Saturday, May 1, 2010

Percy Westerman maybe a Bad Influence on Youth

Recently, whilst researching some archived book reviews, I came across this article published in The Saturday Review dated July, 1926. I have copied it, complete with inaccuracies.

We deprecate the mania for inquiry into the tastes and thoughts of very young persons of which we have lately two illustrations. From Croydon it has been solemnly reported that the youth of the nation, so far as it is represented there, is intellectually in a bad way because the favourite author of boys is Mr P. F. Westerman and the favourite of girls is Miss Angela Brazil.

From a world-wide inquiry carried out by the Y.M.C.A. it appears that the youth of the world regards as the greatest men now living Signor Mussolini and Mr Ford, but thinks that in the British Empire there is a strong disposition to promote that eminence Buster Kearton, Douglas Fairbanks and Lou Cheney. But of what consequence is it what the average boy or girl thinks? Public opinion in the next decade, in these as in other matters, will be created, not by the boys and girls whose votes turn the scale in these plebiscites, but by a handful of young people holding quite other views. What matters is the attitude of a gifted minority, not that of the majority.
The Saturday Review
17 July 1926

Buster Kearton – should have read Buster Keaton
Lou Cheney – should have read Lon Chaney
Definition: Plebiscites – A direct vote on some question, usually of importance

It makes me think that the writer was probably ‘ an old hack’ with a very low opinion of young people, and, in an attempt to cobble together two quite unconnected pieces of information that had come his way, he was simply trying to give the reader his biased opinion.

The article was answered a little later by the Chief Librarian of Croydon Public Library – the source of the one of the two threads that generated to the initial article.

Intellectual Degeneracy

SIR – May I be allowed to say, in connexion with, your note on page 59, that it was not solemnly reported from Croydon that its youth were in a bad way because the favourite author of boys and girls were respectively, P.F. Westerman and Miss Angela Brazil. As a librarian I naturally keep watch, in the manner common to all modes of business, on the preferences of my readers. The inquiry that you mention was merely this check applied to the Junior department of the Croydon Public Libraries. The results were given, but no deduction was made from them, and certainly not the one with which you credit us.

Had I expressed any view, it would have been that Westerman is a hearty writer of health adventure yarns of the lineage of Henty and Fenn, and that Angela Brazil is at least wholesome. I wish as much could be said for the gifted young men who are producing fiction for older readers.

I am etc.,
W. C. Berwick Sayers
Chief Librarian
Croydon Public Libraries