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Date: April 16th 1917

Monday April 16/17


Chisledon Camp, Wilts England


Dear Folks,


Nothing much is happening at present. Weather still continues cold. We are having an easy time and are all getting impatient. I wish now that I had got Will in with me as formerly thought of doing. The men who come here from other camps say that this is the best camp in England and that discipline [?] lax compound with the state of things at Bramshott or Thorncliffe. Of course before Will went to France our future seemed so uncertain that it seemed better that one of us should be in a non-combatant unit. Now it looks as if both of us are. I had a short letter from Bill the other day. It contained little news beyond the face that he was well. He never tells me whether he is under shell fire or what he is doing. I suppose that is on account of the censorship. Rumours about our future have been [?] the last week. The latest is that a Colonial coastguard battalion is to be formed and that as a German invasion raid is looked for, this will proceed to the east coast and do patrol duty. Of course we have all got tired of rumour after rumour with nothing doing, but we are now handing in our Ross rifles and being issued with Lee Enfields so that looks indication of movement in some direction


The War situation couldn’t be much better could it? With the Allies steadily advancing, the definite pronouncement of Russia that she doesn’t want anything out of the warm the gradual [?] or the socialists in the various countries, I don’t think it will be long before negotiations are started then there is the serious shortage of food all over the world. All bread is not made out of barley flour. (At least I think its barley) It is a kind of dirty grey coloured article. I rather like the taste. Then all the waste and [?] bread leaft on the tables is carefully collected and made into bread pudding. I never to to tea or bread pudding nights because I know what the stuff is made of. In fact all the slops leftover from meals are collected and made into some kind of food. So you know one of the minor delights of getting back to Canada will be to get lots of butter and milk again.


Outside of Germany I guess that this is now the most [?] and undemocratic country in Europe. Bad as the caste systim is in the Canadian army it is worse in the Imperial. The officers live in luxury to which many of them never been accustomed while the privates get a shilling a day and like like beasts. I do not see the necessity in a war like this of giving the best of everything to the officers and any old thing at all the the men. Why cannot the officers share in the harships and [?] instead of being surrounded with all the apppurtenances of comfort and luxury? Then among the civilians you see the pitiful class consciousness of English people. I have been told that it is a great deal worse in the south here than in the north. At any rate there is much more than I ever suspected before I came over here. I thought that a good deal of it had died out. Have you ever seen such a disgraceful bungle as the Government made of the Irish question? It’s actually dangerous for a soldier to visit Dublin or the south. One Canadian was shot in Dublin and lots of our fellows who have been over there say that they were treated with the utmost incivility and suspicion wherever they went. A good deal of the extreme south was Nationalist and Redmond’s supporters. Since the alienation of the Nationalist party from the govermnent however, feelings against England have become very bitter. I should hate to be sent to Ireland to quell a rebellion as I fear my sympathies would be all with the Irish. The latest act of tyranny was the insensible prohibition of the ‘Nation’ to subscribers outside of England. I read the copy almost from first to last and there was nothing at all in it to justify such an action. The ‘Nation’ is a splendid paper; fpr the sanest and most reasonable of all the weeklies I think. (skip the next paragraph. It is uninteresting)


I have just finished reading a wonderful book which I picked up in Marlborough for a shilling. Indeed it evoked feelings of such profound admiration that I think I shall send it home. It is “Lord Jim” by Joseph Conrad. Before I read it I thought that “The Old Wive’s Tale” and Wells’ “Marriage” were very fine novels, but after all, their lusting fame is almost more than doubtful and there can be no doubt that this book is great literature. Unfortunately it will never be popular because it is narrated as a tale by one of the minor characters and it is told with a great deal of that complex psychological diagnosis which makes it difficult to follow in places and demands keen attention throughout. Then again it deals entirely with the most fundamental problems of life, with the meaning of life and the nature of man. There is adventure in it and a light love interest, but theres are subordinated to the presentation of a character – a fine, lovable nature with with a streak of allow in the gold which causes his failure. The story is tragedy of the highest [?] a tragedy of moral failure. The author has succeeded in creating a character that is absolutely convincing in reality, and at the same time has that universal significance which makes the man a symbol for humanity in its struggle against the physical and moral evil. Although the hero fails, the story of his endeavor gives one that exalted pleasure, the thrill which great tragedy always gives because it convinces one of something noble and beautiful in human nature which neither death nor Hell can destroy. I have said that he failed, but at the last moment when Jim might have escaped from the consequences of his fatal mistake, he atones for it by his death and the narrator ends his story with the words ‘it may very well be that in the short moment of his last proud and unflinching glance he had beheld the face of that opportunity which, like an Eastern bride, had come veiled to his side.’ The streak of alloy in the pure metal of his character was really not a flaw but a weakness, a sort of softness which made it impossible for him to do the right thing at a crucial moment. He was ‘excessively romantic’ a dreamer who [?] in a[?] himself saving the situation at all sorts of critical times, and yet twice when the opportunity came in a totally unexpected and cruel form he failed. On first sight it might seem as though the cause of his failure was different in each case, in the first moment any cowardice in the second a sort of childish good nature. But afterwards you percieve that they both were the result of an inability of the resolutely act so the practical needs of the [?] demanded. Conrad seems all through to have an unnerving instinct for truth. You feel that nothing could have happened otherwise, the book has that inevitability which is characteristic of all truthful portrayels of life. Yet the author never attains complete ethical serenity. For the painful riddle of existence he can find no answer. In this respect the book is typical of the Agnostic spirit which [?] through all contemporary fiction. After this war, when we start to build up all over again, there will probably be a recindance of optimistic faith though exactly in what for it is difficult to say. Of course even before the war there were hopeful signs of reconstruction.


I have just realized that I have written a page of absolutely unineresting stuff. The book interested me so much that I couldn’t help telling about it though I had no intention of spinning it out so long. Anyway I am going to send it home and if you have time Father, you may like to read it. Also read lately Dawden’s ‘Life of Brownig’ which I found [?] and Emerson’s Essays.


The mail is very irregular in it arrival now. Have had a lot of papers lately but no letters for quite a long time. The last were Marion’s and Father’s telling about the party. It all seemed so much like the account of a dream. How is Aunt Mar[?] getting along?


Much love to you all,


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