THE TRIAL OF MARSHAL NEY, by Harold Kurtz 2 (Hamish Hamilton, 25s.)
MR. KURTZ, who is not a Catholic, tells us that much of this book was written " while l was a guest at St. Michael's Abbey, Farnborough." He says; " It will never he possible adequately to express in words how much it meant to me to follow Marshal Ney through the noise and sensations of his life while the monks of St. Michael's pursued the even rhythm of their devotions and daily work."
The hook is. in fact, more a life of Ney and a study of the role of the Marshal and others associated with him before, during and after the Hundred Days. than the actual story of his trial. The latter. when one finally reaches it, is far less interesting. for example, than the Waterloo campaign. By that time political fatality and the blindness of men had taken control and the play was over.
The problem of loyalties in the light of conflicting and shortsighted politics. with that dim and difficult ideal the best good of one's country-always at stake is the real theme of this hook, and the reader cannot but think all the time of the later parallel of the cpnration after the last war.
As with Petain. the hero of Verdun, so with Ney, the Bravest of the Brave, the terrible word 'treason' is unthinkable. Error.
stupidity, mistaken judgment. these arc possible and even inevitable in times of stress. But heroes are shot and banished and. one day, rehabilitated.
It all makes one realise how blind man is, how much blinder the mob and the political party. Oddly enough, it is often the rascal, like Talleyrand and Fouche, who has the more enlightened view-the virtuous, like the daughter of Louis XVI, who are hardest and blindest.
Mr. Kurtz has chosen an exciting and fascinating theme and his book is certainly one of those of which it can be said that once started, it cannot he put down.
standing and love of God's creatures. free of all sentiment and cant. "You could educate a tiger or a leopard until he graduated in philosophy and he would still obey his inner compulsion to hunt. to catch, to kill. It was for this and not for the arena, that he was created." These are the last two sentences, in a long. large book, and one is sad to reach them.