29 JANUARY 1960, Page 12


SIR,—Would it not have been more courteous as well as more fair minded to have telephoned to ask for information on the Writers' Declaration against Racial Discrimination before rather than after Ber- nard Levin wrote his irresponsible attack upon it?

The origin of the Declaration is as follows: Dr. Little, Professor of Social Anthropology at Edin- burgh University, wrote to ask if I could not collect the signatures of as many British writers as possible for the purpose of such a Declaration. Canon Collins then offered to launch the Declaration at a Christian Action meeting, where he hoped Mr. Norman Manley, the Prime Minister of Jamaica, would speak for us. Unfortunately Mr. Manley had to postpone coming to England for so long, because of his commitments as Prime Minister, that we decided to launch the Declaration through The Times at Christmas instead.

The Declaration was written, at my invitation, by R. C. Church; but one or two sentences had to be enlarged or omitted to suit some of our more agnostic thinkers who wanted to sign the Declaration- but could not do so if it expressed any dogmatic signifi- cance. I think these slight changes (lid interfere with the beautiful felicity of R. C. Church's prose, but not with its lucidity or its purpose.

Bertrand Russell, W. H. Auden and other masters of our English language, found no fault with the Declaration as it stands, so perhaps we may overlook Mr. Levin's strictures.

1 would point out to him that the Magna Carta is one of the three great landmarks of our dignity as human beings, the other two being the Ten Com- mandments and the Bill of Rights. We said in this Declaration that we wished to sec these rights extended not only to ourselves but to all other human beings.

Dr. Little urged the use of the quotation from Unesco as the scientific evidence against discrimina- tion stated in scientific terms.

It is deplorable that there were spelling mistakes and wrong titles in some of the names and addresses of the signatories. These are the slips of an over- worked secretary in the office of Christian Action at Christmas time, when this office must have been overwhelmed with details of the Nuclear Demonstra- tion. For the same reason Canon Collins, who was conducting the march, was unable to overlook per- sonally the list of authors before it reached The Times office, where, I understand, with kindness and courtesy, the most prominent of these errors were cor- rected.

I am wholly responsible for the list of authors' signatures and very proud of it. All who asked to see the list before signing the Declaration, had the list sent to them, and none of the writers objected to any of the signatures. I can assure Mr. Levin that none of the authors who signed this document did so in any perfunctory way. On the contrary, each of these busy writers answered my appeal fully and carefully.

Some wrote several times. Three reconsidered their first decisions not to sign. Even those few who refused to sign, wrote to express their general sympathy with the cause, and courteously gave their full reasons against signing, often suggesting further alterations in the Declaration so that it might enable them to sign.

May f point out to Mr. Levin that although he may not know who Lewis Way is, those interested

in philosophy will certainly remember Mr. Way's very well-reviewed Man's Quest for Significance: and those whose interest is in psychology will certainly not have forgotten Adler's Place in Psychology and the recently published Adler Pelican.

Neither Canon Collins nor I myself are, of course. responsible for any of our authors' opinions except the one they expressed by signing the Declaration.

If my friend Colin Wilson, whose three stimulating books-- each one an improvement upon the last----Mr.

Levin may also have overlooked, should have shown any support for the meanest of Hitler's copycats. Oswald Mosley, I can only hope that time, which is on the side of all young authors, will soon obliterate his fall from grace. It is an added comfort to remember that, if he should try to corrupt his many readers, his publisher is Victor Gollancz.--Yours faithfully,

PHYLI IS BOTTOME 'Little Greenly,' 95 South End Road, NW 3

[Bernard Levin writes: 'My original complaint against the Declaration and the manner of its pre- paration sprang, as I made clear, from approval of its aim—a protest against racial discrimination. But I doubted—and doubt even more now—whether this kind of windy platitudinising does any good, or even avoids doing. harm. I wondered at the time whether the signatories had read Magna Carta lately, and Miss Bottome now confirms that she, at any rate, has not; the only mention of -race in that document is a clause diddling Jews out of their legal rights as creditors. I was not objecting to the sentiments etpressed in the quotation from Unesco, but to the illiterate jargon in which they were couched. I now know who Mr. Lewis Way is, but since the original documents referred to Mr. Louis Way I may be par- doned for my error.'—Editor, Spectator.]