My dear friend Gerald, Lord Berners, died in 1950. I thought that not more than half a dozen people remembered him. But the centenary of his birth has brought him back into attention. There have been concerts of his music, performances of his ballets and an exhibition devoted to his life on the fifth floor of the Festival Hall. His two best books have been reprinted in paperback: First Childhood, the first part of his autobiography, and Far from the Madding War, the best novel written about the Second World War, at any rate in Oxford. This last contains that inspired feature, Emmeline’s war work. Emmeline, niece of the head of an Oxford college, had been told that war meant destruction. She bought a priceless 15th-century tapestry, set it up on a frame and unpicked a piece of it every day – the only rational piece of war work ever undertaken.
Vol. 6 No. 2 · 2 February 1984
SIR:Allow me to comment on A.J.P. Taylor’s diary (LRB, 17 November 1983). First, I can think of no reason for my ever going to Britain. I visit foreign countries either for the buildings or for the food. Neither of these reasons would justify a visit to Britain.
Second, I applaud the fact that Mr Taylor has ‘a record as a champion for CND that goes back over twenty years’. I regret, however, that Mr Taylor seems to be unaware of the fact that on the Continent, and especially in my country, peace demonstrations have attracted hundreds and thousands of people. On 21 November 1982, over four hundred thousand people demonstrated against the deployment of nuclear missiles in Europe. On 29 October 1983, over five hundred thousand people demonstrated once more in The Hague. It is unjust to say that ‘CND has just had its greatest demonstration ever, both here and on the Continent.’
Like Mr Taylor, I deplore the unwillingness of world leaders to disarm, bringing the world to the verge of nuclear disaster. I find it hard to believe that a historian with the renown of Mr Taylor should have ‘closed his mind to the problem’. After World War Two Europeans, and especially those who see themselves as champions of the peace movement, have, in the unchallenged tradition of men like Sir Bertrand Russell and the Greenham Common women, unceasingly pointed out that their leaders’ policies concerning nuclear armament lead to disaster. The mass mobilisation of popular sentiment in Holland over the past three years has led Mr Lubbers, the Prime Minister, to suggest that only 16 of the original 48 Cruise missiles may eventually be deployed here. I understand that in Britain things are slightly different.