by G. P. Putnam’s Sons. 1924. 8vo. vi+297 pp. $2.50.. New York.
IN his volume of sketches of contemporary figures of Europe, Mr. Sisley Huddleston has happily resisted the journalistic temptation to be merely smart. Mirrors, whether of Downing Street or of Washington, were well enough in their time, but their success started a flood of imitators which the reading public could easily spare. In Those Europeans Mr. Huddleston steers with a steady hand between the extremes of satiric detraction, so common among writers of character sketches, and hero-worship. Perhaps, however, his treatment of Poincaré is a trifle suggestive of the latter amiable weakness. In his professional capacity as Paris correspondent of the London Times for the past six years, and now for the Christian Science Monitor, Mr. Huddleston has become known as rather a thickand-thin admirer of the great proponent of France’s losing adventure in the Ruhr. It is not surprising therefore to find his sketch differing widely from the estimate which the world, outside of France, has put upon Poincaré. As an Englishman contemplating French statesmen, he puts Poincaré easily at the head of the list. As a resident of Paris for some thirty years, looking upon his own countrymen with the detachment bred of long residence in an alien land, lie dismisses Lloyd George as a ‘political acrobat’ who ‘has sunk to the lowest depths of public indifference.’
In the preface to his book Mr. Huddleston seeks to characterize each of his subjects by a phrase. Thus Lloyd George is “The Man of the Centre,’ while Ramsay MacDonald is ‘The Symbol of England’s Strength.’ Even as the book came to the reviewer’s table, the news filled the papers that the Government of MacDonald, like that of Poincaré, had fallen. One might think Mr. Huddleston unfortunate in his heroes, except that, so far as the British Labor Premier is concerned, any intelligent observer will agree that he rendered a great service to Europe in suddenly reminding it that soft words turn away wrath; ‘that if you wish to come to terms it is advisable to begin by creating an atmosphere in which it is possible to talk reasonably.’
Paris, for a man in Mr. Huddleston’s position, is a great listening-post. Before him have passed the most eminent figures in public life of the last half-century. He writes of Clemenceau, “Europe’s Greatest Man’; of Masaryk, ‘His Country’s Creator’; of Lyautey, ‘French Empire Builder’; of Joseph Caillaux, ‘The Jonah of France’; of Mussolini, ‘Play Actor and Patriot’; and of a dozen others. It is an evidence of the timeliness of the book that of all the twenty figures described only one — Anatole France, “Ironist and Dreamer’ — has passed beyond life’s activities. Of the others, some are indeed in eclipse, but none is beyond the chance of being again a bright luminary in Europe’s political firmament. How each has played his part in creating the present state of Europe and with what results is made comprehensible in this very readable group of character-studies.
WILLIS J. ABBOT