restricted access A Commentary (July 1931)
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[ 303 A Commentary The Criterion: A Literary Review, 10 (July 1931) 709-16 SomethinghappenedattheFishmongers’Hallnotlongagowhichdeserves some further record than the short and simple annals of The Financial Times. It was the dinner of the British Bankers’ Association.1 The presiding sprite was Mr. J. Beaumont Pease,2 * and the ghost of the evening was the Lord Chancellor.3 Mr. Pease, after the toast of “His Majesty’s Government,” took the opportunity of conveying to His Majesty’s Government, through the Lord Chancellor, the following message: We believe that the financial and commercial condition of this country is in a very serious state. We do not believe that the condition can be met by merely marking time and hoping for better things. The position must be faced and faced squarely. If we as a nation are spending more than we can afford, it must stop. Bankers and business men know that there is only one end to such a course if pursued sufficiently far.4 (The italics are mine, but the words are Mr. Pease’s.) Then, after pease porridge hot, came pease porridge cold.5 Mr. Pease remembered that “this type of gathering” had recently been described as an assembly of money barons and frigid penguins.6 This moved him to report the description of the penguin which he had read in a book of eighteenth century travels. It was a friendly bird, etc. The rest of his speech may be abbreviated as follows: There are many bonds of sympathy between bankers and Government. . . . Unemployment is said to be the fault of the Government: in my own personal opinion it is not in the power of any Government to cure this evil, whatever its power may be to increase it. . . . Another reason why bankers and the Government should feel sympathetic towards each other is that we are both accused of extravagance. . . . Another bond of sympathy between us both is that we both depend for our prosperity , and even our existence, upon the prosperity and goodwill of the country. . . . Finally, we are both exposed to the same temptations. . . . Lord Sankey, in responding, was in “humorous vein,” we are told, as well he might be after this exhibition of penguin frigidity. Having, in any case, Essays, Reviews, and Commentaries: 1931 304 ] been put into a jovial mood – shall we say a Sankey Mood7 – he had the happy thought to remember the Royal & Ancient.8 “It is a matter of proud satisfaction to all of us (1) that at any rate an Englishman will shortly play himself in at St. Andrew’s.” (Laughter.) (2) “Permit me, sir, as the worst golfer on any course within twenty miles of Charing Cross to offer my respectful felicitations.” (Laughter.) (3): We took office upon 8th June, 1929. It will very soon be June of 1931, and therefore, sir, your golfing experience will at once point out to you that the position is this: we are two up and three to go. (Laughter) . . . . I spend half of my time on the golf links in bunkers. (Laughter). Certainly my best club and I think the best club of the Labour Party is a niblick.9 (Laughter). It makes us sympathise with that oppressed and hard-working individual the agricultural labourer. (4) . . . We live in an age of great social unrest. . . . Let me tell you at once that after forty years of weary waiting and unswerving loyalty what a pleasure it is to me to-night to sit next to the Chairman of Lloyds Bank. . . . Plenty of work will come. Of that I have no fear. But my anxiety is, and your anxiety is, while many are waiting for work they may be losing the will to work. That is the real danger of England....Iamsometimesastonishedatthedisasterswhichitissaidwill come over this country should we remain much longer in power. Comment: (1) What! Were there no Scottish bankers at the dinner of this British Association? Bravo, Scotland. (2) There seem to have been a few Scots present after all. (3) More Scots. (4) What! No laughter? [9] Rather surprisingly, The Financial Times gives as a caption to its report of this dinner “COMMERCE AND FINANCE IN A VERY SERIOUS STATE.” Under the form of eternity, of course, such a gathering as that reported differs little from the annual feast of the humblest cricket club in the country;toahumaneyeitdiffersinthisrespect,thatsuchwitandhumour, when they irradiate, as they often do, the reunions of local athletic societies , are more in place there, and in better taste. Let...