CARS IN BOOKS
Regular readers of long-standing and good memory will know that I am a great admirer of almost all the works of T. H. White. ” England Have My Bones” (Collins, 1936), generously given to me by ” Chain-Gangster ” Shenton before the war, is still a prized possession and should be read by all vintage-Bentley enthusiasts and salmon fishermen. It is an excellent antidote to the-synthetic age in which we exist. Practically nothing about cars appears in “‘The Goshawk” ((ape, 1951) but Mr. White, referring to a pair of hobbies, the rarest of falcons to breed in England, does remark that the wood in which he saw them was obliterated by a great aerodrome during the Second World War, where now ” beetlernen buzz round and round in their motorcars “—clearly, Sib,•erstone.
In his amusing book “The Elephant and the Kangaroo” (Cape, 1948) there are the Rolls-Royces of the Roman Catholic hierarchy that wait in Dublin, ready for retreat, as he, Mr. and Mrs. O’Callaghan and his dog ” Brownie ” sail into sight in their Ark, mistaken for an enemy submarine, on the flooded River Liffey, past Phoenix Park, close to where the main entrance to the race circuit used to be. White constructed this Ark on the instructions of the Archangel Michael, who appeared one day down Mrs. O’Callaghan’s kitchen chimney. It was based on an inverted Dutch barn and the book contains so many constructional details that I imagine Mr. White actually made such an Ark in some Irish field and no doubt even had a shot at sailing it on some lake or other.
He says in the book that his car was laid up in a shed on the O’Callaghan farm and virtually forgotten—could this refer to the vintage Austin 12 saloon he had when he was a master at Stowe and used to drive about full of snakes ? It was not, one hopes, his 3-litre Bentley or his later jaguar that figures in “The Godstone and the Blackgmor ” (Cape, 1959) . . . .
Brief reference to Fords and Rolls-Royces used in Siwa during the 194/13 war are found in “Looking Over My Shoulder,” by by C. Willett Cunnington (Faber & Faber, 1961), including the passage ” It is an amazing sensation being driven in a light Ford car (obviously a model-T) at 30 to 40 m.p.h. over a flat surface which throbs with reflected heat. Wearing practically no clothes one’s body tingles all over from contact with this intensely hot air. It is is gorgeous experience which I had yesterday and today I look rather like a boiled lobster.” Drives of zoo miles in an open car across the scorching desert are written of and apparently the Fords had to make a I5-mile run twice a day ” over the most outrageous track imaginable” to fetch water from the Siwa Oasis. Patrols of six or eight Ford cars with two officers and a dozen men “used to make daily patrols into the desert.” One desert convoy of 1917 consisted of “a dozen or more Ford cars, an armoured car or two and a Rolls-Royce ambulance for myself (as M.O.) and baggage.”
Finally, for this Month, Lawrence Gresley, who sponsored the Hotchkiss-engined independently-sprung Harris-L6on-Laisne car in this country in 1933, lent me a copy of that rather sordid book ” My Father Was a Gentleman,” by Robert Holmes (Longmans Green, 1939), which is difficult to assess as fiction or fact, but in which thinly disguised membersof the Motor Trade, such as George Newman, the late Major Pass, Joyce, Leno, etc., are featured, and which generally exposes the tricks of the used-car trade in the ” gay ” ‘twenties.—W. B.