Memories and Records

by Admiral of the Fleet, Lord Fisher. New York: George H. Doran Co. 1920. Two vols. 8vo, 278 and 264 pp. Illustrated. $8.00.
IF books are men, as someone has sententiously observed, never was a book more its author than this extraordinarily personal compilation of memories. Composed in greater part of dictated material, into which important letters and memoranda have been thrust Boswell-fashion; strewn with italicized phrases, exclamation points, and even heavy black-face type, the volumes summon up a strong individuality, a maker of modern history, in a unique and quite amazing fashion, To read them is to feel Lord Fisher standing at one’s side, arguing, insisting, and shaking his fist.
A fair appraisal of Lord Fisher’s material requires a twofold approach, for the book is at once an addition to the literature of memoirs and an important historical document. As a memoir, its preëminent virtue is certainly sincerity. What Lord Fisher damns, he damns roundly and with all his heart; what he loves, he loves with his whole soul. We are never left in a moment’s doubt regarding his ‘reaction’ to a person or an idea. Thus he hesitates not a moment to expose the uselessness and murderous folly of the Zeebrügge raid, justly calling it ‘silly and criminal.’
The heart of the memoir, however, is its most sympathetic picture of Lord Fisher’s idol, Edward VII, who emerges from these pages amazingly alive and likable. As for the anecdotes, they are all good ones, and enlivened by the use of such adjectives as ‘nip-cheese,’ applied to an admiralty clerk.
Historically, the book is of even greater interest, for it is essentially Lord Fisher’s defence of the policies he pursued while Admiral of the Fleet and First Sea Lord. With every chapter comes the sound of breaking glass. Now it is the long and bitter struggle over the building of the first dreadnoughts, which stands revealed after the crash; now Lord Fisher’s own suggestion to destroy the German fleet in peace-time and have the danger done with; now the mishandling of the Dardanelles affair; now the panic over the German U-boats. One’s eyes are opened to the careful and constant attention paid by supposedly dormant Britain to her neighbor beyond the Friesland shoals. This record alone is enough to make the book a necessity to every student of British policy before the war.
Sincere, entertaining, and intensely individual, Lord Fisher ’s book is one no well-informed reader can afford to neglect. H. B. B.