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Tsara and commissars: W. Somerset Maugham, "Ashenden" and images of Russia in British adventure fiction, 1890-1930.

W. Somerset Maugham is generally recognized as one of the fathers of modern spy fiction.(1) His novel Ashenden: or the British Agent (1928), is acknowledged as the work that broke spy fiction out of the mould established by romantic works of the pre-1914 era.(2) It has been praised for its realism and its "antiheroic vision" of both the spy and of his work.(3) It has generally been assumed that the realism of Ashenden is due to the time that Maugham spent, mostly in Switzerland and Russia, as a member of the British secret service during the First World War.(4) What is not known or appreciated is the fact that Ashenden is also a seminal novel in another sense.

It was not surprising that Maugham utilized Russia as the setting for many of the Ashenden stories. Spy fiction had its roots in nineteenth century adventure fiction and Russia was a central feature in the novels created just before the First World War by men like John Buchan. The new-style spy story that combined the nineteenth century adventure novel and the "war prophecy" novel into slick thrillers that captured the public's imagination, often featured the Tsarist empire.(5) As a threat to Britain's imperial holdings, as part of a European coalition intent on the invasion of Britain, as home to political reaction or as the source of anarchism, Russia thus represented a number of things in the minds of Englishmen prior to 1914.

In Ashenden, Maugham challenged these images of Russia. In doing so, wished both to create a more realistic school of adventure fiction and to contest many of the established literary beliefs concerning the significance of Russian literature. By recasting the conventional images of Russia, Maugham forced his readers to re-think their accepted beliefs: of Russia, of Russian literature, and of the nature of the spy novel. But to appreciate Maugham's efforts properly, it is important to be aware of the context; of the popular sterotypes about Russia promulgated in the contemporary spy and adventure fiction that Ashenden was designed to supplant. Only by so doing can the reader appreciate Maugham's intent and the humorous way in which he achieved it.

British popular views of Russia were not created only after 1890.(6) Indeed, the Russian theme in English literature goes back to at least the sixteenth century. In the last portion of the nineteenth century, however, increased literacy and the rise of a popular press meant that the images of Russia used in popular fiction and newspapers reached a larger segment of the population than ever before. Given that the era before 1914 was one of heightened nationalism, often imbued with the threat of war, it is not surprising that one of the first concerns about Russia expressed in popular fiction dealt with her military prowess.

The study of pre-1914 literature dealing with imaginary wars is not new.(7) However, the focus of such work has been largely on what sort of war was anticipated, how it would be fought and what its results would be. Not much attention has been paid to which countries would be involved in these wars and to what each country was like.(8) One reason for this is obvious: with the benefit of hindsight it was evident that Germany was to be Britain's enemy and so most work was focussed on the German menace. But a look at some of the novels dealing with imaginary wars provides some interesting views of Britain's other possible opponents. From at least 1894 and the signing of the Franco-Russian alliance until the warming of relations between Britain and these two states early in the twentieth century, Britain's most likely opponents were seen as France and Russia. As a result, novels written in the generation before 1914 dealing with war and rumours of war are populated as much by Russians and Frenchmen as they are by Germans.

The Russia that emerges from these novels is a true, latter-day evil empire. In William Le Queux's The Great War in England in 1897 published in 1894, Britain is savaged by a Franco-Russian invasion.(9) The Russian invaders are notorious for their inhuman ways:

great tracts of rich land in Sussex and Hampshire had been laid waste, and the people, powerless against the enormous forces sweeping down upon them had been mercilessly mowed down and butchered by Cossacks, whose brutality was fiendish. Everywhere there were reports of horrible atrocities, of heartless murders, and wholesale slaughter of the helpless and unoffending.(10)

Nor was the Russian soldier given any individuality. A faceless quality was obtained through synecdoche: the Russian soldiers are "masses," "hordes," or, most often, something "grey." The obvious reference is to the colour of the Russian greatcoats, but the colour itself implies uniformity and anonymity. The only group among the Russians to be singled out was the Cossacks, and this was done merely to indict them for their particular "fiendish" behaviour.(11)

The Russians were an ubiquitous threat to Britain and her Empire. In The Outlaws of the Air (1897), Britain was again at war with a Franco-Russian coalition, this time with the casus belli being a Russian descent on "Port Lazaraff" in China. Another novel, The Angel of the Revolution (1894), has the Russian assault begin with plans for a combined Franco-Russian advance against the British position in the Middle East and India, followed by the breakout of the Russian fleet from the Baltic.(12)

Tsarist Russia was also an ideological threat to Britain. The two countries occupied the two extremes of European political life: Britain was the apotheosis of civil liberties, the country that gave political asylum to many of the continent's most wanted terrorists; Russia was the spawning ground of such people, the country where political dissent could be expressed only by illegal acts.(13) This meant that there was a certain sympathy within Britain for Russian terrorists (or "nihlists" as they were often termed).(14) But this sympathy was tempered by the fact that Victorian Britain was a society that felt itself progressively under siege in a rapidly-changing world.(15) Much of this seemed to stem from foreign influences, and, in particular, from the Russian Jewish immigrants in London's East End, with their ties to anarchist and revolutionary movements abroad.(16)

Another of Le Queux's novels, this time featuring the archetypal secret agent Duckworth Drew, nicely illustrates the British beliefs about nihilists.(17) The intrepid Drew falls in love with a Russian princess, who in best art-imitates-life fashion turns out to be a trained nihilist assassin. While Drew's role in the story is limited to his serving as her unwitting agent in an attempt to smuggle a bomb into Russia, Le Queux's sympathetic presentation of the princess leaves little doubt as to where the reader's sympathy is expected to lie. Equally revealing is the description of the man whom she intends to assassinate. When Drew discovers that he has been her dupe, "she admitted to me that it had fallen to her to make an attempt on the life of General Grinevitch, the Governor-General, who, on account of his inhumanity and cruelty towards political suspects, and his autocratic power to send batches of persons to Siberia by administrative process, had been nicknamed by the Revolutionaries 'The Wizard of Warsaw'."(18) While one might deplore the methods of the nihilists, Le Queux suggests that such actions might be largely justified by the behaviour of those against whom they were directed.

Such a lesson was also to be found in one of the works of that prolific writer of boys' adventure books, G.A. Henty.(19) In Condemned as a Nihilist, Henty's hero, Godfrey Bullen, went off to Russia (where he had lived as a child) to gain experience in his father's business. Godfrey's initial attitudes were not those of a proto-revolutionary. As he was about to leave school en route to Russia, one of his schoolmates jokingly warns him not to become a nihilist. "'Bosh!' Bullen said, laughing. 'I am not likely to turn into a secret policeman; but I am more likely to do that than to turn Nihilist. I hate revolutionists and assassins, and those sort of fellows'."(20) Once in Russia, and living in the home of Ivan Petrovytch, his father's Russian manager, the young Bullen's beliefs become challenged by events.

In St. Petersburg, he met two young male students. Unknown to him, both were revolutionaries. At their apartment, Godfrey was introduced to Katia, another student revolutionary. The naive Godfrey was used by Katia as a catspaw to help a fellow revolutionary escape from the police, and Godfrey was arrested. His youth and nationality resulted in Godfrey's release, but with a warning to keep to the straight and narrow, a warning that the Petrovytchs amplified when he returned to his lodgings. Ivan Petrovytch, while clearly a law-abiding Russian, did not accept that the young nihilists are necessarily evil. As he informed Godfrey, after an unsuccessful attempt on the Tsar's life by student revolutionaries, the blame for such actions must be spread through society:

It is terrible! These misguided men hope to conquer the empire by fear. Instead of that, they will in the end only strengthen the hands of despotism. I have always been inclined to liberalism, but I have wished for gradual changes only . . . These men by their wild violence, have thrown back the reforms for half a century at least. They have driven the Czar to war against them . . . [but, however] if they have become as wild beasts, severity has made them so. Their propaganda was at first a peaceful one. It is cruelty that has driven them to use to the only weapon at their disposal, assassination.(21)

This mixed attitude to nihilism (and Henty conflates nihilism and revolutionary attitude throughout) was typical of popular writing about the subject.

In The Sowers, Henry Seton Merriman (a prolific writer of popular novels dealing with Russia) also treats with nihilism, and again in a fashion that mixes approbation with condemnation.(22) The hero of the story, Prince Paul Howard Alexis, product of an Anglo-Russian marriage, was himself one of the "sowers" of future revolution. However, his revolutionary activity took the passive form of belonging to the Russian Charity League, an organization that attempted to bring change through the promulgation of knowledge and education in backward Russia. This was enough to make the Russian government -- "which has ever turned its face against education and enlightenment" -- proscribe the League, "[f]or on the heel of education Socialism ever treads. When at last education makes a foothold in Russia, that foothold will be on the very step of the autocratic throne."(23)

While the thrust of the novel was clearly in favour of reform in Russia, Merriman did not give unqualified support to all who attempt to achieve it. A conversation between Prince Paul and his faithful -- and somewhat more clever and practical -- companion and mentor, Karl Steinmetz, made this clear. When the two men chanced upon a mysterious corpse, Steinmetz lamented their bad luck:

"In this country the less you find, the less you see, the less you understand, the simpler is your existence. Those Nihilists with their mysterious ways and their reprehensible love of explosives have made honest men's lives a burden to them." "Their motives were originally good," put in Paul. "That is possible; but a good motive is no excuse for a bad means. They wanted to get along too quickly. They are pigheaded, exalted and unpractical to a man."(24)

Here was a perfect British view of affairs in Russia. What was desired by the nihilists was perfectly acceptable, but their means of achieving it was not.

Another common assumption about Russia was that it was a police state, whose network of secret agents extended both within and without Russia's borders.(25) Duckworth Drew realized that the "utmost caution" would be required for a mission "to be executed in a city so full of police spies as Petersburg."(26) However, in the best resourceful fashion of a British secret agent, Drew turned the omnipotence of the Russian police to his own advantage. Utilizing the fact that one of the nihilists with whom he is cooperating had a police uniform (the nihilist being, typically for Russia, both a revolutionary and a police agent(27)), Drew was able to effect entrance to a private home and carry out his mission. Significant, too, is the effect of the uniform itself: "The flunkey noticed the grey uniform of one of my companions, and paled."(28) Nor was the evil hand of the secret police confined to Russia. In The Angel of the Revolution, an anti-Tsarist anarchist group, the Brotherhood, kills a corrupt London policeman who had "accepted from the Russian secret police bureau in London a bribe of 250 [Pounds] down and the promise of another 250 [Pounds] if he succeeded in manufacturing enough evidence against a member of our Outer Circle to get him extradited to Russia on a trumped-up charge of murder."(29)

The police and police agents were simple facts of life to Godfrey Bullen's father. Before sending his son to Russia, the elder Bullen gave ample fatherly advice about how to behave while in that country. "Above all things," Godfrey was enjoined, "don't express any opinion you may feel about public affairs -- at any rate outside the walls of the house. The secret police are everywhere, and a chance word might get you into a very serious scrape."(30) Given the fact that much of Henty's novel debunks myths about Russia, this underlines just how widespread were the assumptions about Russia's internal liberties. Another facet of the image of Russian police that was particularly well developed in E.L. Voynich's Olive Latham was the fact that the police were both above the law and not responsible to ordinary citizens. In this story, where an Englishwoman falls in love with a Russian nihilist, the languid, bureaucratic indifference to the heroine's efforts to see her lover after he was arrested has a Kafkaesque quality. The semi-apologetic, but exceptionally sinister character of the secret police during an earlier house search would not be out of place in a modern novel about totalitarian regimes.(31)

Corruption, both personal and public, was widely assumed to be a common feature of Russian life. Again, the wisdom of the elder Bullen gives a good account, "Even in business," Godfrey is told, "there is no getting a government contract, or indeed a contract at all, without bribing right and left. It is disgusting, but business cannot be done without it. The whole system is corrupt and rotten, and you will find that every official has his price."(32) This assumption is echoed in other accounts. Even when a political prisoner was incarcerated, special privileges could be obtained if the price was right. "Just so," one of the characters remarks in Angel of the Revolution, "nothing for nothing in Russian official circles."(33) Griffith's Russian officials even bow "involuntarily" at the mention of money, and one of Merriman's characters was quite matter-of-fact about it all: "In Russia,' continued Easton, turning the pages of his note-book, 'we all know that every official has his price. The only difficulty lies in the discovery of that price'."(34)

These novels also created a stereotypical image of Russia and of the Russian people. While the snow and ice of Siberia was used as a device more to underline the wretchedness of exile than as an actual description of the Russian climate, other passages about Russia had a different purpose. The enormity of Russia drew frequent comment. Merriman opens The Sowers with two riders moving across the steppes:

The whole scene was suggestive of immense distance, of countless miles in all directions -- a suggestion not conveyed by any scene in England, by few in Europe. In our crowded island we have no conception of a thousand miles. How can we? Few of us have travelled five hundred at a stretch. The land through which these men were riding is the home of great distances -- Russia.(35)

This passage has an obvious and direct purpose: to attempt to convey to Englishmen the enormous size of Russia. However, it has another, less obvious, purpose. By alerting his readers to the different scale of Russia, Merriman is alerting them to the different standards of human behaviour to be expected in that country. In a subsequent passage, triggered by the sight of the Volga, Merriman expands on this theme: "All great things in nature have the power of crushing the human intellect. Russians are thus crushed by the vastness of their country and of their rivers. Man is but a small thing in a great land ..."(36) Thus, the reader is warned to expect a challenge to his English cultural sensibilities, just as surely as he is warned to expect a different geography.

Such an approach was mirrored in descriptions of Russians and things Russian. The supposed uniqueness of Russia's historical experience and her people, a theme played up by the Russian Slavophiles themselves, found ready acceptance among British writers.(37) Felix Velenchuk, a Russian student revolutionary exiled to the wilds of Bolton, expresses such sentiments perfectly. He expands on things Russian to an English woman acquaintance:

"Russia's a wonderful land, and the Russians are a wonderful people," said Felix to Ada. "The most wonderful people in the world; wonderful in music, wonderful in literature, wonderful in all things. There was Madame Blavatsky, the Christess. She was a Russian. She had a wonderful knowledge of the secrets of the universe, of the things that only angels and devils know; though I scarcely know whether to believe such tales or not."(38)

Russia's exceptionality is here run together, not insignificantly, with the figure of Madame Blavatsky, the noted theosophist.(39) By making this linkage, the reader is once again asked to suspend normal -- that is, here, English -- judgements on matters. Things Russian, it is clear, are to be considered quite differently.

Certainly the idea that two different worlds -- one English and the other Russian -- existed side by side was reinforced by discussions of the particular nature of Russians, of the existence of the russkaia dysha (Russian soul).(40) In Condemned as a Nihilist, Mr. Robson, an Englishman long resident in Russia, informs Godfrey Bullen that

"There are no more pleasant companions than the Russians," Mr. Robson said. "They more closely resemble the Irish than any people I know. They have a wonderful fund of spirits, enjoy a practical joke, are fond of sport, and have too a sympathetic, and one may almost say a melancholy vein in their disposition, just as the Irish have. They have their faults, of course -- all of us have; and the virtue of temperance has not as yet made much way here."(41)

Russian melancholy was mixed with related characteristics. In The Sowers, Catrina Lanovitch, a Russian noblewoman, reflects in her piano playing the mixture of simplicity and romanticism often attributed to Russians in these novels. "She only played a Russian people-song -- a simple lay such as one may hear issuing from the door of any 'kabak' [tavern] on a summer evening. But she infused a true Russian soul into it -- the soul that is cursed with a fatal power of dumb and patient endurance."(42)

In the same novel, Steinmetz found the Russians strangely impractical and caught up in their own existence: "But these Russians are too romantic -- too exaltes; they give way to a morbid love of martyrdom; they think they can do no good to mankind unless they are uncomfortable."(43) Further on in The Sowers, it is only Prince Paul's half-English inheritance that saves him from becoming overly caught up in the fate of the peasants on his estate: "A British coldness of blood damped as it were the Russian quixotism which would desire to see result follow upon action -- to see the world make quicker progress than its Creator had decreed."(44)

The supposed contrast between the coldness and practicality of the English and the passion and impracticality of the Russians is an ongoing theme in these novels. Catrina Linovitch comments, "Yes; but you English are so cold and deliberate. You do not know what it is to hate -- or to care."(45) A fellow prisoner confides to Godfrey Bullen that the latter's initiative is inspirational: "We [Russians] are brought up to have everything done for us; to think as we are told to think, to have officials keep their eyes over us at every turn, to be punished if we dare to think independently, till we have come to be a nation of grown-up children."(46)

A common feature, too, is the wretchedness of the Russian muzhik (peasant, often spelled "moujik"). In Olive Latham, the eponymous heroine informs one of her Russian friends that "Volodya, in all that village there's not one sound man or woman or child. The people are rotting alive, body and soul."(47) Not only are Olive's peasants in dire distress, they are also superstitious, primitive, and unpleasant. They suspect Olive of being a witch when she explains to them the rudiments of sanitation. A similar image is evoked in the village on Prince Paul's estate in The Sowers. In disguise as "the Moscow doctor," Paul endeavours to bring some relief to their disgusting hovels, knowing well that his villagers are too suspicious of authority to accept any help from him in his real persona.(48) The condition of the muzhik, Merriman makes clear, was a result of the misgovernment of the country.(49)

There was a lighter side to British images of Russia. St. Petersburg as a city seems to have made a favourable impression on even the most rampant Russophobes. Even as the Brotherhood are preparing to destroy part of the city, Griffith cannot help but marvel at St. Petersburg: "The Rome of the North, basking in the soft evening sunlight of the incomparable Russian summer, lay vast and white and beautiful on the islands formed by the Neva ...its innumerable palaces, churches, and theatres, and long straight streets of stately houses, its parks and gardens, and its green shady suburbs ... forced an exclamation of wonder from Arnold's lips ..."(50)

The Russian winter, which in other instances has been given such a sinister role as the backdrop to penal exile in Siberia, serves only to decorate St. Petersburg. "St. Petersburg under snow," Merriman puts it, "is the most picturesque city in the world. The town is at its best when a high wind has come from the north to blow all the snow from the cupola of St. Isaac's, leaving that golden dome in all its brilliancy, to gleam and flash over the whitened sepulchre of a city."(51) Henty echoes this description. For him, St. Petersburg in the winter was a scene from another world:

There were vehicles of every description, from the heavy sledge of the peasant, piled up with logs for fuel, or carrying, perhaps, the body of an elk shot in the woods, to the splendid turn-outs of the nobles with their handsome fur wraps, their coachman in the national costume, and horses covered with brown, blue, or violet nets almost touching the ground, to prevent the snow from being thrown up from the animals' hoofs into the faces of those in the sledge.(52)

Everything was exotic, from the traditional beards of the men, to the troikas and cathedrals of the street scenes. Only the fact that the shops were reminiscent of Paris made St. Petersburg seem part of the familiar European world. And, in fact, in this respect St. Petersburg may be taken as the symbol of much of what British writers wrote about Russia, in that the mixture of the familiar and the exotic only underlined the alien nature of the country.

By 1914 popular fiction had created a specific image of Russia.(53) Despite variations, this image was fairly clear. Russia was a sprawling, alien land governed in an autocratic, arbitrary fashion. The ordinary Russian people were backward and lived in poverty. Opposition to the Russian government was centred in anarchist and nihilist groups whose aims were laudable, but whose methods were not. Nonetheless, these methods could often be excused because the Tsarist government, through the extensive use of secret police, had turned Russia into a gigantic brutal prison.(54) The vastness of the country, its enormous population and its military might made Russia a formidable power, a power whose intentions were not always divinable, but often were in opposition to Britain's interests. When the First World War broke out in August 1914, the British government decided that this popular image of Russia needed to be improved. In a war that was ostensibly being fought to destroy "Prussian militarism" and, later, "to make the world safe for democracy," it was hardly fitting that a major ally should be considered the epitome of those things that Britain publicly opposed.(55) A complete re-make of Russia's popular image was thus in order.

Some aspects of Russia's pre-war portrait required little change.(56) Russian military power -- the metaphor of the Russian "steamroller" was in constant vogue(57) -- was no longer a threat, but rather an asset. Even so, the British Foreign Office took steps to ensure that the Germans were not able, in particular, to play on the Cossacks' reputation for brutality.(58) The well-known British scholar and Russophile, Bernard Pares, was sent to Russia with a brief to counter any German propaganda about Cossack "outrages." Equally important, through a veiled system of government subsidies, a number of books were published extolling Russia's virtues.(59) Great emphasis was placed on the stolid endurance of the muzhik, his intense religiousness and his devotion to mother Russia and the Tsar. Russia was in fact reunited with Europe. Her Asiatic features were downplayed and a Whig interpretation of Russian constitutional development was instituted wherein Russia was portrayed as moving inevitably toward the British ideal of the limited monarchy.(60)

The Russian revolutions of 1917 initially had little effect on British popular perceptions of Russian. The February revolution was thought at first to be a positive occurrence in that the emergence of the provisional government -- with its implied transitory nature and its commitment to establishing a constitution -- was held to presage an improved Russian war effort. By 1917, with the tremendous losses on the western front, this was of prime importance. The niceties of Russia's internal order no longer had much audience in Britain; instead, Russia was evaluated with regard to her contribution to the allied war effort. It was in this light that the Bolshevik revolution was regarded, and when the new regime settled with the Germans at Brest-Litovsk and killed Nicholas II and his family, it became persona non grata. The end of the war brought little improvement in relations, as civil war and intervention followed.(61) Formal relations between Britian and the emergent Soviet state remained non-existent from 1917-1924.

While formal relations did not exist, this did not prevent writers of popular fiction from continuing to employ the Russian theme, albeit in its new Soviet guise. But not only had Russia changed; there was a whole new constellation of power in Europe. By 1919, with Germany defeated and the Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman, and Russian empires dissolved, Britain found herself without any particular immediate overt threats to her own security.(62) In such circumstances, there was a focus on internal, covert threats. These seemed to emanate from Bolshevik Russia; the "Red threat" was a major focus for the British secret service.(63) In such circumstances, it is not surprising that popular fiction soon became engrossed with the threat of Russian Bolshevik subversion.(64)

Often this subversion operated in tandem with new and mysterious technology. The First World War, with its advances in military technology, gave a new legitimacy to such pre-war stories as Griffith's The Outlaws of the Air and its aerial fleets.(65) Given that the Bolsheviks possessed no material means of attacking Britain, science had to be called in to provide the necessary engines of menace.

In The Flying Submarine, published in 1922, we are introduced to a world in which Europe, Asia, and Africa have fallen victim to the Bolsheviks; the United States is "convulsed by revolutions and economical disasters" and exists as a semi-independent state with "the nephew of Leon Bronstein -- Trotsky -- ruling like an Emperor in New York"; and only Australia, Japan and "to some extent, England" are independent.(66) Interestingly, Bolshevism was seen here as an offshoot of earlier, essentially Russian ideas. As the author put it in a telling passage:

For a long time the public opinion of Europe and America, hoodwinked by anonymous scribblers, believed that this new menace, known as Bolshevism, was nothing but a new political party in Russia. Soon, however, it became evident that Bolshevism was a doctrine deeply rooted in the peculiar Russian mentality, and developed by the teachings of Turgeniev, Netchaev, M. Bakunin, Herzen, and Tkachev into a philosophy, or religion, of destruction.

And certainly, the Directorate (as the central body of the Bolsheviks was termed) operated with a violence worthy of its Tsarist heritage. All those found guilty of opposing the Directorate "were hung from one of the numerous military dirigibles, and paraded across the continents until nothing but skeletons remained of the bodies, which were eaten away by ravens and vultures bred in endless numbers on the battlefields and in the districts where pestilence had reduced whole cities and provinces to cemeteries."

The novel centres on the efforts of the Bolsheviks, with their dreaded secret weapon, the flying submarine, and aided by British collaborators, to conquer Britain. The principal opponents of this are Gordon McOwey and Vera Winthorpe. Their backgrounds are of interest. Vera is of impeccable heritage. Her father is Sir Arthur Winthorpe (ex-British minister to Berne and Tokyo) and possessor of Twin Oaks, a quintessentially British estate in the hills of Surrey. McOwey, on the other hand, is not even an Anglo-Saxon. In reality, his name is Basil Makovey, and he and his family immigrated to Canada from what is part of the modern-day Ukraine when Basil was seven years old. Educated in one of the "splendid Canadian country schools," he earned a fine education, later changed his name to McOwey in order to be accepted as a volunteer in the First World War (where he naturally distinguished himself), and subsequently went to Oxford.(67) Employed by Vera's family as a tutor to her brother, Gordon and Vera soon develop a deep, although platonic, relationship. "Although refined and gentlemanly, he had the appearance and manner rather of a devil-may-care Eton student, or a sailor on leave, than a drawing-room lion." Gordon/Basil is all that is fine and good about the British Empire.

This is fortunate, for it takes all the resources of Britain and the empire to repel the Bolsheviks. Their invasion is accompanied by a violence reminiscent of that posited by Le Queux: "Whole cities were destroyed by bombs, and by the mines laid through the alien enemy agents. Thousands of human bodies were decomposing in the open. The cries of people dying from starvation were filling the air, and driving others into madness. Families committed wholesale suicide to escape the tortures of hunger and the atrocious hands of the Red Armies."(68) These Red Armies, naturally of enormous size, were not just composed of Russians, but also of "coolies, Hindus and Afghans, led by German and Turkish officers."(69) The close linkage between Russia and Asia, so common in pre-1914 novels, has been re-established and melded with the wartime hatred of Germany.

Just as science provided the Bolsheviks with their means of attack, so science provided Britain with her means of defence. Basil and the gifted White-Russian scientist, Trebikoff, retreat to Canada, where the latter is able to manufacture his secret weapon, the "teledetonator," that saves the day. Interestingly, while without Trebikoff's genius the Bolsheviks would never have been defeated, Gordon did not tell Vera about the Russian until almost the end of the novel. The reasons for this are revealing: "The Russian lack of moral standards, the total absence of the ethical backbone in Russian mentality; the role the Russian court and people played in the Great War; the Brest-Litovsk treaty with the Huns; Bolshevism, and that feature in Russian literature which could be called the 'unmanliness' of Russian character, made everything Russian highly unpopular in England generally, and with Vera especially."(70) Here was a root-and-branch condemnation of Russia, but it has other significance. While Vera, with her pure English background, could not be expected to understand Trebikoff and his motives, Gordon/Basil, the hybrid, does.

A similar sort of plot underpins the 1927 thriller, Red Radio.(71) Russia is now ruled by the mad Bolshevik dictator, "Zetos," whose agents in England are led by Sir Moffra Zingaro, a self-made millionaire. Zingaro's mysterious background -- "his birth was obscure. Unkind critics suggested ... the Ghetto; others spoke of a Slav origin" -- manages to combine the pre-1914 fear of foreigners (particularly Russians) with a virulent anti-Semitism that infuses several of the post-First-World-War novels.(72) Zingaro's mission was to pave the way for a Bolshevik takeover, which was to be achieved by means of the twin prongs of internal subversion and an invasion utilizing "Zollmeins" ("... you know them, 'mosquitoes' with a seven-foot wingspan and silent engines ...").(73)

Internal subversion worked primarily through the agency of the American evangelistic orator and fraud, "Dr. Philamon Smooth ... the 'Angel of Peace'," whose "new Crusade -- Universal Peace" is co-opted by Sir Moffra's agents.(74) The authors of Red Radio are in no doubt what sort of people are lured by the false siren: "They were enthusiasts for peace. Here sat the one-time 'Conchie' beside the vehement spinster who had struggled for Women's Rights; pale-faced fanatics who glowed with the vision of the new millennium produced by the words of the Doctor." Even within the government, Smooth had his followers, in particular, Lord Bolland, whose "somewhat sluggish Nonconformist spirit had been fired with enthusiasm" by Smooth.

Quite naturally, Zetos's evil plans were foiled, due to the intervention of the mysterious "Barnard Ray," which destroys the invasion fleet of Zollmeins. But while the plot unfolded, the reader was given several interesting views of Bolshevik Russia. The first was an attack on the efforts of the Bolsheviks to brainwash the Russian populace. In Moscow, in best Orwellian fashion, the Minister of Information was in reality the Minister of Propaganda, newspapers were suppressed and cinemas were used to "mould the mind of the Nation."(75) A second was the condition of Russia itself. When Roderick Peters, a British Secret Service agent in disguise as one of Zetos's sympathizers, entered Russia he was appalled at the condition of the people: "Peters thought he had never seen a more downcast, spiritless collection."(76) People "cringe" at the sight of Zetos's agents, and, when one man complained that before the revolution conditions were better than they are now, he was hanged and the local commissar was sacked for allowing such criticism to arise.(77) The new Russia, in British novels of this genre, was clearly not that much different from the old.

Much was made in Red Radio of just how un-British are both the Bolshevik ideas and those who support them. While Bolland trumpeted disarmament and the new internationalism, the Prime Minister, Robert Strong, was known for his "John Bullish common sense and a peculiar quality of personal honesty."(78) When it was discovered by the Secret Service that Sir Moffra was in league with Zetos, Strong's reaction made it clear just how disreputable it all was:

Sir Moffra! O England, how many are the harpies and the leeches that feed upon thy heart! Sir Moffra! Come, Carslake, courage. This is not clear fighting such as we British love. It is dirty, backstair, cunning spying and peeping. But we'll face them out, drive them from their nooks and hidingplaces, and scour up the Old Country yet.(79)

The use of deliberately anachronistic speech and rhetorical flourishes clearly sought to evoke something akin to Henry V. The contrast between British methods and those of the Bolsheviks was clear. Strong -- the name was not accidental -- was England personified; those like Sir Moffra was foreign and "leeches." The strong reactionary bent of the novel was evident throughout and made manifest at the conclusion. When Sir Moffra and his crew were apprehended, the opportunity was taken to deal with "[o]ther semi-insane plotters ... and there was a general riddance of a great many malignants who cultivated revolutionary sentiments and were a general nuisance to themselves and everybody else."(80) Bolland, disillusioned by events and discredited politically, emigrated to Patagonia to establish a peace society.

This fear of internal, Bolshevik-inspired subversion, and the linkage of subversives with foreigners (particularly Jews) and other "malignants," was a major feature of Emerson Hambrook's The Red To-Morrow, published in 1920. The Red To-Morrow posited a future war against Germany, beginning in August 1942. The central character, Alexander Wilson, was a poor boy from Edinburgh who opposed the war as a "Capitalists war. It has been engineered by the big Armament Ring that has its grip on the throat of Europe."(81) His crude Marxism found support from Charles Mostyn, a man "with strongly-marked Semitic features. He spoke with a faint guttural accent."(82) Not surprisingly, Mostyn turned out to be part of an international league of Marxists, anarchists, and revolutionaries -- the so-called League of Revolution -- who helped to take advantage of the Anglo-German war to further their movement.

Mostyn and his movement worked within London's underworld. Hambrook's description of it reflected his xenophobia: "that great foreign community which is composed of the human wreckage and scourings of all Europe and the Levant. Some, no doubt, were originally genuine political refugees from Russia and central Europe, but the great majority were merely congenital criminals, and were responsible for three-fourths of the crimes committed in Britain."(83) Hence are echoes of the pre-1914 concern about immigration into Britain, larded with half-hearted concession that many of the immigrants were "originally" fleeing political persecution.

And who were the English sympathizers with such political ideas? As in The Flying Submarine, they were people who no doubt seemed a "nuisance" to many in post-war Britain. In a veiled slap at the Labour Party luminaries, Beatrice and Sydney Webb, the central English supporter of the League of Revolution was an intellectual couple, the Shellimans, who were vegetarians and "rigid" teetotallers, and advocates of world-wide prohibition. They offered raspberry vinegar or lime juice to visitors on state occasions."(84) They "had no children and made a virtue of it." Not surprisingly, this couple lived in "Puddler's End," which is representative of the new, planned towns created after the First World War, and as such, a threat to traditional values. Their coterie of friends were similar caricatures, representing nearly everything that would have seemed threatening to the existing order after 1918. They included: Sylvia Preece (surely Sylvia Pankhurst in thin disguise), "who had become famous in pre-war days as a militant Prohibitionist and advocate of women parsons. She had now turned her talent to hysterical denunciations of her native country and to trafficking in a futile way with its enemies;" a writer, E.B. Widness (strongly reminiscent of G.B. Shaw), "the great socialist writer on economics and politics;" an Irish revolutionary (possibly the Irish nationalist playwright, Sean O'Casey), "whose real name was John Murphy, but who signed himself 'Eoian O'Mhuirghfaigh' and wrote dull little plays in the Erse tongue which, since nobody understood a word, were universally accepted (in Puddler's End) as works of a great Irish national genius;" and finally, an Indian revolutionary (undoubtedly Shapurji Saklatvala, the Communist MP from North Battersea), "Sakvani, a sinister-looking native of Hindustan who had failed to take a 'Poll' degree at Cambridge, but who, it was whispered in Puddler's End, was really a native prince in disguise."

Wilson managed to fight clear of the evil miasma of socialism, thanks to the efforts of a good woman (herself from the upper classes), just in time to help thwart an attempted coup by the League of Revolution. The coup unleased on London the foreign dregs of the East End. Hambrook's descriptions leave little to the imagination and make his anti-semitism and anti-Bolshevism clear:

The Red Army of foreigners and criminals released from the prisons, led by Germans and Jews, had pillaged, butchered and ravished right and left. There had been unspeakable atrocities. The British trade union leaders of the Marxian Communists had attempted to stay the excesses of their foreign comrades, but had been unable to do so. Some British workers had actually been shot as "traitors to the proletariat" for merely trying to save women from outrage and men from torture.(85)

Particularly interesting here was Hambrook's attempt to separate British left wingers, themselves misguided but not evil, from the calumny piled on foreigners.

A novel in a completely different vein was Edgar Jepson's delightful A Prince in Petrograd.(86) The hero was a retired, independently wealthy ex-stockbroker, capitalist and English to the core. He travelled to Petrograd shortly after the revolution in search of his missing son-in-law. While in Petrograd, he moved through the chaos of revolution with true aplomb, rescued two beautiful Russian women from the Bolsheviks, briefly kidnapped Lenin in order to effect the escape of himself and his menage, and returned to England safe and sound. The novel is humorous, but with its serious side.

For Jepson's hero, the Bolshevik revolution was the equivalent of putting the inmates in charge of the asylum. His long talks with his two wildly impractical Russian women are both exceptionally funny and quite revealing. While both women have been dispossessed by the revolution and, indeed, threatened by it, they remained adherents of the idea and ideals of revolution. They are contemptuous of the English for their practical nature. As one of them put it, the English do not understand idealists: "'Yes. That nation cannot absorb general ideas. I have read it often,' said Sonia. 'But after all, Leninis an idealist and Trotsky also'."(87) Jepson's hero took it all in stride:

I did not defend the Anglo-Saxons; and they went on to pay several more warm tributes to the Russian character -- to their generosity and intelligence. I should have said nothing if Paulia had not begun to talk of the great soul of Russia. That I could not stand; and I said: "Gently, gently. I used to read about that great soul in The Times. And I've seen it working. My belief is that the Russians are merely mad children, with a very large percentage of very bad mad children among them."(88)

Jepson missed no opportunity to poke fun at and deflate concepts similar to the "great soul." When Sonia's parents died, he noted: "I broke it to her as gently as I knew how, but how can one break such news gently? I was hoping to get a display of that Russian fatalism of which I had read. I did not. She broke down and wept bitterly."(89)

But it is for the revolution that Jepson saved many of his most telling lines. Instead of seeing it as a heroic new beginning, Jepson portrayed it as merely a descent to chaos and incompetence. The Red Guards he saw as "noxious vermin," and his only regret was that he had not the time to kill more of them.(90) Being English, he was always able to outwit both the Red Guards and the black marketeers who thrived everywhere. While searching for his son-in-law, Jepson's hero frequented the "Cafe of the Millennium," a hang-out for the idle loafers of the revolution. Arriving at the cafe with tobacco, a scarce commodity in Petrograd, "I explained my possession of this tobacco by saying that I had killed a bourgeois and found it on him. I was congratulated warmly, and the talk fell on those happier days when my acquaintances had plundered the houses of the wealthy, and drunk wine and smoked cigars all day long."(91) While no linguist, our hero managed to pass himself off quite easily as a Russian since he has picked up a little Russian, "just about the vocabulary of an ordinary moujik."(92) As to revolutionary justice as meted out by the Bolsheviks, Jepson was contemptuous. "Prisoners with cleanish faces, brought from their homes, had no chance of escape whatever. A clean face meant swift and utter ruin."(93) The "Court of Justice" was itself a sham, and typical not only of the revolution but also of the character of Russians generally: "The procedure was in perfect accord with the gathering. Always there was a babel of talk, many of the spectators were disputing loudly with one another in different Russian dialects, or in French, about questions of politics and morals. Often a dispute would end in a free fight in which two to a dozen people kicked and thumped on another." Faced with such massive incompetence and impracticality, it is not surprising that Jepson's hero is able to establish himself as a Prince in Petrograd.

A rather different portrait of post-revolutionary Russia is found in The Red Camarilla.(94) Published in 1923, after it became fairly clear that the Bolsheviks had established themselves firmly, The Red Camarilla marked a return to a pre-1914 world, a world that must have seemed likely during the retreat from revolutionary Boshevism marked by the New Economic Policy.(95) The hero of the piece is Francis Sullivan, an English newspaper correspondent and former war hero. Sullivan was sent to Russia by his newspaper to discover whether there was any truth to a purported Russo-Japanese-German alliance.(96) In Russia, Sullivan had to cope with the Bolshevik secret police, a counter-revolutionary Menshevik underground, a murderous Japanese military attache and the fact that his own newspaper's regular Russian correspondent was in league with the Japanese. Being English, he naturally succeeded, but it was the Russia in which he operates that is fascinating.

The St. Petersburg -- not called Petrograd and not yet Leningrad -- that Sullivan frequents was that of the ballet and gypsy music, one that Henty's hero would have found familiar.(97) But Sullivan moved in a more sophisticated world; this St. Petersburg has call girls in his hotel and "[i]ntimate relations between sexes are established more abruptly and with a shorter preface in Russia, the land of hot-blooded and passionate northerners, than among less inflammable Anglo-Saxons."(98) What remained constant was the climate. Not even Bolshevism can prevent "[o]ne of those sudden thaws for which the fickle climate of Petersburg is infamous."(99)

In the years between 1890 and 1920, British popular fiction "created" the Russia with which Maugham would have to deal. The Russia that emerged from these works is relatively constant. Before 1914, the Tsarist regime was seen as archetypal of all that was pernicious in the world. Russia was a land of police spies and arbitrary government. Individuals could be, and were, put in prison or sent to exile in the mines of Siberia on trumped-up charges. The people were ignorant and often drunk, albeit with the good heart and simple natures often attributed to children. As a country, Russia was a threat to British interests world wide, and her immense size and teeming numbers made this threat all the more dangerous. When this was combined with the brutality and callous indifference to life -- characteristics that were seen as more Asian than European -- Russia certainly qualified as the contemporary "evil empire."

Despite the efforts of the British government to sanitize Russia's image during the First World War and the fact that the Bolshevik revolution swept away Tsardom, many images of Russia remained constant in British writing after 1917. The difference tended to be in emphasis, reflecting the fact that Soviet Russia was not a direct military threat to Britain.(100) Instead, the emphasis was on the internal threat that Bolshevism posed to Britain, a threat that dovetailed nicely with a jingoistic, xenophobia directed at Britain's large immigrant community -- many of them Russians and most of these Russians Jews. Thus, there was the confluence of two currents -- anti-semitism and Russophobia.

These were the stereotypes of Russia that Maugham inherited. It was obviously impossible for him to eliminate them all in a single novel. Indeed, Russia, either in its Imperial or Soviet guise, as a threat to Britain did not particularly interest Maugham. He was more interested in disabusing people of their preconceptions about Russians and Russian culture in order to further his aims as a novelist.

Maugham was certainly well aware of the stereotypes of Russia. Before 1914, thanks in part to his brief affair with Sasha Kropotkin, the daughter of the famous Russian anarchist, he had been a member of the British intellectual set that had been fascinated by things Russian.(101) He made this point clearly in Ashenden. The London home of Anastasia Alexandrovna, a character clearly based on Sasha Kropotkin, is a centre for Russian emigre activity.

[H]ere all the literary folk in London might gaze with humble reverence at pale-faced bearded giants who leaned against the wall like caryatids taking a day off; they were revolutionaries to a man and it was a miracle that they were not in the mines of Siberia. Women of letters tremulously put their lips to a glass of vodka. If you were lucky and greatly favoured you might shake hands there with Diaghileff and now and again, like a peach-blossom wafted by the breeze, Pavlova herself hovered in and out.(102)

The ironical tone is the beginning of Maugham's attempt to destroy the image of Russia that such "pale-faced bearded giants" had done much to help create in Britain.(103)

Anastasia Alexandrovna served as Maugham's stalking horse for several of these attempts. When Ashenden asked her to marry him, Anastasia accepted, despite the fact that she was already married to Vladimir. When Ashenden expressed his hope that Vladimir will recover from her desertion, Anastasia replied "He'll never get over it. That is the Russian spirit."(104) Instead, she asserted, because Vladimir loved her so much, he would kill himself to set her free to be happy with Ashenden. Here was the classic expression of the "Russian soul." Maugham immediately moved in for the kill:

He [Ashenden] was startled, but thrilled. It was really very much like a Russian novel and he saw the moving and terrible pages, pages and pages, in which Dostoievsky would have described the situation. He knew the lacerations his characters would have suffered the broken bottles of champagne, the visits to the gipsies, the vodka, the swoonings, the catalepsy and the long, long speeches everyone would have made. It was all very dreadful and wonderful and shattering.(105)

All of the cliches were trotted out, but their effect was vitiated by the tone and by his wicked "pages, pages and pages" and "long, long." Maugham's intention to send up the literary stereotype of Russian passion was underlined when Ashenden saw tears running down Anastasia's face as she contemplated it all. In mock wonder, Ashenden remarked, "These Russians, what fun they have!"(106)

Maugham also attacked other aspects of the russkaia dysha. His description of Anastasia is superb:

She dressed somewhat flamboyantly. In her dark melancholy eyes Ashenden saw the boundless steppes of Russia, and the Kremlin with its pealing bells, and the solemn ceremonies of Easter at St. Isaac's, and the forest of silver beeches and the Nevsky Prospekt; it was astonishing how much he saw in her eyes.(107)

Again, Maugham has used the same technique. The carefully inflated conventional images are neatly punctured by the deflating final phrase, and the whole structure sinks to the ground. Maugham also had no time for the Russian tendency to take the smallest incidents and make them the subject of philosophizing grandiloquence. In one passage, reminiscent of Jepson's A Prince in Petrograd, Anastasia attempted to make Ashenden's desire to vary his diet by having fried instead of scrambled eggs into the subject of a Marxist tract; a manifestation of his bourgeois indifference to the sufferings of servants. She asserted that such an attitude could never be adopted by any Russian who had lived through the revolution of 1905!(108) Indeed, there are several incidents in Ashenden that run parallel to events in Jepson's novel.(109)

Maugham had several goals in mind when he attacked the images of Russia that existed in popular literature. His deflation of them reflected his desire to create a less romantic, more realistic novel.(110) Not for him the style of the melodramatic adventure and spy novels that dealt with Russia. By poking fun at the very images they used, Maugham was attempting to bring this style of writing into disrepute and replace it with his own. Ashenden's disgust with the way that things were done in Russia was in fact a reflection of Maugham's attitude towards literature. When Ashenden was asked "Well, what do you think of Russia and the Russians now?" he replied:

I'm fed up with them. I'm fed up with Tolstoi, I'm fed up with Turgeniev and Dostoievski, I'm fed up with Chekov. I'm fed up with the Intelligentsia. I hanker after people who know their mind from one minute to another, who mean what they say an hour after they've said it, whose word you can rely on; I'm sick of fine phrases and attitudinizing.(111)

This attack on the pillars of Russian literature was part and parcel of Maugham's belief that their school of realism was not the only possible model for literature, a point that he made quite explicitly in the preface to Ashenden.(112) Instead, Maugham preferred to make his novels parallel reality just sufficiently that the reader would accept what happened in them as true.

His attack also reflected his ambivalent attitude towards the significance of Russian literature generally. While he was in Russia in 1917, Maugham had reflected hard on the nature of Russian literature and the portraits that it contained of Russia and Russians.(113) While it is obvious that he liked and admired much of Russian literature, Maugham had his reservations: "Russian writers have been so much the fashion that sober-minded people have greatly exaggerated the merit of certain writers merely because they write in Russian ..."(114) And Maugham had a cold and realistic eye about the way in which Russian sensibilities -- the russkaia dysha, the cult of suffering and love put forward by Dostoevsky and Tolstoy and so on -- had been taken up by European intellectuals.(115) The attack in Ashenden on the images of Russia that had long been accepted as reflecting faithfully the reality of Russia and the effort to show that novels about Russia could be based on a differing interpretation, were Maugham's means of building support for his literary beliefs.

He was also transforming spy fiction. The spy fiction that dealt with Russia before the publication of Ashenden was written to a set formula. The cliches about Russia were well established as was the romantic nature of the spy. Maugham destroyed both. His anti-heroic protagonists have become the accepted paradigm for the best of modern spy novelists: people such as Len Deighton and John Le Carre. And, while the latter two writers often use images of Russia that reflect those in the earlier popular literature discussed above, Maugham's efforts at demolition have meant that the simplistic and naive presuppositions about Russia found in the popular adventure and spy fiction of the period from 1890 to 1928 have been discarded. While the Cold War helped to revive many of the images of Russia's military might and threat to the West, Maugham ensured that the "Russian soul" would never be seen in the same way again.

(1)See, for assertions of this sort, John G. Cawelti and Bruce A. Rosenberg, The Spy Story (Chicago and London, 1987), pp. 19-20, 45-46; LeRoy L. Panek, The Special Branch: The British Spy Novel 1890-1980 (Bowling Green, Ohio, 1981), p. 285; John Atkins, The British Spy Novel Styles in Treachery (London, 1984; New York, 1984), pp. 164-65; David Stafford, The Silent Game: The Real World of Imaginary Spies (Toronto, 1988), pp. 78-83. The rest of this paragraph, except where otherwise noted, is based on their comments.

(2)W. Somerset Maugham, Ashenden: or the British Agent (New York, 1928; reprint, Salem, N.H., 1984), all references are to the reprint edition.

(3)The quotation is from Cawelti and Rosenberg, The Spy Story, p. 45.

(4)On this time, see R.L. Calder, W. Somerset Maugham and the Quest for Freedom (London, 1972), pp. 273-89; W.B. Fowler, British-American Relations, 1917-1918 (Princeton, 1969), pp. 114-18; Keith Neilson, "'Joy Rides'?: British Intelligence and Propaganda in Russia, 1914-1917," Historical Journal, 24, 4 (1981), pp. 888-89; and Christopher Andrew, Secret Service. The Making of the British Intelligence Community (London, 1985), pp. 151-53 and 208-13.

(5)See Cawelti and Rosenberg, The Spy Story, p. 41 and Panek, Special Branch, pp. 282-84. The phrase is Panek's.

(6)The pioneering work concerning British views of Russia has been done by A.G. Cross: see his "British Knowledge of Russian Culture (1698-1801)," Canadian-American Slavic Studies, 13, 4 (1979), pp. 412-35; his introductions to A.G. Cross, ed., Russia Under Western Eyes 1517-1815 (London, 1971), pp. 13-47 and A.G. Cross, ed., The Russian Theme in English Literature from the Sixteenth Century to 1980, An Introductory Survey and a Bibliography (Oxford, 1985), pp. 1-82. Also important are C.D. Bellamy, "British Views of Russia: Russian Views of Britain," in P. Towle, ed., Estimating Foreign Military Power (London, 1982), pp. 37-76 and J.H. Gleason, The Genesis of Russophobia in Great Britain (Cambridge, Mass., 1950).

(7)The seminal study is I.F. Clarke, Voices Prophesying War, 1763-1964 (London, 1966).

(8)This bias largely extended to what more serious, non-fiction writers thought about future wars: see T.H.E. Travers, "Technology, tactics and morale: Jean de Bloch, the Boer War, and British Military Theory, 1900-1914," Journal of Modern History, 51, 2 (1979), pp. 264-86. For an expansion of this, including the views of military professionals, see Tim Travers, The Killing Ground, The British Army, the Western Front and the Emergence of Modern Warfare, 1900-1918 (London, 1987), pp. 37-84.

(9)William Le Queux, The Great War in England in 1897 (London, 1894). There is a useful sketch of Le Queux's career in Stafford, Silent Game, pp. 14-29.

(10)Le Queux, Great War, p. 125.

(11)This was a common appellation for the Cossacks in such novels; see George Griffith, The Outlaws of the Air (London, 1897), p. 96, where the Cossacks are described as being able to "fight any mortal foe like the fiends that they are."

(12)George Griffith, The Angel of the Revolution. A Tale of the Coming Terror (London, 1894), pp. 67-68; 224.

(13)For Britain and political refugees, see Bernard Porter, The Refugee Question in Mid-Victorian Politics (Cambridge, 1979).

(14)On this see Haia Shpayer-Makov, "Anarchism in British Public Opinion 1880-1914," Victorian Studies, 31, 4 (1988), pp. 487-516; Alan Kimball, "The Harassment of Russian Revolutionaries Abroad: The London Trial of Vladimir Burtsev in 1898," Oxford Slavonic Papers, new series, 6 (1973), pp. 48-65.

(15)See Bernard Porter, The Origins of the Vigilant State. The London Metropolitan Special Branch Before the First World War (London, 1987), pp. 18-20.

(16)On this see Gisela C. Lebzelter, Political Anti-Semitism in England 1918-1939 (London, 1978), Colin Holmes, Anti-Semitism in British Society, 1876-1939 (New York, 1979) and Bernard Gainer, Alien Invasion: The Origins of the Aliens Act of 1905 (New York, 1972).

(17)William Le Queux, Secrets of the Foreign Office, Describing the Doings of Duckworth Drew of the Secret Service (London, 1903). The following incident is from the chapter entitled, "The Secret of a Pair of Gloves."

(18)Ibid., p. 173.

(19)G.A. Henty, Condemned as a Nihilist. A Story of Escape From Siberia (New York, 1897).

(20)Ibid., p. 12.

(21)Ibid., pp. 61 and 64. I have combined two of Petrovytch's speeches, the division being marked by the second ellipsis.

(22)Henry Seaton Merriman, The Sowers (New York, 1895 and London, 1896; reprinted, New York, 1968). The reprint edition has a useful introduction that discusses the reception of The Sowers. All references are to the reprint edition.

(23)Ibid., p. 21.

(24)Ibid., p. 10.

(25)On the activities of the Tsarist secret police, see S. Monas, "The Political Police: The Dream of a Beautiful Autocracy," in C.E. Black, ed., The Transformation of Russian Society (Cambridge, Mass., 1970), pp. 164-90; Richard J. Johnson, "Zagranichnaia Agentura: The Tsarist Political Police in Europe," Journal of Contemporary History, 7, 1-2 (1972), pp. 221-42. For a particular case study, see Fredric S. Zuckerman, "Vladimir Burtsev and the Tsarist Political Police in Conflict, 1907-14," Journal of Contemporary History, 12, 1 (1977), pp. 193-219.

(26)Le Queux, Secrets of the Foreign Office, p. 71.

(27)On this phenomenon, see Nurit Schleifman, Undercover Agents in The Russian Revolutionary Movement, The SR Party, 1902-14 (London, 1988).

(28)Le Queux, Secrets of the Foreign Office, p. 82.

(29)Griffith, Angel of the Revolution, p. 18.

(30)Henty, Condemned as a Nihilist, p. 19.

(31)See Voynich, Olive Latham, pp. 177-80 and 162-67 respectively for these two episodes.

(32)Henty, Condemned as a Nihilist, p. 19.

(33)Griffith, Angel of the Revolution, p. 89.

(34)Merriman, Prisoners and Captives, p. 176.

(35)Merriman, The Sowers, pp. 1-2.

(36)Ibid., p. 12. In another instance (p. 142), Merriman combines the themes of snow, immensity and man's insignificance: "The deadly monotony of the scene -- the trackless level, the preposterous dimensions of the plain, the scene of distance that is conveyed only by the steppe and the great desert of Gobi when the snow lites on it -- all these tell the same grim truth to all who look on them, the old truth that man is but a small thing and his life but the flower of grass."

(37)On the Slavophiles and their view of Russia's uniqueness, see N.V. Riasanovsky, Russia and the West in the Teaching of the Slavophiles (Cambridge, Mass., 1952).

(38)Clarke, Starved into Surrender, p. 60.

(39)On Madame Blavatsky, see Janet Oppenheim, The Other World Spiritualism and Psychical Research in England, 1850-1914 (Cambridge, 1985), esp. pp. 174-74. This book is important generally for providing the context of Victorian interest in the paranormal. On a similar subject, Le Queux dealt with the phenomenon of the occult, quack religions and drug use among London's smart set, all with a Russian flavour, in Rasputinism in London. Revelations of the Secret Cult of Beauty and Happiness established by the Monk Grichka, of Petrograd and chronicled by William Le Queux (London, 1919).

(40)The widespread Victorian belief in social Darwinism, although generally applied to non-whites, made such easy characterizations of other nationalities and races both possible and acceptable. There is a large literature on this subject. Douglas Lorimer, "Theoretical Racism in Late-Victorian Anthropology, 1870-1900," Victorian Studies, 31, 3 (1988), pp. 405-30 is a good introduction to this literature as well as being a useful account in itself. On the idea of hidden and parallel worlds in pulp fiction, see the suggestive remarks in Nicholas Hiley, "Decoding German Spies: British Spy Fiction 1908-18," in Wesley K. Wark, ed., Spy Fiction, Spy Films, and Real Intelligence (London, 1991), pp. 63-68.

(41)Henty, Condemned as a Nihilist, p. 59.

(42)Merriman, The Sowers, p. 72.

(43)Ibid., p. 4.

(44)Ibid., pp. 63-64.

(45)Ibid., p. 174.

(46)Henty, Condemned as a Nihilist, p. 98.

(47)Voynich, Olive Latham, pp. 73-74. For the nature of the peasants, pp. 65-66.

(48)Merriman, The Sowers, pp. 58-64 and 191-96.

(49)Ibid., pp. 52-53.

(50)Griffith, Angel of the Revolution, p. 202.

(51)Merriman, The Sowers, p. 89.

(52)Henty, Condemned as a Nihilist, p. 23.

(53)It is evident that a similar image of Russia was also to be found in much more serious literature. Joseph Conrad's Under Western Eyes, published in 1911, plays with many of the same themes as does the popular fiction discussed above. For a brief discussion of Conrad and Russia, see Lewis M. Magill, "Joseph Conrad: Russia and England," Albion, 3, 1 (1971), pp. 3-8 and Cross, Russian Theme in English Literature, pp. 57-58, which discusses the links between Conrad and Dostoevskii and introduces the literature. This issue of the links between British writers and Russian literature is a very complicated one and requires further study, especially in the context of how British authors borrowed images of Russia from their Russian counterparts.

(54)The emphasis on Russia as a police state is in one sense ironic, for it is clear that by contemporary standards Russia was, if anything, under-policed. See Neil Weissman, "Regular Police in Tsarist Russia, 1900-1914," Russian Review, 44, 1 (1985), pp. 47-48.

(55)On the British propaganda effort generally, see M.L. Sanders and Philip Taylor, British Propaganda during the First World War, 1914-1918 (London, 1982). For the contribution of the literati, see D.G. Wright, "The Great War, Government Propaganda and English 'Men of Letters' 1914-16," Literature and History, 7 (1978), pp. 70-100 and Peter Buitenhuis, The Great War of Words, British, American and Canadian Propaganda and Fiction, 1914-1933 (Vancouver, 1987), pp. 5-20. For the British effort concerning Russia, see H.W. Koch, "Das britische Russlandbild im Spiegel der britischen Propaganden 1914-1918," Zeitschrift fur Politik, 27 (1980), pp. 71-96; M.L. Sanders, "British Film Propaganda in Russia, 1916-1918," Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, 3,2 (1983), pp. 117-28 and Keith Neilson, "Joy Rides':?," pp. 885-906. Lorna S. Jaffe, The Decision to Disarm Germany, British Policy Towards Postwar German Disarmament, 1914-1919 (London, 1985), pp. 3-20 is useful to understand the public British commitment to end German militarism. On the virulent anti-Germanism in Britain after the outbreak of war, see Panikos Panayi, "Anti-German Riots in London during the First World War," German History, 7, 2 (1989), pp. 184-203, which also introduces the literature.

(56)The rest of this paragraph, except where otherwise noted is based on Koch, "Das britische Russlandbild;" Neilson, "Joy Rides':?," and Keith Neilson, Strategy and Supply. The Anglo-Russian Alliance 1914-17, (London, 1984), pp. 1-2.

(57)On the pre-war belief in Russia's military power in official circles, see Keith Neilson, "Watching the 'Steamroller': British Observers and the Russian Army Before 1914," Journal of Strategic Studies, 8, 2 (1985), pp. 199-217.

(58)See Neilson, "'Joy Rides':?;" pp. 890-91.

(59)Examples are given in Koch, "Das britische Russlandbild."

(60)Within the British Foreign Office there was a strong current of belief -- perhaps hope would be more accurate -- that Russia actually was moving in this direction. See Keith Neilson, "Wishful Thinking: The Foreign Office and Russia 1907-1917," in B.J.C. McKercher and D.J. Moss, eds., Shadow and Substance in British Foreign Policy 1895-1939. Memorial Essays Honouring C.J. Lowe (Edmonton, 1984), pp. 151-80.

(61)The classic examination of formal relations in this period is Richard H. Ullman, Anglo-Soviet Relations, 1917-1921, (3 vols.; Princeton, 1961-72). For an important look at the impact of the Bolshevik revolution on British policy, see Stephen White, Britain and the Bolshevik Revolution. A Study in the Politics of Diplomacy 1920-1924 (London, 1979). British policy towards possible successor states to be carved out of the corpse of old Russia was not always very coherent; see David Saunders, "Britain and the Ukrainian Question (1912-1920)," English Historical Review, 406, 103 (1988), pp. 40-68 for an example.

(62)The standard works on British defence policy in the 1920s are Stephen Roskill, Naval Policy Between the Wars, Volume I: The Period of Anglo-American Antagonism 1919-1929 (London, 1968), Brian Bond, British Military Policy Between the Two World Wars (Oxford, 1980), and Malcolm Smith, British Air Strategy Between the Wars (Oxford, 1984). The best study of the immediate postwar period, which supercedes the above, is John Robert Ferris, Men, Money, and Diplomacy. The Evolution of British Strategic Foreign Policy, 1919-1926 (Ithaca, 1989).

(63)See Christopher Andrew, Secret Service. The Making of the British Intelligence Community (London, 1985), pp. 224-45 and 259-338, which informs the discussion below. Also very useful is Bernard Porter, Plots and Paranoia. A History of Political Espionage in Britain 1790-1988 (London, 1989), pp. 151-74. The fear of internal subversion as an essential aspect of a projected attack on Britain (particularly through the agency of resident aliens) is reminiscent of similar fears about German attacks before 1914; see David French, "Spy Fever in Britain, 1900-1915," Historical Journal, 21, 2 (1979), 355-70.

(64)Panek notes that 'the Red Menace' was popular as a theme directly after the First World War, but underestimates its ubiquity; see his Special Branch, pp. 284-85.

(65)A good introduction to the rise of technology during the First World War is Guy Hartcup, The War of Invention. Scientific Developments, 1914-18 (London, 1988).

(66)E. Van Pedroe-Savidge, The Flying Submarine (London, 1922), from the unpaginated preface, as are the two following quotations.

(67)Ibid., p. 2.

(68)Ibid., p. 187.

(69)Ibid., from the preface.

(70)Ibid., p. 198.

(71)R.L. Hadfield and Frank E. Farncombe, Red Radio (London, 1927).

(72)See, for example, the odious passage in Emerson C. Hambrook, The Red Tommorrow (London, 1920), pp. 55-56: "And above all, and permeating all the various sinister movements, were everywhere Jews ... Jews in every secret society, Jewish Anarchists and Communists especially; Jewish professional spies, often taking pay from both sides, and betraying both; Jewish

(73)Hadfield and Farncombe, Red Radio, p. 187.

(74)This, and the following two quotations are from ibid., p. 25. While there are great discrepancies between Lord Bolland and Lord Robert Cecil, the leading advocate of the League of Nations and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster from 1924 to his resignation, significantly over issues of disarmament, in 1927, it seems likely that Bolland is intended to be Cecil. Certainly, the Prime Minister in Red Radio, Robert Strong, has much in common (see e.g., p. 138) with Stanley Baldwin, the Prime Minister at the time. For a discussion of disarmament in this period, one that is overly-sympathetic to Cecil's position, see Dick Richardson, The Evolution of British Disarmament Policy in the 1920s (London, 1989).

(75)Hadfield and Farncombe, Red Radio, pp. 110-11.

(76)Ibid., p. 160.

(77)Ibid., pp. 161-63. The quotation is from p. 161.

(78)Ibid., p. 138.

(79)Ibid, p. 145.

(80)Ibid., pp. 255-56.

(81)Hambrook, The Red To-Morrow, p. 10.

(82)Ibid., p. 20. On pp. 25-26, Wilson is revealed as an ardent, if unsophisticated Marxist.

(83)Ibid., p. 54.

(84)Ibid., p. 67. The following quotations are from pp. 68-71.

(85)Ibid., p. 307.

(86)Edgar Jepson, A Prince in Petrograd (London, 1921).

(87)Ibid., p. 88. For other instances of this, see p. 134.

(88)Ibid., p. 90.

(89)Ibid., p. 104.

(90)Ibid., p. 27.

(91)Ibid., p. 42.

(92)Ibid., p. 9.

(93)Ibid., p. 45. The following quotation is from p. 46.

(94)E.J. Harrison, The Red Camarilla. A Stirring Romance of Present-Day Russia (London, 1923).

(95)See, for example, ibid., p. 36: "The revival of international trade had clearly brought about an amelioration of internal conditions, but although the so-called Soviet administration had practically abandoned Communism, save in theory, and reverted to an appreciable degree of free trade, private ownership and management of industrial concerns, the food shortage was still acute, if not catastrophic, and as far as the capital itself was concerned, it had not yet entirely found itself."

(96)This grouping of powers reflects the changed international situation after 1918, when Germany and Russia, as the two pariahs of Europe, moved closer to each other. The failure of Britain to renew the Anglo-Japanese alliance in 1921 made such a triumvirate a possibility. For the Japanese situation, see Hosoya Chihiro, "Britain and the United States in Japan's view of the international system 1919-37," and I.H. Nish, "Japan in Britain's View of the International System, 1919-37," both in I.H. Nish, ed., Anglo-Japanese Alienation 1919-1952 (Cambridge, 1982), pp. 3-26 and 27-56 respectively. On the Bolshevik rapprochement with Germany, see Adam B. Ulam, Expansion and Coexistence. Soviet Foreign Policy 1917-73 (2nd ed.; New York, 1974), pp. 146-66.

(97)See, for example, Harrison, Red Camarilla, pp. 160-75.

(98)Ibid., p. 37. The quotation is from p. 70. Sullivan's adventure parallels, in its romanticism, the real-life adventures of Sir Paul Dukes, an agent of the British Secret Service; see Andrew, Secret Service, 219-22.

(99)Harrison, Red Camarilla, p. 122.

(100)Bolshevik Russia was, however, a distinct threat to the British Empire and particularly to India; see Andrew, Secret Service, pp. 269, 277, 304, 311, 319-20 and 325-26.

(101)See Robert Calder, Willie. The Life of W. Somerset Maugham (London, 1989, p. 69. Also important are Maugham's own remarks concerning his early exposure to Russian literature; see W. Somerset Maugham, A Writer's Notebook (London, 1949), p. 139.

(102)Maugham, Ashenden, in the story aptly titled "Love and Russian Literature," p. 273.

(103)On the efforts and opportunities of exiled Russians to affect British public opinion, see Donald Senese, "Felix Volkhovsky in London, 1890-1914," Immigrants and Minorities, 2, 3 (1983), pp. 67-78; John Slatter, "Stepniak and the Friends of Russia," Immigrants and Minorities, 2, 1 (1983), pp. 33-49; Barry Hollingsworth, "The Society of Friends of Russian Freedom: English Liberals and Russian Socialists, 1890-1917," Oxford Slavonic Papers, n.s., 3 (1970), pp. 45-64 and G. Michael Hamburg, "The London Emigration and the Russian Liberation Movement: The Problem of Unity, 1889-1897," Jahrbucher fur Geschichte Osteuropas, 25 (1977), pp. 321-39.

(104)Maugham, Ashenden, p. 276.


(106)Ibid., p. 277.

(107)Ibid., p. 274

(108)Ibid., pp. 280-82.

(109)Compare for example ibid., pp. 289-93 and Jepson, A Prince in Petrograd, pp. 26-27.

(110)See Ted Morgan, Somerset Maugham (London: Jonathan Cape, 1980), p. 313. Maugham was not alone in this desire; see the preface to the 1990 edition of Eric Ambler's The Dark Frontier (New York, 1990), p. xiii, where Ambler notes that his novel, first published in 1936, had been originally designed "to make fun of the old secret service adventure thriller as written by E. Phillips Oppenheim, John Buchan, Dornford Yates and their cruder imitators."

(111)Maugham, Ashenden, p. 300.

(112)Ibid., pp. vii-x.

(113)Maugham, A Writer's Notebook, pp. 139-80.

(114)Ibid., p. 145. Here Maugham was referring to some rather minor Russian novelists, but he also was not impressed by such people as Turgenev; see ibid., pp. 161-62.

(115)See e.g., ibid., pp. 141, 150-52; 154-57.
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Author:Neilson, Keith
Publication:Canadian Journal of History
Date:Dec 1, 1992
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