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WITHIN THE RIM 

AND OTHER ESSAYS 



WITHIN THE RIM 



AND OTHER ESSAYS 



1914-15 



HENRY JAMES 




LONDON: 48 PALL MALL 

W. COLLINS SONS & CO. LTD. 

GLASGOW MELBOURNE AUCKLAND 



Copyright 1918 



Within the Rim Written in Feb. 1915 for Miss E. 
Asquith for a proposed album in aid of the Arts 
Fund. The idea of the album was abandoned, and 
the article was ultimately published in the Fort 
nightly Review, Aug. 1917. 

Refugees in Chelsea Published in the Times Literary 
Supplement, March 23, 1916. 

The American Volunteer Motor- Ambulance Corps in 
France: A Letter to the Editor of an American 
Journal Issued as a pamphlet, 1914. 

France Published in The Book of France, edited by 
Winifred Stephens, Macmillan, 1915. 

The Long Wards Published in The Book of the Homeless, 
edited by Edith Wharton, Macmillan, 1916. 

Thanks are due in each case for the permission to 
reprint these essays. 



411613 



CONTENTS 



PAGE 



WITHIN THE RIM Iz 

REFUGEES IN CHELSEA .39 

THE AMERICAN VOLUNTEER MOTOR-AMBULANCE 

CORPS IN FRANCE : A Letter to the Editor of an 
American Journal 5^ 

FRANCE g 3 

THE LONG WARDS 



WITHIN THE RIM 



WITHIN THE RIM 

THE first sense of it all to me after the first shock 
and horror was that of a sudden leap back into 
life of the violence with which the American Civil 
War broke upon us, at the North, fifty-four years 
ago, when I had a consciousness of youth which 
perhaps equalled in vivacity my present conscious 
ness of age. The illusion was complete, in its 
immediate rush; everything quite exactly matched 
in the two cases; the tension of the hours after 
the flag of the Union had been fired upon in South 
Carolina living again, with a tragic strangeness 
of recurrence, in the interval during which the 
fate of Belgium hung in the scales and the possi 
bilities of that of France looked this country harder 
in the face, one recognised, than any possibility, 
even that of the England of the Armada, even 
that of the long Napoleonic menace, could be 



ii 



;; \YKHtN THE RIM 



imagined to have looked her. The analogy quickened 
and deepened with every elapsing hour ; the drop 
of the balance under the invasion of Belgium 
reproduced with intensity the agitation of the New 
England air by Mr Lincoln s call to arms, and I 
went about for a short space as with the queer 
secret locked in my breast of at least already 
knowing how such occasions helped and what a 
big war was going to mean. That this was literally 
a light in the darkness, or that it materially helped 
the prospect to be considered, is perhaps more 
than I can say; but it at least added the strangest 
of savours, an inexpressible romantic thrill, to the 
harsh taste of the crisis : I found myself literally 
knowing by experience what immensities, what 
monstrosities, what revelations of what immeasur 
abilities, our affair would carry in its bosom a 
knowledge that flattered me by its hint of immunity 
from illusion. The sudden new tang in the atmo 
sphere, the flagrant difference, as one noted, in 
the look of everything, especially in that of people s 

faces, the expressions, the hushes, the clustered 

12 



WITHIN THE RIM 

groups, the detached wanderers and slow-paced 
public meditators, were so many impressions long 
before received and in which the stretch of more than 
half a century had still left a sharpness. So I took 
the case in and drew a vague comfort, I can scarce 
say why, from recognition; so, while recognition 
lasted, I found it come home to me that we, we 
of the ancient day, had known, had tremendously 
learnt, what the awful business is when it is long/ 
when it remains for months and months bitter and 
arid, void even of any great honour. In consequence 
of which, under the rapid rise of presumptions of 
difficulty, to whatever effect of dismay or of ex 
citement, my possession of something like a standard 
of difficulty, and, as I might perhaps feel too, of 
success, became in its way a private luxury. 

My point is, however, that upon this luxury I 
was allowed after all but ever so scantily to feed. 
I am unable to say when exactly it was that the 
rich analogy, the fine and sharp identity between 
the faded and the vivid case broke down, with the 
support obscurely derived from them; the moment 

13 



WITHIN THE RIM 

anyhow came soon enough at which experience 
felt the ground give way and that one swung off 
into space, into history, into darkness, with every 
lamp extinguished and every abyss gaping. It 
ceased quite to matter for reassurance that the 
victory of the North had been so delayed and yet 
so complete, that our struggle had worn upon the 
world of the time, and quite to exasperation, as 
could well be remembered, by its length; if the 
present complication should but begin to be as 
long as it was broad no term of comparison borrowed 
from the past would so much as begin to fit it. 
I might have found it humiliating; in fact, however, 
I found it of the most commanding interest, whether 
at certain hours of dire apprehension or at certain 
others of the finer probability, that the biggest 
like convulsion our generations had known was 
still but too clearly to be left far behind for exalta 
tions and terrors, for effort and result, as a general 
exhibition of the perversity of nations and of the 
energy of man. Such at least was the turn the 
comparison took at a given moment in a remembering 



WITHIN THE RIM 

mind that had been steeped, so far as its restricted 
contact went, but in the Northern story; I did, 
I confess, cling awhile to the fancy that what 
loomed perhaps for England, what already did so 
much more than loom for crucified Belgium, what 
was let loose in a torrent upon indestructible 
France, might correspond more or less with the 
pressure of the old terrible time as the fighting 
South had had to know it, and with the. grim con 
ditions under which she had at last given way. 
For the rest of the matter, as I say, the difference 
of aspect produced by the difference of intensity 
cut short very soon my vision of similitude. The 
intensity swallowed up everything; the rate and 
the scale and the speed, the unprecedented engines, 
the vast incalculable connections, the immediate 
presence, as it were, of France and Belgium, whom 
one could hear pant, through the summer air, in 
their effort and their alarm, these things, with the 
prodigious might of the enemy added, made me 
say, dropping into humility in a manner that 
resembled not a little a drop into still greater 

15 



WITHIN THE RIM 

depths, Oh, no, that surely can t have been "a 
patch " on this ! Which conclusion made accord 
ingly for a new experience altogether, such as I 
gratefully embrace here an occasion not to leave 
unrecorded. 

It was in the first place, after the strangest 
fashion, a sense of the extraordinary way in which 
the most benign conditions of light and air, of sky 
and sea, the most beautiful English summer 
conceivable, mixed themselves with all the violence 
of action and passion, the other so hideous and 
piteous, so heroic and tragic facts, and flouted 
them as with the example of something far superior. 
Never were desperate doings so blandly lighted 
up as by the two unforgettable months that I was 
to spend so much of in looking over from the old 
rampart of a little high-perched Sussex town at the 
bright blue streak of the Channel, within a mile 
or two of us at its nearest point, the point to which 
it had receded after washing our rock-base in its 
earlier ages, and staring at the bright mystery 

beyond the rim of the farthest opaline reach. Just 

16 



WITHIN THE RIM 

on the other side of that finest of horizon-lines 
history was raging at a pitch new under the sun; 
thinly masked by that shameless smile the Belgian 
horror grew; the curve of the globe toward these 
things was of the scantest, and yet the hither spaces 
of the purest, the interval representing only charm 
and calm and ease. One grew to feel that the 
nearer elements, those of land and water and sky 
at their loveliest, were making thus, day after day, 
a particular prodigious point, insisting in their 
manner on a sense and a wondrous story which 
it would be the restless watcher s fault if he didn t 
take in. Not that these were hints or arts against 
which he was in the least degree proof; they 
penetrated with every hour deeper into the soul, 
and, the contemplations I speak of aiding, irresistibly 
worked out an endless volume of references. It 
was all somehow the history of the hour addressing 
itself to the individual mind or to that in any 
case of the person, at once so appalled and so 
beguiled, of whose response to the whole appeal 
I attempt this brief account. Round about him 
W.R. 17 B 



WITHIN THE RIM 

stretched the scene of his fondest frequentation 
as time had determined the habit; but it was as 
if every reason and every sentiment conducing 
to the connection had, under the shock of events, 
entered into solution with every other, so that 
the only thinkable approach to rest, that is to the 
recovery of an inward order, would be in restoring 
them each, or to as many as would serve the purpose, 
some individual dignity and some form. 

It came indeed largely of itself, my main help 
to the reparatory, the re-identifying process; came 
by this very chance that in the splendour of the 
season there was no mistaking the case or the plea. 
This, as you can see better than ever before/ the 
elements kept conspiring to say, is the rare, the 
sole, the exquisite England whose weight now 
hangs in the balance, and your appreciation of 
whose value, much as in the easy years you may 
have taken it for granted, seems exposed to some 
fresh and strange and strong determinant, some 
thing that breaks in like a character of high colour 

in a play. Nothing could have thrilled me more, 

18 



WITHIN THE RIM 

I recognise, than the threat of this irruption or 
than the dramatic pitch; yet a degree of pain 
attached to the ploughed-up state it implied so 
that, with an elderly dread of a waste of emotion, 
I fear I almost pusillanimously asked myself why 
a sentiment from so far back recorded as lively 
should need to become any livelier, and in fact 
should hesitate to beg off from the higher diapason. 
I felt as the quiet dweller in a tenement so often 
feels when the question of structural improvements 
is thrust upon him; my house of the spirit, amid 
everything about me, had become more and more 
the inhabited, adjusted, familiar home, quite big 
enough and sound enough for the spirit s uses 
and with any intrinsic inconvenience corrected 
only since by that principle s having cultivated 
and formed, at whatever personal cost (since my 
spirit was essentially a person), the right habits, 
and so settled into the right attitude for practical, 
for contented occupation. If, however, such was 
my vulgar apprehension, as I put it, the case was 
taken out of my hands by the fate that so often 

19 



WITHIN THE RIM 

deals with these accidents, and I found myself 
before long building on additions and upper storys, 
throwing out extensions and protrusions, indulging 
even, all recklessly, in gables and pinnacles and 
battlements things that had presently trans 
formed the unpretending place into I scarce know 
what to call it, a fortress of the faith, a palace of 
the soul, an extravagant, bristling, flag-flying 
structure which had quite as much to do with the 
air as with the earth. And all this, when one 
came to return upon it in a considering or curious 
way, because to and fro one kept going on the old 
rampart, the town look-out, to spend one s aching 
wonder again and again on the bright sky-line 
that at once held and mocked it. Just over that 
line were unutterable things, massacre and ravage 
and anguish, all but irresistible assault and cruelty, 
bewilderment and heroism all but overwhelmed; 
from the sense of which one had but to turn one s 
head to take in something unspeakably different 
and that yet produced, as by some extraordinary 
paradox, a pang almost as sharp. 

20 



WITHIN THE RIM 

It was of course by the imagination that this 
latter was quickened to an intensity thus akin to 
pain but the imagination had doubtless at every 
turn, without exception, more to say to one s 
state of mind, and dealt more with the whole 
unfolding scene, than any other contributive force. 
Never in all my life, probably, had I been so glad 
to have opened betimes an account with this 
faculty and to be able to feel for the most part 
something to my credit there; so vivid I mean 
had to be one s prevision of the rate at which 
drafts on that source would require cashing. All 
of which is a manner of saying that in face of what 
during those horrible days seemed exactly over 
the way the old inviolate England, as to whom 
the fact that she was inviolate, in every valid sense 
of the term, had become, with long acquaintance, 
so common and dull, suddenly shone in a light 
never caught before and which was for the next 
weeks, all the magnificence of August and Sep 
tember, to reduce a thousand things to a sort of 
merciless distinctness. It was not so much that 

21 



WITHIN THE RIM 

they leaped forth, these things, under the particular 
recognition, as that they multiplied without end 
and abounded, always in some association at least 
that caught the eye, all together overscoring the 
image as a whole or causing the old accepted 
synthesis to bristle with accents. The image as a 
whole, thus richly made up of them or of the 
numberless testifying touches to the effect that 
we were not there on our sea defence as the other, 
the harried, countries were behind such bulwarks 
as they could throw up was the central fact of 
consciousness and the one to which every impression 
and every apprehension more or less promptly 
related themselves; it made of itself the company 
in which for the time the mind most naturally 
and yet most importunately lived. One walked 
of course in the shade of the ambiguous contrast 
ambiguous because of the dark question of 
whether it was the liabilities of Belgium and France, 
to say nothing of their awful actualities, that made 
England s state so rare, or England s state that 
showed her tragic sisters for doubly outraged; 



22 



WITHIN THE RIM 

the action of the matter was at least that of one s 
feeling in one s hand and weighing it there with 
the last tenderness, for fullest value, the golden 
key that unlocked every compartment of the 
English character. 

Clearly this general mystery or mixture was to 
be laid open under stress of fortune as never yet 
the unprecedentedness was above all what came 
over us again and again, armaments unknown to 
human experience looming all the while larger 
and larger; but whatever face or succession of 
faces the genius of the race should most turn up 
the main mark of them all would be in the difference 
that, taken together, couldn t fail to keep them 
more unlike the peoples off there beyond than any 
pair even of the most approved of these peoples 
are unlike each other. Insularity ! one had 
spent no small part of one s past time in mocking 
or in otherwise fingering the sense out of that word; 
yet here it was in the air wherever one looked and 
as stuffed with meaning as if nothing had ever 
worn away from it, as if its full force on the contrary 

23 



WITHIN THE RIM 

amounted to inward congestion. What the term 
essentially signified was in the oddest way a question 
at once enormous and irrelevant; what it might 
show as signifying, what it was in the circumstances 
actively and most probably going to, seemed rather 
the true consideration, indicated with all the weight 
of the evidence scattered about. Just the fixed 
look of England under the August sky, what was 
this but the most vivid exhibition of character 
conceivable and the face turned up, to repeat my 
expression, with a frankness that really left no 
further inquiry to be made? That appearance 
was of the exempt state, the record of the long 
safe centuries, in its happiest form, and even if 
any shade of happiness at such an hour might well 
seem a sign of profanity or perversity. To that 
there were all sorts of things to say, I could at 
once reflect, however; wouldn t it be the thing 
supremely in character that England should look 
most complacently herself, irradiating all her 
reasons for it, at the very crisis of the question of 
the true toughness, in other words the further 

24 



WITHIN THE RIM 

duration, of her identity? I might observe, as 
for that matter I repeatedly and unspeakably did 
while the two months lasted, that she was pouring 
forth this identity, as atmosphere and aspect and 
picture, in the very measure and to the very top 
of her consciousness of how it hung in the balance. 
Thus one arrived, through the succession of shining 
days, at the finest sense of the case the interesting 
truth that her consciously not being as her tragic 
sisters were in the great particular was virtually 
just her genius, and that the very straightest thing 
she could do would naturally be not to flinch at 
the dark hour from any profession of her genius. 
Looking myself more askance at the dark hour 
(politically speaking I mean) than I after my fashion 
figured her as doing in her mass, I found it of an 
extreme, of quite an endless fascination to trace 
as many as possible of her felt idiosyncrasies back 
to her settled sea-confidence, and to see this now 
in turn account for so many other things, the 
smallest as well as the biggest, that, to give the 
fewest hints of illustration, the mere spread of the 

25 



WITHIN THE RIM 

great trees, the mere gathers in the little bluey- 
white curtains of the cottage windows, the mere 
curl of the tinted smoke from the old chimneys 
matching that note, became a sort of exquisite 
evidence. 

Exquisite evidence of a like general class, it 
was true, didn t on the other side of the Channel 
prevent the awful liability to the reach of attack 
its having borne fruit and been corrected or 
averted again was in fact what half the foreign 
picture meant; but the foreign genius was the 
other, other at almost every point; it had always 
in the past and on the spot, one remembered, 
expressed things, confessed things, with a difference, 
and part of that difference was of course the differ 
ence of history: the fact of exemption, as I have 
called it, the fact that a blest inviolacy was almost 
exactly what had least flourished. France and 
Belgium, to refer only to them, became dear 
accordingly, in the light I speak of, because, having 
suffered and suffered, they were suffering yet again, 

while precisely the opposite process worked for 

26 



WITHIN THE RIM 

the scene directly beneath my eyes. England 
was interesting, to put it mildly which is but a 
shy evasion of putting it passionately because 
she hadn t suffered, because there were passages 
of that sort she had publicly declined and defied; 
at the same time that one wouldn t have the case 
so simple as to set it down wholly to her luck. 
France and Belgium, for the past, confessed, to 
repeat my term; while England, so consistently 
harmonised, with all her long unbrokenness thick 
and rich upon her, seemed never to do that, nor 
to need it, in order to practise on a certain fine 
critical, not to mention a certain fine prejudiced, 
sensibility. It was the season of sensibility now, 
at any rate for just those days and just that poor 
place of yearning, of merely yearning, vigil; and 
I may add with all emphasis that never had I had 
occasion so to learn how far sensibility may go 
when once well wound up. It was saying little 
to say I did justice easiest at once and promptest 
to the most advertised proposal of the enemy, 
his rank intention of clapping down the spiked helmet, 

27 



WITHIN THE RIM 

than which no form of headgear, by the way, 
had ever struck one as of a more graceless, a more 
tell-tale platitude, upon the priceless genius of 
France; far from new, after all, was that measure 
of the final death in him of the saving sense of 
proportion which only gross dementia can abolish. 
Those of my generation who could remember the 
detected and frustrated purpose of a renewed 
Germanic pounce upon the country which, all but 
bled to death in 1871, had become capable within 
five years of the most penetrating irony of revival 
ever recorded, were well aware of how in that at 
once sinister and grotesque connection they had 
felt notified in time. It was the extension of the 
programme and its still more prodigious publication 
during the quarter of a century of interval, it was 
the announced application of the extinguisher to 
the quite other, the really so contrasted genius 
the expression of which surrounded me in the 
manner I have glanced at, it was the extraordinary 
fact of a declared non-sufferance any longer, on 

Germany s part, of either of the obnoxious national 

28 



WITHIN THE RIM 

forms disfiguring her westward horizon, and even 
though by her own allowance they had nothing 
intellectually or socially in common save that 
they were objectionable and, as an incident, crush- 
able it was this, I say, that gave one furiously 
to think, or rather, while one thanked one s stars 
for the luxury, furiously and all but unutterably 
to feel. 

The beauty and the interest, the now more than 
ever copious and welcome expression, of the aspects 
nearest me found their value in their being so 
resistingly, just to that very degree of eccentricity, 
with that very density of home-grownness, what 
they were; in the same way as the character of the 
sister-land lately joined in sisterhood showed for 
exquisite because so ingrained and incorrigible, 
so beautifully all her own and inimitable on other 
ground. If it would have been hard really to give 
the measure of one s dismay at the awful proposition 
of a world squeezed together in the huge Prussian 
fist and with the variety and spontaneity of its 

parts oozing in a steady trickle, like the sacred 

29 



WITHIN THE RIM 

blood of sacrifice, between those hideous knuckly 
fingers, so, none the less, every reason with which 
our preference for a better condition and a nobler 
fate could possibly bristle kept battering at my 
heart, kept, in fact, pushing into it, after the 
fashion of a crowd of the alarmed faithful at the 
door of a church. The effect was literally, yes, 
as of the occasion of some great religious service, 
with prostrations and exaltations, the light of a 
thousand candles and the sound of soaring choirs 
all of which figured one s individual inward 
state as determined by the menace. One could 
still note at the same time, however, that this high 
pitch of private emotion was by itself far from 
meeting the case as the enemy presented it; what 
I wanted, of course, to do was to meet it with the 
last lucidity, the fullest support for particular 
defensive pleas or claims and this even if what 
most underlay all such without exception came 
back to my actual vision, that and no more, of the 
general sense of the land. The vision was fed, 
and fed to such a tune that in the quest for reasons 

30 



WITHIN THE RIM 

that is, for the particulars of one s affection, 
the more detailed the better the blades of grass, 
the outlines of leaves, the drift of clouds, the streaks 
of mortar between old bricks, not to speak of the 
call of child-voices muffled in the comforting air, 
became, as I have noted, with a hundred other like 
touches, casually felt, extraordinary admonitions 
and symbols, close links of a tangible chain. When 
once the question fairly hung there of the possibility, 
more showily set forth than it had up to then 
presumed to be, of a world without use for the 
tradition so embodied, an order substituting for 
this, by an unmannerly thrust, quite another and 
really, it would seem, quite a ridiculous, a crudely 
and clumsily improvised story, we might all have 
resembled together a group of children at their 
nurse s knee disconcerted by some tale that it 
isn t their habit to hear. We loved the old tale, 
or at least I did, exactly because I knew it; which 
leaves me keen to make the point, none the less, 
that my appreciation of the case for world- variety 
found the deeply and blessedly familiar perfectly 

31 



WITHIN THE RIM 

consistent with it. This came of what I read into 
the familiar; and of what I did so read, of what 
I kept reading through that uplifted time, these 
remarks were to have attempted a record that has 
reached its limit sooner than I had hoped. 

I was not then to the manner born, but my 
apprehension of what it was on the part of others 
to be so had been confirmed and enriched by the 
long years, and I gave myself up to the general, 
the native image I thus circled around as to the 
dearest and most precious of all native images. 
That verily became at the crisis an occupation 
sublime; which was not, after all, so much an 
earnest study or fond arrangement of the mixed 
aspects as a positive, a fairly sensual bask in their 
light, too kindled and too rich not to pour out by 
its own force. The strength and the copious play 
of the appearances acting in this collective fashion 
carried everything before them; no dark dis 
crimination, no stiff little reserve that one might 
ever have made, stood up in the diffused day for a 
moment. It was in the opposite way, the most 

32 



WITHIN THE RIM 

opposite possible, that one s intelligence worked, 
all along the line; so that with the warmth of the 
mere sensation that they* were about as good, 
above all when it came to the stress, as could well 
be expected of people, there was the acute interest 
of the successive points at which one recognised 
why. This last, the satisfaction of the deepened 
intelligence, turned, I may frankly say, to a pro 
longed revel they* being the people about me 
and every comfort I had ever had of them smiling 
its individual smile straight at me and conducing 
to an effect of candour that is beyond any close 
notation. They didn t know how good they were, 
and their candour had a peculiar lovability of 
unconsciousness; one had more imagination at 
their service in this cause than they had in almost 
any cause of their own; it was wonderful, it was 
beautiful, it was inscrutable, that they could make 
one feel this and yet not feel with it that it at all 
practically diminished them. Of course, if a shade 
should come on occasion to fall across the picture, 

that shade would perhaps be the question whether 
W.R. 33 c 



WITHIN THE RIM 

the most restless of the faculties mightn t on the 
whole too much fail them. It beautified life, I 
duly remembered, it promoted art, it inspired 
faith, it crowned conversation, but hadn t it 
always again under stress still finer applications 
than these, and mightn t it in a word, taking the 
right direction, peculiarly conduce to virtue? 
Wouldn t it, indeed, be indispensable to virtue of 
the highest strain? Never mind, at any rate so 
my emotion replied; with it or without it we seemed 
to be taking the right direction; moreover, the 
next best thing to the imagination people may 
have, if they can, is the quantity of it they may 
set going in others, and which, imperfectly aware, 
they are just exposed to from such others, and 
must make the best of : their advantage becoming 
simply that it works, for the connection, all in their 
favour. That of the associated outsider, the order 
of whose feelings, for the occasion, I have doubtless 
not given a wholly lucid sketch of, cultivated its 
opportunity week after week at such a rate that, 
technical alien as he was, the privilege of the great 

34 



WITHIN THE RIM 

partaking, of shared instincts and ideals, of a 
communion of race and tongue, temper and tra 
dition, put on before all the blest appearances a 
splendour to which I hoped that so long as I might 
yet live my eyes would never grow dim. And the 
great intensity, the melting together of the spiritual 
sources so loosed in a really intoxicating draught, 
was when I shifted my watch from near east to 
far west and caught the enemy, who seemed 
ubiquitous, in the long-observed effort that most 
fastened on him the insolence of his dream and 
the depth of his delusion. There in the west were 
those of my own fond fellowship, the other, the 
ready and rallying partakers, and it was on the 
treasure of our whole unquenchable association 
that in the riot of his ignorance this at least 
apparently armour-proof he had laid his unholy 
hands. 



35 



REFUGEES IN CHELSEA 



REFUGEES IN CHELSEA 

THIS is not a Report on our so interesting and 
inspiring Chelsea work, since November last, in 
aid of the Belgians driven thither from their country 
by a violence of unprovoked invasion and ravage 
more appalling than has ever before overtaken a 
peaceful and industrious people; it is the simple 
statement of a neighbour and an observer deeply 
affected by the most tragic exhibition of national 
and civil prosperity and felicity suddenly subjected 
to bewildering outrage that it would have been 
possible to conceive. The case, as the generous 
American communities have shown they well 
understand, has had no analogue in the experience 
of our modern generations, no matter how far 
back we go; it has been recognised, in surpassing 
practical ways, as virtually the greatest public 
horror of our age, or of all the preceding; arrtl 

39 



REFUGEES IN CHELSEA 

one gratefully feels, in presence of so much done 
in direct mitigation of it, that its appeal to the 
pity and the indignation of the civilised world 
anticipated and transcended from the first all 
superfluity of argument. We live into that is, 
we learn to cultivate possibilities of sympathy 
and reaches of beneficence very much as the 
stricken and suffering themselves live into their 
dreadful history and explore and reveal its extent; 
and this admirable truth it is that unceasingly 
pleads with the intelligent, the fortunate, and 
the exempt, not to consent in advance to any dull 
limitation of the helpful idea. The American 
people have surely a genius, of the most eminent 
kind, for withholding any such consent and de 
spising all such limits; and there is doubtless no 
remarked connection in which they have so shown 
the sympathetic imagination in free and fearless 
activity that is, in high originality as under 
the suggestion of the tragedy of Belgium. 

I have small warrant perhaps to say that atmo 
spheres are communicable; but I can testify at 

4 o 



REFUGEES IN CHELSEA 

least that they are breathable on the spot, to 
whatever effect of depression or of cheer; and I 
should go far, I feel, were I to attempt to register 
the full bitter-sweet taste, by our Chelsea water 
side, all these months, of the refugee element in 
our vital medium. (The sweet, as I strain a point 
perhaps to call it, inheres, to whatever distinguish- 
ability, in our hope of having really done something, 
verily done much; the bitter ineradicably seasons 
the consciousness, hopes and demonstrations and 
fond presumptions and all.) I need go no further, 
none the less, than the makeshift provisional gates 
of Crosby Hall, marvellous monument transplanted 
a few years since from the Bishopsgate quarter of 
the City to a part of the ancient suburban site of 
the garden of Sir Thomas More, and now serving 
with extraordinary beneficence as the most splen 
did of shelters for the homeless. This great private 
structure, though of the grandest civic character, 
dating from the fifteenth century, and one of the 
noblest relics of the past that London could show, 
was held a few years back so to cumber the precious 

41 



REFUGEES IN CHELSEA 

acre or more on which it stood that it was taken 
to pieces in the candid commercial interest and 
in order that the site it had so long sanctified 
should be converted to such uses as would stuff out 
still further the ideal number of private pockets. 
Dismay and disgust were unable to save it; the 
most that could be done was to gather in with 
tenderness of care its innumerable constituent 
parts and convey them into safer conditions, 
where a sad defeated piety has been able to re- 
edify them into some semblance of the original 
majesty. Strange withal some of the turns of the 
whirligig of time; the priceless structure came 
down to the sound of lamentation, not to say of 
execration, and of the gnashing of teeth, and went 
up again before cold and disbelieving, quite de 
spairing, eyes; in spite of which history appears 
to have decided once more to cherish it and give 
a new consecration. It is, in truth, still magnificent; 
it lives again for our gratitude in its noblest par 
ticulars; and the almost incomparable roof has 
arched all this winter and spring over a scene 

42 



REFUGEES IN CHELSEA 

probably more interesting and certainly more 
pathetic than any that have ever drawn down its 
ancient far-off blessing. 

The place has formed, then, the headquarters 
of the Chelsea circle of hospitality to the exiled, 
the broken, and the bewildered; and if I may 
speak of having taken home the lesson of their 
state and the sense of their story, it is by meeting 
them in the finest club conditions conceivable 
that I have been able to do so. Hither, month 
after month and day after day, the unfortunates 
have flocked, each afternoon; and here the com 
paratively exempt, almost ashamed of their exemp 
tion in presence of so much woe, have made them 
welcome to every form of succour and reassurance. 
Certain afternoons each week have worn the 
character of the huge comprehensive tea-party, 
a fresh well-wisher discharging the social and 
financial cost of the fresh occasion which has 
always festally profited, in addition, by the extra 
ordinary command of musical accomplishment, 
the high standard of execution, that is the mark 

43 



REFUGEES IN CHELSEA 

of the Belgian people. This exhibition of our 
splendid local -resource has rested, of course, on a 
multitude of other resources, still local, but of a 
more intimate hospitality, little by little worked 
out and applied, and into the details of which I 
may not here pretend to go beyond noting that 
they have been accountable for the large housed 
and fed and clothed and generally protected and 
administered numbers, all provided for in Chelsea 
and its outer fringe, on which our scheme of 
sociability at Crosby Hall itself has up to now 
been able to draw. To have seen this scheme so 
long in operation has been to find it suggest many 
reflections, all of the most poignant and moving 
order; the foremost of which has, perhaps, had 
for its subject that never before can the wanton 
hand of history have descended upon a group of 
communities less expectant of public violence 
from without or less prepared for it and attuned 
to it. 

The bewildered and amazed passivity of the 
Flemish civil population, the state as of people 



REFUGEES IN CHELSEA 

surprised by sudden ruffians, murderers, and 
thieves in the dead of night and hurled out, terrified 
and half clad, snatching at the few scant house 
hold gods nearest at hand, into a darkness mitigated 
but by flaring incendiary torches this has been 
the experience stamped on our scores and scores 
of thousands, whose testimony to suffering, dismay, 
and despoilment silence alone, the silence of vain 
uncontributive wonderment, has for the most 
part been able to express. Never was such a 
revelation of a deeply domestic, a rootedly domi 
ciled and instinctively and separately clustered 
people, a mass of communities for which the sight 
of the home violated, the objects helping to form 
it profaned, and the cohesive family, the Belgian 
ideal of the constituted life, dismembered, disem 
bowelled, and shattered, had so supremely to 
represent the crack of doom and the end of every 
thing. There have been days and days when under 
this particular impression the mere aspect and 
manner of our serried recipients of relief, something 
vague and inarticulate as in persons who have 

45 



REFUGEES IN CHELSEA 

given up everything but patience and are living, 
from hour to hour, but in the immediate and the 
unexplained, has put on such a pathos as to make 
the heart sick. One has had just to translate 
any seated row of figures, thankful for warmth 
and light and covering, for sustenance and human 
words and human looks, into terms that would 
exemplify some like exiled and huddled and charity- 
fed predicament for our superior selves, to feel our 
exposure to such a fate, our submission to it, 
our holding in the least together under it, darkly 
unthinkable. Dim imaginations would at such 
moments interpose, a confused theory that even 
at the worst our adventurous habits, our imperial 
traditions, our general defiance of the superstition 
of domesticity, would dash from our lips the cup 
of bitterness; from these it was at all events im 
possible not to come back to the consciousness 
that almost every creature there collected was 
indebted to our good offices for the means to come 
at all. I thought of our parents and children, 

our brothers and sisters, aligned in borrowed 

4 6 



REFUGEES IN CHELSEA 

garments and settled to an as yet undetermined 
future of eleemosynary tea and buns, and I ask 
myself, doubtless to little purpose, either what 
grace of resignation or what clamour of protest 
we should, beneath the same star, be noted as 
substituting for the inveterate Belgian decency. 

I can only profess at once that the sense of this 
last round about one was, at certain hours when 
the music and the chant of consolation rose in 
the stillness from our improvised stage at the end 
of the great hall, a thing to cloud with tears any 
pair of eyes lifted to our sublime saved roof in 
thanks for its vast comprehension. Questions of 
exhibited type, questions as to a range of form 
and tradition, a measure of sensibility and activity, 
not our own, dwindled and died before the gross 
fact of our having here an example of such a world- 
tragedy as we supposed Europe had outlived, and 
that nothing at all therefore mattered but that we 
should bravely and handsomely hold up our quite 
heavy enough end of it. It is because we have 
responded in this degree to the call unprecedented 

47 



REFUGEES IN CHELSEA 

that we are, in common with a vast number 
of organisations scattered through these islands, 
qualified to claim that no small part of the in 
spiration to our enormous act of welcome resides 
in the moral interest it yields. One can indeed 
be certain of such a source of profit but in the 
degree in which one has found oneself personally 
drawing upon it; yet it is obvious that we are 
not treated every day to the disclosure of a national 
character, a national temperament and type, con 
fined for the time to their plainest and stoutest 
features and set, on a prodigious scale, in all the 
relief that the strongest alien air and alien conditions 
can give them. Great salience, in such a case, 
do all collective idiosyncrasies acquire upon the 
fullest enumeration of which, however, as the 
Belgian instance and the British atmosphere 
combine to represent them, I may not now embark, 
prepossessed wholly as I am with the more generally 
significant social stamp and human aspect so 
revealed, and with the quality derived from these 

things by the multiplied examples that help us 

4 8 



REFUGEES IN CHELSEA 

to take them in. This feeling that our visitors 
illustrate above all the close and comfortable 
household life, with every implication of a seated 
and saturated practice of it, practice of the intimate 
and private and personal, the securely sensual 
and genial arts that flow from it, has been by itself 
the key to a plenitude of observation and in 
particular to as much friendly searching insight 
as one could desire to enjoy. 

The moving, the lacerating thing is the fashion 
after which such a reading of the native elements, 
once adopted, has been as a light flaring into 
every obscurest retreat, as well as upon any puzzling 
ambiguity, of the state of shock of the national 
character under the infamy of the outrage put 
upon it. That they, of all people the most given 
over to local and patriarchal beatitude among 
the admirable and the cherished objects handed 
down to them by their so interesting history on 
every spot where its action has been thickest 
that is, on every inch, so to speak, of their teeming 
territory should find themselves identified with 
W.R. 49 D 



REFUGEES IN CHELSEA 

the most shamelessly cynical public act of which 
the civilised world at this hour retains the memory, 
is a fact truly representing the exquisite in the 
horrible; so peculiarly addressed has been their 
fate to the desecration of ideals that had fairty 
become breath of their lungs and flesh of their 
flesh. Oh, the installed and ensconced, the im- 
memorially edified and arranged, the thoroughly 
furnished and provided and nourished people ! 
not in the least besotted or relaxed in their security 
and density, like the self-smothered society of 
the ancient world upon which the earlier Huns 
and Vandals poured down, but candidly complacent 
and admirably intelligent in their care for their 
living tradition, and only so off their guard as to 
have consciously set the example of this care to 
all such as had once smoked with them their 
wondrous pipe of peace. Almost any posture of 
stupefaction would have been conceivable in the 
shaken victims of this delusion : I can speak best, 
however, but of what I have already glanced at, 
that temperamental weight of their fall which 

50 



REFUGEES IN CHELSEA 

has again and again, at sight of many of them 
gathered together, made the considering heart 
as heavy for them as if it, too, had for the time 
been worsted. 

However, it would take me far to tell of half 
the penetrating admonitions, whether of the dazed 
or of the roused appearance, that have for so long 
almost in like degree made our attention ache. 
I think of particular faces, in the whole connection, 
when I want most to remember since to remember 
always, and never, never to forget, is a prescription 
shining before us like a possible light of dawn 
faces saying such things in their silence, or in their 
speech of quite different matters, as to make the 
only thinkable comment or response some word 
or some gesture of reprieve to dumb or to dis 
simulated anguish. Blest be the power that has 
given to civilised men the appreciation of the face 
such an immeasurable sphere of exercise for it 
has this monstrous trial of the peoples come to 
supply. Such histories, such a record of moral 
experience, of emotion convulsively suppressed, 



REFUGEES IN CHELSEA 

as one meets in some of them : and this even if, 
on the whole, one has been able to think of these 
special allies, all sustainingly, much rather as the 
sturdiest than as the most demonstrative of 
sufferers. I have in these rapid remarks to reduce 
my many impressions to the fewest, but must 
even thus spare one of them for commemoration 
of the admirable cast of working countenance we 
are rewarded by the sight of, wherever we turn 
amid the quantity of helpful service and all the 
fruitful industries that we have been able to start 
and that keep themselves going. These are the 
lights in the picture; and who indeed would wish 
that the lights themselves should be anything less 
than tragic? The strong young man (no young 
men are familiarly stronger,) mutilated, amputated, 
dismembered in penalty for their defence of their 
soil against the horde, and now engaged at Crosby 
Hall in the making of handloom socks, to whom 
I pay an occasional visit much more for my own 
cheer, I apprehend, than for theirs express so 
in their honest concentration under difficulties 

52 



REFUGEES IN CHELSEA 

the actual and general value of their people that 
just to be in their presence is a blest renewal of 
faith. Excellent, exemplary, is this manly, homely, 
handy type, grave in its somewhat strained atten 
tion, but at once lighted to the briefest, sincerest 
humour of protest by any direct reference to the 
general cruelty of its misfortune. Anything but 
unsuggestive, the range of the quiet physiognomy, 
when one feels the consciousness behind it not to 
have run thin. Thick and strong is the good 
Flemish sense of life and all its functions which 
fact is responsible for no empty and really un- 
modelled mug/ 

I am afraid at the same time that, if the various 
ways of being bad are beyond our reckoning, the 
condition and the action of exemplary goodness 
tend rather to reduce to a certain rich unity of 
appearance those marked by them, however dis 
sociated from each other such persons may have 
been by race and education. Otherwise what 
tribute shouldn t I be moved to pay to the gentle 
man of Flanders to whom the specially improvised 

53 



REFUGEES IN CHELSEA 

craftsmen I have just mentioned owe their training 
and their inspiration? through his having, in his 
proscribed and denuded state, mastered the craft 
in order to recruit them to it, and, in fine, so far 
as my observation has been concerned, exhibit 
clear human virtue, courage and patience and 
the humility of sought fellowship in privation, 
with an unconscious beauty that I should be 
ashamed in this connection not to have noted 
publicly. I scarce know what such a personality 
as his suggests to me if not that we had all, on our 
good Chelsea ground, best take up and cherish as 
directly and intimately as possible every scrap of 
our community with our gentleman of Flanders. 
I make such a point as this, at the same time, 
only to remember how, almost wherever I have 
tried sustainingly to turn, my imagination and 
my intelligence have been quickened, and to 
recognise in particular, for that matter, that this 
couldn t possibly be more the case for them than 
in visiting a certain hostel in one of our compara 
tively contracted but amply decent local squares 

54 



REFUGEES IN CHELSEA 

riverside Chelsea having, of course, its own 
urban identity in the multitudinous County of 
London : which, in itself as happy an example, 
doubtless, of the hostel smoothly working as one 
need cite, placed me in grateful relation with a 
lady, one of the victims of her country s convulsion 
and in charge of the establishment I allude to, 
whom simply to meet/ as we say, is to learn how 
singular a dignity, how clear a distinction, may 
shine in active fortitude and economic self-efface 
ment under an all but crushing catastrophe. Talk 

about faces ! I could but privately ejaculate 

as I gathered the sense of all that this one repre 
sented in the way of natural nobleness and sweetness, 
a whole past acquaintance with letters and art 
and taste, insisting on their present restrictedness 
to bare sisterly service. 

The proud rigour of association with pressing 
service alone, with absolutely nothing else, the 
bare commodious house, so otherwise known to 
me of old and now like most of our hostels, if I 
am not mistaken, the most unconditioned of loans 

55 



REFUGEES IN CHELSEA 

from its relinquishing owner the lingering look 
of ancient peace in the precincts, an element I had 
already, as I passed and repassed at the afternoon 
hour, found somehow not at all dispelled by the 
presence in the central green garden itself of sundry 
maimed and hobbling and smiling convalescents 
from an extemporised small hospital close at hand, 
their battered khaki replaced by a like uniformity 
of the loose light blue, and friendly talk with them 
through the rails of their enclosure as blest to one 
participant at least as friendly talk with them 
always and everywhere is : such were the hovering 
elements of an impression in which the mind had 
yet mainly to yield to that haunting force on the 
part of our waiting ^roscrigts which never consents 
to be long denied. The proof of which universally 
recognised power of their spell amid us is indeed 
that they have led me so far with a whole side of 
my plea for them still unspoken. This, however, 
I hope on another occasion to come back to; and 
I am caught meanwhile by my memory of how 

the note of this conviction was struck for me, with 

56 



REFUGEES IN CHELSEA 

extraordinary force, many months ago and in the 
first flush of recognition of what the fate that had 
overtaken our earliest tides of arrival and appeal 
really meant meant so that all fuller acquaintance, 
since pursued, has but piled one congruous reality 
after another upon the horror. 

It was in September, in a tiny Sussex town 
which I had not quitted since the outbreak of 
the war, and where the advent of our first handful 
of fugitives before the warning of Louvain and 
Aerschoot and Termonde and Dinant had just 
been announced. Our small hill-top city, covering 
the steep sides of the compact pedestal crowned 
by its great church, had reserved a refuge at its 
highest point; and we had waited all day, from 
occasional train to train, for the moment at which 
we should attest our hospitality. It came at last, 
but late in the evening, when a vague outside 
rumour called me to my doorstep, where the un 
forgettable impression at once assaulted me. Up 
the precipitous little street that led from the 
station, over the old grass-grown cobbles where 

57 



REFUGEES IN CHELSEA 

vehicles rarely pass, came the panting procession 
of the homeless and their comforting, their almost 
clinging entertainers, who seemed to hurry them 
on as in a sort of overflow of expression of the 
fever of charity. It was swift and eager, in the 
autumn darkness and under the flare of a single 
lamp with no vociferation and, but for a woman s 
voice, scarce a sound save the shuffle of mounting 
feet and the thick-drawn breath of emotion. The 
note I except, however, was that of a young mother 
carrying her small child and surrounded by those 
who bore her on and on, almost lifting her as they 
went together. The resonance through our im 
memorial old street of her sobbing and sobbing 
cry was the voice itself of history; it brought 
home to me more things than I could then quite 
take the measure of, and these just because it 
expressed for her not direct anguish, but the in 
credibility, as who should say, of honest assured 
protection. Months have elapsed, and from having 
been then one of a few hundred she is now one of 
scores and scores of thousands : yet her cry is 

58 



REFUGEES IN CHELSEA 

still in my ears, whether to speak most of what 
she had lately or of what she actually felt; and it 
plays, to my own sense, as a great fitful, tragic 
light over the dark exposure of her people. 



THE AMERICAN VOLUNTEER 

MOTOR-AMBULANCE CORPS 

IN FRANCE 



THE AMERICAN VOLUNTEER 

MOTOR-AMBULANCE CORPS 

IN FRANCE 

A Letter to the Editor of an American Journal 

SIR, Several of us Americans in London are so 
interested in the excellent work of this body, lately 
organised by Mr Richard Norton and now in active 
operation at the rear of a considerable part of the 
longest line of battle known to history, that I 
have undertaken to express to you our common 
conviction that our countrymen at home will 
share our interest and respond to such particulars 
as we are by this time able to give. The idea of 
the admirable enterprise was suggested to Mr 
Norton when, early in the course of the War, he 
saw at the American Hospital at Neuilly scores 
of cases of French and British wounded whose 
lives were lost, or who must incur life- 

63 



THE AMERICAN VOLUNTEER 

long disability and suffering, through the long 
delay of their removal from the field of battle. 
To help energetically to remedy this dire fact 
struck him at once as possible, and his application 
of energy was so immediate and effective that in 
just three weeks after his return to London to 
take the work in hand he had been joined by a 
number of his countrymen and of others possessed 
of cars, who had offered them as ambulances 
already fitted or easily convertible, and had not 
less promptly offered themselves as capable chauf 
feurs. To this promptly gathered equipment, 
the recruiting of which no red tape had hampered 
and no postponement to committee-meetings had 
delayed, were at once added certain other cars 
of purchase these made possible by funds rapidly 
received from many known and unknown friends 
in America. The fleet so collected amounted to 
some fifteen cars. To the service of the British 
Red Cross and that of the St John Ambulance it 
then addressed itself, gratefully welcomed, and en 
joying from that moment the valuable association 

6 4 



MOTOR-AMBULANCE CORPS 

of Colonel A. J. Barry of the British Army, 
who was already employed in part on behalf of 
the Red Cross. I have within a few days had the 
opportunity to learn from this zealous and accom 
plished coadjutor, as well as from Mr Norton 
himself, some of the particulars of their compre 
hensive activity, they each having been able to 
dash over to London for a visit of the briefest 
duration. It has thus been brought home to me 
how much the success of the good work depends 
on American generosity both in the personal and 
the pecuniary way exercised, that is, by the 
contribution of cars, to which personal service, 
that of their contributors, attaches itself, and of 
course by such gifts of money as shall make the 
Corps more and more worthy of its function and 
of the American name. 

Its function is primarily that of gathering in 
the wounded, and those disabled by illness (though 
the question is almost always of the former,) from 
the posies de secours and the field hospitals, the 

various nearest points to the Front, bestrewn 
W.R. 65 E 



THE AMERICAN VOLUNTEER 

with patient victims, to which a motor-car can 
workably penetrate, and conveying them to the 
base hospitals, and when necessary the railway 
stations, from which they may be further directed 
upon places of care, centres of those possibilities 
of recovery which the splendid recent extension 
of surgical and medical science causes more and 
more to preponderate. The great and blessed 
fact is that conditions of recovery are largely secured 
by the promptitude and celerity that motor- 
transport offers, as compared with railway services 
at the mercy of constant interruption and arrest, 
in the case of bad and already neglected wounds, 
those aggravated by exposure and delay, the long 
lying on the poisonous field before the blest regi 
mental brancardiers or stretcher-bearers, waiting 
for the shelter of night, but full also of their own 
strain of pluck, can come and remove them. Carried 
mostly by rude arts, a mercy much hindered at the 
best, to the shelter, often hastily improvised, at 
which first aid becomes possible for them, they 

are there, as immediately and tenderly as possible, 

66 



MOTOR-AMBULANCE CORPS 

stowed in our waiting or arriving cars, each of 
which receives as large a number as may be con 
sistent with the particular suffering state of the 
stricken individual. Some of these are able to 
sit, at whatever cost from the inevitable shake 
over rough country roads; for others the lying 
posture only is thinkable, and the ideal car is the 
one which may humanely accommodate three 
men outstretched and four or five seated. Three 
outstretched is sometimes a tight fit, but when 
this is impossible the gain in poor blesses assis is 
the greater wedged together though broken 
shoulder or smashed arm may have to be with a 
like shrinking and shuddering neighbour. The 
moral of these rigours is of course that the more 
numerous the rescuing vehicles the less inevitable 
the sore crowding. I find it difficult to express to 
you the sense of practical human pity, as well as 
the image of general helpful energy, applied in 
innumerable chance ways, that we get from the 
report of what the Corps has done, and holds itself 

in readiness to do, thanks to the admirable spirit 

67 



THE AMERICAN VOLUNTEER 

of devotion without stint, of really passionate 
work, animating its individual members. These 
have been found beneficently and inexhaustibly 
active, it is interesting to be able to note, in 
proportion as they possess the general educated 
intelligence, the cultivated tradition of tact, and 
I may perhaps be allowed to confess that, for 
myself, I find a positive added beauty in the fact 
that the unpaid chauffeur, the wise amateur driver 
and ready lifter, helper, healer, and, so far as may 
be, consoler, is apt to be a University man and 
acquainted with other pursuits. One gets the sense 
that the labour, with its multiplied incidents and 
opportunities, is just unlimitedly inspiring to the 
keen spirit or the sympathetic soul, the recruit with 
energies and resources on hand that plead with him 
for the beauty of the vivid and palpable social result 
Not the least of the good offices open to our 
helpers are the odds and ends of aid determined 
by wayside encounters in a ravaged country, 
where distracted women and children flee from 

threatened or invaded villages, to be taken up, to 

68 



MOTOR-AMBULANCE CORPS 

be given the invaluable lift, if possible, in all the 
incoherence of their alarm and misery; sometimes 
with the elder men mixed in the tragic procession, 
tragi-comic even, very nearly, when the domestic 
or household objects they have snatched up in 
their headlong exodus, and are solemnly encumbered 
with, bear the oddest misproportion to the gravity 
of the case. They are hurried in, if the car be 
happily free, and carried on to comparative safety, 
but with the admirable cleverness and courage of 
the Frenchwoman of whatever class essentially 
in evidence in whatever contact; never more so, 
for instance, than when a rude field hospital has 
had of a sudden to be knocked together in the 
poor schoolhouse of a village, and the mangled and 
lacerated, brought into it on stretchers or on 
any rough handcart or trundled barrow that has 
been impressed into the service, have found the 
villageoises, bereft of their men, full of the bravest 
instinctive alertness, not wincing at sights of 
horror fit to try even trained sensibilities, handling 
shattered remnants of humanity with an art as 

69 



THE AMERICAN VOLUNTEER 

extemporised as the refuge itself, and having each 
precarious charge ready for the expert transfer 
by the time the car has hurried up. Emphasised 
enough by the ceaseless thunder of the Front the 
quality of the French and the British resistance 
and the pitch of their spirit; but one feels what 
is meant none the less when one hears the variety 
of heroism and the brightness of devotion in the 
women over all the region of battle described from 
observation as unsurpassable. Do we take too 
much for granted in imagining that this offered 
intimacy of appreciation of such finest aspects 
of the admirable immortal France, and of a relation 
with them almost as illuminating to ourselves 
as beneficent to them, may itself rank as something 
of an appeal where the seeds of response to her 
magnificent struggle in the eye of our free longings 
and liberal impulses already exist? 

I should mention that a particular great Army 
Corps, on the arrival of our first cars on the scene, 
appealed to them for all the service they could 

render, and that to this Corps they have been as 

70 



MOTOR-AMBULANCE CORPS 

yet uninterruptedly attached, on the condition 
of a reserve of freedom to respond at once to any 
British invitation to a transfer of activity. Such 
an assurance had already been given the Com 
missioner for the British Red Cross, on the part 
of Mr Norton and Colonel Barry, with their arrival 
at Boulogne, where that body cordially welcomed 
them, and whence in fact, on its request, a four- 
stretcher-car, with its American owner and another 
of our Volunteers in charge, proceeded to work 
for a fortnight, night and day, along the firing 
line on the Belgian frontier. Otherwise we have 
continuously enjoyed, in large, denned limits, 
up to the present writing, an association with one 
of the most tremendously engaged French Armies. 
The length of its line alone, were I to state it here 
in kilometres, would give some measure of the 
prodigious fighting stretch across what is practically 
the whole breadth of France, and it is in relation 
to a fraction of the former Front that we have 
worked. Very quickly, I may mention, we found 
one of our liveliest opportunities, Mr Norton and 



THE AMERICAN VOLUNTEER 

Colonel Barry proceeding together to ascertain 
what had become of one of the field hospitals 
known to have served in a small assaulted town 
a few days before, when, during a bombardment, 
Colonel Barry had saved many lives. Just as our 
Volunteers arrived a fresh bombardment began, 
and though assured by the fleeing inhabitants, 
including the mayor of the place, who was perhaps 
a trifle over-responsibly in advance of them, that 
there were no wounded left behind as in fact 
proved to be the case we nevertheless pushed 
on for full assurance. There w r ere then no wounded 
to bring out, but it was our first happy chance of 
bearing away all the hopeless and helpless women 
and children we could carry. This was a less 
complicated matter, however, than that of one 
of Colonel Barry s particular reminiscences, an 
occasion when the Germans were advancing on a 
small place that it was clear they would take, and 
when pressing news came to him of 400 wounded 
in it, who were to be got out if humanly possible. 
They were got out and motored away though 

72 



MOTOR-AMBULANCE CORPS 

it took the rescuing party thus three days, in the 
face of their difficulties and dangers, to effect the 
blest clearance. It may be imagined how precious 
in such conditions the power of the chauffeur- 
driven vehicle becomes, though indeed I believe 
the more special moral of this transaction, as 
given, was in the happy fact that the squad had 
blessedly been able to bring and keep with it four 
doctors, whose immediate service on the spot and 
during transport was the means of saving very 
many lives. The moral of that in turn would 
seem to be that the very ideal for the general 
case is the not so inconceivable volunteer who 
should be an ardent and gallant and not otherwise 
too much preoccupied young doctor with the 
possession of a car and the ability to drive it, above 
all the ability to offer it, as his crowning attribute. 
Perhaps I sketch in such terms a slightly fantastic 
figure, but there is so much of strenuous suggestion, 
which withal manages at the same time to be 
romantic, in the information before me, that it 
simply multiplies, for the hopeful mind, the 

73 



THE AMERICAN VOLUNTEER 

possibilities and felicities of equipped good- will. An 
association of the grimmest reality clings at the 
same time, I am obliged to add, to the record of 
success I have just cited the very last word of 
which seems to have been that in one of the houses 
of the little distracted town were two French 
Sisters of Mercy who were in charge of an old 
bedridden lady and whom, with the object of their 
care, every effort was made in vain to remove. 
They absolutely declined all such interference 
with the fate God had appointed them to meet 
as nuns if it was His will to make them martyrs. 
The curtain drops upon what became of them, 
but they too illustrate in their way the range of 
the Frenchwoman s power to face the situation. 
Still another form of high usefulness comes to 
our Corps, I should finally mention, in its oppor 
tunities for tracing the whereabouts and recovering 
the identity of the dead, the English dead, named 
in those grim lists, supplied to them by the military 
authorities, which their intercourse with the people 
in a given area where fighting has occurred enables 

74 



MOTOR-AMBULANCE CORPS 

them often blessedly to clear up. Their pervasive 
ness, their ubiquity, keeps them in touch with 
the people, witnesses of what happens on the 
battle-swept area when, after the storm has moved 
on, certain of the lifeless sweepings are gathered 
up. Old villagers, searched out and questioned, 
testify and give a clue through which the where 
abouts of the committal to thin earth of the last 
mortality of this, that, or the other of the obscurely 
fallen comes as a kind of irony of relief to those 
waiting in suspense. This uncertainty had attached 
itself for weeks to the fate in particular of many 
of the men concerned in the already so historic 
retreat of the Allies from Mons ground still 
considerably in the hands of the Germans, but 
also gradually accessible and where, as quickly 
as it becomes so, Colonel Barry pushes out into 
it in search of information. Sternly touching are 
such notes of general indication, information from 
the Cure, the village carpenter, the grave-digger of the 
place, a man called so-and-so and a gentleman called 
something else, as to the burial of forty-five dead 

75 



THE AMERICAN VOLUNTEER 

English in the public cemetery of such and such 
a small locality, as to the interment somewhere 
else of an Englishman believed to be an officer/ 
as to a hundred English surprised in a certain 
church and killed all but forty, and buried, as is 
not always their fortune for their kindred, without 
removal of their discs of identification. Among 
such like data we move when not among those of 
a more immediate violence, and all to be in their 
way scarce less considerately handled. Mixed 
with such gleanings one comes upon other matters 
of testimony of which one hopes equal note is 
made testimony as to ferocities perpetrated upon 
the civil population which I may not here specify. 
Every form of assistance and inquiry takes place 
of course in conditions of some danger, thanks 
to the risk of stray bullets and shells, not in 
frequently met when cars operate, as they neither 
avoid doing nor wastefully seek to do, in proximity 
to the lines. The Germans, moreover, are noted as 
taking the view that the insignia of the Red Cross, 

with the implication of the precarious freight it 

76 



MOTOR-AMBULANCE CORPS 

covers, are in all circumstances a good mark for 
their shots; a view characteristic of their belligerent 
system at large, but not more deterrent for the 
ministers of the adversary in this connection than 
in any other, when the admirable end is in question. 
I have doubtless said enough, however, in illus 
tration of the interest attaching to all this service, 
a service in which not one of the forces of social 
energy and devotion, not one of the true social 
qualities, sympathy, ingenuity, tact, and taste, 
fail to come into play. Such an exercise of them, 
as all the incidental possibilities are taken advantage 
of, represents for us all, who are happily not en 
gaged in the huge destructive work, the play not 
simply of a reparatory or consolatory, but a posi 
tively productive and creative virtue in which 
there is a peculiar honour. We Americans are as 
little neutrals as possible where any aptitude for 
any action, of whatever kind, that affirms life 
and freshly and inventively exemplifies it, instead 
of overwhelming and undermining it, is concerned. 
Great is the chance, in fact, for exhibiting this as 

77 



THE AMERICAN VOLUNTEER 

our entirely elastic, our supremely characteristic, 
social aptitude. We cannot do so cheaply, indeed, 
any more than the opposite course is found, under 
whatever fatuity of presumption, inexpensive and 
ready-made. What I therefore invite all those 
whom this notice may reach to understand, as 
for that matter they easily will, is that the expenses 
of our enlightened enterprise have to be continuously 
met, and that if it has confidence in such support 
it may go on in all the alert pride and pity that 
need be desired. I am assured that the only criti 
cism the members of the Corps make of it is that 
they wish more of their friends would come and 
support it either personally or financially or, 
best of all, of course, both. At the moment I write 
I learn this invocation to have been met to the 
extent of Mr Norton s having within two or three 
days annexed five fresh cars, with their owners 
to work them and all, as I hear it put with elation, 
excellent University men. As an extremely helpful 
factor on the part of Volunteers is some facility 
in French and the goodwill to stay on for whatever 



MOTOR-AMBULANCE CORPS 

reasonable length of time, I assume the excellence 
of these gentlemen to include those signal merits. 
Most members of the Staff of thirty-four in all (as the 
number till lately at least has stood) have been glad to 
pay their own living expenses; but it is taken for 
granted that in cases where individuals are unable 
to meet that outlay indefinitely the subscribers 
to the Fund will not grudge its undertaking to 
find any valuable man in food and lodging. Such 
charges amount at the outside to i dollar 75 per 
day. The expenses of petrol and tyres are paid 
by the French Government or the British Red 
Cross, so that the contributor of the car is at costs 
only for the maintenance of his chauffeur, if he 
brings one, or for necessary repairs. Mr Eliot 
Norton, of 2 Rector Street, New York, is our 
recipient of donations on your side of the sea, Mr 
George F. Read, Hon. Treas., care of Messrs Brown, 
Shipley & Co., 123 Pall Mall, S.W., kindly performs 
this office in London, and I am faithfully yours, 

HENRY JAMES. 

LONDON, November 25, 1914. 
79 



FRANCE 



FRANCE 

I THINK that if there is a general ground in the 
world, on which an appeal might be made, in a 
civilised circle, with a sense of its being uttered 
only to meet at once and beyond the need of in 
sistence a certain supreme recognition and response, 
the idea of what France and the French mean to 
the educated spirit of man would be the nameable 
thing. It would be the cause uniting us most 
quickly in an act of glad intelligence, uniting us 
with the least need of any wondering why. We 
should understand and answer together just by 
the magic of the mention, the touch of the two or 
three words, and this in proportion to our feeling 
ourselves social and communicating creatures 
to the point, in fact, of a sort of shame at any 
imputation of our not liberally understanding, of 
our waiting in any degree to be nudged or hustled. 

83 



FRANCE 

The case of France, as one may hold it, where the 
perceptive social mind is concerned and set in 
motion, is thus only to be called exquisite so 
far as we don t seem so to qualify things down. 
We certainly all feel, in the beautiful connection, 
in two general ways; one of these being that the 
spring pressed with such happy effect lifts the 
sense by its mere vibration into the lightest and 
brightest air in which, taking our world all round, 
it is given to our finer interest about things to breathe 
and move; and the other being that just having 
our intelligence, our experience at its freest and 
bravest, taken for granted, is a compliment to us, 
as not purely instinctive persons, which we should 
miss, if it were not paid, rather to the degree of 
finding the omission an insult. 

Such, as I say, is our easy relation to the sound 
of a voice raised, even however allusively and 
casually, on behalf of that great national and 
social presence which has always most oppositely, 
most sensibly, most obsessively, as I surely may 

put it, and above all most dazzingly, neighboured 

8 4 



FRANCE 

and admonished us here : after such a fashion 
as really to have made the felt breath of its life, 
across an interval constantly narrowing, a part 
of our education as distinguished from our luck. 
Our luck in all our past has been enormous, the 
greatest luck on the whole, assuredly, that any race 
has ever had; but it has never been a conscious 
reaction or a gathered fruition, as one may say; 
it has just been a singular felicity of position and 
of temperament, and this felicity has made us 
observe and perceive and reflect much less than 
it has made us directly act and profit and enjoy : 
enjoy of course by attending tremendously to 
all the business involved in our position. So far 
as we have had reactions, therefore, they have 
not sprung, when they have been at all intensified, 
from the extraordinary good fortune of our state. 
Unless indeed I may put it that what they have 
very considerably sprung from has been exactly 
a part of our general prodigy the good fortune 
itself of our being neighboured by a native genius 
so different from our own, so suggestive of wondrous 

85 



FRANCE 

and attaching comparisons, as to keep us chroni 
cally aware of the difference and the contrast and 
yet all the while help us to see into them and 
through them. 

We were not, to all appearance, appointed by 
fate for the most perceptive and penetrative offices 
conceivable; so that to have over against us and 
within range a proposition, as we nowadays say, 
that could only grow more and more vivid, more 
and more engaging and inspiring, in the measure 
of our growth of criticism and curiosity, or, in other 
words, of the capacity just to pay attention, pay 
attention otherwise than by either sticking very 
fast at home or inquiring of the Antipodes, the 
Antipodes almost exclusively what has that 
practically been for us but one of the very choicest 
phases of our luck aforesaid, one of the most 
appraisable of our felicities? the very one, doubt 
less, that our dissimilarity of temperament and 
taste would have most contradictiously and most 
correctively prescribed from the moment we were 

not to be left simply to stew in our juice ! If the 

86 



FRANCE 

advantage I so characterise was to be in its own 
way thoroughly affirmative, there was yet nothing 
about it to do real or injurious violence to that 
abysmal good nature which sometimes strikes me as 
our most effective contribution to human history. 
The vision of France, at any rate, so close and so 
clear at propitious hours, was to grow happily 
illustrational for us as nothing else in any like 
relation to us could possibly have become. Other 
families have a way, on good opportunity, of 
interesting us more than our own, and here was this 
immense acquaintance extraordinarily mattering 
for us and at the same time not irritating us by a 
single claim of cousinship or a single liberty taken 
on any such score. Any liberties taken were much 
rather liberties, I think, of ours always abounding 
as we did in quite free, and perhaps slightly rough, 
and on the whole rather superficial, movement 
beyond our island circle and toward whatever lay 
in our path. France lay very much in our path, 
our path to almost everything that could beckon 

us forth from our base and there were very few 

87 



FRANCE 

things in the world or places on the globe that 
didn t so beckon us; according to which she helped 
us along on our expansive course a good deal more, 
doubtless, than either she or we always knew. 

All of which, you see, is but a manner of making 
my point that her name means more than anything 
in the world to us but just our own. Only at present 
it means ever so much more, almost unspeakably more, 
than it has ever done in the past, and I can t help 
inviting you to feel with me, for a very few moments, 
what the real force of this association to which 
we now throb consists of, and why it so moves us. 
We enjoy generous emotions because they are 
generous, because generosity is a noble passion 
and a glow, because we spring with it for the time 
above our common pedestrian pace and this 
just in proportion as all questions and doubts 
about it drop to the ground. But great reasons 
never spoil a great sympathy, and to see an in 
spiring object in a strong light never made any 
such a shade less inspiring. So, therefore, in these 

days when our great neighbour and Ally is before 

88 



FRANCE 

us in a beauty that is tragic, tragic because menaced 
and overdarkened, the closest possible appreciation 
of what it is that is thereby in peril for ourselves 
and for the world makes the image shine with its 
highest brightness at the same time that the cloud 
upon it is made more black. When I sound the 
depth of my own affection so fondly excited, I 
take the like measure for all of us and feel the glad 
recognition I meet in thus putting it to you, for 
our full illumination, that what happens to France 
happens to all that part of ourselves which we 
are most proud, and most finely advised, to enlarge 
and cultivate and consecrate. 

Our heroic friend sums up for us, in other 
words, and has always summed up, the life of the 
mind and the life of the senses alike, taken together, 
in the most irrepressible freedom of either and, 
after that fashion, positively lives for us, carries 
on experience for us; does it under our tacit and 
our at present utterly ungrudging view of her 
being formed and endowed and constantly prompted, 
toward such doing, on all sorts of sides that are 

89 



FRANCE 

simply so many reasons for our standing off, 
standing off in a sort of awed intellectual hush or 
social suspense, and watching and admiring and 
thanking her. She is sole and single in this, that 
she takes charge of those of the interests of man 
which most dispose him to fraternise with himself, 
to pervade all his possibilities and to taste all his 
faculties, and in consequence to find and to make 
the earth a friendlier, an easier, and especially a 
more various sojourn; and the great thing is the 
amiability and the authority, intimately combined, 
with which she has induced us all to trust her on 
this ground. There are matters as to which every 
set of people has of course most to trust itself, 
most to feel its own genius and its own stoutness 
as we are here and all round about us knowing 
and abiding by that now as we have never done. 
But I verily think there has never been anything 
in the world since the most golden aspect of 
antiquity at least like the way in which France 
has been trusted to gather the rarest and fairest 

and sweetest fruits of our so tremendously and 

90 



FRANCE 

so mercilessly turned-up garden of life. She has 
gardened where the soil of humanity has been 
most grateful and the aspect, so to call it, most 
toward the sun, and there, at the high and yet 
mild and fortunate centre, she has grown the 
precious, intimate, the nourishing, finishing things 
that she has inexhaustibly scattered abroad. And 
if we have all so taken them from her, so expected 
them from her as our right, to the point that she 
would have seemed positively to fail of a passed 
pledge to help us to happiness if she had disappointed 
us, this has been because of her treating us to the 
impression of genius as no nation since the Greeks 
has treated the watching world, and because of 
our feeling that genius at that intensity is infallible. 
What it has all amounted to, as I say, is that 
we have never known otherwise an agent so beauti 
fully organised, organised from within, for a mission, 
and that such an organisation at free play has 
made us really want never to lift a finger to break 
the charm. We catch at every turn of our present 

long-drawn crisis indeed that portentous name : 

91 



FRANCE 

it s displayed to us on a measureless scale that 
our Enemy is organised, organised possibly to the 
effect of binding us with a spell if anything could 
keep us passive. The term has been in a manner, 
by that association, compromised and vulgarised : 
I say vulgarised because any history of organisa 
tion from without and for intended aggression and 
self-imposition, however elaborate the thing may 
be, shows for merely mechanical and bristling 
compared with the condition of being naturally 
and functionally endowed and appointed. This 
last is the only fair account of the complete and 
perfect case that France has shown us and that 
civilisation has depended on for half its assurances. 
Well, now, we have before us this boundless ex 
tension of the case, that, as we have always known 
what it was to see the wonderful character I speak 
of range through its variety and keep shining 
with another and still another light, so in these 
days we assist at what we may verily call the 
supreme evidence of its incomparable gift for 
vivid exhibition. It takes our great Ally, and her 

92 



FRANCE 

only, to be as vivid for concentration, for reflection, 
for intelligent, inspired contraction of life toward 
an end all but smothered in sacrifice, as she has 
ever been for the most splendidly wasteful diffusion 
and communication; and to give us a view of her 
nature and her mind in which, laying down almost 
every advantage, every art and every appeal t&it 
we have generally known her by, she takes on 
energies, forms of collective sincerity, silent eloquence 
and selected example that are fresh revelations and 
so, bleeding at every pore, while at no time in all 
her history so completely erect, makes us feel her 
perhaps as never before our incalculable, immortal 
France. 



THE LONG WARDS 



THE LONG WARDS 

THERE comes back to me out of the distant past 
an impression of the citizen soldier at once in his 
collective grouping and in his impaired, his more 
or less war-worn state, which was to serve me for 
long years as the most intimate vision of him that 
my span of life was likely to disclose. This was 
a limited affair indeed, I recognise as I try to 
recover it, but I mention it because I was to find 
at the end of time that I had kept it in reserve, 
left it lurking deep down in my sense of things, 
however shyly and dimly, however confusedly 
even, as a term of comparison, a glimpse of some 
thing by the loss of which I should have been the 
poorer; such a residuary possession of the spirit, 
in fine, as only needed darkness to close round it 
a little from without in order to give forth a vague 

phosphorescent light. It was early, it must have 
W.R. 97 G 



THE LONG WARDS 

been very early, in our Civil War; yet not so early 
but that a large number of those who had answered 
President Lincoln s first call for an army had had 
time to put in their short period (the first term 
was so short then, as was likewise the first number,) 
and reappear again in camp, one of those of their 
small New England state, under what seemed to 
me at the hour, that of a splendid autumn after 
noon, the thickest mantle of heroic history. If I 
speak of the impression as confused I certainly 
justify that mark of it by my failure to be clear 
at this moment as to how much they were in 
general the worse for wear since they can t have 
been exhibited to me, through their waterside 
settlement of tents and improvised shanties, in 
anything like hospital conditions. However, I 
cherish the rich ambiguity, and have always 
cherished it, for the sake alone of the general note 
exhaled, the thing that has most kept remembrance 
unbroken. I carried away from the place the 
impression, the one that not only was never to 

fade, but was to show itself susceptible of extra- 

98 



THE LONG WARDS 

ordinary eventual enrichment. I may not pretend 
now to refer it to the more particular sources it 
drew upon at that summer s end of 1861, or to say 
why my repatriated warriors were, if not somehow 
definitely stricken, so largely either lying in ap 
parent helplessness or moving about in confessed 
languor : it suffices me that I have always thought 
of them as expressing themselves at almost every 
point in the minor key, and that this has been the 
reason of their interest. What I call the note 
therefore is the characteristic the most of the essence 
and the most inspiring inspiring I mean for con 
sideration of the admirable sincerity that we thus 
catch in the act : the note of the quite abysmal 
softness, the exemplary genius for accommodation, 
that forms the alternative aspect, the passive as 
distinguished from the active, of the fighting man 
whose business is in the first instance formidably 
to bristle. This aspect has been produced, I of 
course recognise, amid the horrors that the German 
powers had, up to a twelvemonth ago, been for 
years conspiring to let loose upon the world by 

99 



THE LONG WARDS 

such appalling engines and agencies as mankind 
had never before dreamed of; but just that is the 
lively interest of the fact unfolded to us now on a 
scale beside which, and though save indeed for a 
single restriction, the whole previous illustration 
of history turns pale. Even if I catch but in a 
generalising blur that exhibition of the first 
American levies as a measure of experience had 
stamped and harrowed them, the signally attaching 
mark that I refer to is what I most recall; so that 
if I didn t fear, for the connection, to appear to 
compare the slighter things with the so much 
greater, the diminished shadow with the far- 
spread substance, I should speak of my small old 
scrap of truth, miserably small in contrast with 
the immense evidence even then to have been 
gathered, but in respect to which latter occasion 
didn t come to me, as having contained possibilities 
of development that I must have languished well- 
nigh during a lifetime to crown it with. 

One had during the long interval not lacked 
opportunity for a vision of the soldier at peace, 



IOO 



THE LONG; WARDS 

moving to and fro with a professional eye on the 
horizon, but not fished out of the bloody welter 
and laid down to pant, as we actually see him 
among the Allies, almost on the very bank and 
within sound and sight of his deepest element. 
The effect of many of the elapsing years, the time 
in England and France and Italy, had indeed 
been to work his collective presence so closely and 
familiarly into any human scene pretending to a 
full illustration of our most generally approved 
conditions that I confess to having missed him 
rather distressfully from the picture of things 
offered me during a series of months spent not long 
ago in a few American cities after years of discon 
nection. I can scarce say why I missed him sadly 
rather than gladly I might so easily have pre 
figured one s delight in his absence; but certain 
it is that my almost outraged consciousness of 
our practically doing without him amid American 
conditions was a revelation of the degree in which 
his great imaging, his great reminding and en 
hancing function is rooted in the European basis. 

10 1 



THE LONG WARDS 

I felt his non-existence on the American positively 
produce a void which nothing else, as a vivifying 
substitute, hurried forward to fill; this being 
indeed the case with many of the other voids, the 
most aching, which left the habituated eye to 
cast about as for something to nibble in a state of 
dearth. We never know, I think, how much these 
wanting elements have to suggest to the pampered 
mind till we feel it living in view of the community 
from which they have been simplified away. On 
these occasions they conspire with the effect of 
certain other, certain similar expressions, examples 
of social life proceeding as by the serene, the 
possibly too serene, process of mere ignorance, 
to bring to a head for the fond observer the wonder 
of what is supposed to strike, for the projection 
of a finished world, the note that they are not 
there to strike. However, as I quite grant the 
hypothesis of an observer still fond and yet remark 
ing the lapse of the purple patch of militarism 
but with a joy unclouded, I limit myself to the 
merely personal point that the fancy of a particular 



102 



THE LONG WARDS 

brooding analyst could so sharply suffer from a 
vagueness of privation, something like an un 
seasoned observational diet, and then, rather to 
his relief, find the mystery cleared up. And the 
strict relevancy of the bewilderment I glance at, 
moreover, becomes questionable, further, by reason 
of my having, with the outbreak of the horrors in 
which we are actually steeped, caught myself 
staring at the exhibited militarism of the general 
British scene not much less ruefully than I could 
remember to have stared, a little before, at the 
utter American deficit. Which proves after all 
that the rigour of the case had begun at a bound 
to defy the largest luxury of thought; so that the 
presence of the military in the picture on the mere 
moderate insular scale struck one as furnishing 
a menaced order but in a pitiful and pathetic 
degree. 

The degree was to alter, however, by swift 
shades, just as one s comprehension of the change 
grew and grew with it; and thus it was that, to 

cut short the record of our steps and stages, we 

103 



THE LONG WARDS 

have left immeasurably behind us here the question 
of what might or what should have been. That 
belonged, with whatever beguiled or amused ways 
of looking at it, to the abyss of our past delusion, 
a collective state of mind in which it had literally 
been possible to certain sophists to argue that, 
so far from not having soldiers enough, we had 
more than we were likely to know any respectable 
public call for. It was in the very fewest weeks 
that we replaced a pettifogging consciousness by 
the most splendidly liberal, and, having swept 
through all the first phases of anxiety and suspense, 
found no small part of our measure of the matter 
settle down to an almost luxurious study of our 
multiplied defenders after the fact, as I may call 
it, or in the light of that acquaintance with them 
as products supremely tried and tested which I 
began by speaking of. We were up to our necks 
in this relation before we could turn round, and 
what upwards of a year s experience of it has done 
in the contributive and enriching way may now 

well be imagined. I might feel that my marked 

104 



THE LONG WARDS 

generalisation, the main hospital impression, steeps 
the case in too strong or too stupid a synthesis, 
were it not that to consult my memory, a recollec 
tion of countless associative contacts, is to see 
the emphasis almost absurdly thrown on my quasi- 
paradox. Just so it is of singular interest for the 
witnessing mind itself to feel the happy truth 
stoutly resist any qualifying hint since I am so 
struck with the charm, as I can only call it, of the 
tone and temper of the man of action, the creature 
appointed to advance and explode and destroy, 
and elaborately instructed as to how to do these 
things, reduced to helplessness in the innumerable 
instances now surrounding us. It doesn t in the 
least take the edge from my impression that his 
sweet reasonableness, representing the opposite 
end of his wondrous scale, is probably the very 
oldest story of the touching kind in the world; 
so far indeed from my claiming the least originality 
for the appealing appearance as it has lately 
reached me from so many sides, I find its suggestion 
of vast communities, communities of patience 

105 



THE LONG WARDS 

and placidity, acceptance and submission pushed 
to the last point, to be just what makes the whole 
show most illumination. 

Wonderful that, from east to west, they must all 
be like this/ one says to oneself in presence of 
certain consistencies, certain positive monotonies 
of aspect; wonderful that if joy of battle (for 
the classic term, in spite of new horrors, seems 
clearly still to keep its old sense,) has, to so attested 
a pitch, animated these forms, the disconnection 
of spirit should be so prompt and complete, should 
hand the creature over as by the easiest turn to 
the last refinements of accommodation. The 
disconnection of the flesh, of physical function 
in whatever ravaged area, that may well be measure 
less; but how interesting, if the futility of such 
praise doesn t too much dishonour the subject, 
the exquisite anomaly of the intimate readjustment 
of the really more inflamed and exasperated part, 
or in other words of the imagination, the captured, 
the haunted vision, to life at its most innocent 

and most ordered ! To that point one s unvarying 

106 



THE LONG WARDS 

thought of the matter, which yet, though but a 
meditation without a conclusion, becomes the 
very air in which fond attention spends itself. So 
far as commerce of the acceptable, the tentatively 
helpful kind goes, one looks for the key to success 
then, among the victims, exactly on that ground 
of the apprehension pacified and almost, so to call 
it, trivialised. The attaching thing becomes thus 
one s intercourse with the imagination of the 
particular patient subject, the individual himself, 
in the measure in which this interest bears us up 
and carries us along; which name for the life of 
his spirit has to cover, by a considerable stretch, 
all the ground. By the stretch of the name, more 
over, I am far from meaning any stretch of the 
faculty itself which remains for the most part 
a considerably contracted or inert force, a force 
in fact often so undeveloped as to be insusceptible 
of measurement at all, so that one has to resort, 
in face of the happy fact that communion still does 
hold good, to some other descriptive sign for it. 

That sign, however, fortunately presents itself 

107 



THE LONG WARDS 

with inordinate promptitude and fits to its innocent 
head with the last perfection the cap, in fact the 
very crown, of an office that we can only appraise 
as predetermined good nature. We after this 
fashion score our very highest on behalf of a con 
clusion, I think, in feeling that whether or no the 
British warrior s good nature has much range of 
fancy, his imagination, whatever there may be 
of it, is at least so good-natured as to show absol 
utely everything it touches, everything without 
exception, even the worst machinations of the 
enemy, in that colour. Variety and diversity of 
exhibition, in a world virtually divided as now 
into hospitals and the preparation of subjects 
for them, are, I accordingly conceive, to be looked 
for quite away from the question of physical 
patience, of the general consent to suffering and 
mutilation, and, instead of that, in this connection 
of the sort of mind and thought, the sort of moral 
attitude, that are born of the sufferer s other 
relations; which I like to think of as being different 

from country to country, from class to class, and 

108 



THE LONG WARDS 

as having their fullest national and circumstantial 
play. 

It would be of the essence of these remarks, 
could I give them within my space all the particular 
applications naturally awaiting them, that they 
pretend to refer here to the British private soldier 
only generalisation about his officers would take 
us so considerably further and so much enlarge 
our view. The high average of the beauty and 
modesty of these, in the stricken state, causes them 
to affect me, I frankly confess, as probably the 
very flower of the human race. One s apprehension 
of Tommy and I scarce know whether more 
to dislike the liberty this mode of reference takes 
with him, or to incline to retain it for the tender 
ness really latent in it is in itself a theme for 
fine notation, but it has brought me thus only to 
the door of the boundless hospital ward in which, 
these many months, I have seen the successive 
and the so strangely quiet tides of his presence 
ebb and flow, and it stays me there before the 

incalculable vista. The perspective stretches away, 

109 



THE LONG WARDS 

in its mild order, after the fashion of a tunnel 
boring into the very character of the people, and 
so going on for ever never arriving or coming out, 
that is, at anything in the nature of a station, a 
junction or a terminus. So it draws off through 
the infinite of the common personal life, but 
planted and bordered, all along its passage, with 
the thick-growing flower of the individual illustra 
tion, this sometimes vivid enough and sometimes 
pathetically pale. The great fact, to my now so 
informed vision, is that it undiscourageably con 
tinues and that an unceasing repetition of its 
testifying particulars seems never either to exhaust 
its sense or to satisfy that of the beholder. Its 
sense, indeed, if I may so far simplify, is pretty 
well always the same, that of the jolly fatalism 
above-mentioned, a state of moral hospitality to 
the practices of fortune, however outrageous, that 
may at times fairly be felt as providing amusement, 
providing a new and thereby a refreshing turn of 
the personal situation, for the most interested 

party. It is true that one may be sometimes 

no 



THE LONG WARDS 

moved to wonder which ^ s the most interested 
party, the stricken subject in his numbered bed 
or the friendly, the unsated inquirer who has tried 
to forearm himself against such a measure of 
the criticism of life* as might well be expected 
to break upon him from the couch in question, 
and who yet, a thousand occasions for it having 
been, all round him, inevitably neglected, finds 
this ingenious provision quite left on his hands. 
He may well ask himself what he is to do with 
people who so consistently and so comfortably 
content themselves with being being for the most 
part incuriously and instinctively admirable that 
nothing whatever is left of them for reflection as 
distinguished from their own practice; but the 
only answer that comes is the reproduction of the 
note. He may, in the interest of appreciation, 
try the experiment of lending them some scrap 
of a complaint or a curse in order that they shall 
meet him on congruous ground, the ground of 
encouragement to his own participating impulse. 

They are imaged, under that possibility, after 

in 



THE LONG WARDS 

the manner of those unfortunates, the very poor, 
the victims of a fire or shipwreck, to whom you 
have to lend something to wear before they can 
come to thank you for helping them. The inmates 
of the long wards, however, have no use for any 
imputed or derivative sentiments or reasons; they 
feel in their own way, they feel a great deal, they 
don t at all conceal from you that to have seen 
what they have seen is to have seen things horrible 
and monstrous but there is no estimate of them 
for which they seek to be indebted to you, and 
nothing they less invite from you than to show them 
that such visions must have poisoned their world. 
Their world isn t in the least poisoned; they have 
assimilated their experience by a process scarce 
at all to be distinguished from their having 
healthily got rid of it. 

The case thus becomes for you that they consist 
wholly of their applied virtue, which is accompanied 
with no waste of consciousness whatever. The 
virtue may strike you as having been, and as still 
being, greater in some examples than in others, 

112 



THE LONG WARDS 

but it has throughout the same sign of differing 
at almost no point from a supreme amiability. 
How can creatures so amiable, you allow yourself 
vaguely to wonder, have welcomed even for five 
minutes the stress of carnage? and how can the 
stress of carnage, the murderous impulse at the 
highest pitch, have left so little distortion of the 
moral nature? It has left none at all that one has 
at the end of many months been able to discover; 
so that perhaps the most steadying and refreshing 
effect of intercourse with these hospital friends 
is through the almost complete rest from the facing 
of generalisations to which it treats you. One 
would even like, perhaps, as a stimulus to talk, 
more generalisation; but one gets enough of that 
out in the world, and one doesn t get there nearly 
so much of what one gets in this perspective, the 
particular perfect sufficiency of the extraordinary 
principle, whatever it is, which makes the practical 
answer so supersede any question or any argument 
that it seems fairly to have acted by chronic 

instinctive anticipation, the habit of freely throwing 

113 



THE LONG WARDS 

the personal weight into any obvious opening. 
The personal weight, in its various forms and 
degrees, is what lies there with a head on the 
pillow and whatever wise bandages thereabout 
or elsewhere, and it becomes interesting in itself, 
and just in proportion, I think, to its having had 
all its history after the fact. All its history is that 
of the particular application which has brought 
it to the pass at which you find it, and is a stream 
round about which you have to press a little hard 
to make it flow clear. Then, in many a case, it 
does flow, certainly, as clear as one could wish, 
and with the strain that it is always somehow 
English history and illustrates afresh the English 
way of doing things and regarding them, of feeling 
and naming them. The sketch extracted is apt 
to be least coloured when the prostrate historian, 
as I may call him, is an Englishman of the English; 
it has more point, though not perhaps more essential 
tone, when he is a Scot of the Scots, and has most 
when he is an Irishman of the Irish; but there is 

absolutely no difference, in the light of race and 

114 



THE LONG WARDS 

save as by inevitable variation from individual 
to individual, about the really constant and precious 
matter, the attested possession on the part of the 
contributor of a free loose undisciplined quantity 
of being to contribute. 

This is the palpable and ponderable, the admirably 
appreciable, residuum as to which if I be asked just 
how it is that I pluck the flower of amiability from 
the bramble of an individualism so bristling with 
accents, I am afraid I can only say that the accents 
would seem by the mercy of chance to fall together 
in the very sense that permits us to detach the rose 
with the fewest scratches. The rose of active 
good nature, irreducible, incurable, or in other 
words all irreflective, that is the variety which the 
individualistic tradition happens, up and down 
these islands, to wear upon its ample breast even 
it may be with considerable effect of monotony. 
There it is, for what it is, and the very simplest 
summary of one s poor bedside practice is perhaps 
to confess that one has most of all kept one s nose 
buried in it. There hangs about the poor 



THE LONG WARDS 

practitioner by that fact, I profess, an aroma not 
doubtless at all mixed or in the least mystical, 
but so unpervertedly wholesome that what can I 
pronounce it with any sort of conscience but sweet ? 
That is the rough, unless I rather say the smooth, 
report of it; which covers of course, I hasten to 
add, a constant shift of impression within the 
happy limits. Did I not, by way of introduction 
to these awaiters of acknowledgment, find myself 
first of all, early in the autumn, in presence of the 
first aligned rows of lacerated Belgians? the 
eloquence of whose mere mute expression of their 
state, and thereby of their cause, remains to me a 
vision unforgettable for ever, and this even though 
I may not here stretch my scale to make them, 
Flemings of Flanders though they were, fit into 
my remarks with the English of the English 
and the Scotch of the Scotch. If other witnesses 
might indeed here fit in they would decidedly 
come nearest, for there were aspects under which 
one might almost have taken them simply for 

Britons comparatively starved of sport and, to 

116 



THE LONG WARDS 

make up for that, on straighter and homelier terms 
with their other senses and appetites. But their 
effect, thanks to their being so seated in every 
thing that their ripe and rounded temperament 
had done for them, was to make their English 
entertainers, and their successors in the long wards 
especially, seem ever so much more complicated 
besides making of what had happened to them 
selves, for that matter, an enormity of outrage 
beyond all thought and pity. Their fate had cut 
into their spirit to a peculiar degree through their 
flesh, as if they had had an unusual thickness of 
this, so to speak which up to that time had pro 
tected while it now but the more exposed and, 
collectively, entrapped them; so that the ravaged 
and plundered domesticity that one felt in them, 
which was mainly what they had to oppose, made 
the terms of their exile and their suffering an ex 
tension of the possible and the dreadful. But all 
that vision is a chapter by itself the essence of 
which is perhaps that it has been the privilege of 

this placid and sturdy people to show the world 

117 



THE LONG WARDS 

a new shade and measure of the tragic and the 
horrific. The first wash of the great Flemish tide 
ebbed at any rate from the hospitals creating 
moreover the vast needs that were to be so un- 
precedentedly met, and the native procession 
which has prompted these remarks set steadily 
in. I have played too uncertain a light, I am well 
aware, not arresting it at half the possible points, 
yet with one aspect of the case staring out so 
straight as to form the vivid moral that asks to 
be drawn. The deepest impression from the sore 
human stuff with which such observation deals 
is that of its being strong and sound in an extra 
ordinary degree for the conditions producing it. 
These conditions represent, one feels at the best, 
the crude and the waste, the ignored and neglected 
state; and under the sense of the small care and 
scant provision that have attended such hearty 
and happy growths, struggling into life and air 
with no furtherance to speak of, the question comes 
pressingly home of what a better economy might, 

or verily mightn t, result in. If this abundance 

118 



THE LONG WARDS 

all slighted and unencouraged can still comfort 
us, what wouldn t it do for us tended and fostered 
and cultivated? That is my moral, for I believe 
in Culture speaking strictly now of the honest 
and of our own congruous kind. 



GLASGOW: w. COLLINS SONS AND co. LTD. 



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