Sir Harry Fetherstonhaugh, like many of his class and time, hadbeen a free-thinker, and the rooms downstairs abounded in bold andenlightening books. I was allowed to borrow volumes and carrythem off to my room. Then or later, I cannot now recall when, Iimproved my halting French with Voltaire's lucid prose, I read suchbooks as Vathek and Rasselas, I nibbled at Tom Paine, I devouredan unexpurgated Gulliver's Travels and I found Plato's Republic.That last was a very releasing book indeed for my mind, I had learntthe trick of mocking at law and custom from Uncle Williams and,if anything, I had improved upon it and added caricature to quaintwords, but here was something to carry me beyond mockery. Herewas the amazing and heartening suggestion that the whole fabricof law, custom and worship, which seemed so invincibly established,might be cast into the melting pot and made anew.
I have already said that I cannot clearly remember when it wasthat I read Plato's Republic. But it was somewhen before I went toLondon and it was in summer time, because I remember lying onthe grass slope before a little artificial ruined tower that, in the truespirit of the eighteenth century, adorned the brow of the Up ParkDown overlooking Harting. The translation of the Dialogues, wasall by itself in a single green bound volume, happily free from Introductionor Analysis. I must have puzzled over it and skipped andgone to and fro in it, before its tremendous significance camethrough. A certain intellectual snobbishness in me may have helpedme to persevere. And associated with it, because of its fermenting influenceupon my mind, is a book of a very different calibre, a six-pennypaper-covered edition of Henry George's Progress and Povertywhich I bought in a newspaper shop in Midhurst. This last was,I suppose, published by some propagandist Single Tax organization.These two books caught up and gave substance to a drift of dispositionsand desires in my mind, that might otherwise have dispersedand left no trace. 2b1af7f3a8