By Fr. BROCARD SEWELL, O.Carm.
Downhill All The Way by Leonard Woolf (Hogarth
Press, 35s.) a
MR. WOOLF'S two previous volumes in this autobiographical series I have not read, childhood narratives and memoirs of colonial administrators not being in my line. But having read this third volume, which can stand alone as an independent piece, 1 now hope to read both the earlier ones and the one that is to follow.
The title, "Downhill All The Way," refers to the state of the nation; for Mr. Woolf himself this was a period of distinguished achievement. A few passages in his narrative jar; as when he lumps together "Communists, Roman Catholics, Rosicrucians, Adventists" and those other "sects" whose attitudes fill him with "melancholic misery"; which seems less than just to all concerned.
Sir Oswald Mosley, that, stormy petrel of British politics, deserves a more serious treat
ment than Mr. Woolf gives him. (For another, more adequate, view one may suggest Henry Williamson's study of Mosley as "Sir Hereward Birkin" in his novel "The Phoenix Generation.")
Mr. Woolf is expert at the short, sharp thumb-nail sketch: Ramsay MacDonald "was an opportunist who genuinely confused the highest political principles with the personal interests of James Ramsay MacDonald; he was neither on the Left nor on the Right, he was always bang on the entre, and the centre was James Ramsay MacDonald." His studies of Lord Chief Justice Hewart and Mr. Justice Avory, and his comments on the judiciary in general, are devastating.
Naturally, the most moving pages in this book are those devoted to the author's wife, Virginia Woolf. Of special interest is his detailed account of the foundation and development of the Hogarth Press, whose greatest achievement, perhaps, has been the publication in English of the works of Sigmund Freud.
"Downhill All The Way" is
the record of a life, of a social and literary milieu, and of an era of national decline when "the herd ran violently down a steep place into the lake, and were choked." In all these respects it succeeds admirably, and is a work that one will recur to both for pleasure and for instruction.