The Life and Letters of Waiter H. Page

by Burton J. Hendrick. Garden City, N. Y.: Doubleday, Page & Co. 1922. Two volumes. 8vo. xii+430; x+437 pp. $10.00.
THE fourth of the twenty-seven chapters in these two generous volumes is called ‘The Wilsonian Era Begins.’ Into the three chapters preceding it, nearly the whole story of Page’s life before he sailed for England in May, 1913, as Ambassador of the United States to Great Britain, is condensed. In October, 1918, he landed in New York, shattered in health, with hardly more than two months of life before him, a ‘war casualty’ if there ever was one. This biography, as an historical document, is therefore chiefly notable for its contribution to an understanding of the relations between England and America from the outbreak of the World War almost to its end. Yet the first three chapters convey to the reader a clear perception of the influences and activities which fitted Page so admirably for his great task —the Southern boy’s training as a scholar, his enthusiasm and power in such employments as his editorship of the Atlantic Monthly, his fervor and common sense as a publicist and lover of his country.
Page’s position in London for nearly three of his five years there was in one respect more difficult than that of Charles Francis Adams during the Civil War, for Adams was at least in sympathy with the government, he represented. Page, representing a government officially neutral, was himself ardently un-neutral. Using the eyes of his head, as an ambassador should, to observe and interpret the country to which he was credited, he used also the eyes of his heart. It was a heart of warmth and bigness, the core of an emotional nature touched to its depth by the plight and the spirit of a people which at first puzzled and amused him and then completely won his admiration. It was inevitable that he should lose all patience with those countrymen of his, no matter how high in authority, who gave themselves more deliberately to the cause which he espoused from the first. It was inevitable also that he should express his thoughts and his feelings with perfect freedom, whether writing to or about President Wilson. The mutual affection and admiration of these two friends — for such they were — suffered a severe strain under a situation so charged with sadness for them both. The sadness is the greater because through Page’s untimely cutting off, after his memorable service in the interpretation of America to England at a time when a breach would have been an unspeakable disaster, he could not participate in the efforts toward that new organization of human society which he and President Wilson had equally at heart.
Within the limits of this brief notice it is not possible to illustrate by quotation the vivid qualities of mind and spirit which shine through Page’s letters. One would know neither where to begin nor where to stop. The letters are obviously those of a man possessing a rare endowment of intellectual and moral force, together with a correspondingly rare capacity for affection. They are obviously much better letters for having proceeded direct from the point of the writer’s pen, without any dimming of their individuality through mechanical processes. When all the letters of the world come to be typewritten there wall be few such as these. It may fairly be questioned, however, whether the time had quite come to print them all. One half of an overheard telephoneconversation does not always tell the whole story; and the whole story of which an impressive half is here presented is manifestly not yet to be told. None the less these letters will always constitute an important element in the personal and diplomatic history of the ‘Wilsonian Era.’ In that history, as in the larger annals of his country, the typically American figure of Page will stand forth with a special distinction of largeness, charm, and vigor.
Mr. Hendrick was fortunate in the opportunity to deal with biographical material of such permanent historical and human value. The skill and effectiveness with which he has handled it are worthy of all praise.