A SPECTATOR'S NOTEBOOK I T was only to be expected
that Professor Broad's article in the current Hibbert Journal, suggesting that those who are convinced that they ought not to fight for their country in the next war can avoid most of their difficulties by suicide, should attract the attention of the daily Press, as it has. The contention, which is made in all seriousness and with no trace of cynicism or dis- paragement, is the climax of a long and closely-reasoned argument, and it ought not in justice to be evered from its context. But it takes a great deal to convince me that the only legitimate choices for a thoughtful man in war-time are either to kill or to die. What good does he do to his country by putting his head in a gas-oven ? Is it really for the benefit of the country that it should be robbed of all he might have done for it in another forty or fifty years of life ? Even in war-time there are the sick and wounded to be cared for and the hungry to be fed. And if it were true that the man who will not fight does not deserve to live it would usually be a definite loss to the State that he should cease to live. Take Professor Broad, who, I believe, has said in an interview that he himself does not know whether he would commit suicide or not. He ought to be condemned to live at any cost.
I have not gathered definitely whether descriptions of the execution of the miserable Hauptmann were broadcast by radio for the benefit of the American public. The word " broadcast " was certainly used in one. message from New York, but it may have been employed meta- phorically (and honorifically) to indicate the scope of the service rendered by descriptive reporters through that great engine, the American Press. For the star reporters were there in force. No detail escaped them—the shaven scalp, the dead dull white skin, the eyes that were no more than glaring deep sockets. All this before the fatal moment. Then "his lank body moved slightly, the chin lunging forward slightly, as Robert Elliott, the spare. built, hatchet-faced executioner standing behind him, turned the little wheel and 2,400 volts of electricity poured into the German's body." That was the last act. But it had an epilogue : "The guards bundled up the corpse like bag of debris and flung it into another little room." America can teach us a good deal, but there are some fields in which we can do without the teaching.
• A passage in Mr. E. E. Kellett's new book As .1 Remember (which was reviewed in The Spectator last week) suggests a calculation which I am more inclined to pass on to others than to labour over myself. There was current in his youth, he observes, a story of an old lady who in 1884 happened to be talking to a man about Oliver Cromwell, and among other things remarked, " My dear husband's first wife's first husband knew him well and liked him much." My own contribution to the calculation shall be confined to the reminder that Oliver Cromwell died in 1658. Mr. Kellett, whom I know to be dependable, adds that "this statement, though surprising, will be found on consideration to be just possible." Another equally surprising piece of relationship which "links the generations each . with each " was provided by that member of the Holland House family possessed of two aunts whose deaths were separated by 159 years. Also quite possible—indeed a good deal more intelligible than the other.. * * * * Sir George Murray, I suppose, is half-forgotten by the present generation. But he took rank in his time among the great civil servants—of the class of Welby for example, a class in which Sir Maurice Hankey today stands supreme, though he has long been outside the main stream of the civil service. Readers of the volume of reminiscences published by Sir Austen Chamberlain last year will not have forgotten his examples of the pungency of Sir George's comments. The best, I think, was the observation (to Sir Austen himself) "If. you will do such a damn silly thing, need you do it in such a damn silly way?" On another occasion—I .quote both anecdotes from memory—Sir George was making trouble about some appointment which Sir Austen, then Post- master-General, wanted made. Finally, Sir Austen mentioned that certain parliamentary considerations were involved. "Oh," said Sir George, "why didn't you tell me it was a job ? I'll get it done at once." * * * * I am not surprised that Lord Zetland has repudiated the comments of The Times on his admirable speech on foreign policy at Manchester last Friday. Lord Zetland is a Cabinet Minister of wide experience, who speaks with the greater weight for his personal detachment from the field of foreign affairs. The almost contemptuous note of the remark in The Times leading article that " some sym- pathy is due to Lora Zetland for the tone and phrasing of the unlucky brief with which he had apparently been furnished at Manchester last night, when he left the topics of his own Department and turned to foreign affairs," astonished other readers than Lord Zetland. Incidentally, it would be a bad thing far the sound doctrine of Cabinet responsibility if Ministers did not occasionally. "leave the topics of their own Department " and deal with Govern- ment policy in other fields.
▪ * a * As a result of my reference to Dr. T. E. Page in this column last week I am reminded by . a correspondent that few, if any, of Dr. Page's obituary notices mention the fact that Page never became a headmaster because he resolutely refused—what in most cases was an-essential condition—to take Orders. His action, it is suggested, had a good deal to do with the gradual disappearance of the condition. That may or may not be. Certainly Page did resolutely refuse to take Orders, and I believe it is perfectly true that but for that various important headmasterships would have been at his disposal. * I see it stated in the Daily Telegraph that Sir Walford and Lady Selby came back from Vienna a week or so ago "for the birth of their grandchild." The expression seems a little odd, though there is no reason why it should. I remember that Professor Gilbert Murray once, apologising for his lateness at a committee over which he was presiding, explained that he had just been giving -birth to a grandson..