1 NOVEMBER 1963, Page 7

Sparking Plugs

Sir Charles Snow and the Bishop of Woolwich have been modestly wondering why their words should have sparked off such furious controversies. Looking back, in The Times Literary Supplement, on The Two Cultures, Sir Charles suggests that its touching of a nerve in different intellectual societies in different parts of the world proves that his ideas could not well have been original. 'The ideas,' he says, 'were in the air. Anyone, anywhere, had only to choose a form of words. Then—click, the trigger was pressed. The words need not be the right words. . . .' (That last sentence will no doubt commend itself to Dr. Leavis, whose dissident observations in the Spectator last year gave the discussion an energetic boost.) As for the Bishop of Woolwich, in his chapter in The Honest to God Debate (the SCM sequel to the original explosive paperback), he asks: 'Why, suddenly, does a particular match cause an explosion? What is there about the tinder that accounts for the flash-point?' We know, at any rate, what the spark was in his case—the article in the Observer which preceded the book's publication. The initiative for this came from the Observer, and it was the. Observer which killed Dr. Robinson's original title, 'A New Mutation• in Christianity,' and substituted (against the author's will, to begin with) 'Our image of God must go.' If it hadn't been for the article and its aggressive heading, would the book have been a best-seller?