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John Galsworthy: The war made us all into barbarians


Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

British writers on peace and war

John Galsworthy: Selections on war


John Galsworthy
From The Silver Spoon

“If I had my savings.”

“Yes, Mrs. Bergfeld told me about them. I can inquire, but I’m afraid – ”

“It’s robbery.” The chattered sound let Michael at once into the confidence of the many Managers who had refused to employ him who uttered it.

“I know,” he said, soothingly, “robbing Peter to pay Paul. That clause in the Treaty was a bit of rank barbarism, of course, camouflage it as they like. Still, it’s no good to let it prey on your mind, is it?”

But his visitor had risen. “To take from civilian to pay civilian! Then why not take civilian life for civilian life? What is the difference? And England does it – the leading nation to respect the individual. It is abominable.”

Michael began to feel that he was overdoing it.

“You forget,” he said, “that the war made us all into barbarians, for the time being; we haven’t quite got over it yet…”


The war had deprived one of one’s own way, but the war had overdone it, and left one grasping at license. And for those, like Fleur, born a little late for the war, the tale of it had only lowered what respect they could have for anything. With veneration killed, and self-denial ‘off,’ with atavism buried, sentiment derided, and the future in the air, hardly a wonder that modernity should be a dance of gnats, taking itself damned seriously!

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