Antony (Viscount Knebworth) - A Record of Youth

by his father, the Earl of Lytton
[Scribners, $3,00]
‘IT is rather fun to be able to say what I feel about everything to someone who won’t mind,’ wrote young Antony, Viscount Knebworth, to his father. As a memoir the Earl of Lytton has edited letters written by his eldest son, who was killed, flying, at the age of twenty-nine. It is a book of the greatest charm and vitality. Carefully as the father tries to keep himself out of the book, his portrait is painted in the letters.
‘Life is hard,’ repeated the ten-year old Antony, leaving Knebworth for school. Two days later he wrote, ‘I am just going out to play footer. I am getting on very well. I have not made many enemies, much love.’
The originality of the letters lies in Antony’s ability, born into a great family and good fortune, to see everything fresh: Eton, Oxford, India, London parties, even Conservative party politics. He is thankful for his happy life. He adores his family. With a father who is one of the wisest men in the world to-day, Antony, from quite a small boy, did his own thinking, with a vigor and sparkle which stand up well even to his father’s kind and masterful replies. When Antony broached such subjects as cribbing, a purpose in life, happiness versus pleasure, and religion, the letters on both sides are given.
Besides a brilliant and original mind, the letters show a most extraordinary capacity for enjoyment. Antony knew himself well and had moods of depression which not even exercise, that inspired English panacea, could banish. But when he was happy no one could have been more literally full of joy. His letters from Eton and India, and about skiing and flying, transmit it to the reader.
Through Antony one has an insight into school and family life at its best in England, with the strongest relationships sadly broken by the demands of Empire service. One sees nobility obliging as a matter of course. One watches the young Antony searching for and testing the happiness which his father says lies ‘in the exercise of all your creative faculties in the service of the community to which you belong.’
And every reader will see again his own adolescence, that stage of growth which has come to seem difficult, pitiable, and rather comic. Antony dignifies it and makes it shine. He was a rare personality, gay and free. It is tragedy again when the letters end.
I. L. S.