18 JULY 1931, Page 28

Joseph Priestley had many claims to be remembered. He was

a famous eighteenth-century scientist and the discoverer of oxygen. He was a great rationalist and suffered for his opinions so much that he spent his latter years in the United States. He was a man of very estimable character who even rejoiced in his stammering speech because " without some such check as this I might have been disputatious in company" and in his poor ear for music which made him " less apt to be offended when the performances I hear are but indifferent." And he was the great grandfather of Mr. Hilaire Belloc. It cannot be truthfully said that A Life of Joseph Priestley, by Anne Holt (Oxford University Press, 8s. 6d.), is either thrilling or entrancing. The author does not mention his distinguished great-grandson or the scarcely less distinguished great-grand- daughter who, as Mrs. Belloc Lawndes, writes novels. She travels at a pedestrian pace. But she has got together all the necessary materials, some of them unpublished, and she arranges them with unpretentious precision. It was worth while to publish the book if only for its reminder that the passions created by the French Revolution resembled exactly those which the Russian upheaval aroused. Priestley was a " Bolshevik " of his age. Even in the United States as in England he was attacked for not being enthusiastic about monarchy or conventional religion. Is it fanciful to detect in his great-grandson something of his ancestor's taste for being unlike other people ?