Armchair generals

‘Every Englishman believes in his heart, however modestly he may conceal the conviction, that he could himself organise as large an army as Kitchener and organise it better.’ (Havelock Ellis. Essays in War-Time: Further Studies in the Task of Social Hygiene (1917).)

And a hundred years on, every Englishman still believes he could have done a better job than the Great War generals…




Kipling and the Great War

A very useful article on Kipling and the War has been posted on the Kipling Society’s website:

In the article, Rodney Atwood follows kipling’s actions and writing through the war years in considerable detail, dispelling some of the myths that have accrued because of popular treatments like My Boy Jack.

By the way, I shall be giving a paper on Kipling at the conference The Book as Cure: Bibliotherapy and Literary Caregiving from the First World War to the Present, at the Senate House, London University on September 14th. The conference programme is here: .

My paper will deal with ‘The Janeites’ (of course) and ‘Fairy-Kist’ (in which attempted bibliotherapy has far-reaching and rather odd consequences). Two of my favourite Kipling stories.

Kipling has his detractors these days, of course, but is admired by people of discrimination. Maya Angelou, I gather, was a great admirer of his poems, especially ‘If’…

Hall Caine’s The Woman of Knockaloe (1923)

(Also published on the Reading 1900-1950 blog)
Review by George S:
This novel comes with two forewords, one by Newman Flower, the head of Cassell’s publishing house, and one by the author. The gist of each is that this book will disturb and offend some, but that it is a story that needs to be told.
During the First World War the Isle of Man was used as the location for internment camps for German nationals who had been living in Britain. Hall Caine uses one of these camps as the background of a novel whose subtitle is ‘A Parable’. It is written entirely in the present tense, and it preaches a message . Read More »

In the ‘Huddersfield Examiner’

I came across a hint that in 1918 Rose Allatini’s Despised and Rejected had been reviewed in the Huddersfield Examiner, and since I live in Huddersfield I trotted along yesterday to the very pleasant Local Studies room of the Central Library to see what I could find. I had high hopes that it would be interesting, because Cyril Pearce has identified in Huddersfield a community more sympathetic to conscientious objectors than most other parts of the country.
The review is there in the enlarged Saturday edition of June 22nd, 1918. Read More »

‘Despised and Rejected’ – a Christian view

I hadn’t previously heard of The Church League for Women’s Suffrage, but I shall try to find out about them, having been sent this clipping from their journal in 1918. It is a review of Rose Allatini’s Despised and Rejected that does not mince words.

(If you can’t read it satisfactorily, or if the whole width of the review is not showing up on your screen, just left-click on the image and choose ‘View Image’..)
church league on d and r
In the same issue there is an advertisement from C.W. Daniel, the novel’s publisher, so presumably he thought the magazine’s suffragist readership likely to be sympathetic to a pacifist book. And indeed the tenor of the magazine seems to be fairly  left-wing and ‘advanced’. But sexual abnormality is another thing altogether, and M.A.B., the Church league’s reviewer, will have none of it.
I note that the reviewer refers to ‘A.T. Fitzroy’ as ‘he’. Does this mean that Allatini’s authorship was known to (presumably) her? At least she calls the book ‘clever’.
Thanks very much, Val, for sending this and other clippings.


The sad news is that the latest series of Only Connect has finished.  What will I do now on Monday evenings?

The good news is that the last programme in the series gave me a splendid word that I had never encountered before. It is ‘Mountweazel’, a fictitious entry in a work of reference. These can then take on a life of their own.

Sometimes these are created deliberately; map-makers put fake towns on a map, and so trap plagiarisers who have not done the surveying work themselves. The makers of the CD-ROM Oxford American Dictionary added the made-up word Esquivalience: the wilful avoidance of one’s official responsibilities.’  Apparently some online dictionaries copied the entry unthinkingly, and so could be challenged as mere copyists.

The creation of such things is not always deliberate. In one of his many books, Malcolm Bradbury offered a list of significant novels about the Great War. Among the works of fiction he included C.E. Montague’s Disenchantment, which is, of course, not a novel.  Read More »

Jutland conspiracy

I’ve recorded the Dan Snow documentary about the Battle of Jutland that was on BBC4 yesterday evening. I assume it will up to his usual clear and informative standard, and when I watch it, it will be with a special interest, because I have just been exploring a very different, and frankly nasty, account of the Battle.
I came across it more or less by chance. I was doing some light research on Rose Allatini’s husband, Cyril Scott. I knew that in 1921 a book of his, The Autobiography of a Child, had been banned by the courts, and I’d gathered that this was at the bequest of Lord Alfred Douglas (Oscar Wilde’s lovely Bosie, now grown middle-aged and vicious) who at the time was editing the magazine Plain English. I googled to find out more, and discovered that the 1921 volume of the magazine is online at I found the review of Scott’s book (denouncing ‘its odour of filth’), but found much more beside.
The magazine is horrible – mostly made up of conspiracy theories, anti-Semitism and denunciations of the modern age’s corruption. This front page advertising books from the same publisher gives you an idea of the general tone. Read More »

R. Allatini, woman writer

Olive Dalcroze, the heroine of R. Allatini’s first novel, …Happily Ever After (1914) is herself a writer, and a determined one, though patronised by her family:

let the poor child play with a bit of paper and a pen if it amuses her.

She writes a novel called Hilary and explains to a sympathetic listener the kind of writer she intends to be:

I’ll never be ‘our popular lady novelist’, photographed for the benefit of readers of Home tattle. I’ll never go into the sevenpenny editions, because Hilary, bless his heart, wasn’t written with an eye to please the British Public. The young person who enters the library and vaguely demands ‘something to read’ won’t like my book, because the heroine neither dies in the snow on Christmas Eve nor marries the eldest son of a peer [….] and to cap it all, my hero ends badly – no, they don’t marry – so you see that in the eyes of the young person I am wholly and completely damned.

She sums it up:

No, Isolde, I want to be a woman writer, not a lady novelist.

Read More »

Rose Allatini and ‘romance novels’


Rose Allatini

The excellent news is that Persephone Books are republishing Rose Allatini’s Despised and Rejected as one of their Spring/Summer selections. This novel, of course, was the one that, published under the name of A.T. Fitzroy, described homosexuals and conscientious objectors sympathetically, and was prosecuted in September 1918 as ‘likely to prejudice the recruiting, training, and discipline of persons in His Majesty’s forces’. The book was suppressed and the publisher, C.W. Daniel, fined. Read More »

Why aren’t You in the Army?

For quite a long while now I’ve been collecting examples of the ‘White Feather’ meme, variations on the situation where a woman (often elderly, always self-righteous) accuses a man of being a coward, and is then shown to be ridiculous because he is already a soldier, or is a wounded ex-soldier, or whatever. This postcard shows a farcical variation I hadn’t come across before:

whyaren'tyouin the army
I read jokes like this were a way of keeping the war in its place – by making fun of the excessive kind of war enthusiasm that bosses other people about and intrudes into other people’s privacy.