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FRANCE AND THE BRITISH EFFORT
I. L'Angleterre et la Guerre. Par ANDRÉ CHEVRILLON. Paris :
Hachette et Cie. 1916. 2. Histoire de l'Entente cordiale Franco-anglaise. Par J. L. DE
LANESSAN. Paris : F. Alcan. 1916. 3. Chez les Anglais pendant la grande Guerre. Par HENRY D.
DAVRAY. Paris : Plon. 1916. 4. Une Visite à l'Armée Anglaise. Par MAURICE BARRÈS. Nancy :
Berger-Levrault. 1915. 5. En Liaison avec les Anglais. Par PHILIPPE MILLET. Paris :
Perrin et Cie. 1916. 6. Angleterre. Par ANDRÉ SUARÈS. Paris : Émile-Paul Frères.
1916. 7. L'Armée Anglaise sur le Continent. Par RENÉ PUAUX. Paris :
E. Fasquelle. 1916.
TN the final months of 1914, and indeed until the spring of
1 1915, the literature of France was reduced to silence by the terrific shock of German invasion. It was really not until April or May of the latter year that books began to make their appearance. Up to that time a journalistic record of the evolution of events was the utmost literary effort of which France was capable in its violent crisis. The earliest volumes on the war were collections of articles from the daily newspapers, among the most important of them being • La Patrie en Danger' of M. Gustave Hervé (from · La Guerre Sociale ') and 'L'Union Sacrée' of M. Maurice Barrès (from L'Écho de Paris'). Of each of these an account was given in the EDINBURGH REVIEW at the time of its appearance. But these and similar collections of republished articles will be found, on re-examination, to contain extremely little about the part which England was playing in the great war. There were occasional side-glances, shakes of the hand, expressions of sympathy, but the pressure of anxiety was too violent to admit of anything more explicit than this. Moreover, very few persons in Paris really knew what were the attitude and intentions of the British Empire.
The fact is that, in times of peace, nations, whether friendly or unfriendly, seldom take the trouble to learn much about one another. The task of penetrating the conventionalities of national character is embarrassing, and neighbours procrastinate. One thing that the great war has done is to make it worth while for the Allies to understand each other. M. Paul Deschanel remarked the other day that August 1, 1914, was a rather late date for France to begin to make a study of Germany. But he might equally well have suggested that it was a late date for France to comprehend England and for England to find out the secret of France. These investigations are always delicate, and nations, like individuals, require a critical situation before they are persuaded to speak out loud. The fact remains that in the autumn of 1914 French opinion cordially but vaguely attributed to England noble preoccupations with honour and justice, and instinctively rejoiced to think that the Entente was complete. But presently followed the revelation that our ways were not as their ways, and there rose an undercurrent of suspicion : —-Les Anglais ne font ‘donc rien ? ' people in Paris whispered to one another. The character of the effort of Great Britain, the methods necessary to British action, were unknown to the mass of Frenchmen, because unintelligible to them in their detail.
This discomforting condition—which affected, of course, only the civilian public, and not the Governments or the Armies—continued until comparatively late in 1915, up to which time no comprehensive or exact account of the British effort was published in France. One of the first, if not the very first, of those writers who have so generously and brilliantly illuminated the position of this country in the war was M. Henry D. Davray, who has been for many years past in the forefront of those French critics who have kept their readers accurately informed of the movement of current English literature. M. Davray came over to London, and studied the sentiment and action of our people with that intelligence for which a profound study of our language had prepared the way. The essays which he has now collected into his volume • Chez les Anglais' are not dated, and this is the only reproach which we have to bring against them. But the distinguished critic would probably reply that they were not written as history, but to supply such immediate information as was
needed to guide Parisian opinion. In that field they were admirably adapted to do good work.
The French conventional view about England is illustrated by several passages in the rhetorical prose-poem which M. Suarès has issued in an outburst of good nature and enthusiasm. • Il faut te réveiller,' he shouts, ‘car tu aimes tes aises, le * congé après la tâche faite, et la grasse matinée.' If M. Suarès were not so tremendously pleased with us, we might be a little abashed at his reservations. ‘Longtemps cruelle, tu 'hais la cruauté,' he exclaims, and Britannia, with her eyes cast down, blushes, and wonders what he means. Great dangers lie in ambush for authors of the rhetorical order, but M. Suarès is true at heart. 'Tu es Marthe, sage et forte 'Angleterre,' he says, 'et la France est Marie.' This is ingenious, and more agreeable to listen to than such very dubious compliments as “Tu as le sang lourd, parfois ; tu 'manges trop de chair, et ton ivresse est triste.' M. Suarès would heartily endorse the sarcasms of Lord Devonport about our meat-lunches and our afternoon teas. If, however, M. Suarès sometimes puts in his shades with rather a heavy hand, he can be charmingly sympathetic. This is delightfully put :
'Angleterre, notre sérieuse et loyale ennemie autrefois, à présent l'amie solide et loyale, sour de lait et de peine plus qu'alliée, tu es celle pour qui l'affection ne pense plus à s'exprimer, tant est forte la confiance.'
He gives England full recognition for her loyalty in that, when she saw that poor servant of the Lord, the faithful Belgium, lying murdered at the door of France, she hesitated not a moment, but rushed, sword in hand, to punish the cursed Attila. M. Suarès, who is a fervent admirer of Lord Kitchener, paints a portrait of him in the Cubist manner, as ‘le grand rectangle d'homme aux yeux magnétiques, une 'hache de silex, une frontière fichée droite devant l'ennemi.' But he challenges discussion when he declares, with his finger raised at England in a minatory ' Sache-le !’that she hesitated to come into the fight, and that France did not. Although M. Suarès' 'Angleterre' was not published until August of last year, its attitude is noticeably that of Paris before May 1915.
The articles which M. René Puaux has collected into the volume called “L'Armée Anglaise sur le Continent, 1914* 1915,' were composed with the special object of dispersing the mists of ignorance and prejudice which still distorted the vision of certain classes in France. The author is one of the most distinguished younger authorities on the art of war, and he holds a prominent position in Parisian journalism. M. Puaux has written copiously since the beginning of the war, but these particular articles appeared, as a series in ‘Le Temps,' for the avowed purpose of proving to French critics the firm resolution of England to prosecute the struggle to the end with the fulness of her national energy. The author admits that the purely military co-operation of England in August 1914 was weak, but he insists that from the first it was far from negligible. He sets down a minute record of the movements of the British Expeditionary Army during the month of September of that year, and describes in very touching terms the fraternity between the British and their French comrades, when the latter made the surprising and poignant discovery, even in the moment of retreat, that 'ces stoïques garçons sont les ' frères des nôtres, ils ont le même ceur élargi de la même pensée.'
This brotherhood in arms, awakened during the actual battles of the Marne and the Yser, was not an ephemeral sentiment aroused by' community of danger. It was the effect of the moral interpenetration of the two peoples, and of the reality of this fusion of heart all the later volumes on our list to-day give evidence. This may be summed up in the admirable words used by M. Cambon, so lately as the 8th of November 1916, in a speech which does not seem to have been preserved in this country, and of which therefore a fragment may be quoted here. The Ambassador remarked :
'Le coeur de tout soldat français est maintenant rempli de gratitude pour l'Angleterre. J'espère que ce sentiment se développera de plus en plus et survivra cette guerre terrible.'
It is the manifest conviction of M. René Puaux that it will do so, and he bases his belief on arguments which are logically and lucidly set forth in the chapter of his book which is entitled 'L'Amitié Française. He closes his essay with an ancedote taken from his personal experience ; it is not to be read by an Englishman in these thrilling times without a sense of vivid sympathy :
Le peuple anglais a pris contact avec le peuple français, ... avec l'âme française. L'Angleterre a compris. J'ai eu peu d'émotion plus grande que celle qui m'étreignit lorsqu'une brigade de l'armée Kitchener nous fut présentée. Nous avions fait l'inspection de ces nouveaux arrivés, tous gaillards solides, d'une allure irréprochable, impassibles comme de vieux soldats, lorsque nous passions devant les files. Nous venions de rejoindre le pavillon planté en face de cette ligne imposante, quand le général commandant lança un ordre. Ces milliers de soldats retirèrent leur casquette, la mirent sur la pointe de leur baïonnette, et toute cette brigade, d'un élan magnifique, cria “ Vive la France !” Je songeais en quittant le terrain de la revue, alors qu'ils acclamaient encore ma patrie, au chemin parcouru, au travail qui s'était fait dans la conscience anglaise pour parvenir à ce résultat. C'est une des plus grandes leçons de cette guerre, une de celles qui font certainement réfléchir notre ennemi et détruisent le futile espoir qu'il caressa de nous désunir.'
With this fervent tribute from a youthful master of the military art we might compare, did space permit, the statement of a veteran, who is neither journalist nor politician, the most eminent naval engineer of France, Monsieur L. E. Bertin, who, in his address to the Five Academies of the Institute (on the 25th of October, 1916), devoted to the spirit and action of the British Fleet such a panegyric as probably no foreigner in his position has ever given before. These things are too rarely noted in the English press, in its importunate bustle of local interests, and it seems decent and due that some record should be made of them. It is not enough that France should learn to know us. We need to know France, its character, its turns of thought, its tenderness and loyalty, its moral magnificence.
In the first days of the war there was a general scepticism in France as to whether the English would arrive at all. The inhabitants of Boulogne shrugged their shoulders and said to one another 'Ils ne viendront pas. On the roth of August a motor-car full of British officers was seen coming from the harbour. It was a vision and a sensation, and the whole town burst into applause. What it represented, of course, was the general staff arriving to make the necessary preparations for disembarcation of the troops, but to the wrought nerves of the watchers in Boulogne it was like the first streak of light' when the morning doth unfold.' M. Maurice Barrès, in his sympathetic account of the visit he paid to the British front, dwells upon the impression made on the French people
VOL. 225. NO. 459.