The Peripatetic Reviewer

I REMEMBER a visit I paid to Archibald MacLeish at the time when he was in charge of the Congressional Library. I arrived as Carl Sandburg was departing. Sandburg stood in the door looking back at the librarian, who was seated beneath the famous Simmons murals, and intoned:
Over the poet’s coco
Was rococo.
Archie and I had our lunch on trays, and as we ate he told me of some of the new acquisitions: manuscripts like The Mint, the novel by T. E. Lawrence not to be published until fifty years after his death; the disentombment from the cellar of the famous old movie films; the collection of cowboy songs and songs of the chain gang which Alan Lomax, like his father, had recorded; the installation on a yearly basis of a consultant on poetry; the use of microfilm in a dozen different ways — all this in addition to his efforts to raise salaries and to list the 1,800,000 unrecorded volumes. Mr. MacLeish, who was untrained professionally as a librarian, would be the last to say that he had originated ail these alterations; he had a good team. But the extra perception which he brought to his job made him an excellent spokesman for the enrichment of public libraries the country over.
Story hours for children, listening tables for adults and children, readers’ advisers — these have helped to convert what had once been a cloistered, whispering, gloomy building into a community center. It was the work of many minds in many places. I personally recall George Herbert Lock of Toronto, one of the first to open the rooms to children; Joseph Lewis Wheeler, who made the Enoch Pratt Free Library of Baltimore shine like a beacon; Edna M. Sanderson of Columbia, who trained so many of the ablest librarians of today; and Julian Parks Boyd, who attracted to the Princeton Library the Parrish collection of Victorian novels, the Rollins collection of Western Americana, and Mencken’s correspondence on film, to mention only a few.
In 1922, when I was doing graduate work at Trinity College, Cambridge, I shared rooms with an Englishman, H. R. Creswick, who is today Librarian of Cambridge University. Dick as a student was a connoisseur of books, although because of limited funds he did most of his purchasing at David’s stall in the market place. His natural proclivity led him into library work, and in 1939 he rose to be Deputy Librarian of the Bodleian at Oxford. He has always been my closest link with England, and when I flew over in July, 1943, it was he who conducted me through the treasure rooms and fireproof vaults of that great collection. That same weekend we took tea with Mr. and Mrs. John Masefield in Abingdon, and Dick modestly mentioned the Friends of the Bodleian and their hope that the library might be entrusted with one of the poet’s manuscripts. Masefield flushed with pleasure and, after consulting with his wife, suggested Renard the Fox. A long pause, and then the poet shyly cleared his throat. “My good friend Thomas Hardy and I corresponded regularly for twenty-five years, he said, “and after his death Mrs. Hardy returned my letters. I wonder if you would care to have that correspondence too?" Dick smiled and nodded, and I had a momentary vision of the keepers of treasure rooms back home who would envy such luck.
This is the time of year when we are impelled to pay our national debt of gratitude to librarians, not only to those in high places but to the loyal, anonymous members in the ranks. We salute them for preserving our heritage, for inculcating in the young the joy of discovery, for their insistence on accuracy, for their aid in scholarly research, and most of all for nourishing the love of books.


In the autumn of 1957, the Year One of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah, the Prime Minister, invited BARBARA WARD to address the students and faculty (the potential civil servants) at the University College in Accra. She w as speaking to an eager, buoyant audience, to a new nation struggling up from tribalism and poverty to a realization of itself and its resources, to a people who had emerged from one form of colonialism and were wary lest they be led into another. She talked to them on five occasions. There were four hundred present for her first talk, and when she came to her fifth, more than a thousand. What she said comprises her terse and incisive new book, FIVE IDEAS THAT CHANGE THE WORLD (Norton, S3.75).
The originality of the book is in its point of view, and its strength derives from Miss Ward’s incomparable power of hopeful analysis. She surveys the past to identify those forces which have led us to the present, and she illuminates unsparingly the choices which lie ahead. Through the five chapters. as Nkrumah well says, “runs a single thread, the inevitability of the freedom of man, even if that freedom is liberty for self-destruction.”Nationalism, industrialism, colonialism, Communism, internationalism: these are the big five which are shaping our future.
Miss Ward stresses the ideal of self-governingnationalism and the fact that foreign rule, however enlightened, is no substitute for vigorous national leadership; she speaks of “the uncomfortable cement in Eastern Europe” in the countries still striving to preserve their sense of national separateness; she traces with stimulating clarity the transition from a static to a dynamic economy: how that first great change came about in the river basins of the Nile, Euphrates, Indus, and Yellow; and she shows how the transformation of Ghana’s raw bauxite into aluminum pots and pans was the first prerequisite of its own dynamic growth. She has a picnic with the “detestable nonsense” of racial superiority (one can almost hear the laughter); she shows that the final victim of the total tyrant is always the tyrant himself, whether he be an Assyrian, a Mongol, or a Hitler. Finally, she puts her finger on the weakest link in Communism today: its political inflexibility. Will the suppression of political freedom be endured when the standard of living advances? These home truths, these glowing bits of mosaic so accurately selected from the past, this voice of clarity and reassurance, this power to evoke sympathy are exposition at its very best.


Horatio Herbert Kitchener, born on June 24, 1850, was a British soldier, engineer, and proconsul in the Kipling mold. His piercing blue eyes had a rolling look; his virile downsweeping mustachios were the dream of every sergeant major; his handsome square-cut features and ramrod figure were the image the British public idolized.
Chinese Gordon was his hero; Egypt was the country he loved next to England; and at Omdurman, where his firepower slaughtered the charging dervishes, he won the victory which established his fame at home. He was a natural celibate who suffered from congenital loneliness: he was feared or hated by his brother officers (though not by the picked young staff officers he was training); and he compensated by looting, begging, or buying a most sumptuous collection of Oriental treasure. Dedicated, unsparing, and autocratic, so he stands in PHILIP MAGNUS’ admirable biography, KITCHENER: PORTRAIT OF AN IMFERIALIST (Dutton, $6.50). For its personal detail, for its balance of praise and criticism, for its skill in showing the man as he was under pressure, this book is a model.
Kitchener was born in County Kerry. His father, an army colonel turned squire, was strongwilled and eccentric: he argued that newspapers sewed together were as warm as blankets, a belief which resulted in Mrs. Kitchener’s death by tuberculosis when young Herbert was fourteen. In his lonely tutoring, the boy developed “a glowing high-churchmanship”; except for a brief romance during his middle thirties, he thought little of women and found his fulfillment in one rigorous task after another. Trained as an army engineer, he was sent on mapping expeditions to Palestine, Turkey, and Cyprus. He became an expert linguist and made long forays in disguise. He carried everything in his head, was incapable of delegating, depended upon a very small staff, and to his great achievements — the conquest of Egypt, the pacification of the Boers, the irrigation and land reforms which he instigated at Cairo — he brought stamina, thoroughness, and drive.
Great as he was as a proconsul, he had no gift for war-office administration. But because he was the Empire’s first soldier he was flung into the breach in 1914: he resented criticism, was intolerant of political delay, quarreled with the officers in the field, and was baffled by the imponderables. His conflicts with Asquith and Churchill at the close of this book make one wonder if England could have muddled through had he lived.


JOHN MASTERS is a novelist in a hurry. Sandhurst-trained, he resigned his commission in the British Army in India in 1947 and came to America with the intention of writing a novel a year. This is faster than he could go, but the seven novels and the excellent autobiography already published are uncommonly well written for a professional soldier, and in the best of them, Bhowani Junction and Nightrunners of Bengal, the powers of invention and of characterization are those of an experienced if at times melodramatic narrator. The question raised by each new work is whether Mr. Masters will gain the self-discipline, the subtlety, and the compulsion to make his fiction better than popular. It is still open.
In a rather effusive statement about his latest novel, FANDANGO ROCK (Harper, $4.50), the author explains that “three years ago I knew that I must write about the people among whom I live and whose citizenship I have asked for and been given — the people of the United States.” This is a laudable intention, and I wish the performance were up to it. While Mr. Masters can reproduce the American idiom more accurately than most British writers, he is still a long way from knowing how the American mind works.
Fandango Rock tells of the encounter of two cultures, of how the Spanish in a backward, fiercely traditional town in Aragon react to the impact of an American air base. The Americans, with an eye for the easy girls, in typical free-spending, rock-’n’-roll manner provoke a slow-burning personal resentment, just as their Protestantism and their jets, splitting the sky above the bull ring at the crisis of the faena, are a spiritual antagonism. This hostility is persistently enflamed by a small knot of anarchists whose leader is the local matador, César Aguirre, a medievalist, twentysix and oversexed. Opposing César are a pair of American saps, father and daughter: Hamilton Fremantle, a failure on Madison Avenue, who has for no good reason been promoted to major in the Air Force Intelligence and entrusted with the task of making peace for SAC in the town; Kit, his daughter, blonde and impulsive.
Most of the Americans in the story are flat characters of such limited intelligence that one never quite believes in them. The ambassador talks like a cheap politician; Lindquist, the colonel of the base, seems powerless to discipline or reprimand; Bill Lockman, the pilot who wants to marry Kit, can express himself only by losing his temper and hitting out. And as for Kit herself, when she and Aguirre, in an angry scene, denounce each other’s country, she rips out the lines by Emma Lazarus inscribed on the Statue of Liberty. In this declamation contest as in too many of the other scenes we miss verisimilitude.
What saves the book is Mr. Masters’ knowledge and love of Spain. His descriptions of the singing and the dancing, of the paseo, the corrida, the interior of the cathedral, and the hot, smelly intimacy of the little café ring true. César in the suit of lights as he commits himself to the bull is well drawn. There is enough of the spectacular and of sultry sex to make the book popular. I only wish it were better.