16 FEBRUARY 1940, Page 21

must confess that I have read Sir Evelyn Wrench's article

on " The Moral Front," in your issue of February 9th, with pronounced misgiving.

Sir Evelyn quotes certain ascetic practices adopted by fanatical young Nazis, such as the abandonment of alcohol and nicotine, with the implication that it would be desirable for us, as professed adherents of Christianity, to make similar sacrifices.

There is, however, no authority for any suggestion that this somewhat artificial type of asceticism fulfils a serious Christian requirement. Still less cause is there for believing that it contributes in the slightest degree towards the efficiency of the citizen or the warrior. I refer, of course, to the normal moderate quantity of alcohol and tobacco consumed by the average man, not to the excessive drinker and smoker.

A little anecdote concerning General Grant, of American Civil War fame, may be not inapposite. It is said that a well- meaning busybody wrote to Abraham Lincoln complaining of Grant's alleged addiction to whisky. Lincoln replied: " I wish you would tell me what brand Grant drinks, because I should like some of my other Generals to sample it."

Sir Evelyn's remarks are all the more unfortunate, inasmuch as they support a deplorable tendency at the present time to advocate repressive measures such as we are the first to deplore in the enemy. If our object is the maintenance of freedom, if we are fighting the Nazis because they despise freedom, then it is a rank paradox for us to imitate their methods of suppressing liberty. This is what we shall be doing if we demand that people give up innocuous habits like smoking and drinking.

The last war proved that an over-regimented, super- disciplined, joyless community, though it may appear to have certain extraneous advantages over the more easy-going nations, possesses little true morality, and still less ability to stand the strain of continued hardships.

Are the demands of a moral system met by any country which treats its conquered as the Nazis have treated the Czechs and the Poles? Is the knack of doing without alcohol and tobacco a moral compensation for murdering defenceless fishermen? I leave it to Sir Evelyn to find the answer.—

Yours, &c., JOHN A. FLETCHER. 35 Elvaston Place, London, S.W. 7.