Father Martindale On Beverley Nichols Mr. Beverley Nichols has written a book—The Fool' hath Said (Jonathan Cape : pp. 317; 7/6 net)—in which he renews the ancient pilgrimage from World to God, from God to Christ, and back to a world that he would fain see Christian. We hope to consider each of its three parts, and precisely because we want to do so honestly, and not casually, let alone as though we were exploiting its significant upshot, may we say first the only less pleasant things that we should have to say.
The special subject has not changed the author's style, for which we have never
cared very much. He cannot resist the "easy" adjective or adverb—"congenital idiot"; "extremely normal" (does what is normal go to extremes?). He is slightly too familiar, and is apt to pat one; and "excited," and to push one—but then, how much better to be intensely idterested in these topics than just politely so! Some people think Mr. Nichols vain and egoistic. Well, anyone has the right to be "intensely interested" in a puzzle; and
maybe a man's chief puzzle is himself. Men are individuals, and each has his personality. Yet of what a mass of contradictions do most of us consist! A fascinating puzzle—one's queer Self!
Mid-way 'Tvvixt Huxley and Waugh
Perhaps Mr. Nichols is half-way between Mr. Aldous Huxley and Mr. Evelyn Waugh. They have all looked with loathing at a mechanised, loveless, lustful world : Mr. Huxley added a savage disdain and disgust for himself, in so far as he felt himself incorporated with that starless existence. His "Brave New World," with all its fierce irony, ended in a suicide. Mr. Waugh's denunciation of that world was no less bitter, but so infinitely more amusing (even in "Vile Bodies" and "A Handful of Dust"—apart from its unendurably tragic end) that the irony might escape the superficial. But while Mr. Huxley seems to have stayed where he was, Mr. Waugh gave a kick and got out of it. Mr. Nichols is hacking his way across the jungle, with some stars undoubtedly seen through the suffocating branches to guide him, but also, with some will-o'-the-wisps around his feet to confuse him.
As a boy, he was "shocked," as boys well can be, by Shelley's atheistic notes. They bruised him. But then he grew up so successful that the wound of his death seemed healed. I wonder if he remembers getting up, in an Oxford hotel, crossing to where I was, and asking me to tea? I accepted with my, I fear, customary vagueness, and then said to my companions: "Who was that?" They wilted. "Are
you the only man in Oxford who doesn't know Beverley?" I said I didn't know anyone, and asked his college. They told me, and added : "But .in all history it's never been heard of that Beverley got up to speak to anyone! People are summoned .. . ." But it now appears that he began to ask : "What is all this worth?" Shelley had "shocked" him; I had been stirred by Browning—"0 youth men praise so, holds their praise its worth? Tastes sweet such water with such specks of earth?" He had begun to see that the in dividualist is lonely; and then that in the modern state, the individual is pulped. This frightened him. He saw that Fear must be exorcised out of life. But how?
The Universe and Mind One fact that scared him was the size of the universe. Our earth—the millionthmillionth of incalculable star-dust! Then —"What is Man?" What can a man mean? But now men of science have begun to say that none the less this our world is "unique." (Well, of course. No one thing is the same as anything else.) He also saw that the mind can "think things together": mere largeness, mere numbers, do not prevent the mind getting the "whole" into its sweep. Moreover, there are whole world-systems within each invisible atom : yet we can use "things" quite easily, despite the myriad-myriad mysteries within them. Man, said Pascal, is a reed—but a thinking reed. When I saw a snowstorm over a hot New Zealand lake, and watched how the scurry of snowflakes ceased suddenly at a certain level, as though sliced off by a hot and horizontal knife, I too thought : "How like Man— yet how unlike, for the snowflakes cannot
think. . . ." Does then Thought, too, come to nothing? Mr. Noel Coward makes one of his characters say that human life ends in a "gloomy merging" into the immemorial mass: Mr. Bertrand Russell obstinately insists that our noblest aspirations, or most ecstatic appreciation of beauty; all our love, our self-sacrifice, and knowledge come, precisely, to nothing at all. Set your teeth, you human snow
fervour, simple faith, faultless tonality and correct pronunciation of Latin. Indeed, Ireland gives constant news of liturgical ,ardour and enthusiasm for Gregorian Chant. Now, speaking broadly, here we can't get near this: we are tending to lose our tong-soul, and thinking mainly of our young people I feel that it would be good if our Irish clergy in England could help us back again to the rhythm of a psalm tone, and the vesper hymns and our Lady's Magnificat on Sunday nights, instead of the dull services they favour.
MARYDOWN FARMING ASSOCIATION (From Captain Walter Legge) SIR,—It has been brought to my notice, as acting chairman of the Marydown Farming Association, that much ill-feeling and suspicion against us is caused by complaints which have not been fully investigated by their recipients, the following, to quote verbatim the report made to me, being the most serious. The complainant "had lost so much money by it (i.e., Marydown) as to be unable to pay the rent due, and was reduced to poverty."
I have gone into the complaint and have discovered what was the origin thereof. There is no foundation for it : if ever there was any, it has been removed, and its author is now on terms of complete amity and collaboration with Marydown.
May I appeal to the critics of our movement to, hold their hands (and their tongues) until a detailed and documented statement of its working under revised conditions from August, 1935, for one year is published, as is my hope, next October?
It is hardly just, and certainly not kindly, to form and express opinions and judgments without full knowledge of the facts; and the whole management of Marydown, both spiritually and practically, has been so completely altered during the last twelve months that any views based on conditions previous to that period are no longer in accordance with facts.
Breakespeare Club, Kensington.
ST. JOAN'S ALLIANCE (From the Honorary Secretary) Sift,—May I clear up what appears to be a misunderstanding as to the reason for the foundation of the Catholic Women's Suffrage Society? The society was founded on March 25, 1911, by Gabrielle Jeffery and May Kendal in order that Catholic women should take their share in working for the enfranchisement of women, and not have to bear the reproach that they stood aside in those stormy days and afterwards reaped where others had sown.
It should be remembered that the campaign was widespread throughout 'he country. There were, of course, the two main societies, the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies and the Women's Social and Political Union. Otherwise the movement split up into some thirty or forty National Suffrage Societies in order to appeal to different sections of the country, and to divide the work; thus there were professional womm's societies, actresses, writers, teachers, etc.; a Men's League for Women's Suffrage; an Industrial Women's Society; Irish, Scottish and Welsh Leagues; and lastly the religious leagues, the Catholic Women's Suffrage Society, the Church League for Woman Suffrage, Free Church League, Friends' and Jewish Leagues. All these societies, including the C.W.S.S., were formed to work for the simple issue of votes for women
L.CB F•NCE A. BARRI . 55, Berners Street, W.1, flake! The hot lake lies but a tiny space below you, and that is the end of you! Mr. Nichols hates this "gloomy merging," but also sees that the "desire" that it should not happen is no real argument for its not happening.
Deeper Thinking Wanted Here we begin to wish that—Browning again!—he had "ground at the grammar" of psychology. We hold that we have reason for denying the possibility of its happening! A "spiritual substance," such as that which thinks is, cannot be destroyed and come to an end, unless a special act of God lets it drop out of existence. Again, when he most usefully discusses man's sense of "right v. wrong," we would have liked him to analyse more thoroughly the meaning of "I ought." I "ought"—not, I would like to (I might hate it); not, I must (but I needn't!); it would pay (1 easily might lose on it! ); Society expects it of me (Society might know nothing about it); I demand it of myself (but if I make a law for myself, I can abrogate it). "Ought" involves an ultimate Authority.
This sort of tough thinking, issuing into certainties, is unpopular to-day. Thought is always tiring; and science itself has grown disheartened by the sight of so many theories evaporating, and by the perception that physical science never will be able to answer the ultimate questions that matter—Whence? whither? why? and What is the worth of it all? We actually 'watch the scientists, in despair of mind, toppling over into arbitrary mysticisms, like e.g. Mr. Joad's.
Perhaps in another book Mr. Nichols will put his head still harder at philosophy. Two points would have already been useful to him—first, the realisation that all "evil" is negative: it is the lack of some quality that ought to be present : God cannot Himself "lack" anything, being infinite, and so, must be all-good: nor can
He create anything evil in itself. Our intelligence, even apart from dogma, can prove to us that God necessarily exists, and much more about Him, all-goodness included. The other point is this—Even when we think true things about God, they are thought by means of our human mind, and so, in a human way. We cannot "think God" as God "thinks Himself"—if we could, we would be God. Practically all apparent "difficulties" vanish once we realise this. It is, in a word, the doctrine of "analogy."
Of course, Mr. Nichols neither could nor meant to bring everything into a short book : but we like to have the feeling that an author knows a lot more than he actually says, and prudently chooses to, omit it, lest he overwhelm the unaccustomed reader. And after all, this book traces the route of a pilgrimage, and takes us step by step along it.