The County of Sussex. By Hilaire Belloc. (Cassell. 7s. 6d.) Sussex. By George Aitchison. (Black. 5s.) Reviewed by IRIS CONLA/ This book of Mr. Belloc's is an old one in brand new guise.. The author confesses that he has almost completely rewritten the original notes. Perhaps his first two sections, which deal with the physical nature of the county and its history, may have survived in their original drafts, but the last section, with its pathetic title, "The individual character of Sussex and the way to see what is left of it," is surely of more recent date.
Can Sussex endure? asks Mr. Belloc, and he says that no man can reply to this question. But he himself has replied in his own mind. To Mr. Belloc already Sussex is no more, and in this book he mourns its passing like that of an old friend.
He contends that Sussex has been broken by the advent of the internal combustion engine, and he describes its deadly work.
"Then came the change; London broke out like a bursting reservoir, flooding all the ways to the sea, swamping our history and our past, so that already we are hardly ourselves. Of a week-end, the roads from the north to the south are like a city street. You may hear the machine-gun fire of a motor bicycle on the greensward of Chanctonbury Ring. There is no retreat wherein you can escape the blind inhuman mechanic chatter. How would any organism survive this ubiquitous thrusting into its substande of alien things?"
Invasion of Sussex All this is true of Sussex. At this time it is suffering an invasion every bit as harassing as must have been that of the early marauders. By now its entire coastline is one long horror of boarding-house architecture, and its villages are afflicted with a red rash of incongruous villas. Yet Sussex has survived all other invasions and has lived to tame its invader-may it not tame this one, too, and live in a new future of which we cannot yet guess?
I have faith in Sussex. Mr. Aitchison, too, has faith in Sussex. Although he recognises with Mr. Belloc that the internal combustion engine has brought a certain desolation to the countryside, it is not a wholesale destruction. The wheel ruts are deep, but they are not very wide, and there is plenty of room in Sussex, even for the motorist.
It is in this spirit of acceptance that Mr. Aitchison, writes of his county. He has known it and held it in reverence quite as long as has Mr. Belloc, but where Mr. Belloc rebels, Mr. Aitchison philosophically accepts-and his book is the broader for it.
Companion to Experience To those who know their Sussex, Mr. Aitchison's book is a companion to their experience. It is intensely personal always, and in the author's experiences one's own relive. To him parts of the county take on different moods, moods that are well understood by those who have also lived in the shadow of the South Downs.
To those who are "foreigners" to Sussex, his book is also directed-not that at any moment the author in tiresome guidefashion directs-his is a subtler method. He discovers.
That's Shell, That Was
Shell Guides: Dorset. Compiled by Paul Nash. Devon. Compiled by John Betjeman. Somerset. By C. H. B. and Peter Quennell. (Architectural Press. 2s. 6d. each.) These are something new in the way of guides-very "modern," with the pages threaded on a wire spiral and with all the latest photographic dodges, and an absurd "period" title-page to the Devon book. The photographs alone are a sufficient inducement to visit these counties again, and the text supports the pictures-which is not always the way with guide-books.
The contents are arranged schematically with a sort of newspaper lay-out, so that at once you can turn up what interests you most-geology, dialect, flora, sport, what not-and find the matter in a nutshell; and in each book there is a gazetteer of the places specially worth going to and why.
Mr. John Betjeman is the general editor of this excellent series and has got together a strong team of compilers, editors and writers for the separate numbers.
D. D. A.