Gilbert Murray.

Faith, war, and policy; addresses and essays on the European War online

. (page 16 of 19)
Online LibraryGilbert MurrayFaith, war, and policy; addresses and essays on the European War → online text (page 16 of 19)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

which is, as Mr. Bullard admits, on the whole fighting for
the maintenance of public right and for honesty be-
tween nations, cannot be expected, in the midst of its
mortal struggle, to divest itself of its normal sources of
strength, to satisfy an ideal which has never been de-
manded of other belligerents.

There is another tale, by the way, about that minister
who was such "a deevil on the moralities. ,, He once
found a respectable citizen being attacked by two thieves.
He first thought of helping the citizen, but eventually
put his stick between the man's legs and tripped him up.
"The man was never a good churchgoer/' he explained,
"and his language at the time was a most sinful ex-
ample." The analogy to Mr. Bullard is closer than I
thought. But I am certain that he does not speak for his



A Memoir of Arthur George Heath, Fellow of
New College, and Lieutenant in the Sixth
Battalion, Royal West Kent Regiment
(September, 1916)

There are perhaps no institutions in England whose
response to the requirements of the war has been more
swift, or whose sacrifice more intense and enduring, than
the two ancient universities. Not, indeed, that it is very
profitable to measure the comparative sacrifices of those
who give their all. If these two mothers gave without
hesitation, so, of course, did many others. But these two
had, in the nature of things, a gift to offer which strikes
the onlooker as richer than most, more brilliant, more
pathetic, more inevitably suggesting the idea, by all
worldly standards, of incalculable and heroic waste.

Men of many kinds and many different natures have
gone out of Oxford, to return thither only as a memory
and an inscribed stone. But perhaps the two classes that
have most touched the imagination are those who stand,
from the academic point of view, at the extremities of
the scale.

On one side the more or less idle and wealthy men to
whom the university had been something nearer to an
athletic or social club than a place of study, and w^ose
lives had often seemed to be little more than an expres-


sion of irresponsible youth, if not a mere selfish pursuit
of pleasure.

It was a surprise to many of us to see how, when the
need came, there was found in these men an unsuspected
strenuousness and gravity. The power, it would seem,
had always been there; but to call it forth needed a
stronger stimulus than the ordinary motives of well-to-
do English life. And many an Oxford teacher must have
begun to revise his general estimate of human nature
when he heard the later history of various undergrad-
uates over whom he had hitherto shrugged despairing
shoulders ; what hardships they faced without a murmur,
what care they took of their men's health and comfort,
how they had shown themselves capable, not only of
dying gallantly, but of shouldering grave and incessant
responsibilities without a lapse.

And at the other end of the scale were men almost the
opposite in character: students selected from all the
schools of the kingdom for their intellectual powers, men
whose ideals of life were gentle, to whom Oxford was
above all things a place of study and meditation, where
they could live again through the great thoughts of past
generations and draw from them light for the under-
standing of truth or help for the bettering of human life
in the future.

These men, unlike the first, were accustomed normally
to live for their duty, and their duty hitherto had lain
along quiet and rather austere paths. It had led them
towards industry and idealism and the things of the in-
tellect; also, no doubt, towards the ordinary habits of
manliness and good temper which make life in a com-
munity pleasant. Those of them especially who had
joined the tutorial staff of some college had it as a large


part of their daily business to think for others, to practice
constant sympathy and understanding, to be the friend of
every pupil who came to them, and to have no enemies.
And on these men there fell suddenly a new duty; the
same as the old, perhaps, in its ultimate justification,
but certainly in its concrete expression the most violent
opposite of all they had hitherto thought right. They
were called abruptly to a life in which their old attain-
ments and virtues, as it seemed, were not wanted, their
standard of manners somewhat out of place, their gen-
tleness and modesty almost a positive disqualification;
while activities were suddenly demanded of them which
they had never practised and which, for all any one knew,
might be entirely foreign to their natures. And here,
too, there came to the onlooker a somewhat awed sur-
prise, to see how the same inward power which had
shaped these men's previous lives was ready for its new
task. They adapted themselves. They found how to use
their brains in a field that was strange to them. They
learnt to command instead of persuading or suggesting,
but still turned their experience in handling pupils and
classes to advantage for the leading and shaping of their
platoons. They proved themselves able to endure fa-
tigues and dangers outside all the range of their previ-
ous imagination, and even, what must to many have
been a more profoundly hateful task, to study carefully
how to inflict the maximum of injury upon the men in
the trenches opposite. They would never in normal life
have been soldiers, yet they brought some great gifts to
their soldiering. After all, there are very few fields of life
where a keen intelligence is not apt to be useful, or where
habits of duty and sympathy and understanding are not
very valuable things.


It was to this class that Arthur Heath most typically
belonged; and in trying to write of him one feels how
much easier it would be to describe a man of the other
type. The other type makes such an obvious picture;
the young man who "cuts" his lectures and is misun-
derstood by his dons, who neglects his mere books be-
cause his heart is in romance or adventure or thoughts
of war; the man of dominant will and stormy passions, or
of reckless daring and happy-go-lucky lawlessness, who
is always in trouble till he rises to the call of need and
becomes a hero. The Idle Apprentice always forms a
better picture than the Industrious Apprentice, and his
life is more interesting to read.

To make a man's story clear one needs achievements,
and to describe him vividly one seems to need some
characteristic weaknesses. But the men of whom I write
were very young, and had lived so far a life with little
external achievement, only the achievements of high
thinking and feeling, of quiet tasks well done and gen-
erous duties well carried through : a life with plenty in it
to command admiration and love, but nothing to make
a story about. And as for characteristic weaknesses, I
suppose these men had them, being human; but I should
find it hard to name Arthur Heath's weaknesses, and they
were certainly not picturesque enough to be remem-
bered. One remembers these men by slight things; by a
smile, a look of the eyes, a way of sitting or walking;
by a sudden feeling about some chance incident — "I
should like to talk that over with Heath," or, "How
Heath would have laughed at that!" But such things
can hardly be communicated, any more than the sense
of loss or loneliness can. One can only say: these young
men were beautiful spirits and of high promise; they


lived a sheltered though strenuous life, partly devoted to
high intellectual studies and ideal interests, partly to that
borderland of social work in which hard thinking and
brotherly love go hand in hand ; then, when the call came,
they stepped instantly out into a world of noise and
mire, worked and laughed and suffered with their fel-
low men, and, like them, died for their country.

A slight story in any case, and in Arthur Heath's per-
haps slighter than in most. The mere annals of his life
have comparatively little interest. As is said by one who
knew him especially well, they are summed up in the
phrase, "Like boy, like man." It is a singularly uni-
form story of quiet industry and strength, a very gen-
tle, affectionate, and modest nature, extraordinary
powers of intellect and a rather individual but irrepres-
sible sense of humour.

He was born in London on October 8, 1887, and was
educated at the Grocers' Company's School, of which he
always spoke very highly, and which certainly seems to
have had the power of turning out thoughtful men. He
rose through the various forms with surprising rapidity,
excelling at almost everything he touched. He was very
good at such sports as running, swimming, and shooting;
he delighted in natural scenery and country walks, and
he showed an especial gift for music. In December,
1904, he obtained an Open Classical Scholarship at New
College, Oxford, and came into residence in October of
the next year. It so happened that I had just returned
to Oxford and New College myself that term, after an
absence of sixteen years, and was told, I remember, that
I should have two particularly good pupils to teach —
the senior Winchester Scholar, Leslie Hunter, and the
Open Scholar, Heath, from some London school. They


both abundantly justified the description. They ran
each other close for the great university distinctions, re-
mained friends and colleagues, and died not very far
apart on the Western front.

I remember finding Heath waiting in my study, a
slender, delicately made freshman, very young-looking,
dark, with regular features and great luminous eyes;
rather silent and entirely gentle and unassuming. A
freshman from a London school is apt to be a little "out
of it " at first ; he is surrounded by boys from Winchester,
Eton, Rugby, and the other great public schools, who
have old schoolfellows by the score scattered about the
university, and whose ordinary habits and manners,
virtues and weaknesses, form the average standard of
the place. Heath's gentleness immediately inclined
most people to like him, while his brains obviously com-
manded respect; but he was always reserved and did not
quickly become well known in college. He struck one in
his first terms as living an intense inner life of watching
and thinking, observing and weighing, and making up
his mind quietly on a multitude of subjects, while quite
refusing to be bullied or hurried. He had not had as much
training in Greek and Latin composition as the best boys
from the great schools, a fact which just prevented him
from getting the two blue-ribbons of scholarship, the
Hertford and Ireland. But he came second for both, and
obtained a Craven Scholarship in 1906 and a First Class
in Moderations in 1907 and in Greats in 1909, after which
he was immediately elected a Fellow of New College.

Before settling down to his teaching work he travelled
for a year in France and Germany, attending the Uni-
versities of Paris and Berlin, and visiting Leipzig,
Munich, Heidelberg, and other places. His chief in-


terests at this time, apart from music, were philosophy
and social reform. He had expected much from the
French Socialists and the German philosophers, and his
letters to me seem to show that both expectations were
disappointed. His accounts of the struggles of advanced
French politicians are more amusing than respectful,
and he could not find the relief and edification that Jean
Christophe found in the religious enthusiasm of the
votaries of violence. On the other hand, he conceived
both respect and warm affection for individual French-
men ; he was keenly interested in the theatres, and greatly
admired the work of certain French philosophers. In
Germany his experience was similar to that of so many
English students. He was disappointed in the teaching
of the universities, though he rather admired the actual
lecturing. He was quite surprised at what seemed to
him the decadence of German philosophy. He thought
that its highly professional and technical character led
its professors to multiply systems and interest them-
selves in system-building rather than to look freshly at
the facts they had to study; and that quite often some
criticism of indurated error which had come to be a
commonplace in Oxford was unsuspected or hailed as a
new discovery in the German schools. He was amused,
too, and somewhat bored at the self-conscious insistence
on German Kultur, with which his ears were inun-
dated; the word was still unfamiliar to most English-
men at that time. And he wrote me a serious and per-
turbed warning, as to a fellow friend of peace, about the
anger against England and the inclination towards war
which he found widespread in Germany. Neither he
nor I, he considered, had at all realized the strength of
these feelings. On the other hand, he was favourably


impressed by the strength and discipline of the German
Socialists, especially in the south, and the general rea-
sonableness of their political action. He had always
loved German music, and he revelled in the mediaeval
towns and the vestiges of the simple life of old Germany.

When he returned to Oxford, he took up his regular
work as a Greats tutor, lecturing mostly on modern
philosophy, especially on various branches of political
speculation. He took, on the one hand, such subjects as
"Sensation, Imagery, and Thought " and "The Psy-
chological Account of Knowledge"; and, on the other,
"Laissez Faire," "Modern Socialism," "Socialist Criti-
cisms and Socialist Remedies." During these four years
he was building up a great position of quiet influence as
a tutor. Good pupils are apt to repay richly whatever
effort a tutor spends upon them, but I have seldom
heard such warm language of friendship and admira-
tion as from certain of Heath's pupils when they talked
about him.

It is curious to notice that, at this time, when his
work was so strikingly successful and his ship had been
happily brought to port, he began, for the first time in
my knowledge of him, to be uneasy and discontented. It
is a phenomenon often visible in the best of the young
tutors at Oxford, and is connected with the very quality
which makes them inspiring as teachers. It is not that
they do not enjoy their work and their pupils. They do
both. But their interests overflow the bounds of their
activities. They pine for a field of work with more life in
it, a wider outlook and more prospect of effectiveness,
a horizon less limited by examinations and routine and
the constant training of undeveloped minds. Still more,
perhaps, it is the moral trouble that besets all purely


intellectual workers, the difficulty of maintaining faith
in the value of your own work. Even if Heath had been
able to know what his pupils and colleagues thought of
him and said of him among themselves, he would prob-
ably have suspected that they were merely exaggerating.
But of course, as a rule, men do not hear these things.
Friends cannot openly pay one another compliments.

To Heath, so far as he discussed the matter with me,
no definite alternative really presented itself. His life
was very varied in its interests. Besides his personal
etudies and the work with his pupils, he derived intense
pleasure from his piano, and took an active part in the
musical life at Oxford. He would often go out to one of
the Oxfordshire villages and play classical music to the
village people. He was also, during his last two years
of residence, one of the university members on the
Board of Guardians, where his care and good judgement
were greatly valued, and the contact with practical life
and concrete economic problems opened to him a new
vista of interest. He refused to stand for a certain pro-
vincial professorship, which would have given him a
larger income and more leisure, coupled with less con-
genial work and less advanced pupils. At one time he
hankered after the profession of medicine, the one form
of intellectual work whose utility is as plain as a pike-
staff. Sometimes, again, he rebelled at the idea of al-
ways teaching men who had such abundance of good
teaching already, and wished to devote himself entirely
to the " W.E.A."

This society, whose initials stand for "Workers' Edu-
cational Association," has exercised a great fascination
over the best minds of Oxford for the last ten years or
so. Wherever a class of working-men chose to gather


together and ask for a trained university graduate to
teach them and to read and discuss their essays, the
organization tried to provide an Oxford or Cambridge
man, and as a matter of fact usually managed to send
one of the best and most invigorating of the younger
teachers in the place. Most of the classes were conducted
in the town where the working-men happened to live,
but arrangements were also made by which picked men
came to Oxford. The success of the movement, from an
educational point of view, has been nothing less than
extraordinary; and, considering the miserable pay and
the discomforts of the teacher's life, the devotion with
which dozens of brilliant young men have thrown them-
selves into the tutorial work has been a credit to human

One of Heath's W.E.A. pupils, a member of the Amal-
gamated Society of Engineers, wrote to a friend: "It
was Mr. Heath's influence in our talks together (more
especially in Oxford) on philosophy that had a most
profound effect, I hope for good, on my character, but
at any rate on my course of life, opinions, and actions.
Nothing I know of has had so much effect, and on the
whole brought so much real happiness. ... I almost
loved that man, so you will forgive the tone of this letter
if it appears strange."

Early in 1914 his friends were surprised to see the
announcement that Heath had been awarded the Green
Moral Philosophy Prize for a treatise on "Personality";
the book will, I hope, be published at the end of the war.
He had not told most of his friends that he was writing
at all; and I remember that some of us amused our-
selves by writing him pretended letters of congratula-
tion from various celebrities who were popularly sup-


posed to be guilty of "personality" in their political
speeches, and who offered or requested suggestions for
its more effective use. He detected us, of course, and
wrote to me shortly afterwards: " It is my painful duty
to inform you that the police have tracked to your house
three letters which have recently been delivered to me
containing illicit threats and improper comments on a
question of public interest. Willingly as I acquit you of
any personal share in the matter ... it is not right that
Innocence and Respectability — as found in my pupils
and my scout — should be exposed to even a remote
chance of such contamination" — as these letters ap-
parently contained. He threatened prosecution, but
would be content if the criminals left the university.

I used during these years to see a great deal of him,
and had the custom of lunching on Tuesdays, after a
twelve-o'clock lecture, with him and his colleague G. L.
Cheesman, a young historian. Cheesman knew all about
the army of the Roman Empire, and the history of vari-
ous separate legions, and had travelled in Dalmatia and
the Balkans. He was a man of generous and brilliant
mind, an inspiring and vivid personality. Cheesman
loved argument, and Heath and I loved Cheesman. And
we differed enough in opinion to keep up a constant
guerrilla warfare on all kinds of political and intellec-
tual topics. In politics, Cheesman affected the part of a
wide-awake, progressive Tory, while Heath and I were
content to be dull, old-fashioned Radicals. On other
subjects, of course, the divisions were different.

I think it was on August 7, 1914, three days after the
declaration of war, when I had just returned from Lon-
don, that I had a call on the telephone from Heath, pro-
posing himself to dinner, and telling me that he and


Cheesman had both applied for commissions. The sum-
mons had come, and both men, so different in tastes and
opinions, though alike in idealism, had responded to it
together. They had taken about two days to think the
matter thoroughly out. Heath came up to our house
that evening, and one or two other men also. And we
talked over the war, and Grey's speech, and the resist-
ance of Liege; and the imminence of danger to France;
and the relative strength of the British and German
fleets; and then of our German friends and the times
we had stayed in various parts of Germany. Later on
Heath sat down to the piano and played French music,
Hungarian music, and, lastly, German music, and the
company sang German songs as a kind of farewell, and
he and his friends walked back to college.

He went first to train at Churn, near Oxford. Then
he obtained a commission in the Sixth Battalion of the
Royal West Kent Regiment, his home at this time being
in Bromley, and joined his regiment at a swampy camp
in the southeastern counties, whose amusing discom-
forts and oddities he described in many letters. " No self-
respecting cow," I remember, "would graze in such a
place." I refrain from mentioning the various camps
where he was stationed, and the special forms of train-
ing he went through. It is enough that he became at
last wearily impatient to go out to France. There were
frequent rumours of a move: at one time hopes were
roused by the prospect of a special inspection by a dis-
tinguished and corpulent veteran "who is being moved
to-morrow night by mechanical transport from E. . . .
for that purpose." He opined that "Italy and Kitch-
ener's Army will remain neutral till the end of the war."
One comfort was that "Our Adjutant, in whom I have


every confidence, informs us that within three months
we shall all be knocked out." This letter ends with a
postscript: "In the last stages of our twenty-seven-mile
march I heard one man ask another if there was a parade
the next morning. 'Yes,' was the answer; 'half-past-
four. Top-hats and bathing drawers." '

At last, on May 31, 1915, I received the following
note: "All military movements must be executed with
profound secrecy, and known to no one except the pop-
ulation of Aldershot, the station-masters on the southern
lines, the British mercantile marine, and the friends and
relatives of the few thousand men concerned. Therefore,
all I can say to you at this crisis is, Vive la France ! Vive
VArmee de Kitchener! Conspuez Northcliffe!"

This cheery tone ran through almost all his letters,
and was borne out by the vigorous gait and sun-browned
skin which one saw on his occasional visits to Oxford.
Military training improved his physical health and
cheerfulness. He complained that his intellect had be-
come dormant, but it was not so. He read a good deal
and thought vigorously. He had at first, like all thought-
ful Englishmen, a feeling of utter horror at the prospect
of European war, and an uneasy suspicion that, however
necessary it might be, now at the last moment, for Eng-
land to fight, surely our policy for many years back must
have been somewhere dreadfully at fault. The White
Paper was the first thing to reassure him; then came the
study of earlier questions; and in the end he felt confi-
dence in the wisdom and good faith of British diplomacy
since 1904, and conceived in particular a great admira-
tion for Sir Edward Grey. "It seems to me," he wrote
me once in a time of sorrow, "that most people's chief
consolation for the loss of their friends now is just the


sense of the absolute Tightness of what they have done
and the way they died."

Like a true soldier, he was always angry at what he
considered to be slanders of the enemy. He detested
atrocity-mongers, and for a time disbelieved the stories
of German cruelties in Belgium. When the Bryce Re-
port was published and the evidence became too strong,
he was convinced. But he never spoke of these subjects,
and the only reference to them which I can find in his
letters is a short and unexplained sentence: "It seems
that the Germans have taken to torturing their pris-
oners.' ' I think that with him, as with others who had
joined the army at the same time, this " sense of the abso-
lute Tightness of what they had done" became stronger
as time passed. But, to the end, his letters find room for
mockery of the anti-German mania of the more vulgar

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 16 18 19

Online LibraryGilbert MurrayFaith, war, and policy; addresses and essays on the European War → online text (page 16 of 19)