Monday 13 December 2010

On Google Books - Wayfarers in Arcady by Charles Vince


One of the most beautiful, and saddest, books of essays I have seen has appeared on Google Books.

(I have been reading it at intervals for more than a decade, but it is so rare that I never bother to mention it. My thanks to Google Books for making most of it available.)

Go to: and search for 'Wayfarers in Arcady'.

For me, this encapsulates the effect that the 1914-18 war had upon an upper class, literary, intelligent, sensitive, somewhat neo-pagan soul.

It is extraordinarily well-written - and utterly desolate.

England has never recovered. 


Then listen to Banks of Green Willow composed in 1913 by George Butterworth (1885-1916) - a gifted young English composer of the same general class as Charles Vince; but killed in WWI while serving in the Durham Light Infantry, as an effective and brave Lieutenant.

Written at the end of the Edwardian idyll, B of GW seems strangely prescient of the overwhelming sadness to come:



dearieme said...

Just the other day I started to reread "Mud, Blood and Poppycock" by Corrigan. It includes the proposition that the strong anti-WWI feeling was not present during or soon after the war - it was developed rather later.

Bruce Charlton said...

I think that is probably right - except that the pacifist antiwar feeling came from, and probably began with, the literary men in service (Rupert Brooks, Robert Graves, Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen etc).

Then the mood was picked-up by the literary avant garde like TS Eliot, in the early 1920s, and made trendy in academic circles and among communists.

But it did not affect everyone - the most genuinely and lastingly popular of that generation - Tolkien and C.S Lewis, did not share in it (they recognized heroism as well as horror; courage as well as kindness) - as is well argued in Tolkien and the Great War by John Garth.

Ronald Vince said...

I happen to have a copy of Charles Vince's 'Wayfarers in Arcady', acquired at some point simply because of the author's name. Your comment prompted me to reread it. The author seems such an old soul for a man so young. But thank you for reminding me of both author and book.

Ronald Vince, Professor Emeritus, McMaster University

Bruce Charlton said...

Yes, an old soul indeed. I wonder what became of him? He seems to be awaiting death.

My father once bought a secondhand book simply because of the name standing out from the shelves while browsing - it was called Charlton, and the author was not identified any further. It turned out to be a memorable autobiography of an army officer.