L. J. File-wood NOVELISTS of the Left have nothing but scorn for people who, like myself, live quietly in the new suburbs. We are, they inform us, dull, illiberal, conventional, snobbish and effete.
One talented spinster who favours world-revolution and dictatorship by the proletariat, has denounced us idyllically as " hedge-clipping, lawn-cutting creatures of the suburbs," and I, who know nothing of Karl Marx, except that he considered God obsolete, am not disposed to quarrel with her; for, after all, we do clip hedges and cut lawns, and we are creatures. Certainly we thought, like Voltaire, that to cultivate one's own garden was a virtue, but one realises that revolutionary opinion must have progressed a great deal since 1770.
As for the more general charges, in the first place we cannot deny that we are dull. No epigram was ever coined in a new suburb; and since we are not thinking people, we do not hold study-circles in our lounges. The works of Lord Russell, Mr. Joad, Mr. Laski and Professor Haldane are not stocked in great quantities by our twopenny libraries.
On winter evenings we go to the pictures for mass-produced entertainment or, after an hour hi front of the fire, call at the new magnificent pub for a glass of massproduced beer.
We Are Conventional, Alas
In the second place, we are compelled to
admit that we are illiberal. Our narrow suspicion of those egalitarians who wish to
take our jerry-built houses away from us and give them to the State, amounts almost to a prejudice; and when we are told by the same enlightened authority that it is bad for children to be brought up by their parents, we are tempted to reply selfishly that it would be even worse for parents to be deprived of their children.
This extremely restricted view of our responsibilities leads naturally to the further charge, that we are conventional. Alas!
it is true; for we prefer not to be odd in our habits of dress, to talk about things rather than ideas of things, to eat and drink what we have always liked instead of what the latest dieticians prescribe—in a word, to conduct our lives in accordance with the simple traditions of our class. Perhaps the restraining virtues of the convent still cling faintly to the word " conventional," and we, the inheritors of an almost forgotten tradition, prefer to live by rule rather than whim.
There is no denying that we are also snobbish, for it is not our custom either to abuse the rich or interfere with the poor. To get on with one's own business and not meddle with other people, as every novelist of the Left knows, was Plato's view of justice, but of course the evolution of thought through many centuries can quite easily turn justice into snobbery. It might be urged in our favour, however, that we
are on very good terms with the milkman, the baker and the window-cleaner, though we seldom address them as " comrade."
But We Are Not Effete
The last accusation is that we are effete. Are we? No, by heaven! Far from it. We are a solid, formidable force, aware of our privileges, jealous of our rights, conscious of our wrongs.
An aristocracy can be guillotined out of existence. The silent, helpless poor—" the people of England who have not spoken yet "—can be hoodwinked by anyone who does not fear the day of judgment. But the despised, suburban population — that taxable, profitable section of the cornmunity, whose mulish devotion to routine duties imposed upon it by a heartless, commercial plutocracy provoke howls of derision from every intellectual and artistic quarter—cannot be destroyed.
The solidarity of the new suburbs is of impermeable quality. We shall continue to ignore " Left Book Clubs," resist Community Flats. shun red ties, sniff at " Rational," " Ethical " and " Freethinking" societies, and sing the National Anthem with stolid, wooden countenances.
The reason for this is very clear. We are at heart traditionalists although, since the Reformation, we have had only shortterm traditions. One day we may stumble on the reason for our blind belief and, in the sudden illumination of logic, attach ourselves once more to the roots of Christendom. Then will be seen as by a miracle. the solidarity of the new suburbs growing into the universality of the old Faith.