Page images
PDF
EPUB

try with the vigilant love that cannot brook a shadow upon her honor, the charge of being against her because he deplores her temporary attitude and action, brings a kind of amazement that has in it something akin to despair.”

Mr. Nevinson has devoted his days to appeals for the struggle of martyred nations to maintain their own life; in Ireland, in Macedonia, in South Africa. But all his love centres upon the very soil and scenery of the land of his own home.

soldiers have believed the world to have lost all, because a battle turned against them. Her best has at times grown poor and her worst rich. Her colonies have seemed dangerous for a moment from the insolence of their power, and then again (for a moment) from the contamination of their decline. She has suffered invasion of every sort; the East has wounded her in arms and corrupted her with ideas; her vigorous blood has healed the wounds at once, and her permanent sanity has turned such corruptions into innocuous follies. She will certainly remain.

The seas gulf and fall around her promontories, or lie brooding there in green and purple lines. Her mountains are low, like blue waves they run along the horizon, and the wind flows over them. It is a country of deep pasture and quiet dowds and earthy fields, where the furrows run straight from hedge to hedge. There is moorland too, and lakes with wild names, and every village is full of ancient story. The houses are clustered round old castle walls, and across the breezy distance of fen and common the gray cathedrals rise like ships in full sail.

And Mr. Chesterton has made himself the very apostle of a new Nationalism which proclaims this variegated development as an essential for the preservation of the sanity of the world. "There is a spirit abroad among the nations of the earth," he cries, “which drives men incessantly on to destroy what they cannot understand, and to capture what they cannot enjoy." This is the spirit which all these men find in the faction which has been dominant in politics and literature; in those enlisting with Mr. Chamberlain under the appeal both to cupidity and Imperial dominance in one last effort to maintain their departing supremacy. And this is the spirit against which the new movement has declared uncompromising war.

Mr. Belloc is perhaps the most entire ly Nationalist. He is all for the smaller community against the larger He sings the praise of the South coun. try whose "great hills lie along the sea” and of the men of the South country, against the remoter regions of England. When he drinks the homebrewed ale he drinks (in his own absurd and happy phrase) “Nelson and all the Victories.” He will even protest in great language patriotism for a Europe encompassed by alien forces, by a world which can never understand the traditions and devotions beaten into her very soil by the passion of a thou sand years.

If literature be any guide, therefore, one can prophesy certain notes of the spirit of the coming time. First, it will be National; with no appearance of balanced affection and an equal approval and sympathy for all men-a universal benevolence. It will proclaim always a particular concern in the wellbeing of England and the English people; a pride in its ancient history, its ancient traditions, the very language of its gray skies and rocky shore.

Second, it will, I think, dissever it. . self entirely from those former rallies

She will certainly remain. Her component peoples have merged and bave re-merged. Her particular, famous cities have fallen down. Her

of a national spirit which immediately identify a nation with a small and limited class, throwing up boundaries round its privileges against a hungry and raging crowd. There will be none of the follies of the “young England,” an attempt to revive a feudalism that has had its great day but now has ceased to be. The assertion will be of a spiritual democracy, with a claim for every Englishman and woman and child to some share in the great inheritance which England has won.

And third, therefore, you will note a bedrock demand in the thrusting for ward of the problems of social discontent and social reform, which are destined ultimately to brush aside the futilities of the present party strife. Against those who protest their devo tion to their country, but who have done nothing to make that country more desirable for the masses of its millions, and more secure in the devotion of free and satisfied peoples, will be set up a determination at all costs and through all changes to create an England more worthy of the land of our desire. The repatriation of a rural population with the tenacity which only possession of the land can give, the grappling with the problems of our restless cities, the more even spread of the national wealth, the wider distribution of the good things which have flown so plentifully into

The Contemporary Review.

our store, the assertion of a minimum standard of life for each citizen of such a land-these are the things which will be heard more and more insistent in the spirit that is arising after the Reaction,

No gleam of such great ideals penetrates at present through the dusty atmosphere of present-day politics. The observer limited to such a dreary outlook might well be exonerated for : despair of his country. Government and Parliament are to-day seen mouthing and mumbling over dead things with a kind of pompous futility which would be entirely ridiculous if it were not so tragical.

Such verses as those of Shelley in 1819 seem alone adequate to the present; with their vision of a "Senate" with "Time's worst statute unrepealed"; and religion as "a closed book," and "rulers who neither see por feel nor know."

B ut now, as then, there can be hope of the presence also within these graves of that "glorious Phantom" which may "burst to illumine our tempestuous day."

To those who look not at politics only but at the literature which is the earnest of a future change, the darkness of the present is not lacking in the promise of the coming of that brighter dawn.

C. F. G. Masterman.

THE AWAKENING OF AFGHANISTAN.

The imminent visit of the Afghan the Indian Foreign Office, but it may Heir-Apparent to India, and the ar- be doubted whether its efforts would rangement of a fresh British Mission have been crowned with success if to Cabul, will revive public interest in there had not been a responsive move a country which occupies such an im- ment on the part of the Afghan ruler portant position as Afghanistan does and his people. Not so very long ago with regard to India. These steps are the arrangements now concluded would creditable to the vigilance and tact of have been impossible, and in bringing

them about the increase of general to add special provocations of his own knowledge and the prevalence of just device. If at any time down to the er views as to our policy in Afghanis- close of the year 1903 the Foreign tan must be allowed as great a share Secretary of India could have contribu in the result as skilful diplomacy. uted to these pages an article reveal

Afghanistan itself has not stood stilling the true situation between his in recent years. Its progress even Government and Afghanistan, I vengives further reason to ask the ques. ture to say that the dominant notes tion: Is the Oriental world after long of his contribution would have been torpor going to arouse itself and shake doubt and apprehension. off its characteristic lethargy? We · But a remarkable and welcome have seen the awakening of Japan, and change has occurred during the this Europe has now been taught is a present year. The Afghan ruler has real awakening. We have had much shown a keen appreciation of certain talk of the awakening of China, but facts to which he had previously despite the talk China still seems sunk seemed wilfully blind, and his awakenin her ancient slumber. There have ing may prove the more lasting, bebeen signs that Afghanistan, “the cause it is attributable to his new land of rocks and stones and san appreciation of the necessities of his. guinary feuds," as it used to be called, own position. The consequences of his was about to bestir herself so that she changed view may be the breaking might comply with the inexorable con- down of the barrier of suspicion that ditions of the modern law of self- has so long separated India and Alpreservation; and now we have evi- ghanistan, and the gradual creation of dence that the symptoms were not mis- a feeling of confidence in the common, leading. Will her awakening be real interests of the two countries. In an, and lasting, or sham and fleeting? autocratic State it is necessary that Will it, in short, be marked by some the ruler should give the example, and, of the energy of Japan, or by the as it were, set the fashion. The inertia of China ? Time alone will tell Ameer's policy has hitherto imposed us; but at least it has begun well with fetters on Afghan development. It is a marked and unexpected demonstra- gratifying to know that at the very tion in favor of closer and more cordial moment when Lord Curzon is returnrelations with the Indian Government. ing to India with the avowed inten,

There is no great secret about the tion of improving our relations with fact that throughout the twenty-four Afghanistan, the ruler of that coun. years since British troops were last try, moved by influences with which withdrawn from Afghanistan, its re- the action of our official world had lations with the rulers of that coun- nothing to do, has taken the decisive try have been an increasing source of step of sending his son and heir to anxiety to the Government of India. welcome him on his arrival. That act To the public eye everything between promises the most gratifying results us and the prince who reigned at Cabul for the diplomatic conferences which was well, but those in authority knew are to be held during the coming win. that there was good cause for secret ter. Before discussing some of the misgiving. When Habibullah succeed matters that will then have to be ed his father Abdurrahman as Ameer, arranged, a brief account of the stages that anxiety increased. It looked as in the Ameer's self-enlightenment will if, to the exclusive and unbending furnish the reader with the material policy of the father, the son was going for an opinion as to what has brought

LIVING AGE. VOL. XXVI. 1363

about the highly welcome improve the Bibi Halima herself is a State ment in Anglo-Afghan relations. prisoner in her own palace.

Up to almost the close of last year While this family controversy was in there was nothing in Habibullah's progress, and just as events were shappolicy on which to found a hope that ing themselves for the consolidation of he would modify the stern and exclu- the Ameer's position, news came of the sive policy of his father. He was the outbreak of the war between Japan fanatical "King of Islam," the up- and Russia. Is there any reason for holder of monopolies and prohibitive surprise in this event arousing as much duties, and the patron of border chiefs interest in Cabul as in London? The and clans who had rightly incurred our Afghans have a lengthy frontier displeasure. Like his father, he was against Russian territory. There have never actively hostile, and he kept to been many collisions along that fronthe strict letter of his obligations, but tier which have been ignored by the his friendship was of the stand-off discriminating directors of our newscategory, and closed the door to inti- papers. There was last winter a large macy. The first indication of a coming immigration of Russian Turcoman subchange was given last December. The jects into Afghan territory. The Ameer, without preliminary warning, Ameer suddenly found the population announced in durbar his intention of of his State thus increased by at least founding a Chiefs' College, in which 4,000 persons, and he and his advisers the basis of instruction should be the did not know for a time whether they English language, taught by native would be allowed to keep them, or if graduates of India brought from that they did, what troubles might not country. The proposal naturally ensue. Then the boundary pillars along aroused the greatest opposition on the the north-west frontier had by natural part of the mollahs, or priests, who decay or malice practically all disapso far as they dared upbraided Hubi- peared. These and other circumstances bullah for being false to his religion. furnished legitimate ground for anxiety The Ameer declared himself unshaken at Cabul as to Russia's intentions. For in his plan, but his attention soon after the Afghans Russia's policy was, and this public statement was called away must long remain, a dread and menacfrom reform matters by the perilous ing reality. personal dispute between himself and At that moment of apprehension the his half-brother, Omar Jan, supported war broke out in the Far East, and by that youth's mother, the Bibi Hali- the Government of India is to be conma-a title meaning “Queen of the gratulated on having done a wise and Harem," given to Abdurrahman's prin- a bold thing, which has been allowed cipal wife during his lifetime. This to pass unnoticed. By agreement with dispute, which at one moment threat the Ameer it deputed two of its officers. ened to have a tragic ending, went on Mr. Dobbs and Major Wanliss, last throughout the winter, but it con- March to superintend the repairing and cluded with the Ameer's complete tri- replacing of the boundary pillars along umph, and the humiliation of Omar the north-west frontier of Afghanistan Jan and the Bibi Halima. Omar Jan, This work was successfully accom the favorite youngest son of the late plished last July, and on their war Ameer, is said to have made himself back to India the two officers named contemptible in the eyes of the Afghan enjoyed a week's hospitality in the people, and is openly spoken of as palace at Cabul, and received from his “a delicate and conceited fool," while own lips the Ameer's repeated thanks for the good work that they had done. As a conclusive proof of his gratitude, Once more the north-west frontier of the Ameer ordered, last June, the aboliAfghanistan is marked out in an un- tion of the cruel penalty of hand-cutmistakable manner, and no one can ting for theft, which has prevailed in violate it without leaving clear evi- Afghanistan for ages, just as it has dence of the fact.

done among the barbarous chiefs of The work referred to had barely Central Asia. commenced when news came that the It may be questioned whether these Ameer had met with an accident whilst occurrences would have produced so out shooting. Rumor magnified the deep, and, as there is every reason to occurrence, and in Russia it was believe, so abiding an impression on generally reported that the Ameer was the Ameer's mind, but for the incidents dead. As a matter of fact, the injury of the war in the Far East. As soon was not very great. His gun had as that contest became threatening, he burst, and torn the fingers of the left ordered the establishment of daily hand; with proper treatment the wound postal runners from the Khyber to would have healed in a week or so. Cabul, so that he might receive regular The native doctors, however, treated intelligence without delay, and this it improperly, and seriously aggravated practice is still in force. It is with the injury. The wound did not heal, no idle inquisitiveness that Habibullah and the Ameer became alarmingly ill. pays thus heavily for the early reHe was like to lose not merely his ceipt of news. He reads out the intelli. hand, but his life. At that critical gence to his officials and subjects in moment information as to the state of open durbar, and then he delivers a the case reached India, and Lord Cur- kind of lecture on the events, and their zon at once offered the services of the bearing on the position and security surgeon on his own staff, Major Bird. of Afghanistan. The lesson is not the The Ameer accepted them. Major Bird less impressive or attentively listened proceeded as fast as he could to Cabul, to because, in reality, it has been inculand arrived in time to save Habi- cated by one Asiatic race upon another, bullah's life. This signal service sank and against a common enemy. The deep into the Ameer's heart. Major defeats of Russia are encouraging in Bird was not the first English surgeon one sense, because they show that she to give proof of his skill in the Afghan is not invincible; but from another capital. Dr. Gray and Miss Hamilton point of view they do not allay the had resided there during the reign of apprehension of the Ameer, for there Abdurrahman, but no opportunity of is a widely prevalent belief in Central rendering such timely aid to the ruler Asia that Russia will seek to recover had presented itself to them. Major the laurels she has lost in Manchuria Bird's success where the native practi- by a move in the direction of India, tioners had grossly failed confirmed and Afghanistan lies directly in her Habibullah's belief in the efficacy of path. modern science, and he at once decided The drift of the Ameer's lectures is, to establish a hospital on the European according to the reports received of model at Cabul. With the assistance them, full of just appreciation and good of the Indian Government he has en- sense. The Japanese are winning, he gaged an English doctor, a lady doctor, sets forth, because they were well preand three trained hospital assistants. pared and ready at all points. Their They have reached Cabul by this time, careful prior organization explains and begun there their beneficent work. their victory. It is not that Russian

« PreviousContinue »