28 MAY 1937, Page 24


Mine Host America. By The Earl of Cottenham. . (Collins. 16s.) THERE is an ominous phrase in Lord Cottenham's book that rouses the worst suspicions of the hardened reader of books on America, suspicions that, I hasten to add, are largely groundless. Lord Cottenham is an enthusiastic admirer of Fascism and he has been pained by the scepticism with which the British public, misled by a mischievous Press, has received news of the wonders wrought in Germany. But information from business friends and "the inside of a week which I had spent the previous summer in motoring observantly from one side of Germany to the other" enabled Lord Cottenham to decide that Germany is in splendid form. That week on which the confident opinion on Germany was based suggested another of those books on America written in little more time than it took to' dash from one end Of the country to the other and as valuable as such hurried compilations usually are.

But the latest addition to the vast body Of Europeanimpressions of America belongs to a rather higher class. Lord Cottenham does not overestimate his knowledge of the United States and the greater part of his book consists of a straightforward, if occa- sionally too eloquent, account of what he saw in America, especially of what can be seen from a car or a plane. We have useful accounts of roads and of general motoring facilities, of hotels and of filling stations. Driving out to the coast, Lord Cottenham flew back and so is able. to describe American air-line methods and to indulge in useful comparisons with the methods and finances of the air-lines Of Britain. All this parr of Mint- Hon America is useful and mildly entertaining. The traveller will rejoice to have recalled to him the sacred name of Fred Harvey. The stay-at-home will enjoy both the numerous illustrations and the useful price-lists of hotels, petrol, meals and the like.

It must not be thought that Lord Cottenham confines himself to such pedestrian details. Very humanly he succumbs, from time to time, to the temptation to sew on purple patches when confronted by such a provocation to that weakness as the Grand Canyon. Nor is Lord Cottenham averse from com- menting on American life and institutions in general, but he makes no pretence of knowing much about them and his opinions are not stated too positively. He was startled to find how general was the dislike of the American rich for President Roosevelt and how deaf they were to his arguments for the President. He has some sensible things to say about the folly of the rich in disregarding the opinion of most of the rest of the American people and in wasting money on the Liberty League and other manifestations of political incompetence. Of course, Lord Cottenham was told a great many things that he might have questioned had he known more. The sad old story of the poor businessman, bled by predatory politicians when all he wants is to be left alone, was not spared him. But the greater part of this book is a useful addition to travel literature, if not to literature. (There are many long and tangled pieces of narrative and reflection in this hook which might be entered for the New Yorker's Non-Stop Sentence Derby).

There is, however, another side to Mine Host America which is much less useful since it is not about America. Lord Cottenham's political opinions may be gauged by his professions of strong admiration for the editor of The Aeroplane. The Fascist countries are credited with almost all the virtues (Germany even having the bonus of a sense of humour thrown in). The wickedness of the Abyssinians, Russian Communists; Spanish Reds, is dwelt on at excessive length, so that one; wonders whether Lord Cottenham's indignation at the parson who preached against Germans with such passion during the late war would be equally aroused against a parson preaching a holy war against the villains of contemporary Europe. But

however that may be, Lord Cottenham has a poor opinion of organised religion, which has been corrupt at least since the Council of Nicea. The clergy are corrupters or contemners of truth, which Lord Cottenham would like to see issued (presumably as in Herr Streicher's Germany) through a worthy Press. Then " ethnic " and other forms of truth would get a chance they do not get at present. One gathers from this book that corresponding ideas are common in flying circles ;