3 DECEMBER 1937, Page 40


About z88o the Red Sea coast was sadly in need of attention : there was a lighthouse to be built, Egyptian officials were doing " infinite harm " among the Somalis, and trade, it seemed, would be ruined. The " men on the spot " recom- mended annexation ; but British states- men at home, anxious to avoid an increase of responsibilities, were content to work against annexation by another Power. They preached the principles of fair play, and respect for Egypt as the weaker. Whatever may be thought of the morality of the game, it was a losing one ; an international scramble was not pre- vented, and when it came Britain per- force joined in. Inland from the coast Menelek was building up the Abyssinian empire ; to obtain guns, he protected the slave-traders who transported them - to obtain concessions, Powers other than Britain supplied the guns. Meanwhile the " men on the spot " fretted at their role : they were doves amongst serpents, or at most serpents without sting. Dr. Starkie's book (Oxford University Press, 7s. 6d.), which is based partly upon unpublished documents at the Foreign Office, will start reflection about both general and particular problems of foreign policy. Rimbaud comes into it because gun-running was his last de- sperate venture to win a fortune. Buthe only just comes into it ; as Dr. Starkie says, he seems " shrivelled up " in Abyssinia. She promises another book later to deal with his poetry and his spiritual experiences.