George Moore: Murder pure and simple, impossible to revive the methods of Tamburlaine
From Ave (1911)
The pictures on the easels were forgotten, and the manuscripts in Victoria Street, so obsessed were we by the thought that, while we were talking, De Wet’s army might be caught in one of Kitchener’s wire entanglements, and the war be brought to an end, and I remember that very often as I stared at Sickert across the studio my thoughts would resolve into a prayer that the means might be put into my hands to humiliate this detestable England, this brutal people! A prayer not very likely to be answered, and I wondered at my folly while I prayed. Yet it was answered.
Every week letters came to me from South Africa, as they came to every other Englishman, Irishman, and Scotchman, and it is not likely that any of these letters contained news that others did not read in their letters or in the newspapers; but soon after my prayer in Sickert’s studio, a letter was put into my hands containing news so terrific that for a long time I sat, unable to think, bewildered, holding myself in check, resisting the passion that nearly compelled me to run into the street and cry aloud the plan that an English General had devised. De Wet was in the angle formed by the junction of two rivers; the rivers were in flood; he could go neither back nor forwards; and troops were being marched along either bank, the superior officers of every regiment receiving orders, so my correspondent informed me, that firing was not to cease when De Wet was caught in the triangle and the white flag raised. My correspondent said, and said justly, that if notice had been given at the beginning of the war that quarter would not be asked for nor given, we might have said, “This is too horrible,” and covered our faces, but we should not have been able to charge our Generals with treachery. But no such notice had been given, and he reminded me that we were accepting quarter from the Boers at the rate of eight hundred a day. “A murder plot, pure and simple, having nothing in common with any warfare waged by Europeans for many centuries. It must be stopped, and publication will stop it. But is there a newspaper in London that will publish it?” One or two were tried, and in vain. And while you dally with me, I cried, “De Wet and his army may be massacred. Only in Ireland is there any sense of right.”
And next day, in Dublin, I dictated the story to the editor of the Freeman’s Journal. The Times reprinted it, and the editor of a Cape paper copied it from the Times, upon which the military authorities in South Africa disowned and repudiated the plot. If they had not done so, the whole of Cape Colony, as I thought, would have risen against us; and once the plot was repudiated, the Boers were safe; it would be impossible to revive the methods of Tamburlaine on another occasion. The Boer nation was saved and England punished, and in her capacious pocket that she loves so well….