Vol. 44 No. 8 · 21 April 2022

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Paper Cuts

Malin Hay writes about the ‘longest strike in the history of the Finnish paper industry’ (LRB, 24 March). This is a long history. In the early 20th century, Finland was the chief paper supplier for periodicals across the Russian empire. Leading newspapers as far away as Odessa relied on shipments of high-quality Finnish paper for their daily printing. Having looked at thousands of these newspapers, I can attest to the enduring quality of Finnish paper, even for newsprint intended to be ephemeral. A hundred years later it is often dirty and brittle, but still intact and legible.

After the outbreak of the First World War, inflation and strain on the Russian transportation network meant interruptions to the paper supply from Finland. Distant newspapers resorted to buying locally produced but lower quality paper, and it shows: higher daily prices, decaying newsprint, and fewer or smaller pages per issue. Editors at the time reported drops in circulation, despite the immense demand for war news, because of the irregular supply of paper.

Felix Cowan
Champaign, Illinois

Two Cultures

Adam Mars-Jones refers to ‘Newton’s second law of thermodynamics’ (LRB, 7 April). The second law of thermodynamics is unusual among scientific laws in that it can’t be attributed to a single person, but we can be confident that Isaac Newton didn’t have a hand in it, if only because he died about a hundred years before it was formulated. Credit has to go to the tragically short-lived French scientist Nicolas Sadi Carnot (1796-1832), but the second law in its modern form is usually attributed to the German physicist Rudolf Clausius (1822-88), who in the process introduced the slippery concept of entropy. Other names (Kelvin, Carathéodory) are part of the complicated story. It may be true, as Mars-Jones claims, that ‘general readers are no more likely to be able to describe [the second law] than they were in 1959, when C.P. Snow lamented the gap between the “two cultures”,’ but a useful (if facetious) guide to all three laws of thermodynamics was offered in the American Scientist in March 1964:

First law: You can’t win, you can only break even.
Second law: You can only break even at absolute zero.
Third law: You can’t reach absolute zero.

Craig McFarlane
Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire

The Little Red Schoolbook

Stephen Sedley refers to the closing speech of Mervyn Griffith-Jones, acting as prosecutor in the Lady Chatterley’s Lover trial, in which he alluded to a passage in the novel that clearly described an act of anal intercourse (LRB, 10 March). The junior counsel for Penguin Books, Jeremy Hutchinson, was alive to the difficulties the passage posed for the defence. When he raised his concerns with Penguin’s main witnesses, the academics Graham Hough and Helen Gardner, they dismissed his interpretation. But another potential witness, Harold Nicolson, wrote in a letter to Hutchinson before the trial:

I thought at one time that I might be prepared to say that I was certain that Lawrence did not intend the book to be pornographic, but wished to write a lyrical essay on normal sex relationships. On reading it again, however, I realise that Lady Chatterley’s relations with the gamekeeper were not any more normal than those which he had imposed upon his unfortunate wife. Rubinstein [Penguin’s solicitor] failed to notice this point and was rather shocked when I mentioned it. But I imagine that those whom the attorney general has chosen to brief him will have caught on to the point, and that in cross-examination I should have to admit that the sexual relations between the hero and heroine were not in the least normal, and to that extent the book was ‘liable to corrupt’ within the meaning of the [Obscene Publications Act 1959].

Penguin called 35 ‘expert’ witnesses to speak to the literary merit and moral significance of Lawrence’s novel, though Nicolson was not one of them. Hutchinson recalled his anxiety that Griffith-Jones would cross-examine on the difficult passage and was astonished that in the event it was never raised with any of the defence witnesses. By the time Griffith-Jones made the veiled reference in his speech to the jury it was too late. But at the beginning of the trial Hutchinson thought an acquittal was by no means guaranteed. He believed that Griffith-Jones’s reticence may well have had a profound impact on the history of censorship in this country.

Thomas Grant
Maitland Chambers, London WC2

Humble Skill

Jo-Ann Wallace’s piece on typing, in particular her emphasis on the importance of anticipation, put me in mind of the work psychologists and physiologists were doing in the 1950s to develop a theory that behaviour is sequentially organised (LRB, 24 February). Karl Lashley, having observed that many typing errors, particularly at the end of words, were essentially anticipatory of the next word, argued that the sequencing of behaviour was organised through cognitive plans, not (as the then dominant behaviourist theories proposed) as a chain of letter by letter stimulus-response mechanisms. This is nicely illustrated by Wallace’s sense that even as she is typing the word ‘anticipation’, she is already prepared for ‘the falling into place of that concluding “tion” which … falls trippingly from the fingers’. Lashley’s theory was one of the first nails in the coffin of behaviourism and presaged the ‘cognitive revolution’ in psychology.

Roger Booker
London SW4

On the Lisburn Road

Susan McKay’s Diary about the political situation in Northern Ireland took me back to the mid-1980s, when I was living in the centre of Belfast while trying to make a film (LRB, 10 March). I had rented an office near the Lisburn Road and commuted from my digs on a borrowed bike. It was the marching season and the Drumcree stand-off was imminent. The bike didn’t have lights. It was midsummer, but starting to get dark, so I decided to pack up and cycle home. I could hear the flutes and drums of an Orange march nearby. When I turned onto the Lisburn Road the parade, about eighty strong, stretched out in front of me. Mindful that I had no lights and that the RUC were strung along the road, I swung out and cycled past the parade. I came up to the Lambeg drums at the front. Beside them was ‘security’: two or three men with tattoos, rings, leather and muscle. The next thing I knew I was thrown off the bike and given a good kicking. All the while the parade marched past. Lying on the roadside, I uncurled myself and opened my eyes. A policeman was looking down at me. ‘Never overtake the Orange Order,’ he said and strode away after the parade.

Gerry Harrison
Lewes, East Sussex

I Shall, You Will

My wife says she learned the rule about ‘shall’ and ‘will’ from Kennedy’s Latin Primer, first published in 1875, and I think I must have too (Letters, 10 March and 7 April). The older editions read ‘I shall, thou wilt, he will [it was written for boys], we shall, ye will, they will.’ By our time this had been modernised somewhat, but the ‘shall’ and ‘will’ (and the masculine) remained. It isn’t clear where Kennedy got this from. The standard usage in his time was to distinguish between ‘will’ and ‘would’, for simple indicative and subjunctive moods, and ‘shall’ and ‘should’ as carrying some element of ‘ought’, irrespective of person. While this was – and still is – quite clear in the case of ‘should’, it was always much less so for ‘shall’. As Dr Johnson observed, ‘the explanation of shall, which foreigners and provincials confound with will, is not easy.’ And without a clear distinction, Kennedy’s usage does make a kind of sense. To say ‘You shall’ would be to suggest a command. To say ‘I will’ would be to suggest a lack of commitment or self-control.

John Hendry
Girton College, Cambridge

For first-person use at any rate, ‘shall’ and ‘will’ have surely become interchangeable north of the Border (and indeed in Ireland). ‘Will I come in?’ a hesitant young Scottish reporter asks in David Bone’s Landfall at Sunset (1955), teetering at the door of his busy London editor. ‘God knows!’ is the impatient reply.

Conrad Natzio
Woodbridge, Suffolk

Demolition Overdue

In his review of Allen Guelzo’s biography of Robert E. Lee, Matthew Karp doesn’t mention the relative leniency with which Lee and other Confederate leaders were treated in defeat (LRB, 7 April). Jefferson Davis was allowed to return home, where he remained unmolested. Lee lost Arlington, but what about the other Custis properties he had inherited through marriage? He was stripped of his US citizenship, but left to live out his last years comfortably as president of Washington College (later Washington and Lee University). Conviction for high treason was normally followed by hanging and the confiscation of estates; radical Republicans pressed for harsher punishment, but were defeated by Lincoln’s stricture, happily followed by his Southern successor, Andrew Johnson, to display ‘malice toward none and charity for all’. This grave error allowed the South to remain unreconciled to defeat, paving the way for the emergence of Jim Crow. The naming of ships and forts after Confederate generals in the 20th century marked an effort to mobilise Southern feeling for the old cause in the service of the Union, amounting to a form of pandering.

Lee’s attitude towards slavery, as Karp suggests, remained recalcitrant, but was probably worse than he, and Guelzo’s book, let on. Had Lee not sued in court to reverse the manumission of slaves granted by Mary Custis’s father, on coming into possession of the estate? And his willingness to sacrifice the lives of his troops in battle, almost gratuitously, shocked even some of his own generals. The demolition of the cult of Robert E. Lee is long overdue.

Albion Urdank
Los Angeles

Bronze and Soap

I enjoyed Linda Gregerson’s poem ‘Melting Equestrian (Cavendish Square)’, about the two statues of the Duke of Cumberland (‘Butcher Cumberland’) that have stood in the square (LRB, 24 March). Perhaps I could take the opportunity to note the names of the sculptors: John Cheere (1709-87), who executed the first gilt bronze monument, and the contemporary Korean sculptor Meekyoung Shin, who created the soap version.

Holly Trusted
Public Statues and Sculpture Association, Duns Tew, Oxfordshire

Not All Roses

I was surprised to read Florence Sutcliffe-Braithwaite’s cheery account of Welsh devolution, in particular her suggestion that a ‘radical’ economic approach has been undertaken by Welsh Labour (LRB, 7 April). This seems at odds with reality. Child poverty has worsened in recent years, so that one in three Welsh children now live in poverty, the highest rate in the UK. Educational attainment remains very low, with less than a third of pupils eligible for free school meals achieving five or more A*-C grades at GCSE. In the year to March 2020, homelessness in Wales was at its highest level since records began, with more than thirty thousand households applying for homelessness assistance. It is strange to see a country undergoing such a sustained period of economic decline celebrated as a beacon of radicalism.

Joe Waters

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