Philip Stanhope (5th Earl Stanhope) tells us in Notes of Conversations with the Duke of Wellington, 1831-51 (1886, posthumous) that Wellington said to him at Sudbourn Hall in Suffolk on November 4 1831:
“The French system of conscription brings together a fair sample of all classes; ours is composed of the scum of the earth – the mere scum of the earth. It is only wonderful that we should be able to make so much out of them afterwards.”
He says it again at Deal Castle on November 11:
“A French army is composed very differently from ours. The conscription calls out a share of every class – no matter whether your son or my son – all must march; but our friends – I may say it in this room – are the very scum of the earth. People talk of their enlisting from their fine military feeling – all stuff – no such thing. Some of our men enlist from having got bastard children – some for minor offences – many more for drink; but you can hardly conceive such a set brought together, and it really is wonderful that we should have made them the fine fellows they are.”
The phrase is in 1 Corinthians 4:13, but the King James version says “filth of the world”. The OED shows the first use of Wellington’s version as being 1712, by John Arbuthnot in his History of John Bull: “Scoundrels! Dogs! the Scum of the Earth!”. Or is it from a different translation of the Bible?
Ian Hislop quotes Wellington in the second part of his BBC television Stiff Upper Lip, An Emotional History of Britain, to show how sensibilities had changed a generation later, when, for the first time in Britain, a monument was built to the common soldier. John Bell’s Crimean War Memorial (1861) in Waterloo Place shows three anonymous guardsmen surmounted by a female allegorical figure of Honour.
The Victoria Cross was introduced in 1856 to recognise acts of valour by ordinary soldiers during the Crimean War. The French equivalent was the St Helena medal (post here).
The officers had been discredited by the disasters of that war, as they would be by those of the Boer War and First World War. The first tombs of an unknown soldier were unveiled in London and Paris in 1920.
I reviewed the first part of Hislop’s series in a post called Wellington’s violin. Television history always simplifies, but Hislop doesn’t produce rubbish, for all his lightness of touch.
Passing thought: Tchaikovsky’s direct musical appeal to the emotions was disturbing to some Victorians. See Hubert Parry’s remarks on him.
Other Wellington quotations in Wikiquote (I have checked all the Stanhope quotations here and the Hardy).
Postscript to a letter to his brother Henry Wellesley, May 22 1814, published in Supplementary Despatches and Memoranda of Field Marshal Arthur, Duke of Wellington (1862) by Arthur Wellesley, 2nd Duke of Wellington:
“I believe I forgot to tell you I was made a Duke.”
Exchange said to have occurred at the Battle of Waterloo on June 18 1815 after Lord Uxbridge lost his leg to a cannonball, as quoted in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004):
“Uxbridge: By God, sir, I’ve lost my leg!
Wellington: By God, sir, so you have!”
Thomas Hardy, portraying the incident in The Dynasts, Part III, Act VII, Scene viii:
“Uxbridge: I have lost my leg, by God!
Wellington: By God, and have you!”
Wellington in 1824 to John Joseph Stockdale, who threatened to publish anecdotes of Wellington and his mistress Harriette Wilson, as quoted in Elizabeth Longford, Wellington – The Years of the Sword (1969):
“Publish and be damned.”
This has often been recounted as a response to Wilson’s own threat to publish her memoirs and his letters. The story seems to have started with Confessions of Julia Johnstone in Contradiction to the Fables of Harriette Wilson (1825), where she states that his reply had been “write and be damned”.
Philip Stanhope tells us in Notes of Conversations with the Duke of Wellington, 1831-1851 (1886, posthumous) that Wellington said to Croker at Sudbourn Hall on November 3 1831 (anticipating FDR):
“The only thing I am afraid of is fear.”
Allegedly in notes by Wellington dated September 18 1836 quoted by Stanhope; the notes are in Stanhope, but I can’t find the quotation:
“Circumstances over which I have no control.”
Archive for the 'Britain' Category
Even after the French Revolution, even after the advent of Napoleon, it was regarded as an outrage when, upon the breakdown of the Peace of Amiens and the consequent resumption of war between England and France, Napoleon decreed, on the 22nd May, 1803, that all British civilians between the ages of eighteen and sixty who happened to be travelling in France should be interned. Napoleon defended his action not, as any Government would defend the same action at the present day, on the simple ground that war had broken out. He admitted that the internment of enemy citizens in war-time was a breach of the rules of the game; and he defended his action as reprisals for the alleged seizure of two French merchantmen by the British Navy before war had been declared. Yet Napoleon did not “get away with it”. His action was condemned not only by contemporary public opinion but also by posterity. It is still described as “his unheard-of action, which condemned some 10,000 Britons to detention”, in a book published as recently as A.D. 1904 [footnote: Rose, John Holland: The Life of Napoleon I (London 1904, Bell, 2 vols.), vol. i, p. 426.] – only ten years before “enemy aliens” were being interned wholesale, as a matter of course, by all belligerent Governments, upon the outbreak of the Great War of our generation in 1914.
A Study of History, Vol IV, OUP, 1939
The first part of Ian Hislop’s three-part series on BBC2 television Stiff Upper Lip, An Emotional History of Britain may have used a cultural stereotype to make superficial television history, but it had a good script. I’d have suggested as a subtitle Or, When Did England Become Brazil? if that did not imply that the so-called stiff upper lip had been a national characteristic of the English for a long time. In fact, as Hislop reminds us, people in the eighteenth century had aspired to feeling, not self-control. Sensibility may not always have been demonstrative, but it wasn’t impassive.
Nelson said: “Kiss me, Hardy” to his captain as he lay dying on HMS Victory. Wellington’s face was a mask, and he had burned his violin when rejected in love as a young man, rededicating himself to a military career. That contrast of temperaments symbolises a historical change.
(I can’t remember whether Hislop says that those were Nelson’s last words – they were not, quite – but he does tell us that some Victorians were unhappy enough with them to suggest that he had lapsed into Turkish and actually said “Kismet, Hardy”.)
Title of Austen’s first novel, Sense and Sensibility. Then, in Emma: “John Knightley made his appearance, and ‘How d’ye do, George?’ and ‘John, how are you?’ succeeded in the true English style, burying under a calmness that seemed all but indifference, the real attachment which would have led either of them, if requisite, to do every thing for the good of the other.”
Hislop didn’t say this, but according to Wikipedia “the idiom [stiff upper lip] seems [...] of American origin; its earliest known example is in a publication called the Massachusetts Spy for 14 June 1815: ‘I kept a stiff upper lip, and bought [a] license to sell my goods.’” The source says: “[The phrase] is well recorded throughout the nineteenth century in works like Thomas Haliburton’s The Clockmaker of 1837, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin of 1852, and in works by Horatio Alger, Petroleum V Nasby, Mark Twain, and others. It was only near the end of the century that it started to appear in British publications.”
Nevertheless, there was a change in manners in England. It was a reaction to the displays of the violent emotion unleashed in the French Revolution. Hislop visits the wonderful Zoffany exhibition at the Royal Academy which ran earlier this year. Intimate, elegant, ironically-observed scenes of men and women of sensibility in the main part of Zoffany’s work. Then the horror of Plundering the King’s Cellar at Paris (1794).
The first part of the series is on iPlayer until October 23. The rest follows. I hope it doesn’t parody the Victorians. The end will obviously show the arrival of the new emotionalism. I wonder whether he will mention Mafeking Night, the display of unrestrained jingoistic emotions by the masses in 1900 which aroused feelings of dismay, in the educated classes who observed it, almost as strong as those which had been aroused by the French Revolution – and guaranteed, perhaps, several more generations of class-snobbery and the continuation of the stiff upper lip.
The first Beatles single and the first James Bond film – Love Me Do and Dr No – were released 50 years ago today in the UK.
The Brazilian Girl from Ipanema, Garota de Ipanema. Far too well known to post.
The cosmic Telstar (released August 17 in UK):
The Japanese Sukiyaki (not quite 1962: released Japan 1961, arrived UK and US 1963):
In Japan it was Ue o Muite Arukō, 上を向いて歩こう, I Will Walk Looking Up. Sukiyaki was a meaningless title used in the West. Sakamoto died on Japan Airlines Flight 123 on August 12 1985.
In Russia it was Podmoskovnye Vechera, Подмосковные вечера, Evenings in Moscow Oblast.
Here’s Van Cliburn doing it in Moscow:
Cliburn was the young Texan who won the first International Tchaikovsky Competition in 1958. It was one of the great cultural episodes of the Cold War, like Gould’s visit (1957), Nureyev’s defection (1961) and Stravinsky’s return visit (1962 again). Cliburn’s performance of Tchaikovsky’s first concerto and Rachmaninoff’s third gave him an eight-minute standing ovation. The judges asked permission of Khrushchev to give first prize to an American. “Is he the best?” Khrushchev asked. “Then give him the prize.” It was the year after Sputnik. Cliburn returned home to a ticker-tape parade in New York. This clip may be from his visit of 1962 for the second competition. The first prize then was shared by Vladimir Ashkenazy and John Ogdon.
The Van Cliburn International Piano Competition was held first in 1962 in Fort Worth.
The real Telstar (launched Cape Canaveral July 10; note mention of Toynbee):
Tetralogy, or trilogy with sequel:
The Age of Extremes: The Short Twentieth Century, 1914–1991 (UK title) 1994
Editor, with Terence Ranger, and contributor, The Invention of Tradition 1983
A final book, Fractured Spring, sent to the publisher a few months ago, will appear in 2013.
Schama meets Hobsbawm (conversation last year, post here).
Interview with Silvia Lemus, wife of Carlos Fuentes, perhaps for Mexican television and presumably from circa 1994:
A German film at the time could have shown a similar anachronism, Max Bruch. Saint-Saëns’s dates are 1835-1921, Bruch’s 1838-1920.
S-S is conducting part of the ballet music from (I think) Act 2 of his opera Henry VIII, imagining the orchestra, with Cortot playing a piano reduction in front of him. The film, of course, is silent. Guitry tells us (1952) that they could not assemble an orchestra of eighty musicians during the war, and the irascible Saint-Saëns finally agreed to do it with only one.
Saint-Saëns wrote some hits, but is also a connoisseur’s composer. Everything is beautifully-crafted. There are surprises, often charm, but rarely mystery, and always restraint. He’s an emotional bucket that never slops over, as un-German in his way as Debussy. But there’s joy in the Organ Symphony (as of someone who has had a weight lifted from his mind).
Like Tchaikovsky and Dvořák, he never stopped writing operas and most of them, like most of theirs, have not travelled well. Henry VIII was premiered in 1883, a few years after Samson and Dalila. The libretto was by Léonce Détroyat and Armand Silvestre and was based on a seventeenth-century play, El cisma en Inglaterra (The Schism in England), by Pedro Calderón de la Barca. It deals with the discarding of Catherine of Aragon in favour of Anne Boleyn.
Act II ballet. Danseurs: Dominique Khalfouni, Jan Broeckx. Chorégraphie: Pierre Lacotte. Orchestre lyrique français (dir. : Alain Guignal). Direction artistique, mise en scène et réalisation : Pierre Jourdan. Théâtre impérial de Compiègne, 1991.
Divertissement: Fête populaire dans le parc de Richmond
N° 1. Introduction : Entrée des clans
N° 2. Idylle écossaise
N° 3. La fête du houblon
N° 4. Danse de la gitane
N° 5. Scherzetto
N° 6. Gigue et finale
Gypsy dance in the reign of Henry VIII? Actually, yes. The first gypsies are said to have arrived in England, in their odyssey from India, during his reign.
Saint-Saëns wanted the French to stop playing all German music during the war. He travelled to San Francisco in 1915, conducted the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra during the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, a world fair celebrating the completion of the Panama Canal, and produced a cantata, Hail California!
He had made recordings of various of his works (and some Chopin and perhaps other music) at the piano. There are gramophone recordings from 1904 and 1919, some Welte-Mignon piano rolls from 1905, a Duo-Art piano roll from 1915. Complete list as far as I know.
In 1908 he had become the first established composer to write for a film, L’assassinat du Duc de Guise (by agents of Henri III in 1588). Here it is. Somebody comments: “This music is TERRIBLE, the scoring alone being slipshod and annoying. I honestly wonder if someone else did it and passed it off as being by Saint-Saens.” I don’t know what they are talking about, though recording and performance are not ideal.
The phrase is by Samuel Johnson, referring to David Garrick in his essay on Edmund Smith in Lives of the Most Eminent English Poets (1781):
“I am disappointed by that stroke of death, which has eclipsed the gaiety of nations, and impoverished the publick stock of harmless pleasure.”
Victims of corrupted power, drilled into passivity.
C. R. W. Nevinson, Marching Men; gouache, 1916. Imperial War Museum, London
Nevinson was one of the conduits between the futurist continental avant-garde of the second decade of the twentieth century and English illustration and commercial art of the ’30s. A twenty-year assimilation of futurism into popular art. He served as a war artist in France. My summary of him.
With Jane Caplan, A Study of History, new one-volume abridgement, with new material and revisions and, for the first time, illustrations, and with a Foreword by Toynbee, Thames & Hudson, 1972
The book has a black and white image. Caption probably by Caplan.
A riffle of laughter travels round an English audience when a short piece of classical music has a throwaway ending. It rippled the silence at the end of the scherzo alla marcia at the premiere of Vaughan Williams 8 in 1956 and at the end of Brahms’s Der Schmied with Alice Coote and Graham Johnson at Wigmore Hall last night.
VW, Previn, LSO. There’s a weightier performance with Handley and the Royal Liverpool Phil here which might not have got it. Is he alluding to the equivalent movement in Beethoven 8?
Met Howard Hodgkin at Wigmore. His pictures are poems and memories. I can see them as being in an English tradition, but, even though the effect may depend on them, I find his frames, two- and three-dimensional, kitsch.
One of the features of the Christian liturgy was a recurrence of its ritual in both annual and weekly cycles. The Christian liturgical week was modelled on a Jewish prototype; and, though the Christian copy had been differentiated from the Jewish original by making the first day of the week the holy day instead of the seventh, the Christian adaptation still followed the pristine Jewish dispensation in retaining the Jewish name for the eve of the Sabbath. In the Greek Christian vocabulary, Friday continued to be called “the preparation” (Παρασκευή) [Paraskevi, which is still the word in modern Greek] – in accordance with a Jewish usage in which this elliptical term explained itself. In the psychological atmosphere of a post-Exilic Judaism, in which a stateless diasporà maintained its esprit de corps by a common devotion to the keeping of the Mosaic Law, “the preparation” sans phrase could mean nothing but “the preparation for the Sabbath”.
in the psychological atmosphere of a pre-Alexandrine Athenian sovereign city-state whose citizens worshipped their own then still potent corporate political power under the name of Athena Poliûchus [Athena Protector],
the word had had a merely political connotation.
In the usage of Thucydides, writing for an Athenian public for whom politics were the breath of life, and whose political-mindedness was being accentuated in the historian’s generation by the military ordeal of the Great Atheno-Peloponnesian War, the word Παρασκευὴ could be used as elliptically as it was afterwards to be used in the Septuagint [Greek Old Testament] to convey, just as unmistakably, an entirely different meaning. Thucydides uses the word to signify what a generation of Englishmen, overtaken unawares by a world war in the year A.D. 1914, learnt ruefully to take to heart as “preparedness” when they found themselves within an ace of defeat owing to their pre-war neglect to emulate the Germans in building up a stock of armaments to stand them in good stead in a fight for their national existence.
Is he referring to the 1915 shell crisis? Britain is considered to have won the naval arms race.
A Study of History, Vol VII, OUP, 1954
“By the death of the Third Earl Russell (or Bertrand Russell, as he preferred to call himself) at the age of ninety, a link with a very distant past is severed. His grandfather, Lord John Russell, the Victorian Prime Minister, visited Napoleon in Elba; his maternal grandmother was a friend of the Young Pretender’s widow. In his youth he did work of importance in mathematical logic, but his eccentric attitude during the First World War revealed a lack of balanced judgment which increasingly infected his later writings. Perhaps this is attributable, at least in part, to the fact that he did not enjoy the advantages of a public school education, but was taught at home by tutors until the age of 18, when he entered Trinity College, Cambridge, becoming 7th Wrangler in 1893 and a Fellow in 1895. During the fifteen years that followed, he produced the books upon which his reputation in the learned world was based: The Foundations of Geometry, The Philosophy of Leibniz, The Principles of Mathematics, and (in collaboration with Dr. A. N. Whitehead) Principia Mathematica. The last work, which was of great importance in its day, doubtless owed much of its superiority to Dr. (afterwards Professor) Whitehead, a man who, as his subsequent writings showed, was possessed of that insight and spiritual depth so notably absent in Russell; for Russell’s argumentation, ingenious and clever as it is, ignores those higher considerations that transcend mere logic.
“This lack of spiritual depth became painfully evident during the First World War, when Russell, although (to do him justice) he never minimized the wrong done to Belgium, perversely maintained that, war being an evil, the aim of statesmanship should have been to bring the war to an end as soon as possible, which would have been achieved by British neutrality and a German victory. It must be supposed that mathematical studies had caused him to take a wrongly quantitative view which ignored the question of principle involved. Throughout the war, he continued to urge that it should be ended, on no matter what terms. Trinity College, very properly, deprived him of his lectureship, and for some months of 1918 he was in prison.
“In 1920 he paid a brief visit to Russia, whose government did not impress him favourably, and a longer visit to China, where he enjoyed the rationalism of the traditional civilization, with its still surviving flavour of the eighteenth century. In subsequent years his energies were dissipated in writings advocating socialism, educational reform, and a less rigid code of morals as regards marriage. At times, however, he returned to less topical subjects. His historical writings, by their style and their wit, conceal from careless readers the superficiality of the antiquated rationalism which he professed to the end.
“In the Second World War he took no public part, having escaped to a neutral country just before its outbreak. In private conversation he was wont to say that homicidal lunatics were well employed in killing each other, but that sensible men would keep out of their way while they were doing it. Fortunately this outlook, which is reminiscent of Bentham, has become rare in this age, which recognizes that heroism has a value independent of its utility. True, much of what was once the civilized world lies in ruins; but no right-thinking person can admit that those who died for the right in the great struggle have died in vain.
“His life, for all its waywardness, had a certain anachronistic consistency, reminiscent of that of the aristocratic rebels of the early nineteenth century. His principles were curious, but, such as they were, they governed his actions. In private life he showed none of the acerbity which marred his writings, but was a genial conversationalist and not devoid of human sympathy. He had many friends, but had survived almost all of them. Nevertheless, to those who remained he appeared, in extreme old age, full of enjoyment, no doubt owing, in large measure, to his invariable health, for politically, during his last years, he was as isolated as Milton after the Restoration. He was the last survivor of a dead epoch.”
Russell didn’t die at ninety, of course, but at ninety-seven. This was written by Russell himself for publication, or not, in The Times on June 1 1962 and was actually published in The Listener on August 12 1936. The anticipatory reference to the Second World War is startling. The Germans had reoccupied the Rhineland in March.
Text taken from a Bertrand Russell Society web page. In 1959 he reads part of the piece at the start of his interview with John Freeman on BBC Television, posted here.
I hadn’t realised there was a photograph of Wellington: a daguerreotype by Antoine Claudet from 1844, eight years before his death. Click for better resolution.
Below, photographs of Napoleon’s soldiers taken in the third quarter of the century. Has to be seen in full screen. The pride and élan of the earlier days is still in their faces. Some of the uniforms are Second Empire, ie not of the original period. I can’t tell you about the music.
The pictures follow the creation in 1857 of the St Helena Medal by Napoleon III. Its designer was Albert Désiré Barre. The obverse bears the effigy of Napoleon I, surrounded by the inscription NAPOLEON I EMPEREUR. The reverse has A SES COMPAGNONS DE GLOIRE SA DERNIÈRE PENSÉE STE. HÉLÈNE 5 MAI 1821, surrounded by CAMPAGNES DE 1792 A 1815. Accents as shown.
I once saw a man, Bertrand Russell, who had heard a first-hand account of Napoleon.
Bridge, Scherzo Phantastick (quartet), 1901
Bridge, Phantasie String Quartet, 1905
Ireland, Phantasie Trio, 1906
Bridge, Phantasie Piano Trio, 1907
Bridge, Phantasie Piano Quartet, 1910
Bowen, Phantasie Trio, c 1910
Vaughan Williams, Phantasy Quintet, 1912
Goossens, Phantasy Quartet, 1915
Holst, Phantasy Quartet on British Folk Songs, 1916
Bowen, Phantasy for Viola and Piano, 1918
Bax, Phantasy for Viola and Orchestra, 1920
Stanford, Phantasy for Horn and String Quartet, 1922
Goossens, Phantasy Sextet, 1923
Coates, The Selfish Giant, Phantasy (orchestra), 1925
Coates, The Three Bears, Phantasy (orchestra), 1926
Bax, Phantasy Sonata for Viola and Harp, 1927
Coates, Cinderella, Phantasy (orchestra), 1930
Bowen, Phantasie Quintet, 1932
Britten, Phantasy Quintet (WoO), 1932
Britten, Phantasy (quartet) (opus 2), 1932
Arnold, Phantasy for String Quartet “Vita Abundans”, 1941
Dunhill, Phantasy Suite for Clarinet and Piano, 1941
Goossens, Phantasy Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, 1942
Moeran, Phantasy Quartet, 1946
Bax, Phantasie in Four Pieces for Piano, 1947
Doubtless others. Nothing by Delius, who preferred fantasy. York Bowen was a good composer, at least when writing on a small scale. Arnold later wrote fantasies. I don’t think anyone has made this (not entirely pointless) list before.
Did the fashion come from Walter Willson Cobbett’s chamber music competitions, established in 1905, for works in one movement reflecting the spirit and structure of the Elizabethan fancie or phantasy? Were Bridge’s and others’ early pieces submitted to Cobbett? The answer to that seems to be yes. Did he start the revival of interest in Elizabethan music? Did Tippett and Britten discover it for themselves?
Britten, opus 2, Gernot Schmalfuß, oboe; Andreas Krecher, violin; Niklas Schwarz, viola; Armin Fromm, cello
Three things I’d have painted if I had been a British artist in the ’70s and ’80s:
The Queen sitting on what we take to be the throne. Crushed Ribena carton on ground in front of it. Style of Lucian Freud.
R Vaughan Williams besuited surrounded by a couple of hundred shirtless dancers: Vaughan Williams in Heaven.
Magnetic tape tangled up in a tree.
Sir Herbert Maxwell, in his Sixty Years a Queen, “The Story of Her Majesty’s Reign, Illustrated Chiefly from the Royal Collections”, [footnote: London 1897, arranged and printed by Eyre & Spottiswoode, published by Harmsworth Bros.] revealed to me, in his panorama, the achievements of Victorian England.
One of the Acknowledgments in the tenth volume of the Study which were so comprehensively ridiculed by Trevor-Roper.
Toynbee had referred to the same book in the preceding volume.
“History is now at an end” was the inaudible slogan of the celebrations of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in A.D. 1897, which made a vivid and lasting impression upon the present writer’s childish imagination; and “this history is therefore final” was the invisible motto on the title-page of a topical publication – Sixty Years a Queen [footnote: Maxwell, Bart., Sir H.: Sixty Years a Queen (London  [bracket in original], Harmsworth).] – which was the same child’s earliest source book of Western history in the nineteenth century.
“To me it is a matter of indifference whether he read some unimportant book in the library of the Athenæum Club or in No. 45 Pembroke Square, in the summer of 1907 or in September 1952.” Arnold Toynbee’s Millennium, Encounter, June 1957.
But he misses the point of those Acknowledgments. There is a larger humility and delight behind the apparent self-centredness. And Toynbee is a romantic. Moreover, if you have a critical mind, it doesn’t matter what you read, since all history is two histories anyway: the subject purportedly being handled and the viewpoint of the historian. The meaning is in the synthesis, as you, a further element, perceive it.
A Study of History, Vol X, OUP, 1954
A Study of History, Vol IX, OUP, 1954
Mid-way through the twentieth century of the Christian Era the Western Society was manifestly given over to the worship of a number of idols that had been the bane of other civilizations in the past; but, among these, one stood out above all the rest, and this was the cult of the institution of Parochial Sovereignty embodied in parochial states that were being worshipped by their respective subjects as very gods [footnote] and that were demonstrating their demonic power over their devotees by exacting from them human sacrifices of ever greater enormity in cycles of fratricidal wars of a violence that was increasing in a geometrical progression.
At some date during the latter part of the breathing-space between the general wars of A.D. 1914-18 and A.D. 1939-45, the writer of this Study heard the presiding officer of one of the livery companies of the City of London bear testimony which was convincing, because it was unselfconscious, to the primacy, in his Weltanschauung, of one of these tribe-worships. The occasion was a dinner at which the company was entertaining the delegates to an international congress that was in session in London at the time, and the presiding officer had risen to propose the toast “Church and King”. Having it on his mind that a majority of his guests were foreigners who would not be familiar with an English tribal custom, the president prefaced the toast with an apology and an explanation. No doubt, he said, the order in which he had rehearsed the two institutions that were to be honoured conjointly in the toast that he was about to propose might seem to a foreigner not only quaint but perhaps even positively unseemly. He apologized for abiding, nevertheless, by the traditional order, and explained that he did so because it was the pride of the city companies to be meticulous in preserving antique usages, even when these had become so anachronistic as to be open to misconstruction by the uninitiated.
A Study of History, Vol IX, OUP, 1954
It’s hard to make some historical points about the two Diamond Jubilees, 1897 and 2012, without seeming to inflate the importance of the subject and join a media stampede. (I’ve changed my June 8 post.)
I have quoted this before. Toynbee associates the growing prestige of the Crown in the twentieth century with the decline of British power.
The prestige and popularity which the British Crown was enjoying in the year 1937 would have astonished even the most sharp-sighted observer of the politics of the United Kingdom in 1837, on the eve of the accession of Queen Victoria – supposing that our imaginary observer could have returned to life after the lapse of a hundred years. It is true that in 1937 the Crown performed a practical service for which there had been no demand a hundred years back – as a personal link between the several fully self-governing members of the British Commonwealth of Nations [...]. Yet a contemporary English observer would not be disposed to believe that the twentieth-century revalorization of the Crown had been wholly, or even mainly, due to any such utilitarian constitutional consideration. The deeper reason why the British Crown was now once more attracting to itself the affections and the hopes of its subjects in the United Kingdom was because the English in this generation had a feeling – which was not the less strong for being unacknowledged – that England had now passed her political zenith. It was this feeling that was sapping the prestige and popularity of Parliament – the master institution of England in her maturity – and was restoring the prestige and popularity of the Crown, which had been the master institution of an age of political adolescence to which the twentieth-century Englishman was now wistfully looking back.
A Study of History, Vol VI, OUP, 1939 (footnote)
“Take up the White Man’s burden –
Send forth the best ye breed –
Go bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives’ need;
To wait in heavy harness,
On fluttered folk and wild –
Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
Half-devil and half-child.
Take up the White Man’s burden –
In patience to abide,
To veil the threat of terror
And check the show of pride;
By open speech and simple,
An hundred times made plain
To seek another’s profit,
And work another’s gain.
Take up the White Man’s burden –
The savage wars of peace –
Fill full the mouth of Famine
And bid the sickness cease;
And when your goal is nearest
The end for others sought,
Watch sloth and heathen Folly
Bring all your hopes to nought.
Take up the White Man’s burden –
No tawdry rule of kings,
But toil of serf and sweeper –
The tale of common things.
The ports ye shall not enter,
The roads ye shall not tread,
Go mark them with your living,
And mark them with your dead.
Take up the White Man’s burden –
And reap his old reward:
The blame of those ye better,
The hate of those ye guard –
The cry of hosts ye humour
(Ah, slowly!) toward the light: –
‘Why brought he us from bondage,
Our loved Egyptian night?’
Take up the White Man’s burden –
Ye dare not stoop to less –
Nor call too loud on Freedom
To cloak your weariness;
By all ye cry or whisper,
By all ye leave or do,
The silent, sullen peoples
Shall weigh your gods and you.
Take up the White Man’s burden –
Have done with childish days –
The lightly proferred laurel,
The easy, ungrudged praise.
Comes now, to search your manhood
Through all the thankless years
Cold, edged with dear-bought wisdom,
The judgment of your peers!”
Kipling. See last post but one, including first comment. The Times, February 4 1899; Wikipedia says McClure’s magazine with no exact date; The Five Nations (1903). The text here is from The Five Nations.
“To veil the threat of terror.” That word already.
Jan Morris’s phrase for the late British Empire, last post.
I forget what historian said, in a memorable passage, that England after 1895 no longer, to him, felt like England: something febrile had come into the atmosphere.
Was it Élie Halévy?, who wrote at the beginning of the Epilogue of his History of the English People:
“I will conclude my [principal] narrative about the year 1895, that is to say, about the time when Gladstone disappeared from political life. Neither Chamberlain with his exploitations of the warlike passions of the democracy, nor Lloyd George, author of the budget of 1909, the Insurance Act of 1911 and the programme of land reform of 1912, were men of the Victorian age. The period between 1895 and 1914 does not belong to the British nineteenth century, as I understand it. It is at most the epilogue of that century, as it is the prologue of the century which opened with those four [fourteen, surely] years of tremendous upheaval, both military and social.”
Or am I half-remembering something more substantial in Halévy? Or in GM Young’s Portrait of an Age? Or in George Dangerfield’s The Strange Death of Liberal England? Dangerfield was writing more about the years immediately before 1914.
Halévy’s great book is called History of the English People in my Pelican edition, but is really History of the English People in the Nineteenth Century. It was published in France between 1913 and 1932 and in translation in England in 1931-32. The first volume – three in the Pelican series, perhaps it was divided in the French too – was on England in 1815. The second took the story to 1830 (an English date, too: accession of William IV, end of Wellington). The third to 1841 (second Peel ministry). The fourth, taking it to 1852, was never completed. The Epilogue on 1895-1914 is three more volumes in the Pelican series. I have never seen the intervening volumes in Pelicans.
The unfinished fourth volume was published in English in 1961 as Victorian Years, with a supplementary essay commissioned from RB McCallum to link it to the Epilogue. I own the six Pelicans (collectors’ pieces), published between 1937 and 1940.
Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee comes in the middle of that closing lustrum of the nineteenth century. Imperial events punctuate the years like gunshot reports.
Jameson Raid 1895-96, Transvaal Republic
Siege of Malakand 1897, North West Frontier Province
Fashoda Incident 1898, Sudan
Siege of Ladysmith 1899-1900, Natal
Siege of Mafeking 1899-1900, Transvaal Republic
None of them was a happy event or foregone conclusion, though this was the time of the greatest imperial ebullience. The scenes of hysterical celebration in England at the relief of Mafeking shocked many contemporary observers.
But the heady year 1897 produced Kipling’s Recessional, whose prescience is so remarkable that it hardly sinks in on one reading even today. (It is also a Hamlet, so full is it of quotations.)
“God of our fathers, known of old,
Lord of our far-flung battle-line,
Beneath whose awful Hand we hold
Dominion over palm and pine –
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget – lest we forget!
The tumult and the shouting dies;
The captains and the kings depart:
Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,
An humble and a contrite heart.
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget – lest we forget!
Far-called our navies melt away;
On dune and headland sinks the fire:
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!
Judge of the Nations, spare us yet,
Lest we forget – lest we forget!
If, drunk with sight of power, we loose
Wild tongues that have not Thee in awe,
Such boastings as the Gentiles use,
Or lesser breeds without the Law –
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget – lest we forget!
For heathen heart that puts her trust
In reeking tube and iron shard,
All valiant dust that builds on dust,
And guarding, calls not Thee to guard.
For frantic boast and foolish word –
Thy Mercy on Thy People, Lord!
Recessional was published in The Times on July 17 1897 and collected in The Five Nations (1903). The text here is from The Five Nations. Kipling had intended his Jubilee poem to be The White Man’s Burden, but that was published later (The Times, February 4 1899; Wikipedia says McClure’s magazine with no exact date; The Five Nations), when it was made to apply to American expansionism and given the subtitle The United States and the Philippine Islands. It, too, has its complexities.
Kipling, taking his whole achievement together, was surely one of the four fin-de-siècle English and Irish geniuses – with Elgar, Yeats and Chesterton. Wilde is a runner-up. Shaw, Wells and others are in the B list. Most of Elgar’s œuvre was a kind of recessional.
The musical hit of 1897, which reflected, perhaps helped to make, the public mood, was an Imperial March by the still little-known Edward Elgar. BBC Philharmonic, George Hurst.
Boult does it with a degree more urgency. It’s an Imperial summons, a pre-echo of the Pomp and Circumstance marches; there was also the Empire March of 1924 for the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley. The image is an unwrinkled Queen Victoria’s official Jubilee photograph.
The ninth symphony of Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Master of the Queen’s Music (“Sir?, symphony?, Master of what?”) is dedicated to the Queen for this Jubilee and has its premiere tomorrow with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic under Vasily Petrenko. Then it will be heard in the Proms. PMD writes about it here. There are anti-imperial things in the work. He had told us that the Antarctic symphony would be his last. One hopes that he is not inviting the curse of the ninth.
The music at the Jubilee service in St Paul’s on Tuesday contained a sub-Ruttersque piece by Will Todd. Why? Vaughan Williams’s Old 100th was taken too slowly.
The 1897 Jubilee was the culmination of a rehabilitation of the monarchy which had been started by Disraeli during his second ministry (from 1874), if not during his first. The monarchy had become a marginal institution, hardly in the public consciousness, and in aristocratic terms was in any case irrelevant. It had a constitutional function, but there was no pomp. Victoria, in perpetual mourning, never appeared in public. (She disliked ceremony to the end of her life. She hardly dressed up for the Jubilee.) Republicanism was far stronger in England than it is now. Bagehot had defined constitutional monarchy in modern terms in The English Constitution in 1867, but he cannot have foreseen what was about to happen to it.
Disraeli saw that the new global empire which was taking shape, and the industrialised democracy at the centre of it, now semi-educated (Education Act 1870), with the yellow press round the corner, needed a new unifying institution. Victoria was susceptible to flattery and Disraeli set to work on her. (She liked outsiders: her German husband Prince Albert, her Scottish servant John Brown, her Jewish prime minister Benjamin Disraeli, her Indian servant Abdul Karim. Brown made romantic Scotland flesh for her, “the Munshi” romantic India.)
In 1876 Disraeli pushed through a Royal Titles Act to make her Empress of India. She was proclaimed at the Delhi Durbar of 1877. The title was available. It had been in abeyance since the deposition of the last Mughal Emperor, Bahadur II, in 1858. The Mughal dynasty had ruled over most of the subcontinent from the sixteenth century, but had used the title Badshah (whence Pādeshāh, considered in the West to be equivalent to Emperor) without geographic designation. During the Indian rebellion of 1857, the rebel sepoys had proclaimed Bahadur II as Badshah-i-Hind or Emperor of India.
The emotional hold Disraeli had over Victoria in this came from the fact that her eldest daughter, Victoria, had in 1858 married the future Friedrich III of Prussia. In 1871 his father, Wilhelm I, had become Kaiser or Emperor. So Victoria’s daughter was an empress in waiting. For the daughter to upstage the mother wouldn’t do. (She was not an empress for long, as it turned out. Friedrich inherited the title in 1888, but died of natural causes in the same Year of Three Emperors, to make way for Kaiser Bill.)
Jan Morris in a 1997 BBC television documentary about the 1897 Jubilee (Jonathan Stamp; David Cannadine a consultant), on iPlayer here until tomorrow: “Powders, gold, palm trees, strands [...]. The whole image of India, then as now, had a romance to it, so for the British to feel that they were masters of this almost legendary, almost fictional, landscape on the other side of the earth was something that was very easy for an astute politician like Disraeli to exploit.”
The same elevation of monarchy to suit a modern, militaristic society occurred in Japan after the Meiji “restoration” of 1868, one of the many ways in which Japanese history has, at various times, strangely paralleled English. Here, too, the monarchy was brought out of abeyance, dusted down and given new ceremonies over which to preside.
Between 1876 and 1897, even as Britain’s relative industrial decline began, the image of Victoria as mother to a global family was perfected. (A youngish taxi driver in Dar es Salaam referred to the present Queen to me this year as “our mother”. How long can this go on?)
Her name was on the map from Victoria Falls to the city of Victoria in western Canada to the state of Victoria in Australia to Victoria on Hong Kong island. She never travelled in her Empire. India was the only part of it that lived somewhat in her imagination. (Her son visited India as Prince of Wales, just before she was made Empress.) But in 1897 the Empire came to London.
In 1877, 1903 and 1911, there were imperial durbars in Delhi. (George V attended the 1911 durbar. Edward VIII visited India as Prince of Wales. George VI, as far as I know, never did. Nor was there a durbar for him.) The last, judging from film of it, looks inflated to the point of vulgarity. Many (including Elgar and Chesterton) would find the Empire Exhibition of 1924 at Wembley, where the Duke of York struggled to make a speech, vulgar, though it wasn’t a royal event.
But on the whole, royal ceremonies have avoided inflation. George V’s Silver Jubilee in 1935 was a high point for the monarchy, and the king, rather than aggrandising himself, was famously humbled by it. Anyone looking at the 2012 Jubilee celebrations, whatever their views on the monarchy, would have to agree that Britain has a talent for this sort of thing, a sureness of touch which we hardly, any longer, show in anything else. Where does it come from? I suppose partly from a memory of medieval pageantry, partly from experience in constitutional ceremonies and ceremonies necessary in the running of an empire. I am sure that some of it comes from Mughal India, with its pomp and its processions, its colours and its swaying elephants. The British must have learned something from this. I don’t know whether Cannadine makes this point in his Ornamentalism. The point of that book, according to the Amazon blurb, was to show how “the British Empire was based on a conscious effort to export a model of class hierarchy and status from home out to overseas possessions. The Indian Raj and the tropics of Africa were run as though they were the ornate stately homes or broad-acred landed estates of southern England.” (“Ornate”!) An influence, in other words, in the opposite direction.
Simon Schama in the generally feeble BBC television coverage: “We must remember how extraordinary it is that the problems of Empire morphed into the genuine community of affection of the Commonwealth.” The Jubilee was not merely a British event. London this week was full of Commonwealth representatives, and doubtless some Gurkhas. London in 1897 was full of loyal, foreign Imperial regiments. Some of those soldiers must have died subsequently in France, Mesopotamia and elsewhere. But to one blogger, James Bridle, the present Jubilee is “false memory”.
In my early childhood I saw imperial flag-lowerings on television. Churchill’s funeral. Remembrance Sunday ceremonies in Whitehall. Images of endings. More recently, we have seen weddings and jubilees. Another funeral in 1997. An unhealthy amount of attention has been given to some of this.
It’s moving to hear old people in the film remembering their youthful pride in the Empire. The exhilaration of 1897 has proven hard to shake off. Many in Britain are still living, in some degree, under the spell of that year. In the last night of the Proms we have (to quote the film) “an echo of that distant euphoria”. After many soccer matches, we have an echo of Mafeking night.
Within a couple of years of 1897, the Second Boer War had begun, whose difficulties were a shock to the British, as those of the Vietnam war were to be to the Americans. They learned new, inhumane techniques of warfare, as the Americans did in Vietnam. Jan Morris in the film (how nice it always is to listen to her):
“Almost at once, looking back on it, it began to crumble [...]. Almost at once this vast and marvellous illusion turned out to be an illusion after all. Almost immediately the Boer War happened and there was the humiliation of the Empire, which it never quite got over. And after that, of course, came the much worse tragedies, the First World War, which perhaps made the British feel that they weren’t the masters of their fate, as they had fondly thought they would always be, and that things were not so certain, nothing was quite so bold and straight and square as the crowds watching the Diamond Jubilee going by had thought they were.”
Queen Victoria with Indian servants, Windsor Castle, 1895
The outlook prevalent among people of the middle class in Great Britain at the earliest date in the last decade of the nineteenth century of the Christian Era at which the writer had begun to be aware of the psychological atmosphere of his social milieu was something that was best conveyed in caricature. In this milieu in the eighteen-nineties the feeling was:
“History is now at an end; this history is therefore final”;
[footnote: Sellar, W.C., and Yeatman, R. J.: 1066 and All That (London 1930, Methuen), p. viii.] and at this date this Weltanschauung was shared with an English middle class by the children of the German and the Northern American victors in the latest bout of Modern Western wars (gerebantur circa A.D. 1848-71). The beneficiaries from this aftermath of the General War of A.D. 1792-1815 had not, by then, begun to suspect, any more than their English “opposite numbers” had, that the Modern Age of Western history had been wound up only to inaugurate a post-Modern Age pregnant with imminent experiences that were to be at least as tragic as any tragedies yet on record. At the close of the nineteenth century even a German middle class, that was then still permitting itself to indulge in criminally irresponsible day-dreams of more frisch fröhlich six-weeks’ wars, was of the same mind as its North American and English “opposite numbers” in its workaday sober senses. In these three provinces of a post-Modern Western World an unprecedentedly prosperous and comfortable Western middle class was taking it as a matter of course that the end of one age of one civilization’s history was the end of History itself at least so far as they and their kind were concerned. They were imagining that, for their benefit, a sane, safe, satisfactory Modern Life had miraculously come to stay as a timeless present. “History is now at an end” was the inaudible slogan of the celebrations of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in A.D. 1897, which made a vivid and lasting impression upon the present writer’s childish imagination; and “this history is therefore final” was the invisible motto on the title-page of a topical publication – Sixty Years a Queen [footnote: Maxwell, Bart., Sir H.: Sixty Years a Queen (London  [bracket in original], Harmsworth).] – which was the same child’s earliest source book of Western history in the nineteenth century. The assumption that the final product of those sixty years A.D. 1837-97 had come to stay was patently contrary to reason, considering that the pictures with which the text of Sixty Years a Queen was copiously illustrated presented a fascinatingly fast-moving pageant of change in every department of life, from Technology to Dress, in which change could clothe itself in visual form. In A.D. 1952 it was manifest in retrospect, even to the dullest eye, that this visual evidence had portended, not a perpetuation of the fleeting circumstances of late-nineteenth-century English middle-class life, but a revolutionary transformation of the ephemeral Victorian scene along the grim lines actually followed by the course of History within the next half-century. An oracular foreboding of the future was, indeed, uttered at the time by the Subconscious Psyche through an incongruous poetic medium. Yet Rudyard Kipling’s Recessional made little impression on the contemporaries of a Late Victorian poet who had found himself writing these ominous lines at an imperious Muse’s dictation. In the United Kingdom, as in Germany and in the Northern United States, the complacency of a post-Modern Western bourgeoisie remained unshaken till the outbreak of the first post-Modern general war in A.D. 1914.
English middle-class Conservatives for whom the Millennium had already arrived, and English middle-class Liberals for whom it lay only just round the corner, were, of course, aware that the English working class’s share in the middle class’s economic prosperity was shockingly small, and that British subjects in most of the colonies and dependencies of the United Kingdom were not enjoying a self-government that was the privilege of their fellow subjects in the United Kingdom itself and in a few other dominions of the British Crown; but these political and economic inequalities were discounted by Liberals as being something remediable and by Conservatives as being something inevitable. Citizens of the United States at the North were similarly aware, for their part, that their own economic prosperity was not shared by their fellow-citizens at the South, and that the fathers of these Southern contemporaries of theirs had seceded from the Union and had been brought back into it only by the force majeure of the North’s crushing victory over the South in a terrible civil war. Citizens of the German Reich were aware that the inhabitants of a “Reichsland” annexed from France after her crushing defeat in the Franco-Prussian War of A.D. 1870-1 were still French at heart and that the rest of a French nation which had not yet ceased to be a Great Power was still unreconciled to the amputation of the ceded departments. At the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries France was still entertaining thoughts of a revanche, and the subject population in Alsace-Lorraine was still dreaming the same dream of an eventual liberation as other subject populations in Slesvik, Poland, Macedonia, and Ireland. These dissatisfied contemporaries of a sated German, British, and North American bourgeoisie were nursing national grievances and national aspirations which did not permit them to acquiesce in a comfortable belief that “History” was “at an end”; indeed they could not have continued, as they did continue, to keep alight the flickering flame of a forlorn hope if they had succumbed to a Weltanschauung which, for them, would have spelled, not security, but despair. Yet their unwavering confidence that a, to them, intolerable established régime must be borne away, sooner or later, by Time’s “ever rolling stream” made little impression on the torpid imagination of “the Ascendancy”. “As a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth”; [footnote: Isa. liii. 7.] and, though “the Ascendancy” was under a delusion in mistaking for an intimation of consent a silence that was inspired by the watchword “N’en parlons jamais, y pensons toujours”, [footnote: The watchword suggested for the guidance of members of the rising generation in France, on the morrow of her loss of Alsace-Lorraine in A.D. 1871, by a French statesman of an older generation (? Paul Déroulède).] [unusual question mark ... it seems to have been Gambetta who said this] there was in A.D. 1897 no living man or woman, even among the most sanguine-minded prophets of a nationalist or a socialist revolution, who dreamed that a demand for national self-determination was going to break up the Hapsburg, Hohenzollern, and Romanov empires and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland within the next twenty-five years, and going to spread, within another twenty-five years, from a few sore spots in Western Europe and in Orthodox Christendom to the uttermost parts of the Old World, or that a demand for social democracy was going to spread from the urban working class in a few precociously industrialized provinces of the Western World to the peasantry of Mexico and China. Gandhi (natus A.D. 1869) and Lenin (natus A.D. 1870) were then still unknown names; and the word “Communism” then commemorated a lurid event in the past that had been the last eruption of History’s now extinct volcano. This ominous outbreak of savagery in a Parisian underworld in A.D. 1871 was written off by optimistic post-Modern Western minds as an abnormal atavistic reaction to the shock of a startling military disaster, and there was no discernible fear of the recrudescence of a conflagration that had been smothered now for longer than a quarter of a century under a bourgeois Third Republic’s wet blanket. In 1897 a Western bourgeois gentilhomme’s sleep was not being seriously disturbed by prophetic nightmares.
Victorian pennies were current until 1971, the year Britain completed its withdrawal from most of its bases east of Suez
A Study of History, Vol IX, OUP, 1954
Time, like an ever rolling stream,
Bears all its sons away;
They fly forgotten, as a dream
Dies at the opening day.
[Footnote: Watts, Isaac [...].]
We are in Glenn Gould territory at the beginning of the clip below. I don’t think Gould played William Croft, and I don’t know who is playing here, but Croft is a seriously underrated composer. His St Anne is one of the great tunes.
Croft was organist at St Anne’s Church in Soho. Watts and Croft were of the same generation, born in the 1670s. Handel used St Anne in one of his own anthems. Bach may have borrowed it in a fugue.
St Anne, in Christian and Islamic tradition, was the mother of the Virgin Mary.
After the piano, Choir of King’s College, Cambridge. Then a further recording by an unnamed organist.
A Study of History, Vol IX, OUP, 1954
If you have even a grain of sympathy with the person (quoted in a comment here somewhere) who described Britten’s War Requiem as classy kitsch, then Jarman’s 1989 film may not be for you. But while it is on YouTube, here it is. The requiem is still a twentieth-century masterwork. The film uses the original recording with Fischer-Dieskau, Vishnevskaya, London Symphony Orchestra, Melos Ensemble, Bach Choir and Britten conducting. Wikipedia:
“It was shot in 1988 by the British film director Derek Jarman with the 1963 recording as the soundtrack, produced by Don Boyd and financed by the BBC. Decca Records required that the 1963 recording be heard on its own, with no overlaid soundtrack or other sound effects [or interjections?]. The film featured Nathaniel Parker as Wilfred Owen, and Laurence Olivier in his last acting appearance in any medium before his death in July 1989. The film is structured as the reminiscences of Olivier’s character, the Old Soldier in a wheelchair, and Olivier recites ‘Strange Meeting’ in the film’s prologue.”
Actors, in other words, but the entire Decca soundtrack that follows the prologue is unadulterated.
(Addendum to baby bottles.)
The Town Taking on China, episode 2, BBC2 television, May 15, is on BBC iPlayer until May 25. The town is Kirkby. BBC: “Tony Caldeira is a man on a mission – to create a British workforce who can defeat the economic might of China – using only cushions!”
My comment yesterday was not based on some ridiculously snobbish idea that if you talk to business or industry to gauge economic confidence, it should be to big companies. It came from the fact that people in London are disconnected from the world of manufacturing. They don’t know about it or take it seriously. Their friends work in media and service industries. Factories are somewhere else. The gap exists in all developed economies, but is wider in the UK than in Germany or Japan, and amounts to a cultural and social schism.
There was a snobbery about industry in Britain, a disdain for people who worked with their hands, with or without machines. The proletariat in English cities lost its rural roots early in the industrial age. (While the bosses set their hearts on retirement in the country.) Modern city-dwellers have, in turn, lost their industrial roots. Hence the shallow cosmopolitanism of a Tony Blair.
Related schism: science vs humanities. CP Snow’s two cultures thesis may have been questionable in all kinds of ways, but was interesting. He condemned the British educational system for having over-rewarded the humanities, especially Latin and Greek, at the expense of science and engineering. We never had a Prussian system. Toynbee was an example of a man who knew everything about Latin and Greek and nothing about science. The modern political establishment in Britain knows nothing about science or the humanities. And British politicians never sound less convincing than when they speak of skills-training. I heard an echo of some of this in those BBC reports.
Snobbery: third-world governments accuse publishers of showing poverty in photographs instead of their pet infrastructure project or the new airport road (airport roads being propaganda statements in their own right).
What comes into British journalists’ minds when they hear the word engineer? Probably the man who fixes your boiler. What comes into their minds when they think of industry? As the economic sky was darkening in summer 2008, the editors of BBC Radio 4’s “flagship” lunchtime news programme The World at One sent out a reporter to gauge the mood of “industry”.
Where did he go? To a pharmaceutical company? An aircraft manufacturer? A biotech lab? No. He went to a company that made whistles.
I recorded this at the time in a post. Today, in an equally ominous time, the same programme sent out a reporter to judge the mood of a small manufacturing company in the light of vague policy announcements just made in the Queen’s Speech. The segment was introduced with “Let’s move on now to the economy”. What did the company make? Solar panels? Electronic components? Automobile parts? No. Baby bottles.
This is not (in case you assume this) the quirky editorial tradition of one news programme. Nor did the Queen’s Speech mention babies or children, except in relation to custody and care. It illustrates something about British awareness of industry which could be illustrated in other ways.
The other main business story today was the near-demise of Clinton Cards, a chain of shops which sells only greetings cards. This was important as a human story as it has 8,000 employees.
The programme is online for the next seven days.
Lueger was Mayor of Vienna from 1897 to 1910. Hitler paid tribute to him in Mein Kampf.
Lueger is pronounced Lu-eger, not Lüger.
Dr.-Karl-Lueger-Platz remains. So does the Dr.-Karl-Lueger-Gedächtniskirche (memorial church) in the Zentralfriedhof (central cemetery). There is sycophancy in these chains of hyphens.
AJP Taylor in The Habsburg Monarchy, 1809-1918, Hamish Hamilton, 1948 edition:
“The ‘Austrian idea’ in its last version – an idea which in shaky form survived dynasty and Empire – was of Roman Catholic manufacture. The Christian Socialist party organised by Lueger was the first real attempt of the Church to go with the masses, more democratic – and more demagogic – than the Centre, its German counterpart. Christian Socialism appealed to the traditional clericalism of the peasant and yet freed the peasant from dependence on the landowner; more, despite the peasant’s hostility to the town, it brought the peasants into alliance with the shopkeepers and artisans who were threatened by the advance of great industry. In fact, the Christian Socialist party was the Austrian version of the Radical party in France (or even of Lloyd George radicalism in England), except that it worked with the Church instead of against it. It aimed to protect the ‘little man’ from limited companies and trade unions, from banks and multiple stores, and also from great estates and mechanised farming. It sought to divert the rising political passions into channels not dangerous to the Church: it was anti-liberal, anti-Jewish, anti-Marxist, anti-capitalist. The leaders of the movement knew exactly what they were about: though they appealed to base passions, especially anti-Semitism, they supposed that they could always control the passions which they evoked. Lueger declared, ‘I decide who is a Jew,’ and firmly protected any Jew who kept clear of liberalism and Marxism. Seipel, a later leader, said of his party’s anti-Semitism: ‘That is for the gutter.’ He had no inkling that the gutter would one day murder his successor [Dollfuss]. Christian Socialism was an attempt to touch pitch and not be defiled. As the party of the ‘little man,’ it was Imperial ‘by appointment’; its supporters knew the value of the Archdukes’ custom. Traditional Austrians were at first shocked by the Christian Socialist demagogy; and, in the ’nineties Francis Joseph four times refused to confirm Lueger as Mayor of Vienna. In 1897 he was accepted; and the dynasty acknowledged that it had found a new ally.”
Mahler’s reign at the Hofoper was nearly coterminous with Lueger’s at the Rathaus: 1897-1907.
I learned at the tram stop shown in the BBC story, as it happens, of the death of Arnold Toynbee, through a copy of The Times that I bought at its kiosk on October 24 or 27 1975. “A great historian” was the obituary’s headline.
Schadenfreude is an English word, wellness a German one.
Talking about Germans and Austrians in England (post before last), below, in three stages, is Nikolaus Pevsner – who became the learned authority on the Buildings of England for the post-war owners and occupiers of the buildings and for car-drivers and other explorers of the countryside – talking about Constable and English ideas of landscape in the penultimate of his 1955 BBC Reith Lectures.
“Outdoor life [...] required moderate weather: too warm not to want to be outdoors, too cool to be idle outdoors. Hence sports, hence gardening. And surely such weather turns up for some time on nearly every day in England, however much moisture there may be in the atmosphere, lying in wait to condense into rain and to drip off your sandwiches which you have taken to enjoy the sunshine on top of Bowfell or the Gog Magogs or Porlock Hill.” Hence, one could say, exploring England with your Pevsner.
His Reith lectures were called The Englishness of English Art. They are fairly demanding for radio, unless you know the artists. You can hear all of them here, but we really need a YouTube illustrated version. There is an illustrated book.
The Geography of Art
Hogarth and Observed Life
Reynolds and Detachment
Blake and the Planing Line
Constable and the Pursuit of Nature
Architecture and Planning: The Functional Approach
Alexander Cozens as the first abstract expressionist. Impressionists in the 1860s?
I associate Pevsner with the early post-war years. A certain exiguousness in those years suited the style of English country houses, but encouraged an unhealthy preference for the threadbare, for buckets catching leaks, over the vulgarity of a place “done up”. A fear developed that doing a place up to modern standards would urbanise it, make it turn in on itself, alienate it from the landscape.
Over-restoration, the removal of the effects of time on buildings, is, in fact, a German habit. Perhaps Pevsner enjoyed rural England’s comparative immunity from it.
Urban buildings can also lose their history. When the oldest restaurant in London, Rules, installed halogen “downlighting”, it immediately lost all its feeling of age. It is hard to say why that small change seemed such a serious offence against history, but it did.
Simon Schama talks to the 94-year old Eric Hobsbawm at Hobsbawm’s house in Hampstead. At BBC iPlayer until April 21.
When I was growing up, there was much more of this kind of thing on BBC radio, because more of these educated central Europeans, exiles and children of exiles, were still living. They lent a certain flavour to postwar English life, and to the BBC itself, as staff and as subjects. Many lived in Hampstead. Hobsbawm and Alfred Brendel must be the last two still there. I lived for a time in my twenties in part of the Hampstead house of one of them, Fred Uhlman.
In the encounter between the world and the West that has been going on by now for four or five hundred years, the world, not the West, is the party that, up to now, has had the significant experience. It has not been the West that has been hit by the world; it is the world that has been hit – and hit hard – by the West; and that is why, in the title of this book, the world has been put first.
The World and the West, OUP, 1953
From an old post:
The horse-crowded streets of enchanted late-Victorian and Edwardian London had been full of swaggering energy. The streets of the ’30s were also noisy and busy, but in a mechanical, less muscular way, and it was a great age of style in signage, tube stations, posters, shop fronts, the smooth shapes of cars and buses. In the ’20s, on the other hand, the vehicles are still a bit rickety and rackety and square and there’s an in-between feeling: the animals and the pre-war commercial raucousness have left the streets, but no evolved visual modernity has yet taken their place.
Silent movie streetscapes.
Only the first one minute, eleven seconds. This is the first of three YouTube clips, together lasting half an hour, in which John Barbirolli talks to CB Rees in 1960. The sequence is a filler on a CD of his recording of Mahler 3 with the Hallé in the BBC Legends series.
Below, Barbirolli rehearsing, obsessively, the scherzo of Bruckner 7 with the Hallé at the beginning (first few minutes of this first clip of seven) of a 1965 television film for the BBC Monitor series, narrated by Huw Wheldon. We have met Wheldon already here narrating a couple of early films by Ken Russell.
Barbirolli’s 1964 EMI Mahler 9 with the Berlin Philharmonic is a marvellous recording. The third appearance of the “weak heart” motif, the first thing you hear in the symphony (it’s followed by a vaguely Chinese row of four notes), in the latter part of the first movement, is the most shattering sound on record.
“There are no bad orchestras, only bad conductors.”
He was a wonderful Haydn conductor. The last few minutes of the third clip of the Rees talk, not shown here, give an impression of his dedication to his craft. (Is the photograph Barbirolli? It looks more like Tippett.) His music sometimes suffered, towards the end, from the same thing that (sometimes) undermined Bernstein’s: excessive love and care.
Since Hugh Trevor-Roper is a recurring character in this blog, I have to link to the last two, very entertaining, episodes of a reading of Robert Harris’s Selling Hitler on BBC Radio 4 Extra: episodes 7 (available till April 4) and 8 (till April 5).
The story so far:
Over the next two years, Stern secretly pays a mysterious “Dr Fischer” nearly 9 million marks for sixty volumes of “diaries” written in Hitler’s hand for the years 1932-45 and for a supplementary volume about Rudolf Hess. They had been discovered, allegedly, in the wreck of a plane which had crashed in a forest in 1945 while carrying Hitler’s personal archive.
We are in 1983. Rupert Murdoch has acquired the English-language publishing rights from Stern for $1.2 million. In November 1945 British intelligence had commissioned Trevor-Roper to investigate the circumstances of Hitler’s death. He had subsequently written The Last Days of Hitler. Now, on Saturday April 23, having barely glanced at the notebooks in the vault of a bank in Zurich, he pronounces them authentic in Murdoch’s The Times, basing his judgment on circumstantial evidence.
Before his article is published, forensic evidence is released which is at best problematic. The holocaust-denying historian David Irving states in print that the diaries are forgeries. Trevor-Roper starts to have doubts.
On the Saturday, his article open in front of him, he calls The Times to express them, hoping that the editor will prevent Murdoch’s The Sunday Times from publishing the first extracts on the following day. He does not. Publication goes ahead, and very unconvincing the diaries are.
A press conference is called for Monday April 25 in Hamburg to launch Stern’s publication of further extracts. Heidemann and Trevor-Roper sit alongside its bullish editors. Trevor-Roper, for whom this has turned into a nightmare, voices his doubts. Irving speaks from the audience. The event is a catastrophe for all on the panel.
The diaries are revealed as the work of a Stuttgart criminal, Konrad Kujau. Heidemann and Kujau go to jail. Most of the money has gone into Heidemann’s pocket, though not all is accounted for. The forger is full of moral indignation at Heidemann’s dishonesty, having received only a couple of million marks.
This “disagreeable episode” (as he called it on Desert Island Discs; listen here) did not affect the quality of Trevor-Roper’s subsequent work. Its greatest irony was that the reputation of a great historian was undermined in part by a man as disreputable as David Irving. With help, from the other side, from a man as disreputable as Rupert Murdoch.
Murdoch, according to Harris, said only three things about the whole affair:
“Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”
“After all, we are in the entertainment business.”
“The circulation went up and it stayed up. We didn’t lose money or anything like that.”
Murdoch, Heidemann and Irving are still alive.
A clip from Phoenix about the affair in German, including shots of the press conference:
“Old Time heaved a mouldy sigh from tomb and arch and vault; and gloomy shadows began to deepen in corners; and damps began to rise from green patches of stone; and jewels, cast upon the pavement of the nave from stained glass by the declining sun, began to perish.”
Dickens, The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1870, unfinished, posthumous).
Years ago, I asked some friends in different parts of the world what they thought of the painting at the top, which is called A Woman of the Fields. I didn’t load the question by asking: “What nationality is the woman?”, but they knew the painting was English.
An Englishman said: “She’s not English. She’s certainly French! Look at the face, headdress and shawl.”
A Brazilian emailed: “That doesn’t look English. It is very interesting. I could swear that that woman was a Latin American.” I suppose he meant Amerindian.
A Scot called it a “moving portrait”. He didn’t say: “She’s obviously Scottish”, despite the hint of tartan.
An Egyptian emailed: “That woman looks really like an Egyptian country woman … so strange!”
I haven’t posed the question to a French Algerian friend, but he would surely have said: “She looks like a Berber woman.”
His own grandmother (last picture above) even resembles her.
My mother, who comes from south Germany, emailed: “A Woman of the Fields could most certainly have lived on the Swabian Alb – right up to the time after the war. I have always felt that I know this woman.”
(I know what she means. There’s that Swabian display of folded hands. Veined obduracy. I can even remember peasants in this part of Germany.)
The last painting above (the oil version, not this engraving) was being sold several years ago as a poster by an Australian company which described it, plausibly, but completely inaccurately, as a piece of old Australiana.
Actually, she was an English farm hand.
The paintings are by an English artist called George Clausen, my great-grandfather. Why isn’t he better known? His career was long (seventy years, from the 1870s to the 1940s) and his style evolved continuously. This is discouraging to critics. The quality of his work was uneven, though there are good pieces from every phase. His paintings were quiet and he was personally modest. And there has never been a proper book about him, though Kenneth McConkey, the main living expert on late Victorian and Edwardian painting, is writing one which will be published later this year or in 2013, I hope by Yale. (Kenneth wrote an important catalogue for a Clausen exhibition at the Royal Academy and elsewhere in 1980.)
It has been fun to do some dilettante research of one’s own while in the unusual position (despite Kenneth’s work) of having a subject even somewhat to oneself.
Clausen’s early work has always been admired, especially paintings of the 1880s, but some of the later pieces, until recently, were undervalued. Good work could be bought cheaply.
Van Gogh knew about and admired Clausen, at a time when Clausen could not have heard of Van Gogh. He sends Theo a Clausen print. “Here at last you have something of English art.”
The paintings, from top to bottom, (they all expand) are:
A Woman of the Fields, also known as A Field Hand (1884)
A Moment’s Rest (1882)
December (1882); the workers are topping and tailing turnips for sheep fodder
Day Dreams (1883)
Flora, The Gypsy Flower Seller (1883); she reminds me a little of Picasso’s La Célestine (1904)
Winter Work (1883-4); the girl was painted in after the canvas was finished
Labourers – After Dinner (RA 1884); after the oil painting; The Magazine of Art (check issue and date); scan used with permission of Heritage Images
and at the end of the post
A Field Gang (1883)
and a plate in the possession of the Royal Photographic Society and exposed before April 1884, which shows the same woman cutting a turnip.
She probably appears in some other pictures from the same period.
Clausen painted these pictures at Childwick Green, near Childwickbury, in Hertfordshire. He had studied in London, and then briefly in Belgium, Holland and France. At the end of 1881, he moved to Childwick Green. Between 1882 and 1884 some of his work had a brutal realism which shocked the academicians. He had discovered the work of the French naturalist Jules Bastien-Lepage at the Grosvenor Gallery in 1880 and became his main English champion. But A Woman of the Fields goes beyond Bastien in realism.
He had been exhibiting at the Royal Academy since 1876. Of the pictures here, only Labourers – After Dinner was shown there.
A Woman of the Fields was shown at Coutts Lindsay’s Grosvenor Gallery. She was originally called A Field Hand, and the sexlessness of that title must have made the image seem even more disconcerting. Not all Clausen’s paintings of those years were as stark as these. Clausen’s most Bastien-like images were actually done towards the end of the 1880s.
Labourers – After Dinner had the naturalism of A Woman of the Fields, but on a much larger scale. It seemed uncouth. For George Moore and others, it was an entirely inartistic realism, without fantasy or imagination. Leighton must have hated it, though he later became an admirer of Clausen.
Clausen’s 1885 Royal Academy picture was a portrait called An Old Woodman. He then became a founding member, in 1885-6, with Sargent, Steer and others, of the New English Art Club and was absent from the Academy until 1891.
This was the English Secession, though it isn’t called that. Secessions were withdrawals from official academies: independent exhibiting societies, anti-academic, and international in outlook. The Vienna Secession was a seed of extremely radical, but also particularly coherent, thinking about art. It’s hard to call the earlier New English Art Club seminal, though it absorbed and then rejected more radical elements, led by Sickert. But it was a secession.
It is also a mistake to think of the three great secessions in the German-speaking world in the 1890s – Munich 1892, Vienna 1897, Berlin 1898 – as being entirely about avant-garde work. But what a resonance that word Secession has! Clausen himself exhibited at least in Munich.
(Some of the tenets of the Viennese, such as a refusal to make distinctions between art and craft, or high art and low art, or art and life, or art for the rich and art for the poor, had long been explicit or implicit in the thinking of the leaders of the Arts and Crafts movement in England and elsewhere. And in the particular area of reform of the applied arts, we were first. The refusal to distinguish between art and life could lead one, depending on one’s inclination, into the purest aestheticism and the most engaged socialism.)
Since Moore – garrulous Irish literary figure on the London art scene, as Shaw was on the musical one – is remembered now as a follower of Zola and the writer of the first naturalist novels in English (the first, A Modern Lover, appeared in 1883), he might have been expected to approve of Clausen at his most photo-realistic: but he didn’t. He was too strongly connected with the French impressionists. But after Clausen’s style changed in the ’90s, he became an admirer, and spoke about him with real warmth. Perhaps he had approved of a few earlier pieces as well, I’m not sure.
On August 7 1886, after the first New English Art Club exhibition, Clausen, Walter Crane and Holman Hunt wrote a letter to The Times advocating reform of the Royal Academy. The painter Luke Fildes read it and wrote to his brother-in-law Henry Woods, who was working in Venice:
“I suppose you have read the correspondence and articles this last two weeks in the ‘Times’ about the R.A. I am confidentially informed we are all to be done away with. Messrs. Crane, Clausen and Holman Hunt have appealed to give us another chance, but I believe they are very firm, and though they admit they have no personal objection to some of the Academicians, being personal friends of theirs, still they will not raise their hands to stem the torrent of indignation that is sweeping us away […].”
To which Woods replied:
“My God! When I think whilst I have been sweating and trying to work out here, my Academy has been, and is, in danger still, bombarded with rotten eggs. An imitator of the newest French fakements, and painter of corns and dirty nails, a purveyor of affected muck for infant snobs, and worst of all, the painter of the Flight into Egypt. I wonder who has stirred up all this?”
From LV Fildes, Luke Fildes, RA, A Victorian Painter, Michael Joseph, 1968. No dates given. One would like more of this! They sound like a particular pair of stuffed dermots, though Fildes at least had a social conscience. His most famous painting, The Doctor (1891), reminds one of Picasso’s Science and Charity (1897).
The “purveyor of affected muck for infant snobs” was obviously Crane. Clausen was the “imitator of the newest French fakements, and painter of corns and dirty nails”. Holman Hunt’s offence, I assume, had been to apply excessive naturalism to religious subjects.
In 1945, F Gordon Roe wrote in an obituary of Clausen in The Old Water-Colour Society’s Club 23rd Annual Volume: “I look back to days when George Clausen was still regarded by some as a dangerous innovator. It seemed that he broke all the rules. He had ‘no idea of a subject’. He just looked out of window [sic: old locution] and painted whatever he saw there. He has painted young peasant-women with grimy finger nails – this seemed very important [...].”
Caravaggio, who had so shocked his contemporaries with the dirty finger-nails of his Bacchus and the dirty soles of the pilgrim in the Madonna of Loreto, might as well not have lived. And, of course, Caravaggio had almost no reputation among the Victorians. He was a long way from pre-Raphaelite. Clausen’s Royal Academy lectures (delivered 1904-6 and 1913) contained lessons for students from the old masters (they were much admired by EH Gombrich), but in nearly 400 pages Caravaggio gets not a single mention. Joshua Reynolds does not mention him either in his Seven Discourses on Art, delivered at the Royal Academy on its foundation. Yet you would have thought that the Caravaggio of the Cardsharps, especially, would have appealed to artists who were so smitten by Bastien-Lepage.
The grey chest hair of the main stonepicker (the same colour as the stones) in Clausen’s Stonepickers – Midday (watercolour, 1882, V&A) must have been as disconcerting as the corns and nails of the Woman of the Fields would be. Come to think of it, had grey chest hair ever been painted in art before? These pictures were literally not, to use a German word, salonfähig.
Joining the New English did not confirm Clausen in the brutal style of Labourers. After 1884, he sweetened his style overall, while coming even more strongly under Bastien’s influence. He took some of the criticism to heart. That may or may not have been to the long-term advantage of his art. With a young family to support, he no doubt wanted to sell more.
In 1885, he moved from Childwick (where all the pictures shown here were done) to Cookham Dean in Berkshire.
By 1890 he had started to feel that Bastien-influenced realism was a dead end. He returned to the Academy. The Mowers (RA 1892) introduced a new style. His figures came to life. Movement and light were brought into the pictures. Naturalism gave way to a modified impressionism, containing elements of Millet. Paintings were done or finished in the studio. Painting entirely out of doors had had to be done on grey days, when the light was constant. Posing figures had had to stand still.
New as The Mowers seemed, there is a watercolour sketch for it from as early as 1885. Clausen could experiment in watercolour with ideas that he did not yet dare to transfer to canvas.
George Moore was conscious by 1892 that Clausen was developing and Stanhope Forbes was not. He sighed with relief and looked back:
“Realism, that is to say the desire to compete with nature, to be nature, is the disease from which art has suffered most in the last twenty years. The disease is now at wane, and when we happen upon a canvas of the period like ‘Labourers after Dinner’, we cry out, ‘What madness! were we ever as mad as that?’” (Modern Painting, 1893).
In 1891 Clausen left Cookham (it was the year Stanley Spencer was born there) for Widdington in Essex. (Graves’s list of RA exhibitors does not show him in Widdington until 1893.)
He didn’t stop developing. After 1900, his figures are mainly elements in a landscape, rather than subjects in their own right. The last painting I can think of that shows any figures doing field work is Haymaking (RA 1921), and they are distant. At no point had he painted a flourishing countryside. I am not even sure that he tried to give the impression of one.
He was Professor of Painting at the Royal Academy from 1903 to ’06. For this he had to return to London. He bought a house at 61 Carlton Hill in St John’s Wood in the summer of 1905. That was his home until 1940, when he moved again, to live with my grandfather at Cold Ash in Berkshire. Between the wars he had a country house in Essex. “One day in 1917, when he was pushing his bicycle up Duton Hill, Clausen noticed that a house, then called Hillside, was for sale. Having recently sold some pictures to a Japanese client, he was sufficiently well off to purchase the house as a country retreat” (McConkey). Carlton Hill and Duton Hill passed to his children and were sold during or at the end of the war.
A kind of monumentality came into some of his work between about 1908 and 1918, though he had sought monumental effects in some pictures of the 1890s – and in general Clausen’s pictures are smaller in reality than we expect them to be from reproductions, sometimes disconcertingly so. In the 1920s, he became interested in early mornings. Often misty ones. He created what has been called an “Essex arcadia”. There were no cars in it and few people.
Then: “The new canvases of the ’thirties often show stormy skies, or clumps of trees in a midday sun” (McConkey).
The career of his son-in-law, Thomas Derrick, whom I have also introduced here in a small way, also changed abruptly. He became a cartoonist. There are no Derrick cartoons before 1931. He didn’t cease to be an illustrator, but he began to do something new. I am not sure what brought about the change. School fees and family commitments again, no doubt, though the former I believe were paid by Clausen. Perhaps it was his reaction to the newly-urgent Zeitgeist of 1931. His figures, which had been so static in his early work, suddenly sprang to life. Perhaps Clausen’s stormy skies were a similar reaction.
Clausen continued to send paintings to the Royal Academy until 1942. He died on November 22 1944.
I have shown some of his works in earlier posts; the images are not as high-resolution as here:
In writing both the world and the west into my title, and writing the two words in that order, I was doing both things deliberately, because I wanted to make two points that seem to me essential for an understanding of our subject. The first point is that the west has never been all of the world that matters. The west has not been the only actor on the stage of modern history even at the peak of the west’s power (and this peak has perhaps now already been passed). My second point is this: in the encounter between the world and the west that has been going on now for 400 or 500 years, the world, not the west, is the party that, up to now, has had the significant experience. It has not been the west that has been hit by the world; it is the world that has been hit – and hit hard – by the west; and that is why, in my title, I have put the world first.
Let us try, for a few minutes, to slip out of our native western skins and look at this encounter between the world and the west through the eyes of the great non-western majority of mankind. Different though the non-western peoples of the world may be from one another in race, language, civilisation, and religion, if we ask them their opinion of the west, we shall hear them all giving us the same answer: Russians, Moslems, Hindus, Chinese, Japanese, and all the rest. The west, they will tell us, has been the arch-aggressor of modern times, and each will have their own experience of western aggression to bring up against us. The Russians will remind us that their country has been invaded by western armies overland in 1941, 1915, 1812, 1709, and 1610; the peoples of Africa and Asia will remind us that western missionaries, traders, and soldiers from across the sea have been pushing into their countries from the coasts since the fifteenth century. The Asians will also remind us that, within the same period, the westerners have occupied the lion’s share of the world’s last vacant lands in the Americas, Australia, New Zealand, and South and East Africa. The Africans will remind us that they were enslaved and deported across the Atlantic in order to serve the European colonisers of the Americas as living tools to minister to their western masters’ greed for wealth. The descendants of the aboriginal population of North America will remind us that their ancestors were swept aside to make room for the west European intruders and for their African slaves.
This indictment will surprise, shock, grieve, and perhaps even outrage most of us westerners today. Dutch westerners are conscious of having evacuated Indonesia, and British westerners of having evacuated India, Pakistan, Burma, and Ceylon, since 1945.
That was almost all the imperial evacuation that had happened by 1952, except for the abandonment of concessions in China. Hard as it is to believe now, the British Empire handed over no territory (except the Anglo-Egyptian “condominium”, Sudan; I don’t count Palestine or the military base at Suez) between the end of the Raj on August 15 1947 and the independence of Ghana on March 6 1957. 1952 was also a year of direct British and American interference in the internal affairs of Iran.
British westerners have no aggressive war on their consciences since the South African war of 1899-1902, and American westerners none since the Spanish-American war of 1898. We forget all too easily that the Germans, who attacked their neighbours, including Russia, in the First World War and again in the Second World War, are westerners too, and that the Russians, Asians, and Africans do not draw fine distinctions between different hordes of “Franks” – which is the world’s common name for westerners in the mass. “When the world passes judgment, it can be sure of having the last word”, according to a well-known Latin proverb. And certainly the world’s judgment on the west does seem to be justified over a period of about four and a half centuries ending in 1945. In the world’s experience of the west during all that time, the west has been the aggressor on the whole; and, if the tables are being turned on the west by Russia and China today, this is a new chapter of the story which did not begin until after the end of the Second World War. The west’s alarm and anger at recent acts of Russian and Chinese aggression at the west’s expense are evidence that, for westerners, it is today still a strange experience to be suffering at the hands of the world what the world has been suffering at western hands for a number of centuries past.
The lectures introduced ideas which would be developed in the eighth volume of the Study.
In the encounter between the world and the west that has been going on now for 400 or 500 years, the world, not the west [...], has had the significant experience
is the most striking sentence. These views were shocking, as he says, to many listeners in 1952. They seemed defeatist.
I have taken this from a transcript on the BBC website, not from the printed book: there may be differences. The transcript probably shows what was printed in The Listener. I have made the use of upper case in references to world wars consistent.
The lectures were published in book form as
The World and the West, OUP, 1953
WH Auden, of course, followed the metre of that passage (last post) in the last part of his In Memory of WB Yeats, but without Yeats’s rubato:
“Earth, receive an honoured guest:
William Yeats is laid to rest.
Let the Irish vessel lie
Emptied of its poetry.
In the nightmare of the dark
All the dogs of Europe bark,
And the living nations wait,
Each sequestered in its hate;
Stares from every human face,
And the seas of pity lie
Locked and frozen in each eye.
Follow, poet, follow right
To the bottom of the night,
With your unconstraining voice
Still persuade us to rejoice;
With the farming of a verse
Make a vineyard of the curse,
Sing of human unsuccess
In a rapture of distress;
In the deserts of the heart
Let the healing fountain start,
In the prison of his days
Teach the free man how to praise.”