Autobiography of an Economist by Lord Robbins

By Lord Robbins

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The war was going badly for us. More and more friends and acquaintances were being drawn into active participation. I burned to be more active myself. I joined the artillery section of the University Officers' Training Corps, attended all parades, slept at nights with the horses under the eaves of the Old Foundling Hospital in Guilford Street, then used as temporary stables. But it was not enough. Moreover, the college itself was an insufficient counter-attraction. With the exception of the exempted medicals, a high proportion of the men had joined the forces; and I found myself, tall, well built at that time, and not obviously under military age, together with a few less martial types, in classes predominantly feminine.

On top of this of course was a deepening disillusion about the war and politics. I never reached the point reached so easily by so many leftist intellectuals of those times of believing that it was really six of one and half a dozen of the other and that there was no difference between the Liberal Cabinet 56 Autobiography ofan Economist of 1914 and the circles of the German General Staff and Conrad von Hotzendorf: there was always a sufficient substratum of country-hom common sense to save me from that.

Moreover, there was Eddie Rose. The call-up had come for this extraordinary creature, so completely unworldly, so utterly unfit for anything to do with the practical side oflife; and with the assistance of Kinersley, who took a secret relish, I fancy, in getting round all the rules in the interests of an eccentric musician, 43 we had contrived to get him enlisted as a gunner in the 19th Battery. I can imagine nothing more pathetically absurd than Eddie as a soldier, his head swimming with music and metaphysics, completely at a loss on the parade ground with his long arms and ill-fitting uniform.

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