Fascinating And Irritating Essay
Geneva versus Peace, by Comte de St. Aulairc, translated by Francis Jackson (Sheed
and Ward, 7s. 641.) Reviewed by MICHAEL DE LA BEDOYERE.
I fear that the publishers have scarcely done justice either to the Comte de St. Aulaire or to themselves. This outstanding, important and most entertaining book looks like just another heavy and destinedrapidly-to-sink treatise on a subject which at this stage almost automatically causes the hand to rise in order to suppress a yawn. In France books are received on their merits; in England their appearance counts at least as Much. Whether one agrees with the ex-French ambassador in London and Madrid or not, one isbound to recognise that. his career and experience give him a right to speak with more authority than the majority of amateurs of the subject-matter, that his thesis is-to most of usstartling, original, actual and highly controversial, and that his writing is sparkling. I do not understand the arts of the publishing trade, hut I am quite sure that had not someone told me to look out for this book, I should most probably have passed it by merely through its dull appearance.
The first thirty pages are almost overloaded with epigrams, witticisms and stories. Listen to this: " The League after Indulging in a flirtation with the whole world has surrendered herself more completely to the Reich, the Negus and the Soviets, companions even more indiscreet than the same writer's famous heroine (Margueritte's La Garconne) . .. It is ma.nifeSt that she practised a serious abuse of confidence by hanging the signboard of maternity in front of her abortion clinic. Having announced the birth of a new era of Peace, Fraternity, and Prosperity, this creator of angels enshrouded and hid away all her celestial dreams, all her still-horn projects which were to fulfil the promise she had made."
On the next page the author compares the present situation with the case of Francis. Joseph of Austria of whom it was said that he had died long before the news was given out, "but as all disagreeable truths are hidden from sovereigns he knows nothing about it."
Speaking of the votaries of the League, especially the women votaries he writes: "The League of Nations was like the ark of a Noah who has frightened away the dove of peace by shrieking for it to come back. These suppliant women, their minds full of delusive theories, these bearers of petitions signed by millions of human beings, thee vestal virgins cherishing vast hopes . . . my respect and grief went out to the women who were not the ' elegant ladies' of Geneva, but embraced with tnad enthusiasm an ideal more treacherous than the most treacherous lover."
I quote these passages not because they are important but because they should assure the reader that he will not find this book dull reading and, moreover, that he will come face to face with the French mind at its nakedest. I wish I had space to quote from the reminiscences, the story of what three great statesmen, including Curzon, privately thought of the League in 1920, the perfect pen-picture of Balfour, Saint-Aulaire's adventures in Budapest in 1919.
It is not difficult to guess from the above passages that the ex-ambassador has no
love for the League. To it, in fact, he
attributes every post-war evil, but the publishers with an inaccuracy much more lam entable than their failure to present this
work in an attractive shape state that "M. de Saint-A 'claire shows that the League is
really a diplomatic alliance between France
and England." If the author had thought it that he would have nothing hut praise for
it, for M. de St. Aulaire is first and foremost a Frenchman, second a Catholic and third an Anglophil. His deepest reason for loathing the League is because the League has failed to maintain unchanged the Versailles settlement; long after comes the fact that it is dominated by Russians, Jews, capitalists and agnostic liberals.
"If the future of the household," he writes, " depends on the wedding night, that of the Reich and the League explains the whole of their married life and the character of their progeniture. We shall not say that he violated her brutally; she had already given herself to others, to the Soviets especially . .. We may be sure that. if, after its last exploit, the violation of the Rhine zone. the Reich, like a prodigal son, prodigal of blows, should consent to return to the fold, they would offer him, instead of the fatted calf, absolution for the past and the first fruits of the future by revival of unilateral disartnanzent. The offering would be served up on the silver plate of a FrancoEnglish loan." It is highly significant that not once throughout the book does he suggest that the modification of treaties is a necessary preliminary to any useful work by the League.
This partiality for the French point of view weakens the book greatly and it is tinite painful to watch the author's futile struggle to indict the League on the ground both of its liberal-agnostic-soviet religion and of its love for Germany. As to the first ground he has some magnificent passages and considerable evidence, but his real strength lies in his description of how in fact the League has caused far more mischief than it. has done good, and this be cause of its lack of reality. " All these causes relate back to one. of those two Genevan specialities which are complementary each other: concessions for warlike states to encourage and embolden them and illusions for pacific states to lull them asleep."
Where the Comte attributes 'hitt motives he sometimes hits 'but more often misses; where he is content to analyse 'with the insight born of long diplomatic experience the actual course of post-war history he frames ari indictment that needs a lot of answering. In any case no student of the League, whether sympathetic or hostile, can afford to overlook this fascinating and irritating essay.
The translation is excellent.
Daily Missal, compiled by Dom Gaspar Lefebvre, O.S.B. (Coldwell, 4s. 6d.) Another edition of • this famous missal now published without vespers and compline. Very handy size.