roar of the guns has died away and the memory of our slain heroes weighs on our stricken souls with sorrow and shame, and we have time to reflect that it is for us and the saving of our honour that they have died.
We shall then lift our eyes to Him from Whom cometh our strength, we shall unite in a grand revolt against hypocrisy and shams; we shall hold our homes more preciously, seeing and knowing what blood has been shed to keep them inviolate, and we shall value simplicity and purity of life for ourselves and our children far more than wealth and the fleeting, feverish pleasures which wealth can attain.
In this new dawn of our day it will be well for England!
One of the happiest and most hopeful auguries for the future is the stimulus given to agriculture and the “life of the land” by the necessity of providing food supplies for our own people on our own soil.
The menace of the submarine has done this for us, and devastating as its brutal work has been, we may regard it as a blessing in disguise. For we should not need to depend on foreign imports of food if we utilised our own acreage as fully and diligently as we might.
Life in the country, work in the country, means health and a light heart; and many there are who would like to see the olden days of purely native production come back again—the days of home spinning, home weaving, home manufacture of every kind carried on in all the towns and villages of rural England.
Here and there of late years there have been some efforts in this direction—there is a spinning and weaving school at Haslemere, at Stratford-on-Avon, and182 elsewhere—but the support given to these praiseworthy industries is not sufficiently certain and prolonged to push them with sufficient prominence into the public notice. Nevertheless, many a woman helps the movement by electing to wear only home-woven goods; they are beautiful and artistic enough to deserve patronage, and can be purchased direct from the weavers and spinners without the intervention of the middle-man whose business is “profiteering.”
What an England it might be—what an England it will be—when every acre of suitable soil bears its weight of golden grain!—when every orchard’s value can be appraised by its measure of luscious fruit!—when farmyards are full of cattle, and good wives are so clever at poultry and dairy work that the country can do without “millions of foreign eggs”—having such “millions” of its own—and when prosperous farms in the country are esteemed more valuable possessions than houses in town, where money is often uselessly wasted on so-called “pleasures” which have their end in damaged health and “vexation of spirit”!
To my own mind there is nothing more lovely or more satisfying than the life of the country, where one may see the real breadth of the sky, and feel the real freshness of the air.
In great cities, where humanity is a mere hive, the houses of brick and stone block out the sky and impede the air, and somehow one imagines that God is a long way off, while in the country He seems “nearer than hands and feet.” Everything speaks of His infinite care and providence—the birds, the flowers, the trees, the murmur of the leaves that clap together like little183 fairy hands in the wind, and the low, sweet, sigh that sways through the long grass at sunset.
The nearer man approaches to Nature, the more he becomes conscious of a Divine, mysterious Presence to which his whole being instinctively, though almost unconsciously, responds as “Our Father.”
In the rush and roar of great cities he loses this delicate intimacy with his own origin, and all that is or might be divine in himself becomes lowered to the level of gross material needs and ideas which are the reflex of the coarser atmosphere around him.
The dweller among country sights and scenes is an idealist—sometimes even a poet, though he may never express himself in words—and many an ordinary labourer turning the rich clods of soil with the plough can be found who will at times say things both trenchant and eloquent which will give food for thought to the most cultivated stylist.
Some people imagine that cities educate, and that the country does not; but one may question whether it is not quite the other way about. In any case, the life of the country makes for health and strength, and these are two potent factors for happiness. No man can be happy or contented if he is ailing and weakly, and in our many “new” systems of education, which are now being so much talked of, it is to be hoped that health for the children will be the first thing to be considered and maintained.
Here I may perhaps touch upon a point where one may trust that “all is well with England,” in the immense change the war has wrought as regards the position of women in the State.
Some years ago I was one of the many who were184 strongly opposed to the “Votes for Women” movement, judging it to be wholly unnecessary.
I had been brought up on the chivalric view of man as taken by Sir Walter Scott in his immortal romances, and my idea, gathered from these exalted specimens of the race, was that as man was always ready to worship woman it seemed invidious on her part to contend with him in his own particular sphere. But when it was forced on me that, more often than not, man was more ready to deride rather than worship woman, that the special “strain” of Walter Scott’s heroes was in Walter Scott’s delightful imagination only, and that as a matter of fact men denied to women such lawful honours as they might win through intellectual attainment, and that in certain forms of their legal procedure women were classed with “children, criminals, and lunatics,” I began to change my opinion.
I thought that if the mothers of the race were to be assorted with “criminals and lunatics,” the men they had given birth to might be, in their toleration of such a stigma, criminals and lunatics themselves. And when the war broke out and all the world raised itself, as it were, on tiptoe to see what was going to happen, and beheld among many marvels perhaps the greatest marvel of all—the women going forth to work in the places of men, going in thousands, without demur or hesitation, and taking their full share of the hardest and most menial labour with a cheerfulness and spirit no less remarkable than the intelligence with which they handled difficulties hitherto unknown, it was no longer possible to deny them equal rights with men in every relation of life and every phase of work. By every law of justice they deserved the vote—and I who, as a185 woman, was once against it, am bound to support the cause. All the same I shall be sorry to see them in Parliament; deeply sorry to find them straying so far out of their higher and far more influential sphere. The vanishing of modest and refined womanhood will prove a greater loss to the nation than any other asset of its power and renown. No woman can mingle with the mess of political intrigue without losing something of the charm and reticence originally in her nature, which has inspired men to their noblest aims and ends. I imagine that a true woman would rather be the Madonna of a Faith than the Premier of an Empire!
Nevertheless I grant freely and fully that it will be “well for England” when women have a voice in the education of children, and when they can refuse to “temporise” on questions of the national morality and well-being.
The recent “food muddle” under the management of men is a proof, if one were needed, of the superiority of women in all matters of domestic management, for any capable housekeeper would have organised the scheme with better knowledge and finer tact. That there will be jealousy and injustice displayed by the stronger sex towards the weaker on this matter of the vote, goes without saying. But jealousy and injustice exist anyhow, and a proof of man’s inconsistency towards women in matters of art alone is furnished by the purchase of Lucy Kemp-Welsh’s fine picture “Forward the guns!” in the Royal Academy, which has been bought “for the nation.” Yet, mark you, though this woman’s work is considered worthy of national keeping, she herself may not be admitted as an R. A.! Comment is superfluous. But it is possible that the granting of186 votes to women will alter all this, and that the barriers which the men have carefully erected against the sex of their mothers will be broken down for good.
The Jewish dispensation has to be credited for the rule of “keeping women in their place,” along with flocks and herds. But the Christian dispensation teaches a lovelier lesson—for a woman was the first to hold the God-Man in her arms, and a woman was the first to greet Him on His resurrection from the dead.
Does this teach nothing? Is there no symbol of the future of womanhood thus gloriously foreshadowed? I venture to think there is.
I believe and hope that a wider freedom to woman will mean a nobler heritage to man, and that through her intelligence and influence he may find and prove the “god” in him, and rise from the grave of old prejudice to the light of more brilliant possibilities. And this will be “well for England.”
Many changes are bound to come, many sorrowful and tragic happenings are yet in store for this dear country, but “it is well” that so these things should be, to the end that we realise where we have missed the way, and take heed that we stumble not again.
The secret of our regeneration is not in this or that government; it is with the people.
Yet on the whole, despite clouds in our sky, it is well for England so far. We shall come out of the darkness if—if the people will it. Up to the present they have grudged nothing—neither time, nor labour, nor money, nor sacrifice. They have been in every sense worthy of British tradition—a people splendid. Now it is that they must see they do not fall a prey to “party” traps, designed for the safeguarding of Germany in those187 quarters where British financial interests are concerned.
I repeat, “All is well with England!”—all will be well—if the people are awake and alert, if they will unite to remove the German foe from their midst, and if they will in time remember the old proverb which says, “It’s no use shutting the stable door when the horse is stolen.” The German has the fixed intention of re-monopolising trade when the war is over, and already our Indian Empire is in advance of us by the ban announced against German trade in India, and the barring of German ships from Indian ports.
Decisive action must be taken in these matters before it is too late. British trade interests, British artisans, British workers of all classes must be defended and protected and encouraged.
The agricultural arts and sciences must be made a primary matter of education for the people, and our productive soil must be given a fair chance. Landowners who have held thousands of acres for the pleasure of sport alone must yield to the necessity of feeding men instead of preserving game, and a prosperous, smiling England, “a land flowing with milk and honey,” will be the reward of all those who steadily set their energies to work in the right direction, that right direction being always for the good of the many and not for self or the few. It should surely be the aim of every true patriot to leave his country better than he found it, and all personal interest should and must go to the wall where the welfare of the people is at all concerned. The trend of thought is all in this one way, for which we may thank God. A renewed faith in the highest, a return to the devotional spirit of true religion, and a resolve to root out from every188 educational system, from every art, from every form of literature all that makes for evil and degradation; this will ensure all being “well for England,” so well, that neither the hatred, envy, nor malice of rivals can move her from her sure foundations of peace.
She should be, and she must be great and pure, with the greatness and pureness for which our heroes have fought in the past, and for which they fight to-day, and for this high cause, though we mourn our slain manhood, we must grudge no sacrifice, however hard. We have not grudged anything as yet—we shall never begin to do so. And so both now and in the days to come, through God’s mercy, may we ever be able to say—
“All is well with England!”
(When the above was first issued as a booklet by the publishers, Messrs. Greening, it elicited a long and eloquent letter from the “St. Andrews Society,” asking me why I addressed my pamphlet to England? Where was Scotland in my thoughts? Knowing the curious prejudice some Scotsmen entertain for the word “England” (which I have liked to imagine included Scotland, Ireland, and Wales), I made haste to reply that I had not presumed to ask “Is all well with Scotland?” as I know all must be well, and that all would be for ever well! How could anything go ill with Scotland? I do not know whether I satisfied my truculent correspondent, but I hope I did.)
THE WORLD IN TEARS
(The following was written at the request of Mr. Robert Hayes, the publisher, who asked for it as a preface to a helpful little book of “Messages of Hope, Sympathy, and Consolation,” entitled The World in Tears. Those who contributed to this book included many well-known “leaders,” such as the Bishop of Birmingham, the Archdeacon of Westminster, the Dean of Manchester, etc., etc., and the publisher introduced my article in the following kindly note:—
In preparing the book for Press it was thought desirable to obtain, and include, an introduction by an author whose sympathies would commend it to the general public. Miss Marie Corelli immediately came to mind. No one could essay the task better.
To Miss Marie Corelli, then, the publisher wrote for assistance. It was generously, courteously, and promptly given. His best thanks are recorded here for this able and kindly help in producing what he hopes will bring comfort to a multitude who sorrow and some financial assistance to that benevolent and deserving institution, the British Red Cross Society.)
All over the world to-day looms the brooding shadow of Death—that strange and solemn Mystery which to most of us seems a complete Disappearance for ever into the eternal Unknown. Though truly, if our faith in God be perfect, we should not look upon it as a Shadow, but a Brightness; a glorious fulfilment for which the experiences and trials of this present life are the needful training and preparation. Nevertheless, the ties of human affection are strong, and partings are190 always bitter—so that whether our beloved ones go away from us for weeks, months, or years—whether to a far country or to another world—it is hard to say “good-bye!” and the sorrow of separation is the sorrow of all the lives that are left thus lonely. The strongest and bravest of us know well enough that those we have lost are not really “dead,” but living elsewhere; yet the fact that they are not actually with us—that we cannot hear their voices or hold their hands in our own—is sufficient to crush us down under such a burden of grief that we feel as if we could never lift up our eyes to heaven again or trust the great Power Invisible which has allowed us to be deprived of all we hold most dear. Nothing can be said in the way of consolation that does not, at such a time, sound poor and trivial. A great grief is of all things the most sacred: and even the gentle words of the gentlest and most compassionate friend hurt like a careless touch on an open wound.
In this unspeakably wicked War much of our best and bravest British manhood has been sacrificed, to say nothing of the terrible losses suffered by our noble and resolute Allies. Young, promising, and heroic lives have been ruthlessly slaughtered on all the fields of battle, and it would not be too much to say that the whole of Europe is in mourning. It is the hour of supreme self-sacrifice; we are called upon to give the best of everything we have to our country, so that we may keep it safe from the invasion of a remorseless foe, and hold its liberty intact. Blood and treasure and tears are the price of our freedom; we hold nothing back. But an awful responsibility rests upon all those who primarily brought about this most un-Christian191 world-contest; for war and the murder of the many is always the result of the evil thoughts and passions of a misguided few. If Peoples in the aggregate were governed by strong, brave, honest men who loved equity more than their own advancement, there would be no wars. But as yet we are still seeking for even One strong, brave, honest man! Our national Poet speaks truth when he tells us,—
“To be honest, as this world goes, is to be one man picked out of ten thousand.”
Meanwhile, for the incalculable crimes of Dishonest Governments, the Peoples are bereaved of their children—their young manhood—and mothers, sisters, sweethearts, wives, and little ones are flung remorselessly into withering fires of agony, and drowned in a deep sea of tears. Who shall comfort these poor wounded hearts?—who shall fill these empty and desolate lives?—who shall raise them from their swooning despair amid the dust of graves and turn their hopes towards that Higher Life, which though unseen and unrealised, is as certain as what we understand to be life in this world? The Christian Faith is, or should be, the Comforter, if accepted in its true spiritual sense. We are too prone to deaden and cheapen its splendid teaching by the dullness of our own understanding: we seek to materialise into common earthiness that which is purely heavenly. If we trusted more absolutely in the Divine Intelligence, through whose will and power we have come into being, we should be entirely sure of the positive truth pronounced by St. Paul to the Corinthians:—
“There are celestial bodies and bodies terrestrial, but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another…. So also is the resurrection192 of the dead; it is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption; it is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body and there is a spiritual body.”
This is what all the scientific, theological, and psychical instructors that ever lived in the world have been striving to teach humanity through ages upon ages. But we still continue to cling to the natural “body”—not the spiritual—to the temporal, and not the eternal; and, despite both religion and science, we surround the episode of death with every sort of gloomy panoply and weeping protest against the Divine decree. Yet our men who have died at the front have died with extraordinary cheerfulness; it would seem that some God-given influence has surrounded them in the very midst of all the most awful ways of dying! Never a murmur—never a complaint—never a regret! Wonderful, and indeed miraculous is this, if we pause to think of it! It is as if they knew, or were being told, that there are many things in life worse than death! They face the Last Terror with a dauntless smile and unflinching eyes, and it may be that they see light where many of us, blinded by personal sorrow, are only conscious of darkness. Our Selves are the clouds which cover the sun.
And while we continue to sit in the shadow and mourn for our absent, though never lost ones, it is well we should bear in mind that no life lived on earth, however long extended, is complete. No lesson is ever thoroughly learned, no accomplishment ever entirely mastered. No poet, musician, or painter ever produced a “perfect” work. Why? Because here we are only in a preparatory school—wider instruction is to come.193 The fullness of existence which is ultimately destined to be ours is an ever-increasing perfection and power which are at present impossible for us to conceive. Just as when we came into this world we had no knowledge beforehand of its natural beauties and delights, so in the same way we cannot, in our present condition, realise the “Shall Be” of the Hereafter. Our bodies, to which we attach such undue importance here, are composed entirely of particles or atoms which are constantly changing, and none of us possess the same body we had seven or fourteen years ago. That body has already suffered death—not by violence, but by change. The manner in which the change has been effected is not perceived by ourselves, yet it has occurred. Identity of person does not depend on the identity of these atoms; the individual Spirit is the same, despite the shifting forces or renewal of cells in its tenement of clay. Continuity, persistency, and individuality are eternal laws, and remake the vesture of the soul according to its needs. Therefore our beloved dead are not truly dead, for, “as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.”
Many of us find it difficult—even impossible—to accept this reasoning, and why? Because our minds are always more or less attuned to the lower key of Self—Self, and our own private and particular sorrow. As long as this is the case the light will never come through the gloom; we shall never “see God.” We shall never understand that the lives sacrificed with such splendid heroism, for the freedom and purification of the whole world, have not ceased to live, and that they have simply “passed on.” But—is not the parting from them cruel? Ah, yes! but partings even more cruel are common in194 the most ordinary daily life. When love grows cold—when fair illusions perish—when the friend we trusted is treacherous and ungrateful—when we have to “let go” those we have most dearly cherished to other loves and new surroundings—are not these things “cruel”? Crueller far than death!—for death most usually clears up many misunderstandings and sets the true soul right with itself and with that which it has loved faithfully. For there are many kinds of so-called “love” which is not love at all, but merely the passion or caprice of the moment, and which, if resolved into marriage between the two persons concerned, ends in mutual indifference and life-long unhappiness, and in such cases, death is a release which separates finally and for ever. But there is another sort of love which is so deep and unselfish, and loyal, that it needs no earthly bond to make it eternal, and which, no matter how long the parting, whether by absence or death, is so truly love in the highest sense that all the powers of earth or heaven could not hinder its complete union with the beloved.
“Shall we meet again?” sighs the bereaved mother, the lonely wife, the despairing lover! Most assuredly you will!—by all the known laws of attraction in this glorious Universe you must meet again, if your love be love indeed! Love is not limited by time or space; we know that we can obtain light from a star many millions of miles distant, and in the same way we can give and receive love from our parted dear ones, and can exert this power far beyond the confines of our bodies. But only when love is really true can this happen. For, when the veil is withdrawn from heaven and the released Spirit goes hence, it sees and knows195 clearly which of all its friends on earth has loved it most unselfishly and sincerely—whose sorrow is the most tender—whose faith is most entirely faithful! And only shall such an one meet it again and rejoice in everlasting union. We find our own: we discover our beloved ones in that state of clear vision and life-fulfilment to which we are all hastening. And in realising this we shall also realise that in all the truths of science and of reasoning there is No Death; and that we deceive ourselves in the confusing shadow of our personal griefs when they are strong and bitter as they are to-day, because of our own “personal” sense of loss.
“It is because my beloved is gone!” is the cry—“Because I shall see him no more!”
Patience! He has not “gone” far! Just into the next room of existence, whither you yourself will soon go; there is but the slightest partition between you! And you will see him, as it were, directly—and you will know him, as he will see and know you!—and you will wonder why you shed so many tears when all the while he is alive, and happy in the consciousness of having done something in his earthly life to prepare a cleaner, safer world for the generations coming after him.
But, if this is so, some of us ask, why are we not given the proofs of it? Why does not God make us sure? You might as well demand why, in the former ages of the world, the learning and science of the present day were not revealed. “Sound-waves,” “light-rays,” “radium,” “electric force,”—all these existed from the very beginning of creation—why were we not told? Simply because, by universal law, all advancement is, and must be the result of gradual evolvement,196 suited to the slowly expanding capacity of the human brain and its attendant mental spirituality, and because it is decreed that we shall “work out our own salvation.” One thing is certain, and that is, that—if we knew—if we were told the smallest part of the wondrous hidden future awaiting us, hardly any of us would have the resolution to live this preparatory life through! We should all hurry ourselves out of the world, for we would not have the patience to endure its schooling. We could not wait. We would rush to grasp our glory; we would not work to win it, and so we might lose what we must ourselves deserve to gain. Hence arose the saying, “Those whom the gods love die young.” For their schooling has been brief and easy—“Even so, saith the Spirit, for they rest from their labours.”
A striking illustration of faith in God and the future life has been given to us in these days of darkness by the heroic martyrdom and death of Edith Cavell, murdered by human brutes for whom Christianity has become a dead letter. Her resignation, and her thanks to God for her “ten weeks’ quiet before the end”—her unaffected devotion to the Christian Faith—her simple “Good-bye” to her spiritual adviser with a happy smile and her confident assurance, “We shall meet again!” make a brilliant and inspiring contrast to the doubt and distrust of God’s mercy openly manifested by many of those who are bereaved and mourning in the “Valley of the Shadow.” Prayerfully one wonders when the inhabitants of this small planet of ours will come to realise the fixed law of its being?—a Law which knows no changing! Namely, that Progression towards Good—Good, not only for one’s Self, but for Humanity—brings peace and prosperity; while Retrogression to197wards Evil results in war and ruin! God Himself cannot undo this Law, which is part of His own Eternal Existence—it is as fixed as the poles. We dare not blame His Almighty justice for the evil we have deliberately brought upon ourselves. No one can deny that all the nations now warring together have for many years past sought to put God altogether out of their countings, while societies and individuals, rejoicing in prolonged good fortune and taking as their right the blessings bestowed upon them through the mercy of a beneficent and kindly Providence, have forgotten to Whom they should give thanks, and have become “puffed up,” as the Psalmist says, with pride, and enervated by luxury. We have had innumerable warnings, but we would not listen. We have made a jest and a mockery of all those who sought to rouse us from our lethargy. We have permitted such inroads of vice and atheism into our lives and morals, our art and letters, as might make pagans blush. The Press of the world has not occupied itself with the uplifting of the brotherhood of the peoples,—on the contrary, it has taken pleasure in sowing the seeds of discontent and rebellion, and has given prominence to the unworthy, praising the stage-mime more than the statesman—the materialist more than the idealist. Moreover, so far as our foe is concerned, it has left no stone unturned that could rouse the Teuton wolf from its lair. Bitter mockery, stinging gibe, misplaced sneers—these have all been flung at Germany for the past ten years or more, and, though they have been written chiefly by half-educated young men and boys who in the might of an ineffable conceit “rush in where angels fear to tread,” they have had harmful effect. A198 great statesman said to me recently, “Had there been no Press there would have been no war.”
This may or may not be true,—but whether true or false the eternal verities make no mistake in their summing-up of evil things to a fatal figure. Thoughts give place to words, and words to actions. The War-thought is the embryo of the War-deed. Let us not, therefore, in the bitterness of our own personal sorrows blame God, or demand “Where was He?” when our dear ones have been slain. The nations have brought this chastisement of terror upon themselves; and that the innocent must suffer with the guilty is the worst part of the punishment. The world was becoming sordid, covetous, and materialistic; and now the young and strong and brave of our best manhood are called upon to cleanse it of its foul humours and to leave it clean. Some thousands of lives must be sacrificed in this great struggle for Freedom and for Right, but better to die honoured than live shamed! Life, as generally lived, is not worth the pains we take to preserve it; we do our loved ones an infinite wrong when we assume that their best chance of happiness is to eat and sleep and play, and make the wherewithal to eat and sleep and play. A brave death is more valuable than an ignoble life; death itself being the admission to a more vital and splendid experience.
This being so, we should not mourn as “those having no hope.” We, who have loved and lost for a time, will go on loving till we find our lost again, as we shall surely do. We shall meet and know each other on that higher plane where life is life indeed and love is love indeed; and we shall make amends for all our weeping and complaint. We shall see how slight and brief, after all,199 were the troubles of this present, compared with the perfect joy of the attained future. And we shall read the Book of the Wisdom of God without mistaking one word or letter of its meaning, and we shall learn that Love alone is the conqueror of all kingdoms. So lift up your weeping eyes, ye million mourners!—lift them to the Light and Life Eternal, which shall not fail you even in this dark Battle-Dream of Death!
GOD AND THE WAR
(Written for “Some 1918 Reflections.” A collection arranged by Guy Glendower Croft)
Among the many “reflections” flashed upon the mirror of the time there is one which to my mind is not so much a “reflection” as a blur—a blot which is almost a dark and deepening shadow. I, who venture to write of it, own myself to be but a mere romancist, whose ostensible business is to weave night and day, like the “Lady of Shalott,”—“A magic web with colours gay,” a web of thought-tapestry into scenes and episodes which may or may not please my readers and distract them from the continuous harassment and grief brought upon them by the war. It might even be said of me that—
“So she weaveth steadily
And little other care hath she,”
but for the further fact that—
“Moving through a mirror clear
That hangs before her all the year
Shadows of the world appear,”
and the Shadow which darkens my outlook most is what I may call the Shadow of Negation, or what the Roman Church classifies among the sins against the Holy Ghost, namely, “Presumption of God’s mercy.”
There are any number of apparently worthy, respect201able and well-intentioned persons who regard the Great War as a singular piece of Divine injustice and undeserved annoyance to themselves—and their attitude towards it is so amazing as to be almost incredible.
They are incapable of taking a broad outlook; and, to them, the whole terrible business is a monstrously impertinent interference with the peaceful working of the Parish Pump—no more.
This curious mental standpoint was forced upon my notice recently by the remarks of a seemingly intelligent man of commerce, who, having made a pleasant little “pile” which enables him to live comfortably for the rest of his days, and being much too old for any form of “active” or “national” service, has, literally, nothing to complain of, and nothing to do but offer his valueless opinions on the terrific happenings of the hour. And he it was, who, with an air of judicially settling the business of the Universe, once and for all, said firmly,—
“I’ve given up God! I don’t believe in a God! If there was one He would not have permitted this war!”
This crushing observation from one of the least of human microbes would not merit notice but for the fact that many more intelligent and thoughtful microbes than he have committed themselves to the same unwise and, I may venture to say, blasphemous utterance. For, if any doubter has need of assurance as to the existence of God, this great and terrible war is the most profound, significant, and emphatic declaration of Almighty Power and Justice that the world has ever known.
It is the strong, resolved assertion of a vast spiritual and intellectual Force, which, for many years, all the nations now warring together have elected to ignore, or else to acknowledge in such half-hearted fashion202 that sheer ignoring might betoken greater reverence. It is the Force, which by natural and immutable law acts upon unclean and poisonous things and exterminates them without mercy or appeal. We may call it Fate or God as it suits us—but whatever be the accepted name of this eternally working system of Mathematics, it admits of no false quantities and has to be reckoned with as the only positive FACT in the universe. All else may change, “Heaven and earth may pass away but My Word shall not pass away.” That is to say—“My Word” is the eternal Law; and however craftily and cleverly we may arrange our little “civilisations” and schemes of “giving” in order to “get,” we cannot carry forward a single act of injustice or falsity without punishment following the offence. If not soon, then late. Our judgments, our opinions on the scroll of everlasting equity, are as the scrawls of babes who are incapable of mastering the fact that two and two make four. We are always trying to make them five, the one over being a clumsy attempt to gain some advantage to ourselves.
It is our “camouflage”—that vulgar expression of French police “argot” which truly is not in the French language at all, but which, nevertheless, has lately become the stupid parrot-cry of the irremediably illiterate British press, whose paragraphists seize with rabid joy on any foreign word they do not entirely understand and run it to death.
Yet, try as we may, two and two will not make five. Hence our small political quarrels and big greedy wars.
The pros and cons of the present terrific clash of nations can be totalled up as easily as a sum on a slate—each effect has had its causes. Belgium is devastated, and her people have been and are robbed, tortured, and203 murdered. True! But what of Belgium’s own tacitly approved cruelties on the Congo? The present is the result of the past. Consider Russia! She is like a great creature fallen in the dust—the seeming corpse of herself, helpless to move, while birds of prey gather round her seeking to tear her to bits and divide the spoil. But does not Russia deserve her fate?—has she not invited it? May we not think of her cruelties, tyrannies, and enslavements practised on her own people for hundreds of years? The gods have been patient with her arrogance, but there is a limit even to divine patience. Italy and France—prosperous, and growing more and more fond of money-getting, eager to destroy all their noble, ancient ideals—these have, as it were, administered a kick to the very thought of Deity.
Twenty years ago in France the Catechisme du Libre Pensuer was taught in schools, and the name of God excluded from the general curriculum. Italy has long been openly pagan, notwithstanding the “Holy Prisoner” of the Vatican. And Germany, our brutal foe, has flung every ideal to the winds save Self and Greed, so that not even the “untutored savage” principles of honour have any hold on her.
And what may we, what dare we say of Great Britain? Is it a true religion that to suit convention prints a prayer to God in a rag newspaper, when for years that same newspaper has ignored every sign, symbol, or suggestion of religious faith? Rightly or wrongly, British folk are credited with more “camouflage” than all the French police put together; “camouflage” in this instance standing for hypocrisy, and if they do believe in a God it is difficult to realise their sincerity.
Meanwhile the old thunder rolls from Heaven—“God204 is not mocked!” and, so far from seeing His “injustice” in this terrible war which is ruining so much that can never be replaced, let us realise that we, the offending Nations, have brought it upon Ourselves.
Ourselves have been ungrateful for His mercies and blessings; Ourselves have made Self our god, and Wealth our chief aim—and so now by the Divine Law shall Our Selves be slain and our wealth taken from us. Thus the Shadow darkens the mirror of my “reflections”—for I feel with Admiral Beatty that (as he expressed it) “until religious revival takes place at home just so long will the war continue. When England can look out on the future with humbler eyes and a prayer on her lips, then we can begin to count the days towards the end!”
Then—and only then! Then the Shadow will lift and the mirror will reflect the glorious figure of Victory….
“Like to some branch of stars we see
Hung in the golden Galaxy!”
But not till then! And meanwhile the Great War must be seen in its true light—as a Punishment of Nations for their unrepented wrongs to one another!
TRIUMPH OF WOMANHOOD
(Written for the Scottish Women’s Hospital)
As a light in deep darkness she has arisen—woman, pure womanly, with all the God-given attributes of her highest nature at last acknowledged by her self-styled “lord and master,” Man! She has shaken off the trammels which for many centuries he had fastened about her—as heroic maid and mother she has roused the better spirit in him. Out of the gloom and blood and slaughter of this world war—the most wicked war that ever devastated the earth—she has radiated upon him like an angel, clothed in a glory of love and pity; and, moving by his side through the poisonous smoke of battle and the thunder of the guns, she has cheered him on his way. When wounded and fallen she has been swift to rescue him, and first to soothe. Who will, who can, ever justly estimate the saving work of women in this terrific holocaust of nations!—this mad hurtling of man against brother—man without thought for the consequences of such wholesale murder! To Woman, in her mother-love and mercy, friend and foe are alike indifferent; all that her pitying eyes see are the gaping wounds, the flowing blood, the torn and disfigured limbs—her province is to save, heal, and comfort if she can. She knows that with God there are no nations, but that all men are human beings, subject to the same sufferings, the same deaths; she knows by the teaching of Christ206 that not a sparrow shall fall to the ground without Our Father, and that men are of “more value than many sparrows.” So, placing herself in tenderest unison with that “quality of mercy” which
“Is not strained,
But droppeth, like the gentle rain from heaven,
Upon the place beneath,”
she gives her care and service to all. She has no fears for herself; she would as soon die as live, provided only she is doing her duty. Perhaps, away down in the very core of her heart, her natural maternal instinct teaches her that these struggling, contesting masses of men are more or less enraged children, tormented and driven by bigger boys than themselves to fall upon each other and slay without thought—she may sometimes think wistfully that had they sought her counsel they might have found some better way out of their quarrel than the killing of their brothers—but, until lately, her rôle through all the centuries has been the mistaken one of submission to man’s caprice or ordainment, and any attempt at individuality on her part has been decried as a perversion of sex. Now the question of sex, reduced to first principles, appears to be that woman should find her sole content as the “vessel” of man’s pleasure—the breeder and nurse of his offspring and no more. This great war has somewhat altered the lines of the masculine perspective, for men have been forced to admit that women can do all their work as well as themselves, and sometimes better. They can even build ships and aeroplanes, and all this without losing the spirit of womanliness. Strange as it may seem, the207 woman who might lately have been seen hammering at the keel of a “Dreadnought” can prove herself soft-handed in tending the wounded, and most reverently loving in her last cares for the dying and the dead. She has mastered her nerves—those “Early Victorian” nerves which shuddered fastidiously at the sight of blood, and sent their hysterical owners into a swoon when dangers or difficulties arose, in order to create fresh confusion; she knows the great secret of self-control, and the wonderful vigour and courage which are born of that fine quality. There are very few women nowadays who scream at the sight of a mouse! But this was considered quite “the proper thing” to do in Jane Austen days, just as in some of the queer old novels written before the grand romances of Sir Walter Scott, the heroines invariably “fainted away” when the lover of the piece declared his passion. Women know that “lover of the piece” fairly well by this time, and all his limitations—sufficiently, at any rate, to be convinced that there is nothing in him worth even a pretended “swoon,” though there may be much that is worth cherishing, guiding, and inspiring to the best purposes. Not every man is like a certain one I wot of, who, after being nursed for three months in a friend’s house, said to that friend and hostess on the day he left in restored health,—“If you want a man to like you, never do anything for him!” This was not said in jest, but in grim and churlish earnest. It was a curious recompense for three months’ watchful anxiety and care, but I dare say she realised then, if never before, that “one cannot make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.” Fortunately there are few such “sow’s ears” about; most men, especially our heroic fighters,208 are touchingly grateful for women’s kindness and devoted nursing, while fairly astonished at their endurance, cheerfulness, patience, and devotion. Truly, the supposed “incapacities” of woman never existed except in the hopelessly unintelligent of her sex which have their counterpart in man; she has supported her share of the burden of life under a stupid system of repression and tyranny which has frequently resulted in discouragement, weariness, and indifference. But give her the chance to be her true, free self, and she will be the most powerful factor in the world for the betterment of humanity. We shall not deny that there are worthless women—fool-women, toy-women,—fit for nothing but posturing in various attitudes and sets of clothing; but these will find their level and grow fewer as time goes on. The grander, purer natures will, like waves of a clean, bright sea, roll over the mud-banks and eventually wash worthless things away. For now, after centuries of oppression and servitude, in which her incalculable love has been more than half wasted, and her splendid qualities misprized, now at last Woman has her chance! And those who see her day dawning must and will pray earnestly that she will use her powers always for the highest and the best, to the end that Man may find in her not a “drag on the wheel,” but a great lifting strength to bear him upward and onward to that completeness of noble living which from the beginning God has ordained.
IN PRAISE OF ENEMIES
(Published in the “Sunday Times”)
We are not always thankful for our blessings; often, indeed, we do not recognise them as such. They come to us disguised in the fashion of curses, or so we are apt to consider them till we know better. Many of us are absurdly proud of the number of our friends; with equal absurdity we deplore our evil destiny if we have but one enemy. Yet if all the truth were known, we should find that we have more reason to thank God for our foes than for our friends!
In the actual storm and stress of life’s battle our “friends,” so-called, are of little use to us; they are more prone to be a drag on the wheel. They are, generally speaking, kind, conventional folk, who, when a soul is girding on its armour for action, will give “advice,” such as “Oh, I wouldn’t run any risks, if I were you!” or “Do be careful not to offend any one!” or “You’ll get yourself disliked!” as if risk, offence, dislike, and trouble were not full of stimulus, inspiring the fighting spirit which alone can beat down difficulties and carry us on from triumph to triumph till the great victory over ourselves be assured! But enemies! Praise God for them! They are the useful and necessary Force which hurls itself against all progress, all power and originality of thought or action—the murderous obstacle laid across the line in an attempt to210 wreck the express train—the great contrary wind that seeks to drive the sailing boat against the rocks—the “thing in the way” that must be thrust aside and trampled underfoot. What worker or warrior would willingly forego “each rebuff that makes earth’s smoothness rough”? The man or woman without an enemy must be of all persons the most insignificant; one who does nothing and is nothing; of whom no one is envious, and who can never have said a brave, original thing, or a word of upright, downright truth in any circumstances.
You never know how high you are climbing till you feel some one behind you trying to pull you down. Perhaps the greatest compliment that can be paid by ignorance and malice to a man or woman of genius and virtue, is the verdict passed on the Divine Master in Galilee, that he (or she) “hath a devil”!
At the present time more than at any other period of history we of the British Empire should bless God for our enemies! What they have done and what they are doing for us, albeit unconsciously and unwillingly, can hardly be accurately estimated—not while they are still attacking us. We must wait some years before we can measure up the advantages they are bestowing upon us—advantages which we might not in a century have obtained for ourselves.
We were too satisfied with our apparent “friends”; we were, and still are, much too sure of them! We were comfortable, contented, lazy. We had everything we wanted and more. We spent money freely, and being eminently good-natured and trustful, we allowed every one to come in at our open doors and partake of our hospitality. Out of our full bags of gold we poured211 rivers of charity in every direction; we helped everybody that asked for help; and we allowed all sorts of folk to exploit us and make money out of us. We could not believe that the “friends” we entertained and whose hands we had filled with good gifts could ever turn upon us. We seemed to have no foes; and we trusted these “friends” of ours implicitly. Too casual and easy-going to heed the teachings of philosophy we forgot that it takes a far nobler nature to receive benefits than to bestow them.
Mean minds resent generosity while taking advantage of it, and nothing goads and envenoms some dispositions so much as the near consciousness of a superior force and ungrudging hand. This was, and is, the trouble with the Kaiser and his particular following—we will not say Germany, for German without the Hohenzollern autocracy would be a very different and far greater Germany than it has been since the days of Goethe and Schiller.
The Emperor William, as an eminently theatrical monarch, loving grease-paint and the limelight, and obsessed by various crazes, such as hate for his English mother and intensified hate for his mother’s country, filled even with a morbid revulsion against the English blood in his own veins, cannot abide the thought of the greatness and far-reaching protective influence of the British Imperial Power. To bend, break, and destroy that has been his dream from boyhood—a dream never to be fulfilled! His visits to our shores were the visits of a seeming “friend,” and we treated him as an honest people treat an honest man. He took our kindness for stupidity, our trust for ignorance, our faith for credulity, and his complete misconception of the212 British character has led him into a trap which he set for us, but by which he himself is snared—the usual Nature-law enacted surely and remorselessly on every treacherous soul.
What would be said or thought of a man invited to the house of a kindly hostess and permitted to enjoy the full freedom of the place, its hospitality, its food, its comfort and shelter, who, on having used it as a convenience and gained personal pleasure and advantage therein, even to the making of money, suddenly turned roughly upon his entertainer, abused her manners, her voice, her speech, her friends, her servants and mode of living, and having got all he wanted out of her personally insulted her? Probably not one man in ten thousand would conduct himself so vilely, but if that one man did so forgo all manliness, there would be not a few of his own sex ready and more than willing to put him in his place at the point of the boot.
Yet such has been the “honorable code of chivalry” of the Emperor William—the “Kultur” which boasts of treachery to his own kindred, of injury to his mother’s native land, of wantonly murderous attacks on innocent civilians who are not in any way concerned with the diseased obsessions of his brain—a “Kultur” which is more than anything else the “cult of stupidity”—the stupidity of a blinded bull charging into everything with unreasoning fury. But for us the bull-onslaught is a saving grace, for through the blindness of the beast we see!
Yes, we see, and see clearly! We have discovered our foe behind the disguise of our “friend,” and instead of opening our doors to him we shut them. Instead of holding out the hand of welcome and confidence we put213 up the curtain of our artillery fire!—and the valour of Britain, wrongfully supposed to be asleep or dead, is up in all its pristine might and mettle, full-armed with a strength and magnificent courage unmatched in all our history.
This is what our enemies have done for us: they have brought us to realise the truth Ourselves! Had it not been for their “stab-i’-the-back” we might still have played away our time, and with it our commerce. Our enemies have roused our grip and grit; they have taught us that we can turn out as many fighting men and munitions in twelve months as they could do in forty years. Even we, accustomed for a century to a peace unbroken save by small foreign skirmishes, are now with our Allies winning the greatest war of the world.
Assaulted in new and brutal ways from the air, from the underseas, as well as on land, Imperial Britain holds her own, for which she may thank, not her friends, but her foes. True it is that, as Christ taught, “A man’s foes shall be they of his own household,” and this saying is markedly fulfilled in the Kaiser’s hatred of his mother’s country and people. But whether of one’s own household or not, nothing is so salutary, so rousing, so inspiring and vivifying to the mind as the consciousness of enemies, the knowledge that some one envies you, grudges you success, and would be glad to hear of your failure in some great effort. It rouses all your latent forces and makes you stronger, bolder, more irresistible than ever you were before.
A fair woman never looks fairer than when she is being “picked to pieces” by a yellow-skinned scandal-monger, and to any individual possessing gifts above the ordinary the spite and malice of the envious and jealous214 are as light on the path and music in the air, invigorating the heart, bracing the energies, and emphasising the fact that any one so envied is worth envying, any one so hated is worth hating, because so far above the reach of either envy or hatred!
So let us praise God for our enemies! They are adding to our triumphs and renewing our glories. When we chant the “Te Deum” let us mentally include an extra strophe which shall say, “We bless Thee, O Lord, for our foes, that Thou dost suffer them to teach us the sure way to victory! We thank Thee for their broken faith, their cruelties, and their falsehoods, as from these we renew our own resolve to keep our promised word to all nations, and even in the bitterness of battle to be honest and humane!
“From their unjust cause we draw fresh justice: from their defeats we derive our conquest. Without them we might have forgotten what we were and what we are! We thank and praise Thee, O God, that through these our enemies we have found our best friends—Ourselves!”
(Delivered in the De Montfort Hall, Leicester)
In the De Montfort Hall, Leicester, at the conclusion of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Lecture on the Great War, Miss Marie Corelli, who presided as Chairman, made an appeal for recruits in the following terms:—
“There is very little for me or for any one to say, after what we have heard to-night. The moving and magnificent panorama which Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has brought before our eyes by the force of his eloquence should inspire us more to deeds than words. He has told us what our men have already done; he has hinted at what they have yet to do. This fearful war is not a game at football; we cannot play at it, or put it aside as something to be thought of casually after we have consulted our own humour and convenience. It is a time of self-sacrifice; we owe the best of all we have to our country. We must give, not only ourselves, but those we love to the country’s service. In these fortunate islands, mercifully protected by the sea, we have not as yet experienced the horrors of invasion; but invasion may come, and will come if we are not prepared, alert, and watchful! We must grudge nothing to prevent such disaster. We must put aside our own concerns entirely, and think of what this Great War means. It means wider freedom for the whole world!216 It means an end to the tyranny and savagery of Prussian militarism; it means greater progress and broader civilisation. And being such a war, every man should be proud and eager to bear his part in it. Any man, physically “fit” who hesitates or hangs back at such a crucial moment in his country’s hour of trial is a coward! And any woman who holds him back is also a coward, and a selfish one! We love our men—yes!—but love is not true love if it hinders a man from doing his duty. There is danger—there is chance of death on the field of battle; but death comes to all of us sooner or later; and we may question whether it is not better to pass away gloriously with honour, than to creep languidly out of existence in bed, surrounded by physic bottles. A soldier must face all possibilities, and a brave man must be willing to risk the worst for the chance of winning the best. As Shakespeare tells us,—
“‘Cowards die many times before their deaths;
The valiant only taste of death but once.’
“There is urgent necessity for every able man (who is not employed in turning out munitions of war) to join the colours—and if he is a man at all, he should have no hesitation. After such a moving history as that told us by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, is there a ‘fit’ man here who is not willing and eager to join his brothers-in-arms, and do his best to make their task easier? Is there a man whose work lies, not abroad, but at home in the making of shells and ammunition, that would grudge a single hour of labour for his217 country in such urgent need? If there is, he must be of bad blood and not a true-born Briton!
“If I had the right, the eloquence or the power to plead with you, I would ask every man here present who can join the colours, but who has not done so, to do it now! And I would also ask every man whose skill and strength are needed for the manufacture of war material, to work steadily, cheerfully, and ungrudgingly, in the full consciousness that by urging on the necessary output he is helping to save hundreds of the lives of his countrymen. He, the worker, is as necessary to the Empire as the soldier; he also is fighting the King’s enemies.
“And, if I had any force to persuade, I would pray every woman in this audience to prove her love for the men belonging to her by inspiring them to do their duty to ‘King and country’; either by sending them away to join the Army, with all good blessing and trust in God for their safety—or by ‘heartening’ them up to their work in war munitions, and putting no difficulties in their path of honour. For every man that hangs back from military service, or ‘shirks’ his work refuses to help his brothers; and every woman that keeps a man away from the great fight, or encourages him to grudge and shorten his hours of labour is wronging other women’s husband and sons. In this great test of national character none of us must fail. In the war, as in work, we must all pull together, shoulder to shoulder to win the victory which must and shall be ours—
“‘If England to herself do rest but true!’”
The speaker concluded by asking her hearers to join in a hearty vote of thanks to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle for his “fine, instructive, and impressive lecture.” This proposal was seconded by the Mayor of Leicester (Alderman J. North) and Sir Samuel Faire, and carried with acclamation, the vast audience being evidently moved to exceptional enthusiasm.
To you, brave Canadians, to you who have fought so magnificently for the old Mother-Country, and of whose valour and dash and spirit never too much can be said or sung, I would address Tennyson’s noble lines:—
“A People’s voice, we are a people yet
Though all men else their nobler dreams forget,
Confused by brainless mobs and lawless powers;
Thank Him who isled us here and roughly set
His Briton in blown seas and storming showers,
We have a voice with which to pay the debt
Of boundless love and reverence and regret,
To those great men who fought and kept it ours
And keep it ours, O God, from brute control:
O Statesmen, guard us, guard the eye, the soul
Of Europe, keep our noble England whole,
And save the one true seed of Freedom sown
Betwixt a people and their ancient throne.”
The one true seed of Freedom! This is deeply implanted in our Empire, and you Canadian boys are fostering it and helping it to grow. Your help is needed in peace as much as in war; we want your strength, youth, and resolution as a firm bulwark against internal discords and mischievous disloyalty. It is as brave a thing to face and overcome the Evil Spirit at home as220 it is to face him in the field, and showers of fiery shrapnel are less disintegrating than the showers of personal malice and intrigue directed only too often against the men to whom we owe the amazing and almost miraculously sudden downfall and humiliation of our enemies in the greatest war of history.
You Canadians have strongly helped to bring this downfall and humiliation to pass; like a fine family of stalwart sons, you have formed a guard of honour round your Motherland, and defended her from the hands of the spoilers. All honour to you! We want you to know and to believe that we are grateful, and that we shall never forget your dauntless daring and heroism! Ingratitude is the commonest and yet the deadliest of sins—ingratitude to God in the first place, and, in the second, ingratitude to the men whom God has given us to be our saviours. The first part of the indictment is a matter for each private and individual conscience; it is for every man and woman to try and visualise the devastation and misery which have been mercifully spared to the uninvaded British Isles, and to decide whether his or her thanksgiving is real, and deeply felt. The second part concerns the whole people of Great Britain and her Overseas Dominions—whether they, in very truth and earnest, sufficiently realise what they owe to the sorely-tried military and naval leaders upon whose shoulders has fallen the gigantic responsibility of conducting the war to a victorious issue. Not to realise it is to be guilty of a mental crime so monstrous as to be almost unimaginable. And yet, the moment political pawns are set on the chess-broad, every claim to integrity and patriotism is questioned and argued from the base point of view of “personal interest.”221 Personal interest is a powerful motive force with most men, but it does not count with heroes like Sir Douglas Haig, Admiral Beatty, or Marshal Foch. Think of these men! for it is they who won the war—they, who through God, have given us the victory! Not the talkers, but the doers; not the politicians, but the fighters, among whom you, brave Canadians, held your part like the heroes of an epic. You are rough, perchance, but you are ready! Some there are who say you have not received half your rightful share of honour in this country; if this is so, then your Motherland is indeed unworthy of your prowess! But I hardly think this is, or can be so. You do not get the true voice of the British People in the British Press—always remember that! The People know their best men, and honour them accordingly. And if, by chance, they are misled occasionally, and those leaders whom they have believed their “best” prove false to the trust placed in them, none so swift, sure, and deadly as the British People to rend them for their broken word. They know you, Canadians, as their blood-brothers; and as such will resent any wrong inflicted on your liberties and commerce. They applaud your patriotism and rejoice in your courage; you are the younger sons of the Empire, and in the name of one Throne, one Flag, we salute you and give you our heart’s gratitude!
SHELLS; AND OTHER SHELLS
(Written by request for the Magazine published on behalf of the Munition Workers of Georgetown, Paisley)
In one of the finest and tenderest poems ever written by our last great Laureate, Alfred Tennyson, whose departure from this world closed, for the time, the reign of true English lyrical melody, there occur these delicately beautiful lines:—
“See what a lovely shell
Small and pure as a pearl
Lying close at my foot,
Frail, but a work divine,
Made so fairly well
With delicate spire and whorl
How exquisitely minute!
A miracle of design.
The tiny cell is forlorn,—
Void of the little living will
That made it stir on the shore.
Did he stand at the diamond door
Of his house, in a rainbow frill?
Did he push, when he was uncurl’d,
A golden foot or a fairy horn
Through his dim water-world?”
How often we have seen such shells as these!—and how little have we associated the familiar name of “shell” with any thought of war or “shock” or bloodshed! Holding a sea-shell close against our ears we listen in fancy to the solemn music of the ocean surging through its hollow cavity,—the ocean with its sweeping thunderous harmony,—though all the time we know it is but the sound of our own life-blood pouring through our veins and pulsing upon our senses. And now, when we talk of “shells,” we mean something vastly different to the “small and pure as a pearl” object which moved a great Poet to song—for the “pure” thing was the work of God, and “a miracle of design” wrought to suit the needs of the “little living will that made it stir on the shore”; but the “shells” we have to do with are man’s work, made to destroy all living wills that come in contact with them! In their terrific way they too are “miracles of design,” for their cavities hold death and scatter it broadcast. Still more wonderful it is to realise the fact that women’s hands have been taught and trained to prepare this flying death—women’s hands, surely formed by nature for tenderness and caressing, for soothing and consoling! How, then, has it chanced that they should adapt themselves to such dire uses? Why do they labour so strenuously and eagerly to make weapons for the armoury of the King of Terrors? Women’s hands! What charming and poetic things have been said and written about them! Think of the hands in Fra Angelico’s picture of the “Angel of the Annunciation” where the dainty tapering fingers are as exquisitely delicate as the buds of the lilies they hold! Or, recall the subtle beauty of Heine’s description of the hand of an unknown lady,224 resting white and beautiful on the carved edge of a confessional in a dark cathedral aisle, the owner of the hand being too enshrouded in shadows to be visible.
“So still and pure was that lovely hand,” wrote the poet, “that whatever sins its mistress might be admitting to her confessor, it was evident that of itself it had nothing to do with sin or folly. It was a stainless sweetness alone and apart, and shone in the gloom of the vast cathedral like a sculptured ivory emblem of innocence.”
Nevertheless!—women’s hands that are, or that might be, as delicate and caressable as those of Fra Angelico’s model, or Heine’s unseen lady, are now at work in the strangest kind of “annunciation”!—the most amazing form of “confession”! Why do they toil in such a contrary fashion to their natural bent and inclination? The answer is swift and conclusive. Because Evil is let loose on the earth, and because Good must use all force to overcome it. And, out of sternest necessity, Good must arm itself with weapons that shall not only match but surpass those employed by Evil. In a fight against devils, angels must join battle. In some of the most magnificent scenes of Milton’s “Paradise Lost” when war rages between the warriors of God and the followers of Satan, the good are described as fighting against the bad with terrific weapons of attack, and the outbursts of fire hurled against the devilish foe were none the less potent because wrought by the angelic hosts. Our women workers who prepare the munitions of war are one and all inspired by the same fixed motive and desire—namely, to end the sorrows and suspense of the suffering nations who are involved in the disastrous upheaval which is the result of a people’s pitiful belief in the “divine right,” of a225 crowned madman. And as they turn out “shells” and yet more “shells,” we know that they hope and believe that for every one completed, at least one of the fiendish murderers of the innocent may be dismissed from a world which his presence has darkened. Perchance they may, as they press on with their work, hear more mystic sounds than are conveyed in the cavity of an empty shell “void of a living will” on the sea-shore—for their filled shell speaks of their own blood, burning with grief and indignation at the slaughter of their kindred—and of the roar and thunder of the guns instead of the crashing billows of the sea. Who shall count the throbbing thoughts of the women who fill these “shells”?—women who look calm enough and resolute enough, and who work on tirelessly and almost wordlessly, as though moved by a single heart, beating through each one’s separate labour! A visitor to a shell factory in the Midlands said to me,—“They work quite mechanically; I think they hardly know what they are about.” Don’t they know what they are about? Indeed they do! They know they are making weapons of destruction that shall bring reprisals for the deaths of brave men—they know that they are helping to save the lives of their own kinsmen, and with all their strength they “speed up,” because they feel that by so doing they are pushing on the end of the war. We shall never be able to realise how much they have done for us, and alas!—the ingratitude of nations to its workers is proverbial. It takes a woman to understand woman’s enforced labour, and to enter with sympathy into all she loses by taking the place of man in hard and difficult times—what sacrifices in health and vitality she makes by long hours of steady application226 to monotonous factory work—what temptations she has to resist—what bribes—yes!—bribes of cash and comfort she has to forgo. For the enemy is busy elsewhere than on the field—insidious and indefatigable in stirring up strife in this country and sowing the seeds of disloyalty and discontent, and it says much for our women that they are awake and alert to the fact. Of the contemptible few who “make love” to “Fritz” in his prison camp, one can only be sorry that they are so “weak in the upper story!” The real women of the Empire—the women who, in the after-war days that are coming, will have so much of the country’s destiny in their guidance, are in the majority sound, sane, and loyal—we can trust them with work even more momentous than the making of shells! Meanwhile, we can try to be grateful to them for their steadiness and perserverance, their pluck and patience, and let us not forget at any time what we owe to them. It should be graven deep on the records of the nation that—Without Women’s Work the War Could Not Be Won! And in the hour of victory let us not fail to pay them our debt of Honour!
DARKNESS AND LIGHT
(Written at the request of Sir Arthur Pearson as the Prologue to an Entertainment on behalf of St. Dunstan’s Hostel for Soldiers and Sailors Blinded in the War)
“Oh, dark, dark, dark amid the blaze of noon,
Irrecoverably dark! Total eclipse
Without all hope of day!”
You, whose eyes are able to read these tragic lines of blind John Milton, can you realise what they mean? Do you feel to the innermost core of your heart the blackness of that “eclipse without all hope of day,” which like a never-lifting cloud envelopes those from whom the blessing of sight has been taken for ever! Can you, even by the utmost exertion of your imagination, truly grasp what it would mean to you if all light and colour were blotted out from your consciousness, and you had to rely on a merciful guiding hand to lead you to and fro, to hold you lest you stumbled, and conduct you from places of business or pleasure safely back to your home? If you could not see beloved faces?—if the sunlight could never again reach those poor closed channels of the vision you once enjoyed?—if the skies, the lovely country, the woods and the ocean were all glories that should never again gladden your sight?—if this were so, would you not pray to God that being thus handicapped He would at least give you friends? Friends who would be eyes to you,228 hands to you—who would cheer you in dreadful moments of depression blacker than blindness, and who would help you to find occupation and train you to do useful work, although sightless, so that the days and years should not be so fraught with monotony and dull regret; and that life, after all, should not seem a barren and empty thing?
You have heard of St. Dunstan’s Hostel for soldiers and sailors blinded in the war? It is now one of earth’s “Holy Places”—holy because the benediction of heaven has made it a sanctuary—a sanctuary of love, patience, self-sacrifice and untiring devotion—holy, because the patiently endured martyrdom of a brave man has been and is its spiritual foundation. Sir Arthur Pearson—(some of you do not know it or think of it)—is himself blind. And what makes his sorrow darker for him, is that he has known all the blessings of perfect sight—he has enjoyed all the activities of an eager and vigorous life, and is still in the prime of manhood. “How sad for him!” murmurs the conventional Society voice—“Such a drawback!” Yes, how sad!—but what gladness for others he gathers from his own handicap!—what splendid results have sprung from his “drawback!”—what sunshine pours from the cloud of his night! The American essayist, Emerson, in advising one stricken with adversity, writes, “Be like the wounded oyster, mend your shell with a pearl!” With what a pearl of great price has Arthur Pearson mended his life’s wound! Knowing the bitterness of blindness, he has devoted all his energies to the care of the blind and to the lightening of their darkness, especially to those heroes who, in the very hey-day of their youth and manliness have gone unhesitatingly forth to face229 the foe in this wickedest of wars, and have been blinded by shot and shell explosions, losing all sense of vision in one cruel moment—a moment that rings down the curtain on all scenes and faces for ever! Shall we not, with all our hearts, help the sublime cause of “love to our neighbours,” and consolation to our self-sacrificing soldiers and sailors, taught to us by the example of this Englishman who does not protest, but lives his Christian faith in a manner that Christ must surely approve? It would be trespassing on sacred ground to presume to guess how much heavenly light has been mystically shed on his own darkness by this noble dedication of his sorrow to noblest ends. But it may be reverently said that he has followed as far as is humanly possible the Divine Teacher who, in healing a blind man, “put His hands upon his eyes and made him look up.” In this we can all help. We can make our brave, blind friends, the soldiers and sailors, rendered sightless for our sakes, “look up!” We can make them feel they are not alone and helpless in a dark world; we can convince them that their welfare is dear to us, and that we are fully conscious of the immense sacrifices they have made for us and for the country. Let us all then do our utmost and best for St. Dunstan’s and strengthen the hands of its Founder, and let it never be said that we were guilty of the meanest vice known to humanity—Ingratitude!
SWEEPING THE COUNTRY
They say it does; and I hardly wonder! The broom is so long and searchful; it goes into so many holes and corners that surely not a single spider’s web is left unvisited. It gathers up the pale dust of British gullability with an admirable adroitness, and what is perhaps the best thing about it is that it pays for its sweepings. Not every broom does that! But I am told—I do not assert it or vouch for it—that it is a German broom; and no make of broom in all the world is more capable of industry or more resistless to wear and tear. Opposed as we are, and as we must be, to German militarism, German labour will, I fear, be always ahead of us, especially if the German worker puts in eight or ten hours where the British decides to give only four or six. This is a matter for future testing; in the meanwhile let us consider with attention, in capital letters “THIS MORNING’S NEWS ABOUT PELMANISM,” as it appears in that esteemed journal The Sunday Times, to which I have had the honour to contribute. It is but the other day that I was assured “on the highest authority” (as the bewildered press reporters at the Peace Conference have expressed it) that “Pelman” was originally spelt “Poehlmann,” and that at discreet intervals his “Magic Card” would be followed by another, inscribed “Roth.” Both names have the euphonious Teuton ring about them, and they both imply Money—money spent231 lavishly and magnificently on the “flowing tide of Pelmanism” by way of opulent and ceaseless advertisement in all the newspapers which joyously yield their columns to cash rather than to intelligent information, and give up whole pages to “Pelman” or “Roth” indiscriminately, in competition with a kindly Swedish masseur or exercise-man, who in equally lavish announcements and large type, promises health to the healthless even as “Pelman” and “Roth” promise brain to the brainless. Of “Roth” I know little except that according to advertisement “he is a remarkable man” (of which I am entirely convinced), but of “Pelman” I have learned something at first hand. I have learned, for instance, how it is that the spacious, tremendous, profuse, and overpowering advertisements of this system of brain-forcing flood every corner of the press, squeezing out by their size and the space they occupy legitimate news of interest to the public; of course, the first and chief reason is that they are paid for. Everything in every line of business, pleasure or social position, is paid for; even the clergyman who professes to show you the way to heaven is paid for. Then surely it follows that Pelman or Poehlmann must be a multi-millionaire? No! he need not be. As the controller of the “flowing tide” he may make others pay, and so may command cash without being personally wealthy. He no doubt realises the truth of what a certain frank proprietor of pickles assured me—“If advertising is done well and continuously it brings in double and treble the money it costs.” And the channels in which the “flowing tide” is set to run are cleverly prepared and delved out in the shifting sands of British innocence and credulity—two admirable232 traits of our national character. It is a touching thing to realise that the guileless Briton should so simply confess himself to “Pelman” as mindless and memory-less—and it is equally pathetic to discover in the “Census” of “Pelmanists” there can be counted one barmaid, one bacon-curer, and one “corporation official”! “Art and music and literature are being re-born,” says Pelman—and no doubt the Pelmanists are already in travail. It is all very clever and amusing; a little comedy in which the guileless Briton is the bear that dances to the Pelman pipings. I admire cleverness wherever I find it; it is a star in the general murk of stupidity, and I am the last person in the world to depreciate the brilliancy of its glitter. But it has interested me to study the movements of this particular scheme, and chance or fortune placed one or two threads in my hands which seemed to suggest a clue. Briefly then, I was offered Fifty Guineas to “write up” Pelmanism. The offer came through a very agreeable and enterprising journalist, employed, I presume, to secure fresh supplies for the “flowing tide,” and he added to his own personal and friendly entreaties a considerable quantity of literary matter setting forth the miraculous improvement in heretofore dull brains under the influence of Pelman or Poehlmann. I made a careful study of these documents, and the first thing that dawned on my own dim intelligence was that every would-be student of the “course” would be called upon to pay six guineas, either in one sum or by “easy instalments,” though one can have a copy of the book entitled Mind and Memory (which tell “all about” Pelmanism but does not instruct) gratis, and in that book are “particulars” showing how one can obtain233 the “course” at a reduced fee. Thanks to my journalist friend I had the gratis book (in its forty-fourth edition, and for this reason called “The World’s Most Widely Read Book”—well! with all diffidence allow me to hint that this is incorrect, as I myself am the author of one or two books in their fifty-first editions), but the “Course” did not tempt me to disburse guineas, not even had I accepted the Fifty offered. (I may say here that I never accept “tips.”) But I could not, and cannot refrain from considering how, if the scheme works successfully, as of course it must, the British public are paying for these splendid advertisements! Paying so well that it is easy to understand how the Pelman promoters can afford to pay Fifty Guineas, more or less, to the obliging individuals who are ready and willing to praise the “system.” Canon Hannay (“George A. Birmingham”) for instance—does he get Fifty Guineas? Or Mr. Spencer Leigh Hughes, M.P.? Or dear George R. Sims? Or Mr. Gilbert Frankau? Or do they send in their testimonials gratis? I feel that I cannot be the only “eminent” (to quote advertisement) person who has received the munificent offer of Fifty Guineas, and refused the same! In the Pelman “Census” I note there are 339 accountants, 8 actresses, 490 clergymen, and—one archbishop! Whereby it would seem that accountants and clergymen need more brain-prodding than others. And if the “one Archbishop” should consent to “write up” the advantages of the “course” (like Mr. Will Owen, who declares that, artist though he professes to be, he had “hardly begun the first lesson in Pelmanism before he discovered something he had been drawing incorrectly all his life), sure His Grace would merit234 a Hundred Guineas for his good work at the very least? Anyhow his fee should be more than that of a “bacon-curer” or a novelist! In openly confessing the offer to myself of Fifty Guineas which I refused without a moment’s hesitation, I do so that I may call the attention and admiration of the public to the clever way certain people manage to make money through human gullability. The brain-prodders and memory-pushers are almost as astute as Government officials. The mass of people who never stop to think, still less to calculate, are their happy hunting-ground. Personally I think Pelman and Roth too “sharp” to be of the Anglo-Saxon race, though I do not assert them to be Germans, naturalised or de-naturalised. But they have the Teuton line of intelligence; that is, wherever they find a good thick soil of stupidity, they plant seed therein, fertilise it and make it grow. These special people who feed the coffers of journalism by purchasing whole pages of space for their advertisements, are so convinced of the thickness and richness of Anglo-American stupidity that they boldly offer to transmute it, like alchemists, into the gold of intellectual ability, and if this could be done ’twere a worthy thing. But one must pause at the idea they put forward—“If only we had 1,000,000 clever thinkers!” It is too terrific! This poor earth of ours could not survive! Its rolling ball like a bomb would burst in space, overburdened by the sheer weight of brain! Be merciful, therefore, O munificent Pelman! spare us, gentle Roth! Do not instruct the bacon-curer or train the Archbishop beyond what we have the strength to endure! Do not compel us to bow the knee to the “barmaid” as another De Stael!—to the “corporation official” as a new Admir235able Crichton! It is the American philosopher Emerson who writes, “Let the world beware when a Thinker comes into it!” But “1,000,000 thinkers!” The prospect is horrible—spare us, good Lord! We have much to be thankful for in Carlyle’s famous assertion “most fools,” for if our population were all wise, life would be dull indeed! Fools make the gaiety of nations—they are the staple support of all governments—the foundation of the press and the drama—the stock-in-trade of all authors, philosophers, and wits whatsoever, and Heaven forbid we should ever be deprived of their existence! We are always more or less in the position of Shakespeare’s “melancholy Jacques” and ready to say, “A fool, a fool, I met a fool i’ the forest! as I do live by food I met a fool!” and when we chance on company with this simple friend of all men should we “Pelmanise” or “Roth” him? Never! He is too valuable an asset to the world!
TO SAVE LIFE OR DESTROY IT?
A CHALLENGE TO CERTAIN CLERGY
(Published in the “Pall-Mall Gazette”)
Does the Christian Church profess to follow the teaching of Christ? Or the Law of Moses? That is to say: Is it Christian or Jewish? If Jewish, its “sabbath” should be kept on Saturday, in conformance with the rest of the Jewish world; if Christian, then, according to Christ, we may, if necessity compels, do imperative work on Sunday. But a section of our clergy are up in arms at the idea of “profaning the Lord’s Day” by allowing labour of tillage and planting the land on Sundays, for the necessities of the nation’s food. Where do these contentious persons get their authority? Not from their divine Master! Their spirit is that of the Scribes and Pharisees who “watched” Our Lord—“whether he would heal on the sabbath day, that they might find an accusation against Him.” The world has not outgrown that contemptible spirit. “That they might find an accusation” is often everybody’s aim and clearest business! “Then said Jesus unto them—I will ask you one thing: Is it lawful on the sabbath days to do good or to do evil?—to save life or destroy it?” And when the hypocrites could not answer Him, He healed the afflicted man who had sought His aid, whereat those who had “watched” Him, so says the Gospel narrative, “were filled with madness and communed237 one with another what they might do to Him.” But, despite His scorn of their narrow sectarianism, “He went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.”
No true servant of Christ can find the least excuse in any one of the Divine Teacher’s commands for a rigidly sectarian observance of Sunday. A seventh day’s rest was wisely and rightly instituted by Moses for the relief of the Israelites when they had been worked as slaves by their Egyptian taskmasters; but Christ never incorporated its observance as any part of the instructions He gave to His disciples. “What man shall there be among you,” He said, “that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it and lift it out? How much, then, is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore, it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days.”
Mark those last words! They were spoken by One “in whom there was no guile.” It is lawful to do well on the sabbath days. And yet, Oh! narrow and rigid men who “profess” Christ, you, who see and know that on the feeding of our population depends their health, their strength, and their ultimate victory over a barbarous foe, you would discourage the willing hearts and hinder the ready hands from virtuous and unselfish labour on Sundays in a time of unexampled national necessity! Shame! For the blessing of God must be on all such honest workers whose toil is for the help and honour of their country. Christ told us there were but two commandments, not ten—the first: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy soul and with all thy mind and with all thy strength”—and the second: “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.238 There is none other commandment greater than these.”
* * * * *
Now what do the dogmatists make of this? If we truly love God, we surely know His “work” never ceases. We could not live a second without His sustaining principle. Every moment of every hour some active propulsion of creative force labours to produce a result which is perfect of its kind. On whatever day we sow our wheat we cannot stop its growing on Sundays. The energies of Divine beneficence never slacken. If they did, existence itself would be at an end. Our “love” of God must therefore include our consciousness of His unresting “work” for His creation. Then, if we are to love our neighbour as ourselves, it follows that we must care for his sustenance as well as our own. In times like the present we must help him to produce food for himself and his family, even if we till the land on Sundays, which, so employed, may be considered truly “holy” days. For “it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days,” and it is better to benefit a neighbour than listen to a sermon. That is, if we accept the teaching of Christ and assume to be Christians. The times are pressing; the necessity for food production urgent; and men owe it as a duty to the land God gives them that it should yield sufficient to keep the population in health and safety. Therefore, if this needful, noble work has to be done quickly, there is no sin, but rather great virtue and self-sacrifice, in working on Sundays as well as weekdays during a time of war and stress. If any of the clergy can quote a single one of Christ’s own words forbidding necessary work on Sundays, let them do so. Christ’s own words, remember! They are generally ignored by all Churches.239 Had they ever been obeyed, the purity and strength of a perfect Faith would, long ere this, have exterminated War. Now, all good “Christian” clergy, who object to necessary national work on Sundays, produce your Master’s warrant for such action—if you can! I say you cannot!
THE WAR LOAN
HOW IT MIGHT BE INCREASED
(Published in the “Pall-Mall Gazette”)
We are all bound for victory. Every nerve and sinew of every man and woman in Imperial Britain is bent on the task of winning it, not only for ourselves, but for the whole civilised world. America knows, and the intimidated and secretly tampered with neutrals also know, as well as we do, that the full triumph of the Allies means their great peace as well as ours—their advantage, their progress, their commerce, as well as ours. That brave and straight-speaking hero of science, Thomas Edison, recently said: “The people of the world have willed that they shall be their own masters, and what the people will is sure to come to pass.” True enough, it is the people only who can realise every aim, every ideal, every conquest; and in this matter of the War Loan they can raise a veritable mountain of gold if they so determine. But—there is a “but” in their willingness: an obstacle in the race—they will not give as much as they would if they have to realise that some of it or any of it may be used to pay wages and provide food for German foes dwelling in our very midst.
* * * * *
Think of it! Is it reasonable, is it just, to ask this patient, docile, strong, and law-abiding people of241 Britain to give their lives, their homes, their children, their time, with all their service and money, towards the vigorous and incessant prosecution of the war, when they know that there are more than 20,000 German foes kept at large in this realm, free to do as they will? Twenty thousand, who go about in all towns and villages unchallenged, listening, spying, noting every coign and circumstance of vantage, and often (assuming to be English themselves) using persuasion to prejudice the Loan among the uninstructed classes.
Twenty thousand enemies, prepared and ready to work devastation at the first opportunity, while we “hush up” all that may seem unchivalrous or to the dear creatures’ detriment! Is it right that these same Germans should have their own meeting places and restaurants in London as freely as if they were in Berlin? And, to add insult to the injury of the whole position, is it even sane that our authorities should actually permit Germans to work in our munition factories? Germans who, when they leave the works and go to their eating houses, take off their munition badges and spit on them in token of their contempt for Britain, even while they are accepting British pay and eating British food!
* * * * *
What does it mean, this employment of Germans in British munition factories? Death-dealing explosions, of course! What else can any one, not entirely a drivelling idiot, expect? Is it likely that a German will make shells absolutely as they should be made for the destruction of his own countrymen? No; he would rather burn down the whole factory!—and he does if he gets the chance. Nor can he be blamed;242 it is the authorities who are to blame for putting him in the way of temptation to murder. There is something so “dumb-driven, cattle-like” in the sheer stupidity of two or three of our Governmental Departments that one is fain to compassionate them as one might compassionate sheep bumping their heads against a stone wall and expecting to get through.
* * * * *
If a house is threatened with burglary, is it reasonable to ask the burglar in on a “dine and sleep” visit? Yet that is what is being done with the Germans in our country to-day. And it is not possible that our people can or will rise to their full strength, either in service or in money, as long as they are affronted by the presence of the enemy in the centres of their business and social life. The extraordinary indulgence shown to the Huns in London is a perpetual worry to our French friends, who cannot understand it. They discuss it and deplore it as a sign of weakness. But whatever it is, we may be sure it will not be allowed to last. Once the people take the law into their own hands nothing will stop them. Après ça le deluge!
No spitting on British munition badges then! No extra allowances of food to German prisoners while British folk are ordered to measure their rations! No “official” posts for men with German wives! Taken as a whole, the position is more than scandalous. The British people have every right to demand that their own land shall be cleansed of all the associates of the pirates and murderers who slay their men, women, and children without mercy, and who yet remain here, living at the nation’s expense. Every German at large in these islands is a walking “wireless” of swift and243 useful information to headquarters. Each new device of Britain for worsting the foe is at once conveyed to those most interested, and our newspapers, frequently more zealous than discreet, lend their aid by giving details, and often illustrations, of the latest of our scientific inventions for warfare.
* * * * *
It is time this matter was handled boldly, with “gloves off,” as Queen Elizabeth would have handled it. She would have sent all Germans out of the country at the very declaration of war, and so would have saved an infinite number of treasons against the State. Late in the day as it is, why not send them now? Send them all, in comfort and luxury if you will, with “rations” of first-class food, on British ships flying the British flag, and let them take their chance of the kindness and humanity of their own countrymen. They will be useful additions to the “national service” of their Vaterland—we do not want them here. Our own men and women will suffice us for our own labor, and work will be done more readily, while money will flow in more plentifully, when we are sure that our own land is purged of the Hun, and that we are not, like fools, paying to keep and feed plotters against the peace of the realm.
A PLEA FOR COMMON SENSE
(Published in the “Pall-Mall Gazette”)
Talk of “National Service!” Where is the man, woman, or child that refuses to do any really necessary or useful work for the country? Such cannot be found! There is an eager and splendid willingness in every one to give his or her best; but without proper organisation the fine forces of this fine, patient, and enduring people are scattered and disunited. From all that the bewildered mind can gather through the roaring megaphone of an apparently semi-crazed and ruinously expensive system of advertisement, the National Service most demanded is “food production.” So says Mr. Prothero. Very well. Then why not set about it in an orderly practical manner, without screaming our shortcomings aloud for the amusement of the Germans? There is no difficulty whatever in sufficient food production if some sort of method be brought into the present chaos. Take this for an example:—
With the help of an old soldier with a wooden leg and an old man of seventy, a pig farmer and market gardener was able to put on the market in six months £1487 worth of pork and £174 of garden produce.
In the next three months he anticipates an addition to his stock of about 240 pigs from his twenty-five breeding sows.
Already he has 211 pigs on the place, apart from the breeding animals.
What can be done in one place can be done in another, and if every rural town and village were encouraged to work its own allotments, if every cottager were persuaded to grow his or her own garden produce, and keep pigs and poultry, half the food problem would be solved. Why not organise such a plan and concentrate scattered forces? It would be a mistake to confide the management of such a scheme to “local” magnates, whether mayors or members of corporations, for those who have any experience of such “bodies” know well enough what hindrances they are in the way of active progress, having always their own axes to grind. But an impartial, unprejudiced, friendly director of each agricultural centre, a man or woman of helpful, sympathetic and practical knowledge, who would encourage the workers and spare them any of that “superior” tone of insolence so hurtfully employed by some of the temporary jacks-in-office on our military tribunals, could very easily energise the whole business. Suppose, too, that instead of a daily patter about potatoes and “shortage,” the Government were to offer prizes from ten to a hundred pounds for the cottagers and holders of allotments who, in six months, should produce most food for their own families and neighbours, would it not cost less money than the printing of millions of “food tickets”? Certainly, it would hearten, not dishearten, the workers, and give them an extra zest for “production.”
Moreover, it is high time our rulers and Ministers left off talking about “shortage of food” altogether, if the following is true:—
A statement made in the House of Commons recently emphasises the fact that German agents are still active in this country. In refusing to supply a member with certain information about the supply of aeroplanes, he said: “Any answer we give in this House is at once sent to Germany.”
Printed or written information can always be stopped by the censor. The question remains: How is the information conveyed?
How, indeed? Why should we give the Huns the satisfaction of supposing we need food? Or allowing them to think their U-boats are “blockading” us into famine? Let the public keep its “weather eye” open, and consider recent events in Russia! There, part of the German scheme was “to create an artificial scarcity of food, so as to precipitate food riots and compel a separate peace.”
Beware of the dog! How about Great Britain? Who can swear that the same “influence” is not at work here, “to create an artificial scarcity of food”? And if it should be so, why do our politicians fall sheer into the trap and spread the mischief which the foe may have started? Food was poured into Petrograd as soon as the German “unseen hand” was cut off. It is a significant fact worth remembering!
* * * * *
Again, let it be emphasised that there is no difficulty about food production in these islands if the work be properly organised. Food is not grown on emotional impulse, such as that displayed by a charming lady I lately met, who told me with sweet resignation: “I will not have flowers in my window boxes this summer. I shall plant potatoes in them instead!” Dear soul!247 She evidently thought it worth while! Just as some folks think it worth while to dig up and disfigure the parks of London with potato growing when there is any amount of waste land around which needs cultivation! One deplores “the falsehood of extremes.”
* * * * *
If we are to accept Mr. Prothero’s statement, the most important line of “national service” is this food production. Then, let him take action and not listen to hearsay or report. Let him see for himself the thousands of acres in this country waiting to be cultivated and to produce richly and royally all that is needed for the population. Let there be common sense organisation in each district—not “compulsion”; the people are too cheerfully brave and willing to be “compelled.” But no one cares to work in the dark without a plan, and without any encouragement. They are told to “produce food,” but are denied labour to produce it. The capable field-worker is taken, and inefficient substitutes sent instead—men who do not know how to plant a root or sow a seed, with the obvious result that plants and seeds represent so much money thrown away. But, once more to emphasise the need of common sense, let us hold fast the fact that no lack of food is possible to this country if things are properly organised. And as we see by report that, despite U-boats, ships laden with useful cargoes are constantly arriving in our ports, let us not forget the possibility of “the creation of that artificial scarcity” which stirred the blood and roused the devil in Russia!
OUR FORTUNATE “RESTRICTIONS”
(Published in the “Pall-Mall Gazette”)
The Germans are reported to be in ecstasy over what they call the “despairing appeal” of the Prime Minister’s great “restrictions” speech. But, however great their “ecstasy” may be, it can hardly equal ours! For we have sufficient sense to see what hope and strength for our Empire springs, like a bright rainbow, from what the Boche obtusely imagines is a cloud. Our “lead” is towards increasing prosperity and happiness for all. We are invited to look forward to a self-supporting country; we are given fresh chances of barring the ungrateful Teuton from our trades by showing him that we can do all our own work ourselves. We are promised another “Merrie England” of the spacious days of yore, when foreign supplies were rare and costly, and when all the fields were thick with golden grain and all the orchards glowed with many-coloured fruits and the agricultural population were given the chance to reap what they had sown.
* * * * *
Now, in our lovely rural villages we may perhaps hope to see the last of many frowsy, idle sluts who for years have preferred to gossip away their time rather than do any useful work; and in their stead we may look for healthy, active girls and women who are proud of their dairies and poultry farms, and glad to show interested customers the great bowls of milk, the churning of butter, the making of cheese, and all the endless249 charms of “country” work well done. If the submarine menace teaches us to produce all the food that can be produced in these islands, it will be a blessing in disguise, a helper and saviour of the grit, stability, and fine reasonableness of the British race. Talk of potatoes! There are many hundred of acres of waste land in South Cornwall alone, notably wide, treeless fields running into sand dunes by the sea, where the potato would flourish as well as it does in similar Dutch soil, and all this precious land is empty and untilled. To urge the digging up of parks and public recreation grounds, where it is doubtful whether potatoes would grow at all, when there is all this acreage available, is sheer nonsense. I would that I had even a hundred acres of that Cornish sandy soil by the sea just now. With a few skilled labourers (for one must know how to plant potatoes) it should yield gold! At Newquay, by the way, there is a golfing ground reserved for the amusement of a dozen or so of privileged selfish persons; it would grow tons of potatoes and other good edibles with very little trouble.
* * * * *
Nothing has ever been a greater source of wonder to me than the improvidence of such British folk as prefer to buy their vegetables and fruit food rather than grow it. Nowhere are allotments so untidily kept or so altogether neglected as in certain parts of England; nowhere is so little grown in them. Surely it stands to sense that if each cottager grew his own vegetable and fruit food there would be less need for foreign supplies. And if every waste field were made to produce something in the way of foods a submarine blockade must needs prove futile in any attempt to starve the popula250tion. We may, if we will, foresee the vision of a happier, grander Britain than ever, when the people of these fruitful islands are given their own, and no longer have need to sever their lives from the homes of their kindred because there is no work for them here owing to the intrusion of German influence and German labour. We might also consider with belated sorrow the depopulation of the Scottish Highlands, and the preservation of vast tracts of moor and forest for mere “sport,” which has for years been a scandal and a disgrace to the nation. Let us have the people back on the land, and let the deer and the grouse take their own wild chances of existence. The submarine menace has come to teach us what we ought to have learned long ago—namely, that what we want on our own land are our own men, as skilled farmers and workers in every useful and profitable department, and that it ought never to be possible to see, as I once saw posted up on a large factory in London itself: “No English Need Apply.”
* * * * *
Look at the thing squarely. With each householder, in rural districts at least, growing his own vegetable and fruit supply, and the farmers growing for the community in general, what lack should there be of the necessities of life? The Prime Minister has restricted nothing that we cannot well do without. Somebody has grumbled about apples. Where will you beat homegrown apples? Plant orchards of them without stint; they will repay the trouble. Somebody else grumbles—yes, we know somebody always grumbles! This time it is about “Paris hats.” They are “forbidden.” O wise judge! O learned judge! No more (for a time, at least) shall we be pestered by receiving elaborate251 circulars printed in gold stating that Monsieur Satanique “presents” his latest “creations,” as if the good Satanique were a sort of deity. Nor will he, with all his persuasive charm, be able to entice the foolish among women to pay him six or eight guineas for a bit of wire, a scrap of lace, a feather, and a ribbon. O bold “restriction”! No more “Paris hats”—but, let us hope, a great deal more common sense!
“HIS PAINFUL DUTY”
THE SORROWS OF THE HOME SECRETARY
(Published in the “Pall-Mall Gazette”)
We grieve for Sir George Cave. He suffers as a martyr suffers in the cause of his country. Martyrs are not so common as heroes nowadays, but Sir George puts in no claim to heroism. He leaves that to “Tommy.” “Tommy” makes short work of the Huns wherever and however he meets them, but Sir George is almost on the verge of tears because he is unable to make their stay on in this country as agreeable and profitable as he would wish.
* * * * *
In the House of Commons he said: “Only the other day it was his painful duty to order the internment of sixteen members of one alien club alone!” Alas, alas! “Sixteen” out of twenty thousand wandering spies! “One club alone,” out of hundreds of enemy information centres! Poor Sir George! How his heart must have been torn! how it must, even now, be lacerated and sore! “Had this club been in existence during the whole war?” asked Sir Henry Dalziel pointedly. And surely Sir George must have fetched a sigh from the bottom of his soul as he was compelled to answer “Yes!” Mr. Herbert Samuel, the late Home Secretary, was also apparently in sad plight, for he “seemed very anxious about the thousands of friendly aliens” in the253 East End of London and other large towns. He may well be “very anxious.” For these “thousands of friendly aliens” are not “friendly,” and in nine cases out of ten “show,” as Mr. Samuel gravely observed, “that their hearts are not with this country.”
* * * * *
Is Mr. Samuel really so ingenuous, so simple, so altogether infantile in experience as to suppose their hearts could be “with this country”? Are the hearts of Britishers interned in Germany “with” Germany? The Germans have turned English and Americans out of Berlin; why is not the same course pursued by us with Germans in London? Every German in the British Isles hopes for their “invasion” by his countrymen, and with invasion the signal to mobilise. With 30,000 interned and 20,000 at liberty, 50,000 foes are in our midst, ready to turn upon us at short notice. Why should this matter be dealt with in such a spineless, semi-paralytic way? What are the British public to think of the Ministers who put them on “rations” of four pounds of bread a week, while the German prisoner is allowed ten? Two and a half pounds of meat to the German’s three and a half? And everything on the same scale, so that, summing up the total, the honest British worker gets seven pounds four ounces of food to his enemy prisoners’ fourteen pounds fourteen ounces! Can any Controller of any department be so blind as to think the British people will stand such injustice? Many of us know all about Donnington Hall, though an honest attempt to clear up that scandal was nipped in the bud by some “Unseen Hand.” But what of the life of ease led by the German prisoners interned in the Isle of Man? There, in the great internment camp,254 officers are “at home,” and are permitted to buy whatever quantity of food they like to pay for—food which the native population cannot get! Just as the enemy officers at Donnington Hall can order all they like “without restriction,” while British prisoners in Germany are given hardly enough to keep them from starving!
* * * * *
Sir George Cave, in his extreme solicitude for “enemy aliens,” has committed himself to one utterance which he may live to regret. It is this: “Enemy aliens freed from internment ought certainly to be employed on useful work of national importance.”
Ought they, indeed! The employment of enemy aliens on “work of national importance” would be little short of a criminal act. For human nature is the same as it ever was, and no “enemy alien” is likely to do “work of national importance” for his jailer or conqueror without at least trying to do it in such a manner that it shall never be done, or else done so badly that it shall not serve its purpose. What sane Englishman imagines that an “enemy” born of a ruthless race, which has proved itself murderous and treacherous, will serve him in “work of national importance” without a good effort to blow him and his “work” to the four winds of heaven? The guileless simplicity of Sir George Cave reminds one of the nursery’s “little lamb”:—
“Whichever way the German went,
The Lamb was sure to go!”
Down in the country, where we are commanded, with a sort of megaphone shouting through the Press, to “Grow food,” when we have no skilled labour to grow255 it, we are told that we can employ “enemy prisoners” on the land. A friend, anxious to get waste land under cultivation, asked what would be the rate of pay. The reply was: “One guinea a week; fifteen shillings if you feed him.” Compare this with the pay given to our British prisoners who work in Germany—“one penny a day,” i.e., sixpence a week! My friend decided to put guineas in the War Loan rather than spend them on a German prisoner who, if he worked on the land, would be sure to work “against the grain.” And one asks again: Why so much indulgence and care for the men of a dishonourable race who have plunged Europe into blood and tears, and who have murdered innocent women and children, and who, far from repenting their crimes, add to them the awful blasphemy of calling God to witness their “humanity”? Surely it is time this weak and nerveless inaction on the part of the authorities concerned should cease, and that they should, in the words of Shakespeare,—
“Take our cause
Out of the gripes of cruel men.”
THE POTATO “SCREAM”
A PROTEST AGAINST A STUPID PANIC
(Published in the “Pall-Mall Gazette”)
No potatoes! Dear, dear; whatever shall we do? Some of the clever boys who write the “purple patches” for the sensational Press say that the present shortage is “nothing compared to the grim possibilities of the near future.” “Grim possibilities” is good—a phrase that will delight the Huns! But, quite dispassionately, may it not be asked how Britain got on without potatoes in her historic past? Henry VIII. was a goodly King; he ate greedily, drank heavily, and married profusely, but never a potato adorned his groaning banquet board. He “fared sumptuously every day,” and his subjects were not starved. Strong armies, victorious navies, existed without potatoes. Crècy, poitiers, Agincourt were fought on other food. People lived in those days even more hazardously than they live now, and did not worry about “grim possibilities.” They grew their own food produce, and had no chance of Overseas supplies. And they never knew the potato!
* * * * *
The history of the potato is quite modern, proving that it is by no means a necessity of life. According to some historians, it is a native of Chili and Peru, and was introduced from Santa Fé, in America, by Sir John Hawkins in 1563—one year before the birth of Shakes257peare. So, as it was a new product and uncommon, it is possible that the Poet of the World struggled up to manhood without so much as one potato scream! The soliloquy in Hamlet owes nothing to the potato—the famous adjuration in Henry V.:—
“Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the walls up with our English dead”—
has nothing of the “mealy”-mouthed about it! Other authorities say it was brought over by Sir Francis Drake in 1586, but not generally introduced till 1592, and that Sir Walter Raleigh cultivated it first in Ireland on his estates in the county of Cork. It apparently was not known in Flanders (according to its biographers) till 1620. Well, then, how on earth did we get on without it? And if we did get on without it, why cannot we get on without it again? I imagine that it is very much the fault of our gifted melodramatic actors on the stage of the Press that we are startled and “shivered” by the thrilling exits and entrances of the potato at stated intervals. One Bathurst is responsible for an actual “potato boom,” he having made it appear that this particular edible is a main prop of existence, when it is nothing of the kind. He has frightened a number of unreasoning women into “long queues” that “besiege” the potato dealers. If these women would only stay at home and decide to do without potatoes at all, the “shortage” and the dealers would soon display an altered aspect! One does not like to be rude about any portion of the human anatomy, but surely people who know Ireland have heard of the “potato abdomen” (the actual word is too Scriptural for polite usage).258 There is such a thing; and it is not at all a desirable ornament. Women who wish to keep graceful, svelte figures never eat potatoes. In all dietetic rules for the fat, “grave” warnings are uttered against potatoes, and “grim possibilities” are in store for any obstinately large man or woman who continues to eat them!
* * * * *
Why should the restless Bathurst seek to create a sort of South Sea Bubble in potatoes? The frenzy need not spread, if reasonable folk will collect their wits (some of which have gone a wool gathering) and realise that the potato, though an excellent vegetable when properly cooked (which it seldom is) is not a necessity of life. If it were, the brilliant history of Britain from the beginning up to Tudor times would be a mere record of famines. Pessimist Bathurst “gravely” states that “there will be no potatoes for any one in about six weeks.” Well, all who have vegetable gardens know that there is always a scarcity of potatoes every year, when the old ones are practically finished and we are waiting for the new; and owing to the general “sensationalism” the scarcity this year is likely to be more pronounced. But it need not disturb any one’s equanimity. Potatoes are no more necessary to life and health than the “hot roll,” of which the following amazing report appears in the Press: “The passing of the hot roll is the chief sacrifice.” (Think of these noble words! “The chief sacrifice!” One would imagine it was the life of a hero!) “Tens of thousands of people will lament the loss of a breakfast luxury!” “Lament the loss?” Oh, oh! Tens of thousands of people lamenting a hot breakfast roll! Ye Gods! “A roll,” continued the Press-interviewed baker, “alters its259 character when stale.” True, deplorably true! But if those tens of thousands of lamenting people do not alter their character and “lament” to better purpose than for the daily indigestion provided for them in “hot roll” at breakfast, it is time they felt the pinch, not only of “no potatoes,” but “no food” at all for a wholesome period of fasting, with shame and penitence!
“HISTORY REPEATS ITSELF”
A STUDY IN WAR BREAD
(Published in the “Pall-Mall Gazette”)
Complaints are rife and bitter concerning the tough, indigestible, and injurious mixture permitted to the taxpaying public as “war bread.” General condemnation of Government flour has been expressed at a meeting of the London Master Bakers’ Protection Society, where a resolution was passed asking for an interview with the Prime Minister to point out the “ineptitude” of the Ministry of Food. Thousands of us are of the same mind with the Master Bakers! Thousands of us affirm the “ineptitude” of which they speak. Thousands of us know that a more lamentable display of ignorance concerning the “things that matter” could hardly be seen between now and the next world. Furthermore, the Master Bakers (God bless them!) have actually declared that if the Bread Order is not revoked or amended they, to safeguard the health of consumers, will be compelled to take “drastic action.” Well done, Master Bakers! The sooner this drastic action is effected the better for many ailing, suffering human creatures. The faddists and health specialists may talk as they will, nothing can satisfy the appetite or suit the palate of the average man and woman so well and so safely as bread made with pure white flour. The raw germ of wheat, though in a sense nutritious, exercises261 a “very deleterious effect,” so say the bakers, on the colour and keeping qualities of the loaf. In many cases “war bread” causes internal hæmorrhage, to say nothing of fermentative dyspepsia and severe inflammation of the delicate coating of one’s interior mechanism, and it would be easy to compile a volume of statistics proving the poisonous effect produced by this coarse stuff on our soldiers in hospital who are slowly recovering from gunshot wounds or shell shock, and who are peculiarly sensitive to the quality of their food. The distinguished muddlers who are muddling with the grain and the “milling” thereof, seem to judge the fine and complex human organism as somewhat tougher than shoe-leather and less liable to injury than pig-iron. But they are not the first of their class by any means! There were muddlers before them, as senseless, as callous, and as deaf to reason as they—men who, like themselves, were “dressed in a little brief authority” during that terrific upheaval of which the very name is ominous—the great French Revolution. Here is what Carlyle writes of the bread trouble in those days:—
“Complaints there are that the food is spoiled and produces an effect on the intestines, as well as ‘a smarting in the thoat and palate,’ which a municipal proclamation warns you to disregard or even to consider as drastic—beneficial! But … the Mayor of Saint Denis, so black was his bread, has, by a dyspeptic populace, been hanged on ‘La Lanterne’ there!”
“La Lanterne” is not a pleasant theme to dwell upon, and we may be deeply thankful that we have something nowadays less ferocious than such a form of settling disputes between the people and their rulers—the great trade unions and protection societies, consolidated bodies262 of reasoning and reasonable men, who can, when necessity calls, take concerted action against Sentimental Cant and wilful Ignorance. For, to quote Carlyle again, “Is not Cant the materia prima of the Devil, from which all falsehoods, imbecilities, and abnominations body themselves, from which no true thing can come?” And are not the Master Bakers, as well as the Seamen’s and Firemen’s Union, conscious of this Cant somewhere? Whether in pacifism or food-controlling, matters little, so long as they can put an exterminating finger on the spot!
Ours is a land of cranks; we produce cranks as quickly as untended grass grows plantains. We have peace cranks, food cranks, health cranks; and, without doubt, plenty of these will dash wildly into the open with hysterical hymns of praise for the utterly detestable “war bread,” more vigorously possibly when they think their fellow-creatures are being made ill by it. But “let ’em gnash as can,” as the toothless old dame blandly observed after hearing a sermon on hell where “there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Happily deprived of all ability to “gnash,” hell offered no alarms for her. Similarly, those whose powers of digestion cannot tolerate “war bread” will support the screams of whole-meal faddists with equanimity, saying, “Let ’em masticate as can.” If “whole-meal” gives strength and sustenance with hæmorrhage, most of us will prefer to be a little less strong and well-nourished, without internal bleedings. The complaints of the bread sold in Paris during the fateful months preceding the French Revolution are precisely the same as now; but, whatever the rising tide of discontent may be, we have bulwarks against it in our own people’s organisations,263 which bind the members of every trade together against any possible injustice or tyranny. This Empire has cause to be thankful for its vast network of trade unions; they are in very truth a governing body whose weight and importance cannot be over-estimated. And so it may be that the Master Bakers will be the saviours of the country’s health, despite Food Controllers and their ideas of “milling.” We are losing enough life, Heaven knows, on the fields of battle; we do not want illness and the spread of disease at home. We can be sparing and careful of grain and precious with our “white flour,” but we need not debilitate or poison our people with food which they cannot digest or which in any way proves injurious to women and children. Waste is encouraged by the making of bread which the people dislike. They would rather throw it away than suffer illness—which is very natural. The Food Controller is safe from “La Lanterne” in these days; but everybody will be glad if the London Master Bakers’ Society will take the matter well in hand and see to it that we need not “live on the husks which the swine did eat.” The country will not starve because we prefer to be well on white flour rather than dyspeptic on brown!
A NAVAL CHADBAND
(Published in the “Pall-Mall Gazette”)
So now we know! No longer need we denounce the “submarine menace”; no longer need we (as the German Press suggests) “grow pallid with fear,” for we are in “brave and gallant hands!” “Brave and gallant” are the noble creatures who sink hospital ships; “brave and gallant” are the sharers of dividends in the corpse-fat factory; “brave and gallant” are the raiders who sought to intercept the Prime Minister on his way back from France across Channel in order to make short work of him and his escort—“brave and gallant” are they all! Our own Vice-Admiral at Dover implied as much when, with all the unctuousness of Dickens’s immortal Mr. Chadband, he laid a wreath of flowers on the coffin of one of the Hun raiders with the inscription: “To a brave and gallant enemy!” He spared no wreath and offered no tribute to any of the dead among our own bluejackets, whose “brave and gallant” conduct had succeeded in beating off and sinking the enemy’s ships; they were “only” British sailors. But for the dead Huns, this British Vice-Admiral publicly displayed the tenderness of a twin brother. One wonders what Nelson would have said to such an action? How does it accord with the Defence of the Realm? One can imagine the noble dust of the victor of Trafalgar265 stirring for very shame at such a lack of dignity at the very time when British ships are being wickedly sunk and British lives wickedly lost by the nefarious “brave and gallant” brutality of an enemy with whom honour is a mere straw. It may perhaps be easier now to understand the rumours that these “brave and gallant” Huns are allowed to work with our men in British docks, where they watch our ships loaded with millions of munitions, and count up our troops leaving for the front, and then, without doubt, communicate with their kinsmen of the submarines, letting them know the hour and moment of departure! No wonder that our ships are sunk! Such methods prepare the way for their sinking. No action is taken by the authorities to put a stop to the inroad of German labour in the docks alongside of the British—a state of things which, on the face of it, invites and encourages spying and treachery. Such scandals are “an offence that’s rank, And smells to Heaven”; and the powers in office who allow them to go on without check are nearly as guilty of the loss of torpedoed ships and lives as the Huns themselves. And when a British Vice-Admiral sets the hall-mark of “brave and gallant” on even a dead specimen of the most treacherous, inhuman, and barbaric foe his country has ever had to contend with, we can hardly wonder at anything except the amazing excess of patience, wellnigh lethargy, with which the British people tolerate such an exhibition of Chadbandism in the Navy. One is thankful for the plain speaking of Admiral Lord Charles Beresford, who, in the House of Lords, designated this action as one of “maudlin sentimentality and shoddy chivalry.” There spoke the sturdy seaman and266 loyal Britisher, untainted by the pro-German measles, which infect only the degenerates of our race. The Vice-Admiral at Dover, by his openly displayed admiration for the Hun, would seem to wish us to understand that he is something neither British nor of the sea—“neither fish, flesh, fowl, nor good red herring.” We can almost hear him soliloquising over the flower-strewn coffin of the “brave and gallant” Hun: “My friend, you are to me a pearl, you are to me a diamond, you are to me a gem, you are to me a jewel! And why, my friend? Are you a beast of the field? No. A bird of the air? No. A fish of the sea or river? No. You are a Hun, my friend! You are much worse than any beast of the field; more voracious than any bird of the air; more slippery than any fish of the sea or river! Oh, how glorious to be a Hun! And if I went forth as far as the Southampton Docks and there saw a ‘brave and gallant’ fellow-countryman of yours taking stock of troops and munitions, and I was to come back and call unto me Sir Edward Carson and say unto him, ‘Lo the docks are barred against Huns,’ would that be terewth?”
No; it would not be “terewth”—unless, as the original Chadband propounded, such terewth, or truth, were another form of deception. Until we have loyal men “above suspicion” in authority at home we shall never satisfy our Allies abroad. America will be unable to understand a British Vice-Admiral laying flowers on the coffin of an enemy whose intent was, without doubt, to sink and slay a valuable life on which much of Britain’s welfare depends, any more than she will understand the collection of a large sum of money for267 the assistance of Germans in England (more than £17,000) to which liberal subscriptions have been made by two German members of the Privy Council. As Mark Twain observed during his tour in Palestine, “Blessed if I believe a turtle can sing!”
THE BABIES’ BOGEY
(Published in the “Pall-Mall Gazette”)
There are several objections raised to the merry-go-round “National Service” whirl devised by Mr. Neville Chamberlain. “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown” nowadays, even if it only be the crown of a temporary Director of Service or of Food Production. Even Lord Devonport comes in for his share of contumely, especially since he assumed that a 5-oz. chop was sufficient for a busy City man’s luncheon. Lord Devonport has evidently never tried his hand at cooking, and is blissfully unaware how soon 5 oz. may be reduced to 3 oz. on the fiery grill! The public resent this ignorance; but nothing excites their indignation more than the blatant, vulgar, and positively offensive advertisements which have been spread broadcast to call them forth to voluntary enrolment. Whoever it may be that is the inventor, designer, or word-weaver of these newspaper roarers, he serves his country ill, and is guilty of the worst possible taste. Instead of a dignified, effective appeal to Labour, these wretched advertisements are mere gibes and insults flung in the face of a brave, patiently enduring people, whose homes have, in many thousands of cases, been invaded by Death, and whose hearts are wrung by sudden and269 bitter bereavements, none the less hard to bear because borne with such noble and uncomplaining fortitude.
“Are You Fiddling While Rome Burns?” asks one of these idiotic newspaper Fat Letters, a question met with the silent scorn of many tired eyes grown dim with weeping, or strained and anxious with watching and waiting for the beloved ones who may never return. Is it impossible to expect from these Government Press agents (if they are Government Press agents) a little thought for the people they seek to attract, a little decency and respect? At present their loud, even coarse, advertisements represent—
“The insolence of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes.”
The last form of their coster-like shouting is perhaps the worst.
“HINDENBURG’S EYE IS UPON YOU!”
Now, what in the name of all that is British, do we care about “Hindenburg’s Eye”? Are we a whimpering troop of babies to be frighted with the eye of a Hun? or to be told “Hush-oh! Mind its little P’s and Q’s! Go and do its little National Service properly, or ‘Hindenburg’s eye’ will be on you!” Was ever such arrant, open, disgraceful nonsense! What have we to do with “Hindenburg’s eye,” except bomb it out if we can? What terrors can it have for us? Does it roll or squint, blink or wink? Nobody cares, but if it is to be “on” anywhere, it had better be fixed to Berlin! It’s an old eye and a filmy one—probably, as Hamlet pointedly remarked, “purging thick amber and plum270tree gum”—it’s a false eye and a brutal one, but just now it has enough to do to see its own surroundings without dropping out of its socket. The tactless, witless individual who dares to write and circulate would-be “scare” lines about this bloodthirsty old eye being “on” the brave men and women of Britain, watching (as if such a brute had authority to watch!) to see how many of them work (and weep!) willingly enough in their country’s service, should be at once convinced of his unfortunate lack of intelligence and discernment. Any one with the smallest spark of imagination must almost see and hear the loud German guffaw of mockery and delight at this fool’s placard for the British:—
“HINDENBURG HAS HIS EYE UPON YOU!”
“Ha, ha! Dot is goot!” says Hans to Fritz. “Unser Hindenburg! Dot is fright for Gott strafe England!—and de English demselves say it!”
Weird inventor of megaphone press-roarings, whoever you are, don’t do it! You may be a Bernard Shaw in the bud for all we know, but we have enough already of the perfect flower. National Service demands your brilliancy elsewhere. Offer yourself as a substitute for the bootblack who may be glad to go “on the land.” The Cause is injured by these unwarrantable music-hall methods. Call up the people with a friend’s cheerful and inspiring voice—a silver trumpet-blast if you will—but not with a donkey’s bray!
(The above little article had the fortunate effect of causing several of these placards, so offensive to the British spirit, to be removed.)
A MODERN SETTING OF AN OLD PLAY AND A LITTLE STORY OF THE Y.M.C.A.
“Man, proud man,
Dress’d in a little brief authority,
Most ignorant of what he’s most assured,
His ghostly essence like an angry ape,
Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven
As make the angels weep!”
Measure for Measure.
Nothing in all the various confused and contradictory orders issued by the capricious and neurotic “Dora” gave such unalloyed festive delight as the edict against “hoarding.” It opened the door to all the little spies and scandal-mongers of every neighbourhood, especially to the provincial types of these gentry, who are always of a more inquisitive and slanderous disposition than the same class found in large cities, for the reason that they have little other excitement beyond the gratifying stimulus of inquiring into their neighbours’ affairs and meddling with them if they can. The “Hoarding” order suited them down to the ground and set them all on the alert, peering into windows and peeping through open doors—following their “dear friends” into shops and taking eager notes of their purchases, till every eye grew hard and sharp as a gimlet, and every nose as pointed as the beak of a crow. It was astonishing and amusing to watch the alteration for the worse in the looks of men and women during this272 period; the theory of “psycho-suggestion” was amply verified in the visible fact that people who were previously open-faced and good-natured were almost unrecognisable in the sudden “squeezing-in” of their features to the ugly furrows of suspicion and meanness.
“Some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them,” says the sapient Malvolio; and I frankly admit that I felt myself to be entirely in the latter category when I became a sort of modern heroine in a new version of Much Ado About Nothing, in the precincts of Stratford-on-Avon itself, under the sacred ægis of the Immortal Bard. A real stage was set for me, with the real “city officers Dogberry and Verges”—in fact “the whole dissembly appeared.” I was summoned for “hoarding” sugar. In plain truth I have never “hoarded” anything—not even money, as the town of Stratford-on-Avon has sufficient reason to know. I have never even had the careful housekeeper’s habit of a “store-cupboard”—my house being destitute of such lock-up conveniences, wherefore we have found it best always to order what is wanted from week to week, paying for it likewise from week to week and incurring no debts. In the affair of the sugar I could not procure enough to obey the commands set upon me by the Food Production and other Government Departments. Correspondence with Mr. Prothero had impressed upon me that there was a shortage of all foodstuffs, especially butter, and it was represented to me that every householder growing their own fruit should make as much jam as possible to replace the butter. That year (1917) was a wonderful fruit year; in my own garden, not an “orchard” by any means or abundantly stocked, there was gathered nearly a thousand pounds dead-weight of273 fruit. Some of it we sold—much of it we gave away—the rest had either to be wasted or preserved. “Shortage of foodstuffs” necessitated its preservation. Our local surveyor, though obliging, could not supply his customers with enough sugar to go round. The “Hoarding Act” distinctly stated that the order did not apply itself to “sugar obtained for the preservation of homegrown produce”—so I appealed to my old friend, Sir Thomas Lipton, not only because he was a friend, but because he was a grocer, and as such, would be sure to know what quantity of sugar he might or might not sell to any customer. But——! Here comes in another story!
A short time previous to the Sugar-Comedy of “Much Ado,” I had been approached by two gentlemen from Birmingham on behalf of the Y.M.C.A. and Sir Arthur Yapp (then Director of Food Economy) to help the Society by a subscription. I gave a hundred pounds; and a generous friend of mine, on hearing what I had subscribed, gave another hundred. In the warmth of this success I wrote to Sir Thomas Lipton and asked him boldly for another hundred. I received a truly heart-rending reply to the effect that he was a “poor man,” and “could not afford so large a sum,” but that if I had asked him for ten or fifteen pounds he would have gladly subscribed. I at once seized the opportunity and begged him to send the fifteen. He did so, and I wrote my acknowledgments, assuring him that when he went to heaven that Fifteen Pounds given to the Y.M.C.A. would be an extra feather in his Angel-Wing! (I do hope he will one day show that letter to Sir Arthur Yapp!) Then, feeling I had not yet done enough for the Y.M.C.A. Huts, I agreed that the274 Cinema company, then running some stories of mine on the “film,” should give a few “shows” of them in Stratford for the sole benefit of the Y.M.C.A., and I am glad to say that they drew packed houses and brought a substantial result. For this and such assistance as I had freely given to help on the good cause I had a note from Sir Arthur Yapp expressing his “most grateful thanks.” And now we can revenons à nos moutons—that is to say, I can return to the Sugar version of “Much Ado”—but I would earnestly request my readers to “mark, learn, and inwardly digest” what we may call “The Y.M.C.A.-Yapp Interlude.”
As I have already stated, I could not get sufficient sugar from the local grocer to preserve the fruit in hand, and as fruit is perishable, and there was no time to be lost, I rang up Sir Thomas Lipton on the telephone and asked him what he could do for me. The familiar “Glasgie” accent came harmoniously along the wire—“Ye’ll never want for sugar so long as Tom Lipton’s on the ‘phone!”
So it was settled. I and my friend (a lady who has been my companion throughout my life since my childhood, and who has generously and kindly undertaken all my household cares) set happily to work to preserve our fruit; whole in jars where we could do so, but made into jam for the most part. I would here remark, with all diffidence, that I do not revel in jam myself; but I like having it for others—such as schoolboys, for instance, before whom whole pots vanish like snow in the sun when they come to tea with me, bless their frank appetites! We had nearly completed our labours, all except the transmutation of apples into jelly and “apple cheese” (the best possible substitute for butter), when275 one afternoon, while I was out, a police constable called and said he must search the house for “hoards.” He brought no authority, but stated that if he were refused he would procure a search warrant. My friend, who received the intruder, was naturally rather surprised, but having nothing to hide she cordially invited the official to go all over the house wherever he would. Accordingly he tramped into the dining-room, opened cupboards and drawers, even peering into an unobtrusive little tea-caddy, and went down into the cellar and inspected the larder. He found nothing but a large flour-bin, into which for convenience had been put fifteen pounds of sugar (duly weighed) left for use with the apples yet to be preserved. While he was still on the prowl, I returned home, and though I am never much taken aback at anything Stratford-on-Avon “authorities” do, I was, I think, justifiably annoyed at having my private rooms searched on such a ridiculous charge of which I was absolutely guiltless. Moreover, the “hofficer” who had thus broken into my house without warning, was a man who had often had supper in our kitchen with beer galore, which he had greatly relished—while another detail of the matter was that for some years, since the intrusion of an unhappy lunatic-tramp into my garden, the police had been given by myself a private key to the premises, so that they could enter at any time. Therefore, if they had sought to keep me under “observation” there was nothing to hinder their surveillance, which indeed I had personally requested and was grateful for. But—as the official informed me the “hoarding” accusation came “from London”—“on account of Sir Thomas Lipton.” This rather amazed276 me, and for a moment I thought it must be that “feather in the Angel-Wing”! My doubts were soon set at rest by a visit from my solicitor who told me Sir Thomas was “much distressed and could not sleep” for thinking about the threatened trouble. Some one at certain Stratford-on-Avon Stores had noted the arrival at the railway station of the Lipton supplies of sugar—quite openly sent, and openly marked “Sugar,” for we were under the impression that all was in due observance of the Food Production rules, and that there was nothing to hide or to “hoard.” Naturally I wrote at once to the Lipton office requesting these supplies to be stopped, without, however, at once succeeding, as, notwithstanding my expressed desire, a fresh package was transmitted, which I promptly returned. I then wrote to Sir Arthur Yapp, feeling quite sure that his recent experience of my conduct in respect to the Y.M.C.A. would convince him that there was some “official blundering” (to quote a press term) in the absurd notion that I, whose work throughout the war had been to help, not to hinder all patriotic aims, could possibly sink to the “hoarding” level. I had written to him long before, pleading that the poor working women should not be compelled to stand in “queues,” waiting to get food for themselves and their children, on which subject he wrote me the following letter:—
“December 17, 1917.
“Dear Miss Corelli,—Thank you very much indeed for your further letter and enclosure, and I hope to be able to arrange for the workers to get things for their children. All the points you mention shall receive277 careful attention and I am consulting some of my colleagues forthwith. Again thanking you,
“A. K. Yapp,
“Director of Food Economy.”
This does not look as if I had sought to “rob the poor by hoarding,” as one accuser in the “gutter” press made out later on! When I wrote, explaining the position which had so wrongfully arisen, Sir Arthur wrote regretting it and saying: “I will make all inquiries and am more than sorry you should be worried.”
However, the “case” instigated “from London,” went on remorselessly and I asserted my innocence in vain. A second appeal to Sir Arthur Yapp, strengthened by a personal visit to him from my solicitor who urgently pointed out the absurdity of the “hoarding” charge in my regard, brought the following:—
“National Council, Y.M.C.A.
December 26, 1917.
“Dear Miss Corelli,—Thanks for your letters. I was glad to see your solicitor, but am not sure that I can help you. I will gladly do so if I can. Unfortunately all the people are away for a few days. I will try to get in touch with the Chairman of the Sugar Commission to-morrow, Friday or Saturday. I will write again. I am so sorry you are having this worry. In haste,
”A. K. Yapp.”
Nevertheless, with all this amiable “Yapp-ing” he did not “get in touch” with the Chairman of the Sugar278 Commission, then Sir Charles Bathurst, who wrote himself and told me he had never heard a word of the affair till he saw it in the newspapers. On this point my solicitor wrote as follows: “I am glad to hear that you have a letter from Sir Charles Bathurst, expressing sympathy. I cannot, however, overlook the fact that whereas Sir Arthur Yapp had no power apart from Sir Charles to take cognisance of facts which I brought to his notice with a view to stopping an unjustifiable prosecution calculated to do you an injury, Sir Charles Bathurst had ample power and did not exercise it, although approached by Sir Arthur Yapp. I do not think the Food Control Department even troubled to send the case to their counsel, but merely seized the opportunity to accept a statement which was not in conformity with the evidence, was a violation of the highest principles of justice, and a slur upon the summary jurisdiction of the land.”
And so the case went on. Yapp meantime addressed a crowd on Tower Hill and assured them “Marie Corelli’s sugar had been taken from her”—which was a flaring fiction as there was no excess of sugar to take. He failed to mention that the victim he thus pilloried had given far more than the sugar’s worth to the Y.M.C.A., of which he posed as the pious and conscientious Head! But “that’s another story”! He felt perfectly justified, however, in handing over my personal letters to him (marked “Private”) to a Mr. Wise, his secretary, I believe, whom my solicitor found reading them to his lady clerks by way of a little entertainment—and so altogether I rank Sir Arthur Yapp with Shakespeare’s Brutus, and here express my profound acknowledgments.
On the 2nd of January, 1918, the case for my “hoarding” was tried by the eminent “bench” of Stratford-on-Avon. My servants were subpœnaed—they sat patiently in court, but nobody asked them a single question! A legal representative of Sir Thomas Lipton’s, glib as Sergeant Buzfuz, managed things for his principal in such a way as to leave Sir Thomas scot-free, though in other similar cases the supplier was fined in the same sum as the supplied. I was not in court. My friend, who has all the responsibility of housekeeping, went into the witness-box and answered all questions plainly and honestly—but plainness and honesty do not count for much in law. The point which Dogberry and Verges adhered to was that they did not believe we had used the sugar for jam! Was ever anything more absurdly humorous! We were ready and willing to make public exhibition of the jam; we offered those amazing “city officers” free permission to inspect it—but they would not! They preferred to doubt the word of a lady through whose hands many hundreds of pounds had been spent in the town and whose well-known straightforward character makes her incapable of truckling to falsehood or hypocrisy. I must not forget to mention that the worthy Dogberrys had been much bamboozled by the constant delivery of large wooden boxes at my house labelled “Maypole Tea,” “Tate’s Sugar,” “Nestle’s Milk,” etc., etc.; it looked very like “hoarding,” surely? A constable followed the packages up through an open passage leading to out-houses, and there to his immense chagrin discovered that these cases contained nothing but material for electric-wiring and lighting, sent by Messrs. Tredegars of Brook Street, who had undertaken the installation of the elec280tric light in my house. They were compelled to pack their goods in any boxes they could secure, there being a “shortage” in packing-cases as in everything else, and when the “hoarding” trial came on, the director of the firm offered most kindly and courteously to attend the court and explain the share his boxes had in the silly accusation. But there was no need; Dogberry and Verges had already made up their minds. My chief assailants were the Superintendent of Police in Stratford and the Town Clerk—and after the case was over and they had “convicted” me of what I had never committed (though the “bench” disagreed among themselves), all the clues were placed in my hands in such a remarkable way as would remind one of Sherlock Holmes if there were time or space to tell it! Perhaps the following sentence from a legal document may put the matter clearly:—
“The root of the whole evil is your local bench, and bias is self-evident by the action of the Acting Clerk, when he withheld information from us as to the findings of the Justices until after the time to appeal to Quarter Sessions had elapsed.”
I have often wondered why this malignity? Why, too, on the part of the “Acting Clerk,” whom I have always beheld with respectful admiration in his curly white wig marching in the Shakespeare Sunday or Mayoral processions to Church? He is my beau-ideal of a cultured Dogberry—his very look and movement express—“I am a wise fellow; and which is more an officer; and which is more a householder; and which is more as pretty a piece of flesh as any in Messina (Stratford) and one that knows the law, go to; and a rich fellow enough, go to; and a fellow that hath281 had losses; and one that hath two gowns and everything handsome about him! O that I had been writ down——” No—I will not finish the quotation; suffice it to say that I have never intentionally or to my knowledge caused offence to this excellent man. But both Church and State were in the persecution of my quite innocent personality; two dismissed outdoor employés of my own first started the mischief, and as one had found a temporary job on the local “food control,” it was easy to trace the work of hands guided by personal spite and desire to give me trouble. Afraid to start the accusation in Stratford itself, they quite ingenuously managed to transfer it through a mutual friend to London, from whence the “summons” was “arranged” to come—and since then, having found out the whole petty plot, I have been full of amused compassion for the miserable plotters. They must surely feel that the game was hardly worth the candle! Of course, press-reporters rushed down like hounds in full cry directly they scented possible injury to me—they would never have troubled themselves to note anything I did of good—but anything that savoured of meanness and disloyalty on my part was “nuts” to them! As they never saw me, and I made no appearance in court, these poor untidy pressmen were reduced to their usual fictions, and wired all over the world that I had “made a scene in court,” “attacked Lloyd George,” etc., etc.! (And yet, just before this comedy started, and â propos of sugar, I had sent Miss Megan Lloyd George some chocolate “eclairs” made at home, with which this charming little friend of mine was much delighted!) Yes—these chivalrous press-men labelled me from England to furthest Ind as a hoarder and hypocrite and I was left without282 remedy. I was assailed by the lowest anonymous letters and post cards; of course one knows how to take such off-scourings of depraved human minds, as no one but a villain, male or female, would write an anonymous letter. But with all the pain I felt at the misjudgment, amounting almost to cruelty, of the press, which deliberately did its best to injure me with my reading public, I had my compensations. I had hundreds of letters from our men at the front indignantly protesting against the wrong done to me—and a wonderful document signed by the officers and men of the Overseas Military Forces of Canada came to hearten me up by its generous testimony as follows:—
“We, the undersigned Officers, Non-Commissioned Officers, and Men of the Overseas Military Forces of Canada desire to take this opportunity of expressing to you our gratitude for the many acts of kindness and hospitality that you have shown to the members of the Canadian Forces since they arrived in this country.
“We also wish to express to you our sympathies in the recent cruel and unjust charge of ‘hoarding’ which was brought against you, and we feel sure that when the true facts are brought to the knowledge of the public they will realise that the spirit of patriotism you have shown throughout the war, and the generosity with which you have contributed articles to the various periodicals published for the benefit of the troops do not coincide with the possibility of any contravention of war measures.
“We also wish to add the expression of our admiration for the pre-eminent position you have attained in the world of literature and art, and to assure you that none283 appreciate your works more than the people of Canada.
“We trust that this assurance of our admiration for your genius, and our sympathy in the worry to which you have been so unjustly subjected, will prove to you that we are not unmindful of the kindness and warm interest you have invariably shown towards Canadian soldiers.
“We beg to remain,
Here followed a long list of officers’ and men’s names; the kind and generous testimonial of their friendship was dated from Bramshott Camp, Hants, April 16th, 1918.
I make no comment on this most valued “vote of confidence” voluntarily given by brave and chivalrous men. I publish it just as it is—one of my most precious possessions. I can endure even dear Dogberry’s malice with such a battalion of fighting friends!
One other thing may be mentioned as showing the curious cross-purposes of the Stratford-on-Avon “justices” in the prosecution against me, and that is the letter written to me by the Deputy-Mayor on the eve of the trial—thus:—
“December 31, 1917.
“Dear Miss Corelli,—Allow me to offer you my sincere wishes that the year 1918 may prove to you and yours one of unalloyed happiness. In these days such a wish may seem impossible of achievement. Amidst the strife of nations and the world-wide clash of arms there must be anxiety and care for all who love their country, and the ‘petty pin-pricks’ which come to284 all who try to do their duty will no doubt try the temper and patience; but amidst all life’s worries the consciousness of duty done, of love for others, and the desire to do always what is right will bring you that real peace and happiness which the world cannot give. That you may have this in 1918 and the years to follow is my earnest wish. With kind regards,
So was the “Winter of my discontent” moved to try making a bit of “glorious summer” on the eve of the “Hoarding” case! I was grateful, of course—and I did not allow myself to dwell on the thought that perhaps, only perhaps, he was thus moved because long before the “hoarding” case, my “hoarding” tendencies had prominently displayed themselves in agreeing to pay £60 towards the restoration of his ancient house in the High Street, a sum which no one else volunteered! I did it for love and honour of the town’s antique beauty—not for any self-laudation or advantage; and I am glad to have been of some use in this direction. It is a quaint coincidence that this same Deputy-Mayor, when I previously aided the restoration of the now famous “Tudor” House opposite the Town Hall, accused me in the local press of doing it for “self-advertisement.” I am sure he must regret this temporary misjudgment now that his own house shows its Henry VIIth timbers to the light of day.
Briefly to sum up, I am and always have been absolutely guiltless of “hoarding” anything. I would rather give than receive, and am quite an adept at “doing without.” And if I may presume to quote285 finally from the original Much Ado About Nothing I can say that while I am perfectly aware of the local “Conrade” and “Borachio” who vented their spite against me, I think there are many now in Stratford-on-Avon itself who would say with the original Dogberry:—
“Marry, sir, they have committed false report; moreover, they have spoken untruths; secondarily they are slanderers; sixth and lastly they have belied a lady; thirdly they have verified unjust things.”
As for the excellent Sir Thomas Lipton, who was much more troubled in his mind about this little affair than I was, and who, though he supplied the contested sugar, escaped all fine and also escaped the contumely of the press which was heaped upon me like a cartload of bricks, without rhyme or reason, without honesty or justice, and without a single word of truth in the various reports cabled all over the world to do me as much injury as possible; he was so relieved and happy to think nothing was said about his own share in the matter that he was more genial and delightsome than ever. And I have reason to believe that he is “flattered to death,” as our American cousins sometimes say, by the parody I wrote for him “after Robert Burns,” which I call—
A New Version of
“A MAN’S A MAN FOR A’ THAT”
Cordially Inscribed to Sir Thomas Lipton
Fair fa’ our bouncin’ braggart Tam,
Wha perks his heid an’ a’ that,
The Prince o’ Pickles and o’ Jam,
Wha daurs be rich on a’ that!
For a’ that an’ a’ that,
His Butter, Tea, an’ a’ that,
He’s found his Bank the way to rank,
An’ Tam is Tam for a’ that!
What though wi’ Royalty he’ll dine,
’Mid sleekit Jews an’ a’ that,
Tam disna drink their best o’ wine,
He’s wide awake an’ a’ that!
For a’ that an’ a’ that,
Their duds an’ shows an’ a’ that,
The “Lipton Shares” are worth them a’
An’ Tam is Tam for a’ that!
Ye see yon birkie ca’d a lord,
Wha struts an’ stares an’ a’ that,
When tradesmen winna tak’ his word,
Tam rules his roast an’ a’ that!
For a’ that an’ a’ that,
His ribbon, stars an’ a’ that,
Tam kens his man baith oot an’ in,
An’ looks an’ laughs at a’ that.
The Premier maks a belted knight,
A duke, an earl an’ a’ that,
But a “Lipton’s Stores” aboon his might,
Gude faith! he maunna fa’ that!
For a’ that an’ a’ that,
Their pride o’ place an’ a’ that,
Monopolies o’ Ham and Tea
Mak’ louder fame than a’ that!
An’ Tam has gi’en Y.M.C.A.
A muckle cheque an’ a’ that,
An’ angels waft him on his way
To Paradise an’ a’ that!
For a’ that an’ a’ that,
For that’s the end o’ a’ that;
His lavish hand’s its own reward,
An’ Tam is Tam for a’ that!
THREE HUNDRED YEARS OF FAME
Three hundred years ago, on April 23, 1616, William Shakespeare, of whom Carlyle wrote as “the pink and flower of remembered Englishmen—the greatest thing we have yet done and managed to produce in this world,” drew his last breath at “New Place,” the home he had earned for himself in his native town of Stratford-on-Avon. The great bell of the Guild Chapel facing the garden side of his “pretty house of brick and timber” tolled for his passing; but the great voice of the world which acclaims him so loudly to-day was dumb.
In those Puritan times he was but little considered; and no hint or whisper of his coming renown stirred the sleepy quietude of the little country place where he was born and where he died. His fellow-townsmen of that period kept no particular record of him, nor did they dream of him as the future King of English Literature. He was laid to rest in the chancel of the Parish Church—an honoured place allowed to him, not because of his genius as a Poet, for this was as indifferent a matter then to the good bucolic folk of Stratford-on-Avon as it is now, but because he had, by purchase, become part owner of the tithes and as a lay-rector had right of interment there.
In his lifetime he assumed to be nothing but a simple289 industrious man of business who “adapted” and rearranged old plays to suit the requirements of the Globe Theatre; and he flung out the splendid rays of his dazzling poetic genius over these dry bones of romance and history as freely and with as grand an absence of self-consciousness as the sun which shines alike on the just and the unjust.
Nothing probably would have surprised him more or moved him to such incredulous smiling as to have been told that in three hundred years his fame would surpass that of any other Englishman ever born! He would have put aside the prophecy with good-humoured laughter and would never have given it another thought. For his wordly aims were perfectly straightforward and simple; they were, plainly—to earn a sufficient competence and to stand on an independent footing with his fellows, to live with his family in ease and comfort, and to end his days in peace in the town where he was born. No ideal could be more free from arrogance. His whole career is an object lesson of infinite Greatness to the infinitely Little!
The vital centre of Shakespeare’s marvellous power is surely his impersonality. His creative spirit moved behind the passing show of kings and queens and historic events, moulding them to his mood, but never displaying itself. Like light it shed colour on whatsoever it illumined. So little may we guess of Shakespeare’s personality from his writings that he has made of himself an Enigma. We cannot even tell what form of creed he professed, though we know and feel that the devout worship of an invisible and intelligent Force behind Nature filled him with highest faith and purest service towards God. We cannot find out his special290 likes or dislikes, save in slight indications here and there, such as his plainly indicated abhorrence of Jews—and Germans! Great as is the professed admiration of the Teuton for our English Master-Mind, we wonder how he can get over such lines as these:—
“A German from the waist downward, all slops!”
Much Ado About Nothing.
“Like a full-acorn’d boar, a German one.”—Cymbeline.
“Three German devils, three Doctor Faustuses.”
Merry Wives of Windsor.
“Holding in disdain the German women
For some dishonest manners.”
“Like a German clock,
Still a’repairing, ever out of frame.”
Love’s Labour’s Lost.
While the discussion between Portia and Nerissa in the Merchant of Venice caps all:—
Nerissa: How like you the young German, the Duke of Saxony’s nephew?
Portia: Very vilely in the morning when he is sober, and most vilely in the afternoon when he is drunk; when he is best, he is a little worse than a man; and when he is worst, he is little better than a beast.
One other thing we may perceive, and that is our Poet’s scorn of pettiness and treachery. Individual291 deceit—public or private hypocrisy—these seem to Shakespeare’s mind unforgivable. The “black-handed” hit—the cruel slander—the malicious lie—against these he delivers his most trenchant blows; but farther than this we are unable to penetrate into the kingdom of his heart or sentiment.
To woman he assigns the highest place as inspirer and saviour of man; when he shows her other than this, as in Lady Macbeth, he makes remorse half condone her sins and death conclude them. He seemed to be absolutely unconscious of any superiority in himself to others of his own calling. His poetic gift was like song to a nightingale that warbles for sheer delight and amorousness, in delicious ignorance of the entrancing beauty of its melody.
What affects, or should affect, us most deeply to-day is the deplorable fact that for three hundred years we have had no poet, no dramatist, to approach Shakespeare in any sense—neither in beauty of language, loftiness of thought, nor simple naturalness of expression. He towers among us as a veritable giant among pigmies—for the men of letters in all parts of the world at this epoch, men who are scrambling and pushing themselves forward to offer a very poor and inadequate “homage” to this mightiest genius of all time, are of such microscopic attainment when compared with him that one needs a mental lens to perceive them at all.
These are they for whom Self is not only the keynote, but the whole tune. Some of them take pride in their “style”; whereas Shakespeare had no “style” save his own, which has become a living part of the English language. He defied laws and conventions and292 dramatic “unities”; he dared to be his own master; and fortunately there were no newspapers in his day to publish venomous criticisms which might have daunted or discouraged his efforts.
The earliest newspaper, or News Packet, as it was called, was issued in 1619, three years after Shakespeare’s death. Shakespeare’s critics were the public—in fact, the “gallery.” He “played to the gallery,” and played “up”—never “down.” Moreover, he was apparently so indifferent to his own literary reputation that he made no effort to publish any of his works, and allowed them to be pirated wholesale. Only in the case of the two poems dedicated to the Earl of Southampton—“Venus and Adonis” and “The Rape of Lucrece”—does he seem to have taken any personal interest in his own productions.
One may perhaps venture to suggest that probably he attached no importance to what he knew were “adaptations” of old plays, and thought nothing of the rich poesy wherewith he had endowed them. The most of his work was this of industrious “adaptation”; so that he might have modestly considered it to be scarcely his own and that the magnificent speeches he put in the mouths of his stage puppets were only a part of what is called “business.” The superb indifference he thus displayed to his own place in the estimation of others was a striking proof of his sub-conscious power. That his contemporaries mentioned him but little would not have troubled a mind like Shakespeare’s and Robert Green’s jealous attack upon him as “an upstart Crow, beautified with our feathers, with his Tyger’s heart wrapt in a Player’s hide,” would but293 have moved him to a compassionate smile at such an outburst of malice and envy.
The chief lesson we may learn from Shakespeare’s unapproachable fame is of that greatness which is “impersonal.” The literary men of our day are all painfully personal and are seldom satisfied unless they are elbowing each other out of the way or scrambling over each other to the front; and some of them are never happier than when they can fasten themselves, like barnacles, to the splendid ship of Shakespeare’s immortal genius, which sails serenely onward over the seas of the infinite. As barnacles they do no particular harm; for, cling as they will, the great waves of time generally sweep them off in the progress of the voyage, while the great Ship goes on, carrying its messages of truth, honour, and strong patriotism to all the world! And it will still sail on, till the English language shall be no more. For if, in centuries to come, nothing should be left of England but Shakespeare, his name would be sufficient to prove that England once had lived!
SHAKESPEARE’S WAR BIRTHDAY IN 1917
Many of our newspapers devoted columns of matter to “St. George’s Day”; and the writers of the various articles on this subject “gushed” in special and particular fashion over a purely mythical knight, whom legendary lore supposes to have killed a purely mythical dragon. But a very general omission was made of a real and a far greater personage than St. George, whose day of birth and death coincides with that of the dragon-slayer, namely, William Shakespeare, “the beautifullest English soul this England confesses to have made, the pink and flower of remembered Englishmen, the greatest thing, it appears, that we have yet done and managed to produce in this world,” according to right-thinking Thomas Carlyle. America, too, bears witness to the same truth through the golden voice of her noble teacher Emerson, who thus writes: “All the sweets and all the terrors of human lot lay in his mind as truly, but as softly, as the landscape lies on the eye.” He was, and is, our greatest Englishman—our finest patriot—and, when all is said and done, he will be our chief claim to remembrance in history. Very strange has it seemed to thousands of us, especially Americans, that during the present crisis and stress of war the Press of Great Britain should have apparently forgotten to mention the name of perhaps the greatest295 Maker of England on his natal day. Some one tells us, “It has never occurred before.” Then why has it occurred now?
Had Shakespeare been alive to-day we can easily imagine his attitude in regard to the war. Very English of English, he would have tolerated no half measures. He, like Sir Francis Drake, would have had short shrift for any foe that sought to “raid” the shores of his beloved Britain! Not for him would have been the message of the Vice-Admiral at Dover: “We were fortunate in being able to save the lives of ten German officers and ninety-five men from the vessels which were sunk!” He would have exclaimed: “Out upon such ‘fortune’!” And he might have judged it as somewhat of a misfortune that a British Vice-Admiral lived who could write it down as “fortunate” to rescue any members of the same savage Hun tribe that sank the Lusitania and scruples not to sink hospital ships! Another word might have been found for the occasion; and Shakespeare would have been the man to find it. To Shakespeare’s mind, a friend was a friend—a foe was a foe. Treachery was his chief abhorrence. When he lived in Stratford-on-Avon for the last remaining years of his career we know by various records that he was subjected to many petty annoyances at the hands of his own townsfolk, so that almost up to his death he was involved in litigation, defending himself from libel and his daughter from scandal. The Corporation were ready enough to borrow money of him—yes! that goes without saying. But for sympathy, comprehension, and friendship he had to seek outside his native town altogether. It would seem he has to do that still; and not only has he to go outside his native town, but outside296 his native land. In America his works are much better known, loved, and honoured than in Great Britain; in France, where it is difficult to understand him owing to the insuperable obstacles of his language for Frenchmen, there is a “société” founded by an erudite Israelite, with a British committee who are entirely unknown as real students of Shakespeare, but who have “names” distinguished in other walks of life. In Russia the bard is viewed as a sort of demi-god, for his verse translates into Russian superbly; and in the Germany of the past Lessing’s translation of the plays made him the father of German literature, as represented by Goethe, Schiller, and others who distinguished themselves before the black night of Hohenzollern decadence. But if we take our own islands—in Scotland he is hardly understood; in Ireland, seldom read or acted; in Wales, almost a sealed book; while in England itself—well, as Martin Harvey has recently said, a quarter of one day’s war expenses would establish a National Theatre, where the great plays could be produced in a fitting manner as part of the national education.
* * * * *
In Stratford-on-Avon this year’s anniversary of the poet’s birth and death has passed almost unmarked. No actor has urged his willing service to his Master in the theatre by the Avon, though this, for many reasons, is not to be wondered at. True, the bells of the church rang—true, the flags of nations were unfurled, and there was a dolefully shabby “flower” procession; but in the Memorial Theatre there was only a lecture, not on Shakespeare, but on a movement inaugurated by the lecturer himself. Then there were all the usual “pats on the back” of every person to the other concerned, a297 trifle of music, and there an end. Shakespeare himself was nowhere, though—yes!—perhaps out in the moist woods, where the primroses are beginning to push through the mould and the call of the cuckoo is faintly heard, one might have met his tranquil Spirit moving apart from all “alarums and excursions,” and have heard his voice in words which he could well address just now to England.
“Nay, if you read this line, remember not
The hand that writ it, for I love you so,
That I in your sweet thoughts would be forgot,
If thinking on me then should make you woe.”
A HARD HIT
(Published in the “Pall-Mall Gazette”)
We are all called upon to make sacrifices, both public and personal. No one can assert that we do not make them willingly, and for the most part uncomplainingly. But our Dictators appear blind to the fact that in many cases their orders and “restrictions” are ruining British trades, while affording the greatest possible relief and satisfaction to the Boches. The well-fed Huns heard with malicious glee the admission of Mr. Bonar Law that we were at one time short of fighting men by a hundred thousand—an undiplomatic avowal which for sheer bad tact ranks alongside of Lord Devonport’s “grave” warnings of “food shortage,” and Captain Bathurst’s advertised appetite for “pickled herrings.” If “shortage” of any kind exists, why “give it away” to the enemy? It is of a nature to be dealt with “in secret Session,” not in the open House, where prominent members themselves admit that whatever is said is at once taken to Germany. Is it surprising, then, that with the crazy exaggerations and falsehoods of the German Press, our foes assert that “England is starving!” and that “there are not enough men left to us to fight with!” How much wiser and more dignified it would be to let them clearly understand that, honestly, we are not suffering at all from any real food hardships, and299 that we shall have more than a hundred thousand extra men ready to fight them should occasion arise. Mr. Bonar Law may be a Scottish “man of iron,” but he is also very guileless if he does not realise the derision and delight of the Boche over the statements he made in the House—statements repeated throughout Germany, just as Mr. Lloyd George’s unfortunate phrase, “the horrible danger of the submarine,” was caught up by Bethmann-Hollweg, and repeated with devilish laughter at every street corner in Berlin. When we are at grips with a foe it is not advisable to show him the loose joints in our armour. To us British there should be never a thought or a word of “horrible danger,” especially as we know we can grow our own necessary food if we make up our minds to do it; nor should we ever publicly admit any “shortage” of any kind, whether in men or supplies. To admit weakness is to court attack.
Now we are told “not to travel”; not to take the much longed-for Easter rest, with Easter hope of the slowly coming spring, and there is no doubt that those of us who have comfortable homes are willing enough to stay in them. But for the brave, patient men and women who have given up their homes to toil day and night at munition work, and who naturally crave for a breath of country or sea air, whose bodies and souls are weary, and who need, if only a few hours, change of scene and movement for their very health’s sake, the restrictions of train and motor service are surely rather an exercise of tyranny? Not only does the ban affect the travelling public (we presume the Cabinet Ministers will not deny themselves their Easter recess?), but it spells ruin to thousands of hard-working folk who depend for their living at this season on letting lodgings300 in the country or at the seaside; to say nothing of the disaster undeservedly inflicted on all our lovely watering-places and rural resorts, which exist, in a great measure, on the influx of visitors, whose patronage keeps them going. Surely it may be asked, Why destroy the prosperity of our own people? Why lay a paralysing hand on our own trades and industries? Is it to give the Boche a better chance when the war is over? Before the outbreak of the Hohenzollern madness, hotels and lodging-houses in all our pleasure resorts were numerous and prosperous, and the greater part of them were carried on by—Germans! One could not go anywhere without meeting German managers and German waiters. Now, when there might be the faint ghost of a chance for the British hotel-keeper, the British caterer, the British tradesman, the public are warned off with “Don’t travel!” What joy for the Germans! Our Dictators simply “fall” into their hands like drugged moths into a net, and the way they go to work suggests an attempt to “Prussianise” England, and make ample preparation for a German “boom” after the war, when our own people, half ruined by “restrictions,” have not even the time to recoup their losses or start afresh on any new line of possible prosperity. If the enormous expenditure of the war is to be met by the people, every chance must be given them to earn the money wherewith to meet it. None of the workers would trouble the railway service if motor-cars and conveyances were allowed to carry them out for an Easter breath of Easter air, but though military “swaggerers” at home are allowed to dash about everywhere in cars with apparent freedom, the “restriction” on petrol holds up all the rest301 of the public. Yet, as a matter of common hearsay, it is asserted that “there is no real scarcity of petrol!”
What are we to believe? One thing is pretty certain, and that is that the British public, though so patient “a hass,” may kick at last and refuse to take “rations” of thistles, while the German Hog is fed on carrots and corn. To quote from a well-reasoned article in a morning contemporary: “The blind and fatal shears of promiscuous prohibition cut off the just and the unjust together. They are, moreover, a most disturbing element in trade, and are reducing our merchants to despair.” True! And if the “disturbing element” is not promptly checked, we may look out for storms!
“TE DEUM LAUDAMUS”
THE GREAT THANKSGIVING
(Published in the “Pall-Mall Gazette”)
It is time we gave thanks—indeed, it is more than time! Perhaps, had we seen more clearly into the future we might have given thanks long before this—thanks for our kinship with America—for the ties of blood, of language, of tradition, memory, and association which have made us, as some say, “cousins,” but as we prefer to believe, brothers—brothers in heart and soul, as we are to-day brothers-in-arms. Let it be admitted that we have not always quite understood each other. Small rancours, petty jealousies, trifling differences have arisen casually from time to time between the people of a great Empire and the people of a great Republic, which seem now but the merest gossamer cobwebs spun by the ever-working spiders of rumour and mischief, easily brushed away at a touch. The trumpet blast of a noble Cause has brought to our side our youngest comrade, alive with energy, passion, and enthusiasm, expressing in every attitude Tennyson’s eloquent lines:—
“I wake to the higher aims
Of a land that has lost for a little her lust of gold
And love of a peace that was full of wrongs and shames
Horrible, hateful, monstrous, not to be told,
And I hail once more the banner of battle, unroll’d!”
* * * * *
And we have taken our comrade by both hands, and have knelt with him under the great dome of St. Paul’s, giving our thanks to God for bringing us this, our brother; and we claim to say with Lincoln that we do not presume to ask the Almighty to be on our side, but we do pray that we may be on the side of the Almighty! If President Wilson’s “Declaration of War” against Germany means anything, it means that right and justice, freedom and truth, are all of God; and therefore to fight for the maintenance of these things is to fight for God’s own Law and Order. The one piece of eloquence which stands out in distinctive greatness amid all that has yet been spoken concerning our world-contest, is this “Declaration,” which will go down to posterity as matchless for high principle, reasonableness, and clearness of diction—an oration which no statesman of old time, whether Greek or Roman, has ever surpassed, in what we know of history. It should have been read aloud in every church, every school, every theatre, every public assembly, with as much impressiveness as a Pope’s “Encyclical,” and more!
Nothing do we need so much in this country as to “catch on” to some of the enthusiasm and eagerness which fires our American Ally, as he springs to our side in the battle under the bright stars of the “Old Glory.” He is young, ardent, and ready for anything—quick eyed, alert of brain, he means to “hustle”! Some of us need to be infected by this splendid youth. A curious lethargy clings to us at times—a kind of dumb spell. Is it excess of feeling? Or—is it sheer egotism? Our French friends marvel at the indifference we show at the victories just won by Sir Douglas304 Haig. They thought to see all London beflagged in the great soldier’s honour. Very certainly they had hoped the “Stars and Stripes” might be flown from every public building on the day of the President’s Declaration—but no!—not even in Stratford-on-Avon, that shrine of America’s devoted Shakespeare-Worship, was any sign given of the momentous event. Rather discreditable to Stratford, remembering that in peace times Shakespeare’s Town depends very much for its livelihood on its crowds of American visitors. But what does Shakespeare himself say?
“Blow, blow thou winter wind,
Thou art not so unkind
As man’s ingratitude!”
Let us hope that it is not so much ingratitude as inability to appreciate the situation.
* * * * *
No wonder Americans find it sometimes difficult to know or to understand us. For months they have heard their President persistently abused, they have seen him cruelly caricatured and jeered at in the lower sections of the British Press, and they have had to possess their souls in patience till their day of triumph came. It has come—the bitter tongues are now all honey—and their generosity in forgiving and forgetting wrongs and coming to us in perfect amity, glittering in the panoply of battle, and placing almost inexhaustible supplies at our service, is a truly great and wonderful thing. We have done ourselves honour by the thanksgiving in St. Paul’s; and some of us who knelt in the dim shadows of that vast shrine and heard the thunderous chords of the American National Hymn surging in our ears,305 prayed that the two great English-speaking peoples, now joined in a vaster Crusade than was ever before undertaken, might find their union cemented, not only by the blood shed for country, but by all the ties of mutual comprehension and sympathy. To-day, we are as one in the resolve, that
“God’s just wrath shall be wreaked on a giant liar,
And noble thought be freer under the sun!”
And so shall the “Old Glory” help to make for us all the New!
THE WOMEN’S VOTE
NATURE VERSUS POLITICS
Those far-sighted and indulgent men who supported “Votes for Women” should surely be enjoying to the full the result of their pliability and humour! In the “Coupon Election” they expected six million feminine votes—for Coalition, of course. If we conjugate Ministerial messages as one verb, they could all have been rendered thus: “I expect, you expect, he expects” women to do their duty. But one point seems rather overlooked, and that is, the precise idea women have of duty. When I say “women” I mean women in the grand majority—not a few hundreds or even a few thousand agitators. And I dare to suggest that these “women in the grand majority,” do not care about their “votes” in the least—and that all the roaring of a megaphone press will never make them care. Nature is, and always will be, too strong for them, and Nature has not endowed them, except in a few rare cases, with a taste for politics. But Nature has given them far greater qualities, and has organised them in a special way—a way most beautiful, wonderful, and nobly privileged; and the greatest social reformer that ever risked the oft-tried sorry business of “re-constructing” civilisation, can never alter the work for which Nature is alone responsible. I do not believe that Women, speaking in the plural of nationalities, ever wanted the vote at all307—but that seeing (and hearing) the wild clamour of some of their sisters, who shrieked and smashed themselves into notoriety, they were attracted by the fun of it, the noise of it, the curious, rowdy, non-feminine spirit of it, and followed the whooping and the yells with the fascinated amusement of children running after the “One Man Band” who beats a drum with his elbows and clashes cymbals with his feet. Mr. Lloyd George is a wise thinker in his generation, but his sagacity will be at fault if it should be proved (Heaven forbid!) that after all—yes, after all the screaming and smashing of windows, and all the efforts made on their behalf—the women as a whole prove apathetic and indifferent to this wonderful privilege they have fought for and won!
There is a French story of a certain spoilt little lady whose husband adored her, from the glimmer of her topmost blonde curl to the point of her broidered shoe, and who expressed to him her ardent wish for a diamond chain she had seen in an expensive jeweller’s window. Her husband, though rich and generous, apparently paid no attention to her oft-repeated request, till one day he suddenly presented her with the coveted ornament as a “surprise packet” and token of his affection. But she pushed the gift aside and gave way to bitter tears. “Why, oh, why did you bring me such a thing?” she sobbed. “I shall never wear it! Oh, why didn’t you buy me that dear weeny-teeny dog I saw yesterday! The weeny pet! I would have loved it so! I would have talked to it about you!—it would have been such a companion! Oh, I did want that weeny darling!”
There is a moral in this story (despite the contempt it must evoke among future female M.P.s), and “the pint,” as Captain Cuttle or his friend Jack Bunsby re308marked, “lies in the application on it.” Whether Mr. Lloyd George and the supporters of the Women’s Franchise will perceive it is problematical—but whether they do or do not, there is a curious nature-fact about Woman which is frequently missed or overlooked by Man. It is this: That when she is given what she wants, she doesn’t want it! That is to say—the gaining of her objective concludes her active interest in it; the thing is possessed, and promptly loses its value. With the swiftness and ease of a butterfly she deserts the blossom from which she has stripped the pollen!
“Equality of the sexes” is one of the advanced feminine war-cries, when every one with a grain of common sense knows there is and can be no such equality. Nature’s law forbids. Nature insists on contrasts; the small and the great, the weak and the strong, the light and the dark. And women know well enough that their “calling and election” are superior to those of men—they are the makers of the race and the ordainers of the future, but their strength is not on the hustings or in the polling-booth—it is in the silence and sweetness of “Home.” The home is the acorn from which springs the oak of a nation. Women’s own instincts teach them that their power is too sacred a thing for common discussion; and when, in their despite, such discussion is let loose in the press by vulgarly interested sexualists and sensualists, their contempt is not concealed. They feel, strongly enough too, when questioned in the right spirit, that it is not needful for them to mix with the undignified scrambling of political methods; and any “apathy” as to the use of the vote, is simply that they have, or think they have, something better to do. Yes,309 indeed! They really and truly think that their home affairs, their children, their daily duties, even their clothes, are more in their line than “Coalition”! They are for unity of purpose most assuredly—all of one mind as to the punishment of surely the most miserable man on earth, the ex-Kaiser—equally of one mind concerning the barring out of the Huns from further interference of their own folks’ businesses—but they think, and rightly too, that so far as putting the nation’s house in order goes, the men should be trusted to do it. There was something very funny in Mr. Lloyd George’s opening words to a women’s meeting at Queen’s Hall—“I feel very shy and solitary!” Did he? Surely this was a bit of “camouflage”? But putting all blandishment aside, it is just a toss-up as to whether women’s votes will be quite as influential as prophesied. One of the surprises of the Coupon Election was Mr. Lloyd George’s “sweep-aside” of a chivalrous male candidate in favour of Miss Pankhurst, who, so it is understood, threatened the direst things against him in past “militant” days! Generosity and magnanimity on the part of a Prime Minister to a Suffragette, a male to a female, could no farther go!—but one wonders if the modern “Glendower” realised the effect his action had on many thousands of non-Pankhurst women? For sheer humiliation it came second only to the surrender of the German Fleet! Whether it served as good a purpose was answered by the result. “Drive Nature out of the door, she comes flying back through the window,” and one of the most curious, purely natural traits in woman’s complex character, is that she loves to have her own way up to a certain point, but when that point is310 gained she has had enough, and turns to man with a “Here! You take it!” And no woman has yet been returned to Parliament, for which we may all, if we have any common sense, thank God, and hope for the best that she never will be!
A “HAPPY THOUGHTS” DAY
(Written specially for the Grantham Red Cross Outings Fund)
Here is an idea for every one—young and old, rich and poor! Let us institute a “Happy Thoughts” Day!—one day out of the seven on which we resolve to think only “Happy” thoughts! Thoughts of kindness, tenderness, hope, and unselfishness—thoughts which, even while we think them, take fairy wings and fly from ourselves to our neighbours and propagate other happy thoughts, creating cheerfulness and hope wherever they go. It is not easy, perhaps, to think “happy” thoughts in dark days, but no good task can be accomplished without difficulty. A much more simple and convenient thing it is to grumble!—to lay our own faults on the shoulders of others,—to believe that our own troubles are the worst in the world,—to sneer at other folks’ manners, looks, clothes, and opinions, and to throw out mocking jests and cruel laughter at those whom we affect to despise yet secretly envy;—but on our “Happy Thoughts” day we can have none of these ugly and ordinary vulgarities,—we must make a bid for something higher and more exquisite in grace and refinement. We must think “happily” of others while we hope they will also think “happily” of us. We will make up our minds to find our friends beautiful, charming, and lovable; we will cheerfully admire them and their appearance and conversation,—we will agree312 that it is a special blessing conferred on us that we have any friends at all,—and we will confess that our lot in life is much better than we have any right to expect. And we will send our “happy thoughts” across the seas to suffering nations, conjoined with our hopeful prayers—prayers that they may be sustained and comforted, and by God’s mercy be victorious. And above all, we will let our “Happy Thoughts Day” reflect its cheeriness in ourselves,—in our looks and bearing, our talk and expression, so that we may be the carriers of mental sunshine everywhere, even during the passing of the darkest thundercloud. One day out of the seven, dear friends!—take it and consecrate it to “Happy Thoughts,” happy thoughts of earth, of heaven, of God and man,—and you will find it a day on which you unconsciously grow stronger, braver, pleasanter to look at, more valuable to know,—for happiness is a powerful magnet, and never fails to draw others to its vital line. May a “Happy Thoughts Day” be the true holiday of every loving and faithful soul!
WHY DID I——?
I should not presume to write this answer to numerous correspondents, had it not been for the precedent given by Mr. Garvin, the erudite editor of the Observer, who recently allotted several columns of his own paper to the praise of his own book. Wherefore, gladly accepting this “lead” from one who knows so much more about literary “management” than I do, I take the opportunity of replying to several letters demanding “Why” I wrote my last published novel, The Young Diana. Why? Well, because (like Mr. Garvin on himself) I think it a good idea! Moreover, I wanted to be one of the first in the field to suggest a discovery which is approaching us in the near future; which is, so to speak, “glimmering” ahead of our scientists like a brilliant streak of sunrise in a summer sky. Following the example of Mr. Garvin, who urgently recommends the public to read his book, I, with equal urgency recommend the public to read mine. I should not have dared to do so unless Mr. Garvin had shown me the way, and he is such a noted authority in journalism that I feel I cannot do wrong in copying him as much as possible. Therefore, dear public!—good readers all!—I assure you that The Young Diana is a remarkable book. It is, really! Mr. Garvin says his is a remarkable book, and I feel that mine is equally remarkable. It is full of new ideas, happily expressed. Garvinly speaking, it is a compendium of hope for mankind, or314 rather womankind, because it shows how possibly the youth and beauty of the fairer sex may be retained indefinitely, to say nothing of the prolongation of life. Nobody wants to grow old, not even Garvin; as a matter of fact nobody does grow old nowadays: witness our beautiful Queen Alexandra and the ever lithe and lissom “Tiger” Clemenceau. To read The Young Diana, you need a little intelligence, of course. So you do when you read The Economic Foundations of Peace by Garvin. His book costs 12s. net—mine is only 6s. 9d. His treats of “the policy upon which the safety, the prosperity, the very physical survival of humanity depend.” Mine treats likewise of all these things, vested in fair Woman, upon whom the physical existence as well as “survival” of man depends. His, according to his friends on the press, is “a great idea brilliantly presented.” So is mine. It is, to quote another friend’s criticism, “a practical and passionate effort to save the world alive.” Oh, friends! this is exactly what my book is!—only it is a practical and passionate effort to save Woman alive!—beautiful and exquisite Woman!—the Mother of all Man! It is “filled with cogent argument and luminous illustration”—I copy Garvin critiques because I shouldn’t know how to lay on the butter so felicitously as the friends of “this remarkable book by a great journalist”—but I have occasionally been called “a great novelist,” by semi-crazed folk, of course, and I feel justified (after Garvin) in calling attention to my “remarkable book.” Garvinly speaking, “it is a timely, wise and nobly-inspired book”—you see I haven’t a newspaper of my own in which to blow my own small trumpet, so I catch the silvery echo of Garvin’s glorious and mellow horn and trust to my315 readers to catch the sound and the meaning thereof! So read The Young Diana!—if she had only been at the Peace Conference all would have been well! Diana is a book “which will leave the reader with a better hope of the future”—(vide Observer)—yes, indeed, it will! Women will radiate under its influence; beauty will have no fear of perishing; life will be “a joy for ever,” and all this for six shillings and ninepence! Think of it! Had I a journal of my own I would have out-Garvined Garvin in self-adulation, but this is only a reply to my numerous correspondents who ask, “Why did you write The Young Diana?” and my answer is because, like Garvin, I seek to re-invigorate, reform, and re-establish the world! Amen!
IN THE HUSH OF THE DAWN
Silence now where so lately the guns thundered their terrific message,—silence, beautiful and wonderful, where just a while ago the bursting bombs and shrieking shells tore the air on their errands of doom. Silence!—peace!—the hush of the dawn before the rising of the sun! Nothing in nature is perhaps more impressive than this dumb spell which precedes approaching morning,—when every blade of grass, every leaf on every tree seems to wait attentively for the day. And nothing in the condition of human affairs is more awe-inspiring to the thinker and idealist than the dramatic pause of a break between battles,—an armistice, which may or may not lead to lasting peace. We feel, as it were, the slow passing of mist and cloud across the sky—we watch pale glimmerings of gold and rose in the lightening east—we think we see the morning glory on the distant hills! For those who view the pageant of history with living interest, and notably for us who are permitted to witness the most marvellous scene ever enacted in it, this is not a time for wild whirling to and fro in a round of social excitement and foolish chattering,—it is far more a time for prayer. Even as the Eastern worshipper prostrates himself on the earth and waits for the rising of the sun, so should we both spiritually and intellectually prostrate ourselves in humility before the shining317 hope of the wonderful Light which promises to illumine the world’s darkness,—the light of peace and unity which shall make war impossible. For, though we may dance and sing and shout “Victory!” at the top of our voices, that Light does not as yet shine,—that sun has not yet risen! Men are not yet of one straight mind. A great majority “love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil.” Could we call our nation one of absolute unity in purpose, resolved to put aside personal prejudices and interests for the good of the whole State, we should be certain of a real “sunrise”—we should almost touch the millennium! But though we deem the cruellest war of all time ended, and though the Supreme Power has given to our arms a victory so sudden and miraculous that we are left, as it were, breathless and staring, half in doubt as to whether our fortune be truly real, we are not able, apparently, to stand still in our mercifully un-invaded country and look each other in the face without quarrelling. Much talk there is of reform and betterment, but if each man who advocates these things begins the work by arguing foolish details with his political rival, there is little hope of any useful action ensuing. Should we not call a “hush” on these agitating folk?—a request for pause before they cast up dust into the clear spaces of the dawn? Let us have a pure and open sky! Let us watch the colours of hope and gladness deepen softly and surely on the long-darkened horizon—and let no murky miasma of discontent and disloyalty mar the happiness of the rising sun! A nobler People,—a better, grander, stronger Empire!—this is what our king and all our wisest men appeal for in this “hush of the dawn.” Surely it is the highest privilege in the world to know318 that we can all help in this work of Peace as we have helped in War,—we were all at one in making munitions for death;—let us all be similarly at one in making munitions for life. We are given our freedom by the sacrifice of thousands of brave men,—we shall not honour their memories now by ceaseless disputations as to our own material advantages. We desire surely that their dauntless and noble spirits shall know that our gratitude for their heroism inspires us to build up a nobler civilisation than we have ever had before,—and to this end we pray God who hath given us the victory,—so far!—in the hush of the dawn!