Lucy Masterman’s biography of her husband (who ran Wellington House, the centre of British propaganda distribution at the start of the War) raises many interesting questions, but this is the most intriguing.
She writes that, as well as publishing propaganda, her husband’s duties included limiting the activities of enthusiastic amateurs whose efforts might prove excessive and counter-productive. She writes that:
An indignant protest, coupled with a threat of resignation, was received from the British Ambassador in Italy unless a certain eminent novelist were restrained from riding into Rome on a donkey with all the circumstances reminiscent of Palm Sunday.
And that’s all she says. Was the eminent novelist restrained? And if so how? And most important, who was it?
The sentence immediately created a picture in my mind of G.K.Chesterton in all his massiveness bearing down on a small long-suffering moke. But maybe it was Hall Caine, or Baronness Orczy; or May Sinclair, anxious to do something useful for the War after her efforts in Belgium had been ungraciously refused.
I think we can rule out E.M.Forster, and I don’t think this would have been Galsworthy’s kind of outing. Arnold Bennett would definitely have chosen a more luxurious form of transport.
But of course, Henry James was still alive at the start of the War…