1 Feb 1918
My dear Betty
Thank Heaven for the passage of another month! There is an arithmetical satisfaction in ticking-off the months as they pass: total duration probably something less than infinite, therefor each month indicates progress. The end, of course, will be an unforeseen miracle that will occur in an unexpected manner. I (like most other, I fancy) have given up trying to foresee the course of the future in the light of the present. There is always some little surprise waiting to turn expected events twisty-ways. Every plain citizen should b now have a very sympathetic understanding of the causes that age can kill statesmen. You, as a History student, might consider as a subject for research, “A Comparative Study of Expectation and Realisation in some Leading Statesmen”.
2nd Feb - Another letter from you has just arrived. I can answer two in one now. Excellent! Don’t think me mean. I hope to wipe out all debts of correspondence by getting leave in about another moon. You couldn’t in any case expect to hear from me again in that interval of time. Naturally I don’t think of very much else but that same leave at the present time. My conversation would be the dregs of dullness to any ordinary person now; happily all company here is fevered with the same interest. It is the absorbing topic of all ranks and arms. The deepest interest is taken in profound statistical estimates; information about other divisions is greedily swallowed; pessimists revel in calculating probabilities by stoppage for various possible causes. In fact the talk of the army to an outsider must be as dull as philately to a Philistine.
Kath asked me a staggering question in her letter today. Namely, whether I ever wrote anything out here. Write! I shall have to start at pothooks and hangers again after the War. These three years have covered my brain with weeds. The soil will want years of methodical husbandry before it crops. Once or twice I have cleared a small plot and started sowing; but the knowledge that Dora would ban the crop if ever it came to maturity made me stop. The furthest I got was a few weeks ago when Dean Inge stirred me to great anger by one of those pestilential destructive criticisms of his. I did about a score of lines which were really rather good. But then I found that the sermon had passed almost unnoticed; so I was rather glad to cease the labour (mighty hard labour it was) of tearing it to pieces in verse. Anyway Dean Inge wants tackling more seriously than on a single point of detail. He is worse than an individual heretic; he is the representative of a collection of disgusting tendencies. He revels in dogmatic doubt and he is an enemy of active idealism. And he thinks that excursions in search of truth never get there unless personally conducted by a certificated theologian. I expect he smiles a superior smile when he reads Omar’s
“Of my base metal may be filed a key
That shall unlock the door he howls without.”
But I don’t expect he thinks of himself as a flouting dervish!
Why do you say you have no news but “shop” and then break off without giving me any of it. Shop is excellent talk. Many people could be interesting if they would discourse about their own shop; but they don’t, because they have been misled by a canning proverb, and consequently they are dull. Don’t be bored with me, I always jump down people’s throats when they talk slightingly to me of shop. And your case was particularly irritating because for me to go to your shop would be a pleasure jaunt - like going to buy ties and socks. I should have delighted in your quotations from “Lear” or “Dr Faustus” - if I had recognised any of ‘em now, which is doubtful.
Are you Literature or are you History or are you hedging at present? I am in doubt.
Rosie remained with Machin & Kingsley’s after all. When they found they were “up against it” they sorrowfully agreed to pay the piper. Though I think Isaac of York counting out the hundreth’s zecchin was not less loath to part up.
No we haven’t had any spring weather though we have had lovely winter weather. The frost leaves the ground late in the morning when the sun gathers strength and closes down again soon after sunset. And the nights are mostly very attractive to those who love being bombed!
Had the satisfaction today, however, of seeing a Gotha shot down from almost above us. His load was intact when he fell; which was rather decent of him, for they usually loose them all off in a bunch when they are coming down. It was rather a smart bit of work. A small scout dived at him and killed the pilot with the first burst from his gun.
Hoping to see you before long perhaps and with love to you all and thanks to Kath and Jack for a letter and a book respectively.
Your affectionate brother
PS - Shall I have to bring my own rations?