Brittain, Vera, Diary, 29-30 November 1914

Diary of Vera Brittain


Case Study: 
From Youth to Experience: Vera Brittain’s Work for Peace in Two World Wars
Brittain, Vera
29-30 November 1914
McMaster University Libraries
Vera Brittain estate; McMaster University has a non-exclusive licence to publish this document.


life rather than the practical. He said the great danger for such people was that they often tended to become spectators & think themselves neutral & take neither of two alternatives. But, he said, no one is meant to take no side, & we are told in the Bible that we must either serve God or Mammon; the Bible in fact did not admit the neutral person & always describes a man not so much as what he is as what he is becoming. The contemplative life, he said, is not an alternative for us to choose; we may not choose thus but must act, & the contemplative life is the reward of the active life. Only when we have struggled & suffered & striven may we dare to view things from without as spectators & no longer as actors. He went on to say that for such as us, who could not take an active part in the war, our action was to keep up the standard of intellect & morals as high as possible, that those who fought & died for England might feel she was worth fighting & dying for. If our soldiers on battlefields abroad were fighting the enemy for the sake of ideals of honour & justice & freedom, it was our duty to see that at home we did not allow those ideals to slip.
After the sermon went through Hogwell towards the new quarters of the Oxford & Bucks Light Infantry to see the trenches they have been practicing making. Just opposite the field where the trenches were there was the dearest little church. The church of St. Cross, Hogwell, which has a beautiful little churchyard, where there were silver birches & yew trees over the graves. We decided to come there one Sunday; we could not go in because the service was going on. Miss Lorimer’s sister came to lunch again to-day, looking as much a fresh [?] as ever. I think Miss Pope must have asked her to talk to two Belgians, a man & woman who also came to lunch & applied themselves to it with a thorough & undisturbable concentration. This time Miss Lorimer did not ever speak to her sister but came in to lunch, sat down at the point of the table furthest from her, & went away again without taking any notice of her.
I went to tea with Miss Willy; Miss Curtis & Miss Hodgson were also there. Miss Curtis has a brother actually at the front, belonging to the Queen's Territorials. She says she cannot really think of anything else, especially as now his regiment is away & have been in action. We had another study circle with Miss Kelman to-night. They are not exactly exciting as she just reads to us and we try to get through too much without really taking any of it in.
Monday Nov 30th
This morning Mr May was very pleased with the two grammar papers I had done & said I should get through on both. He also told me that he has given me the best report that he has given any girl, so the terror of the interview with the Pen tomorrow night ought to be somewhat lessened – only she is sure to find some way of squashing & not praising me -- I am the kind of apparently bumptious person people in authority are proud of taking down – at any rate at first.
The rain has been simply deluging down again; Katherine & I went out in it this afternoon, & I could not help thinking of Edward & his camp. I seem inclined to be a friend of Katherine’s & she certainly to regard me as such. I had tea alone with her this afternoon in her room after her walk & we talked about the whole ....