This is a touching story about social behaviour and the limitations which the society burden us.
A book with two completely different parts.
The first part of the book tells us the story of a young couple who lived without worries before they meet each other, embracing social causes in a society clamouring for changes. Both with the naive attitude of those with not great concerns. Passionate about their discoveries, but completely disconnected from the real world.
This first part reminds me of a light novel in which the innocent behaviour of their characters is the tonic. They are people with their basic needs covered and the energy of youth that bring their effort to “higher objectives” without second thoughts and no knowledge.
“They were escaping from nature and solitude, and their hearts sang cheerily of Bloomsbury”.
In the second part, this same couple discovers in the worst possible way what it is like to live in a world in war.
“Only yesterday-nay, only this morning when the sun rose – the world was the world ant, not hell”.
But, sometimes we refuse to understand and accept what is happening because it is too horrible.
“He considered the situation, dispassionately and curiously detached from it; deciding with an odd lack of emotion, that to-morrow could not be as to-day”.
What can be more terrifying than to understand mankind is really like? When there are no moral or social constraints, to stop no one. Without thinking about consequences of their acts. With the blessing of many and the fear of even more.
Returning to civilization could be striking and hard after a near death experience.
“The change from the horrible to normal surroundings – from brutality and foulness to the order of a great town – was so sudden and complete that it took away his breath like a swift plunge into cold water; and as the life of the city enwrapped him and claimed him for its own, for one crazy moment it seemed to him that the last few days were impossible”.
William discovers unknown loyalties for his country. His wishes of a fair world for everyone, men, women, etc. disappear after his experience and the risk of losing everything.
We don’t want to see what we think is impossible. William didn’t believe in the possibility of a war in Europe, although it has always happened through our history, and will continue to happen. Most of us think that the terrible things will never take place where we are, and among the people who we know.
One of the best sentences in the book:
“Of course, it shouldn’t happen-we all know that-of course it shouldn’t happen, but it does”.
The sadness of discovering that …
“I don’t seem to have been much good… but there comes a time… when nothing matters”.
“The question is … if you’ve been much use when you’ve done it”.
There is a word that was repeated frequently in this book: hitherto. And, I believe that there was a good reason for this. The whole story goes from the security, the known, the discoveries and possibilities of a civilized society, hitherto to…. a war.
Cicely Hamilton was born Cicely Hammill in 1872. Her father was in the army; when her mother died she was looked after by strangers who were unkind to her. She was educated at Malvern and in Germany, taught for two years but, disliking institutions, turned to acting in provincial rep (using the name Hamilton) as well as writing adventure stories for cheap periodicals. She believed in equal pay and birth control, being opposed to sentimentality about marriage and motherhood, and her ‘personal revolt was feminist rather than suffragist.’ Besides William-An Englishman (1919), Cicely Hamilton wrote over twenty plays, of which the best-known was Diana of Dobsons(1908). Her polemic Marriage as a Trade appeared in 1909. Her only other novel wasTheodore Savage (1922), an apocalyptic story of civilisation destroyed by scientific warfare. Cicely Hamilton died in 1952.