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The Spike: or, Victoria College Review, June 1915

"Prophets, Priests, and Kings."

page 36

"Prophets, Priests, and Kings."

"Prophets, Priests, and Kings" is the title of a series of biographical essays dealing with the lives of a number of men and women of more or less note at the present day. The author is Mr. A. G. Gardiner, who, since 1902, has been editor of the "Daily News"—to be in no way confounded with the "Daily Mail." It is necessary that one should know this fact to comprehend the attitude Mr. Gardiner takes in dealing either with politicians of the present generation or with people whose political ideas clash with those of the newspaper which he represents. Where the author deals with some person outside the political arena, the essays are sound and sane—in fact, wherever the author has not allowed political bias to sway him, the sketches are the skilful work of one who delights in this particular form of article.

But when we come to the sketches of politicians and statesmen! One must remember first that the "Daily News" is one of Mr. Cadbury's papers—that it is part of the "Quaker Press " Whether Lord Northcliffe's papers are as good as or better than, as bad as or worse than, the Cadbury papers is not to be discussed here; but one must remember that the latter are staunch supporters of Mr. Asquith and his party. If one does not remember this, one will be not a little bewildered when one reads the criticisms of Mr. Lloyd George, of Mr. Winston Churchill, of Mr. Anything—on—the—Liberal—side, and then turns to that of Mr. Balfour. Mr. Gardiner's attitude to the Unionists' is the same as that of Alderman Cute to the poor—he is resolved "to put 'em down."

Mr. Balfour, we are told, "has probably done the greatest service to his country of any man of his time." We seek eagerly to see what this service is. Knowing Mr. Gardiner's politics we are not surprised when we read, "He saved it from Protection." Apart from this page 37 doubtful merit—for "he cared neither for protection nor for free trade," but for Mr. Balfour—there is little to commend to him."His political philosophy is drift. . . . He enters Parliament to protect the privileges of his caste. . . . He smiles upon his friends and leaves them to the wolves."

But Mr. Lloyd George ! What a man ! "It is as difficult to keep his name out of the paper as it was to keep King Charles's head out of Mr. Dick's memorial." Exactly!

Mr. Gardiner's political passions sway him so completely that he breaks off in his eulogy of Lord Lore. burn to attack Lord Halsbury. He even goes the length or retailing about the latter a mean, spiteful, little story which, Ile admits, is "probably invented." Ugh !

But the crowning glory of the series is the essay on Mr. Kipling. Here our writer loses control of himself, and fairly foams at the mouth, into such a frenzy of indignation does he work himself. One could laugh at the grossness of the tirade were one convinced that Mr. Gardiner had not deliberately misrepresented Mr. Kipling. "A literary blacksmith," "the bard of the banjo"—these are characteristic "Gardinerisms." Mr. Gardiner is unable to understand or appreciate Kipling and he misinterprets—deliberately or unintentionally—the lines.

"We have strawed our best to the weed's unrest,
To the shark and the sheering gull.
If blood be the price of Admiralty,
Lord God, we ha' paid in full."

Mr. Gardiner, who seems to know that he deserves the "little England" brand, and does not relish it, would even defend Padgett, M.P., who was a liar. So he was, and we add with pleasure, "and a fluent liar therewith." There are Padgetts to-day—confer orationes of Mr. Keir Hardie after his visit to India. Here is a choice sample of Mr. Gardiner's literary criticism:—

"I am told by one who was with him when he came from India to England to school that he remembers him chiefly by the pranks he used to play at the expense of a mild Hindoo, kneel page 38 ing on a board at his devotions, it was the instinctive dislike of the boy of the thing outside the range of his experience. Mr. Kipling has never outgrown that outlook."

The italic is ours. We need comment no further.

There is one singularly irritating point in many of the essays—and that is Mr. Gardiner's continual use of the "ego." Here are a few examples collected at random collected from his book:—

"I was seated at dinner one night at 10, Downing Street beside a distinguished Liberal." (p. 129).

"I once had the duty of presiding at a gathering assembled to hear an address by Mr. Bernard Shaw." (p. 17).

"I asked Mr. Birrell on one occasion what he thought of the oratory of the present Parliament." (p. 53).

"In the early days of the fiscal controversy I was dining with two politicians at the table of a mutual friend of the temple." (p. 178).

" 'What a mind ! What endowments the man has,' said Mr. Churchill, speaking of him to me." (p. 181).

" 'I liked Roseberry,' he (Sir Henry Campbell Bannerman) told me." (p. 183).

"General Smuts told me, etc." (p. 232).

"I was walking one evening along the embankment, when I overtook John Burns. 'Here,' he says, and his hand grips me, etc." (p. 289).

and so on ad nauseam.

We have called Mr. Gardiner a "little Englander," and we contend that the use of the term is fully justified. He is more—he is one of the "peace-at-any-price" persons who try to pose as broad-minded. On those memorable days—August 1st to August 4th, 1914—he was forging his journalistic thunderbolts in the office of the "Daily News," to blast there with all those who contended that England should go to war with Germany. This was one of those very rare occasions when he differed from some of the members of the Liberal Cabinet. On August 1st, under the heading, "Why We Must Not Fight," he wrote in the "Daily News":—

"We have no obligations except to preserve this country from any share in the crime that threatens to overwhelm Europe. . . . If we crush Germany in the dust, and make Russia the page 39 dictator of Europe and Asia, it will be the greatest disaster that has ever befallen Western Civilization and culture. . . . Let us announce neutrality to the world. . . . Let us make it clear that unless and until British interests are attacked, we will have no part in this world insanity."

The leading article in the same paper on August 4th, says:—

"Sir Edward Grey is not well versed in economics, and we fear he has gravely misapprehended this matter. If we remained neutral we should be, from the commercial point of view in precisely the same position as the United States. We should be able to trade with all the belligerents. . . . We should be able to capture the bulk of their trade in neutral markets . . . we should keep out of debt; we should have healthy finances."

It remains only to add that the "Daily News" is that paper which on January l0th, 1912, said, "Sir Edward Grey as Foreign Secretary is impossible. "Why? Because he foresaw the present catastrophe. It is that paper which wrote, "We know that neither the Kaiser nor his people aim at aggression"; which stated in 1913 that "there are no reasons, practical, sentimental, or strategic, why Zanzibar may not be transferred to the German Empire. The eventual transfer of Zanzibar to Germany is as inevitable as a similar transfer to the same Power of Walfisch Bay"; which wrote in 1914 that the swollen Navy estimates are a menace to the Constitution." Surely nothing more need be added.