Monday, August 04, 2014

Charles Masterman on the coming of the First World War

In her biography of her husband Charles, Lucy Masterman quotes from an article he wrote for the Daily Chronicle in 1915:
It was a company of tired men who for twelve hot summer nights, without rest or relaxation, had devoted their energies to avert this thing which had now come inevitably to pass. No one who has been through the experience of those twelve days will ever be quite the same again. 
It is difficult to find a right simile for that experience. It was like a company of observers watching a little cloud in the east, appearing out of a blue sky, seeing it grow, day by day, until all the brightness had vanished and the sun itself has become obscured. 
It was like the victim of the old mediaeval torture enclosed in a chamber in which the walls, moved by some unseen mechanism, steadily closed on him day by day, until at the end he was crushed to death. 
It was most like perhaps those persons who have walked on the solid ground and seen slight cracks and fissures appear, and these enlarge and run together and swell in size hour by hour until yawning apertures revealed the boiling up beneath them of the earth's central fires, destined to sweep away the forests and vineyards of its surfaces and all the kindly habitations of man.
And all this experience - the development of a situation heading straight to misery and ruin without precedent - was continued in the midst of a world where the happy, abundant life of the people flowed on unconcerned and all thoughts were turned towards the approaching holidays and the glories of triumphant summer days.
I wish there were more politicians who could write like that.

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