I Took Off My Tie. By Hugh Massingham. (Heinemann. 7s. 6d.) Reviewed by HUGH BROUGHALL Mr. Hugh Massingham, sent to the Rhondda Valley to study unemployment, found not, as he expected, the debris of Society but a community with a new and more spiritual outlook. Under the shock of this fact he came to the realisation of our profound ignorance of the world which lies just beyond the doorstep. A Londoner, he has cast an indifferent glance at the violent contrasts which exist between the West End and the East End. He resolved that he would try to find out the reality behind the appearance. He had no wish to propound solutions. He was determined to know.
But at once he found his journey across the frontier beset by unimagined difficulties. It was impossible to secure a passport; and he realised that there is no hostility so deep and impenetrable as that of one class for another. After much enquiry he secured a job as rent collector for two houses, and, taking off his tie, moved into two miserable rooms. The people, at first, took him for a police spy and he had to fight down an almost universal ostricism. He stuck to his position and at length won through the hearts of a small community.
Life-a New Art
This book might be fiction, so admirably does the narrative run and so gripping is its appeal. It is simply a truthful record of the life lived in squalid surroundings. JL was a strange society into which he penetrated. Some of his newfound friends were far from respectable by any standards. Some of them, Annie Morgan and an Italian organ-grinder, Harrison, the solicitor and Hewins, the pawnbroker-the first two in arid the second on the fringe of the communityremain in the memory. And there is an initiation into a new standard of values. Joys and sorrows are on a different scale. Living is a fine art.
The reader lives in this foreign city whose inhabitants seem to have little use for religion. They hardly seem to be material for the reformer. They conform to no recognised types. It is this quality of defiant, unconquerable individuality that forms the genius of the book.
Its-realism will shock many. There is a terrible weakness for highly coloured language. But, written with humour and sympathy, and a certain fastidious distinction, the book is sure of its appeal. It is an important human document, more valuable than a hundred reports and more certain of consideration.