PROFESSOR Frank Dobie of the University of Texas, authority on American regionalism and the folklore of the Great Plains, was railroaded by a happy accident of war into a visiting professorship of American institutions at Cambridge, England. This book is part notebook, part digest of his impressions of all manner of Britishers in their native, wartime haunts. The author’s keen and sympathetic eye observes the temporary and the permanent features of British life, and takes in the very young and very old alike: college men and women, workers, men and women in the armed services, publicans and sinners, gardeners and saints.
There is much keen and serious study of American institutions and history in English universities, and if the young students, civilians and members of the armed forces alike, are typical of their generation in Britain, that country should be well served in the critical decades to come. Mr. Dobie has the campfire storyteller’s gift for painting a picture in a sentence, and a poet’s sensitiveness and lightness of touch. He brings out what many a traveler in Britain fails to: namely, that British patriotism and the British character are shot through with a naturalist’s love of the English countryside, “its sights and sounds, Dreams happy as her day ... a body of England’s, breathing English air, Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.”
The result is a light and pleasing chronicle that can, and should, be read at a sitting, and that leaves the reader with much more than a nodding acquaintanceship with the British as they are today. Indeed, there is much more in Mr. Dobie’s book than its light and whimsical style suggests. Get it, laugh over it, and ponder it.