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William - an Englishman par Cicely Hamilton

William - an Englishman (original 1919; édition 1998)

par Cicely Hamilton (Auteur), Nicola Beauman (Auteur)

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A 1919 novel about the harrowing effect of the First World War on William, a socialist clerk, and Griselda, a suffragette. Preface by Nicola Beauman.
Titre:William - an Englishman
Auteurs:Cicely Hamilton (Auteur)
Autres auteurs:Nicola Beauman (Auteur)
Info:Persephone Books Ltd (1998), Edition: New Ed, 226 pages
Collections:Votre bibliothèque

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William: An Englishman par Cicely Hamilton (1919)


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» Voir aussi les 76 mentions

Affichage de 1-5 de 18 (suivant | tout afficher)
"What he termed public life-a ferment of protestation and grievance...with all the extremist's contempt for those who balance"
By sally tarbox on 23 March 2018
Format: Paperback
William Tully is a quiet little clerk in pre-WW1 London, described as 'painstaking and obedient...unobtrusive and diffident. To his colleagues, he is 'a negligible quantity. He was not unpopular- it was merely that he did not matter.'
Cowed by his redoubtable mother, William finds himself - following her unexpected death- a free agent, possessed of a small income. But what to do now? "His life had been so ordered, so bound down and directed by others, that even his desires were tamed to the wishes of others and left to himself he could not tell what he desired."
By chance, he latches on to colleague Faraday, whose private life is entirely dedicated to social activism; under his tutelage, William becomes a regular at meetings promoting women's suffrage, pacifism and other causes. And here he meets his future wife Griselda; their shallow, ignorant outlook focussing on protests and struggles.
"They believed (quite rightly) in the purity of their own intentions; and concluded (quite wrongly) that the intentions of all persons who did not agree with them must therefore be evil and impure...They read newspapers written by persons who wholly agreed with their views...From these they quoted, in public and imposingly, with absolute faith in their statements."

Paying no heed to the greater world affairs of 1914, they spend their honeymoon in the Belgian Ardennes...and find themselves in the middle of hideous war. Slowly, as he witnesses the atrocities, William's mindset changes; a realisation that the trivial complaints they made about British society were as nothing compared with this:
"He remembered -quite plainly, he remembered - a letter writte to the daily Press to point out with indignation that one of the Leaders of the Movement had been hurt in the ankle in the course of the Great Civil War."

With experience, William renounces pacifism for militarism, but even here he is doomed to disappointment...

A very well-written novel; the author herself was both a suffragette and a nurse in WW1 France. Comic at times, as we follow the committed but narrow-minded young couple in their efforts to redeem society, the descriptions of the war are vivid and shocking. I'm not sure we really get to know William; written in the 3rd person, he is brought to us through Hamilton's eyes, and perhaps it loses a little immediacy through that. But an unusual and interesting work. ( )
  starbox | Mar 23, 2018 |
"When you live in a crowd," he said at last, "you can always make excuses for yourself. Most likely you don't need to. If you're a fool or a coward you herd with a lot of other fools and cowards, and you all back each other up. So you never come face to face with yourself." ( )
  augustgarage | Sep 26, 2017 |
This Peresphone classic tells the story of William Tully, a very mild-mannered, somewhat weakling of a man. Once his mother dies and he comes into a comfortable fortune he decides to give up work and go into politics. As an activist he meets the lovely Griselda who is supporting the cause of suffragettes. Convinced he's met his match they marry and plan their idealistic life together.

While William and Griselda are on honeymoon in rural Belgium they literally walk right into World War I. To say this was a rude-awakening for them is an understatement. The brutality of war is vividly eye opening for this extremely naïve couple and brings question to everything they once believed.

This book starts off light and airy and then leads you down a gritty path of reality. Beautifully written yet equally heartbreaking.

How I acquired this book: First book Peresphone "Book-a-month" subscription, birthday gift from my husband.

Shelf life: One month ( )
  missjomarch | Nov 21, 2014 |
William Tully is a quiet unassuming clerk in an insurance office, when his mother's death leaves him a little money and the independence to please himself as to how to spend his life. A chance encounter turns the easily influenced William into a key advocate of social reform. And with sufficient funds to enable him to give up work, William finds a certain success in the new circles in which he moves, and on meeting Griselda, an ardent suffragette, he finds love in a true meeting of minds:

They believed (quite rightly) in the purity of their own intentions; and concluded (quite wrongly) that the intentions of all persons who did not agree with them must therefore be evil and impure ... They held .,, to their opinions strongly and would have died rather than renounce, or seem to renounce, them -- which did not restrain them from resenting the same attitude of mind and heart in others. What in themselves they admired as loyalty, they denounced in others as interested and malignant stubbornness.'

But although William and Griselda are portrayed by the author with all their faults, there is also something touching about the way that their romance and subsequent marriage is dealt with. While neither of them are initially appealing characters, they are irritating rather than unpleasant, and are clearly very much in love: at the end of the day they are decent human beings. Hamilton deals with their political activism and romance in a light-hearted way which does engender a certain affection for the characters, even if they are not necessarily the sort of people the reader might want to spend a large amount of time with:

'The advanced Press spread itself over the description of the ceremony and - in view of the fact that the bridesmaids, six in number, had all done time for assault - even the Press that was not advanced considered the event worth a paragraph'

But William and Griselda's marriage takes place on the 23rd July 1914, and they set off for their four week long honeymoon in a very remote part of the Belgian Ardennes that afternoon. And deliberately out of the reach of newspapers, not speaking French, and out of contact with any other English speakers, they are completely oblivious that Europe has descended into all out war. So that when the war finds them they are completely unprepared ...

This is a tremendously sad book, as William tries to come to terms with what happens in the Ardennes, and also with the complete destruction of his long cherished beliefs. For the pacifist circles in which William has moved up until that point believes fervently that the workers of Europe would in no way allow themselves to be drawn into a war which was merely required by the machinations of their governments.

There have been mixed reviews of this book on LT, but I found it a rewarding read. Some readers have questioned whether William and Griselda could be so naive as to spent their honeymoon in Europe in a time of such heightened tension, but this seems plausible to me. They are very naive in anything outside their own experience, and with the views of all around them agreeing that a war is impossible, why should they feel the need to change their holiday plans? After all, Britain hadn't been involved in a war in continental Europe since the end of the Napoleonic wars a hundred years previously, so why should 1914 have been any different? So overall I found this a rewarding and poignant read dealing with a very ordinary man caught up in events that were completely outside his experience or even imagination. ( )
1 voter SandDune | Feb 10, 2014 |
Oh poor, poor William! I can SO relate to William. So of course since the book was about me I could hardly put it down! Also, the writing was wonderful and kept me drawn in, anxious to see what would happen next. William was WAY too obedient (to his mother) as a child and on into adulthood actually, just living as he thought he was supposed to, being what his mother told him to be. When she died he was still a young man with the financial means to no longer work and to simply do and be as he wanted. The problem was that he never learned just what that might be, having never been given the opportunity to explore a different life. William turned to another for help with ideas about what he should now do with his life, and ended up following this other person intellectually into the pacifist movement of pre-WWI. He learned a lot about pacifism and became a bit of a figure in the movement, hanging out only with those who thought as he did, read what he read, believed as he came to. He was very well read and analyzed and wrote and published. He even found a woman to marry who not only agreed with his beliefs but also worked as a suffragette herself. They were a perfect couple if you prefer marriage to yourself rather than to another.

William seemed to have only one problem, but it was a big one. He had no experience or even knowledge outside of his own culture and kind. He failed to make his philosophy of pacifism his own, failed to think his own thoughts, and followed blindly along using the thoughts and understanding of others. He did not have (or make) the opportunity to learn about and understand other points of view. Therefore, when he ended up (accidentally again) a prisoner, along with his wife, of German soldiers in the midst of his honeymoon, he had no basis for understanding what was happening to them. He had no world news while on his honeymoon in Belgium, and was shocked to find himself a prisoner, watching other prisoners being killed, and being separated from his bride, whom he adored. When they are rejoined, and are attempting to escape, he realizes his wife has been raped and otherwise pitifully physically and emotionally abused. They do escape and are helped along back to England, by way of Paris, but his wife dies before even reaching Paris.

William is severely traumatized and shocked by what he has experienced. It is not only the physical and emotional trauma, but his very world view of humanity is destroyed. He has no underlying infrastructure for his pacifist beliefs and falls into rage, hatred and an overwhelming desire for vengeance. His only hope and purpose for living is to join the English army and when he is rejected due to his small physical size, he is devastated and left with nothing to live for. Even when he is finally accepted, he is sent to work as a clerk, essentially having returned to the meaningless life he was living previously with his mother. And so he is back where he started.

One of my favorite quotations: Perhaps his contact with alien races, with strange buildings and habits once unknown, may have increased his vague sense of the impossibility of fitting all men to one pattern.

For me, this is the lesson of William, an Englishman.

Five stars ( )
5 voter mkboylan | Feb 9, 2014 |
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Nom de l'auteur(e)RôleType d'auteurŒuvre ?Statut
Cicely Hamiltonauteur(e) principal(e)toutes les éditionscalculé
Beauman, NicolaPréfaceauteur secondairequelques éditionsconfirmé

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William Tully was a little over three-and-twenty when he emerged from the chrysalis stage of his clerkdom and became a Social Reformer.
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A 1919 novel about the harrowing effect of the First World War on William, a socialist clerk, and Griselda, a suffragette. Preface by Nicola Beauman.

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