Originally Temple’s voyage had been planned as a joint enterprise with his three closest friends: Rab Buchanan, Walter Field and Gilly Back, who all professed an ardent desire to get out of the rut of their lives in England to sail with Temple to the South Seas. Rab, husband of Jean, sister to Temple’s ex-wife Robert, was the most experienced sailor and the only navigator among them. He was also the only one with money and had bought the Inyala for their venture.
As Temple told it:
“We four met in a pub in London and decided to sail about the middle of July. There was great enthusiasm. We toasted one another again and again. We were all convinced that town life was just silly. We said that all it amounted to was earning enough money to buy enough beer to deaden the memory of how one earned the money to buy the beer. We damned all civilization and swore we would never come home again, that we would find some obscure atoll and settle, and then spend our lives waiting for the coconuts to drop off the trees.”
As it turned out, my brother was the only one of them who really meant it. When it came to the point of actually embarking across the Atlantic Ocean in a forty-five-foot yawl-rigged sailing boat, built in 1897, they one after another abandoned the venture for one reason or another.
Gilly Back, a doctor working for the London County Council, fell out first, after being offered a job at double his former salary to stay on. In early August the others set sail from Brixham in spite of the dire warnings of the renowned fishermen of that Devon town who ridiculed the idea that the Inyala could ever make it across the Atlantic-only to be ignominiously driven back to port in a gale. Rab, incapacitated by sea sickness, had given orders to return in spite of Temple’s furious objections and Walter’s readiness to sail on although he, too, was feeling ill. Following this misadventure Rab told Temple that he would not again attempt the voyage from England, but would join him and Walter later in Spain if they could secure another amateur or a paid hand to make the voyage.
Walter stuck by Temple while they endeavored in vain to find anyone else to sail with them, but his morale too gradually seeped away. After Ruby, his mistress whom he later married, came visiting, he too abandoned the enterprise.
Temple would not give up, and Rab now offered to pay the wages of two paid hands across the Atlantic if they could be found. There was no hope of getting anyone in Brixham to sign on since the fishermen there were convinced that no boat as old and with as little beam as the Inyala was fit for the voyage. “These Devon men,” Temple exclaimed, “admire boats, like some men admire women in direct ratio to the plumpness of their bottoms.”
I had better hopes of Cornishmen. I had friends in Newlyn and Mousehole and thought I could help Temple fulfill his dream in spite of the defection of his friends. Thus it came about that my last days with my brother were spent sailing with him from Brixham in Devon to Mousehole in Cornwall where two fishermen, one old and one young, signed on to cross the Atlantic in the Inyala.
Temple and I had been very close to one another in childhood and in youth, but in the twenties had drifted apart. I thought he was too little concerned with the fate of mankind, too cynical and hedonistic. In 1930 when we sailed alone together along the southern coast of England, I had come to be tolerant of his attitude toward life, thanks to the beginning of my disillusionment with Communism and the great personal happiness I had found with Arcadi. We became as intimate and understanding of one another as when we had played together as children and while growing up before the 1914 war. Temple’s skeptical outlook on men and politics, his professed lack of exalted motives in doing what he wanted to do, and his carefree zest in the enjoyment of living no longer seemed reprehensible to me now that I had begun to shed some of my political illusions.
I could not accept Temple’s epicurian philosophy but I already knew, if I did not as yet consciously admit, that the Socialist reorganization of society could not set men free even if, as seemed more and more doubtful, it could better their material condition. Man’s happiness or the satisfaction of his yearning depend only to a minimum extent on his material condition. We do not live by bread alone, although without it we die.
As Temple was to write in the fullness of his joy while crossing the Atlantic:
I often say to myself when I take the wheel at night, the sky a blaze of stars and the ship cutting a phosphorescent track through the black, ‘Where would I sooner be? Who would I change places with?’ I tell myself, ‘nowhere and no one.’ One lives fully like this – doing things and dreaming . . . . One needs beauty but one is not directly conscious of one’s need. Without it one is restless and irritated without knowing why; with it one is happy and contented; one is just glad of the moment, demanding nothing more.
In the night watches, sitting together under the stars while I steered under Temple’s directions, he warned me of the certain disappointment which awaited me. “You will probably end up in a Siberian prison, my dear,” he said to me one night. “But so long as you don’t deceive yourself, they will not break you. Only don’t ever be a hypocrite to yourself: that is the real sin against the Holy Ghost.”
During the bittersweet years of my life in Russia which followed these last days with my brother, I was frequently to recall Temple’s words. And, later on, in America, when sorely tempted to compromise with my beliefs for the sake of material advantage or acclaim, I remembered them and put behind me the temptation to deceive myself and by so doing mislead others.
Together we remembered the days when we had played at being Vikings or Greek and Trojan warriors, when I was seven and he nine years old and we lived in a large house at 67 Finchley Road in Hampstead with a big terrace and garden at back ideally suited to our games, and had ourselves fashioned plumed helmets and wooden swords and shields. Temple was to write:
I remember thinking one night how curiously things work out. The first book I ever read was Nansen’s Furthcrest North. This led to a demand for a Norwegian governess, which was granted. She was a dear and very beautiful, and she used to tell me tale after tale about the Vikings. . . . They superceded Diomedes and Ajax as the heroes of mychildhood. I played nothing but Viking Games, and my cup was full when my governess’ father, himself a sea captain, sent me a perfect model of a Viking Ship.
Enthralled by Balentine’s Coral Island and Robert Louis Stevenson’s books, he had dreamed as a boy of voyaging either to the North Pole or the South Seas. Now at the age of 34 he was on his way to his “dream islands” in the Pacific and to enjoy an adventurous life on the high seas.
“How careful parents should be about the first books their children read and the first tales they hear,” Temple was to remark in explaining how it came about that he was celebrating Norway’s day in the Galapagos Islands in 1931 instead of “looking after lunatics at Colney Hatch and paying income tax.”
In childhood and youth Temple and I had both drunk deep of the same wells of legend, history, poetry and romance, but despite the twin sources of our lives, our dreams led us to opposite ends of the earth. Temple, having no illusions concerning the perfectability of man or society, wanted, in modern parlance, to “get away from it all.” I was ambitious whereas Temple had no desire by words or works to erect a monument “more enduring than bronze.” It was I who had been able to recite the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam by heart when ten years old. But it was Temple who had taken the Persian poet’s advice to savor all the fleeting joys and beauty of life without knowing “why, whence, or whither” we have been put upon earth.
Both of us had rejected “bourgeois values” but Temple’s denial of their validity was more fundamental than mine. As he was to write to Emsie Phillips, the girl he met in Barbados and later married in Tahiti:
You see, dear, I do not believe basically as a part of my character, in the values of society. Many people are skeptical about them intellectually, but they are not skeptical about them as a part of their own character as I am …. I believe myself that my own values are based on more fundamental human needs, but nevertheless that is but an opinion, and for certain of them there is nothing to be adduced but prejudice. But I hold them with a whole-hearted fanaticism. A certain number of people in every generation have always thought as I do. The first-rate ones have been poets. The second-rate ones like myself have believed their songs.
To our great joy when Temple and I docked the Inyala in Newlyn harbor, Rab was there to greet us. He prepared to sail with Temple at least as far as Spain, but this time with Temple as captain so that Rab would not have the right to order the ship back to port in a storm, should he again succumb to the sea sickness to which he was prone.
Rab, a Highland Scotsman, shared Temple’s longing for adventure and would undoubtedly have gone the whole way with him had not the call of his wife and many children pulled him home, first from Spain and later from Panama after he had rejoined Temple in the West Indies. (Which was odd because Rab married four times and was never faithful to any woman until the last one he married when already getting old but still energetic and leanly handsome as he still is today.)
Temple sailed away from Newlyn in Cornwall toward the setting sun one golden August evening in 1930. Most of the population of the small fishing village of Mousehole close by were there to bid him godspeed on his adventure together with the two fishermen who went with him. He had urged me until the last moment to sail with him if only as far as Spain, but as usual I was driven by a nervous sense of urgency which caused me to miss some of the greatest pleasures in life.
I was expecting Arcadi soon to meet me in Moscow from Japan where I had left him nearly a year before, and even if there was time enough for me to sail to Vigo, I felt I could not go dashing off with Temple simply to enjoy myself. Although I had already learned enough to be vaguely apprehensive of the future which awaited us in Russia, love drew me back to Moscow. Yet I was sorely tempted to sail away with my brother, abandoning all else to fulfill the dreams we had shared in childhood and youth, when both of us longed to voyage “beyond the pillars of Hercules.”
As the lnyala swept by the Newlyn breakwater on which our mother and I were standing, I cried out to Temple: “I must come, too,” and he, steering with one hand while he waved farewell with the other, shouted to me: “Jump for the rigging!” As he wrote later in his account of his departure from England, “Freda hesitated, looked as if she was going to, then hesitated again and we swept by.”
We never saw each other again. Two weeks after I had hesitated too long to “jump for the rigging” I was on a boat to Leningrad, and wrote from Hamburg: “I am beginning dimly to realize how blind and how much in a rut most people are. They do not want to see everything – it is too dangerous and too windswept and too awful. One must have courage, mentally as well as physically.”
How much courage was to be required of me in the future was still unknown to me but I was to learn that it is love which can enable one to endure the death of one’s hopes.
Temple, usually as tolerant and understanding of his friends as I have been intolerant when they failed to come up to my expectations, never quite forgave Walter for his defection. Rab he understood and sympathized with and was always grateful to, not only for having provided him with the financial means to enable him to fulfill his hearts desire, but for having been willing to try and try again to sail with him. But for the rest of his life Temple felt bitter about Walter having let him down at the eleventh hour.
“Does Walter ever come to see you or does his bad conscience prevent him?” he wrote to Mother from Trinidad in November 1930. Gilly Back he did not feel so bitter about, there would always be “some divine discontent in him.” But Walter would become “a complete little bourgeois” without Temple’s influence.
Queer how intolerant I am, he wrote, in a letter recognizing how basically akin we were,
I have never realized so vividly before as when I was struggling to get off, and Walter was struggling to run away, and Freda was helping me to get off, how alike Freda and I are. We both try to constrain others to our dreams, and we can still dream. And the others just want to be comfortable and smug, and go on leading their routine little lives. Then we get furious. But how thoroughly infirm of purpose people like Walter are
It was, I suppose, because Temple had more confidence in him than in any of the others and missed his companionship most that he could not forgive Walter. In one of the jottings in his log book, after a big sea had just come down the companionway, Temple noted that although he sorely missed Walter’s companionship he would rather be alone crossing the Atlantic than having a good dinner at the Eiffel Tower restaurant in Soho on Saturday night, “listening to Walter talking about the sailing he never eventually did . . . and explaining for the nth time exactly why his delicate nervous system could not stand the strain of waiting.”
And when 750 miles from Trinidad, he wrote: “Queer how bitter I feel about Walter. Yet I have not even the satisfaction of knowing he will regret it. He will just get more and more verbose and alcoholic and will sail a thousand Atlantics twixt beer and brandy. The trend of his talk will be that he made a ‘great renunciation for the sake of his family and common sense.‘ ”
The remarkable thing was that Temple had almost succeeded in tearing Walter away from his secure moorings in “bourgeois” society, and the anchor of his family affection and obligations. A decade before Walter had told Temple that although he was attracted to me I would be too dangerous and uncomfortable to live with. It was of him I wrote from Japan:
“Looking back on things I realize that my unhappy love for Walter made me put all my energies into work, whereas now . . . . I have just received a letter from Walter, by the way. You might tell him what I say. If he admires my brain and capabilities as he says, tell him that he helped me to achieve things by refusing to love me. I can look back on it all very casually now and genuinely say to Walter, “Peace be with you.” Tell him there is something in Russell Green’s favorite saying: “The hobbyhorse of one’s discontent becomes the Pegasus of one’s ambition.” And yet I am still ambitious only not so vividly so. I enjoy the present too much.
My friendship with Walter was to endure long after Temple’s death in 1935 when he wrote that “something gallant and fine had gone out of his life” at Temple’s passing. Even after my emigration to America, Walter and I got together in London whenever I visited England until he died in 1958.
Walter, who had almost been my lover before he became Temple’s closest friend, combined the endearing Jewish qualities of intelligence, humor and wit, understanding of human nature, kindness and loyalty to friends, wide-ranging intellectual interests and courage in adversity. Temple had enjoyed telling the story of their voyage to Norway with two other amateur sailors in a ramshackle old boat whose mast was shattered in a storm off the northwest coast of Germany. Compelled to take to their lifeboat in raging seas they had stocked it with three ships biscuits and a bottle of whiskey per man, and Walter laughing in the gale when their chances of survival seemed slim, had remarked: “Why so many biscuits?”
It has become a cliche to say “some of my best friends are Jews” usually as preface to some derogatory remark. In my case it is literally true that not some, but most of my enduring friendships have been with Jewish men and women. Both Arcadi whom I married and Walter whom I once loved, had the keen intelligence, wry sense of humor combining appreciation of the ridiculous and the sublime in juxtaposition, and the philosophical detachment to make fun of themselves which, besides loyalty to friends, are among the most endearing characteristics of this many-sided and gifted people. The two of them also represented opposing poles of the Jewish character, outlook and aspirations: the one seeking security or money and devoted mainly to family interests; the other dreaming of international brotherhood or God’s Kingdom on earth even while, like myself, believing themselves to be atheists or agnostics.
Stalin was to liquidate the internationalist minded Jews calling them Trotskyists, or to bludgeon them into submission to Russian National Socialism. Hitler made no distinction in exterminating or driving into exile even those Jews who were among the most patriotic Germans as proven during the first world war. The evil both men did lives after them. Today survivors of the Nazi concentration camps, supported by “international Jewry,” have themselves become super-nationalists. Convinced that their salvation lies in a “blood and soil” Israeli state in Palestine, founded at the price of expulsion or expropriation of its Arab inhabitants, the Zionists have repudiated the international outlook of the Jews who were my closest friends.
After crossing the Atlantic sojourning awhile in Barbados; being shipwrecked in the Galapagos Islands on a Norwegian boat whose captain was drowned and where Temple himself nearly died of thirst, my brother crossed 3,000 miles of the Pacific Ocean in 22 days with a half-caste Barbadian called Mobile as his only crew, and while himself suffering severely from septic sores. British reviewers of the book which his widow and I composed out of his log book and letters after his death* described this voyage in an old forty five foot yawl as a “heroic feat” entitling him to belong to the “truly great company” of Voss and Alan Gerbault. “It was an amazing feat of endurance,” the Oxford Times wrote, “for his right lung was practically useless owing to tuberculosis, developed as a result of being gassed in the war. His navigation was faultless and his handling of the boat excellent.”
“Queer what a little persistance will do” he wrote from Hiva Owa in the Marquesas in September 1931, “once you have seen these islands, it seems absurd to live anywhere else. Things do not usually come up to one’s imagination, but this place is much, much more beautiful that I had dreamt. To live saturated with beauty has a tremendous effect on one’s well-being. The sea is in my bones. A good life consists of fight and struggle and anxiety; working twenty-four hours out of twenty-four, with every nerve on strain and death round the corner, varied by periods of complete rest and idleness
The governor of the Marquesas was a French doctor…. “an intelligent of the kind he liked -” the first civilized person he had met since leaving London. Dr. Benoit had taken him home to lunch when he arrived and given him a “real French meal.” Within a few minutes they were “discussing Villon, Baudelaire, Communism, Mussolini, Bergson, Nietzsche.”
Two months later he wrote that his first impressions had been confirmed. All he asked was to pass his life in the Marquesas: “Their beauty has not been exaggerated: there is nothing to compare with them in the world. Beyond their beauty there is something else; something which soothes and contents one making all else seem of little worth.” Stevenson had written that “Few men who come to the islands leave them; they grow grey where they alighted: the palm shades and the trade winds fan them until they die, perhaps cherishing to the last the fancy of a visit home, which is rarely made and yet more rarely repeated. No part of the world exerts the same attractive power.”
“Life was gay then” as Neo, an old Marquesan chieftain said to Temple who commented, “It was a very fair thing which the whites destroyed.” Already in Temple’s time the old days were vanishing before the march of progress.
The missionaries had not yet suppressed the old ways. A man still married all his wife’s sisters and a woman all her husband’s brothers. Sexual jealousy was almost unknown. The excess of males to females in the proportion of five to three seemed to “make for happiness.” As the chieftain of one of the least civilized and last occupied of the islands said to Temple: “One man no good for a woman, no satisfy. Woman needs three men, taken turn. One sleep, one fish, one gather poi poi. Woman want love and play every night many times. One man not strong enough.” No wonder that the Moslems, who saw things the other way round, never converted the South Sea Islanders although they got as far as Indonesia.
The governor, Dr. Benoit, and Temple had struck up a firm friendship, but French law did not permit any foreigner to practice medicine so that Temple was precluded from earning a living in the islands. All he could do was to treat patients for free, unofficially helping out Dr. Benoit, who was spending his life “in a desperate fight to protect the natives from traders, missionaries, T. B. baccilli, filarial worms and other parasites.”
In Barbados (before sailing on to the South Seas) Temple had fallen in love with a half-English, half-American girl, Emsie Phillips, whom he could not marry since his divorce from Robert had not yet been made absolute. Writing to her from Colon he warned her what to expect if she decided to forsake her own people and the security of her home among the British ruling class of the West Indies, to share his fate. “You know me,” he wrote. “Do you really think there is any chance of stability, worldly success or safety with me?” Her mother and her friends were right. She would be undertaking “a frightful risk with all the odds against you.” I offer you hardship, risk, discomfort, poverty, sordidness . . . and something which we two alone know between ourselves.” He was going off to the South Seas: “because I must. There is no justification or rationalization. I just must-well dearest it will always be the same. There will be a dream and “I must” and then for you it will be pay pack and follow.”
After reaching the Marquesas he told Mother he had some wonderful letters from Emsie and knew he would be wise to marry her.
But I am free and I want to be responsible for no one. If she had only grabbed me when she could have done. If she had had the courage to send her aunts and uncles to hell and sail alone with me across the Pacific, I would have stuck to her for ever and ever. I cannot think of any woman who would have done so, except Freda – the older I get the more I realize her greatness at a distance.
In spite, or because of, the letter he had written to Emsie, she joined him in the Marquesas nine months after they had parted in Barbados. Later they were married in Tahiti and she voyaged with him as his ‘crew’ to the Fiji Islands, where they settled and enjoyed for the few years before he died, so happy a union that Emsie accounted herself fortunate among women in spite of her loneliness for the rest of her life.
During the years which followed our last days together Temple and I were as far removed from one another geographically and in environment as it is possible to be. Nor could we easily communicate since I dared not write to him freely from Russia for fear of endangering Arcadi.
Temple sensed my disllusionment. “We neither of us,” he wrote to Mother, “quite seem to have found our new world. Freda’s letter was very, very interesting and I chuckled and wept and remembered that Shelley used to be her favorite poet.” Recently I have found among his widow Emsie’s effects a letter written to them in 1933 while I was in hospital in London following an antrum operation, which I told them to burn but which fortunately she preserved, in which I dared to express my real thoughts:
“. . . As you will gather I am thoroughly disillusioned. One could. stand the material conditions even though they get worse and worse (they are infinitely worse than when Mother was out last year) but it is the mental difficulties. Hypocrisy, sycophancy, patronage, lying, etc. The people at the top get everything and pretend they don’t. There is nothing of communism or socialism left. I consider there was a counter-revolution in 1927 when Trotsky was turned out. It need not have gone this way. When I first went there in 1926 everything was different-in 1928 still. But Stalin thinks he can do everything with the whip and the gun against all economic and psychological forces. He is not a Marxist at all and has reversed all Lenin’s principles on which the Soviet State was founded. Consequently again I can’t tell you everything I mean in a letter or in fact explain myself really at all. But as the best example of what has happened take the complete mess the Comintern has made in Germany and China. International Socialism has been completely sacrificed to “Socialism in one country” – the very negation of Marxism which taught that the only way out for mankind is international socialism.
Consequently we have a Fascist world growing up around us and really by now Russia is herself a Fascist state with an established ruling aristocracy and an ideal of economic self sufficiency. If I were free I would join the opposition movement of Trotsky and try to restart an international Socialist movement. By free I mean if only Arcadi was not a Russian. As it is he cannot leave the country and I can’t leave him. Nor can I speak or write a word of what I want to say. I am always in deadly fear of bringing him to grief by my incautious tongue. I have to pretend and he and be a hypocrite like everyone else. Being like you of a sanguine temperament I still hope that one day he may get sent abroad again but it is a faint hope because nowadays no one not in the party and not of working class origins is “trusted” to go abroad. The official idea is that they would never come back. One is literally a prisoner. Even I, although English and able to leave the country when I want, feel like a prisoner on parole as I dare not speak and as I am tied to Arcadi whom I love more than ever as the years go on. Perhaps it is the very difficulties and dangers and strain of living which draws us closer and closer. One just turns to each other and no one else. We have lived all this time in one room until a year ago with no servant and me doing all the work. Standing in queue and cooking and washing besides going to the office but we have never quarreled. Arcadi is the most lovable of men and I am still what he calls his “swan song.” So that, Temple dear, emotionally I am very happy. Life has given me a lot in giving me Arcadi although it has made me give up everything else I cared about: career, ambition, politics, fortune, Etc.!! I am very anxious to have a child although it will be so difficult. I want a second edition of Arcadi. We have two rooms now since June and if only it weren’t for the necessity of bringing Mother here we could be comparatively comfortable . . . .
Will you please be certain to destroy this letter as soon as you have read it. Also will Emsie not tell her relations anything of what I have said of Russia especially not the political remarks. Mother is so nervous that I am writing it all to you in Suva. But I don’t see how it can ever get to anyone’s eyes in Russia if you destroy my letter. It is terrible to live under a tyranny – secondly do be very careful to write nothing compromising to me or Mother while in Russia . . . .
This letter shows that I had not as yet disabused myself of the illusion that socialism in Russia would have been different if only Trotsky instead of Stalin had succeeded Lenin.
Later I came to realize that the Soviet System required Stalin or someone like him in order to function. A fact today again becoming apparent by Khrushchev’s failure and the reversion to Stalinism.
In this same letter, describing our difficult food and housing situation which made it imperative that Temple help me with Mother, I wrote:
It has been hard enough in the past but now I am going to have a child and unless the burden of Mother is taken off my hands it will finish me. When my child is born it will be difficult to get the most elementary necessities – milk and fruit – (obtainable for Valuta) which Arcadi’s savings would have procured if Mother had not had to use them. I am afraid you will both think I am piling it on but I am not exaggerating things a bit. Our position in Russia is actually comparatively good—many people are actually starving without even enough bread – I don’t expect either of you to talk to anyone else about these conditions because by doing so even in Suva you might get me into trouble. An elaborate game of hush hush is played about all the food difficulties etc. and it is a terrible offense to tell the truth about that or anything else.
When Temple died in April 1935 in Suva, I was still living in Russia, held there by my love for my husband, long after my complete disillusionment with Communism, and a year after the birth of my son, Jon, who was to inherit my brother’s most lovable qualities as well as resembling him physically.
I recall sitting on a stone bench beside the Moscow river, on my way home from work on the evening of the sad, grey, cold spring day on which I received the news of Temple’s death. Vivid memories of our childhood and youth and of our last sail together crowded in on me. I wept not only for his death but for all the lost hopes and lovely visions which had inspired us in our different fashion to follow our heart’s desire regardless of the consequences. I was still alive and had a son, a joy he had never known. But I was confined within the vast prison Soviet Russia had become, whereas he had never known anything but freedom and had found and briefly enjoyed his El Dorado in the South Seas. He had ended up “earning bread and butter again, which is very dull; not the earning of it, but the life I have to lead to earn it.” But Temple never knew or imagined the terror and hardship of my life in Russia, or had been compelled to bow his head before omnipotent tyranny, as I was forced to do in order to continue living with my husband. In Suva he had found the conventions of the accepted social order tiresome and the people for the most part “deadly dull” and felt dull himself without the “stimulus of other minds,” but he had been spared knowledge of the tyrannical compulsions of the Soviet Socialist order under which I was living. And at the end, he could recall the words which he had scribbled in pencil when he thought he was about to die of thirst after being shipwrecked in the Galapagos Islands: “If I have got to die I have had a fine time and thoroughly enjoyed myself.”
Long before in London Temple had written to Mother:
If one goes one’s own way, whatever may appear as outward disaster to others does no permanent harm to one’s self development, but if one refrains from carrying out one’s own will at the bidding of others, or at the bidding of law, custom, morality, material interest, or fundamental weakness, permanent harm is done to oneself, and one’s growth is all twisted awry. It is the failure to follow one’s will, not failure after one has willed with all one’s power that hurts the soul.
Both of us had “gone our own way” and despite the disappointments of my life in Russia or later I did not then or after regret having done so.
Temple had gone, in his own words written from the Marquesas, where his “curiosity, love of beauty and adventure had driven him seeking his heart’s desire,” and had “found it many times, gaining much joy and complete satisfaction.” Why should he “seek for those solid things which give me no satisfaction and which, as far as I can see, give no satisfaction to anybody?
Reflecting today on my brother’s motivations, I can dimly understand the “hippies” and “flower people” who reject the values of our affluent society by refusing to step on the treadmill of conformity which ensures security and status and a dull life. Today there are no longer any “dream islands” in the Pacific, or anywhere else, to escape to, in search of freedom from boredom or what Temple called the “idiocy of things.” Nor are there today in the West any such burning injustices and inequalities as to inspire the generous aspirations of youth to sacrifice for an ideal. Turned in upon themselves, precisely because of the success of “capitalism” in solving its contradictions, some become the destructive element which has destroyed other civilizations. In 1931 Temple could write from the Marquesas that Freda was right in thinking that the old world was falling to pieces and that this meant there was no sense in “piling up treasure, either of money or position.” Today we can see that, far from falling to pieces the “capitalist world” has created a system so productive and successful that many of the children of the well to do so long for pain, poverty and struggle that they endeavor to look like unshorn, unshaven and unwashed medieval peasants.
The Western world has not by any means achieved “Utopia,” but has come far closer to it than past civilizations ever did. With the result that many of its over privileged youth are finding in Temple’s words that “civilization only seems to make life safe at the cost of making it damned dull.” Life deprived of struggle and danger and joy in achievement by one’s own efforts has no meaning and leads to self destruction.
Man against nature is an older story with more universal appeal than the conflict of nations, classes and ideologies in our industrial age. The “burning heart of man and boy alike rejoices” in every age in reading tales of courage, endurance and adventure. Hence the success of Kon-Tiki in our time because it has the same timeless appeal as the voyage of the Argonauts, the Odyssey, the Norse Sagas and other tales which belong to the springtime of the world.
Temple, according to his description of himself, was something of a leprechaun in Aldous Huxley’s meaning. He had little sense of responsibility and had left me to provide for our mother who loved him best. I had worked to support her and was to bring her to Moscow to live with us in our confined space in two rooms because I could not send her money out of Russia. Temple, meanwhile, refused, after settling in Suva, to bring our mother there because he feared she would disrupt his happy marriage by her possessiveness and jealousy of any woman he loved.
I, on the other hand, was too impatient, or intolerant, or lacking in sympathy and understanding to give our mother much of my time, while Temple had held her hand, comforted her, understood her problems and given her the conviction that she was loved and cherished, which was more important than money. He could steel his heart to leave her and the girls he loved at various times. But he had given understanding and sympathy to everyone he knew, or only briefly encountered, whereas I, listening to distant drums, was more concerned with ideas and prescriptions for the welfare of mankind than with the problems of individual human beings. Like so many liberals and intellectuals of our time, I have been intolerant or arrogant in my convictions, right or wrong. Temple always made a distinction between his critical analysis and his personal affections.
As one of his medical colleagues wrote of Temple, he had “the rare gift of being able to live in peace with other men.” A devout old lady in Suva, bedridden in hospital said to her daughter: ” I do like seeing my doctors; I’ve been lying here thinking to myself that I could give them each a new name: Dr. Y’s faith; Dr. X, he’s hope, but Dr. Utley, he is charity.” And one of their friends remarked: ” I enjoy going to the Utley’s house; you never know who you will find there, from the Bishop to a bum.”
“Nobody who knew him could bear the thought of his not having or doing what he wanted,” Arthur Ransome wrote in the London Observer in reviewing Temple’s book, A Modern Sea Beggar. “Friends, wife, mother, and chance acquaintances were all at one. One man gives him a yacht, another gives him a share in a medical practice, a third, hoping to sail with him, sells his own boat, takes the engine out of it, puts it into Utley’s, and does not complain when Utley changes his mind and takes work ashore. All kinds of people seem to have found themselves more alive than usual when in his presence, and to have felt that they could not do too much for him.” His book was “incandescent” with his relish of experience “whether pleasant or horrible” and ordinary human beings “bound hand and foot with cobwebs of memory or apprehension will do almost anything for those who can let themselves go.”
The following passage from Dostoyevsky, chosen by Temple’s widow and friends as his fitting epitaph, was read at his funeral:
Here is perhaps the one man in the world whom you might leave alone without a penny, in the center of an unknown town of a million inhabitants, and he would not die of cold and hunger, for he would be fed and sheltered at once; and, if he were not, he would find a shelter for himself, and it would cost him no effort or humiliation. And to shelter him would be no burden, but, on the contrary, would probably be looked on as a pleasure.
From Moscow, shortly after saying farewell to Temple in Cornwall, I wrote to Mother telling her that I would soon be leaving for the Far East to rejoin Arcadi and sail with him to San Francisco. The Commissariat of Foreign Trade, endeavoring to keep qualified men abroad, offered to pay my fare to go with him to America. We were given a last chance to escape the fate which awaited him in Russia. We did not take it.
Arcadi insisted on returning to Moscow after his long exile, and I did not have the sense to dash off to Shanghai to try to stop him.