Category Archive: History
In an enjoyable survey and critique of young adult novels, the historical novelist Geoffrey Trease touches on what he calls “imaginative biographies,” those fictionalized accounts of a person’s life in which whole scenes and conversations are invented by the author:
We may feel that the imaginative biographer is a doubtful ally of history when he writes for adults. There has been a great vogue for his books in recent years, for there is a class of intellectual snobs (mainly feminine, it must be pointed out with more candour than chivalry) who declare that they do not waste time on novels but read only biographies and memoirs. Such readers have no interest in footnotes, appendices and authorities. They want dogmatic statement, garnished with salacious innuendo. They are duly catered for. As the late John Palmer said of them, in that masterly life of Moliere, which demonstrates that wit and a respect for truth are not incompatible: “It is a poor biographer who allows himself to be defeated by lack of evidence.” It would not be so bad if these writers would acknowledge, in a foreword to their fancies, that they lack complete omniscience; if they would emulate Froude’s candour, who completed his contribution to Newman’s Lives of the Saints with these words: “I have said all that is known, and indeed a good deal more than is known, about the blessed St Neot” (Tales out of School, 57).
In his biography of Robespierre, Hilaire Belloc identifies two kinds of fanaticism:
Those whom it is customary in soft times to call fanatics are of two kinds. There is he who maintains what he very well knows to be incapable of positive proof, and very far from being a self-evident proposition — as, that the Book of Mormon fell from heaven, that Pinkish Elephants are alone of animals divine, or that some chief or king is descended from a Bear. The fanatic that would convince others of these truths will sometimes threaten with the sword, or be at the pains of working wonders to prove them; but most commonly it is by an earnest advocacy and by the power of insistent repetition that he will convert his hearers to accept his vision. It is his glory that the thing he premises has in it something wholly unusual, and he praises it as a chief virtue in his proselytes that they accept reality by the channels of affection and appreciation rather than by those of comparison and experience. Robespierre was emphatically not of this kind.
But there is a second kind which has often, oddly enough, a more irritant effect upon humanity than the first. They attach themselves to some principle which is highly probable, or generally acceptable, or even self-evident, and armed with this truth, which few care (and sometimes none are able) to deny, they proceed to a thousand applications of their rule which they lay down as an iron standard, crushing the multiple irregularities of living things. Of these it has been well said that they go to the devil by logic. It is in their nature to see nothing of the mysteries, and to forget that the aspects of truth must be co-ordinated. They do not remember that the Divine Nature in which all truths are contained and from which all proceed, has not as yet been grasped by the human mind, and they fail to perceive at how prodigious a rate the probability of divergence increases as deduction proceeds step by step from its first base in principle.
Yet so strong is the current of deduction in us that when such fanatics most disturb and torture us by their practical enormities we are forever reproaching ourselves with the unreasonableness of our instinctive opposition, and thinking, as their system reposes on a truth and is consistent, that therefore its last conclusions may not be denied; and it is this weakness in us that gives fanatics of the latter sort their power. Of this kind were the lawyers of the later middle ages, of this kind are the defenders of many modern economic theories, and of this kind was Robespierre (Robespierre 33-34).
And of this kind may be some people in the church today. And of this kind may be (at some times and in some ways) some of us, piling deduction upon deduction and pressuring others to follow our reasoning all the way to conclusions that they feel to be wrong (but what are feelings against our deductions?!) and that we (in our own eyes) are bold enough to embrace. No one wants to be a Robespierre, but sometimes we meet them today and sometimes we are closer to that sort of fanaticism than we think.
Belloc goes on to add that such men have other notable characteristics. Robespierre appeared to be conceited or vain, but that is misleading: he didn’t think he was devoted to himself; he thought he was devoted to the principles he was applying, with which (he thought) others agreed. He was suspicious of others because he was convinced of these principles and because others said and did things that didn’t seem consistent with that sort of conviction.
Again, this unique conviction destroyed humour and proportion. Did he hear a gibe against his wearisome insistence? It seemed to him a gibe against the liberty and the God whom he preached. He missed relative values, so that he was in politics like a man who in battle has no sense of range; he blundered unexpectedly upon oppositions; he shot short or over the heads of his opponents (35).
He was “bewildered by the opportunist,” Belloc says (36), and he saw inconsistencies as the result of some moral flaw:
That practical temper and those inconsistencies of affection which are the general tone of all mankind, he, on the contrary, imagined to be peculiar to some few evil and exceptional men, and these he was for removing as abhorrent to the perfect State and corrupting to it. “You say that self-government is of right, and yet you will not immediately grant the suffrage to all? You are insincere, a liar, a deceiver of the people.” “You say you believe in God, and yet you oppose the execution of this atheist? You are corrupt and perhaps bribed. If God be really God, this infinite God and his Majesty must certainly be defended. But perhaps you do not believe in Him — then you also must go the way of the man you are defending.” “You say the people are sovereign, and yet you are seen in the house of men who approved of the middle class militia firing on the crowd? Then you are a traitor.” Wherever men of the usual sort perceive but one of the million inconsistencies of life — inconsistencies that vary infinitely in degree, and that must be of a rare sort to be counted as crimes or aberrations — Robespierre saw but glaring antitheses; something unjust, untrue, and very vile” (36-37).
More than that, he lacked love or even friendship:
While theory thus led him to violent animosities, it forbade him sincere affections. This, which is the widest gap in the texture of his mind and the principal symptom of his unnatural abstraction, explains a great part of his adventures. There can be no better corrector of intellectual extravagance than the personal love of friends, for this gives experience of what men are, educates the mind to complexity, makes room for healthy doubt, puts stuff into the tenuous framework of the mind, and prevents the mere energy of thought from eating inward” (37).
A couple of weeks ago, I read W. H. Lewis’s Levantine Adventurer: The Travels and Missions of the Chevalier d’Arvieux, 1653-1697. W. H. (“Warnie”) Lewis was the brother of C. S. Lewis and his area of expertise was the history of seventeenth century France, a period he referred to as The Splendid Century. Though I have read a lot of C. S. Lewis’s works, I hadn’t read anything by his brother. And so, having discovered that the local library had Levantine Adventurer, I requested and read it.
I knew nothing about this time period nor, I must confess, about the Chevalier d’Arvieux before reading this volume, which is largely a summary of his memoirs. At first, the narrative seemed a bit dry and assumed some knowledge I didn’t have, but before long the story itself began to interest me. D’Arvieux spent most of his adult life in the Levant, both working as a representative of the king and traveling for pleasure. Lewis has read the travel memoirs of d’Arvieux’s contemporaries — Spon, Thevenot, and Lucas — as well as of more recent travelers, and he frequently compares d’Arvieux’s descriptions with theirs, in a way that is sometimes illuminating. Consider this passage:
Kinglake [a 19th century traveler] and d’Arvieux both visited Damascus and I know no more striking example of the gulf which separates the romantic from his predecessors than their respective descriptions of the famous gardens. First Kinglake:
They bring back to your mind the memory of some dark old shrubbery in our isle that has been charmingly unkept for many a day … all through the sweet wilderness a loud rushing stream goes tumbling along till … in the lowest corner of the garden it is tossed up in a fountain by the side of a simple alcove.
Although rustic they are delightful. They are surrounded by fruit trees which furnish the town with all kinds of fruit, both for eating in season and for turning into conserves all the year round. Caravans carry these fruits to Seide, Beirut, Tripoli and other places … One cannot imagine how prodigious is the consumption of fruit in Damascus (90-91).
At several points, it becomes obvious that Lewis considers d’Arvieux a better memoirist than these others. As he writes in his “Foreword,”
My own impression is of a man who enjoyed every minute of the business of living, whether he was eating, drinking, money-making, sight-seeing, or engaged in the petty diplomacy of the Council Chamber; though to be fair to him he more than once showed considerable diplomatic skill on a larger stage. With all his gusto d’Arvieux was neither ingenuous nor an enthusiast, but a good-humoured cynic who observed the follies of mankind with an indulgent eye, qualities which stood him in good stead as a memoir writer, where he is crisp, vivid, and generous; not so oppressively archaeological as Spon, Thevenot, or Lucas, and mercifully lacking in the bombast of Nointel…. d’Arvieux’s work has the unmistakeable ring of truth, and I agree with his first editor, Labat, when he says that “one never tires of reading these memoirs because they are a continuous blend of the useful, the instructive, and the pleasing” (8-9).
I suspect that Lewis saw d’Arvieux as a kindred spirit. Lewis’s own good humor shows up frequently in this book. He has a knack for picking out interesting tidbits from d’Arvieux’s account, holding them up for us to wonder about (is it really possible that the lions of a certain area were so timid that the women doing their washing could simply shoo them away?) and, even better, humorous anecdotes.
Teonge, chaplain of the English frigate Ginny — by which I suppose he means either Guinea or Jenny — records with gusto their dinner on February 4, 1676, when in the cabin the afterguard demolished “a gallant baked pudding, an excellent legg of porke and colliflours, an excellent dish made of a pigg’s petti-toes, 2 roasted piggs, on (sic) turkey cock, a roasted hogg’s head, three ducks, a dish of Cyprus burds, and pistachioes and dates together and store of good wines.” His diary for February 5 begins with the entry, “Captaine not well this day” (112-113).
To our ideas all these ships, especially the coaster, must have been abominably uncomfortable, particularly in heavy weather. Lucas, on a two-day passage in a small craft bound from Chios to Smyrna, got no sleep, “being importuned unceasingly by the babble of ninety women passengers.” Who were they, one wonders, and how did they come to be travelling alone? Thevenot took passage in a country ship, a caique, from Chios to Egypt in 1656 where the accommodation was so cramped that though he had the purser’s cabin, when he and his servant were in bed “there was not six inches of room left”; and as a caique “was almost round” and could sail only with the wind dead aft, their progress was leisurely. In this curious craft the unlucky man endured des vomissements horribles and in the intervals “blamed bitterly my own stupidity in quitting my ease to go voyaging”; though he was a trifle comforted by a large dose of opium administered by a sympathetic Turk. d’Arvieux, a much tougher man, caught out in a gale aboard a similar craft, has little to tell us except that he restored the courage of some despondent Moslems with tots of brandy. “Is it wine?” they asked suspiciously. No, no, only brandy, said d’Arvieux soothingly, after which they drank freely. Lucky for them, he concludes, that le bonhomme Mahomet had never heard of brandy (113-114).
Once started, I am tempted to keep looking up passages to quote. One can imagine Warnie Lewis, at work in his researches, regaling his brother or all the Inklings with these sorts of anecdotes.
While the anecdotes make the book particularly enjoyable, though, its value also lies in its illuminating observations. As the contrast with Kinglake above makes clear, he was he not a romantic, loving wild gardens. D’Arvieux preferred his gardens with the trees all in straight rows, and the sight of a garden prompts him not to raptures over sublime nature but to reflections on fruit.
But D’Arvieux is also not at all a contemporary of ours and he doesn’t share our attitudes. Lewis writes:
… no place in the Empire contained a larger population of burglars and highwaymen, a fact which gives d’Arvieux an opportunity to describe in detail the ghastly punishments of impaling and flaying alive. It is this sort of passage which suddenly reveals to us the gulf by which we are separated from a man of the seventeenth century. We jog along with d’Arvieux through the Levant, appreciating his good nature, his dry humour, and feeling that we should have got along famously with him, when all of a sudden we find him watching the infliction of horrible tortures with less emotion than he would show over a Greek inscription or a ruined temple (51-52).
There is more in this volume: descriptions of customs in many lands; the strange story of the battle over which Roman Catholic sect could say mass in the building in which d’Arvieux worked; episodes of amazing incompetence on behalf of the French government’s representatives — none of which, perhaps, may sound particularly interesting in themselves. But there you would be wrong. With good humor and keen insight, Lewis tells a story that overcame my initial ignorance and indifference to that time and place and made me want to read more.
For some time now, I’ve been reading through C. S. Lewis’s Collected Letters.Â I’ve finished Volume 1, together with his diary, All My Road Before Me, and now I’m well on my way through Volume 2.Â The first volume ends with Lewis returning to the faith and to the church, and so when I reached that point, I paused to read David C. Downing‘s recent book The Most Reluctant Convert: C. S. Lewis’s Journey to Faith.
Downing is perhaps best known for his book Planets in Peril, a highly regardedÂ study ofÂ Lewis’s Ransom trilogy.Â More recently, he has written Into the Wardrobe,Â an in-depth treatment of the Chronicles of Narnia.Â Both books are very helpful for understanding Lewis’s writing.
One might wonder why, in between these literary studies, Downing would bother to write a book about Lewis’s conversion.Â The story is familiar to most fans of C. S. Lewis, not only because Lewis himself wrote a book about it but also because it is central in most biographies of Lewis.Â The story has been told repeatedly.Â And yet Downing tells it again.
We should be glad he did.Â Downing’s account does not simply repeat the things Lewis discusses in Surprised by Joy; he draws on many other sources to put together a much fuller account of Lewis’s early life, leading up to his return to faith.
Along the way, I learned many things that I hadn’t from other sources.Â Downing begins with Lewis’s childhood in Ireland and paying special attention to how the conflict between Protestants and Catholics played out in Lewis’s own family.Â Â He raises the question of how the death of Lewis’s mother affected his early childhood faith.
In the next chapter, Downing discusses Lewis’s boyhood years, spent in England at school, including one school that was particularly horrible.Â LewisÂ and his brother begged their father to rescue them from the school.Â In Surprised by Joy, Lewis says that his father chose this school.Â Â ButÂ Downing points out that the only member of Lewis’s family to have actually seen the school, and the one who recommended it after touring it, was not Lewis’s father but rather his mother.Â Downing calls this
a detail that illustrates the Lewis brothers’ tendency to idealize their lost mother and to be too hard on their father….Â Lewis recognized this fault in himself in later years, but even so, this instance reminds us that his judgments of his father do not always give us a fully rounded picture (p. 37).
Later on, Downing points out, as well, that, far from being mere churchgoers, as Lewis himself thought, his mother at least, and perhaps also his father, appearÂ in their own writings to have been sincere Christians:
One of the most significant items Warren discovered inÂ [his parents'] mountain of papers was his father’s diary, in which the latter had recorded his wife’s conversation on her deathbed.Â Albert wrote that Flora had advised her sickroom nurse that, when it came time to marry, she should find “a good man who loves you and who loves God.”Â They had been quietly discussing the goodness of God when Flora asked suddenly, “What have we done for Him?”Â To this quotation, AlbertÂ had added, “May I never forget that” (p. 144).
While this brief comment doesn’t reveal much about their faith, it does suggest that Lewis may have misjudged his parents at this point. Chapter 3 introduces Lewis’s atheism, but Chapter 4 illustrates the conflict that Lewis had between his atheistic materialism and his romantic bent.Â On the one hand, he believed that whatever appeared beautiful to him was meaningless, just a random arrangement of atoms.Â On the other hand, he loved the beauty of nature and saw in it “glimpses of Joy,” which “seemed to suggest some hidden glory at the center of things” (p. 62). Â As Lewis said, “Nearly all that I loved I believed to be imaginary; nearly all that I believed to be real I thought grim and meaningless” (cited p. 63).Â During this period, Lewis discovered George MacDonald’s novel Phantastes which, he said, “baptized” his imagination, even though intellectually he was still a materialist.Â As well, it was at this time that Lewis began writing fiction, and in this chapter Downing gives a helpful summary and examination of Lewis’s unpublished manuscript “The Quest of Bleheris,” showing its similarity at some points to things Lewis would write later.
In chapters 5 and 6, Downing describes Lewis’s dualism, his conviction that materialism was wrong and that there was something (or Something) other than the material world, and then his interest in and later repulsion from the occult.Â Chapter 7 traces Lewis’s journey through idealist philosophy and a sort of pantheism, ending with his embrace of theism. Finally, Chapter 8 gives us Lewis’s full conversion.
Here, Downing rightly points out thatÂ even though Lewis at first says that he was converted to theism and then to an acceptance of the claims of Jesus Christ, when Lewis starts moving toward a belief in “God,” he isn’t thinking merely of some sort of god but of the God of the Bible.
His distinction between “theism” and “Christianity” is not entirely satisfactory, for it is clear that he was surrendering for the first time to a Person visualized as the God of the Bible, not of the Koran or the kabbalah (pp. 139-140).
In fact, I would question even the phrase “for the first time.”Â In the story Downing recounts, as well as the story you can piece together from Lewis’s letters and diary, neither the conversion to theism in 1929 nor the conviction of the truth of Christianity in 1931 were really “first time” events.I don’t recall if Downing addresses this, but it isn’t really proper to think of Lewis’s storyÂ simply as a move from atheism to Christianity.Â Rather, Lewis starts out as a Christian, baptized and believingÂ as a child, thenÂ apostatizes (even while hypocritically being confirmed in the Anglican church) and lapses into atheism, and finally returns to faith, now a mature and grown-up faith but still the faith of his childhood.Â This isÂ a richer and more complex story, in other words, a story not just of a conversion but of a conversion which was a return from apostasy.
Throughout the book, Downing draws connections between elements in Lewis’s own life and elements in Lewis’s writing.Â Some readers may find that distracting, but I found it particularly interesting.Â Again and again, Downing would show that Lewis uses certain words consistently in his writings, so that things he says in his letters or diary shed light on what he says in later writings.Â He also shows how Lewis, in his later writings, attacked and refuted some of the false paths that misled him on his way to faith.
When I finished the book, I remember thinking that there were a couple of flaws, but at this point I remember only one: Downing doesn’t discuss Lewis’s interaction with Owen Barfield and Cecil Harwood.Â Their friendship began when Lewis came to Oxford and lasted throughout their lives.Â Barfield and Harwood were Anthroposophists (though also Anglicans and professing Christians?) and Lewis and Barfield in particular engaged in what was later called “the Great War,” as Lewis rejected Barfield’s views strongly.Â After his conversion, though, Lewis wrote to Harwood’s wife and said he was glad she had never read what he wrote about those matters,
for all that is dead as mutton to me now: and the points chiefly at issue between the Anthroposophists and me then were precisely the points on which anthroposophy is certainly right â€”Â i.e. the claim that it is possible for man, here and now, in the phenomenal world, to have commerce with the world beyond â€”Â which is what I was denying (Collected Letters 2:107).
He goes on to mention a continuing disagreement with Barfield and Anthoposophy.Â But from what he says here, it sounds as if his debate with Barfield may have had some impact on him during his journey to faith. Even though he was vigorously rejecting Barfield’s arguments, he was constantly made aware of and thinking about certain matters that he would later embrace when he came to faith.Â Perhaps Downing didn’t spend time on this becauseÂ it is discussed in depth elsewhere (perhaps in Lionel Adey’s C. S. Lewis’s Great War with Owen Barfield which I haven’t read), but I do think that by omitting this debate Downing has skipped over a significant part of the story.
In short, the book was surprisingly good â€”Â surprisingly because I thought I already knew the story from Surprised by Joy and also now from Lewis’s letters and diary, and yet Downing revealed several new aspects to the story.Â I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to know more about Lewis, and perhaps especially to those who think they know this story already.
Another good blog entry by Doug Wilson, from a few years back:
Dominion will never be understood through worry. The natural tendency of those who are able to identify trajectories is to assume that what they currently see will go on forever and ever. Herman Melville thought that civilization would end as soon as we ran out of whale oil. After a week of rain, farmers think that they will be ruined if the rain keeps up. After a week of sun, they start worrying about drought. A generation ago, everyone panicked about the population bomb, and so the western world threw itself into the gospel of birth control. But now we see the trajectory going the other way. It is a bomb all right, but it is the imploding kind.
A kind of uniformitarianism plagues our thinking, and interferes with genuine wisdom. We are like someone who is driving to a distant city, and who assumes that he must drive north by north east the entire time. But this leaves out a multitude of curves and bends in the road, and forgets his duty to follow the road. Cultural trends, projections, and trajectories are never absolute. Rather, they are just one leg of the road. Christians believe that human history is going somewhere; it has an intelligible destination. And, to return to the image of driving used earlier, we believe that God is the driver of the car. All the pundits, historians, social critics, art historians, et al. are nothing more than glorified back seat drivers. We donâ€™t really know where we are going-and so we need to be more humble about the observations that are coming forth from the back of the car.
We walk by faith, and not by sight.
In one of his letters to his brother, C. S. Lewis talks about having met William Butler Yeats, whose poetry he had once admired.Â The first meeting, Lewis says, was very strange.Â A few days later, however, Lewis visited Yeats at his home again, and this time Yeats “was almost quite sane, and talked about books and things, still eloquently and quite intelligently.”
Lewis summarizes something Yeats said about the “great Victorians,” which I found interesting for the light it sheds on that period:
The most interesting thing about the Victorian period was their penchant for selecting one typical great man in each department â€” Tennyson, THE poet, Roberts, THE soldier: and then these types were made into myths.Â You never heard of anyone else: if you spoke of medicine it meant â€” (some ‘THE Doctor’ whose name I have forgotten): if you spoke of politics it was Gladstone (in Lewis, Collected Letters, 1:534).
For some time now, I’ve been reading through the first volume of C. S. Lewis’s Collected Letters.Â They are fascinating reading for anyone who has enjoyed Lewis’s works.Â I was interested to discover what his educational schedule was during the time he was studying with his tutor, Mr. Kirkpatrick, in 1915, when he was sixteen or seventeen years old.Â This is from a letter he wrote to his best (one might well say, his only) friend, Arthur Greeves:
You ask me how I spend my time, and though I am more interested in thoughts and feelings, we’ll come down to facts.Â I am awakened in the morning by Kirk splashing in his bath, about 20 minutes after which I get up myself and come down.Â After breakfast & a short walk we start work on Thucydides â€” a desperately dull and tedious Greek historian (I daresay tho’, you’d find him interesting) and on Homer whom I worship.Â After quarter of an hour’s rest we go on with Tacitus till lunch at 1.Â I am then free till tea at 4:30: of course I am always anxious at this meal to see if Mrs. K. is out, for Kirk never takes it.Â If she is I lounge in an arm chair with my book by the fire, reading over a leisurely and bountiful meal.Â If she’s in, or worse still has “some people” to tea, it means sitting on a rigiht angled chair and sipping a meagrue allowance of tea and making intelligent remarks about the war, the parish, and the shortcomings of everyones servants.Â At 5, we do Plato and Horace, who are both charming, till supper at 7.30, after which comes German and French till about 9.Â Then I am free to go to bed whenever I like which is usually about 10.20 (p. 145).
What I find most interesting about that schedule is that it is focused almost entirely on languages and on the classics.Â This is a “high school” curriculum, but with no math or science or English literature or even any history besides the history in the books that Lewis was translating (of course, when he says he’s “working on” Thucydides or “going on” with TacitusÂ or “doing” Plato and Horace, he means he’s reading them in the original Greek and Latin).
People complain today sometimes that certain homeschoolers aren’t teaching a complete curriculum.Â That may be, and maybe that isn’t good for every child.Â On the other hand, Lewis seems to have done fairly well with the education he received.
In his lecture last May at the Resurgence conference, Ed Stetzer listed a bunch of things church planters ought to get to know about their communities.Â One of them, I recall, was what he called “the best-kept public secrets.”Â Every community has certain things which people know about but which they don’t like to recall or discuss.Â Knowing what these things are can be helpful if you’re planting a church in that region.
I suspect that the stuff in the fifth chapter of Land in Common: An Illustrated History of Jackson County, Oregon would fall into this category.Â The chapter focuses on events in Jackson County in the 1930s, though it begins with some disturbing information from earlier periods of its history:
As the wealthiest section in southern Oregon, Jackson County became known to upstaters as a place where volunteer troops fighting the local Indians carried banners proclaiming “Extermination,” where newspaper editors â€”Â excelling at the so-called Oregon style of journalism â€”Â lambasted their opponents with vicious personal abuse, where racial minorities such as the Chinese routinely were subjected to indignities and violence, and where in 1860 the electorate bucked the state’s Unionist tide to vote for pro-slavery presidential candidate John Breckinridge (p. 85).
Racism seems to have been fairly widespread in this area back in the early years of the Twentieth Century, in fact.Â In the 1920s, the Ku Klux Klan arrived in this area and was especially strong in AshlandÂ and even kidnapped some people (p. 87).Â The next chapter, focusing on Camp White during the war years, talks about the way black soldiers were treated in Medford and the surrounding region.Â One woman is quoted as saying “Medford was known as the town where the sun didn’t set on blacks” (p. 115) and many businesses refused to serve black customers (p. 117).
Those attitudes seem to have changed dramatically since World War II, though I don’t know enough about how the Hispanic community has been treated in more recent years.Â Ashland, in particular, appears to have changed its tenor dramatically.
But equally surprising was the story of Llewellyn Banks, Earl Fehr, and the Good Government Congress.Â The 1930s saw the rise of populism all over the United States, and Jackson County was no exception.Â Labelling the current government “the Gang,” Banks and Fehr began plotting to gain power.
The story includes the GGC’s future president, Henrietta Martin, lashing a journalist across the face with a horsewhip (from her picture, I’d say she was exactly the type of woman who would do that!) and the theft of ballots from the Jackson County Courthouse (the man who broke the window was Rogue River’s mayor), and it culminates with Banks shooting down the officer who came to his house to arrest him.Â The trial revealed that Banks intended not onlyÂ to have the District Attorney kidnapped and possibly murdered, but also to form a band of guerillas to fight “the Gang.”
Even in the ’90s, when this book was published, the author of this chapter says, “The question of Who was in the right? during the stormy Good Government Congress period still can cause heated debate among now-elderly residents of the county who recall those events” (p. 100).
We today are so used to reading the Bible only for individual inspiration and personal guidance that we overlook the fact that the Bible is also concerned with the development of human history.Â The Bible teaches us that humanity is God’s Daughter.Â We are called Daughter Zion and Daughter Jerusalem (often mistranslated “Daughter of Zion”; in fact, Zion/Jerusalem is the Daughter).Â We are the “only-created” Daughter of God, whose destinyÂ it is to grow up to become the Bride of the “only-begotten” Son of God.Â The Spirit, the Divine Matchmaker, has been sent to prepare the Bride for the Son.Â That course of preparation is what human history is all about. â€”Â James Jordan, Crisis, Opportunity, and the Christian Future, pp. 4-5.
Recently, I’ve been reading Land in Common: An Illustrated History of Jackson County, Oregon, in an attempt to understand the history of the region where God has placed me and called me to plant a church.Â The chapter I read today was about the “roaring 20s,” which happened here mainly in the 1910s.Â Back then, Medford appears to have been a little ahead of the rest of the States in those sorts of things.
A number of Easterners moved out to this region in that decade, many of whom were given to the fast life.Â The young men spent their time in the Nash Hotel.Â Grace Fiero recalledÂ that “Champagne was always flowing, just like water.”Â Grace Fiero and her husbandÂ ConroÂ were friends with George and Rhea Carpenter, who has a bungalow with its own swimming pool, tennis court, and Japanese garden.
But one party hosted by the Carpenters in the late 1910s was dry.Â Grace Fiero recalled thatÂ everyone,Â knowing the party would be dry, hadÂ dinner parties beforehand so that they came to the party already “cheery.”Â And then at the party, people spiked the punch.
Did the Carpenters know?Â Were they offended?Â We don’t know.Â But here’sÂ the strangest part:
Whatever it was, sometime afterward the Carpenters left town â€”Â and never returned.Â They left everything behind: the Steinway piano with photographs on it, glasses on the kitchen counter, sixteenth- and seventeenth-century antiques in the living room.Â The Carpenters refused to rent or lease their Medford home to anyone, including high-ranking military officers during World War II.Â The house stood untouched until the early 1960s, when most of its contents were auctioned off (p. 58).
I’ve read John Buchan’s novel Greenmantle several times.Â It’s the second of his Peter Hannay stories and it is set during World War I.Â The Germans have teamed up with the Turks and are working to bring about a Holy War in the Islamic world in the hopes that the Muslims will overthrow the British.Â Rumors abound about a mysterious figure in the East who is going to lead that Holy War, and Richard Hannay and his friends get caught up in the attempt to stop him.
I enjoyed the novel, but didn’t dream that there was actual history behind it.Â Which shows you how little I knew about the history of World War I.Â A while back, when I mentioned Greenmantle on this blog, Paul Baxter recommended Peter Hopkirk’s Like Hidden Fire: The Plot to Bring Down the British Empire.Â It’s the true story behind Greenmantle â€”Â and more!
Sure enough, the Germans and the Turks did plot to bring about a Holy War in order to turn the Muslims in Persia, Afghanistan, and India against the British.Â Their propaganda even declared that Kaiser Wilhelm had converted to Islam and had made a pilgrimage to Mecca!
Hopkirk traces the development of the plot which looked for quite a while as if it might succeed.Â In fact, Buchan had intelligence contacts and may haveÂ had inside information.Â Â His friend, Lawrence of Arabia, once commented that “Greenmantle has more than a flavor of truth.”Â Buchan’s novel ends with the defeat of Erzerum,Â but Hopkirk goes further, telling the story of the end of the Holy War as Turkey pushed toward the city of Baku in Transcaucasia.
I’ve heard the complaint that Buchan’s characters often just happen to stumble across plots and clues, making the novels less believable.Â On the other hand, if the coincidences and mistakes that Hopkirk records were in fiction, the same charge could be levelled against them.
For instance: Would you believe that in fleeing from capture, Wassmuss (the German “Lawrence of Arabia”), who was trying to get the southern Persians worked up to fight the British, would leave behind his code book?Â And that he wouldn’t report it to his superiors?Â And that they would end up continuing to use the same code, not knowing that the British could read it?Â And that they would send a top secret telegram (the Zimmermann Telegram) to Mexico via lines that ran through Britain?Â And that Britain’s Naval Intelligence Director, Sir Reginald Hall, would have been curious about why Wassmuss tried so hard to get his luggage and, though no one else seemed interested in it, would have examined it and discovered the code book?
In fiction, maybe not.Â “That’s stretching coincidence,” you might say.Â But it happened.Â The telegram was sent from the US consulate in Germany to the US state department, where the German consul translated it and then sent it on to Mexico.Â But the telegraph lines went via Britain and the British happened to be reading all those telegrams, discovered this one, recognized the code (thanks to Hall), and discovered that the Germans were planning to attack US shipping and were trying to convince Mexico to join in the war in order to reclaim Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona.Â And that, of course, had a lot to do with the States entering World War I (though I remember nothing of this from my high school history class).
Hopkirk writes well and I read the final chapters at a gallop yesterday afternoon, trying to discover what was happening to characters such as Ranald MacDonell, left alone in Baku in the midst of Bolsheviks and anti-Bolsheviks and Muslim-hating Arminians and with Turks approaching, Edward Noel, a real-life “Sandy Arbuthnot,” who was famous for his ability to travel great distances in surprisingly little time and whose escapes and adventures were legendary but who left hardly any records of them (alas!), and Reginald Teague-Jones, who was later (likely falsely!) accused of engineering the slaughter of the twenty-six Baku commissars and who had to change his name and disappear to escape reprisals.
I’ll be reading more of Hopkirk.Â And having read this book, I almost want to go back and re-read Greenmantle again!
C. S. Lewis talks a great deal of foolishness about evolution and “prehistoric man” in The Problem of Pain, alas.Â But along the way, in spite of all that, he does present some wisdom.Â People often think of early men as clumsy savages, lacking in intelligence.Â After all, look at the crude artefacts they made.Â Well, says Lewis,Â we shouldn’t be taken in by an illusion here:
We must be on our guard here against an illusion which the study of prehistoric man seems naturally to beget.Â Prehistoric man, because he is prehistoric, is known to us only by the material things he made â€”Â or rather by a chance selection from among the more durable things he made.Â It is not the fault of archaeologists that they have no better evidence: but this penury constitutes a continual temptation to infer more than we have any right to infer, to assume that the community which made the superior artefacts was superior in all respects.Â Everyone can see that the assumption is false; it would lead to the conclusion that the leisured classes of our own time were in all respects superior to those of the Victorian age.Â Clearly the prehistoric men who made the worst pottery might have made the best poetry and we should never know it.
And the assumption becomes even more absurd when we are comparing prehistoric men with modern savages.Â The equal crudity of artefacts here tells you nothing about the intelligence or virtue of the makers.Â What is learned by trial and error must begin by being crude, whatever the character of the beginner.Â The very same pot which would prove its maker a genius if it were the first pot ever made in the world, would prove its maker a dunce if it came after millenniums of pot-making.
The whole modern estimate of primitive man is based upon that idolatry of artefacts which is a great corporate sin of our own civilisation.Â We forget that our prehistoric ancestors made all the most useful discoveries, except that of chloroform, which have ever been made.Â To them we owe language, the family, clothing, the use of fire, the domestication of animals, the wheel, the ship, poetry and agriculture. â€”Â C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, pp. 61-62 (paragraph breaks added).