Page 4, 15th May 1936

15th May 1936
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Page 4, 15th May 1936 — Robespierre
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Robespierre

Mr. Everyman In The Throes Of A Hundred Per Cent Certitude"

Robespierre, by G. J. Renter, Ph.D. (Peter I Davies, S/-.) Reviewed by MICHAEL DE LA BEDOYERE Robespierre's is probably one of the dozen best remembered names in history. For ever he is associated with blood and terror and the guillotine-yet people remember that he was called the "Incorrupt• ible", that he organised the worship of the Supreme Being, that somehow or other he was ultra-respectable, ultra-virtuous, ultra-human. • Ultra-human-perhaps that is the keyword to Robespierre's personality. The hundred per cent certain lawyer with terribly short-sighted eyes, the mind that could reduce the infinitely varied and rich universe into a formula and be carried by one of humanity's fiercest moods to deny in practice all he believed in theory and yet not know it, the man who thought capital punishment immoral and who lives in history as the crudest wielder of that terrible power in the hands of society, the man who became inhuman through trying to be more than human: Robespierre's case is unfortunately only exceptional because of the scale on which he lived. Anatole France once put it in a nutshell: "When one starts with the supposition that all men are naturally good and virtuous one inevitably ends by wishing to kill them all." So few come up to theoretical expectations that the chief brother is simply forced as he goes all along to cut out of the brotherhood of man more and more of his brothers, until he is left alone at the very point from which he started, king of his little universe and of nothing else. That is what happened to Robespierre and in some form or other to all men who are a hundred per cent certain of the universe which they themselves have constructed.

A Type and a Lesson

Dr. Renier's little essay is admirable, because, without resorting to abstractions, he sees Robespierre throughout as a type and a lesson. Robespierre the individual he believes to have been a man of little importance; only "one thing would have been different had there been no Robespierre. Among a hundred thousand opportunities one would be missing for pointing the single lesson history can teach. The lesson is that the absolute cannot be wrought by men."

Those who are not familiar with up-todate revolutionary literature will also learn that Robespierre was nothing like so much of a monster as he was once thought, and that he did a good deal to mitigate rather than increase the Terror : in other words, a little of human frailty survived in this ultra-human.

Two small points of criticism: it is highly unlikely, contrary to what is here asserted, that the blood-bath at the Champs-de-Mars in 1791 was organised beforehand. "The snobbish prefix de" (de Robespierre) was very far from being a guarantee in the Ancien Regime that one's ancestors had been armigerent.

Another Eden

The Story of Bermuda. By Hudson Strode. (Jarrolds. 18s.) Reviewed by EGERTON CLARKE This is one of those books which makes the mouth water, the eyes call for sunlight, the nostrils for the scent of subtropical flowers, and the ears for little distant bells shyly punctuating the silence, and the lapping of water on shores where the juniper grows.

When the Spaniard Juan de Bermudez discovered the little archipelago which is known after his name, he placed on the map another Eden. Six hundred miles from the nearest mainland, warmed by the Gulf Stream, rich in the loveliest fruits of the earth, Bermuda is almost the ideal retreat from the maddening chaos of an urbanised world. But Mr. Hudson Strode's book is not merely a stimulant, it is a thoroughly comprehensive survey of Bermuda as it is to-day and as it was in the past. Scholarly and well-informed, it will appeal as much to the student as to the general reader who will prefer generously to meander through the flowers of islands blessed by the gods rather than to probe deeply into the not very important whys and wherefores of extraneous and ephemeral things. The volume is packed with magnificent photographs.

Tinker-Tailor-Soldier -Sal or

Our Fellow Men. By H. V. Morton. (Methuen. 3s. 6d.) Reviewed by IRIS CONLAY Mr. H. V. Morton calls his book a new .kind of National Portrait Gallery, and he tells us that he has drawn every one of his characters from life. This is an account of his copy-seeking.

"I have risen before dawn to accompany the milkman on his rounds. I have journeyed up and down the Thames in the wheelhouse of a tug. I have visited backyards with a dustman. I have sat through a cinema show in the operator's hutch. I have walked miles with a postman. I have followed one of my characters into the depths of a coal mine. So I have attempted to collect a portrait-gallery. . . ."

Then he tells us how really inquisitive he has been. With the utmost tact he has flown in the face of convention and he has asked all the interesting questions which are circumvented by everyone else. He has even asked his " models " how much money they make each week -and they have answered him with the same simplicity with which they were asked.

That all these portraits " live " speaks everything for Mr. Morton's art.

Sanity in School

Sane Schooling. By J. H. Simpson. (Faber and Faber. 7s. 6d.) Reviewed by SUSAN CUNNINGTON In this book of some 340 pages the reader may find convincing evidence of the freedom enjoyed in England hitherto concerning the great business of education. Not less will he find, and should acknowledge, equally convincing evidence of the advantage attaching to the exercise of that freedom. Manifestly behind some other European nations (as we were found to be in 1870) and only by slow gradations being regimented into a uniform state system, we are still able to see the amateur devotedly and reverently manipulating his tools (abstract and concrete) on the delicate fibres of the child-mind.

In spite of the admirable presentment given we could wish the book shorter. The exhaustive treatment in each of the eight chapters not only repeats itself, but says what has been already said and is more than familiar to any mature practitioner of the art. The clear-cut, almost snappy title led us to expect somewhat similar treatment, and not the balanced, judicious approach, patient description and temperate findings which occur. But it would be as ungrateful as unbecoming to dwell on this feature rather than on the many wise and commendably daring experiments undertaken by the writer and his wife. Those who read with interest (as everyone must) the introduction, and know the "Edmund Holmes" outlook and all about his Egeria will perhaps be bored by the long chapter I on "The Social Mixture." Frankly, most people are a little tired of this; quite other considerations now prevail.

The actual details of the Churnside experiment in "The General Meeting," "The Curriculum" and "Education for Health," serve to ventilate and condemn many accepted conditions among the disillusioned and well-established school-masters. But the reforms have been indicated-and tried-already in many English schools, and are, we think, stages in evolution rather than the outcome of a new revelation.

A F!Im In Print

The Demi-Widow. By Mary Pickford. (Methuen. 7s. 6d.) Miss Mary Pickford's novel is as devoid of real life, as single dimensioned, as shallow and sentimental as one of Hollywood's masterpieces. It is more than likely that these qualities will recommend it to many readers; it is a film in print.

A young widow, with a marvellous voice and a charming baby, is left penniless after the death of her husband. She is, at last, accepted as the star turn in a new show by a famous producer who has been deserted by his principal lady. In spite of appearances and publicity that creates a lurid past and present, she remains a devoted mother and a good woman.

Short Notices

The Vampire. By Herbert E. Palmer (Dent. 3/6). The Vampire is the first and longest of some twenty poems. Of The Vampire, A. E. wrote: "I am a gentle creature, and look with terror on the wrath of God, which is the attitude of the Deity which you feel inspired by . . . . But I suppose somebody has to do celestial scavenger work, and it can be made an art, as you have shown." Lyrics and parodies balance what A. E. called the "headaches and toothaches" of the first poem.

Nightmare by Daylight (Selwyn and Blount. 2/-). Number 11 in the publishers' "Not at Night" series. Those who like mystery tales but have no stomach for horrors should enjoy this collection of short stories. The tales of occult happenings are particularly interesting.

Barbara Napier. By Janet M. Smith. (Moray Press. 7s. 6d.) This historical romance is directed to those who are interested in the byways of history and to those who take pleasure in others' adventures. Edinburgh in the reign of James VI is the setting.

The Flax of Dream. By Henry Williamson. (Faber & Faber. 8s. 6d.) The four novels by which Mr. Williamson has made his name have been collected here into the complete whole they were always meant to be. The Beautiful Years, Dandelion Days, The Dream orFair Women, and The Pathway are one story-that of Willie Madison-a human writer of Europe before and after the war is the author's own description.

The Slaves of the Ring. By G. B. Burgin. (Hutchinson. 7s. 6d.) At the grand age of eighty Mr. Burgin publishes his 113th novel. Like all its predecessors it is thick with adventure, but it covers very new ground-ground made familiar to the author by his experiences as secretary to a Reform Commission in Asia Minor, which, to quote Mr. Burgin's own words, " reformed everything and everybody except himself."

So Many Paths. By Simon Dare. (Hutchinson. 7s. 6d.) Miss Dare won't disappoint you this time, either-she can be depended upon always for a good story. This one is, in part, about a baronet whose baronetcy came upon him because he was a national benefactor-nice sentiments.

Gabriel's Ave and Other Religious Plays. By Rev. F. H. Drinkwater. (B.O.W. 5s.) This useful collection of mystery plays should find its way into parish guild libraries and into the libraries of schools. Most of the plays are cast for grown-ups or children-but some are entirely planned for child performers.

As a Man Loves. By E. Maria Albanesi. (Ward, Lock. 7s. 6d.) The heroine runs away to London very early on in the book and makes a marriage for "security." Upon these adventures the story revolves in circles of charming sentimentality.

OTHER BOOKS RECEIVED:

The Message of St. Teresa of Lisieux. By Rev. Vernon Johnson. Father Philip Fletcher. By G. Elliot Anstruther. Benediction and the Te Deum (1d., revised). The Converts' Aid Society. By F. W. Chambers (revised). Charles de Foucauld. By M. R. Hoste. St. Francis Xavier. By C. C. Martindale, S.J. Happy Face. By Alice Dease. St. Thomas More at Home. By Mrs. Blundell of Crosby. St. Peregrine Laziosi. By a member of the Order of the Ser vants of Mary. (Catholic Truth Society. Price 2d. each.) The Secret Battle. A. P. Herbert. (Methuen, 2s. 6d.) Reprinted in the Fountain Library.




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