Magazine article The Spectator

Letters

Magazine article The Spectator

Letters

Article excerpt

The wrong story

Sir: Sarah Gainham (Letters, 8 February) does not make it quite clear what she is working up to with her contention that some great truth about the first world war is being concealed. She appears, however, to wish to shift the responsibility for beginning the war from Germany to France, rather along the lines of the propaganda disseminated by German governments in the 1920s. But this lost cause is not convincingly revived by the string of false statements she makes.

The Schlieffen Plan was not formulated in 1905 but in the 1890s. It was not a reply to `war propaganda by France' over Alsace and Lorraine - by then a lost cause for most French politicians and people - but a way of circumventing the defensive FrancoRussian alliance of 1892. Contrary to her claim, the plan was indeed secret: how else can one explain the almost fatal French failure to take precautions against it? The war in the West did not, as she states, begin with a French attack on Alsace-Lorraine. The first offensive action - the essential feature of the Schlieffen Plan - was the overwhelming surprise attack on Belgium, absolutely not a response to any French attack: on the contrary, the French had pulled their troops back from the frontier to avoid precipitating hostilities. No one even at the time took seriously the official German excuse that French aircraft had bombed their territory. All this is perfectly well known, which is why I find Sarah Gainham's attempt to prove that black is white so intriguing.

The only part of the `whole story' of 1914 still difficult fully to understand is why the German government and army plunged into war although knowing quite well that the consequences would be catastrophic.

Robert Tombs

108 Mawson Road,

Cambridge

A question of taste

Sir: Thank goodness we don't all like the same things. I remember being quite shocked when your food critic, David Fingleton, wrote with enthusiasm about the food he had had on Eurostar (Restaurant, 18 January), which I have always thought quite execrable. So, when he described one of my favourite dishes at Quaglino's (Restaurant, 15 February) - namely braised ox cheek, cepes and parsnip mash - as equally execrable, I thought how imprecise is the science of taste. One man's meat is another man's poison.

Terence Conran

22 Shad Thames,

London SEl

Jarring gerund

Sir: Reading Dot Wordsworth's meditations on language is always a pleasure, but I do wonder if the first phrase of a column headed `Mind your language' (15 February) should be quite so cavalier with a gerund. `My husband doesn't like me leafing through his medical books' still jars on those of us who feel that 'my' is required by sense, as well as convention.

Peter Regent

Windhover House,

Woodmuir Crescent,

Newport-on-Tay,

Fife

Taken for Granted

Sir: Why is it that even The Spectator suffers from such inaccurate coverage as the piece on Hugh Grant (`The decline from Cary Grant to Hugh Grant', 15 February)?

The idea that Hugh Grant and Hollywood jointly launched a 'masterplan' for him to become an American star simply fails to acknowledge the extent to which the British press quite fancied his chances as well. After Four Weddings, who didn't? Likewise, in his rundown of the hopes of British film stars -- either they have to be a beefcake or play Americans - he conveniently ignores our most successful film actor at the moment, Ralph Fiennes. Neither in Schindler's List nor The English Patient does Mr Fiennes seem to be cultivating either persona. So why should Mr Grant?

Rupert Walters

Flat 5,

5 Kensington Park Gardens,

London Wll

Sir: In the article about Hugh Grant, it is mentioned that in the film world he cannot compete with beefcakes. What beefcakes, for goodness sake, are there in Hollywood these days? Woody Allen? Dustin Hoffman? Harrison Ford? …

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