6 SEPTEMBER 1919, Page 19


MR. STERLING STICKS IT OUT.* MR. HAROLD BRODIE tells in a long Preface the story of the genesis and delay in the publication of his book. It grew out of his resentment in the winter of 1917 against what he considered to be the cowardly and shamefully rigorous treatment of Quaker and Tolstoyan conscientious objectors. No newspapers would publish his protest, and nothing came of his repeated appeals to

the Prime Minister and other eminent persons. Hence his resolve to cast his protest in the form of fiction, setting forth the " antithetical ideals of nationalism and religion," neither exalting the patriot nor denouncing the Quaker, but holding " with a steady hand the balance between these two temperaments." The Press Bureau held up the book on the.ground that its publica- tion was against the national interests. It was in the spring of 1918 when this crisis was reached, and there was another crisis impending. The authorities doubtless held that the book might blunt the edge of the national resolve. They had con- siderable excuse, but they were probably wrong. lir. Sterling Sticks It Out is not a dangerous book. We readily accept Mr. Begbie's statement of his aims and motives. Ho was not a Defeatist. Professor Gilbert Murray does not think that the book preaches Pacificism, and commends its " sweetness of spirit, fairness, and understanding." It is the story of a brilliant young Oxford man, son of a rich banker, who cuts himself off from his people, lives in the slums, teaches poor people gratui- tously, becomes a Quaker and marries a Quakeress. On the outbreak of the war he works on behalf of the families of aliens, refuses to join up, and as a logical Pacificist takes part in the anti-conscriptionist movement, is imprisoned and sentenced to solitary confinement for infraction of rules and is ultimately released only to die from the rigours of his treatment. Of his three brothers one is a fine and gallant soldier, another a self- protective cynic, the third a blend of patriot and sentimentalist. Mr. Begbie's honesty is above suspicion, but he has not a judicial mind. He has too much sweetness, too little dry light, as was recently shown in his sympathetic interview with the Kaiser. But if it be.argued that the book would have been more effective if it had taken the form of a narrative of facts, he has his answer ready that in that form it was refused publication. And he certainly scores a point when he asserts that the Press Bureau, while charging him with inaccuracies in his account of the prison treatment of conscientious objectors, deolined to specify what his misstatements were.