You look for one thing, and you find another.
I wanted to look at a 1932 Douglas Goldring pamphlet about pacifism. This turned out to be fiery, but a bit predictable.
It was bound, though with other pamphlets in the ‘Here and Now’ series published by Wishart, and the one following it was a joy.
A War Museum 1914-1918 is a collection (gathered by Hamish Miles) of press-cuttings from the War years. Mostly they show patriots making idiots of themselves, like the 1914 letter-writer to the Daily Mail who was trying to decide which kind of feather was ‘suitable for presentation by a corps of young ladies to the youths who are preferring their own amusement to the defence of their country’. To give a goose-feather would wrong a noble bird who would fight in defence of its home. He suggests that a tuft of fur from the skunk might be more suitably offered. I’ve often marvelled at the intemperate and bilious comments affixed to articles on the twenty-first century Daily Mail website, and it’s rather a joy to think that the great-grandchildren of whoever write this letter are still seething just as furiously nearly a century later.
But my favourite item in the pamphlet was from the Spectator of 1917. ‘J.F.W.’ sent this list of nineteen ‘benefits that the nation will derive… as a direct result of the war’:
(I was puzzled by the expression ‘ ca’canny’. It means the sly sabotage of output by workmen, used unofficially by Trades Unionists to force the employers towards a better pay deal.)
I’ve never seen the benefits of war listed like this before, but very many writers of the War years subscribed to the myth of the fortunate war – and pointed out how much good it was doing to social relations, and to men’s souls. The rich became more thoughtful, and the working classes more obedient – or that was what well-meaning people hoped, anyway.