2 DECEMBER 1911, Page 35



HR. STEPHEN REYNOLDS is already, well known to our readers through his books, A Poor Man's House and Along- shore. His new book, a collection of sketches and essays, has all the value of his former works in interpreting the outlook of the working classes on politics and life. If the character of the book has not given him all the opportunities of Along- shore for a lyrical simplicity in describing the endurance of those who make their living as fishermen—a simplicity which turned the sentimentalism of M. Loti to pettiness—he has gone, we think, deeper than in any earlier book into the causes of the working man's discontent. We do not say that Mr. Reynolds gives the whole explanation of the present ferment among, the working classes, but he gives, at all events, a wide and perfectly rational explanation. And let us note that the book was written before the recent series of industrial strikes with their portent of syndicalism. The book was not therefore produced to answer crying questions of the hour ; the author was free from all temptation to make the cause fit the effect. 'Yet, as we said, we have here a perfectly rational explanation of what eventually did happen. There is no one writing to-day who has fitted himself so carefully as Mr. Stephen Reynolds to interpret the working man, and no one needs, an interpreter more than the working man. The clever man in ten thousand who emerges from the working class and becomes a "labour • Seems So! A Working-Class View qf Politics. By Stephen Reynolds and Bob and Tom Woolley. With frontispiece from a photograph by Melville Maokay. London : Macmillan and Co. [5s. net.] leader " is supposed to act as interpreter. Many of us have doubted his capacity, judging him only from the occasions on which he has appeared utterly to misrepresent the secret cravings of those whose deputy be is, and here we have the corroboration of Mr. Reynolds. " As a rule there is no one so out of sympathy with working-class life as the man who has just climbed above it ; there are certainly no such sharks in their dealings with working people. The devotion of the LabourMembers to their own idea of working-class welfare and the divorce of most of them from working-class feeling is one of the most disheartening spectacles in modern politics."

Mr. Reynolds explains carefully the nature of his col- laboration with his fishermen friends, Messrs. Bob and Tom Woolley. It is only too easy to misinterpret the opinion of an inarticulate class, and Mr. Reynolds is well aware of it. The newspapers are the chief medium by which one class comes to understand another, and in the newspapers the views of such as Mr. Bob and Mr. Tom Woolley do not appear. What does appear is the dogma of the labour leader. Mr. Reynolds is doing us all a deeply important service in telling us what the working-class family with which he lives and works in partnership really does think. For, of course, Mr. Bob and Mr. Tom Woolley think and say a great deal; they are by no means inarticulate in their expressive Devon dialect ; only it requires someone who is really trusted by them, one who belongs both to their world and to ours, to con- vey it to the ordinary reader. The casual visitor to the beach of the Woolleys, or to the inn where the fishermen congregate, would carry away, stray sayings quite out of their context. It is always possible, of course, that even Mr. Reynolds has to some extent unconsciously guided the thoughts.of his fisher friends ; he may here and there have put an idea into their heads which they have adopted, but would not have conceived of their own accord. But Mr. Reynolds, perceiving this source of error as clearly as we do, has guarded against it in every possible way. "Every page," he says, "has been debated and passed by the three of us." And, so far as we can judge, every page (at all events every page of the sketches, with their abundant dialect, as distinguished from the more formal essays in the second part of the book) does convey a note of absolute sincerity. There is not a trace of an attempt to serve any conventional set of political principles. Many of the opinions are wildly contradictory—or would be thought so by ardent party politicians—and one has only to read this book to understand the reality of the " balancing elector " and to form a new respect for him. As we read the book, indeed, we were continually forced to reflect that the opinion of the working classes on any particular measure could be arrived at only by a Referendum. It is impossible to induce the working man, as you can largely induce more educated people, to accept a Bill in advance because it is the fruit of a certain order of political philosophy. The working man wants to judge it on its working merits. Let him have the opportunity, then, in doubtful cases to say ".Yes " or "No " when a Bill in its final shape is laid before him. Much that the Messrs. Woolley believe is not to our liking; some of their principles are, to our thinking, wrong-headed in the extreme; but that fact only heightens our sense of the honesty of Mr. Reynolds's work as interpreter, and convinces us of the importance of knowing what those principles are.

The chief impression we take from the book is of the con- stant and growing annoyance of working men at bureaucratic legislation which orders their lives from their rising up to their lying down by rules and regulations conceived by a higher class educated in everything but know- ledge of the class below. Typical working men, as Mr. Reynolds knows them, are the stoutest individualists. "It is of no use offering them freedom from destitution if, as a condition, they must knuckle under to a scheme of industrial conscription like the Webb Minority Report; or offering them National Insurance if the result is to make the master more powerfully a master, and the man more impotently a workman than ever." When the working class has been persuaded to vote for a Government that offers a new heaven and a new earth and then finds that there is no new heaven and no new earth after all, and that even the improvements in wages and conditions are 'Counterbalanced by the upward rush of prices and by the advent of contrary and depress- sng conditions, the disillusionment is very great. The working man may go on voting for this or that candi-

date because there is no one else to vote for, but his true- feelings are expressed by the chaotic strikes we have lately' experienced. He wants a new standard of comfort—a rise in wages which shall be a real, not a fictitious, rise—and we. heartily sympathize with him.

Another impression we take from the book is that if Mr.

Reynolds is not mistaken there is a growing tendency to class, antagonism. Great Britain has been singularly free from- class antagonism, and we should be sorry indeed if the class, bitterness of France were ever paralleled here. Mr. Reynolds, to be sure, says that "the likes o' us" have no 'giudge against " the likes o' they "; at the. same time the working men have found a political philosophy of their own, according to which the " upper " classes misuse their power to keep the working class out. of their fair

share of the good things of the world and to billet on the: working class such highly disliked agents of the superior will as inspectors, policemen, and magistrates.

We leave to the reader the pleasure of learning for himself"

the exact degree of contempt which working people entertain for those well-to-do persons who patronize the poor with the terrible complacency of Mrs. Pardiggle in Bleak House, for

"Suffragettes," for the busybodyism of the " Children Act" and for the results of State education. If working people• are as much opposed to compulsory military training as Mr. Reynolds believes, we are very sorry to hear it ; but in this matter we take leave to doubt the accuracy of his interpre- tation. We will conclude with a summary of the Reynolds- Woolley point of view in Mr. Reynolds's own words :-

" It will be noticed that the broad principles here advocated (not very systematic principles perhaps—how can they be in such. a chaos ?) are more akin to what has been called the Old Tory, attitude than to most attitudes. They tend, in fact—if it is not, stretching terms too far—towards a New Toryism or Nationalism,. a Nationalism founded on respect for the poor ; less bent on 'raising them out of their station' than on providing them with justice in that station, and the chance of bettering themselves whenever by- their own efforts they can do it ; sufficiently sensible of human brotherhood in the elemental things of life• not to be under the illusion that equality necessitates sameness ; prepared to honour the poor for what they are, where they are; confident that there are many different lines of development, and therefore tolerant of other class-customs and class-aims ; and conscious always that, as.. the poor so often say, it takes all sorts to make a world—or a well- organized nation."