Page 3, 19th May 1944

19th May 1944
Page 3
Page 3, 19th May 1944 — History

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The Poisoned Crown, By Hugh Kingsmill. (Eyre and Spottiswood, 9s.) Reviewed by BERNARD BASSET, SJ.

IT is not easy to assess the merits and demerits of this most interesting book. From an introductory 1:ssity on the genealogy of Hitler which is crammed full of vague and halfdeveloped theories, the author passes on to four historical sketches which are exceptionally good.

It is as well that the theories in the opening chapter are but faintly outlined, for this prevents any crude distortion in attempting to squeeze Cromwell, Napoleon and Lincoln into the same mould. But why have a genealogy of Hitler at the beginning or, in deed, why have it at all It is true that charlatans come to power by offering to produce a Kingdom of Heaven in this world, and that they deteriorate as their powers increase, but the author

seems to suggest that this is a modem failing and he forgets that a similar deterioration is often visible in those who are not charlatans at ail.

The opening chapter is entertaining and provocative without producing any adequate hypothesis for the subsequent chapters to support. Worse than this, with its queer references to Charlie Chaplin, H. G. Wells arid other modern worthies, it is topical, and will be insipid and out of date in a few years.

A FTER the chapter on the Genealogy rs. of Hitler, the author with amazing swiftness turns to foes historical studies—Elizabeth, Cromwell, Napoleon and Lincoln. At first one fears that they are to be used to prove a case, but the fear is groundless, and the essays stand excellently alone.

The careful expression of the double personality in Cromwell is masterly and Mr. Kingsmill has produced an admirable sketch of the Protector, showing the strange blend of humbug and sincerity which baffled friend and foe alike.

Napoleon is treated with less respect but with good reason, for his posthumous reputation needs careful checking with the facts. These two essays are, in my opinion, the best in the book and as good as any that have been written on these two great Men.

The study of Lincoln is perhaps more interesting. because Lincoln is less familiar, but Cromwell is one of the best tests of an historian's skill. Judged by that alone, the book is worth reading, and Cromwell is not the only one to receive a just verdict here.

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