Page 4, 6th March 1936

6th March 1936
Page 4
Page 4, 6th March 1936 — BO KS OF THE WEEK
Close

Related articles

Letters To The Editor

Page 6 from 10th July 1936

Books To Read Reunion Conversion Of England

Page 6 from 15th March 1940

Wearmouth And Jarrow

Page 5 from 25th May 1973

Robespierre

Page 4 from 15th May 1936

The Webbs, Du Bos, Baudelaire, Eliot

Page 2 from 22nd June 1956

BO KS OF THE WEEK

How We Are Governed

A Century of Municipal Progress. By various hands and edited by H. J. Laski, W. I. Jennings, and W. A. Robson. (Allen and Unwin. 21s. net.)

Reviewed by SUSAN CUNNINGTON

The proud claim of the British political writer and speaker is that we are a selfgoverning community, partly through natural virtue not to be found in other peoples of Western Europe and partly through our innate capacity for doing the right thing and worrying through any incidental mistaken policy. Unfettered by a written constitution, the collection of rules determining the powers of the State are to be found in royal charters, acts of Parliament and judicial decisions; and the administration of justice is based upon common law and statute law, or the precedent of custom and tradition "broadened" by forensic skill, and the legislation of Parliament. With the advance of democracy the wide franchise admits almost all adult men and women to share in the government by electing their chosen representatives. Hence may be accepted the flattering dictum " the State is ourselves in our official capacity."

The authority of the State is exercised by the central government supplemented by minor bodies to whom it deputes the task of administering the regulations in certain areas and certain spheres of action; these bodies comprise local government. It should be of interest to us that some of those areas and spheres are more ancient than Parliament. Those who remember London under the pre-county council regime were familiar with the legend 'Vestry of St. George, Hanover Square,' and similar names on water-carts and dustcarts.

A Century of Municipal Progress presents in a series of chapters a conspectus of the achievements of local government authorities during that period. A century is a perfectly legitimate stretch of time of which to take stock; and a line must be drawn somewhere, though (like the Equator) it be only " an imaginary line." Here it passes through 1835-one of the darkest moments of our dark ages, lightened only by the Municipal Corporations Act, which " restored to inhabitants of towns those rights of self-government of which they had been deprived since the 14th century." This cursory mention will hardly convey to the average reader the immense implication of lost privileges

enjoyed by inhabitants souls " as they were then termed) in Catholic times. Written dispassionately (except where the introduction becomes cynical in the early paragraphs) and with every intention of fair-mindedness, the omissions in the eerious essays are as striking as the given ne Muol !Cl see a before 1835 " and the chapter " The Social Background " alike ignore the spiritual and material loss to the mass of the people which accompanied the industrial revolution and the secularising of political ideals. As to the heritage from a distant past, there is given an item of information which to many town councillors of to-day will appear unintelligible. The system in which they administer was based upon the ecclesiastical division of England, ranging from the two provinces (Canterbury and York) to parishes, a parish " being that circuit of ground in which the souls under one parson or vicar do inhabit." The parish is still the unit of area at one end of the scale, with that artificial complexity the " administrative county" at the other. There is the same obliviousness of a more creditable past in the chapter " The Social Background,'" and the contrast between a " now " and a " then " is not only painted in roseate hues, but is as partial as a railway map. The technical descriptions of " The Town Council," " The Committee System " and " The Municipal Service " are sufficiently clear and detailed; though the relations of committees to the council are not explicitly stated.

" The Health of the People," by Sir George Newman, is written with the broad outlook he has taught us to respect. Its record of what has undeniably been accomplished by an energetic Ministry of Health partly, at least, counteracts the recent proclamation of our generally C3 population. The "Housing and Civic Planning," by Sir Ernest Simon, acknowledges that " the hovel of a hundred years ago still exists in the slums [our italics] and that there has been no effective dealing with the housing of the poor. The low-paid worker with a family is still in the slums." It is not in Sir Ernest's province to observe that the idea of many authorities is to abolish the family, not the slums!

Even more arresting at the present moment is the chapter on " The Nation's Schools," which records fairly enough the progress during the century. It is undoubtedly from " pure ignorance, sir," and not malice that the writer asserts that "the great incentive to universal instruction came from the Protestant Reformation, for the new authority given to the Scriptures implied that the als'-'y to read should be a universal possession, and the Church strove to supply the means." Well, well! The Established Church had not in 1835 succeeded in replacing the educational institutions destroyed in the Reformation, still less in spe. ding means of instruction. And in recording of facts -not opinions-there is room for correction. Though in 1835 no schools other than those of the two national societies had received support from the State, vet in 1847 the Catholic poor school committee was given a share for its forty-fifty schools, and in 1870 there were 350

1850 onwards the cliché "the Churches" occurs repeatedly.

The development of the Committee of Council (1839) through an Erhication Department (1856) to a Board of Education (1899) is recorded; mention is made of the various Education Bills introduced into Parliament and thrown out; the activities of early supporters of secular education noted; and the forming and passing of School Boards. Then came the establishing of local education authorities, " who delegate their work to education committees." We read "our national system of education dates only from 1902"; and the process of squeezing out the voluntary schools is guilelessly hinted at in the placid reflection that the (Hadow) "reorganisation usually means the transference of the older children from the non-provided to the provided schools, for in only a few cases have the Churches found it possible to build new schools to meet the new requirements." This brings us up to yesterday-even to to-day-and readers may supplement and fill in the gaps from the statistics given by the Archbishop of Liverpool in his address to the Federation of Catholic Teachers, reported in this paper on January 10 last.

Naturally there is no word of the many instances of how local authorities have built new and extravagantly planned secondary schools where there were already existing grammar schools and others of old foundation and honourable tradition. These should have been assisted with modest funds instead of being rivalled by new, showily equipped schools, amply supplied with accessories bought with public money, but lacking some of the spiritual and humane essentials of true education to be found in the older schools. Similar silence is maintained on the leading part, competence, and idealistic service of women in the century under survey.

Few of those who are actively engaged in se cial and educational work can afford to purchase this imposing record, but it will be found in eseey consHerable public library and should be studied by every public-spirited citizen.

A Monk on Monks

A Cloistered Company. By Henry Chester Mann, (Burns Oates and Washbourne. 6s.) Reviewed by DOM COLUMBA STENSON, 0.S.B.

The first eight chapters of this excellent book form a footnote, quits unique in character, to a full-dress life of St. Bernard. I do not know where one can find a more lifelike picture of Clairvaux. The author has not merely read up St. Bernard; he has worked him right into his system. The saint's writings, the ancient lives, and much other Cistercian literature are all used with a freedom, aptness and point that is a proof of the leisurely familiarity of the student. These materials arc lit up by a keen though rigidly controlled imagination, and the style is a delightsupple, easy, vivid, colloquial without flippancy, sometimes rising to unstudied eloquence.

It is clear that the author himself belongs to a contemplative order, and can look at Clairvaux from the inside; for he brings out all sorts of little details that would only occur to a n ionle Besides the chapters on St. Bernard, there are some fascinating studies of little-known Carthusiaos-Thomas Winckelman, Brother John Wagner and Dom Bernard Sidgrcaves; and there is the story of that vision in which Denys the Carthusian foresaw the calamity of the Reformation.

The Catholic Social Guild has published A Catholic Catechism of Social Questions by Rev. T. J. O'Kane (6d.), a straightfor

A Pepys Trilogy

Samuel Pepys: The Years of Peril. By Arthur Bryant. (Cambridge University Press. 12s. 6d. net.) Reviewed by ROBERT BRACEY, O.P.

The great permanent officials of the State, although Ley are its real rulers, keep of necessity always in the background and yield all the honours to the politicians. In life their very names are hardly known, and when dead they are as if they had never existed. Samuel Pepys is the great exception. A century and a quarter after his death an intimate diary of his, covering a space of nine years only and dealing with the time when he was sowing his wild oats. was discovered and published. Immediately, Pepys became in some ways better known to the world than any man who has ever lived: known and, to a certain extent, loved-but by no means respected. For on his own showing he was a gossip and a busybody, erotic to a degree, and of ttimes wore the cap ,and bells of folly.

But the searchlight had been turned on him. And it was found that he had left other and later diaries, vast masses of official papers, notes, and correspondence. Scholars have been at work on these for years. And as a result, the man who was for a while regarded as a mere buffoon is now recognised as one of the greatest civil servants England has ever possessed and as the creator of British naval organisation.

Mr. Bryant, a master of the Charles II period, is the latest writer on Pepys. He is devoting to him a sort of trilogy. His first volume, The Man in the Making, has already appeared. The third, Pepys, the Saviour of the Navy, is in preparation. The present instalment, The Years I f Peril, deals with the intermediate years, and shows us how Pepys (although a Protestant) was nearly numbered among the victims of the bogus plot of Titus Oates, and of that fearful national panic and mania which brought so many innocent ones to the scaffold, crowded the prisons with suspects, and 'inaugurated a real reign of terror for the Catholics of England and their friends. It is an exciting story, well told, admirably documentectec`and with every mark of original eeasich.

" Joutimalism " About Journalism

T; e Press. By A. J. Cummings. (1.ane, 3s. 6d. net.)

Reviewed by F. R. HOARE s

The book is e disappointment. Its auther, the political editor of the News-Chronicle, is one of the most redoubtable journaliits in this country and has a task after his own heart, namely an account of the press and its functions and a vindication of its freedom. But he has not written a satisfactory book, let alone a great one. It contains some good things, and is easy reading if one is content to take it as a series of random jottings on a great theme. But anyone seriously wanting to think out, as he goes along, the very important and by no means easy question of what limits, if any, should be set to the freedom of the press to play upon the minds of the people will find it a broken reed. We hope it is not hitting below the belt to say of a journalist that his book illustrates his subject by exhibiting just those defects of superficiality, partisanship and lack of logical sequence commonly associated with writing under pressure for a daily newspaper.

The haphazard order of the book could only be illustrated by quoting long tracts of it. The partisanship comes out in the naivety with which, in his accounts of the newspapers of different countries, he tends to grade them by their degree of liberalism. And his urgent and rightful plea for liberty degenerates into extravagance when he describes the freedom of the press by such phrases as " the foundations of human liberty."

The foundations of human liberty are the eternal moral law and men's respect for it; and respect for the freedom of the press can be identified with respect for human liberty only in so far as it is respect for the exercise of a moral right. But this is far from being always the case, as some of Mr. Cummings's own examples show. (It is noticeable, by the way, that, by his own very well informed account, there was much more positive lying by the free British press abOut the Moscow trial of the British engineers than by the strictly controlled German press about the Reichstag fire trial.)

But, as already remarked, the book contains some good things, among which may be noted a brave defence of the popularisation of science and some most interesting observations in the last chapter on the relations between the press and its new rivals, the wireless and the screen. It has also a notable omission, in the almost complete absence of direct reference to the very large place that sheer entertainment has usurped among the functions of the contemporary English press.

Among the interesting books in Messrs. John Miles's first list are two translations from the French: Lament for the Death of an Upper Class by the much-discussed author Henry de Montherlant, and Abyssinian Adventure by Marcel Griaule, which has already run through two large editions. Mr. William Holt, in 1 am a Prisoner, describes his experiences while serving his nine months' sentence for hay

Flight from Ethiopia

Measuring Ethiopia and Flight into Arabia. By Carleton S. Coon. (Cape, 12s. 6d.) Reviewed by DOUGLAS 7. DUFF Although Mr. Carleton S. Coon, with Mary, his wife, and Forbes, his companion, did not measure Ethiopia, he has 0.en us one of the clearest, most lucid and interesting accounts of Addis Ababa that I have yet seen. His book is the perfect travelbook, with a quiet steady movement, never still, enthralling, and giving a cool insight into some very awkward situations.

Although the expedition saw little of Ethiopia and its strange peoples (for their travels were confined to the railway journey from Jibouti to the capital) what they did see has been recorded with photographic realism. Greatest point of all in favour of this really line account is the studied impartiality with which he treats official Ethiopia, at whose hands he suffered continual annoyance and humiliation. Its very restraint carries conviction, and Mr. Coon makes us see the city of the Conquering Lion of Juda as clearly as though we had been there ourselves.

His account of his voyage by dhow from Aden to Hodeida is enthralling and amusing and should be placed amongst the best narratives of sea-travel. His story of his and his party's experiences in that most mysterious land of the Yemen, ruled by a priest-king, will be of the greatest possible use to any who are interested in the queer countries of the Red Sea littoral, and to many who are not.

Mr. Coon pays the Imam Yehyia a graceful and, I believe from my knowledge of this potentate, a well-deserved compliment in dedicating the book to him. At least it shows that Mr. Coon has appreciation for the efforts that the Yemenis made on his behalf. And if we praise the, author, may we not say a word for that truly gallant lady his wife? She seems to be the one woman in ten thousand who is of help in such circumstances and not a drag upon the expedition.

Scottish Poetry

Scottish Poetry from Barbour to James VI. Edited by M. M. Gray. (J. M. Dent. 7s. 6d.) Reviewed by E. F. MACDONALD The intention of the compiler of this volume is to illustrate the development of Scots poetry during the period of that country's independence. He has necessarily had to exclude Gaelic poetry, and, indeed, has omitted ballads and folksongs and confined himself to the work of known poets. But it is in the ballads that the Scottish poetic genius most clearly shows; and the poems included in this volume, influenced as they arc by English and French contemporaries, have the less of that dramatic irony and sense of the tragic which are so peculiarly Scottish. There is, however, much in this collection that is very fine, and it is interesting to be a witness of the poet's-often successfulefforts to achieve subtlety and delicacy of rhythm in such a stubborn, rugged language.

• The Sassenach-even the Scot-is bound to find the dialect strange and tedious at first. But practice and reference to the excellent glossary bring increasing enjoyment: and you do not need to understand in order to enjoy, such lines as:

i• • • • My bairn, let be

I was within thir sixty year and sevyne A freke on fold, as fair, as fresh, as free, As glad, as gay, as ying, as yaip as ye."

Pages Of Honour

The Thirteenth Guest. By S. W. Powell. (Selwyn Blount. 7s. 6d.) That thirteenth guest certainly made his presence felt in that sleepy London boardinghouse. Life to him was intensified to the Nth degree; he hardly ever slept, had an extraordinary zest for everything; lived, as he puts it, thirty years in two months. Why? That is the story.

Snowed Under. By Sheila Fitzgerald. (Hutchinson. 7s. 6d.) Russian refugees in Prague are the heroes of this story. Nadia is one of them, who does not remember her native country; life is not always so easy for her with her professor husband in his Swiss chalet home, but time solves all the problems.

Death's Visiting Card. By John C. Woodwiss. (Melrose. 7s. 6d.) About a crook without a face but with plenty of other exciting fatures.

Marcel Armand. By Sallie Lee Bell. (Archer. 7s. 6d.) Piracy, love and purple patches in old Louisiana.

Drums Over Africa. By Derek Temple. (Melrose. 7s. 6d.) Strong silent man stuff, but well seasoned with savages, jungles and adventure.

OMER BOOKS RECEIVED:

The True Prayers of St. Gertrude and St. Mcchtilde. Translated by Canon John Gray. (Sheed and Ward. 3s. 6d. net.) A new, fourth, edition.

The Importance of Being Earnest. By Oscar Wilde. (Methuen. 2s. 6d. net.) A new addition to the publisher's Fountain Library.

Messrs. Raphael Tuck are publishing, by command of Queen Mary, her Majesty's message of thanks to the people of the




blog comments powered by Disqus