Book Review: “Wake Up, England!”

“Wake Up, England! Being the Story of John Bull—Socialist.” by Edward Prince (St. Stephen’s Press)

This is a stupid book – a clumsy book. It is addressed more particularly to anti-Socialists, and, in the guise of a badly written tale, endeavours to convey some idea of the state of things thirty years after the Revolution. The author would certainly have succeeded better had Nature, endowed him with a brain, but there, as the volume is directed to those equally lacking in intelligence, no great harm will be done.

But to get on with the ganglionic perturbation under notice. The chief character is a doctor, a man whose mental calibre may be estimated quite as highly as the author’s, when it is known that although he worked and voted for Socialism and lived for thirty years after its advent, at the end of that period he knows nothing about it. The “hero” of the book, John Bull, is a weak, phthisical boy, a manifest importation from capitalism, with bad eyes, a morose, taciturn disposition, a longing to be alone, and a hatred of his kind. He attempts to murder a man who runs off with his wife, and finishes up by drowning himself. Another “great” character, with a longing for the “good old times,” is William Sykes, who did a “night’s work” in the days of capitalism and came out of prison after the establishment of the new order. With this single exception, and that attended with disaster, Bill Sykes had never done a stroke of work in his life, and his misguided father, just before quitting this vale of tears, reproached him with being a tramp, and left him 10s. a week and a cottage so that toil and Bill Sykes should for ever remain estranged. Bill, by waging a kind of guerrilla warfare with the “ fishals” succeeds in living as a parasite upon his fellows, a fact which seems to afford our author immense satisfaction.

The officials, by the way, are most carious creatures—weird composites of all that is most petty and tyrannical in the vilest of capitalist shop-foremen, the most parsimonious of poor-law guardians, and the most stupid of police inspectors. By everyone hated and despised, the author is compelled to invent an impossibility to account for their retention of office. He calls it “being responsible for a majority.” Exactly how it works is not apparent to those devoid of the eye of faith. It may be clear to the author, but his secret is safe, anyway.

In brief, this bile-producing ‘‘work” is a very bad rehash of the “break-up of-family-life,” “Socialism – means – Atheism, therefore – bad,” “Socialism-means-death to-incentive” tags: silly statements, as we all know, with which Methuselah whiled away his childhood. After perusing this colossal tome the inhabitants of Frying Pan Ally and Paradise Place will number themselves with the happiest of mortals. The free and independent citizen who is fifteen weeks in arrear with the rent, and finds himself and his family kicked out in the rain, will still be able to gaze into the smiling, sunny faces of his emaciated family and congratulate himself on the preservation of his family life, his immortal soul, and his incentive —especially his incentive. He can still say as the sole drops off his only boot and he gets run in for being without visible means, “thank Gawd it aint Sosherlism, anyhow ! ”

The present writer is glad he hasn’t got it on his conscience that he paid for the copy he has read.