The Secret City eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 371 pages of information about The Secret City.
interesting to women and allowed time for his poetry.  He was given an easy post in the Foreign Office and, in the autumn of 1916 he published Discipline:  Sonnets and Poems.  This appeared at a very fortunate moment, when the more serious of British idealists were searching for signs of a general improvement, through the stress of war, of poor humanity....  “Thank God, there are our young poets,” they said.

The little book had excellent notices in the papers, and one poem in especial “How God spoke to Jones at Breakfast-time” was selected for especial praise because of its admirable realism and force.  One paper said that the British breakfast-table lived in that poem “in all its tiniest most insignificant details,” as no breakfast-table, save possibly that of Major Pendennis at the beginning of Pendennis has lived before.  One paper said, “Mr. Bohun merits that much-abused word ‘genius.’”

The young author carried these notices about with him and I have seen them all.  But there was more than this.  Bohun had been for the last four years cultivating Russian.  He had been led into this through a real, genuine interest.  He read the novelists and set himself to learn the Russian language.  That, as any one who has tried it will know is no easy business, but Henry Bohun was no fool, and the Russian refugee who taught him was no fool.  After Henry’s return from France he continued his lessons, and by the spring of 1916 he could read easily, write fairly, and speak atrociously.  He then adopted Russia, an easy thing to do, because his supposed mastery of the language gave him a tremendous advantage over his friends.  “I assure you that’s not so,” he would say.  “You can’t judge Tchehov till you’ve read him in the original.  Wait till you can read him in Russian.”  “No, I don’t think the Russian characters are like that,” he would declare.  “It’s a queer thing, but you’d almost think I had some Russian blood in me...  I sympathise so.”  He followed closely the books that emphasised the more sentimental side of the Russian character, being of course grossly sentimental himself at heart.  He saw Russia glittering with fire and colour, and Russians, large, warm, and simple, willing to be patronised, eagerly confessing their sins, rushing forward to make him happy, entertaining him for ever and ever with a free and glorious hospitality.

“I really think I do understand Russia,” he would say modestly.  He said it to me when he had been in Russia two days.

Then, in addition to the success of his poems and the general interest that he himself aroused the final ambition of his young heart was realised.  The Foreign Office decided to send him to Petrograd to help in the great work of British propaganda.

He sailed from Newcastle on December 2, 1916....

III

At this point I am inevitably reminded of that other Englishman who, two years earlier than Bohun, had arrived in Russia with his own pack of dreams and expectations.

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The Secret City from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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