06 June 2007

Arthur Bryant. Unfinished Victory, 1940

Arthur Bryant. UNFINISHED VICTORY. Macmillan, London, 1940.

Current Selling Prices
$250-$400? /£120-£200?

Highly uncommon book especially in a jacket. It appears never to have been reprinted due to accusations of anti-semitism. The dust jacket blurbs states: '...Mr. Bryant explains that however signally we defeat Germany in the field, we shall never achieve our end, which is the peace and liberty of Europe, until we have learned to understand Germany.' He says of Hitler: 'His racial theory may be repulsive gibberish, his ambitions barbarous and ridiculous, his motives cruel and sadistic, but only a man deliberately shutting his eyes to realities can deny his astonishing genius for leadership.' It is said that Bryant attempted to buy up and destroy all copies of the book, realising how untimely were his views.

Bryant was probably the leading historian in Britain in the twentieth century in the middlebrow mass market. He specialised in 'doublet and hose' history as opposed to scolarly, academic specialised work. He was mentioned recently in Socialist Review in a list of appeasers of Hitler:-
"In the build-up to the occupation of Iraq, American and British politicians and generals were trotting out quotes from Churchill and comparing the anti-war movement to those who appeased Hitler and the Nazis in the 1930s. Few bothered to point out that it was not the left who appeased Hitler but the right--including the 'Daily Mail', virtually the entire Tory Party, hack historians like Arthur Bryant, military experts like Major General JFC Fuller (Britain's leading exponent of armoured warfare), the ex Liberal prime minister Lloyd George, the Duke of Windsor (formerly King Edward VIII) and the mother of our present queen. Indeed Winston Churchill was regarded as a dangerous maverick because he recognised the danger Hitler's Germany posed to the position of Britain as a world power..."

This is the world of Ishiguro's 'The Remains of the Day' which is narrated by the butler of a Nazi-sympathising English aristocrat. I recall in the late 1980s attending a contents sale at Byant's house in Cathedral Close Salisbury. To be fair it was not crammed with Nazi tracts, I don't even recall a 'Mein Kampf', the only sign of his nationalism was a very large old Union Jack on the wall of an upstairs room. I came away with a van full of good saleable books including quite alot of books signed to him by other writers. Andrew Roberts lays into him in 'Patriotism: The Last Refuge of Sir Arthur Bryant' -

On 19th February 1979 London's literary, political and historical world came together in the Vintners Hall for a dinner to pay tribute to Sir Arthur Bryant CH, CBE, LLD, FRHist.S, FRSL on his eightieth birthday. The author of over forty books, a columnist on the Illustrated London News for more than four decades, and knighted by Churchill, Bryant sat between Harold Macmillan and the Archbishop of Canterbury. Other guests included the then prime minister, James Callaghan, a brace of field marshals, the chairman of Times Newspapers, half a dozen knights and over two dozen peers and peeresses. It was, as one of those present put it, 'Bryant's apotheosis as the Grand Old Man of British historical writing'.
Yet those distinguished guests in the Vintners Hall could not have known what the expiry of the Fifty Year Rule and the subsequent opening of Bryant' s private papers can now tell us; that far from being the patriot he so long and loudly proclaimed himself, Bryant was in fact a Nazi sympathiser and fascist fellow-traveller, who only narrowly escaped internment as a potential traitor in 1940. He was also, incidentally, a supreme toady, fraudulent scholar and humbug." (Tell us what you really feel!)

VALUE? I am always interested in books where the author destroyed copies--if he or she really went to work it can cause great rarity. There is a poorish unjacketed copy on ABE at £50 and a VG+ copy, also sans jacket, at UK's Biblion site at £170. I guess in a jacket £200 is achievable but untested. A scarce book - but Bryant is not seriously collected at this level so far--unlike another writer associated with Nazi appeasement the military historian, Major General JFC Fuller, onetime pal of Crowley and known as 'Boney.' His works can scale £300. With Bryant his most expensive item is a 12 LP set of speeches by Churchill where he writes the 'appraisal' (sometimes seen at £200 or more) and his signed limited Dropmore Press edition from 1946 of 'Historian's Holiday'. You can buy one of the signed edition of 25 of this at just over £100. [ W/Q * ]

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