Writers at war
Bertrand Russell was just one man largely thinking and acting alone — and therein rests his reputation. But to what extent — whether in private or public — did similar anti-war concerns to those of Russell and the Bloomsbury circle express themselves among the intelligentsia? The bulk of the evidence derives from the letters that sped back and forth between contemporary writers, artists and thinkers, during a time of unexpected conflict — a conflict that provoked much doubt and debate.
In common with Bertrand Russell, E.M. Forster believed the war to be partly due to misdirected destructive energies; forces that could be channelled during times of peace into creative efforts. In a letter to Siegfried Sassoon written as the conflict neared its end, Forster confirmed that 'all vigour these days is misdirected' and that the human race needed time and the opportunity to re-align itself. 1 What of further evidence of similarities of response amongst the wider literary intelligentsia who, though they did not take part in the actual fighting (see Chapter 5), could, as with Bloomsbury and Russell, regard the conflict from a particular aesthetic or humanistic standpoint?
In his letter to Sassoon, E.M. Forster also explained that his other hope for the future, though 'very faint', was for a League of Nations. This was a hope Forster shared both with his frequent correspondent Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson and with other intellectuals such as the writer and ruralist Edward Carpenter, who wrote publicly on the war throughout its duration. Carpenter's standpoint was derived from his background of mysticism rather than the statistical analysis of Leonard Woolf, for example, who worked slowly on academic reports for the Fabians during 1915 and 1916. 2 Carpenter rushed out books, articles, letters and pamphlets on the war and also found time to produce an autobiography. His 1916 pamphlet Never Again (subtitled 'A Protest and a Warning Addressed to the Peoples of Europe') echoed Clive Bell's Peace at Once of the previous year in arguing that war was 'abhorrent to our common humanity': the longer the war continued, the greater would become the impulses of hate and revenge. Carpenter's focus on destructive impulses mirrored that of Russell; Carpenter cited Russell's Principles of Social Reconstruction in his own Towards Industrial Freedom (1917) and highlighted the creative