22 OCTOBER 1937, Page 21


Haldane, 1856-1915 (The Marquess of Crewe) .. ..

Civitas Dei (Wilson Harris) 689 Mr. Leacock Discovers the West (H. V. Hodson) .. 692 Present Dikontents (Honor Croome) 69z

Jeffreys of the Bloody Assizes (Christopher. Hobhouse) 694

Gustav Mahler (Edward Sackvflle West) Faith in Action (Sir Harold Bellman)

• •

• •

• • • •

694 696 Maria Edgeworth (J. M. Hone) ..

• •


Fiction (Kate O'Brien) .. •


Current Literature .. •


HALDANE, 1856-1915


IT is a happy inspiration that has entrusted the biography of Richard Burdon Haldane to the pen of a distinguished soldier, who is also an accomplished man of letters. As Sir Frederick Maurice puts it, Haldane's two loves were philosophy and education ; but if his name is to endure in the overcrowded pages of recent history, it will be hinged upon his tenure of the War Office during six years and more of concentrated activity. Making all allowance for difference of race and cir- cumstance, Carnot and Stein were his political forbears. This biography sketches forcibly the virile stock of which he was an offshoot, strong in will and in intellect. It explains, too, the early bent of his mind towards speculative enquiry. His father's faith was that of an unquestioning Calvinist, his mother, the daughter of Richard Burdon-Sanderson and great-niece of Lord Eldon, had been baptised into the sect of Plymouth Brothers, though her notable endowment of intellectual sympathy kept her free from narrow sectarianism. The atmosphere of such a home reacts variously on the mind of youth. Some find themselves forced into the bleak rejection of any revealed religion ; others, like Lord Ripon, brought up with strict evangelical tenets, find a refuge later in life under the safe shelter of Roman Catholic authority. Haldane went to neither extreme. Embarking on the ocean of philosophy while still a schoolboy, and finding little sustenance from Reid, Dugald Stewart or Hamilton, he was entered at the University of Gottingen before he was eighteen. There he came under the influence of Professor Lome, with whom he " had a very pleasant conversation about metaphysics." That wise teacher was convinced " that no ascertained truth in . philosophy clashed with• religion," and that the spheres of philosophy and Christianity were different. It may be assumed that throughout his life Haldane held a similar view.

His early struggles at the bar, after his call in 1879, differ little from those of others who reached fame and fortune from small beginnings. He suffered no actual privations, for there was money about ; but his father's death had complicated affairs, and he must have been a poor man until the fees began to roll in. Roll in they soon did, after his happy conjunction with Sir Horace Davey, a Napoleon of the Chancery bar, and before long the snowball represented £10,000 a year and more. So it was not a misfortune that his lack of forensic rhetoric, and of a resonant voice, guided him into the calmer waters of the profession. Later, he was floated by the stream of public We into the not less congenial pool of Privy Council practice.

But students of political history will be more concerned with Haldane's political affiliations after his election for East Lothian in the 1886 Parliament. He was a Liberal, a Home Ruler and an advanced social reformer, but not of the type that Parliamentary Whips love. Never a strict party man, he was lukewarm over Free Trade, and consorted freely with Fabian socialists. His whole outlook was nearer to that of Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Webb than to that of Harcourt and his backers on the Liberal benches, with Labouchere as their reductio ad impossibile. It may, therefore, have been something of an accident that brought him into the camp of the Liberal Imperialists, who looked on Rosebery as their leader. For Arthur Acland, who was an evangelist of popular education and enjoyed the confidence of the Labour wing, belonged to this group ; so did Asquith, Haldane's close friend at the bar ; and so did Edward Grey. And there was nothing in the teaching of the German philosophy of his choice to contradict this bias, though at the end of 1889 he could still describe himself as a " Morleyite." .

The South African war deepened the fissure in the Liberal

Haldane, 1856-1915. By Major-General Sir Frederick Maurice. (Faber and Faber. as.)

party, a fissure only to be closed within five years by the action of Mr. Joseph Chamberlain. Of the three groups, those who thought the struggle inevitable and the British cause just ; those who deemed it an act of shameless aggression ; and those who condemned our diplomacy and lamented the severities which repressed guerilla resistance, but saw that the two Republics must be annexed, Haldane belonged to the first and his fellow Scot, Carqpbell-Bannerman, to the third. It will be news to most readers that in 1895, when Campbell- Bannerman would have liked the Speakership, but could not be spared, Rosebery and the Cabinet urged Haldane to accept it. Wisely, and fortunately for the country, he declined this signal honour. For years the two Scotsmen misunderstood and underrated each other. The War Office, where each in his different way had scored successes, proved to be the solvent which produced confidence and friendship before the elder man's career was closed. General Maurice naturally devotes many pages to Haldane's tenure of the Secretaryship of State when the Liberal Government was formed at the end of 1905. His appointment was not prejudiced by the rather tortuous manoeuvres by which it was sought to relegate Campbell- Bannerman to the comparative obscurity of the House of Lords ; and General Maurice's account disposes of some misapprehensions which were prevalent then and afterwards. King Edward himself, and more than one distinguished soldier, had foretold Haldane as a likely War Minister. There was a ridiculous suggestion that Campbell-Bannerman, mis- trusting Haldane, had offered him an office in which he was bound to fail. Prime Ministers do not play practical jokes of that kind ; and the last office which that Prim: Ministe r was likely so to abuse was the one in which he himself had shone as Financial Secretary and as Secretary of State. There may have been a touch of malice—in the French sense—in setting Haldane's great intellectual capacity, which he fully recognised, to divert itself from the abstract to the concrete, from speculation to administration. But he can only have been glad to have erred by having " no idea that Schopenhauer would cut such a figure in the barrack yard."

Every reader will be grateful to the biographer for treating so clearly the progress of military reform from 1872, through Wolseley's work as Adjutant-General, to the unfortunate dread of our liability to invasion, and finally to the misapprehended lessons of the South African war, and the conclusions of the Esher committee. Working on broad principles, and scrupu- lously avoiding any preconceived plan, as a civilian of civilians pretending to no inside knowledge, he won at once the confi- dence and co-operation of the Army Council in working out the creation of the Expeditionary Force, the transformation of the Militia and the formation of the Territorial Army. To re-organise the Volunteers into the Territorial Army was comparatively simple ; but tampering with the old constitu- tional Militia meant formidable opposition from powerful country interests. There was an awkward complication in the revival, after fifty years, of the scare of foreign invasion. The fleet would be lured away, and 200,000 troops, inevitably equipped with the most modern armament, would land on the East Coast. Lord Roberts, the most popular military figure, urged a system of universal training, which even his supporters admitted must be conscription under another name. It needed all Haldane's tact, backed by the best naval opinipn, to combat these theories. Later on, Colonel Repington, Lord Roberts' principal spokesman,. who had sacrificed a brilliant military career and become a newspaper correspondent, admitted that the reAl purpose of universal service was less td combat invasion than to provide forces for a continental war. But at the time this could not be urged ; and the six divisions, with a cavalry division, represented the army available for prompt mobilisa-

tion. Meanwhile the duties of the General Staff were extended " td form a really hothogeneous Imperial Army " in case of need.

Such was Haldane's immeasurable service to the country. It was- unrequited just at the moment when its Value was being proved in France and Flanders. Not unrequited by the Army, for when he left the War Office a chows of praise pursued him. Throughout the volume Sir Frederick Maurice deals fairly and carefully with the admiration for Germany which so misled Haldane's countrymen. He explains that the descrip- tion of Germany as his " spiritual Home "was not Haldane's own, as most people still suppose, but was applied by a friend to his speech at Montreal to the American Bar Association. But it is perhaps true that his admiration for German education and German efficiency, unaccompanied by any critical reserva- tions, allowed people to imagine equal admiration for the methods of Frederick II and Bismarck. He forgot the paradox that our national habit of self-depreciation does not imply- readiness to admit the superiority of others. And it may not be easy for the present generation to realise the intense dislike of Germany that prevailed during the twenty years that pre- ceded the War. So that when Asquith wes driven in May, 19r5, to form what should have been a National Government but was a Coalition in the strictest sense and the worst conceiv- able machine for waging war, Haldane's expulsion was made a condition of its existence. There was much to be said for handing the reins to a Conservative Government ; but there would have been danger in allowing irresponsible Liberals to form an Opposition, so the weaker course had to be taken in the public interest.

If Haldane had never sharpened the spearhead of the Army, his name should have endured as an educational pioneer. He regarded Oxford and Cambridge with a critical eye, as, oddly enough, Campbell-Bannerman had years before in debate. Gottingen and Charlottenburg meant more to him. So he threw himself ardently into the creation of provincial Univer- sities, and the concentration of scientific teaching at the Imperial College. This biography does not greatly elucidate what was a puzzle to his contemporaries, the scope of his own intellectual interests outside the philosophical field.

But it gives ample space to Haldane's legal career, in one sense a primary, in another but a secondary element in his life. He never sought legal office, and did not envy such notable lawyers as LOrds Selbome or Herschell ; when the chance came he refused to be a Law Officer, and his nomination as Liberal Lord Chancellor in 1912 was almost accidental. Happily, in 1905 the place was bespoken before he had agreed to join the Government. He went rather unwillingly to the House of Lords, and never found a spiritual home on the red benches, though the work of the tribunal fitted him precisely. The creed of his predecessor on the Woolsack, Lord Loreburn, in most respects repelled the majority of peers far more than Haldane's could, but he was a more popular figure in the House. The biography apprehends, but does not altogether explain, Haldane's failure to attract a more popular verdict. He did not shine with the charm that distinguished such different personalities as Balfour and Morley and Alfred Lyttelton. But he was an admirable companion, especially in a small party, and a host who not only lavished comfort on his friends, but enjoyed it himself, as a host shyald. As General. Maurice notes, he did not share in many popular amusements, and it will be news to many People that he ever carried a gun. But it was known that, he could outwalk most of his contemporaries. The handicap of his German enthu- siasm has been mentioned, though the later development of Hegel's theory of the State as the realisation of the spiritual principle of the Absolute had not yet sho eked the world. No man was more free from personal vanity ; but perhaps, though few of his chosen friends were e philosophers, he showed too clearly the belief that without that divine study a man missed the best in life. So might an initiate of the Orphic Mysteries have appeared to others outside. Haldane, in fact, repre- sented a type unknown to British public life. Other statesmen had strong individuality, but they conformed to a regular pattern. Lord John Russell, and Horner, and Lord Henry Petty had imbibed Scottish philosophy, and Carlyle had brought Germany nearer ; but Haldane's culture was in a way novel and surprising. It was thus that his countrymen so grievously misunderstood him. Could his marriage to -the wise and accomplished lady of his choice have been brought about, the misunderstandings might have been fewer.