27 MARCH 1942, Page 13


SIR,—In the review of Professor Carr's book by Mr. Harold Butler in your number for March zoth we read of " the lack of moral purpose, the crude materialism, the cynicism and indifference which have characterised the last twenty years." This seems to me one of those glib vituperative statements which one per-son repeats from another, but which serve rather the self-satisfaction of the person who utters them than the interests of truth. No one would deny that lack of moral purpose, crude materialism, cynicism and indifference have marked many individuals during the last twenty years, perhaps some sets of individuals with whom Mr. Butler or Professor Carr have been in contact. But when you say that such qualities "characterise" a particular period, that means that they are the‘most general and distinctive qualities of the period, and this I should contend to be signally untrue of the period in question. It is difficult to judge of the relative prevalence of any qualities by selecting .ndividt Is out of the heterogeneous mass, but if you judge of the period by the characters and utterances of its public men, the activities Of the churches, the literary and philosophical output, I should say that the qualities mentioned were by no means predominant, or even as extensive as in some other periods. Much more characteristic of the period has been a diffused aspiration and idealism—an idealism largely vague and groping and muddled, attaching to such things as the League of Nations, the Peace Ballot, Appeasement, the Spanish Republic, Communism. The people of the period may be fairly charged with half-heartedness in the pursuit of their ideals, with filling to recognise the extent of the evils to be overcome, with a %honking from actions which might involve great disturbance or thicomfort, with blindness and half-measures—the failure, for instance, IC fight Italy on the Abyssinian business—but all these defects are something very different from materialism, cynicism and indifference.- ! am. Sir, yours, &c., EDWYN BEVAN. Yatscombe Cottage, Boar's Hill, Oxford.