17 MAY 1957, Page 8

SIR WILLIAM BEACH THOMAS died last Sunday at the age

of eighty-nine. The Times in its obituary called him 'One of the most distinguished journal- ists of his generation,' and the epithet was well chosen. Fair, scrupulous, perceptive and urbane, a man of action as well as an observer, Beach Thomas was a writer of singular authority and un- obtrusive charm. His weekly notes on 'Country Life' were—save for a short break before the last war—a regular feature of the Spectator for the best part of thirty years, and not even his predecessor, Eric Parker, excelled him as an accurate and beguiling recorder of the country- man's world. When he retired in 1950 he set down in a valedictory paragraph the principle on which he worked. 'The country scene is a department of art, not of science. The essential is the discovery of beauty, not of knowledge. . . . We do not listen to the nightingale in order to find out whether his song is erotic or polemic.' Yet though he had an artist's eye, his prose was sober and exact. He was a great craftsman, who carried through a full and varied life a mien of tolerance and courtesy. The English scene has lost a very English figure.