Odyssey of a Liberal
by Freda Utley
Temple and I both belonged to the “1917 Club” on Gerrard Street, which had been founded in commemoration of the Russian Revolution. Its membership in the 20’s included Ramsay MacDonald and other right-wing Labor Party leaders, as well as many left-wing intellectuals and politicians half-in and half-out of the Communist Party. It was a meeting place for avant garde writers, poets, artists, University professors and teachers of various hues from red to pink, collectively named “the bloody intelligents” by my brother.
The interest of many of them in the Labor and Socialist movement stemmed largely from their inclination to free love unconfined by ‘bourgeois prejudice’ or conventions. But among the members there were some outstanding writers and thinkers of our time. Such a one was Henry Nevinson, a grand old man who belonged to the 19th century liberal and classical tradition in which I had been reared. I remember him well as a tall, white-haired, still virile and handsome old man with sad, pale blue eyes and a drooping moustache partially hiding his sensitive mouth. Once after telling me how well I looked upon my return to London, tanned and fit after a holiday in Italy, he remarked: “Man should never have left the Mediterranean Sea, the fount of beauty and of Western civilization,” or words to that effect, reflecting our love of Italy and Greece where freedom, love of truth and the concept of government by law were first conceived, and triumphed for a brief period between the long ages of darkness and tyranny before and after.
Describing Nevinson in his paper the Daily News, my father’s friend A. G. Gardiner wrote:
“He boils with indignation or scorn, and throws discretion to the winds. He has a noble thirst for fighting forlorn battles. He does not care so much about the merits of a cause so long as it is the cause of the underdog. The underdog is always right because he is the under-dog. Let him become the top dog and the Knight Errant’s passion for him is chilled . . . . This instinct is very apparent in such conspicuous crusaders as Mr. Cunninghame Graham and Mr. Nevinson.
They bring into life a fine, uncalculating spirit of chivalry, the one touched with ironic scorn, the other charged with a fury of indignation; but both entirely unselfish and elevating, and both a little inclined to regard the question of odds as more important than that of merits. They love to be on the side of the failures, and distrust all success as, ipso facto, a little squalid.”
Nevinson himself repudiated this “panegyric,” not, as he wrote, that he would not like to deserve it, but because he saw himself as a man “much too easily appeased, much too considerate not only of my enemy’s feelings, but even of his arguments.” He insisted that he made up his mind with painful deliberation, so that “nothing but the calmest exercise of reason would ever induce me to take one side rather than another, although the first impulse of every decent Englishman is, of course, to favor the underdog,” a remark as revealing about Nevinson himself as concerning the peculiarities of the English who, while generally pursuing their own self-interest with phenomenal success, have also tolerated and sometimes honored the minority among them who champion the oppressed.
In his introduction to his 1925 book More Changes More Chances* Nevinson, with sublime disregard of his own motivations, or perhaps ironically, wrote:
Guided only too cautiously in my endeavors to discover where reason and justice lie,. I have never wasted time upon any lost cause, and indeed almost every cause for which I have contended has already won.
After cataloging these causes ranging from the freedom of Greece from Turkish misgovernment to the overthrow of Russian Tsardom, women’s suffrage, Irish self-government and the advance of India toward it, Nevinson proclaimed that all these ‘lost causes’ or underdogs for whom he had done what he could as a journalist now “stood on top.”
Happy Nevinson at that hour, I left England and lost touch with him soon after, so do not know whether, like myself, he realized how right Bertrand Russell was when he wrote that yesterday’s underdog when he gets on top is most brutal because he has learned underneath to scratch harder in the battle for survival than those born on top. Yet he surely knew that the battle against tyranny must constantly be renewed in each generation with the enemy always in a different place under a different guise. There were all too few old vintage liberals such as Nevinson at the 1917 Club fearlessly seeking and fighting for justice, truth, and beauty and an end to all oppression everywhere under the sun.
For the most part, the membership was composed of the careerists and camp followers of Socialism, or girl-chasers masquerading as literati or philosophers. Such a one was C. M. Joad who, following the Second World War, was to become for a while a preferred speaker of the British Broadcasting Company. He was one of the nastiest and most phony characters of the Bohemian World which had its center in the 1917 Club in the 20’s in London.
Joad made his reputation as a “philosopher” partly by lifting passages from Bertrand Russell’s books without acknowledgement, or by plagiarizing them, but also by pandering to the need of men like himself to justify their unrestrained indulgence of their sexual appetites by highfalutin rationalization. He was so frankly cynical that when my brother asked him why he was learning folk dancing, Cyril Joad replied that the girls who went to the classes were for the most part intelligent young women yearning for culture, and he found this type most easy to seduce.
It was perhaps because the Bohemian society to which I then belonged outraged my Puritan prejudices or my romantic conceptions of love and politics, that I was to fall so easily under Communist influence. This may sound strange, but in contrast to the London left-wing intellectual society whose mores repelled me, the Russians I first met were decent and honorable men with concepts of the relationships between men and women which corresponded closely to my own. Lenin himself had replied to those who said that sex should be satisfied as simply as thirst, by taking a glass of water, by saying, “Yes, but who wants to drink out of a glass soiled by many lips?”
Reared without religious beliefs or fears of punishment for carnal sins, I had nevertheless inherited, or acquired, a view of life which caused me to recoil from easy indulgence in the pleasures of the flesh. Either for this reason, or because the love of mymother and father for one another caused me to reject base substitutes, I was repelled by members of the 1917 Club who made casual attempts to add me to the long list of their easy conquests. I was upset, but nevertheless impervious to the argument that there must be something wrong with me physically or mentally when I refused to sleep with them.
Yet I yearned for love, and no doubt my increasing absorption in political activity was to some extent a sublimation of my sexual desires.
Part of my trouble was due to the several radically different environments in which I had lived since childhood. The Bohemian atmosphere of the society in which I found myself in London in the 20’s was as alien to me as Prior’s Field had been after LaCombe. I had been reared on Christian ethics but without Christian faith; taught to despise conventions but also to discipline myself and behave like a “lady.” My mother had a gold cigarette case inscribed with the old French motto “Fay ce que voudra” but she did not really believe one should do as one pleases. Her ideals are indicated in the lines she wrote to me in 1940 when my own son was not yet six years old:
I have just seen the New Year in. I have kissed Jon. I wish you and Jon the best of all things. I feel I shall not see another year. Do see to his character. He is such, such good stuff. Try and train him to what you call my old fashioned ideals. Your father and Temple were courageous and honest and truthful and had their own fine standards. If Jon will only give you as much joy and happiness, I cannot wish you better. All my love, dearest Fredakin and all my thanks.
I was perhaps a proof of Bertrand Russell’s theory that the way to cure a child of undue preoccupation with sex is to give him all the information he wants in a scientific way so that he thinks there is nothing more to know, and that what he does know is uninteresting. I had been brought up with full knowledge about “the birds and the bees,” and imagined that I knew everything when I really knew nothing. It was only after I read Shaw’s Mrs. Warren’s Profession in my early teens that I was shocked into awareness that there was something more to sex than I knew from my mother’s aseptic teachings. In great distress I had gone to Temple for information, as was my usual practice when seeking knowledge, and he, albeit gently, had taught me some of the facts of life which mother’s sense of delicacy and restraint had withheld from me in spite of her conviction that she was a “modern” woman. Yet even in my twenties I was still not only without experience, but also did not know how little I really knew.
Moreover, I had been reared on the works of the great novelists of the 19th century. Romola was one of Mother’s favorite books and George Eliot’s novels made an enduring impression on me.
Since the one I remember best is The Mill on the Floss, I suppose that the sad fate of Maggie Tulliver, who ruined her life by the sin of loving out of wedlock influenced my own ‘virtuous’ behavior in youth. In a word, I was at heart still a ‘Victorian’ in matters of sex, although politically I had no respect for “bourgeois” values or conventions.
Although at Prior’s Field I had found English upper class society alien to me, and since then been excluded from it by poverty, I retained some of its prejudices or preferences. As Temple once observed “I like intelligents, English and French-but I also like what David Frost calls the barbarian Englishmen from the best schools, and also Navy officers. Of course, Freda does too, really.”
I suppose I did, too, “really,” as evidenced by an unforgettable summer in Devon before my graduation. I was 25 then.
Intending to study in Devonshire solitude for my final B.A. examination, I met and fell passionately in love with a “barbarian Englishman.” His name was Eric, and he was the games master at Harrow. He was also intelligent and very quick on the uptake without the distasteful characteristics of most intellectuals. He had a delightful sense of humor and was a dear, sweet lovable and kind person with a most happy temperament.
He was in fact everything my romantic imagination could ask for, but, unfortunately, he was married. To Eric, as to me, no “light affair” was possible. He could easily have seduced me but he loved me too much to take advantage of the overwhelming attraction he had for me – the feeling which comes so seldom in life when the presence of the beloved even across a room makes one’s heart beat faster.
Divorce would have brought an end to his job or any possibility of another one in England in his profession. The only way out seemed to be emigration to Canada, which we actually contemplated, so that I came near to jettisoning my academic career in the north of the American continent in 1923 instead of in Russia in 1928. Our “affair” was further complicated by the fact that Eric’s wife when I met her in London was so very nice to me that I felt ashamed. In the final event, both Eric and I, realizing that the end of an elopement could not be happy, since in spite of the strength of our attraction to one another, we had few shared interests, parted in sorrow.
He was a conservative and I was a radical Socialist, but we both had the same old-fashioned prejudices, or attitudes, about love which, no doubt, was one reason why I loved him so much. He was perhaps the one man in my life besides my future husband, Arcadi, with whom I could have been happy. No one else except Arcadi ever excited me so much, or aroused such deep feelings in me. Feelings which combined a powerful sexual urge with appreciation of the qualities of mind and heart of the man to whom one desired to give one’s self.
Today, in my seventies, “with all passion spent,” I still have rosy memories of that lovely summer in Devon by the sea when I went to bed each night with thoughts of the joy of meeting Eric early next morning on top of the cliffs which separated Branscombe and Sidmouth, at the trysting place to which we both walked two or three miles in the dawn; of long walks and swims together and of evenings at the “pub” in the small and very old village of Branscombe drinking flagons of home-brewed cider before we parted for the night.
The good constitution and strong muscles I owed to my upbringing had survived the hard years of poverty so that I could almost keep pace with Eric in the sea. That summer I swam the three miles between Sidmouth and Ladrum Cove, emerging so frozen that my limbs had to be rubbed to restore circulation. And I acquired a set of knives and forks as prize for winning the annual long distance women’s swimming race at Sidmouth.
Remembering Eric forty-five years after, I can still see the lovable quirk at the corner of his generous mouth when he tenderly teased me. I suppose that his attraction for me was not dissimilar to that of my future husband, Arcadi, despite the differences in their origins, physical appearance, beliefs, and destiny.
Besides looking for a rare or impossible combination of Kipling hero and Socialist idealist, English “gentleman” and intellectual, I was also, no doubt, obsessed with a father-image or whatever the correct psychological term is.
Freud was all the rage in the 20’s and I had studied enough psychology myself during my first year at college to be able to diagnose my trouble according to psychoanalytical theories. But I agreed with my mother who, one evening after a lot of talk about the libido and all that, exclaimed: “Well, it seems to me that according to Freud everything decent you do is done from a bad motive, while when you do wrong it’s fine because you are not repressing yourself.”
During this ‘Freudian period’ my brother fell deeply in love with a psychology student called Dickie, who looked like a Botticelli angel but believed in free love. She and Temple lived together for a year or two ‘in sin’ and parted in friendship when their passion was spent, Dickie eventually marrying a professor of philology and living respectably ever after. I never liked her much because she mocked my Socialist faith while I regarded her as woefully lacking in social consciousness, or a proper concern for the economic welfare of mankind. To her, as to many others in our circle of friends and acquaintances, Freud, not Marx, was the prophet of our age, and the uninhibited satisfaction of sexual needs the primary requisite for the successful pursuit of happiness.
In spite of my antagonism to the idea that freedom for the libido was more important than “breaking the chains of capitalist exploitation,” I respected Dickie’s courage in defying “bourgeois conventions,” by living openly with Temple in a one room apartment in Bloomsbury, and not insisting on marriage as the price for surrender of her virtue. I had already learned that most of the girls who professed scorn for the marriage tie had in reality only adopted a new way to get a husband. By a reverse process to that of the Victorian age when well-bred girls got their man by refusing to give themselves without benefit of clergy, the modern girl who gave herself freely could count upon subsequently making life so miserable for her lover should he fail to marry her, that she achieved the same aim as her Victorian mother or grandmother.
Dickie, in spite of her independence, may have wanted to be bullied a bit, as shown by the type of man she eventually married. His name was Norman and we used to call him “the fascist” because of his Nietzschean ideas and contempt for such liberal ideas as the equality of the sexes. Nietzsche, as my brother liked to quote him in teasing me about my unrealistic views about sex, wrote that “When you go to a woman, take a whip.” Temple, despite his appreciation of Nietzsche, was never the type of lover capable of treating a woman with what Michael Arlen in his Green Hat* described as “a little tender brutality tastefully applied.” Either because she was too intellectual, or too feminine, or both, Temple and Dickie soon found life together incompatible and parted in friendship.
Temple’s next love affair was with a strikingly lovely brunette who had a profile like Queen Nefertiti and was so passionate that, on returning to London from a walking tour with her in Cornwall, Temple fled from her telling me that loving Bobbie left a man no energy or time to do any work. Bobbie then became the mistress of our sedate and respectable friend Teddy Joll, then already on his way up in the Civil Service to an eminent position. Fortunately for Teddy, Bobbie, after some stormy years with him as our neighbors in Jessel House, left him to marry a Sassoon and lived richly ever after.
Although I loved Temple dearly and we were good friends all our lives, I strongly resented the fact that Mother loved him so much more than me that she was, as I saw it, unfair to me, expecting me to do more than my fair share of household chores although I was contributing as much, and often more, to our living expenses. Today, I realize that he paid a heavy price for her great and all too possessive love for her son. Only his strength of character enabled him to break away and live his own life in spite of his great love for her, since Mother tried hard to shatter any lasting attachment he formed to any woman.
She had no objection to his ‘light affairs’ which, as a result of her Victorian upbringing she considered unreprehensible for the male animal, and she liked to have him tell her about them since this assured her that she was in his confidence. But she did not in her heart of hearts really want him to marry anyone, although she never admitted this even to herself.
Although Mother was to make difficulties for me with my husband a decade later, when by force of circumstances she lived with us in Moscow, and although during most of my adult life she endeavored to bind me to her by my sympathy for her loneliness and her financial dependence on me, I now realize that Temple’s problem was greater than mine.
In spite of, or because of, Mother’s endeavor to keep him forever by her side, Temple eventually married a girl called Robert who was a games mistress with honey-colored hair and features as classically proportioned as her figure, but who lacked the warm human qualities of her sister Jean, whose husband Rab was Temple’s close friend and who years later enabled him to sail to the South Seas.
In contrast to Dickie, Robert was so virtuous that she insisted on marriage. She was also, in my estimation, a prude and a hypocrite. Small incidents sometimes reveal most, and I recall one occasion before their marriage when Robert told us how shocked she had been when one of our friends, taking her home in a taxi from a party had made amorous advances. Whereupon i said to her, “Isn’t that what you expected? Why else should he have paid for a taxi for the long ride to Hampstead instead of taking you on the underground?” Maybe today this remark of mine makes little sense. But in those days in London in our circle of students and struggling young professional men. a taxi was a luxury few of us could afford unless absolutely necessary.
Before her marriage to Temple, Robert had professed herself to be an independent woman happy to be earning her own living and not expecting Temple to support her. But she had never really meant it and was continually demanding money from him, both before and after their marriage went on the rocks, following Temple’s contraction of tuberculosis and the end of her hopes that he would eventually become a well-to-do medical practitioner.
On their honeymoon in France Robert had travelled first class Calais-Dover while Temple went third class New Haven-Dieppe, meeting her in Paris. During their life together in an apartment in Hampstead, Temple occupied a small room furnished with only his minimum requirements of a bed, table and chair, while Robert furnished her bedroom and the living room with every comfort and all artistry. Temple always wanted to live the simple life, whereas Robert wanted all the luxuries. And Robert, despite her athletic prowess was a rotten sailor who could get seasick even in a rowing boat, and whose conception of a Riviera holiday was far removed from Temple’s. Visiting them one summer at Portofino I found Temple so happy to have me with him sailing and swimming and talking that I felt compelled to leave them and go south to Porto de Venere on my own on account of Robert’s jealousy.
As can be judged from the foregoing, I disliked my brothers first wife, as much as I came to love his second one, Emsie, whom he met in Barbados in 1930 on his voyage to the South Seas and who was to become my very dear friend after his death.
For both Temple and myself the problem of our mother was not only that of earning enough to support her. There were also the difficulties created by her loneliness and her demands upon our time. Often when I told her I was too busy to talk to her or take her out she would say, “But you went out with so-and-so last night – you always find time for what you want to do.” Which, of course was true. Mother would be very good in helping me to ‘look my best’ when I went out on what Americans call “a date.” But she was hurt and resentful when Temple or I went to a party without her. It never occurred to her or to us that, following my father’s death, she could have taken a job of some kind or got married again. She was still, in her 50’s and even later in her 60’s an attractive woman, with vitality and great charm, so much so that Temple’s and my friends really enjoyed her company. But this did not mean that she could expect to be invited to all the parties we went to.
Yet she had something of a Ninon de Lenclos about her, in spite of being a virtuous Victorian. Age had not staled, nor custom withered her charms nor the enduring quality of her beauty of face and figure. Had she only had a little money she could still have enjoyed life enormously. But since she had none and Temple and I so little, it was impossible to give her all she needed. I could not buy a dress or a hat without feeling mean unless I could afford to buy something for Mother.
And if I had anything nice to wear I lent it to her or shared it with her. For instance, in a letter from Manchester in January, 1926, I wrote: “Dear, it sounds mean, but I am afraid I shall have to ask you to send my black felt hat here. I meant you to use it but I cannot manage here in the rain with only a velvet hat. Could you ask Kathie to send it to me at once?”
Reading my many letters preserved by Mother through the years, I now marvel at myself. They are so full of love and sympathy; concern for her happiness and desire to give her a little pleasure, or some small luxury to compensate for her loneliness. The recurring motif is gifts of clothes or money to buy clothes, or money to pay for a holiday, or to provide for her living expenses. In later years in America, when I had to choose between my son’s needs and mother’s, I became much harder. But in my youth and during my married life my letters show that I was continually concerned with how to make up to her in material ways for the lack of basic sympathy between us.
I suppose I was driven not only by pity and love but by a feeling of guilt. Whenever Mother was away from me I remembered only that I loved her, felt dreadfully sorry for her and regretted having hurt her. When she was with me I was often cross and irritable and mean to her, so that as soon as she was away I wanted to compensate for having been unkind.
In spite of the temperamental antagonism between us, she knew my heart’s secrets, my sorrows, joys and frustrations; my longing to find my own true love and my doubts that I ever should. In a word, there was always trust between us as between her and Temple and myself. We quarrelled but we never doubted the loyalty which united all three of us.
My letters, read again after so many years, recall the time when I had become convinced that I must overcome my Puritan or Victorian inhibitions concerning love without marriage. In March, 1926, I wrote Mother:
“Had another long and loving letter from the Czech. He is coming to England May 8 and going to stay a few days to see me. I really believes that he loves me, and dear, I shall give myself to him when he comes. I am beginning to think this is going to be the big love of my life. He remembers every detail and moment of our time together and he understands me and seems to look at things something like me. His letter has made me very happy.”
In the final event, I did not “give myself to “the Czech,” whose name I have forgotten and of whom I have no visual memory except, in a dim way, that he was tall and slender, had brown hair and dark blue eyes. Having nerved myself, as for an operation, to consummate the sexual act in the room he had taken for us in the Imperial Hotel on Bloomsbury Square, I frightened him into impotency. So true it is that one cannot go against one’s nature however persuasive the psychoanalyst’s arguments that freedom for the libido is the way to adjust to life. In reverse fashion to my brother, I had to follow my real will or hurt my soul.
Maybe it was not my instinctive rejection of Freud, who outraged my romantic imagination, but my ‘guardian angel’ who preserved me that night from “giving myself on the altar of free love without really wanting to. Because, a few months later I met Arcadi who, soon after our first encounter, convinced me beyond a shadow of doubt that we belonged together.
All my Puritan inhibitions were dispelled as we joyfully became lovers, although it was to be long before we could become man and wife.
Perhaps my enduring love for my mother in spite of irritations and temperamental antagonism was due to my realization that without her influence and example I might not have been able to wait long enough to find the greatest happiness which life can give-to love and be loved utterly.
As I was to write to her from Japan in January, 1929:
Life now is altogether a different thing, more complete and wonderful than I ever imagined it could be. Even the love I felt for Arcadi a year ago seems a small thing now, I love him so much more. There is really a complete understanding between us and sometimes I feel my happiness is too great to last. You know I have always felt, like the Greeks, that the Gods are jealous of human happiness. But anyhow life is worth having lived for this alone.
So you see how I feel, dear, in answer to your birthday letter and whether I am glad I was born. Life seems a wonderful thing now and also I can see that my childhood made this happiness possible. That has given me such great happiness in the end.
The memories I have always had of you and Dada which made the substitutes, the second-bests, of no use to me and kept me lonely for so long, have now given me Arcadi and our happiness together. So I love you, Mother dearest, more and more for the happiness you have given me.
Today I realize that I also owe a great debt to my brother for having saved me from becoming the type of unsexed, frustrated or embittered woman who provides dynamic energy to all movements for the regimentation of mankind, whether they call themselves Communists or Nazis or ‘progressives.’ Thanks largely to Temple’s influence my Puritan conscience and sexual repressions did not result in my becoming a Beatrice Webb, a Priscilla Hiss, or an Eleanor Roosevelt type of ambitious woman.
How nearly I came to belong to the monstrous regiment of self-righteous women with cold hearts puffed up by their virtue and supposed dedication to humanity, is revealed by the following quotation from a letter I wrote to my mother in March, 1926 in which I display a priggish attitude toward life, sex, drink and all other pleasures of the flesh, also my too great intellectual class consciousness which is the hallmark today of the liberal intelligentsia of the Western World.
“Back’s party on Saturday was very much a drinking, loving party and was very dull. They are no pleasure to me now. Joll was very charming but Molly McClane is simply sucking him under in a sea of sex. Whenever he tried to talk to me or Eleanor she put her arms around him, dragged him to her and began stroking him!
She is one of those fat, heavy, odorous people and obviously perfectly inane. Even Mrs. Boothroyd asked me the other day who was the stupid-looking girl Joll was going about with. I think all the same Joll may marry her. She makes no pretense about her having him, or so the Frosts say.
I am going tonight to dance with Stewart, the Assistant Secretary of State at the India office. I told you, didn’t I, that I had met him again at the Hunter’s party? He is only 45-at least ten years younger than anyone else in such a position. A widower with two children, but I am not likely to fall in love with him.”
I had known Sir Findlater Stewart when I worked at the War Office before he was knighted. He was the second level-headed Scotsman in my life who for some unaccountable reason was fond of me. I remember him best on account of an incident later that year. Philip Spratt had got himself arrested in India as one of the “Meirut prisoners” on account of his activities in the left wing Indian Trade Union movement. Jane Tabrisky tried to get Professor Laski to intercede to get bail for him, but got no help from him. I went to see my conservative friend Stewart who was frank and honest with me saying: “Freda, we know much more about this young man than you do. He is a communist and nothing can be done about it. But believe me, an English prison in India is not as bad a place as you think.”
A quarter of a century later Philip Spratt, married to an Indian girl and living near Bangalore, was to write an anti-Nehru, anti-communist book called Blowing Up India* in which he relates how while in jail in India, he had time to think, read, study, learn and reflect, and had thus ceased to be a Communist. As also that the treatment he and the other political prisoners received was so humane that he was “disconcerted” to see a cartoon in the Communist Daily Worker picturing them as “emaciated, manacled and starving with horror filled eyes from behind barred windows.” The reality more than justified the assurances given me by the Under Secretary of State for India. He writes:
In the summer we were allowed to sleep in the yard. We were given 12 annas per head per day for food, and were allowed to supervise its expenditure and to do the cooking ourselves, with the aid of two convicts. Needless to say, we lived well. We were also given a clothing allowance. Twice in the hot weather we were taken to jails in the hills. We were allowed to bring into the jail books and papers with scarcely any censorship, and we played chess, cards, table-tennis, cricket and volley-ball. The court was held in a house some distance from the jail and we met visitors there without effective supervision.
By very different experiences to my own, Philip Spratt and I were to learn the same facts about Communism and become its irreconcilable enemy. But in the intervening years, Laski, who had been anti-Communist until Hitler came to power, had come to exert all his great influence among Western youth in favor of the Soviet Union.
During the Spratt episode Jane and I, and some others, endeavored to check up on Harold Laski. He was well known not only as a namedropper, but as a telephoner-to-important-persons in the presence of his students or petitioners. Several people at the London School of Economics had got suspicious because nothing ever seemed to come of Laski’s telephone conservations with “the P.M.,” or the Foreign Secretary or other VIP’s.
One day it was discovered by a ruse that the telephone operator at the L.S.E. had his line plugged out during one of his imaginary or one-way conversations with the high and mighty.
However Laski was actually very kind and helpful to many students including myself. He strongly advised me to seek an appointment at an American University because it was so much easier there for English scholars to acquire reputation and status. As witness his own experience.