Page 8, 27th July 1935

27th July 1935
Page 8
Page 8, 27th July 1935 — LETTERS

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Keywords: William Cobbett


Our correspondents are urged to limit their letters to 300 words; otherwise they are liable to be shortened or omitted altogether. Letters must bear a name and address (not necessarily for publication) or they will be ignored.—Editor.


StR,—Your correspondent Mr, Lewis Burnand, in defending fascist ambitions in Ethiopia, seems very .confident of the superiority of western civilization over what he calls primitive law. but who is to be the judge! Even were it true that this vaunted western "progress" were in every way preferable to okler civilizations, the slaughter of thousands of Ethiopians would not thereby be justified. but in comparing oriental or African with occidental manners of life an impartial critic (which Mr. Burnand obviously does not claim to be) would have to place pros and cons in both scales; certainly a civilization built upon the development of militarism and navalism utilized for immoral cads, a mechanized civilization riddled with paganism, with many un-Christian evils rampant. can hardly play successfully the part of the Pharisee, while as for smoothing the way of Catholic missionaries, imperialism is apt to have the contrary effect; the relatively small progress made in China and elsewhere is largely attributable to the suspicion with which the Christian missioner is viewed by communities who have learned to associate Christianity with political exploitation. Mr. Burnand induces confusion by his conventional use of the pronoun, "we." do not know whether he had a hand in the slaughter of Australian aborigines, the seizure of Matabeles' lands or other exploits of British imperialism, but it is probable that most people in this country would have declined any voluntary participation in such doings and consequently should not be credited or debited with them; "our bellicosity" is unacceptable to many of "us."

Let it be realized that slavery in Arabia —a land without minerals and unfit for colonization—gives the fascist party no qualms, and further, that there must he 'many more military slaves in Italy than domestic ones in Ethiopia; therefore cut mil the cant of a holy war. It is, however. unjust to criticize "Italy" for the policy of the fascisti, but at least we may be clear that the impending war—like its predecessors—is morally unjustified.

ions NMI LARGE FAMILIES Sta,—I am evidently not alone in believing that the practice of Christian morality calls for a deliberate simplification of life amongst both rich and poor. As Mrs. Jackson says, there "should be an obvious change to a simpler standard of living." It is the only practical solution To the birth-control problem. and my belief in its rightness is supported by the fact that it goes far to solve many other problems in a manner traditionally Christian.

• The sacrifice is only great if we maintain our present ambition to copy the customs and habits of the rest of the world. If we begin to want those things which fit in with Christianity, we shall lose our desire for the things we want now. But we must do it openly and without pretence; and we must value the opinion of those only who have a similar ideal, even if they are few.

I agree with J. K. L. that a Christian society must be based on what is natural: and not on our present "wildly unnatural environment." Nothing is more natural than a very simple manner of life—we forget that it relieves us of trouble; brings us peace, dignity and contentment: and is compatible with great physical and mental achievement and enjoyment. That it leads It) "laughter and merriment" is confirmed by the human story contributed by Mr. Grosch. So long ago as the days of St. Paul it was known that the other kind of life entangles us in many sorrows.


July 21.

SIR,-I agree with " J.K.1.." that it is time we stopped eulogizing about large families and came down to brass tacks-not considering whether such families are most Christian in the abstract. as they undoubtedly are, but whether they are possible in the concrete, here and now.

For the rich or moderately well off the sacrifice of comforts and expensive education makes a large family quite possible, but for the poor, who earn 5.3 a week or less, there are few comforts to sacrifice! When it takes sears to save enough money to get married on and set up home, how are the expenses of many children to be met? Even one child must Cost at least £10 to bring into the world, and fit) seems a fortune when you haven't got it!

What use is there in urging people to have large families, when, much as they wish it, " sheer force of economic pressure " prevents their doing so? To call a normal sense of human responsibility sheer downright selfishness " is both unjust and untrue.—Yours, etc., /1.S.


SIR. No one would suspect from Mr Stockley's les iew of Mr. Anderson's book that Sir Horace Plunkett's co-operative work in Ireland had the support of many

Catholics. Not a mention is made of COBBETUS WORKS

SIR, --Mr. Boulton's observations on Cobbett are somewhat misleading and inaccurate.

Cobbett's works hese always enjoyed considerable popularity, which seems growing to-day. Rural Rides in particular has been through many editions, cheap and otherwise. It is a book that one frequently sees. even on the shelves of the most humble private libraries. There have been at least seventeen editions of Cottage Economy, and this book, as well as Rural Rides and Advice to Young Men. have been reprinted during the last twenty years. Despite unpretentious binding and printing, early editions of Cobbetes works are much in demand. When they appear in second-hand lists they are quickly snapped up, and none more quickly than the History of the Protestant Reformation.

Mr. Boulton seems to have noticed vaguely what is an interesting fact. The reading public is becoming curiously suspicious of Protestant Tudor history. With an eye open for the main chance, the modern historian has not been slow to see the opportunity offered. Historical biography to-day is a good jobbing line! All is not well with the Virgin Queen— she must be cleaned up. But the cleaning must suit the taste of the largest section of the book-buying public. The modern historian cannot afford to risk unfavourable reviews from the multitude of Protestant critics.

So the cleaning process has taken shape. as Mr. Boulton rightty observes, in an endeavour to remove the dirt from Elieabeth and transfer it to her already sordid ministers. But to do this, it has apparently been thought necessary to try to discredit writers like Dr. Lingard and Cobbett. That is understandable, for the truths of these two writers take a lot of explaining away. . . .

142. Fountain Court, London, S.W.I.


SIR, There are several points in Mr. Boulton's second letter on Cobbett which should be answered.

It is untrue to say of Cobbett that "he spent his life in dealing out vulgar abuse." That wets not the judgment of his contemporaries. Carlyle, in his life of Cobbett, says that his contemporaries were "particularly impressed by the force of his writings." As to the complete accuracy of Cobbelt's History of the Protestant Reformation, 1 am neither disposed nor qualified to argue, but I strongly object to Mr. Boulton's condemning Cobbett on the strength of this one book; an attitude which seems to argue that very ignorance of Cobbett's work of which he accuses Dr, McNamara. One thing is certain of the "History." It was sincere. and if it erred at all it erred in exactly the opposite direction to all the official "Histories" then extant. and insofar as it served as a correctise to those inaccurate chronicles it was and still is valuable. It is ridiculous to condemn it because Cobbetes -theory" does not fit in with the latest pronouncements of historians who have the benefit of an additional hundred years research to guide them.

The fact (if it is a fact) that Cobbett's books were out of print a few sears ago has nothing whatever to do with his effectiveness or popularity. Cobbett's writings were topical, and in his own time commanded a phenomenal sale. Among booksellers who know their trade those of his works which "could he only obtained second-hand" have always commanded a Rood price, and the fact that those still in print are as tillable mainly in cheap editions points rather to their popularity ihan otherwise. When Cobbett was defeated and the destruction of the English peasant had become an accomplished fact, his work may or may not have sunk into temporary oblivion; the point is that this is not the basis on which the man should be judged.

Mr. Boulton fails to realize that Cobben was fighting the whole materialistic tendency of his time; he was literally fighting for his life and for the lives of all those of his fellow-countrymen who followed the life he loved. And this is the man who "could not differ as a gentleman"!

Cobbett attacked greed and avarice in high places; he condemned the cynical itsdifference of the rulers to the sufferings of the poor. He raised himself unaided from the humblest beginnings to the position of publicist and member of Parliament. became the most feared. hated and loved member of that body, yet never "scorned the base degrees by which he did ascend." but asserted his humble origins proudly, fought corruption mercilessly and without fear when it threatened others of that sphere who could not defend themselves; he suffered fine and imprisonment for the sake of his ideals and through all this remained a dutiful husband and loving father. an unembittered and yet undaunted champion of the oppressed. At the height of his fame and prosperity he would deny himself a midday meal in order to bestow its price upon the humblest labourer that he met on his rounds. If these are the marks of greatness (and I submit that they are) then Cobbett was a great man.

I neither hope nor desire to convince Mr. Boulton of Cobbett's greatness: I write only to vindicate in the eyes of the unbiassed reader the name of a noble and

generous-hen rted Englishman whose nationality I am proud to share. and for whom I have always had a profound ABYSSINIA Sire—Mr. Burnand is logical enough in attacking the hypocrite who would condemn imperialism in all governments but his own.

But 1 only hope that his general argument is not intended as a possible one for Christians to adopt. For it is a return to the suicidal and immoral doctrine of the sovereign State, and a denial of the necessity for an increased measure of " internationalism," urged by almost all responsible people to-day. Even were it possible to prove that the results of our own imperialism, for example, had been productive of vastly more good than harm (which. in my view, it isn't). what has this to do with the justice of Mussolini's policy in Africa? For as Mr. Burnand admits, the true reason for his attitude is not the duty of civilizing Ethiopia but the pressure of economic necessity, and it is plainly immoral to make possible, or probable, results, and not intentions, the justification for aggressive war.

Mr. Burnand's argument that the conquest of Ethiopia would lead to the extension of the Catholic faith is even worse. Such a prospect would not, of course, excuse an act in itself immoral. But only a little knowledge of Abyssinian history and affairs would disprove the possibility of such an event accruing from such a war. As it is, the Catholic clergy, even of the Ethiopian rite, are finding it difficult to make headway against the tendency of schismatics to identify loyalty to Rome with lack of patriotism. A result of Italian policy has been to draw the Ethiopian Church even closer to the State, so that the priests arc the greatest patriots of all in their propaganda against the aliens. The spectacle of an Italian army advancing on their " civilizing" mission, accompanied by Latin priests, would have the effect of undoing even the small progress that has been made.

The thing that appals me most, however, is that Mr. Burnand still thinks, apparently, in terms of barbarism in regard to the propagation of the faiee. After centuries of bitter experience and (one had hoped) repentance on the part of Catholics for past attempts to coerce souls into the household of the faith, he still believes that a war of the kind envisaged by Italy can be to the saving of souls through the love of Christ. God save us from such ideas!


12. St. John's Park Road, S.E.3, July 20. ITALY'S POLICY

SIR,-1 think that Mr. Lewis G. Burnand, in his letter of July 12 under the above heading, does less than justice to British governments of the past in comparing their acquisition of colooies to the conduct of the Italian authorities in their present dispute with Abyssinia. Italy has not only a treaty with that country whereby she has agreed to submit all points of dispute to arbitration and to abide by the result. but she has also signed the Kellogg Pact, renouncing war as an instrument of policy.

In all our long history of acquisitions, whether of the Indian empire or of our former Colonies and other possessions. I think no one can point to any similar cynical brushing aside of solemn obligations such as Italy is now preparing to carry out. True, Abyssinia is out of place in the League of Nations, but then Italy should have taken proper steps to exclude her when she first applied for admission.

But I think it will be found that the main reason for theattitude of our Foreign Office in the present trouble is the fear that Italy is going to tie herself up in such a knotty problem over Abyssinia that she could not be relied on to do her share in carrying out the obligations of the Locarno Treaty or in protecting Austrian independence when Germany sees fit to issue a challenge in either direction.

C. W. L.

July 22.

" MONEY, MANNERS AND• MORALS" SIR.—A propos of Mr. Christopher Hollis's searching review of the above volume, in which the name of Cobbett does not appear, Mr. Hollis is certainly right in describing it As "a stupendous omission,' for in his " Curse of Paper Money' Cobbett, with uncanny accuracy, laid bare the evils of the modern banking system de rived from the Dutch financiers and adopted in this country in support of the Orange usurpation of 1688.

The financial crisis of our own times was foreseen by Cobbett in 1820. The money magnates winced at Cobbetes touch. He put his finger on the spot, and " the buyers and sellers of Change Alley yelled with pain."

Their descendants still execrate Cobbett, but what arc they going to do about the money muddle they have inherited from their reforming grandsires?


ORGANIZATIONS AND WORK can fully endorse what "T. A. Watkins" says in last week's issue of your paper. A relation of mine had almost exactly similar experiences. No help and not even friendship or sympathy from the "organization" or its wealthy members. After two years of unemployment he has now obtained work and, strange to say. MACHINES AND LEISURE

SIR, In reply to Mr. Gill's letter in your issue of July 6, I would point out that I have already freely admitted that machiines, mass-production, and leisure have often been used wrongly and selfishly: but that does not make these things evil in themselves. The benefits which they have conferred upon the workers may have been incidental rather than intentional. but they are benefits nevertheless; and it is pretty obvious that the remedy for the evils of which Mr. Gill complains is not the retardation of mechanical development, but the right use of it. Anything. even religion itself, may become an evil if used wrongly, or pushed to excess. Religion then becomes fanaticism, or religious mania; but no sane person denounces religion on that account.

Another critic, some time ago, said that it should not be necessary to remind me that a Catholic culture existed before the age of machinery. I would remind him that medical science existed before the discovery of amesthetics; would he therefore say that anxsthetics are superfluous to medicine?

Mr. Gill goes on to say that the only effect of modern mechanical production on the general standard of living has been to flood the market with cheap, inferiorquality goods. Perhaps so; but my friend seems unable to realize that there is such a thing as price, and that high-quality. hand-made goods are inevitably much more expensive than the others, and that far fewer people can afford to buy them, If the mass-produced goods were abolished, the large majority of their users would be unable to buy those of better quality—they would just have to go without.

I heartily thank Mr. Gill for his interesting letters, but cannot avoid the conclusion that his ideaS would involve a substantial rise in the cost of living, and are therefore idealist rather than practical.


THE PAGEANTRY OF WAR S1R,—Wc are a curious people. Our newspapers during the past week have been filled, on the one hand, with discussions relative to the Abyssinian crisis, concerning the best means of preserving peace, and, on the other hand, with colourful descriptions and impressive photographs of the naval and military reviews. One imagined that the glamour of war had been destroyed, but the efforts made to revive it cannot be said to have been altogether unsuccessful. And it must be re membered that the rising generation. which is chiefly affected by these shows. is unfamiliar with the calities of warfare.

The suggestion made to the League of Nations that an international agreement should forbid the press giving publicity to such displays, fantastic as it is, at least has on its side the principle that prevention is better than cure.

S. B. J.


S1R,—Your paper goes from strength to strength: having read it, my copy goes to an Italian, then to a Tyrolese and on to a German. None of them ever learns the news from any other paper, as it is not in. I am hoping for comments on sundry of your correspondents, especially that letter pointing out, truly, that people talk of peace but there is no manner indicated whereby papal words can be translated into action; now there is another one about " sheer economic necessity" and small families. Having spent most of my time with the army, I know what it means; when you have to keep up a home for yourself and a second one for the wife in the hills and school for the family in England (all on a captain's pay) you are apt to snort somewhat at the enthusiasm of Mrs. Lyons.


Italy, July 10.

KATHERINE TYNAN AND "A.E." SIR,—Pamela Hinkson contributes to the Observer a sketch of George Russell, the Irish poet, painter and philosopher, whose death has been announced, in which

(Continued from previous column.) she says: "It is nearly fifty years ago since my mother, Katherine Tynan, wrote in her diary, 'W. B. Yeats brought a boy called George Russell to see me. A second Blake, I think.' " Miss Hinkson adds: "It was the beginning of a friendship to which she testified many years after in the dedication of a book to him. 'To A. E., who ' never fails.' .. .. She was a devoted Irish Catholic, and he professed at one time to worship pagan dieties. Yet they met in a common mysticism, and she regarded him as a saint."

George Russell's fascinating personality drew round him a circle of friends as varied as were his interests, and it is easily conceivable that "a common mysticism" conceivable that "a common mysticism" may have been a bond between these two. The term "mysticism" has many interpretations, any of which are legitimate. but the meaning of "saint" is strictly defined and it is a pity when writers, even in a case like this, cheapen its use.

A. T. N.

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