The Peripatetic Reviewer

Everyone knows what happened after the Battle of Waterloo. But the intricacies by which the French Underground sprang Napoleon free from Elba and had waiting for him not only his veterans of the Garde Impérial but gleaming young regiments of infantry, cavalry, and artillery, admirably equipped within sixty days of his landing, are still something of a mystery. Waterloo was the first confrontation of Wellington, the Iron Duke, and the much feared, now fleshy Bonaparte; the margin of victory could hardly have been narrower, and the human factors which decided it have at last been woven together in an account which is graphic, exciting, and wholly convincing.
It is David Howarth’s method in Waterloo: Day of Battle to follow the action hour by hour, checking the eyewitnesses against the historians and quoting the details, so full of life and color, from a multitude of letters and memorabilia. Napoleon, after he led his spectacularly uniformed army across the Belgian frontier, told his staff that the odds were 9 to 1 in his favor, and indeed, the complacency of the allied command in Brussels made them seem so. Wellington’s sources of intelligence had dried up, and the twenty-two-year-old Prince of Orange, who had been posted to warn of the French approach but who had come back to Brussels to attend the Duchess of Richmond’s ball, gave the Duke his first clue in these ingenuous words: “No [news], nothing but that the French have crossed the Sambre and had a brush with the Prussians. Have you heard of it?” Actually it was not a brush but a bloody dent the French had inflicted at Quatre Bras, as the Prussian commander confirmed. The Duke, in his chemise and slippers, preparing to dress for the ball, listened to the bad news and remarked afterward, “I cannot tell the world that Blücher picked the fattest man in his army to ride with an express to me, and that he took thirty hours to go thirty miles.” But before he went to the dance, Wellington, working through his brilliant thirty-four-year-old aide.
Sir William de Lancey, had ordered his troops to stand and fight along the ridge and in the sunken lane at Waterloo, according to the battle plan he had earlier scouted.
Rain can turn Flanders into gumbo. It rained all the night of the ball, drenching both armies, denying them sleep, making the beet and barley fields as slippery as the parquet. Napoleon, who had spent one day in the saddle, was suffering from an attack of piles, a fact known only to his valet, his doctor, and his brother, Prince Jerome, and the rain brought on his old enemy, cystitis, with its fever and inflammation. When at sunrise of June 18 Wellington and his staff rode gaily to the lines, Napoleon sat, lethargic with pain, shrinking from decision, and curtly dismissing the of his chief of staff to recall the 33,000 men who were away pursuing the Prussians. He was confident that Blücher could not reinforce the Duke, and that the British squares would dissolve under a frontal attack, yet not until eleven thirty on that sunny morning did he order the bombardment to begin.
Waterloo: Day of Battle by David Howarth (Atheneum, $7.95) The Closed Corporation: American Universities in Crisis by James Ridgeway (Random House, $5.95) Joyce Cary: A Biography by Malcolm Foster (Houghton Mifflin, $10.00) Reminiscences of Affection by Victor Gollancz (Atheneum, $7.50)
The field of battle was only two miles long and two thirds of a mile across; committing 140,000 men in that arena at point-blank range was ferocity and chaos. “I’ll be hanged if I know anything about the matter,” said one British regular afterward, “for I was all day trodden in the mud and ridden over by every scoundrel who had a horse.” While the Emperor watched through a telescope, it was Marshal Ney, with his red head (he had five horses shot under him), who furiously led the French to the crest of the ridge, and through twelve charges the pattern was repeated: the French cavalry overran but did not spike the guns, then broke formation and were murdered by the firepower and bayonets of the British squares. It was Wellington, calm and exposed, who implacably shored up the weak spots, and the fattest Prussian, General Muffling, who finally urged Blücher’s reinforcements into the vortex, a reality which broke the morale of the Garde in their last assault.
What gives this book its sense of immediacy are the eyewitnesses whom the author has chosen from both armies, men whose experiences hold wonder and humor and compassion: William Leeke, who was only seventeen but who carried the standard of his regiment; Tom Morris, the argumentative Cockney sergeant; Mercer, who was an artist and fast-moving artillery officer; and Rees Gronow, a Guardsman and old Etonian, who was to dine out on his stories for the rest of his life. Most touching of all was the Duke’s brilliant young Quartermaster General de Lancey, who had been on his honeymoon when the Duke’s order arrived and who, like many of the British high command, took his wife of one week with him to Brussels; their three weeks of matrimony and her tenderness at the end catch at the heart.
The maps, the portraits, and the battle scenes by contemporary artists add to the reader’s feeling of having been there.
A muckraker is a man with sensitive nostrils, a long rake with which to stir up an odoriferous area, and a mind which habitually jumps to the worst possible conclusions. Reading The Closed Corporation: American Universities in Crisis by James Ridgeway reminds me of an early experience with Upton Sinclair when I was a junior at Harvard. Geoffrey Parsons, then editor of the New York Tribune, had urged me to read The Brass Check, in which Sinclair accused the American press of being subservient to big business — and if Mr. Parsons said so there must be some truth in it. I was in no position to judge the accuracy of Mr, Sinclair’s case against newspapers along way from Boston, but when he said that the Harvard Lampoon’s attack on Harold Laski, a nasty issue which most undergraduates resented, was deliberately inspired by Wall Street, I knew he was talking nonsense, and I wondered how much he had been doing so elsewhere.
In The Closed Corporation Mr. Ridgeway is not concerned with the teaching crisis which is present on every campus and which is the direct result of having to triple the faculty in ten years. Good teachers don’t grow as fast as that, and 40 percent of our university and college teachers today are less than well qualified for their appointment. No, Mr. Ridgeway is not concerned with teaching, good or bad; the crisis which, troubles him is that American universities since 1947 have become “a great sprawl of different enterprises: graduate institutes, computation centers, a propaganda headquarters for testing . . . interlocked with a defense-systems laboratory or AEC installation, located near the campus and surrounded by a sprawl of companies begun by professors who developed with public funds in the university’s laboratories the products they now sell for private gain.”
Here is where he detects the bad odor, and here is a sampling of his bill of particulars:
“MIT and Johns Hopkins run centers which design missiles; half of MIT’s budget and three quarters of Johns Hopkins’ budget come from running defense labs. Cornell designs more effective bombs for Vietnam; Princeton breaks codes and runs conventions for the CIA. Michigan is first in photo reconnaissance and helps out with counterinsurgency. Pennsylvania and fifty other universities have recently been involved in chemical, germ and biological warfare research.”
The antecedent for all this was the Office of Scientific Research and Development, which during the war brought together under the direction of Dr. Vannevar Bush thirty-five hundred scientists, the most powerful galaxy ever assembled in a common cause. The reliance of the government upon the universities and their leading scientists has continued, and with good reason, through the cold war, Korea, and Vietnam, and the question Mr. Ridgeway pokes at with his rake is whether such reliance has gone too far, whether it has contaminated the universities and become in effect a closed and corrupt system.
In muckraking everyone gets spattered. It is silly of Mr. Ridgeway to try to denigrate Dartmouth for “running a timber-producing forest” (the college was endowed with the forest in 1808 when New Hampshire was short of cash), and equally silly to abuse Harvard (which has declined all classified research on principle) for employing able investment counsel to care for its large portfolio. It is ridiculous to treat as entrepreneurs men as indispensable to our national security as James R. Killian, Jr., of MIT, Lee A. Dubridge of Cal Tech, and Edwin Land of Polaroid. He has a better right to criticize Columbia for its dubious dealings in real estate and cigarette filters, Cornell for its timidity in automotive research, Long Island University for its attempted sale of the Brooklyn Center to the City University, which was rightly squashed by Mayor Lindsay. One must usually take Ridgeway’s inferences and conclusions with a pinch of salt. He recommends, for instance, that in the future universities “should be run by students, teachers and administrators and free to all.” Yes, but who pays for it, and why assume that the state house or Washington can do a better job than an independent board of trustees? Were the 48,000 residents of Massachusetts who are presently undergraduates at private schools and universities transferred to state-supported schools, it would cost the taxpayer $52 million annually, and if one includes those in the graduate schools that figure would be doubled for Massachusetts alone. What Mr. Ridgeway projects is a state and federal bureaucracy the size and wastefulness of which would make the present set-up seem as innocent as “September Morn.”
To those curious about the genesis of a novelist, Malcolm Foster’s biography of Joyce Cary tells a punishing story with fidelity. Cary came of an Anglo-Irish family who had large holdings of poor acres in Donegal but who had been dispossessed long before his education began. He first thought of himself as a painter and had tasted both freedom and failure in Paris by the time he was twenty. He shifted to Oxford, preparing for a career in civil service, and there his friendship with John Middleton Murry tempted him with the thought of a literary career. But he was penniless and in love, and the only way he could support his beloved Gertie was to take up the white man’s burden in Nigeria, where, monocle in his eye and notebook in his briefcase, he was to rule over an area of ten thousand square miles, and where, despite the terrific heat he never ceased to experiment with his fiction. He abandoned half a dozen novels before he was invalided home on his first long leave, and the sketches and half-finished work he brought with him were proof of his prodigious creativity in the midst of pestilence. His letters to his wife during this time of trial crackle with his exasperation and his determination to be a writer.
At the age of thirty-two Cary published his first short story in the Saturday Evening Post, but American readers who enjoyed him in magazines turned a deaf ear to his novels, and books like The African Witch and Mr. Johnson, which were based on his African experiences, were well reviewed but financial failures. It was not until years later, when Cary had turned back to the bohemia of his youth and to portraying artists with as little regard for convention as Gulley Jimson, the hero of his novel The Horse’s Mouth, that he at last enjoyed a wide readership on both sides of the Atlantic. A craftsman self-taught when he might have been enjoying the siesta of the tropics, Joyce Cary planned and plotted his books with as much care as Thomas Hardy, and his letters and diaries which Foster quotes to good effect will disabuse anyone of the notion that fiction-writing is an easy, quickly rewarding business.
The late Victor Gollancz was a buoyant figure in left-wing England, a witty, cultivated, and highly selective publisher with a gift for friendship and the audacity to publish what others shied from. He wrote well but was always too busy to do the big publishing memoir at the back of his mind; meanwhile, his zest for living flowed out of him in essays on music, travel, and the various causes to which he was devoted. When a stroke cut him down and, half-paralyzed, he learned to express himself with his left hand, a member of his firm, his favorite daughter, Livia, decided the time had come to collate the earlier chapters he had written and put to one side. This, with her charming introduction, she has done in Reminiscences of Affection, a volume which in its intimate and discursive way holds the essence of her father.
He shows himself to us a sensuous man, generous and quixotic in what he championed (in mid-life he resumed his vegetarian diet, hating every scrap of it — “watery, inflationary, pasty, regurgitatory, sawdusty stuff!”), half in love with many women and wholly in love with his wife, Ruth. His “prelude” is rightfully his courting of Ruth; and his first chapter, their happiness at Bottom House (he was a fancier of good bottoms) at the close of their life. Outside of England his happiest memories are of Naples, Florence, and Rome — Spain was soured for him by Franco — and wherever he had leisure it was music he craved (in his bare diction after his stroke he wrote, “a musician is a man who feels his whole, being transformed when music is played”). His thumbnail sketches are acute: I like the way he describes Queen Mary, Rose Macaulay, Gerald Gould, Sigle Lynd, G.B.S., and his contrasting portraits of John Strachey and Harold Laski; his pride in being a Jew shows in his account of Edmond Fleg. He is so fond of exaggerating that it is not always clear how he accepts the exaggeration of his friends, as for example, Laski’s preposterous story of President Wilson asking him to amplify the Fourteen Points. What is clear is that this socialist who abjured capitalism did manage to live happily by his wits and his profits. Unlike most posthumous works, this book is alive.

The Writers

Peter Stansky is an associate professor of history at Stanford University and the co-author with William Abrahams of Journey to the Frontier.
Mary Ellmann is the author of Thinking About Women published by Harcourt, Brace & World.
Charles Thomas Samuels, who teaches English at Williams College, is completing a book on Henry James.
Wilfrid Sheed is the author of a new book, The Blacking Factory and Pennsylvania Gothic, just published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
Douglas Turnbaugh is currently conducting a survey on the use of notation in the dance theater, for the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities.
Edward Weeks, Phoebe Adams, and Herbert Kupferberg contribute regularly to the Atlantic.