26 DECEMBER 1947, Page 22

Shorter Notices

The Day Before Yesterday. By R. A. Scott-James. (Muller. 10s. 6d.)

The Day Before Yesterday consists of editorials written by Mr. Scott-James for The London Merc14, and covers the period from the end of 1934 to the spring of 1939. To say, as the dust jacket does, that it "reviews the changing scene in the nation's life" is not quite accurate, for, in most part, the notes deal only with those particular events and subjects which attracted the attention of the editor from month to month ; but there is a certain reiteration of theme which witnesses to the preoccupations causing anxiety to the more perceptive among English writers before the war. Thus at a time when a number of the younger intellectuals—perhaps it is the use of this word which gives the chief clue to the period—were departing, or had departed, for Spain, he pointed out the danger to freedom implied in the interpretation of European development solely in terms of a clash between Fascism and Communism ; and he was on guard, also, against the increasing uniformity of opinion within this country brought about by the concentration of newspaper ownership and other modern agencies. He calls for "a stand against false culture," whilst at the same time showing the essential relation- ship between art and life. Against the advocates either of the popularisation of art or of the artist's withdrawal into an arcanum of the select, he states, what war-time experience has so clearly borne out, that "the public taste is being perpetually kept down by the contempt in which it is held by the universal providers." Thus, whilst aware of the increasing threats to the values he keeps clearly before his readers, he is, in the last resort, optimistic. There are short portraits and estimates of T. E. Lawrence, Yeats and Housman, and criticisms of plays and exhibitions, together with comments on the events and personalities which went to make up one man's im- pressions of the near past.