The Peripatetic Reviewer

THE question before the house, the question which is presently being debated by the citizens and selectmen from Truro to Chatham and which is sure to be presented to Congress in the foreseeable future, is: Can we save Cape Cod? In the National Park Service those in favor of preserving the Cape Cod seashore park have defined an area of approximately thirty-two miles of the outer shore line stretching from Truro through Eastham and embracing the incomparable Nauset Beach and the already protected sandy islet of Mdnomoy. The park as proposed would include about one eighth of the area of the Cape; if the boundaries are cut back, it will, of course, be that much smaller, but when the boundaries, however drawn, are finally accepted, the most characteristic and least “developed” part of the Cape — dunes, marsh, scrub oak, bayberry, the clean-washed white clapboard homes — will be permanently out of reach of the hit-and-run contractors whose depredations under the guise of private enterprise are more destructive of American values than a plague of Egyptian locusts. This is the vulnerable period; five years from now it will be too late.
The feeling is pretty nearly unanimous that the beaches should be protected; the problem arises over how to accommodate — pacify, in some cases — those whose family holdings are contingent. There is understandable resentment among those who fear the long arm of the government: this is their land, their marsh, their right of access; they have preserved this part of the Cape, and now why should they be dispossessed? Certain historic houses are marked for preservation, but what about the others? Will the present owners and their children be granted life tenure? Or will there be a time limit? Will water fowling and upland shooting be permitted? Less personal but no less pressing is the question of how much land back of the beaches is needed to give the park protection in depth — ten miles, five miles, half a mile? A thin ribbon of beach and dunes embroidered by a continuous assortment of motels, hot-dog stands, drive-ins, liquor and tackle shops, with their neon signs flashing at you eight hundred yards away, is not my idea of a national park. I’ve seen something too much like that stretching south from Los Angeles, and it grew up unassisted.
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has nearly two thousand miles of flood-tide seacoast, and of that expanse today only twenty-five miles are reserved for public beaches. The thirty-twomile reservation which the farsighted are now arguing for on the Cape is not intended to be the longest Jones Beach on record, but rather a medley of bathing beach and wild cove —the thundering surf of Nauset and Monomoy for the adventurous surf casters, the marshes behind a great preserve for the shore birds — terrain and town holding as does the Cape Hatteras seashore park the unblemished character of a unique region.


In 1950 ELIZABETH MARSHALL THOMAS, her father, and her brother John mobilized what had grown to be a family interest in Africa, particularly in the Kalahari Desert, that great inland table of low sand dunes and vast, torrid, thirsty plains which occupies most of Bechuanaland. This is the present residence of the Bushmen, who with the Hottentots are the earliest human inhabitants still living in southern Africa. Graceful, delicate, goldcolored, unaggressive little people, numbering between thirty and fifty thousand, they were forced into this uninhabitable country by the Bantus and the whites, and with quite wonderful resourcefulness they have survived and made it their own. The Marshalls were curious to see how the Bushmen lived, and on a series of expeditions, cosponsored by the Smithsonian and the Peabody Museum at Harvard, they were accompanied by linguists, zoologists, botanists, and archaeologists, usually to a total of fourteen, as well as four or five Bantu men — interpreters, a cook, and a mechanic. Three times, in trucks and a jeep, they crossed the forbidding drought land on one stretch of four hundred miles there was no water at all — their purpose being to study and film the life and customs of the people of the Kalahari, THE HARMLESS PEOPLE (Knopf, $5.00), as Mrs. Thomas entitles them in her delightful book.
Mrs. Thomas writes out of close and friendly observation. The Bushmen arc shy of any stranger. “If they believe that you are coming,”she says, “they run away like foxes to hide in the grass until you are gone.” But in time they came to trust these white inquirers, and Mrs. Thomas was permitted privileges no other white woman has enjoyed. She was allowed to follow a hunt from the preparation of the poisoned arrow to the final butchering of the antelope, every drop of liquid consumed, every scrap of meat or bone utilized. She was taken along on the hot, tedious search for truffles and edible roots, hidden deep in cracks in the sand; she was admitted to Bushmen’s housekeeping in the almost invisible grass huts.
The charm of the book is that the author can so truly convey the strangeness of the desert life in which we perceive human traits as familiar as our own. The garrulous old gentlemen — one of whom retells at every opportunity a hilarious story about lions; the coquettish, arrogant young beauties, preening; the children bored and miserable on the hot food-gathering but refusing to be left alone at home. Even in the episode of the valiant old hunter, crippled and slowly dying of gangrene, whom the expedition ships off to a distant hospital, we see an uncomfortable amount of jealousy, a vice evidently no people can do without. The Harmless People is a model of exposition; the style very simple and precise, perfectly suited to the neat, even fastidious activities of a people who must make their world out of next to nothing.


Artist and photographer, a connoisseur of wine and food who is as much at home in Paris as in his native Marblehead, SAMUEL CHAMBERLAIN is unquestionably the best qualified and most articulate American epicure. His Bouquet de France (its sale has now reached the 50,000 mark) is an intellectual road map to Paris and the provinces with a luscious description of the beauties to see, the delicacies to eat and drink. The companion volume, ITALIAN BOUQUET (Gourmet, $12,50), goes further than its predecessor. The prints, drawings, and photographs, all by the author, give one a pictorial approach to Italy which I have never seen equaled, and Mr. Chamberlain with his well-stocked mind and graceful prose style adds to his travelogue enough epicurean suggestions to keep you eating for a month. This is a big book to carry, its bulk enhanced by three hundred and fifty superlative photographs, but Americans are carrying it as they travel because of its practical value. The treasury of Italian recipes tells you what to order and has been translated and adapted for American use by Narcissa Chamberlain. For its combination of connoisseurship, readability, and beauty, Italian Bouquet deserves a place of honor in the small body of outstanding books on gastronomy. I might add that the Chamberlains are now in England, tasting, drawing, and photographing for the third volume in their scries.


In his graceful new novel, THE LIGHT INFANTRY BALL (Doubleday, $3.95), HAMILTON BASSO is writing about the same South Carolina community which was the setting for his earlier and very popular book, The View from Pompey’s Head. But in the new book he has gone back to January of 1861, when the plantation society, assembled in Caledonia Hall for the gayest event of the season, is agitated by the Administration’s refusal to surrender the forts in Charleston Harbor and is up in arms for secession. The Light Infantry Ball is always preceded by a parade, and this year the volunteers have been drilling in earnest under the leadership of Ules Monckton, their captain and the publisher of the Pompey’s Head Morning News. Monckton is a fire-eater, and the fanaticism which he brings to any gathering brooks neither reason nor remonstrance. When he challenges John Bottomley, the son of the ex-governor, who has studied at the College of New Jersey in Princeton and who, because of his Northern exposure, holds certain misgivings about the Avar, to account for his views, the tempers explode and a duel is arranged for the following dawn.
Using this lively, well-lit scene for his frontispiece, the author, in a series of skillful flashbacks, draws us into the life of John Bottomley. He is thirty and a bachelor. His education in the North has broadened his outlook and set him apart from his contemporaries in Pompey’s Head, and his solitary life at Deerskin, the upriver rice plantation which he has been managing for his father, has left him somber, laconic, self-doubtful. On his return from college, he had the misfortune to fall in love with the attractive Lydia Chadwick, a dressmaker’s daughter turned teacher and very much on the make, and when she married Senator Stanhope, who was twice John’s age and twice as wealthy, his cynicism deepened.
Through John’s eyes we watch the deterioration eating away at the heart of his family and the degradation which the South suffers through its treatment of the slaves. Curiously, the general corruption is more believable than either John’s infatuation or his repentance.


The year 1859 saw the publication, along with Adam Bede, Idylls of the King, On the Origin of Species, and A Tale of Two Cities, of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyám, translated into English verse by an author who chose to remain anonymous. The work continued for months to be unsold and unread, but when it finally caught the public attention, it achieved an immense popularity which has endured unabated to the present day. A bookstore is hardly a bookstore without the Rubáiyát.
The translator, of course, was Edward FitzGerald, who believed that in the translation of poetry aesthetic and emotional effect was of the first importance. Literal fidelity to the original text was merely a nice thing to have if it could be managed. This freebooting theory produced one of the great poems of the nineteenth century and the most unreliable trot in scholastic history.
In honor of the Rubáiyát’s hundredth anniversary and in tribute to the audacity of its creative translator, the Colby College Press has issued a centennial edition called simply FITZGERALD’S RUBÁIYÁT (86.25). The editor is CARL J. WEBER, whose introduction is amusing as well as learned and informative. The text follows the first edition, but the footnotes record FitzGerald’s later revisions, pertinent quotations from other scholars, opinions by FitzGerald’s contemporaries, literal versions of the Persian, and stray odds and ends. A lean introduction and fat footnotes make a sensible combination, leaving the book primarily and properly FitzGerald’s own.


Cruising is one of the few amateur sports left, and any good book about it should be as informal as an old sneaker. In READY ABOUT (Barnes, $5.00) “Captain” G. PEABODY GARDNER, of Boston, Harvard 1910, tells of his sailing adventures down East these past five decades; tells of his favorite sailing companions and of what they contributed to each expedition; tells other yachtsmen which anchorages to explore and which to avoid; tells nostalgically of his happy summers on that beautiful half-moon, Roque Island. This is a sailing log of happy ships and agreeable men made entertaining by the author’s good humor and by his insistence upon living well at sea.