23 JUNE 1939, Page 14

The evening before I had been discussing this very problem

with Monsieur van Zeeland. I had asked him to tell me frankly what defect in the British character annoyed foreigners most. Monsieur van Zeeland is a tolerant man, and he was polite enough to say that there were no defects in the British character, although there were certain qualities which saddened (while they did not irritate) the Continental observer. " What qualities? " I asked him. " Well," he answered, " your optimism for one thing." The sad, the for- giving, smile with which this remarkable young man accom- panied these words recalled to my mind a passage in Georges Duhamel's recent book Memorial de la Guerre Blanche 1938. On my return that evening I looked up the passage in question. It is worth translating. M. Georges Duhamel is not only one of the immortals, but an esprit libre. During the last War he was among the few leading Frenchmen who had the courage to protest against the insane anti-German emotions which for a while obscured the clear blue sky of the Ile de France. In the period of transition between the first and the second German Wars he has .always acclaimed the genius and the virtues of the German people. Yet now that this transitional period would seem to be drawing to a close a great sadness has descended upon M. Duhamel. " We shall," he writes of his own beloved countrymen, " never be happy again ! we have too much experience."

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