Page 3, 3rd January 1941

3rd January 1941
Page 3
Page 3, 3rd January 1941 — This quixotic professor breaks a lance against the Latin Catholic soul

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People: J. B. Trend


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This quixotic professor breaks a lance against the Latin Catholic soul

ANTI-CATHOLICISM'S ugly head rears so persistently from Left Wing literature that to dissociate the two is becoming as difficult as it is to understand why Mr. J. B. Trend, Cambridge University Professor of Spanish, and writer of a book called Mexico: A New Spain With Old Friends (Cambridge University Press, 12s. 6d.) has made such a puzzling jumble of this 180-page volume. His jumble-book, which is partly a delicious morsel of anti-Franco, anti-clerical. anti-English Jesuit (with a dig here and there at Stonyhurst and Beaumont) and generally anti-Catholic literary fare, possesses a style, which if generally mediocre, is relieved by passages as brilliant as our expectations from the pen of a man of Mr. Trend's scholastic calibre are high. It is also a wade mecum to show-places in Mexico.

Describing two recent trips to that country, in the second of which Mr. Trend takes along with him an unnamed Spanish refugee fleeing from Europe and meets across the water some others, friends of his own he had known in Spain, the Professor devotes at least eleven chapters of the seventeen the book contains to doing what in his introduction he says: " I could not do, if I tried," that is, to describing modern Mexico in all its aspects. But he scarcely throws any new light on the multitude of subjects covered, which, as Mr. 'fiend admits, have been very well written up by Americans already.

He aroused, however, his reviewer's interest when dealing with the present movement in Mexico to supply an alphabet common to the various Indian languages spoken in the country, and with his comparisons between colloquialisms used by Spaniards and Mexicans in their common tongue, but left him cold when speaking of Toltec legends and Colonial architecture, better accounts of which the reviewer has read elsewhere.

The Fun Begins

Switching inconsistently from Mexican botany to tastes in food, from the Sevillan " cante hondo," which Mr. Trend found " heartbreaking " when heard sung in a land of exile, to proffering advice to the Mexican Government on how to tackle its drink problems, the Professor intersperses his Mexican guide-book with matter that helps to explain its title. And here is shere the fun begins.

Mr. Trend's " old friends" are Spanish intellectuals and leaders. who, leaving their country before Franco's final victory, found something pricking their consciences which prevented them from returning home when the war was over. They went, many of them, to Mexico, the " New Spain" of Cortez and his Con

quistadores. His friends, having dune their best to destroy Catholicism in Spain, a religion which Mr. Trend dislikes, he now enters the arena in their support clad in a fiery red matador's cloak, with a hangover to the Spanish Left. The bull In' seeks out is Franco. it is at times the Mexican clergy of the past and of the present, and it is the English Jesuits, too.

Regarding the last-named, Mr. Trend at least twice remarks that Mexican landowners, now dispossessed of many of their estates through a series of recent Government enactments, and who would logically be conservative, if not reactionary in sentiment, had often gone to school at Stonyburst and Beaumont. He has not much sympathy with these landowners, and suggests they may become easy tools in the hands of Nazis now trying, says Mr. Trend, to stir up trouble in Mexico The implication is consequently possible that Stonyburst and Beaumont Old Boys make good Nazis and Fascists! To quote Mr. Trend :—" . . . the dispossessed classes are a most valuable ally of the Nazi-Fascist reaction. Here, the men educated in England fall easy victims, for, with very few excep tions . . the schools chosen for them were Stonyhurst and Beaumont, which in Mexico are supposed to represent the normal English public school tradition."

English Public Schools The priceless hit contained at the end of the following extract will be claimed, presumably, by one or the other of the two great colleges, whichever of them thinks the cap fits it better :—" Mexicans have not perhaps a very clear idea of what the English public school tradition is. . . In the case of Mexicans educated in England, their education has left them neither Mexican nor English; it has cut them off from both countries instead of making them a part of both ; or, rather (as far as England goes) it has made them part only of a fantastic and grotesque parody of England, where (as a Mexican himself told me, to illustrate the variety or picturesqueness ' of life at an English public school) you might run up against an Austrian archduke and a Bourbon prince discussing, in a heated but amicable fashion, which of the two should take precedence in an ecclesiastical procession."

There is a popular saying that " Beaumont is what Eton was, a school for sons of Catholic gentlemen," and Mexicans who can afford it, just because they are Catholics, send their sons to Stonyhurst and Beaumont where they are not likely to imbibe the Liberal ideas which Mr. Trend's " old friends " from Spain, as well as Mr. Trend himself, would like to see inculcated in Mexico.

The Professor admits, incidentally, rite latent strength of the Church among the masses of Mexican people. for he says:— " Much as the present rulers of Mexico may loathe and dbirust the Catholic Church, they dread it too much to offend It or oppose it openly."

His Dream for Mexico The Professor's dream of " the Mexico of to-morrow," that is a Mexico inoculated with the Red virus of pre-Franco Spain, is interestingly portrayed in a description of his visit to Guanajuato, where he was feted by the Governor.

Daringly written, it might, however, be dismissed as a piece of readable nonsense, were it not for the welcome Mr. Trend extends to the Spanish " Pilgrim Fathers "those refugees again — who he hopes are going to build in to-morrow's Mexico the " New Spain " of his dream.

Taken to see the Governor's family, who lived in a neo-classic mansion at Guanajuato, Mr. Trend's description of the interior includes the following: " The chapel had been dismantled and was used as a box-room, while bottles of Vermouth and other French drinks were standing on a ledge where an altar might once have been. This was the New Mexico, the Mexico of to-morrow; and the Governor's household were evidently setting the example that cleanliness should come before godliness, for the great attraction

was the bathroom. It was built rather like an oratory; a pair of fluted columns and two steps led up to a bath like an altar, in cream and pink porcelain, with a shower like a baldachino. At one side, instead of a stoup for holy water, there was one of those little basins you see in American pullmans, used only for cleaning teeth."

Mischievous But Important Why this lengthy review on a book which Nom its summarising does not appear to be so frightfully important after all? the reader may well ask. The answer is that as Mr. Trend has not shown us that his " New Spain " in to-morrow's Mexico will be to the liking of Mexicans themselves, we prefer to stick to our ancient belief that Mexico, being still Catholic, and having doggedly survived persistent persecution of her Catholic religion, will smartly parry any move towards evangelising her in the contrary direction.

Thus Mr. Trend's book is mischievous, and consequently important.

It will gratify Left Wing addicts in this country, and it will be welcomed by his Spanish intellectual friends now in Mexico, but it is not a book calculated to give pleasure to the average Mexican, who will be wondering who authorised Mr. Trend to map out a future for his country. Persistently striking one is the impression that Mr. Trend is one of the quixotic Englishmen, referred to by himself in his own book, when he says :—" ... it is the poets whom I most like to think of as English; the Poets, and then the eccentric, quixotic Englishmen, the type which everyone in other countries has known or heard of, and which may be, after all, the only type of Englishman which anybody in another country can admire." The interfering type? Not to be admired indeed, but so often " known and heard of "—and suffered — in other countries I

Mr. Trend, we fear, may suffer the same fate as Cervantes' hero before the windmill when he breaks a lance with the Latin and Catholic soul, hard and stubborn as a rock when the bottom of its changing currents is reached This brings us to another' puzzle in his jumble-book How is it that in all the years he has spent in Spain and among Spaniards Mr. Trend did not tumble across the fact that the Latin soul is Catholic?

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