16 AUGUST 1935, Page 19


[To the Editor of THE SPECTATOR.] Sta,--1eur entertaining contributor, " &wits," in one of hiS notes in last week's issue of The Spectator, refers to " the Belfast Orange riots." May I ask why the word " Orange " is included in the description ? Are we to suppose that Orangemen alone participated in the riots or that they in- augurated and chiefly continued them ? If so, how does " Janus " account for the fact that of the nine persons who were killed in the riots, seven were Protestants ? Does he suppose that the Ulster Protestants, who were enjoying the Most prosperous tourist season they have ever had, deliberately or carelessly started a riot which immediately brought that season to an end—temporarily, at all events ? Am I wrong in thinking that The Spectator, in its political and its literary Pages, takes a Free State point of view ?

' • Let ine, in addition to putting these. questions to you, enquire what are the politics of The Spectator. It was for- Melly a Conservative review with Free Trade affinities. But What is it today ? The majority of your reviewers appear to be Liberals or Socialists or, occasionally, Communists. Are there any Conservatives writing for The Spectator now ? These questions appear to me to be important. . When I want to know what a Liberal or a Socialist or a Communist thinks of a particular subject, I look in a Liberal or a Socialist or a communist 'review. But where, among the reviews, am I to learn a Conservative's opinion ? I have seen a book reviewed. in The Spectator, the Nett: Statesman and Time and Tide by three reviewers, all of whom belonged to one school of political thought. I take leave to think that this is entirely wrong, not only from the point of view of the author and the reader of the book, but also from the point of view of the editors of these reviews ; for if we are to see reflected in all three of them only the views of one school, why should the three reviews continue to be, published ? One would be enough.

The trouble is increased when a book is reviewed in four or five different papers by one person who may publish his name, but is more likely not to. .A man who reads many papers may be deceiyed into thinking that five reviews of one book express the considered opinions of five different persons. I suggest that this sort of multiple reviewing, if it be done anonymously, is a forth of fraud bn those people who read several weekly paper's in the hOpe of obtaining a fair consensus of opinion on any subject. There was a scandalous example of it lately when a gentleman adversely criticized a book in several papers, publishing his opinions under his name in one place, but anonymously elsewhere. Had it not been for the fact that the author very properly protested against this treatment, the condemnation of his book would have appeared in five different weekly papers, and would have seemed to have been the work of five different critics.

That is one important point that I venture to bring to your attention, but the point which is immediately important is raised in the middle of this letter. What are The Spectator's politics ?—Yours faithfully, Honey Ditches, Seaton, Devon. ST. Joii ERVINE.

[(1) The word " Orange " was no doubt used by our con- tributor " Janus " because the date, July 12th, on which and on account of which, the riots this year broke out has tradi= tionally an Orange-Green significance. But let the riots, by all means, be known simply as the Belfast riots. The Spectator takes no " Free State point of view " either in literature or in politics. But it happens that both politics and literary movements in the Free State are of greater general interest than those of Northern Ireland. (2) The Spectator is inde- pendent in politics. If labels are to be insisted on, the term " Left-Centre," used by Mr. St. Loe Strachey to describe The Spectator's attitude under his editorship, is equally appro- priate today. It naturally implies support of a Government headed by Mr. Baldwin and including men like Lord Halifax, Sir Samuel Hoare, Lord Eustace Percy, Mr. Eden and Mr. Ormsby-Gore. Recent Conservative reviewers in The Spectator include, among many others, Lord Eustaee Percy, M.P., Lord Tweedsmuir, Sir Arnold Wilson, M.P., the Principal of Hertford. (8) Lady Houston's Saturday Review might meet Mr. Ervine's requirements. (4) The Spectator takes more trouble than most similar journals to ensure that reviewers dealing with a book in its columns shall not review it elsewhere, and practically all reviews are signed. Reviewers arc chosen for their competence to handle the book entrusted to them. Whether the reviewer of a work on biology or literary criticism happens to be a Conservative, a National Liberal, a Samuelite Liberal or a member of the Labour Party is not regarded as a question of the first moment. Political volumes are dealt with by reviewers sharing The Spectator's outlook,—. ED. The Spectator.]