Diplomat Between Wars

By Hugh R. Wilson
SOME books are read for pleasure and others from a sense of duty. Mr. Wilson’s urbane and charming volume of reminiscences would qualify under both categories. He is one of our most thoughtful and experienced diplomats, and his observations on the causes of the weakness of the Weimar Republic, on the failure of the efforts at agreed disarmament which he watched from the vantage point of the American Legation in Switzerland, on the Far Eastern problems with which he became acquainted during his assignment to the Embassy in Tokyo, are extremely sound and informative. At the same time he is a delightful raconteur, with a knack of hitting off a personality or a situation in a paragraph or even in a sentence. There is the incident of Mr. Wilson’s meeting with an uncle of the Japanese Emperor to whom he began to speak French. A certain awkwardness was created when the Japanese Prince, after nodding and smiling blandly for a time, observed through an interpreter that if Mr. Wilson would only speak French he could understand him. Or there is the magisterial Mr. Charles Evans Hughes, who, when requested by a harassed subordinate for a simplification of a disquisition on some point of constitutional law, remarked: ’Why, Mr. Bell, I thought my explanation would be plain to the meanest intelligence.’ The whole book achieves a happy balance between this sort of amusing and revealing personal anecdote and the author’s recollections and impressions of the various phases of the international scene which came under his observation.
W. H. C.