Books: Circles of Perdition

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"Never before," wrote Author West, "have people known the voice of one they have never seen as well as if he had been a husband or a brother or a close friend; and if they had foreseen such a miracle, they would not have imagined the familiar unknown would speak to them only to prophesy their death and ruin. All of us in

England had experienced that hideous novelty. It was difficult not to chance on Joyce's wavelength when one was tuning in to the English stations, and there was an arresting quality about his voice which made it a sacrifice not to go on listening. ... It seemed as if one had better hearken and take warning, when he suggested that the destiny of the people he had left in England was death, and the destiny of his new masters in Germany life and conquest, and that, therefore, his listeners had better change sides and submit. This was often terrible to hear, for the news in the papers confirmed it. He was not only alarming, he was ugly; he opened a vista into a mean life. . . . He went further than that smug mockery of our plight. He sinned that sin which is the dark travesty of legitimate hatred . . . just as incest is the dark travesty of legitimate love."

Biography of Betrayal. The facts in the life of William Joyce were neither clear nor simple, but their meaning was. He had been born in Brooklyn, N.Y. (an important part of his defense was that he was not a British subject). His parents were Irish. They were loyal to England. When Ireland became Eire, they were forced to emigrate to Britain. Joyce's father was suspected of being a British informer. William Joyce claimed that he had done intelligence work for the Black & Tans.

The Joyces did not prosper in the land to which they had remained loyal and which did not reward their loyalty. But young Joyce graduated from the University of London, where he was an excellent student. He became a highly successful tutor. His love for England was intense—"such a love as led him in afterlife habitually to make a demand—which struck many of his English acquaintances as a sign of insanity—that any quiet social evening he spent with his friends should end with the singing of the national anthem."

"It was this love," says Miss West, "slanting across time, which made him a Fascist. He had been brought up to believe in an England who held Ireland by force, and felt betrayed when Home Rule was given."

So Joyce joined Sir Oswald Mosley, the founder of the British Union of Fascists. (In time he broke away to form his own British National Socialist League.) And so just before the war he fled to Germany, to lend to the treason of ideas his vibrant voice. For this he was hanged.

Miss West lights up the darkness of this trial with fierce flashes of observation. But none is so shocking as the reaction of Joyce when he heard the word "hanging" casually mentioned in court. By an unconscious reflex, he raised his hand and with his finger touched his throat.

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