Page 6, 8th August 1941

8th August 1941
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Page 6, 8th August 1941 — Masefield's Chapter of Autobiography
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Locations: New York, Rotterdam

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Masefield's Chapter of Autobiography

In the Mill. By John Masefield. mann, 75. 6th).

Witchcraft. By Charles Williams. (Faber and Faber. 12s. 6d.).

I Am Persuaded. By Julian Duguid. (Jonathan Cape, 10a, 6d.1.

Another Part of Me Forest. By G. B. Stern. (Cassell, 12s. 6d.).

My Sister and I. By Dirk van der lieide. (Faber and Faber, (s. 6d.).

The Prisoner at Laeken. By Emile Cammaerts, (Crosse: Press, 10s, 6d.).

Reviewed by WILFRID ROOKE LEY MR. MASEE1ELD'S " chapter of autobiography " In The Mill is an account of the two years he spent as a factory-hand in a carpet mill in New York. The period was somewhere in the 'nineties. He was seventeen, he had left the sea, he was not at all clear what he wits' going to do with his life, and though deep within himself was a longing to he a writer, his first idea was to save enough money to work his way through an American college, study medicine, qualify as a doctor, and so, as he says, lead a life useful to others.

There came a day, however, when " I knew that medicine was not the law of my being. but the shadow of it; and thin my law was 10 follow poetry, evea if I died of Zr."

The classics were an unknown would to him when he entered the mill, poets like Chaucer and Keats and Shelley little more than names. He began buying hooka and devouring them, and each was a voyage of discovery leading him nearer and nearer to his vocation.

As a mill-hand he was keen and industrious. He was interested in his fellowworkmen. His life was ascetic and dis

ciplined. It was an enormous mill employing thousands of hands. The work was so sub-divided that each man saw only a portion of it: yet all felt the excitement, he says, of being there for a common purpose, and if there had been lunch-hour lectures on carpet manufacture, describing the whole process from start to finish, he believed that all the workmen would have attended.

As to economic conditions, he says " there was a strong feeling in America that no life should fall below a certain standard" and that the factory-hands " were defended, first by dignity, then, by hope; and these two comforts, long denied ro many Euro pean workers. are by no means 1 le seems to imply that human dignity and the craftsman's responsibility can be assured within the framework of industrial capitalism; nor is he one al those mystical moderns who think that a carpet woven on a hand loom is ip.so facto better or more hcautilel than one woven on a power loom.

We hear nothing of " wage-slavery " in this gentle, persuasive account of factory life; nor does he seem to have considered himself or his fellow-workmen " subhuman." " I repeat that I have not/hug but gratitude towards the mill; it gave me a square deal, with ample pay for a good day's work, and the leisure for which I had longed for years; it gave me a chance to study."

Altogether, this is a most refreshing hook, with plenty of incident, suffused with a charming personality, and full of provocation for the amateur economist, especially those followers of the arts who think the world can only be saved by a return to the primitive.

0UR old friend the Spanish Inquisition

crops up, of course, in Mr. Charles

Witchcraft, but in a role that will surprise some of our fellow-countrymen. " The one official body," he says, " that appears to have deprecated the general belief (in witches) and to have taken the trouble to check, if not wholly to suppress, the clamour of accusation, was the Spanish Inquisition, The Roman Inquisition followed suit, a little later: but the Spaniards were the fast and firmest."

Witch-fronting swept Europe like a fever for centuries. Its victims were convicted on the flimsiest evidence, as often as not by confessions of other accused persons. The Inquisition, in the face of considerable popular opposition, not only insisted on sifting the evidence with the greatest care but limited the use of torture. Mr. Williams is at his best when he is dealing with this side of his subject.

There is a passage, too, in his description of the trial of Gilles de Reis in which one aspect of the Middle Ages, little understood to-day. challenges the imagination. Gilles has been ordered to read his confession in open court:—" He was dressed hi black: Iris voice was heavy; the confession was fall and detailed. The rake continued: murder after murder, pain after pain, loathsomeness after loathsomeness. Once someone screamed. The voice continued; murder after murder. pain after paiu. animalism after animalism. The bishop went up to the Crucifix that hung over the seats of the fudges, and veiled it. There were some things men could not bear that the carved image should see. The voice broke into repentant cries, to Gad, to the Church, to the parents of the dead. The bishop came down to the prisoner and embraced hint. praying aloud that he might be purged and redeemed,. There, clasped, the two stood."

As Mr. Williams comments so rightly, " That, as well as torture, was the Middle Ages."

MR. Julian Duguid is a popular author vswhose books of travel and adventure have won him a large public. His latest hook, I Am Persuaded, tells of a spiritual journey from scepticism to faith. The faith he has discovered—or re-discovered—is entirelY personal and rests. as he would him self avow, on no authoritarian basis. His book is likely to he of value to those who, like himself at one time imagine religion to be a myth, those " mental inhabitants of Bloomsbury," as he calls them, " that queer twilight of the send." who, as he says, " have had their day of sneering"; but such should be warned that what he has to tell them of the faith of Catholic Christendom is simply not true.

There are such excellent passages in the book—his remarks, for instance, on the present generation's rebellion against the unimaginative material scientist---and so many subjects, such as primitive religion, heredity, magic. psychology, are discussed with such understanding, that it is indeed strange that he should not have been at equal pains to inform himself on the bare facts of Christian theology. It would have taken the briefest incursion into Catholic manuals to discover, or he could have learned from the simplest Catholic laymen, that what the Church teaches as to theolo.

gical speculation, the Immaculate Conception, evolution, the Blessed Sacrament is not what he says she teaches.

One clings to what is positive and constructive in a book of this sort,and the passage from darkness to light is of itself positive enough: one's only regret is that the light, as he finds it, should be so tilled with shadows.

ANOTHER Part of the Forest is about the best non-stop variety entertainment I have found between the covers of a book. Lovers of Tents of Israel (that multitude !) should know what they are in for, but even they will Sc surprised.

Miss Stern's reminiscences seem to cover every subject under the sun. Open the book wherever you will and just read on. You will stumble upon some delightful anecdote, some lovely description of the countryside; you will find yourself in Hollywood or the South of France; you will be tasting in imagination rare dishes and memorable vintages; you will be hob-nobbing with one or other of the amusing and often famous personages who have crowded into the novelist's life since the herself, how many years ago, first leapt to fame.

Book-chat has never been better done; good humour and a zest for living pervades every page; and wit is so sustained and scintillating that one wonders how she keeps it up. Don't waste this hook on summer evenings when everything in the garden is lovely ; save it for the long dark nights when the Hun is in the sky. It may make all the difference.

I F I may intrude a note, not indeed of dis sent, hut of interrogation, in the chorus that had hailed My Sister and I as " the mast moving document that has come out of the war," it is to be hoped that this little Dutch hay's uncanny sense of form and uncanny trick of saying the polite word to the right people at the right time are not altogether sell-inspired.

Dirk van de Heide was twelve years old when he wrote these pages of his diary. He was living on the outskirts of Rotterdam, and the only worry on the horizon was an essay on Erasmus he had to write for the schoolmaster. That essay was never written, Instead he lived through five days of the blitzkrieg, escaped with his sister to England, and thence to America.

The book shows the impact of war on an ordinary normal youngster. It is perfectly authentic, save, as I suggest, for a certain trimming into shape; like Algernon's hair in The baportance of Being Ernest, " it curls naturally—with a like help from others." The translation is full of Americanisms which rather jar on the English ear.

MILE Cammaerts' The Prisoner at Lae..

ken. with its preface by Sir Roger Keys, disposes once and for all of the legend that the King of the Belgians was a traitor to his country. This legend was a deliberate invention of M. Reynaud to cover the French. The King had put himself under the French High Command and had therefore no responsibility for what had happened ; his surrender was made with the full knowledge of both the French and English military authorities and their Cabinets; it did not cause the retreat upon Dunkirk. For this had already begun ; and the alternative, so far from helping to delay the German advance, would have meant useless massacre. By the Belgian Constitution the King is both Head of the Government and Commanderin-Chief. He could not act in both capacities at the same time, i.e., escape with his ministers and remain with his troops. He chose the latter.

The wisdom of his choice grows more apparent every day. He is a prisoner of war who has refused to have any truck with Hitler or raise a finger to help his " new order," and thus he has become a rallyingpoint and an inspiration to his suffering people.

The legend should have been scotched a year ago. The evidence now available was available then. It should not have been left to private individuals to vindicate the honour of the King.

ANSWERS TO ECCLESIASTICAL QUIZ Questions are on page 3.

1. St. Leonard and St. Roch. St. Germaine Cousin is being invoked in France at present. 2. From the statue of Our Lady which stood there betore the Reformation. 3. It was like coriander seed, white, and the taste thereof like to flour and honey (Exodus 16-31) 4. A sect of the second century who maintained that the Messiah was Seth, son of Adam. 5. An ecclesiastical garment in common use before the Reformation. It was a kind of hood, fur-lined, and principally used by canons as a protection for the head during Office in choir. 6. Rue—so called because of its use in exorcism. It was formerly supposed to prevent contagion.




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