The War Illustrated No 80 Vol 4 March 14th 1941

The War Illustrated March 14th, 1941 ^oititigA O’ A&ni the. £ditoJi’ i WxtAtime Q ia ly MUCH as I admire Mr. J. B. Priestley, whose sincerity is as obvious as his talent— which is saying a great Ideal— confess that I am getting just a wee bit tired of his insistence upon the idea! after-war world, which he rather vaguely shadows forth in the course of every new broadcast. Tonight his musings on Dover Beach with Matthew Arnold in his pocket were wholly delightful rather less concerned with the world that is to be. And let me remind him of Pope’s “Man never is, but always to be blest.” I think that the more we discuss war aims and the brave new world that is to be,the more we are playing the Nazis’ game. Myself, I’d go as far as Mr. Priestley in any sacrifice for the commonweal and in any individual effort to help on a happier state of life for all than that which prevailed during the long armistice of 1918-1939 but I am equally ready to argue that the standard of human life was steadily improving during these years and would have gonq on improving but for the Nazi aggression. ?Our paramount business today is not to wax sentimental about the poor, the incompetent and the unfortunate, but to get on with the job of downing Nazism. Surely we have enough to do infighting for the survival and freedom of the English-speaking races, and their multi- tongued allies, against the foulest and most inhuman menace the world has ever known. Hitler would/nuch rather have us talk nothing but “war aims ”and grow voluble about the after-War world than concentrate on the one and only thing that matters—the final defeat of the enemy of civilization. When that's done Mr. Priestley may come forward with some real constructive talk and I shall be one of his most eager listeners. ?Meanwhile I have just had “equality of sacrifice ”brought home tome. A modest investment of mine, £1,550 in -certain American “securities” (laughingly so-called), has been sold by the Government for £774 (present market value) in accordance with their plans for financing the purchase of war material in U.S.A. I have thus permanently lost nearly £800 of my hard-earned capital to help the Government. It is almost certain that this investment, which showed a profit six months before the War, would eventually have recovered to the price I paid a few years ago and possibly have yielded a profit to justify the later loss of dividends, but it had togo with the millions of British investments in America to help our War finance. I am glad that not more of my small capital was in dollar securities. At this rate of loss I could not long have afforded the honour of helping British finance in America !\ROOTED dislike to broadcast plays has usually made me switch off as soon as one is announced. The only one I can recall with satisfaction was ‘‘The White Chateau, ’’by Reginald Berkeley, a good few years ago. But tonight I have had forty minutes of sheer delight in listening to “The Three-Cornered Mbon, ”by Michael Arlen, and I am wonder­ing what I have missed by being so long faithful to my prejudice. Perhaps not so much. For I am sure this has been one of those rare occasions on which the author, the players, the adapter and producer have combined to create a thing of balanced perfection. And then there was the “atmosphere ”the swish of the waves and the call of the seamews magically made the Cannes that I know so well stand in my mind’s eye again more visibly than any stage set, and tug a little at my heartstrings in “remembering how.” ?The witty dialogue of Arlen seemed tome to gain point from being spoken by two such Editor •Sir John Hammerton Associate Editors G.S. Blaxland Stubbs (General) E. Royston Pike (Literary) J.R. Fawcett Thompson (Illustrations) Editorial Assistants O. Lumley, D. Allmand, G. Holland, A.B. Atkins, G. MacCormack, J. St. Denys Reed, Bell,A. Terence Dennis Editorial Offices John Carpenter House, Whitefriars, London, E.C.4. flawless artists as Fay Compton and Ronald Squire— which implies no reflection on its reading quality. And perhaps those memories that are the gold one gathers as the years go by may have had something to do with the enjoyment I have had tonight. For I remember Fay Compton’s first appearance in “The Follies,” originated by that genius Pelissier, whose wife she became while instill her teens, and every time that I have seen her in the intervening years has intensified my admira­tion of her great talent and that thrilling voice which was heard at its best tonight. She was a tiny tot of three when her father, the celebrated Edward Compton, helped me with a chapter in a book about acting which I compiled in 1897. Irving himself gave the book a fine send-off. Out of twenty-seven eminent actors and actresses who collaborated with me but two remain— Cyril Maude and.Acton Bond—¦ which makes one think.? Lif§4s funny! There’s Michael Arlen, whom I first encountered on the dancing floor at the Hotel St. Georges, Algiers, at the time when “The Green Hat ”had just begun to make him famous since then, on my various visits to the Riviera, where he was the beau ideal of the flaneurs we’ve even sipped cocktails together at the Carlton, there introduced by a common friend now he is a younger member of a club in which I am an aging one— yet we don’t know each !Another emigre from his beloved Cannes he has been doing some useful war work, as honorary press officer to Lord Dudley, Civil Commissioner for the Mid­lands Region, and considering his English education, his long-standing British citizen­ship, it was unfortunate, to say the least, that ill-informed persons, represented by a Bir­mingham M.P., should have made a pother about his being a Bulgarian. A simple reference to“ W ho’s Who” would have shown them that, although inborn Bulgaria, his parents were Armenians with an unpronounceable name. Anybody who outset to win literary fame in the English-speaking world was bound to change such a patronymic as his into something more acceptable to English ears. What’s in a name, indeed !Can you imagine “The Green Hat ”by Dikran Kouyoumdjian ever becoming a best-seller ?“Michael Arlen ”got away with it. The question in Parliament about his nationality was singularly ill-timed ashe had just then to give up his war-work on account of an illness, from which all of us who admire his work will wish him speedy recovery. T OCCASIONALLY amuse myself o’nights by snooping around the rural neighbourhood in which I have settled for the time being— possibly for the rest of my days when I ’ve been taxed out of my more palatial home !—just to see how the local villagers conform to black-out restrictions. And I can affirm in all seriousness that I have not spotted any case of neglect or carelessness except somewhere of the military are being billeted. If you see alight showing you may safely bet there are soldiers there. Some poor civilian once in awhile makes a mistake and gets fined a pound or two, but the soldier lads just don’t care a damn—and getaway with it. It’s disgusting, and the officers (no better than the men) who wink at these delinquencies ought to. be had up and fined. But I don’t remember any case being brought against the military. ?One hears the same from dwellers in other rural places, who regard the presence of soldiers in their vicinity as a menace. In­cidentally, I wonder if many of my readers have noticed, as I have, the brutal treatment which our lads in khaki give to the motor-cars, Bren carriers and wagons entrusted to their ¦care. The French army was rotted by eight months of inactivity before the Boche force .burst upon it like an avalanche. No danger ol our defence army suffering in like manner. So far as its mechanized sections are con­cerned they seem tome to have gone to the other extreme, and the terrifying manner in which every form of mechanical transport rushes along our country roads leads one to fear they may have chewed up the gears and outworn the tires before their spirited drivers have to use them inaction against the invader I (Have just made a tour of my village :time 10.30 p.m., very dark, only lights showing are in the windows of a roadhouse now occupied by troops. At a distance of 300 yards 1 thought they were stars !Something’s got to be done about this.)“ T>ELIEVE it or not ”is a well-known newspaper feature compiled by an American named Ripley. Sometimes I don’t believe it. Here's an instance today. The ingenious compiler gives a drawing of “The Pike of Kaiserslautern ”:an incredible creature “twenty feet long, weighed 544 lb. and was 267 years old.” Very alike whale! I ’ve known of this fabled pike for years. It originated in the mind of an ancestor of Goebbels. The truth about it is recorded by Professor Peacock of University College, Dundee, in his contribution to my “Wonders of Animal Life, ’’published twelve years ago :“The account of a German pike, 19 feet long, weighing 350 pounds, and presumably 267 years old— for it was found to carry a ring inscribed,‘ I am the fish which was first of all put into the lake by the hands of the Governor of the Universe, Frederick the Second, the 5th of October, 1230 ’—must go the way of many fish stories, for a critical zoologist-- a doubting Thomas— proved that the giant was built from smaller ones 1 ”Lies about fish are proverbial, and you could depend upon a German liar to outdo the world. I commend this information to “Ripley,” as I am sure he has no wish to perpetuate yarns that have been exposed by those who have been at pains to investigate their authenticity. ?Ripley might profitably examine Professor Peacock’s most interesting chapter on “Short and Long Lives in the Animal Kingdom.” It maybe news to him that among the many centenarians in the bird world are the golden eagle, the falcon, the eider duck and the crow. All, like parrots and parakeets, good for a hundred years. At a London restaurant the other night I had a portion of wild duck that might well have been on the wing for half of its allotted span. It is surprising that a sparrow is good for forty years, whereas the king of beasts has arrived at senility before he is twenty. Nature does seem ex­tremely casual, indeed quite irrational, in apportioning the varying spans of life to bird and beast and fish. The elephant at a hundred is possibly beginning to forget. The War I l lust rate dis sold subject to the following conditroi: or otherwise disposed of ',namely, that it shall not, without the written consent of the publishers first given, be lent, resold, hired out byway of Trade except at the full retail price of 3d. and that it shall not be lent, resold, hired out or otherwise disposed o fin a mutilated condition orin any unauthorized cover byway of Trade.
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