15 MAY 1936, Page 6


SUFFICIENT tribute has never been paid to " Letters to the Editor " as a national institution. They are not usually thought of as a national institution, but they are in fact an essential characteristic of the Press of this country in particular. Papers in other countries, the United States for example, have developed the feature to some extent, but " Correspondence " there has attained nothing like the same scale or the same weight. What gives letters—the selected letters which secure publication—their value is the fact that they all come from men and women who think they have something to say. And some of them very often have. When they have, their letter can very well be better stuff than the leading article of the paper it appears in. Now for what all this (not necessarily the last sentence) is leading up to—two admirable passages from two letters in Monday's papers embodying suggestive comments on the Anglo-Abyssinian question : (1) " The Italian Government has killed and is about to take possession. Friendliness to Italy would seem to British or inion morally intolerable ; and what is morally intolerable is not politically expedient." Lord Hugh Cecil in "The Times."

(2) Mussolini tells us (without any bones about it) that he has gone into Abyssinia because the Italian people need colonies, outlets for population and raw material. But there are very much better colonies than Abyssinia lying about—Algeria, Tunis, Malta, Kenya, South Africa and its gold mines. Why not one of these ? Because he was quite sure that if he began to land troops in, say, South Africa, or even Malta, sanctions, the national sanctions, would be applied instantly and to the full." Sir _Norman Angel in the "Daily Telegraph."

If League sanctions had been certain, Abyssinia would have been safe.

* * * The extracts from Mrs. Dugdale's Life of Lord Balfour which have been appearing in the Daily Telegraph will ensure a lively welcome for the book itself when it comes. Mrs. Dugdale was the most politically-minded of Balfour's nieces, and she stood to him very much in the position of a favourite daughter. As a consequence there runs through the whole of the biography an intimate touch that is in no way inconsistent with the firm handling of political questions. No biographer more detached could have reproduced so well the impression of A. J. B.'s disarming and (usually) ingenuous blandness, or would have had knowledge of the illuminating little comments let fall in the privacy of a family circle. In the chapters- Mr. Cyril Asquith contributed to the biography - of Lord Oxford there are attractive pictures of family life, but they form only a small part of the two volumes. The great political biographies of recent years are for the most part in more austere vein. We are not, by the way, at the end of the series yet, with Mr. Richard Law's life of his father, Professor Trevelyan's Viscount Grey and Sir Frederick Maurice's Lord Haldane still to come.

News reaching me from France suggests that the recent French elections were in many ways more sig- nificant than has been generally realised here. The victorious Socialists at any rate fought largely on foreign policy. Here are two reports from Socialist candidates, both well known and both successful. One was addressing meetings in a centre where serious unemployment has resulted from sanctions. He spoke about sanctions. After his meeting workmen crowded round him with the comment " Sanctions have lost us our - jobs--but stick to them." The second candidate addressed meetings in. forty communes, and at each of them read textually. Articles X and XVI of the Covenant and explained them. The audiences, who had never fully understood the League position, in every case applauded the practical commonsense on which it rests.

* * There is some point in the satirical remark of a Viennese paper that for an English football XI to be beaten 2-1 by Austria was a more bitter humiliation than for British foreign policy to be frustrated by Italian. At that time the English eleven had not capped its achievement by falling before Belgium 3-2. It is a pity that- English elevens should get beaten on the Continent, but though all honour is due to Austria and Belgium for their victories the English team did not profess to be the best the forty counties could produce, and the players were no doubt stale at the fag-end of a hard season. Whether the rigours of training were observed as they should have been I have no means of knowing, but the temptation to treat a contin- ental tour as something of a joy-ride must be consider- able. Too much can easily be made of football ; but matches abroad are worth winning. And against Belgium in particular the English team appears to have gone to pieces.

* * * May term debates at the Oxford and Cambridge Unions are never to be taken too seriously, and perhaps the indig- nation lavished on the decision of the Oxford Union that " this House recognises no flag but the Red flag " is in excess of what the occasion deserves. The vote was very small-67 to 57—and there is a section of Oxford under- graduates which delights in showing itself foolish and callow. Most of them will acquire wisdom with years, and they will then perhaps realise that the traditions of the Oxford Union are something worth upholding. But thanks to their action it will be a case not of upholding but of restoring. * * * A slightly belated comment, but I think still worth while. In the Freshmen's match at Oxford W. Murray- Wood, late of Mill Hill, was played as a bowler and put in seventh wicket. He made 28 not out, showing, as The If observed, that " he can also bat." Two days later he continued the demonstration of that fact with 106 not out for the University against Gloucestershire. And the end is not yet. • * I am very glad to give hospitality to these lines from a writer who speaks with recognised authority on all African questions, but prefers to be known simply by the initials "M. P."

JOHN AFIELT.Y WE stayed. Was there not busy reckoning to be done at home Of fears, of costs—how many long, sharp nails go to a cross ? The ignorant dark people on their hills said " They will come. Are they not strong who gave to us their pledge ' your loss,

our loss ' ? "

He went—with those dark children. They came on, the white, winged foes In strength to work their will ; with art to burn, to blind and rot.

He had no weapon; yet, clear-shining, merciful, arose

His purpose like a sword, defeating them—they know it not. He went, young, smiling, urgent, with those happy few who said— But not in words—of one flesh is mankind : who ran to give, Unreekoning, the best they bad, their lives (and he is dead). We count our wealth of safety, Yet—are we so rich who live .ANUS.