When William Came: A Prophetic Propaganda War
2. Why Did Munro Avoid the War?
He is portrayed as a patriot who is unable to face reality. He is blindly convinced that Britain has enough power to defeat Germany and believes that, with will and motivation, Britain can get out of this miserable situation. In response, Yeovil points out that Britain lacks battleships and cruisers, and when he explains that logically Britain cannot defeat Germany, his opponent calls Yeovil a half-hearted patriot and walks away. Upon encountering such a person, Yeovil laments, saying, ‘England has never had any lack of patriots of that type’ (p. 209). However, Yeovil himself, who hates German domination but indulges in hunting and other activities, does not seem to be depicted as a decent patriot. The difference between the patriotism of the fisherman and that of the two women seems not to be wide when it comes to thinking about how significant it is to the current situation. There is hardly a British character in this novel who considers themselves unpatriotic. Many of them consider themselves patriotic and embrace the German regime at the same time, and they plot their rise under Germanic London. Their argument may be summed up in the words of Cecily, who organises a big event to revitalise the social season that has been badly damaged by the defeat:The last war wasn’t a war, it was a snap. We weren’t prepared and they were a highly civilised race like ours, with the record that we’ve had for leading the whole world, is not going to be held under for long by a lot of damned sausage-eating Germans. [O]ur sea-sovereignty hasn’t slipped from us, and won’t do, neither. There’s the British Empire beyond the seas; Canada, Australia, New Zealand, East Africa.(p. 206–7)
Living such a way of life may be reasonable and unavoidable under the German occupation. Cecily strives for an important position in the upper class, and by securing that important position, she thinks she will be able to guide the German rulers. However, it is too naïve to hope that she can engage in any activity that would weaken Germany’s influence in Britain. It is obvious that Cecily uses patriotism as a pretext for her ambition. Her efforts in society will not be beneficial for British independence, either in the short term or in the long term. While these various useless patriots appear on the scene, Germany makes an effective move to prevent Britain from ever rising up again.We may arrive at the position of being the dominant factor in that Empire impressing our national characteristics on it, and perhaps dictating its dynastic future and the whole trend of its policy. Such things have happened in history. Or we may become strong enough to throw off the foreign connection at a moment when it can be done effectually and advantageously. But meanwhile, it is necessary to preserve our industrial life and our social life, and for that reason, we must accommodate ourselves to present circumstances, however distasteful they may be. [I]f you will think things over a bit, you will see that the course I am following is the one dictated by sane patriotism.(pp. 112–3)
3. The Intention to Advocate for Conscription
This is exactly the kind of comment that is common in invasion novels such as The Battle of Dorking: Reminiscences of a Volunteer (Chesney 1871) and The Invasion of 1910 (Le Queux 1906). This passage, which refers to the differences in the strength of the British and German forces in terms of the skills of civilians, implies that the absence of conscription in Britain should be blamed. Throughout the novel, Holham’s remarks on the war in this chapter are the only passages that reveal how the war is fought.Our half-trained men and our untrained men could not master the science of war at a moment’s notice, and a moment’s notice was all they got. The enemy were a nation apprenticed in arms, we had not deemed apprenticeship worth our while. There was courage enough running loose in the land, but it was like unharnessed electricity, it controlled no forces, it struck no blows.(pp. 45–6)
Because the British people disliked the idea of conscription so badly, they were thought to be unfit for soldiering. In addition to that, they are banned from carrying arms and maintaining volunteer corps and rifle clubs. The fictional Germans exploit the free will of the British to control them. Many of the Londoners have hated military service as a duty, and even though their wish is now being fulfilled, they show no signs of rejoicing. On the contrary, they are disappointed and confused:The British born subjects of the Germanic Crown, inhabiting the islands of Great Britain and Ireland, had habituated themselves as a people to the disuse of arms and resolutely excluded military service and national training from their political system and daily life. Their judgment that they were unsuited as a race to bear arms and conform to military discipline was not to be set aside. Their new Overlord did not propose to do violence to their feelings and customs by requiring from them the personal military sacrifices and services which were rendered by his subjects German-born. Necessarily, a heavily differentiated scale of war taxation would fall on British taxpayers.(pp. 187–88)
In the minds of these men, like real British people, they believed that they were useful as soldiers but did not want to be soldiers and believed they had the right to choose. However, by this law, they are officially labelled useless as soldiers. Here, Munro shows the complete opposite idea to compulsory military service. For those who prefer not to be soldiers, not to have a right to refuse is a sad thing; however, being labelled as useless and refused from the military is humiliating. Moreover, they could not object to this law, not only because they were a subjugated people, but also because they had been publicly opposed to being soldiers. So, this part might have challenged the reader’s imagination to see which was worse. Detailing the clause in the law could also reveal the viewpoint of masculine Germany; British men are seen as castrated.Public anticipation had guessed at various forms of military service, aggressively irksome or tactfully lightened as the case might be, in any event, certain to be bitterly unpopular, and now there had come this contemptuous boon the enemy had called them [the British] in splenetic scorn long years ago—a nation of shopkeepers. Aye, something even below that level, a race of shopkeepers who were no longer a nation. A company of Bavarian infantry went by, in all the pomp and circumstance of martial array and the joyous swing of rapid rhythmic movement. A group of lads from the yea-shop clustered on the pavement and watched the troops go by, staring at a phrase of life in which they had no share.(pp. 189–90)
In short, it is argued that becoming a soldier and completing military service is a social good and is good for the minds of young people, but this argument is one-sided, because no opposing view is expressed. Such an opinion at the time was well-supported, but represented a minority. The National Service League2 was growing in strength at the time (Stearn 2006). However, the prominent figures in the organisation included members of Parliament but no political party leaders (Johnson 2017, p. 214). The following examples illustrate how unpopular conscription was. The National Military Training Bill, proposed by Malcolm Kincaid-Smith, a Boer War veteran and Liberal MP, was rejected in 1908 by an overwhelming 250 to 34 votes. Afterwards, he sought a way to pass the draft quickly, hoping that voters would give him a boost, and he resigned as MP and tried to get re-elected, but the voters refused to choose him (Johnson 2017, p. 215). So, it can be seen that compulsory military service was favoured by powerful legislators and also by the public. The clergyman’s opinion on these youth is mirrored in the arguments of George R. F. Shee in The Briton’s First Duty: The Case for Conscription (Shee 1901), which was one of the catalysts for the founding of the National Service League (Shee 1901, pp. ix–x). It is too convenient to think the young clergyman’s opinion is coincidental with Shee’s. Rather, it is reasonable to think that a pro-NSL viewpoint is positively presented there.Every now and then in the course of my work I have come across lads who were really drifting to the bad through the good qualities in them. A clean combative strain in their blood, and a natural turn for adventure, made the ordinary anaemic routine of shop or warehouse or factory almost unbearable for them. The only adventure that their surroundings offered them has been the adventure of practising mildly criminal misdeeds without getting landed in reformatories and prisons but think of it for those boys, who might have been marching along to the tap of the drum, with a laugh on their lips instead of Hell in their hearts.(pp. 184–85)
4. The Propaganda War
He does not think these rational thinkers are a threat. He is concerned about the younger generation, and the quote clearly shows his intention of winning over the minds of the younger generation in Britain. It is clear from the actions and thoughts of Greymarten and Kerrick that the British side is also aware of the importance of the younger generation. The novel begins after Britain’s complete military defeat, but the war of the two races has not yet ended. The war of winning over the minds of subjugated people, especially younger ones, still continues. In other words, what is happening in the novel is the fighting of a propaganda war.[T]he younger generation of Britons may grow up in hereditary hatred, repulsing all our overtures, forgetting nothing and forgiving nothing, waiting and watching for the time when some weakness assails us, when some crisis entangles us, when we cannot be everywhere at once. Then our work will be imperilled, perhaps undone. There lies the danger, there lies the hope, the younger generation.(p. 107)
It seems that Germany prepared everything they could afford for this occasion, and since so much dignity depends on this event, there is no room for failure. When Tolb says, ‘Within the next ten years, sooner perhaps, we shall be faced with a crisis which will be only a beginning’ (p. 315), it is suggested that the Germans do not have much time left to gain full control of Britain. To ensure their success, the Boy Scouts are promised plenty of rewards and tax benefits in return. Nonetheless, the Boy Scouts do not show up at the assembly point. This failure of the event suggests that the conquest of Britain is unsuccessful and the occupation will likely end soon. In other words, the British side has won this psychological battle. The scene of that victory is described as follows:Through the archway at Hyde Park Corner came a resplendent cavalcade, with a swirl of colour and rhythmic movement and a crash of exultant music; life-guards with gleaming helmets, a detachment of Würtemberg lancers with a flutter of black and yellow pennons, a rich medley of staff uniforms, a prancing array of princely horsemen, the Imperial Standard, and the King of Prussia, Great Britain, and Ireland, Emperor of the West. It was the most imposing display that Londoners had seen since the catastrophe.(p. 316)
While reasonable and rational British people have accepted German domination, the younger ones have refused to take the privileges given by Germany, which means that no obedience can be expected from them. It could be said that those who act reasonably are more likely to accept German rule. In other words, the more intelligent and reasonable you think you are, the more likely you are to be manipulated. The majestic rulers depicted here are undoubtedly the losers, and the more they are shown as majestic, the more humorous they look. In the final scene, there is a man who appears to be Yeovil watching this victory: ‘Shame, the choking, searing shame of self-reproach that cannot be reasoned away, was dominant in his heart’ (p. 322). The British pride that lies within him is awakened and he is overwhelmed by emotions that are ‘reasoned away’. Here again, Munro shows another example of the powerlessness of reason.The younger generation had barred the door.And in the pleasant May sunshine the Eagle standard floated and flapped, the black and yellow pennons shifted restlessly, Emperor and Princes, Generals and guards, sat stiffly in their saddles, and waited. And waited.(p. 322)
The writer of this review points out that the ending is unsatisfactory, as this only ends up showing the potential for youth resistance. However, if it is understood that the novel, from beginning to end, is about a propaganda battle, a war that is fought under the surface, then the final chapter can also be understood as a thrilling one.It is true that this refusal of our young hopefuls might in that instance be taken as a portent to the German occupation, but we, like the Emperor sat stiffly in our saddles, and waited. When we had waited long enough, and found that there was really nothing left but to read the advertisements of other books that followed.
Conflicts of Interest
- Atwood, Rodney. 2015. The Life of Field Marshal Lord Roberts. London: Bloomsbury Academic. [Google Scholar]
- Bayley, Susan. 2019. Fictional German Governess in Edwardian Popular Culture: English Responses to German Militarism and Modernity. Literature & History 28: 194–213. [Google Scholar]
- Byrne, Sandie. 2007. The Unbearable Saki: The Work of H. H. Munro. Oxford: Oxford UP. [Google Scholar]
- Chesney, George Tomkyns. 1871. The Battle of Dorking: Reminiscences of a Volunteer. In Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine. London: William Blackwood and Sons, vol. 109, pp. 539–72. [Google Scholar]
- Satoru Fukamachi, trans. 2019, Uiriamu ga Kita Toki: Hoentuorerunke ni Sihaisareta Rondon no Monogatari [When William Came: A Story of London under the Hohenzollerns by Saki]. Tokyo: Kokusyo Kankokai.
- Johnson, Matthew. 2017. Peace and Retrenchment? The Edwardian Liberal Party, the Limits of Pacifism, and the Politics of National Defence. In Bid for World Power? New Research on the Outbreak of the First World War. Edited by Andreas Gestrich and Hartmut Pogge von Strandmann. Oxford: Oxford UP, pp. 201–20. [Google Scholar]
- Kadoi, Yoshinobu. 2019. Entame Chizu: Osusume Sansatsu [The Entertainment Map: Three Books Recommended. The Asahi Shimbun, September 8. [Google Scholar]
- Lambert, J. W. 1976. The Bodley Head Saki, 5th ed. London: John Lane the Bodley Head. [Google Scholar]
- Langguth, A. J. 1981. Saki: A Life of Hector Hugh Munro with Six Stories Never Before Collected. New York: Simon and Schuster. [Google Scholar]
- Laurie-Fletcher, Danny. 2019. British Invasion and Spy Literature, 1871–1918. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan. [Google Scholar]
- Le Queux, William. 1906. The Invasion of 1910: With a Full Account of the Siege of London. London: Macmillan, Available online: archive.org/details/in.ernet.dli.2015 (accessed on 26 August 2020).
- Munro, H. H. 1913. When William Came. Westminster Gazette. December 11. Available online: www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0002947/19131211/025/0003 (accessed on 15 May 2020).
- Rau, Petra. 2009. English Modernism, National Identity and the Germans, 1890–1950. Surrey: Ashgate. [Google Scholar]
- Saki, H. H. Munro. 1912. The Chronicles of Clovis. London: John Lane the Bodley Head, Available online: achive.org/details/chroniclesofclov00sakirich (accessed on 20 June 2020).
- Saki, H. H. Munro. 1914. When William Came: A Story of London under the Hohenzollerns. London: John Lane the Bodley Head, Available online: archive.org/details/whenwilliamcame00sakigoog (accessed on 28 August 2020).
- Saki’s New Novel. 1913. Westminster Gazette. December 6, p. 15. Available online: www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0002947/19131206/116/0015 (accessed on 15 May 2020).
- Shee, George R. F. 1901. The Briton’s First Duty: the Case for Conscription. London: Grant Richards, Available online: achive.org/details/britonsfirstdut00sheegoog (accessed on 28 August 2020).
- Stearn, Roger T. 2006. The National Service League: Lord Roberts and the campaign for compulsory military training. Soldier of the Queen: The Journal of the Victorian Military Society 125: 23–31. [Google Scholar]
- Wells, H. G. 1898. The War of the Worlds. London: William Heinemman. [Google Scholar]
- Wodehouse, P. G. 1909. The Swoop!: or How Clarence Saved England. London: Alston Rivers. [Google Scholar]
- Wood, Harry Joseph. 2014. External Threats Mask Internal Fears: Edwardian Invasion Literature 1899–1914. Ph.D. Dissertation, Liverpool U, Liverpool, UK. Available online: livrepository.liverpool.ac.uk/2003341/1/WoodHar_May2014.pdf (accessed on 30 August 2020).
Lord Roberts was a supervisor of Chesney in India. Their relationship is detailed in Rodney Atwood’s ‘Commander in Chief, India’ in The Life of Field Marshal Lord Roberts (2015), pp. 135–60.
The National Service League was founded in 1902 to make conscription legal. Except for the United States, Britain was the only one of the powers without conscription. The aim of conscription was to be competitive with other powerful countries. The organisation welcomed the war hero Frederick Roberts as president in 1905. The League, which had only 2000 members at that time, greatly increased its membership to about 100,000 by 1913. It became the largest political organisation in Britain. However, they failed to make peacetime universal conscription legal. For more information, see Roger. T. Stearn’s The National Service League: Lord Roberts and the campaign for compulsory military training (Stearn 2006).
This is Munro’s reply to a review of When William Came in the Westminster Gazette, which states, ‘And deep within the heart of the democracy we see a feeble spirit of expediency, a willingness to take the best that is offered, a failure of that splendid initiative which should have hoisted William with a home-made petard’ (‘Saki’s New Novel’ 1913, p. 15).
Publisher’s Note: MDPI stays neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
© 2021 by the author. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
Fukamachi, S. When William Came: A Prophetic Propaganda War. Humanities 2021, 10, 32. https://doi.org/10.3390/h10010032
Fukamachi S. When William Came: A Prophetic Propaganda War. Humanities. 2021; 10(1):32. https://doi.org/10.3390/h10010032Chicago/Turabian Style
Fukamachi, Satoru. 2021. "When William Came: A Prophetic Propaganda War" Humanities 10, no. 1: 32. https://doi.org/10.3390/h10010032