Boekverslag: The Masters
Some titles of his books have become part of the idiom of the English language, like ?The Conscience of the Rich? and ?Corridors of Power? in which he describes de political goings on in Whitehall (the English government) where C.P. Snow as well as his creation Lewis Eliot worked as a high civil servant.
In the fifties and sixties, when notions like left wing en right wing in politics were so much more vivid than to day, Snow?s work, with his left wing Lewis Eliot, was immensely popular. To day it is almost forgotten.
Lewis Eliot is a man from humble offspring, who manages tot study law. He has a great insight in human nature and during his life makes many friends.
In The Masters Snow describes Eliot?s period in Cambridge, where he is a Fellow (docent en bestuurslid) of a university college. Snow himself was Fellow of a Cambridge College untill the beginning of the Second Word War, when he started to work at Whitehall. So he describes a world he knows very well. The book was written in 1951; the scene is laid in 1937.
In the beginning of the book the thirteen fellows of the college learn that the Master (voorzitter van het bestuur) has an incurable cancer. The master?s name in Vernon Royce. Within six months or a year he will be dead. That means that a new Master must be elected from the fellows. From the day they hear about the master, the fellows start talking and having meetings about the question who is to be the new Master.
First a picture of the thirteen fellows.
Besides Eliot himself there is his friend Roy Calvert, an famous linguist, who for periods suffers from something like maniac depression. Roy is an informal, often gay person who often permits himself roguish remarks (N.B. all within the setting of the socially high, very formal and utterly polite English university society). Then there is Frances Getliffe, also a very good friend of Eliot and Luke, a young gifted scientist, the son of a portworker. The other fellows are Gay, a very old man, Pilbrow, a man of 70, Crawford, Chrystel, Jago, Brown, Winslow, Nightingale (a very frustrated, nasty man), Despard-Smith.
From the beginning there are two candidates for the mastership: Crawford and Jago. Crawford is an authority in science, a rational and rather unemorional man who can make the college wellknown to the world. Jago is less sophisticated, but a number of fellows prefer him because they think he is a warmer person, more emotional, and will better in handling problems and communicating with people.
Eliot is in favour of Jago, although politically speaking he is his opponent. Eliot is a left wing man (Labour), Jago is a Conservative. But Eliot esteems Jago as a warm person and the right man for the college. With him are Brown, Chrystal, Nightingale, Luke and Pilbrom. That makes 6 out of 11 votes, assuming the two candidates cast no vote at all. The opposite party has 5, but even six is not a majority at the total fellows of 13.
Very soon Nightingale goes over to the other party. Eliot doesn?t like Nightingale at all. He thinks he is a frustrated, unhappy jealous man and he has no illusion that Nightingale will ever be persueded to join Jago?s side once more. He thinks Nightingale, who had had little succes with women during his life, and who also in his career missed chances, is jealous of Jago. Jago in his youth used to be an attactive man. He is married to a woman who is considered attractive by no one, but he loves her dearly and suffers for her. She is not happy, she knows no one likes her and she finds is hard to behave in a proper way. She usually says the wrong things and suffers because she feels she is a burden to her husband and hampers his carreer.
The book consists of numberous descriptions of meetings, visits of the fellows to one anothers rooms, conversations they have. Also the thoughts of Lewis Elliot about the other fellows are an important part of the book. He shows a deep insight in human nature. They all live in rooms in the college. Some married men have also houses in town. Eliot has a house and a wife in London. She is neurotic. His marriage, described in another book, is a source of suffering. Most of the week he lives apart from her in Cambridge. Once a week he goes to London for a job he has still kept there.
Another fellow who supports Jago is Brown. Brown is an amiable and cautious man and Jago?s most important supporter. Then there is Chrystal, a friend of Brown?s, who initially supports Jago but who, almost a year later, when the master has died and the elections for de the new master will be within a few days, changes sides. He feels Crawford will be a much better master, in fact he has felt that deep at heart all the time. He realizes he supported Jago out of friendship for Brown. Another initial supporter of Jago is Pilbrow, an old literary scolar, specialized in Eastern Europe. During the summer he spends his time in Europe and coming back he is terrified by what is happening there (Hitler coming into more and more power). He decides he cannot support a right wing Master like Jago any longer (although Jago, of course, is far from a fascist), but his conscience forces him to vote for Crawford, a left-winger.
So the initial majority for Jago is no longer there. Eliot tries to persuade old Gay to vote for Jago, which in the end he does, but it is too late. At the end of the book, the election is described. There are seven votes for Crawford and six for Jago. In the meantime the two candidates agreed, pressed by Chrystal at the time he was still in favour of Jago, to vote for one another (it is not done to vote for oneself). Only then it would be possible to collect 7 votes for one of the two. The candidates themselves had planned not to vote, but then the vote would probably stick to 5-6, which meant no majority for either. In that case the bishop of Cambridge should have to decide. That would probably mean an outsider as Master and that is what both parties want to avoid at any cost.
An interesting point is also that Francis Getliffe, who has been a friend of Eliot?s for years, is on the side of Crawford from the very beginning. Getliffe, a scientist himself, want a distinguished scientist as Master. Although these English university fellows, both blocks of integrity, feel that this should not effect their friendship in any way, they are often uneasy with one another. Roy Calvert, Eliots other intimate friend, is on his side, but he is a problem in a period in which he suffers from maniac depression. He is getting too personal with Winslow, whose son is unable to pass examinations. This embarresses his friends and they fear that, although Winslow is already in ?the other party? it might damage Jago.
Then there is Nightingale, who spreads slender about Jago?s wife, telling that she is already buying furniture for the Lodge (the Master?s house). And mrs Jago indeed has talked too much and almost suggested thet her husband was sure of the mastership.
The book is a bit tedious to read. It is not easy to understand how university fellows in the thirties behaved, but on the other had it gives a very good picture of the sentiments, the intrigues, but also the integrity of most men. It shows how English society in those university circles works: one has to be tactful, integer, delicate, one has to weigh ones words and should not show too much feeling. It?s interesting to read Eliot?s comments on these characters: who is deep at heart happy, who is not, who lets himself rule by reason en who by feelings.
Charles Percy was een Engelse fysicus en een romanschrijver, die ook verscheidene belangrijke posities in de Britse overheid dienden. Hij is misschien bekendst voor een reeks romans die gezamenlijk als Vreemdelingen en Broers wordt gekend, en voor " Twee Cultures" , een lezing van 1959 waarin hij de golf tussen wetenschappers en " betreurt; literaire intellectuals". Geboren in Leicester, Sneeuw werd opgeleid bij de Leicestershire en Rutland Universiteit, nu de Universiteit van Leicester, en de Universiteit van Cambridge, waar hij een Kameraad van Christ' werd; s Universiteit in 1930. Hij diende verscheidene hogere posities in de regering van het Verenigd Koninkrijk: als technische directeur van het Ministerie van Arbeid Vanaf 1940 tot 1944; als ambtenarijcommissaris vanaf 1945 tot 1960; en aangezien de parlementaire secretaresse aan de Minister van Technologie vanaf 1964 aan 1966.He knighted in 1957 en maakte een het levensedele, als Sneeuw van de Baron, van de Stad van Leicester in 1964 was. De sneeuw huwde de romanschrijver Pamela Hansford Johnson in 1950. Zij hadden één zoon. De vrienden omvatten de wiskundige G.H. Hardy, de fysicus P.M.S. Blackett, de Röntgenstraal crystallographer J.D. Bernal en de culturele historicus Jacques Barzun.For het academische jaar 1961 tot 1962, dienden Lord en Dame Snow als Kameraden op de faculteit op het Centrum voor Geavanceerde Studies bij Wesleyan Universiteit. Snow' s eerst roman was de whodunitDood onder Zeil (1932). Hij schreef ook een biografie van Anthony Trollope. Nochtans, is hij veel beter - gekend als auteur van een opeenvolging van politieke romans getiteld Vreemdelingen en Broers die intellectuelen in academische en overheidsmontages afschilderen in de moderne era. De meesters is de bekendste roman van de opeenvolging en behandelt de interne politiek van een universiteit van Cambridge aangezien het voorbereidingen trof om een nieuwe meester te verkiezen. Het heeft al aantrekkingskracht van het zijn de mening van een insider en het openbaart hoe zorgen buiten de strikt academische invloed de besluiten van vermoedelijk objectieve geleerden. De meesters en de Nieuwe Mensen werden gezamenlijk toegekend James Tait Black Memorial Prize in Gangen 1954.The van Macht toevoegden een uitdrukking aan de taal van de dag.
- The Masters
- Charles Percy Snow
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