Vous l’avez sans doute déjà repéré : sur la plateforme OpenEdition Books, une nouvelle interface vient d’être mise en ligne.
En cas d’anomalies au cours de votre navigation, vous pouvez nous les signaler par mail à l’adresse feedback[at]openedition[point]org.

Précédent Suivant

3. The Slow Death of Holy Russia

p. 85-131

Texte intégral

1Graham returned to Russia at the end of 1913, armed with Northcliffe's commission to "go where you like and write what you like", travelling by train through Paris and Warsaw, before heading on to Kiev, a city he had first visited the previous year on his way back from Jerusalem.1 Here he called on a number of old friends, including a spirited young woman called Katia, who had as a child made an unlikely attempt to run away to South Africa to help the Boers in their fight against the British. On her advice he went to a production of Jealousy by the novelist and playwright Mikhail Artsybashev, a play derided by Graham as "the voice of the bourgeois", a harsh judgement that probably said more about his distaste for the author's earlier novel, Sanin, which had explored themes of sexual perversion and spiritual anomie. Nor was Graham impressed by the audience, largely drawn from the city's philistine "new commercial middle class", who flocked to the theatre through city streets crowded with Christmas traffic. He was by contrast enthralled by "another Kieff, a quiet radiant city, silent but for the footfalls of monks or pilgrims on the snow", which stood high on the cliffs above the River Dneiper. It was here, among the "bright gilded domes" of the churches, that Graham once again encountered his beloved Holy Russia, a place where pilgrims travelled to the old hermitages housed in caves that lay honeycombed beneath the foundations of the upper town. He visited some of the massive hostelries that catered for the pilgrims, and attended a number of Christmas services, where "you hear the music of the herald-angels and see at the same time in the likeness of the listening Russian peasants the shepherds who heard the angels sing".2 The two faces of Kiev – the modern commercial city and the ancient city of churches and monasteries – neatly symbolised for Graham the changing character of contemporary Russia.

2Graham left Kiev after a few days to head for Vladikavkaz in the Caucasus, the town where he had stayed four years earlier during his first visit to the southern provinces of the Tsarist Empire. He travelled by train with an old friend, Vavara Ilinitchina, and together they watched the passing landscape of "snowy hamlets" and forests. On the second day they changed trains at Beslan, destined to become infamous more than ninety years later for the slaughter of hundreds of children by Chechen terrorists, but which in early January 1914 lay "serene and beautiful" on the Caucasian steppe. Graham returned to the old mill where he had first stayed when tramping through the region in 1909, only to find that change had come to the small village in the Terek valley. The Baptist minister who had rented rooms to him was away on a preaching tour, having previously been to America with a number of other Protestant pastors. His wife was at home, though, and astonished to see her former tenant when she answered the knock at the door. The old chapel had been replaced by a new building – evidence of the extent to which the various Nonconformist sects were increasingly free to worship openly – financed in part by donations from across the Atlantic. Graham was once again impressed by the piety of the small Baptist congregation, and whilst he lamented its growth as evidence of the declining hold of Orthodoxy on the emotions of ordinary Russians, he acknowledged that "the power and character of a Church is not dependent on its dogmas and rituals so much as on the character and spirit of its members".3

3Graham decided that the best way to provide the kind of articles wanted by Northcliffe was to offer sketches of the places and people he knew from his earlier trips to Russia. He also sent The Times some more general pieces, including one on 'The Struggle against Drunkenness', in which he argued unconvincingly that the problem of alcohol-fuelled violence in Russia was largely an urban problem that was seldom encountered in "the remoter agricultural villages".4 After several weeks in the Caucasus he headed back north to Moscow, spending his first evening there with his old friend Vasily Perepletchikov, at his house on Sadovaia Street. Perepletchikov was organising an exhibition of pictures by the Samoyede painter Ilya Vilka, who was born on the remote northern island of Novaia Zemlia, and had been "discovered" a few years earlier by members of a geographical expedition surveying in the area. Some of his pictures had been sent to Tsar Nicholas in St Petersburg, who greatly admired them, with the result that the artist was brought to Moscow by well-wishers to develop his painting technique. Perepletchikov regaled Graham with tales about how difficult Vilka had found it to adjust to city life, spending much of his time hunting for birds on the Sparrow Hills above the Moscow River, before eventually returning home to the wilderness of Novoe Zemlia. Graham's admiration for such a figure shone through the account which he wrote for The Times, presenting Vilka as an authentic product of the Russian north, whose talent was native-born, rather than an artificial product of formal training in city salons.5

4Graham spent most of March 1914 in Moscow, finding time to visit the Gordon Craig production of Hamlet at the Art Theatre, as well as going to a ballet at the private theatre of Prince Gagarin (one of the city's most celebrated patrons of the arts). He also visited Astapovo railway station, in Riazan province, where Tolstoy had died four years earlier following his final melancholy flight from his estate at Yasnaia Poliana.6 Graham was convinced that the national spirit of Russian culture was becoming stronger than ever. He wrote a piece for The Times suggesting that the radical writer Maxim Gorky, who had recently returned to Russia from exile abroad, had become so detached from his homeland that he was fated to produce "stories and dramas which fall flatter and flatter on the ears of Russia".7

5Graham continued his efforts to promote interest in Russian culture back in Britain, contributing a series of anonymous articles to The Times Literary Supplement. In January a piece appeared in the TLS on 'Russian Journals and Readers', describing in detail some of the publications available to subscribers, ranging from the Universal Panorama (offering "an extraordinary farrago […] of fact and fantasy") through to The Russian Pilgrim (which gave away a free copy of the works of St John Chrysostom with every subscription).8 A few weeks later he reviewed a collection of Russian language fairy tales by Aleksei Remizov, whom he praised as one of the small group of writers who were "leading the intelligentsia back to the truly national, the black earth, the izba, the peasant, and the simple fresh mystical mind of the unspoiled Slav".9 Graham's words once again cast doubt on the depth of his understanding of Russian cultural life. Remizov's intricate work, which rested broadly within the tradition of Russian Symbolism, represented something far more subtle than a simple programmatic attempt to reassert the half-imagined traditions of Holy Russia. Graham nevertheless continued to find something deeply compelling in the cultural motifs of Russia's Silver Age.

6The clue to Graham's interest in Russian Symbolism lies, as the previous chapters have shown, in his sense that carefully-crafted words and paintings could provide an insight into what William James called the "ineffable". Graham was in 1914 still interested in Theosophy, attending several meetings of the Moscow Theosophical Society, to which he was taken by Nina Rabinovich, an acquaintance of Vera Merkurieva, who had befriended him four years earlier in Vladikavkaz (Merkiureva herself had a long-standing interest in Theosophy). The Moscow Theosophical Society commanded a good deal of popular attention during this period, and its meetings were often packed affairs, crowded with people whom Graham later noted "had become dissatisfied with Christianity and imagined that India would rejuvenate their souls". He also attended a meeting at the home of Viacheslav Ivanov, at which two visiting Indian philosophers were invited to discuss their views, which seemed to consist of a rather incoherent sense that the world had fallen away from unity towards division, and that the only solution lay in humanity striving "towards being One" and ridding itself of "the assumption that we are Many".10 The ensuing discussion was predictably a rather confused affair. Recalling this moment many years later, Graham wrote that "All wisdom is said to come from the East. It may be so, but at that time I believed that Russia was the living East, whereas mystic India was an East which had for millennia been dead".11 His memories of his views during this time were not altogether accurate. In an unpublished article written early in 1914, on 'Christian Missions in India', Graham noted that whilst he supported efforts to spread the Christian faith in the East, he also believed that "we, most of us, need once more the renewal of the message from the East". He went on to suggest that "We need the life of the East circulating in our body politic and spiritualizing it". Graham concluded his article with a kind of credo on matters spiritual:

I believe that in the course of time all humanity must become Christian and that Christianity will be as diverse in its human expression as men themselves are diverse. Love will accommodate an infinite diversity in the unity of one Church. But for modern Christianity as practised in the West I see and wish no future except that it is vivified by the spirit. The thought that Western civilization as it now stands is the crown of Christian expression is fatuous in the extreme.12

7The poetic insights of esoteric forms of thought continued to appeal to him, even if he was sometimes sceptical of the intellectual ruminations in which they were wrapped.

8Graham had returned to Russia at the end of 1913 determined to press ahead with his original plans for a journey to central Asia. In April 1914 he headed south once again towards the Caucasus, in order to begin a trip "into the depths of the Russian East", designed to help "continue my study of Easternism and Westernism in the Tsar's Empire". He told readers of The Times somewhat breathlessly that "This is a long, new journey – new for English experience – because, until our entente with Russia, mutual jealousy about the Indian frontier made it extremely difficult for the Russian Government to permit observant and adventurous Englishmen to wander about as I intend to do". He noted that he had "official permission" for the journey, although this only seems to have been granted after some hesitation, since the Russian authorities were still wary of letting a foreigner travel through areas of military sensitivity.13

9Graham was keen to deepen his acquaintance with Russia's orient, once again abandoning the heartland of Holy Russia, in order to find places that were still more exotic and perhaps better able to meet his restless search for new experiences. In the days following his departure from Vladikavkaz, he revisited some of the places he had known five years before, including the ruin of Queen Tamara's castle standing high on a rock above the Terek gorge, before taking a train towards Baku on the western shore of the Caspian Sea. Baku was, as he noted ruefully, a city to which people normally came to "make money", in the burgeoning oil industry, and the only charm he found was in its "eastern quarter", where the visitor could see "camels loping up the steep streets" taking goods to a bazaar that was "wholly Eastern" in character. The porters who offered to carry his goods were, in Graham's words, "straight out of the pages" of the Arabian Nights. He only had a short time in the city, though, before heading to the harbour to board the steamer Skobolev for passage across the Caspian Sea. The voyage served for Graham as a symbolic passage from West to East. As the boat left Baku in the evening he stood on deck, watching the "fading lights of Europe" dim into invisibility in a "very dark and starless" night.14

10The Skobolev was headed for the port of Krasnovodsk on the south-eastern shore of the Caspian Sea, which Graham quickly judged to be "one of the hottest […] and most miserable places in the world" (when the journalist Giles Whittell followed in his footsteps, eighty years later, he described the town as "a potentially miserable place" that had only been improved since Graham's day by the arrival of piped water).15 Although Graham had contacts amongst the Georgian community in Krasnovodsk, he headed rapidly for the station and the express train to Ashkhabad, 400 miles to the east near the Persian frontier. His train stopped at Ashkhabad for less than an hour, but he was quickly enthralled by the exotic mixture of nationalities milling around the platform, many of them holding bunches of roses which scented the air. Graham walked out of the station for a few minutes, to take the night air in a town where "densely foliaged streets cast shadow between you and the night sky", before returning to take his seat again for the onward journey.16 The lush oriental promise of Askhabad faded as the express rolled eastwards through an area "of tumbled desert and loose sand". The landscape did however brighten up as the train headed towards Bokhara (Bukhara), thanks to the extensive irrigation system fed by the legendary Oxus River, which allowed the local peasantry to cultivate large stretches of land that would otherwise have been infertile. Graham was by now travelling through territory that had been colonised by the Russians as recently as the second half of the nineteenth century, an advance that fuelled perennial British anxieties about a possible threat to the security of India, which, in the fevered imagination of politicians and officials in London, looked vulnerable to a land-based assault from the north and west. Bokhara itself had been a chess piece in the Great Game for many years, but by the time Graham visited the city it was firmly within the Russian orbit, although retaining a notional independence under its ruling Emir. Graham was quickly enthralled by the place, writing a lengthy article about it for The Times under the telling heading 'A Walled City of Romance'.17

11Graham told his readers that at Bokhara "we were nearer China than Russia" – a claim that said as much about his orientalist construction of the city as it did about mere geography. He was impressed by the cobbled streets of the walled old town, home to "150,000 Mahomedans", which were lined with "handsome mosques" and stairways leading down to the reservoirs that held the city's water supply. The fifty or so bazaars were full of stalls selling "lustrous silks and carpets", manned by "gorgeous vendors" dressed in unfamiliar costumes, whose appearance made them seem like illustrations in books rather than characters in real life. Graham was convinced that "the Bokharas are a gentle people", who lived in a city that represented a kind of "Musulman perfection", where the natives observed "the forms of its religion and its ethical laws". He was also impressed by the fact – or the supposed fact – that "civilization and mechanical progress do not tempt them". The city itself struck him as "much more wonderful than Jerusalem […] for it seemed to me much more untouched, much more remote".18 It was perhaps inevitable that Graham should fall in love with Bokhara at a time when he feared that European Russia was sacrificing its national traditions in favour of an unthinking Occidentalism.

12The allure of the East was not, though, a universal phenomenon for Graham. After leaving Bokhara he travelled by train to Samarkand, where he visited the grave of the legendary Mongol warrior Tamurlane, before heading on to the oasis city of Tashkent. He was once again struck by the elaborate system of irrigation that allowed "wonderful vegetation" to thrive across the city, providing water for the "lofty poplars" that lined the main streets, which Graham found, to his surprise, were filled with "truly fine shops" patronised by the large Russian population. The oriental side of the city attracted him far less than in Bokhara, however, and he was convinced that "the native population" was "very dirty and disorderly". He also believed that the natives were indolent in character, preferring to spend their time lounging about on "carpets or divans", rather than repairing their homes or earning a living. Tashkent was originally a major garrison town for the Russian army which had, in time, spawned the construction of a European city of "fine cathedrals" and elaborate public gardens. Graham was convinced that the old Muslim quarter was becoming something of an anachronism.19 He was also willing to accept that Russian colonial rule in cities like Samarkand and Tashkent represented a progressive development, even if it tended to undermine the colour and character of the indigenous society.20 Although Graham had for years been enthralled by the colour and vibrancy of life on the periphery of Europe, he never seriously doubted that European rule in these areas represented a form of civilising mission, bringing with it the benefits of good government and civilisation. The irony in the light of his views about the threat posed by modernity to the spiritual character of the nations of Europe themselves hardly needs to be spelt out.

13Graham had until now been travelling by rail rather than on foot, but after a short train ride to the out-of-the-way station at Kabul Sei, north of Tashkent, he had to begin walking towards the town of Chimkent (the rail link was completed little more than a year after his visit). He tramped through vast areas without any villages, since the region was home to Kirghiz nomads, who travelled with their flocks according to the rhythms of the seasons. Graham found the weather far hotter than he had expected, telling a meeting of the Royal Central Asian Society the following year that he "had never experienced such heat" in all his previous travels.21 He was carrying a sleeping bag and mosquito net, which meant that he could spend the nights under the stars, although he had to beg provisions from the Kirghiz encampments he passed from time to time. At one point Graham virtually lived on kumiss, the drink made from fermented mare's milk, which had for centuries formed a staple part of the diet of nomadic people living in the arc from present-day Kazakhstan through to Mongolia. He also ate a great deal of lepeshka, a kind of unleavened bread, which on one occasion was so lumpy that it stuck in his throat causing him to choke.

14Graham was much taken by the Kirghiz people, believing that they lacked the "warlike spirit" of the Moslem tribes of the Caucasus. He was acutely sensitive to the pressures they faced from the growing number of Russian immigrants who lived in villages "running the whole way from the railway terminus to the frontiers of China".22 Although the reports he had planned to write for The Times about this part of the journey never appeared, crowded out by news of the outbreak of war, he devoted a good deal of attention to the subject in his book Through Russian Central Asia, which finally appeared in 1916. Graham was struck by the care taken by the Russian Government to promote the process of colonisation, laying down which areas could be settled, and providing subsidies for those willing to move there from European Russia.23 He was not convinced that the new settlers would find their "El Dorado" on the steppes of Central Asia, telling members of the Royal Central Asian Society that "wherever they go there is a certain feeling of discontent because their dreams are not realised".24 He was, indeed, somewhat ambivalent about the way colonisation was being carried out. Graham accepted that Russian expansion into Central Asia represented a kind of manifest destiny, a consequence both of geographical propinquity and a moral duty to civilise the backward regions of the Empire, but he was acutely sensitive to the impact of the process on the indigenous people crowded out by the newcomers.

15Graham's journey by foot and cart took him on to the small town of Kopal, on the Chinese border, "a place you could run round in a quarter of an hour, and yet having jurisdiction over an immense tract of territory along the Russian frontier of China".25 The town was despite its remoteness a crossroads of the world, full of travellers from China and European Russia, as well as the adjacent central Asian provinces. There was also (rather bizarrely) a Chinese circus in town, which Graham visited, watching acts ranging from musicians and jugglers to trick-cyclists and conjurors. His stay in the town was only a short one, though, since he was determined to push on towards the Altai Mountains on the borders of China, Russia and Mongolia. The landscape through which he first passed on leaving Kopal – often known by the name of Seven Rivers Land – was famous for its natural beauty. Graham was suitably awestruck by such sights as the Gorge of Abakum, even though it was defaced by visitors chipping their names into the rocks, but he paused only briefly before heading on into Siberia.

16He made first for the town of Semipalatinsk, first established as a military settlement by the Russians in the early eighteenth century, but better-known in the early twentieth century as the site of Dostoevsky's exile during the 1840s. It was also a major trading centre, boasting a number of department stores, although it still lacked such "graces" as streetlamps and a proper drainage system. Graham took a boat upstream from Semipalatnisk to Malo-Krasnoiarsk, where he first heard news of the murder of Archduke Ferdinand by Serbian terrorists, thousands of miles away in Sarajevo. Although the Russian papers made much more of the murder than their British counterparts, given Russia's close ties with Serbia, Graham decided to continue his journey towards the Altai range. He later acknowledged that there was something ironic about continuing his journey "away from the interest of the world", but he was hardly alone in believing that Britain could still avoid being drawn into the Balkan imbroglio.

17Graham's journey into the Altai mountains took him to some of the remotest areas of Asia.26 He planned to stay for several weeks in Altaisky, near the foot of Mount Belukha, which struck him as a kind of earthly paradise, where the valleys were full of "blue sage, mauve cranesbills […] saffron poppies, grass of Parnassus, campanula, pink moss flowers and giant thistle-heads, gentian [and] Siberian iris".27 His idyllic stay in a Cossack village, marred only by the repetitive nature of the food, was cut short on 31 July when "tidings of war" filtered through by telegram even to this remote corner of the Russian Empire. Nobody in the village could decide who the enemy was (at first rumours went round the village that the war was with China or England). It took several days for a more accurate sense of what had happened to percolate through the community, and still more time for mobilisation orders to arrive, requiring all the men of the village who were young enough for military service to report for duty.28 Graham decided to follow in their footsteps, leaving his Altai idyll to return to the chaos of Europe. He travelled by steamer back to Semipalatinsk, where he transferred to a larger boat that took him on to Omsk. From here he returned by railway to western Russia, although only by a slow and circuitous route, since mobilisation placed massive constraints on the movement of goods and people not needed for the war effort.29 He arrived back to Moscow in September 1914, more than a month after the outbreak of hostilities, and more than two months since he first heard news of the assassination of Franz Ferdinand.

18The war was already going badly for the Russians. The defeat at the hands of German forces in the Battle of Tannenberg in late August provided a stark insight into the problems that were destined to confront the Russian war effort throughout the following years. Although the victory of the German Eighth Army owed a good deal to the tactical nous of Hindenburg and Ludendorff – along with more junior officers like Colonel Max Hoffmann – the Russian defeat highlighted serious defects in military planning and execution.30 Graham was still contracted to write for The Times, and his first piece after his return from Central Asia appeared on 12 September, followed twelve days later by a second article that appeared under the unlikely heading of 'The Beauty of War'. Graham described how Russian troops had engaged the enemy whilst singing hymns, much to the unease of the Germans, "who seem distressed by the songs of the Russians as they fight". The surreal account was compounded by talk of large-scale Russian advances and German retreats. Graham's subsequent articles maintained an equally positive tone. In October he published a piece arguing that Russia's "holy war" had mobilised the spiritual energies of the Russian people behind a common struggle to defend their homeland against German aggression.31 Two weeks later he characterised the conflict between Russia and German as one between "imagination" and "will", suggesting that the Russian soldier would in time prevail, since he "has his eyes set on an unearthly prize [...] and goes forward in a state of rapture".32 In November he described "suffering Poland" as "a Belgium of the East", suggesting that Britain and Russia were both fighting for the rights of the small European nations, a dubious argument given the chequered history of Russo-Polish relations.33 The war that Graham presented to his readers was a battle between two different kinds of civilisation – one spiritual and one material – and he left his readers in no doubt that there could only be one winner in such a conflict.

19At least some of Graham's dispatches were written close to the Front Line, where he "listened to the chatter of the machine-guns [and] witnessed the explosion of bombs falling from the little Taube aeroplanes, took part in a panic stampede, observed the Siberian regiments being brought up to stem the enemy's advance to Warsaw".34 He was also briefly detained by the military authorities, who were only mollified when he produced a four-year old letter from the Governor of Archangel testifying to his bona fides. Graham spent just a short time behind the lines, though, and at the end of October he had travelled to Petrograd, the new war-time name for St Petersburg, in order to interview the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Sazonov. Sazonov was a professional diplomat and a strong Anglophile, who had been posted to Britain earlier in his career, and he hoped to cultivate Graham in order to secure positive coverage of Russia's war effort in The Times.35 The two men met at a flat above the Foreign Ministry, accessed by a rickety old-fashioned lift, where they discussed "the prospects for continued Anglo-Russian friendship and co-operation after the war". Graham was impressed by his courteous host, who provided an "English lunch" of lamb chops and mineral water,36 but the interview was destined to cause considerable controversy a few weeks later, when he wrote in The Sunday Times that Sazonov had spoken dismissively of the contribution made to the Russian war effort by its Jewish population. The antisemitic character of Sazonov's words – which Graham may or may not have reported accurately – created furore in Britain and America.37 The article also caused intense embarrassment for the Government in Petrograd at a time when ministers wanted to avoid doing anything that might damage their country's reputation as a key member of the coalition fighting against German militarism. The Russian Foreign Ministry quickly released a statement denying "in the most emphatic manner statements attributed to Mr Sazonoff […] with reference to the future treatment of the Jews in Russia".38 The incident caused lasting damage to Graham's reputation with the Russian Government. It also made him an object of suspicion amongst many liberals back home in Britain.

20Following his interview with Sazonov, Graham returned to Moscow, renting a tiny room at the Hotel Europe (the indomitable Olga Novikov was staying in much more impressive accommodation in the same establishment). It was only a brief visit. Graham had not been home since the end of 1913, and although the war made travel dangerous, he was by early December back in Petrograd where he took a boat bound for Stockholm. From there he went to Oslo and across the North Sea to Britain.39 The country at first struck him as steeped in depression, but his natural optimism soon reasserted itself, as he came to identify "a renewed national vigour" among his fellow-countrymen.40 Graham's return to Britain may have been impelled by a vague sense that he should "join up", but his journalistic instincts soon reasserted themselves, as he decided that his war work should focus on promoting closer relations between Britain and Russia. He was also anxious not to abandon his "true line" of expressing new "creative ideas" to his readers.41 Graham was determined to persuade his fellow countrymen that Russia was important as a source of spiritual inspiration as well as a valuable military ally in the war against Germany and Austro-Hungary.

21Graham was not alone in believing that the success of the Anglo-Russian relationship depended on fostering more positive attitudes towards a country that was still regarded with suspicion by many Britons. Russia was an awkward ally in a war that was supposedly being fought for liberty and the rights of small nations. The Times argued on the day after hostilities broke out that Britain was joining a coalition acting as "defenders of the weak and champions of the liberties of Europe".42 Other papers like the Daily Mail also sought to harness popular patriotism to the cause of freedom, a position echoed by Government ministers in the weeks that followed. The alliance with France was easy to accommodate within this broad rhetoric of justification, given the country's well-established liberal credentials, but the position of Russia was, for obvious reasons, more complex.

22The British Government made a sustained effort to foster a positive image of Britain in Russia, setting up an Anglo-Russian Propaganda Bureau in Petrograd to help win the hearts and minds of the Russian public,43 but ministers made less effort to shape the way that Russia was viewed in Britain. A number of semi-official books and articles nevertheless appeared claiming that there was a natural affinity between the two nations.44 Many of these pieces argued that Russia possessed a distinctive "soul", which meant that western forms of government were not necessarily appropriate for (or even desired by) the Russian people. Books with titles like Allies in Art and The Soul of Russia went to great lengths to argue that Russia was far from the barbarian nation that some in Britain still imagined it to be.45 There was also a large increase in the publication of books about the Russian Church, including one by Bishop Herbert Bury, responsible for Anglican congregations in Eastern Europe, which challenged the notion that Russian Orthodoxy was mired in superstition and corruption.46 These were, of course, exactly the themes that Graham had been articulating for many years in his own work. The idea of the Russian soul had, before 1914, largely been a matter of cultural and aesthetic interest in Britain. The outbreak of hostilities meant that it became central to the image held by many Britons of their new and still largely unknown ally.

23Graham remained perhaps the pre-eminent British authority on the elusive intricacies of the Russian soul during the early years of the War (particularly after Maurice Baring left for France on attachment to the Royal Flying Corps). He was certainly in demand as a public speaker during the months he spent back in Britain during the winter of 1914-15, giving one lecture to an audience of five thousand people in Manchester, as well as talks at smaller venues such as the Ethical Church in Bayswater and Kingsway Hall in Holborn. Although most of his lectures were uncontroversial, combining reflections on recent events in Russia with a patriotic insistence that the defeat of the Central Powers was simply a matter of time, one of them raised a good deal of public furore. Graham recalled many years later how his talk on 'The Future of Russia' at the National Liberal Club, in January 1915, created "a storm" as a group "of radicals denounced Russia and myself together".47 His critics were incensed above all by the speaker's attitude towards the treatment of Jews living in the Tsarist Empire (something that had for some time made him an object of suspicion amongst a section of British public opinion).48 Their concern was only heightened by the uproar that followed the publication of his interview with Sazonov. The accounts of what Graham actually said at the Liberal Club were confused and contradictory, but many of those present certainly believed that he had expressed support for the Russian Government in taking harsh measures against its Jewish population. The tone became so raucous at one point that the chairman – the novelist Silas Hocking – was forced to restore order against a series of "rude interruptions".49 Graham fuelled the controversy still further a few weeks later with an article in the English Review, in which he claimed that the Jews were by instinct a "western nation", adding for good measure that "All good Russians must wish the Jews God's speed when they see them embarking for America at Libau, not because they are an evil people or accursed, but because with their genius and their assumed humility they have ever been a great danger to the Russians".50 Graham later argued that such words were intended to show his support for an independent Jewish state – a claim that does not hold much water given the paucity of any evidence in his writings.51 It is, in any case, hardly surprising that so many members of Britain's Jewish community reacted to his views with fury, given the long history of pogroms suffered by Russia's Jews, which, as often as not, enjoyed a degree of patronage from leading figures in the tsarist military and bureaucracy.52

24One member of the audience who heard Graham's speech at the National Liberal Club suggested that his words should be seen as evidence of an impractical and "poetical nature" rather than vicious ethnic or religious prejudice.53 Not all his critics were so generous. Both the Jewish Chronicle and the Jewish World regularly attacked Graham's views on Russia.54 The writer Israel Zangwill contributed two letters to The Nation early in 1915, accusing Graham of "literary mine-sowing", and condemned him for resuscitating the "monstrous medieval Myth" of the blood-libel, that is the idea that Jews regularly engaged in ritual sacrifice of Christian victims. He also accused Graham of routinely misquoting or misrepresenting people he interviewed, including Sazonov, and of spewing out an "incessant output of books and articles" designed to "prepare the world for England's abandonment of the Russian Jews at the end of this war of freedom". Zangwill concluded by complaining that "a journalist with such a code should be given such prominence in The Times", adding a lament "that a writer with so much engaging enthusiasm and literary charm and so precious a sense of Russian mysticism and brotherhood, a writer who might really help Russia and England to help each other, should have gone so hopelessly astray in the dreary bogs of reactionary politics".55 Nor was this an isolated attack. In February 1915, Percy Cohen published an 'Open Letter to Stephen Graham' in The New Age, attacking his "despicable anti-Jewish propaganda". He went on to accuse Graham of peddling "solemn avowals of illiberalism, strongly flavoured with medieval ignorance", concluding that "the Russia of the dawn cannot be a country which perpetuates the monstrous infamies with which Jews are at present saddled".56 Other writers weighed in with accusations that Graham had a "medieval soul".57

25No biographer can ignore the existence of powerful anti-semitic motifs in much of Graham's writing during this period – even if such sentiments were hardly unusual within the early twentieth-century

26British Establishment (Graham himself noted towards the end of his life that he should have "kept off the Jewish problem").58 Nor is it possible to ignore the stark fact that the Holy Russia he admired so greatly was a place where anti-semitism was rife. Graham's attitude towards Russia's Jewish population was shaped, above all, by his suspicion of modern society. The Russian Jew served in his imagination as a symbol of the urban industrialised world that he believed was ripping apart the delicate fabric of traditional Russia. His critics in the British press spoke truthfully when they reminded their readers that another, less appealing country lurked beneath the glittering camouflage of Holy Russia. The golden cupolas that so enthralled Graham were symbols not only of spiritual depth and mystery, but also of a Church that ostracised outsiders, and condemned important sections of the population to a marginal place within society.

27Many of the lectures Graham gave during the first few weeks of 1915 were on the less controversial subject of "the new and living Christianity emerging from Russia".59 In talk after talk he criticised the formalism of Christian observance in Britain, where "religion is for the most part imprisoned in […] the churches", comparing it unfavourably with the more vibrant Orthodox tradition. He also gave a Lenten address at St Margaret's Church in Westminster, dressed in a borrowed black cassock, on the subject of 'Dostoevsky and the Russian Church': "I spoke from the heart [...] I contrasted a Church of praise with a Church of miserable sinners, love of man with a gloating over villains, intuitive action with obedience to the 'rule' of Christian ethics".60

28Graham's calls for an intuitive and living Christianity attracted considerable attention amongst a section of London society, particularly at a time when the horrors of total war were fostering a new interest in ethical and spiritual questions, to which the established churches seemed to have no convincing response.61 He became a frequent visitor to a number of aristocratic homes, including that of Lady St Helier, the sometime confidante of Thomas Hardy, who played an important role in fostering interest in literary matters in London society during the early years of the twentieth century. He was also taken up by Adeline Duchess of Bedford, another blue-stocking aristocrat, and a deeply-religious woman who had many friendships amongst senior clerics in the Church of England. Nor were Graham's contacts limited to the world of the literary-aristocratic beau monde. He also met a number of senior figures in the British political establishment – although he did not always find the experience rewarding. At one dinner party attended by Lloyd George, along with Lord Reading and Reginald Mckenna, Graham's ideas about how to deal with the Russians made little impact on the assembled company. The politicians were concerned with such practical questions as the provision of credit. Graham preferred to reflect in more general terms on how best to negotiate with the Russians, telling the company that "if you treat a Russian generously he will try to outdo you in generosity", a policy that was unlikely to have much appeal for the cash-starved Treasury.62 He was nevertheless able, when occasion demanded, to write about contemporary events with an acuity that meant his opinion was still regularly sought by politicians and newspaper publishers. Lloyd George himself consulted Graham about Russian affairs on a number of occasions during the War. One of Graham's frustrations during this period was, indeed, that he found it easier to be taken seriously as a journalist rather than as a visionary promoting a new understanding of religion. He nevertheless remained determined to encourage his readers to think seriously about the shortcomings of modern industrial society and the shallow materialism that he believed shaped its religious and philosophical outlook.

29Graham left Britain once again in the spring of 1915, bound this time not for Russia but for the Egyptian desert. He went there to learn more about the life of the early Church and its impact on the development of Eastern Christianity. He travelled via Paris and Marseilles, where he boarded a ship for Egypt, and, after spending a few days in Alexandria, he went on to Cairo where he visited the Pyramids and the Sphinx. The city had been transformed by the War, and its streets thronged with troops from across the Empire, including a large number of Indian soldiers who seemed "happier in the glare of the desert" than their Western counterparts. Graham felt deeply sympathetic towards the troops forced to parade in the blistering heat, and even more so for the thousands of wounded who had been sent to Egypt to recuperate from injuries received during the first few weeks of the disastrous Dardanelles Campaign. He bought a large box of oranges and numerous cartons of cigarettes to take to the hospital at Heliopolis, where he spoke to the soldiers about their experiences on the battlefield, reassuring readers of The Times that they remained cheerful and committed to the allied cause despite their injuries.63

30During his time in Cairo, Graham also succeeded in obtaining a letter of introduction from the "well-fed debonair" leader of the Coptic community,64 Marcus bey Simaika, authorising his access to the monastery at the desert shrine of Makarios, where a number of Patriarchs of the Coptic Church lay embalmed. After a long journey on horseback from the desert town of Bir Hooker, he arrived at the remote place, where he was welcomed by the elderly Abbot with "thimblefuls of thick sweet coffee prepared in the Armenian way".65 Graham also spoke with a number of other monks – there were only a handful in total – quizzing them about their solitary life far from the crowded Nile Delta. He was impressed by their detachment from the cares of the world, including the Great War being fought only a few hundred miles away, sensing that they were in spirit heirs to the "eccentric" hermits and "world-deniers" who had flocked to the desert in the sixth century.66 He was also touched by the hospitality that he received, even though the monks were desperately poor, writing gratefully of their warmth and kindness.

31Graham's visit to the Egyptian desert was prompted by his search for material for his book on The Way of Martha and the Way of Mary which, when published at the end of 1915, provided its readers with a highly stylised comparison of Eastern and Western Christianity, albeit one which insisted that reconciliation between the two understandings of Christianity remained possible. Graham's knowledge of the history and theology of the Eastern Church was always decidedly sketchy, and he was never clear in his own mind whether the distinctive nature of Holy Russia was a peculiarly Russian phenomenon, or was instead rooted in the fact that the country received its Christian heritage from the East. His journey into the Egyptian desert in 1915 provided him with insights into a world about which he knew very little, but it did not give him much sense that the character of Russian Christianity could be explained simply by its Eastern heritage. Graham remained, as ever, a believer in a particularly Russian exceptionalism that was expressed in the innate spirituality of its people.

32Graham left Egypt in June 1915, making his way via Athens to Sofia, passing "almost near enough to Gallipoli to hear the guns".67 His journey was delayed on the Greek frontier, where he was forced to live for a week in a tent, since the Bulgarian authorities were imposing strict quarantine to prevent the spread of the plague that they believed was endemic in areas around Salonika.68 After leaving Sofia, Graham headed on to Bucharest, before travelling eastwards to Odessa. The port was at a virtual standstill, the warehouses full of wheat that could not be exported to western Europe, given the difficulties faced by merchant shipping in navigating the straits at Constantinople. Anti-Government feeling was growing rapidly in Russia by the summer of 1915, as poor management of the war was blamed for defeats like the one suffered against the Austrian army at Gorlice. Graham saw first-hand how recent riots had led shopkeepers to barricade their windows against looting. The picture was similar in Moscow, where Graham travelled after a short stay by the Black Sea, arriving there shortly after the suppression of street disorders which had resulted in the widespread pillaging of businesses owned by individuals unlucky enough to bear German-sounding names.

33The chaos proved to be the start of a major political crisis. In June 1915, a Conference of the liberal Cadet Party called for the establishment of a government commanding public support. The mood in the factories was also growing bleak, driven both by resentment against longer working days and rising food prices, as well as a fear about the possibility of conscription to the Front. Nicholas II was dimly aware that concessions might be necessary to regain popular support, and in July he appointed a new Minister of War to replace the discredited V.A. Sukhominov, who was widely if unfairly blamed for the defeats suffered by the Russian army during the previous year. The Tsar also recalled the Duma in a gesture designed to show that he was ready to listen to public opinion. The opening sessions quickly revealed the gulf that had emerged between the Government and its critics. A number of deputies made speeches that were, in the words of the British ambassador Sir George Buchanan, "far more outspoken than has ever been the case previously".69 Nicholas's response was both decisive and disastrous. Within a few weeks he prorogued the Duma, dismissing popular ministers, and appointing the conservative A.N. Khvostov as Interior Minister. The Tsar also announced that he would take personal command at the stavka – the army headquarters behind the Front Line – even though he had no significant military experience. The diplomatic representatives of Russia's allies were appalled, fearing that such actions might foster political instability, and make Russia still less reliable as an ally in the war against the central powers.

34Graham was in an excellent position to follow the political crisis, since he was in Moscow and Petrograd for most of the summer of 1915, but he was less than enthusiastic about the prospect of political reform. From the time he first arrived in Russia, he believed that the country's distinctive identity rested on the maintenance of a semi-autocratic system of government that was indelibly bound up with the whole fabric of Holy Russia. Although Graham was astute enough to realise that Nicholas and his ministers had proved ineffective at managing the war, he still found it hard to warm to members of the opposition, including the Cadet leader Paul Miliukov. When the two men met in Petrograd they quickly realised they had nothing in common. Graham recalled that Miliukov was hostile to religion and believed that it was "better to go to cinemas than to Church". Miliukov believed that Graham was "inclined to exaggerate and to extol the good qualities of the […] plain peasants".70 Although the meeting of the two men was friendly enough, it does not seem to have been repeated. The reports Graham published in The Times during this period developed the themes of his earlier articles. He acknowledged that the Russian army had suffered major setbacks at the Front, but maintained that the people were still animated by "the spirit of 1812", when Napoleon had been repulsed at the gates of Moscow. He continued to write in this vein after returning to Britain in the middle of October 1915. In a piece that appeared in the Sunday Pictorial, Graham wrote that "The millions of the Russians are brave and patient soldiers, seeing visions, wearing crosses under their khaki tunics […] courageous individually to an extraordinary degree, strong as lions, merciless in anger but tender in a moment if something touches them; the most sociable men, the most affectionate relations man to man, crazily fond of music".71 A few days earlier, he joined the novelist John Buchan on the platform at a public meeting in London, where he told the audience that, despite recent defeats, Russia was already recuperating and would soon put millions of fresh troops into the field.72 The optimistic tone was de rigueur at a time when many authors and journalists believed they had a duty to help maintain public morale, but Graham's language suggests that the growing political tensions in Russia had not fundamentally changed his view of the country. He was still convinced that the spirit of Holy Russia lived on and would unite the country and inspire its people to victory.

35Graham once again gave numerous lectures during his trip back to Britain in 1915-16, including one to the Anglo-Russian Literary Society, where the chairman hailed him as "a living medium of communication between the souls of these two peoples".73 Graham's opinions about Russia were also canvassed by members of the British political establishment. The departure of Nicholas II for the stavka had left something of a political vacuum back in Petrograd, leading to rumours that the Empress was playing a role in making important decisions, whilst the reports of British diplomats and journalists in Russia were already beginning to talk about the influence supposedly wielded at Court by the shamanic Rasputin and other "dark forces". Graham was invited to the Reform Club by George Riddell, who somewhat mischievously wrote up their lunch-time conversation as a column in The News of the World, sending in return a cheque attached to a compliment slip noting that the paper "is always glad to receive original news items". Riddell also introduced Graham to Robertson Nicoll, editor of the leading Nonconformist paper The British Weekly, which still enjoyed considerable influence at this time. "A more important meeting" took place with Lloyd George, who quizzed his visitor about the political attitudes of leading Russian figures and the state of popular morale.74 Although Lloyd George had access to detailed Foreign Office reports on Russia, he distrusted professional diplomats, and was anxious to obtain alternative sources of information. He was less interested in religious questions, although he did accept a copy of Graham's recent translation of the Russian journalist V.M. Doroshevich's Way of the Cross, which contained "terribly poignant" descriptions of the privations faced by refugees fleeing from the German advance.75 Graham also left a copy of his recently published book The Way of Martha and The Way of Mary with Mrs Lloyd George, although she was, like many Britons of a Nonconformist background, decidedly unsympathetic to the Eastern Church, believing it to be a hot-bed of superstition and idolatry. Her visitor was realistic enough to realise that he was unlikely to change her mind.

36Graham had been working on The Way of Martha and the Way of Mary since 1914, finding it "the hardest of all my books to write". He was convinced that the final version was something more than a "medley of impressions and stories", and was confident that the text was unified by a single "object and quest running through the whole of it", a claim that might not convince every reader.76 The book took as its inspiration the biblical story of Mary and Martha, the two sisters who welcomed Jesus to their house at Bethany, where Mary sat at Jesus's feet to listen whilst Martha bustled around preparing food for the guests. The sisters have, throughout history, often been seen as representatives of two different aspects of Christianity: the contemplative (with an emphasis on prayer and devotion) and the active (with an emphasis on good works and love of neighbour). Graham argued that the difference between the two sisters served as a kind of metaphor for the difference between the Eastern and Western churches – a claim that ignored, in rather cavalier fashion, the manifest divisions within both eastern and western Christendom. In the preface to Martha and Mary he wrote that the two sisters represented a "touchstone for Christianity [...] and in their reconciliation is a great beauty".77 Most of the book was, though, based on an implicit belief that the devotional-contemplative aspect of Christianity represented the highest expression of Christian faith. Graham did not hide his belief that the Russian Church was "the fairest child of the early Church",78 although he made no real effort to explain why this should be so, given that Russia had received its faith from Byzantium many hundreds of years after it had been established in other parts of Europe. He did however hint at a possible explanation when he suggested that there was something in the Russian psyche that made it particularly receptive to Christianity, allowing it to absorb the faith and re-make it in a distinctive fashion, characterised by a readiness to reach out to the marginalized and dispossessed. Russia was above all for Graham still the place where Christianity extended beyond the Church and into the theatre of life.

In such a form is the Russian notion of the world and his conception of life. It is such a church, such a theatre, such a mystery play. It has its liturgies of beauty, its many processions, its sacrifices, its ecstasies; it is a great phantasmagoria of emblems. Nothing is without significance; every man has his part; by his life he divines it and fulfils it. Every common sight and sound is charged with mystery. Everything is praising, everything is choric, everything triumphant.79

37Graham made much in Martha and Mary of the central role of podvig in Russian Christianity – that is the supposed emphasis on "denial of this mortal life as real life" – in favour of a conception which emphasised the central importance of spiritual struggle and purification. He described a pilgrimage to the hermitage of Father Seraphim, one of the best-known mystics of the nineteenth-century Russian church, whose vow of silence and constant devotion to others marked him out in Graham's view as a saint whose life had been defined by a pursuit of the principle of denial: of self; of personal comfort; and of materialism. Such behaviour, in turn, echoed the supreme case of denial represented by the death of Christ on the cross, which was followed by the Resurrection, and its symbolic triumph of everlasting life over both mortality and material necessity. Graham discussed at some length in Martha and Mary the question of miracles, arguing that, despite their importance in signalling Christ's power and identity, they were essentially secondary to his spiritual mission on earth (a position which, although he did not know it, closely echoed the views of many Liberal Protestants of the period). He even suggested that some of the gospels were written by men "of the early Church who could not understand the mystic story", and therefore invented stories of miracles in an effort to convey the power and importance of Christ to their readers, in the process inadvertently placing too much emphasis on the material rather than the spiritual. Graham made it clear that he was sceptical about the story of Lazarus's rising from the dead – Lazarus was of course the brother of Mary and Martha – instead suggesting that what Jesus had meant to convey was that Lazarus was alive in the presence of God rather than in the flesh:

Most explanations of the miracles are true, but inadequate. They often lead to confusion of thought and the emphasis on the material facts and outward manifestation rather than on the spiritual facts and inner reality. It is true that Christ "went about the world doing good," and that He is to us "an example of godly life," but the good that He did was spiritual good.80

38Graham did not claim that the whole of Russian Christianity was shaped by the principle of contemplation and prayer, describing how even at the Convent of St Martha and St Mary, located on the south side of the Moscow river, "the idea of Martha and service stands first in their minds". Graham was also hopeful that the ideals of contemplation and spiritual quest had, in recent years, become stronger in Britain, even though the country had for many decades been a place where "thoughts about one's soul were considered rather ignoble".81 Graham made much of the contrast between what he called the "ecclesiastical church" and the "living church", an idea that had been implicit in his thought for many years, once more returning to the notion that the true Church should be like a theatre engaging the whole emotional life of its members. A truly living Church, whether in Britain or Russia, would not be defined by dogma but instead:

have to come into alliance with what may be called the right side of the theatre. For occasionally in the theatre people worship as much as others do in the Church. Many young people whose families have lapsed from the Church find their religious life functionised in the book, the drama, the opera, the symphony. They are not communicants in the literal sense, they are outside the church walls and the shut church doors, but they are inside the living Church. They have a common word with people inside church walls. Their chorus of praise swells from the other side of the walls, and in some countries the secular chorus of praise to God has considerably more volume than the official ecclesiastical chorus.82

39The real task of the Christian Church was to help people develop a richer understanding of the material world and the spiritual universe of which it formed a part:

You enter a church, such a temple, for instance, as the Cathedral of the Assumption in Moscow. At a step you are in the precincts of a different world. You have overstepped a frontier line, and the language has changed, just as when in Europe you cross a boundary and the language changes, say from German to Russian. The people are looking a different way, not Westward as to the Emperor but Eastward as to God. You are in a new kingdom; but as your thoughts go back to the street you left you realise that the kingdom is not from thence.83

40Although Graham believed that the boundary between the spiritual and material worlds was drawn less starkly in Russia than in the countries of the West, he was certain that every nation had the potential to slough off the dead weight of materialism, and re-define its character in a way that would engage the energies of its people in a new and more profound manner.

41Graham's interest in the potential for some form of national spiritual renewal in Britain, which he touched on in Martha and Mary, had been developing since the early days of the War. It was indeed present in many of his earlier books, which were at least partly inspired by a desire to show a western audience the full depth of Russia's spiritual traditions, in the hope of inspiring new reflections about how best to overcome the anomie of modern industrial society. During the final weeks of 1915, Graham attended a "pot-luck" lunch hosted by the Rector of St Margaret's Church in Westminster, where he met a mysterious young Serbian émigré named Dimitrije Mitrinović, who stood out from the assembled crowd with his "black longish hair and melancholy eyes".84 Mitrinović was, like Graham, deeply committed to overcoming the divisions within Christianity, by fostering a new understanding of faith that rejected formal dogmas and creeds, and over the following weeks the two men discussed the possible establishment of a "secret society" designed to "operate from the invisible to the visible [and] from an initiated few to the many who were as yet unaware of the movement".85 They were joined in this curious enterprise by Father Nikolai Velimirović, a Serbian Orthodox priest and author of several important philosophical and theological works,86 who had, like so many of his fellow-countrymen, been driven to Britain by the exigencies of war.87 Both Graham and Velimirović were ready to follow Mitrinović's proposal that they "cautiously seek allies and persuade them to join us and form a Christianly conscious nucleus. All in secret, all below ground. The more secret we are, the greater the spiritual strength we draw, till we are ready to break surface and grow to be a mighty tree".88 The three men planned to pursue this grandiloquent goal by searching for sympathetic individuals who would be willing to join the society and work for the re-spiritualisation of Britain.

42In Graham's 1918 book The Quest of the Face, which provided a thinly-veiled account of this curious enterprise, the fictionalised Mitrinović (under the name of Dushan) was quoted as saying that:

You believe in the unity of all in Him. Well, then, let us work for that unity, for the consciousness of it throughout the world. That is Christianity itself. If we can find ten who believe as you believe, then in ten years all Europe will realise Christ, and within our life-time China and India will come in. Let us begin to-day and endeavour to realise universal consciousness of unity in Christ.89

43Back in 1915, Graham sought to launch the project by approaching the Earl of Sandwich, well-known for his interest in various forms of Christian idealism, but the prospective candidate failed to hit it off personally with Mitrinović. A second potential candidate, Professor L.P. Jacks, the Unitarian editor of the Hibbert Journal, seemed unable or unwilling to grasp what Graham and Mitrinović were trying to achieve. The two men then considered approaching G.R.S. Mead, a leading British Theosophist and editor of the journal Quest, but after discussion they decided that he was too cerebral to understand how an essentially emotional "regeneration of Christian belief" might come about. The whole episode of the secret society sounds distinctly bizarre, although it is worth remembering that the First World War saw a growing interest in such cults as Spiritualism and Theosophy, stimulated in large part by horror at the carnage of mechanised warfare.90 It certainly shows the depth of Graham's determination to move beyond the role of a mere writer in order to become an agent of a new kind of spiritual evangelism in his own homeland. Both Graham and Mitrinović intuitively believed that the chaos and brutality of war had undermined traditional patterns of ethical belief and behaviour, with the result that a new form of society needed to emerge from the wreckage, one that would reject the materialism of the pre-War world in favour of a more profound understanding of the meaning of human existence.

44Dimitrije Mitrinović was – and was not – a natural partner for Graham in the quest to establish a society designed to foster national spiritual renewal. He was born in Herzegovina in 1887, later attending Zagreb University, before becoming a regular contributor to a number of literary journals in the Balkans (during the pre-War years he was particularly interested in the Symbolist movement). He was also active in the Bosnian independence movement, and although he opposed the use of violence, he moved for a time in the same circles as those later responsible for murdering Archduke Ferdinand, heir to the Austrian throne, in the infamous assassination at Sarajevo in June 1914.91 He attended Munich University, where he got to know the painter Vasily Kandinsky, before fleeing to Britain when war broke out, where he was given a sinecure post by the Serbian Embassy.

45It was during the war that he developed his distinctive personal philosophy, which in later years rested on the notion that there was "no Being, no principle, no force" that was higher than human reason, with the result that "the human race is the container of truth".92 When stripped of some of the more abstruse language, Mitrinović seems to have believed that God was best found "within" rather than "outside" the individual person, or, in the stilted language he came to favour, that "existence itself is aware of itself in humans".93 Even when still living in Serbia, before 1914, he was inclined to use verse as the most appropriate way of articulating his philosophical and aesthetic view of the world, believing that a formal rational language could not alone convey his meaning satisfactorily. In one 1913 poem he wrote tellingly that "Art is Magic / Magic is Life / Life is Divinity / Divinity is Humanity / Humanity is Myself".94

46Mitrinović believed from an early age that his ideas would, if they were to have any effect, require the establishment of some form of quasi-conspiratorial organisation. He was constantly looking for suitable candidates, cultivating individuals such as the critic and writer Philip Mairet, who later recalled that being asked to become a participant was much "like conversion to a religion".95 It may indeed be that Graham overstated his role as a co-author of the secret society, for he was almost certainly seen by Mitrinović less as an equal and more as a follower. Graham for his part was attracted to Mitrinović by his rejection of materialism as "an unworthy superstition", as well as his sense that God was to be found in personal experience, rather than in the elaborate formulae of Church doctrine. There was in Graham's emotional make-up a deep love of the esoteric, whilst the idea of a secret society doubtless also appealed to a somewhat theatrical element of his character. His war-time friendship with Mitrinović was, in any case, destined to have a lasting effect on his future. His wife became a close collaborator of Mitrinović in the 1920s and 1930s, whilst Graham himself spent the second half of his life with Dimitrije's sister, Vera, finally marrying her after Rosa's death in 1956.

47Graham's hopes for fostering some form of spiritual renewal in Britain were not limited to his involvement with Mitrinović's secret society. At some point in late 1915 he also conceived the idea of writing a novel exploring the whole subject. In the final weeks of 1915, he went on a preparatory "pilgrimage" in search of "the real England",96 seeking out places that were "in a national sense holy ground", such as Glastonbury Tor and York Minster. Amongst the places he visited was Stoke Poges graveyard, famous as the setting for Gray's "Elegy Written in an English Country Church-Yard", a poem which Graham believed showed a "great faith in the human being, above all, in the English human being". In places like Stoke Poges, he told readers of The Times, it became clear that "Whatever be the noisy exterior of England, the cosmopolitan clangour of its audible voice, the shames of its commercial rampages, there is another and more real being behind, and that is anonymous England, the quiet fount of the true English people". Graham argued that the "Elegy" itself was a great work, not because it was "beautiful", but because it captured in its understated description of an English landscape something that was "national", and "written by England for England". The picture painted by Gray of a rural world in which "The ploughman homeward plods his weary way" represented for Graham a more authentic England than the England of cities and "society gossip" and "self-advertisement". The idea of a timeless world of unchanging rituals, set against a background of pastoral beauty, must have been beguiling to his readers at a time when so many thousands of lives were being lost in the slaughter taking place just a few hundred miles away in the mud of Flanders.

48The "pilgrimage" Graham took through Britain in the closing weeks of 1915 provided much of the inspiration for his novel Priest of the Ideal, which did not finally appear until just after the February 1917 Revolution, although he was working on the book throughout 1916. The novel represented an attempt to relocate many of the themes that had run throughout his writings about Russia to a new setting: Britain itself. It sought to mythologise, or in Graham's view reveal, the essence of Englishness (for someone who was fitfully proud of his Scottish background Graham was astonishingly inclined to shift between the terms Britain and England). The book tells the story of Richard Hampden, an Englishman in his early thirties, who in the view of his friends "knows more about England and [its] spiritual values than any man we have".97 The first half of the book describes a tour taken through the holy places of Britain by Hampden and an American visitor named Washington King, who was hoping to buy up "historical monuments, buildings, manuscripts, paintings, furniture [that have] ceased to have any particular significance of value for [the English]".98 Hampden's chosen mission was to convince King that the supposedly lifeless relics of an ancient way of life were still full of significance for the British people, despite their apparent obsession with science and commerce, since the country retained a potent spiritual identity rooted in its long Christian heritage. Each chapter of the book was headed by an "emblem" designed to be "part of the expression of the book and not merely an ornament".


Figure 5: Two of the pictorial emblems appearing in Stephen Graham, Priest of the Ideal (London: Macmillan, 1917), pp. 151 and 165.

49Graham sought to articulate his sense of the importance of the drawings by quoting the preface to Francis Quarles 1635 book Emblems: "Before the knowledge of letters, God was known by hieroglyphics. And indeed, what are the Heavens, the earth, nay, every creature, but Hieroglyphics and Emblems of his glory?" It was a sentiment calculated to appeal to Graham's instinctive symbolic reading of the world.

50Hampden himself was at least in part an idealised self-portrait of Graham (something immediately recognised by Algernon Blackwood when he first read the book).99 He was described as being thirty two years of age – Graham's own age in 1916 – and above average height with "a brown moustache and long flexible lips". He was also loved by a woman some fifteen years older than himself, in a relationship that was based as much on shared spiritual identity as on strong physical attraction, a description that has strong echoes of Graham's own relations with Rosa. The novel not only records Hampden's attempts to persuade King of his folly in seeking to appropriate cultural artefacts that retained a contemporary meaning for the British people; it goes on to describe his almost messianic attempt to convert his fellow-Britons to his vision of a country reborn into a renewed awareness of its cultural and spiritual roots. Priest of the Ideal is without doubt a failure as a work of fiction, but as a source for understanding Graham's view of the world during these years it remains invaluable.

51The fictional tour taken by Hampden and King through the holy places of Britain was clearly based on the itinerary of Graham's 1915 pilgrimage. The two men travelled first to Glastonbury Tor – "a place of epic loveliness" – before visiting the town itself, which Hampden argued was the cradle of the British Church and proof that "the ancient Britons were ready for Christianity. No race received it more humbly, more simply and more readily than they". Later on Hampden told King that Christianity had shaped the whole of British history and "was the first common ground on which our nation grew". Hampden was anxious, though, to show his companion that Glastonbury's significance was not simply historic, telling him that although "our John Bull of today does not like to call himself a pilgrim […] he has true yearnings all the same".100

52The two men then moved on to Iona, where Hampden gave a "lay-sermon" on Columba, describing in highly stylised fashion how the saint had come there from Ireland in order to bring Christianity to Scotland. The Celtic saints figured large in the mythological history Hampden constructed for King – whether at Glastonbury, Iona or Lindisfarne – forming part of a narrative that tacitly assumed the early Celtic Church was superior in wisdom and spirituality to the Roman Church brought to Britain by St Augustine in the sixth century. Hampden's credo, or rather the credo put into his lips by Graham, rested on the assumption that it was possible to discern in history an essential England whose spirit still shaped the course of the country's development. The glorified antique collector King was by contrast blind in believing that the places and artefacts of its history were of little more than antiquarian interest in the modern world – material relics without significance. The future regeneration of England depended for Hampden, as it did for Graham, on once more connecting the British people with the spiritual reality of their island history.

53Priest of the Ideal is not short of examples of "the cosmopolitan clamour" that in Graham's view drowned out the presence of the real England. Washington King himself represents a somewhat ambiguous figure, blind to the true character of England's history, but also sensitive to the perception that his own country lacked a sense of tradition. Graham gave a far more negative portrayal of the press baron Poldu, who was happy to use his newspapers to manipulate public opinion, in effect selling editorial space to the highest bidder (it is hard to avoid the impression that Graham intended Poldu to represent a "cosmopolitan" Jew). Other characters who cross Hampden's path feel themselves torn between two worlds, like Celia Cosmo, a modern young woman of twenty two, who, despite driving a car and lacking any knowledge of "what shyness was", finds herself uneasily aware of the emptiness of the privileged life she lives at home with her wealthy parents. As the book progresses, Hampden increasingly defines his role as one of mobilising those weary of the clamour and noise produced by the representatives of "the negative side". The second half of Priest of the Ideal consists almost entirely of chapter after chapter of his lay sermons, designed to provide his audience with an insight into the ideal England, whose spirit was to be found in the "holy places" and in a literary tradition that ran from Chaucer through Shakespeare to Gray. Hampden's audience drinks in his words and press up "to see him more nearly or to touch him",101 a description that seems to echo biblical descriptions of the way in which crowds thronged around Jesus almost two thousand years before (and perhaps hints at a certain messianic instinct in Graham himself).

54The ideas expressed by Hampden in his talks and sermons were very much those that Graham had expressed down the years, verging at times on a mysticism in which the language served as little more than a kind of poetry hinting at the speaker's ideas which, by their very nature, defied the terms of a neatly-delineated argument. Hampden, as the Priest of the Ideal, becomes a kind of saintly figure in the final pages, embodying a transcendence that allowed him both to discern and articulate the "other" England, whilst inspiring his listeners to a form of spiritual reawakening in the material world: "We are passing from the notion that everything has an explanation to the understanding that nothing has. Science betrayed us to self-satisfaction, but life has forced us to rebellion, and out of rebellion has come the new birth – wonder".102 At the heart of Hampden's philosophy, like that of Graham, was a strong sense that the world of the spirit could not be reduced to a system of doctrine guarded by powerful institutions:

The visible Church stands in the way of the spiritual consciousness just as stone idols of the heathen stand in the way of the apprehension of God […] the love which Christ started is wider and deeper and freer than all Churches whose limits are defined. And the spirit of Truth, coming like a Dove, is not a bird which has been kept and caught. It is invisible and quick as thought, and whispers to the ear of the loving heart here, there, and everywhere at once.103

55Hampden (again like Graham) finds that such an elusive and intuitive language faced criticism from those who were unable to grasp the inner truth of what was being said. The response of Hampden-Graham was predictable in its claim that "The same objection was made to the teaching of the Master. It is not possible to speak explicitly. That is why teaching is given in metaphors, parables and emblematic stories".104

56The national awakening sought by Hampden was of course exactly the kind of development that Graham and Mitrinović hoped to set in motion when they tried to establish their secret society in the final weeks of 1915. They too wanted to find individuals who would work with them to show others how to find the "prompting of God" in their own hearts. Priest of the Ideal therefore represented for Graham a fantasy of national spiritual renewal that had proved so elusive in the mundane setting of everyday life. He acknowledged in the Preface that the book was "difficult to classify, being a novel with emblems and at the same time an account of a pilgrimage to sacred and national places, a new survey of the progress of our Christianity and of the English idea".105 It is certainly an elusive and, at times, tedious read. The fantastic elements in the book nevertheless become more explicable when it is remembered that so much of Graham's work before 1917, even his travel writing, was driven by a sense that the fabric of the material world was indelibly shaped by deeper organic forces. There was doubtless something comforting about such a philosophy at a time when Europe was tearing itself apart. The notion that there was an unchanging "English idea", surviving beneath the flux of history, must have been beguiling for many readers at a time of massive dislocation and change. Priest of the Ideal represented yet another attempt by Stephen Graham to identify and eulogise ideas and ideals immune from the forces of time and change.

57Graham's search for Holy England in 1916 was prompted in part by his unease that Holy Russia was being submerged by the turbulent changes taking place in the Tsarist Empire during the months leading up to the February 1917 Revolution. Although rumours about the dark forces surrounding Nicholas II were exaggerated, the sense that the Government was both corrupt and incompetent became increasingly pervasive throughout Russian society. In November 1916, Paul Miliukov and other leading Cadet politicians used a session of the Duma to express their fears that ministers were ready to undermine the war effort in order to make a separate peace with Germany. The mood in the factories grew increasingly radical, creating a febrile atmosphere in which massive social and political change seemed not only feasible but imminent. British diplomats posted to Russia were by the end of 1916 even hearing rumours that some of those close to the heart of Government were considering a military coup, which would sideline the Emperor, and introduce a new administration capable of prosecuting the war more effectively.106 By the end of 1916, the symbols of old Russia – the Tsar and the Orthodox Church – were no longer capable of serving as unifying symbols for the whole nation. When a series of street protests got out of hand a few weeks later, in February 1917, the Government found it impossible to restore order when sections of the army refused to fire on the crowd. The abdication of Nicholas II just a few days later was an almost inevitable outcome of developments that had been taking place over many years.

58Graham spent several months in Russia during the second half of 1916, arriving in early summer at Ekaterina in the far north of the country, where he spent a few days witnessing at first hand the construction of a new harbour and railway line to support the country's war effort. He then travelled on to Archangel, where he found that the "dreamy lifeless" town he had first visited six years earlier had become a bustling port, visited by five thousand ships each year. Graham wandered along the new wharfs loaded with military supplies shipped from Britain, and visited restaurants and cafes full of sailors and local residents reaping the benefits of "unheard of wages", as well as attending as guest-of-honour at a ceremony celebrating the opening of the town's new tram system.107 He remained in the area for several weeks, staying with some old friends, before setting off by rail to visit an estate in Voronezh province several hundred miles south-west of Moscow.

59The estate was the home of the Ertel' family, whose oldest daughter Natasha had been a student in London, and under her married name of Duddington was establishing a reputation for herself as a leading translator of Russian texts into English (amongst other things she translated Vladimir Solov'ev's Justification of the Good for the Constable Russian Library edited by Graham). Natasha's father was a minor author who had known Leo Tolstoy, whilst her mother was "half a Tolstoyan", who "lived for the villagers, dosed them with herbal remedies, and wrote letters for illiterate wives whose husbands were away at war".108 Natasha's equally erudite sister, Lola, had translated Graham's Martha and Mary into Russian, and already persuaded the distinguished litterateur and journalist Peter Struve to publish an extract from it in his journal Russkaia Mysl', one of the best-known publications of the day. Graham quickly fell in love with the Ertel' family, whose cultivated lifestyle seemed to echo the vanished world depicted by Ivan Turgenev in his novels and short stories, and photographs he took of the family dining on the wooden veranda of their old house could have dated from fifty years earlier. There was nevertheless even here a stark reminder of the chaos of the war raging a few hundred miles to the west, in the guise of a party of Hungarian Prisoners of War, who worked on the estate by day, and by night congregated outside their quarters playing "wistful folk tunes" to remind themselves of home.

60After leaving Ertelevo, Graham travelled back to Moscow to meet the wealthy publisher Ivan Sytin, who gave him five hundred rubles for the right to publish a Russian language edition of Martha and Mary.109 The two men also discussed publishing translations of some of his other books. Although Graham's work was thoroughly disliked by many Russian liberals, he had a considerable following amongst more conservative and religiously-minded readers, who were delighted to find a western writer who saw in Russia something more than a bastion of reaction and superstition. Undiscovered Russia had been translated into Russian as early as 1913 under the title An Englishman on the Russian North (Anglichanin o Russkom Severe). An unauthorised translation of With the Russian Pilgrims was in circulation within a few months of the appearance of the English original, whilst authorised extracts from With Poor Immigrants to America and Martha and Mary appeared in literary journals before the end of 1916. Sytin was a shrewd judge of the literary market in Russia – he had become immensely rich over the previous forty years – and he believed that there was a market for Graham's particular brand of conservative Slavophilism. Graham was for his part keen to build his reputation in Russia beyond a readership who knew English, but the onset of revolution meant that the proposed translations of his works came to nothing. Whether Graham would have found a significant audience amongst a broad Russian readership must remain a matter for speculation.

61Following his meeting with Sytin, Graham headed south again to Orël Province, where he stayed with Countess Olga Benningsen, whose husband was in a German Prisoner-of-War camp, where he spent his time translating With the Russian Pilgrims to Jerusalem into Russian. Although the Countess was very welcoming, she did not share her husband's religious idealism, and found it hard to deal both with "her quiet tragedy" and her growing deafness (she was however an admirer of her visitor's books, which she later told him had taught her how "little value is most of what I believed" before reading them).110 The two of them sat on the veranda in the July sunshine, looking out onto the garden, where bird hawk moths hovered over the delphiniums, but Graham's attempts to ease the melancholy of his hostess proved unavailing. After a few days he went south to the Caucasus, staying first at Rostov-on-Don, before heading to the resort of Kislovodsk, situated in a picturesque spot in the mountains between the Black and Caspian seas. Graham loved the countryside around the town, but loathed Kislovodsk itself, finding "its streets heavy with the odour of decay and dirt". The real source for his distaste was, though, the character of the clientele who filled the hotels and apartments. Graham believed that many of these people had made their fortunes "out of the war […] and the emptiness of their gay life is an unpleasant contrast to the realities of the time". He was, as ever, depressed by the rise of "commercial parvenus", full of "boundless vanity and self-importance", who had replaced "the noble and wise [who] really are the nation".111 Whilst Kislovodsk had once provided a summer watering hole for members of the Russian aristocracy, it had now become a playground for people who were "profiting by death and destruction and calamity and sorrow".112 Graham stayed there just long enough to complete his manuscript of Priest of the Ideal.

62Graham's visit to Russia in 1916 was designed to reacquaint him with the people and places that had become so dear to him over the previous ten years. He was by now no longer writing regularly for The Times. Nor does he seem to have contributed much to other newspapers. His literary activities were instead focused on finishing his novel and sketching out a book about contemporary developments in Russia (which subsequently appeared just before the February Revolution under the title Russia in 1916). In his autobiography, written many years later, he spoke of the "atmosphere of suppressed foreboding" that hung over Moscow. He also recalled the awful financial circumstances facing the country, describing how he overheard a conversation in which the British consul, Robert Bruce Lockhart, told a dinner companion that Moscow was effectively bankrupt.113 Such bleakness was less visible in his contemporary writings. In Russia in 1916, which was largely written from notes he took whilst still in the country, he described how Moscow had been "patched up" since the riots of the previous year. He also suggested that popular morale was generally good, despite rising prices and concern about the military situation, and in a piece published in The Times in November 1916 he argued that "Russia is altogether in the war and for the war […] her spirit is good".114 Graham was certainly aware of the problems facing Russia in 1916. Nor was he blind to the shortcomings of the Russian Government. He nevertheless underestimated the severity of the crisis that was about to sweep away the old Russia.

63Graham's views on Russia were by 1916 increasingly seen as eccentric by members of the British political and literary establishments. Lloyd George still met him from time to time, but the furore that erupted over Graham's anti-semitism in 1915 caused lasting damage to his reputation in progressive circles, and he was seen as out of touch by many politicians and editors. His portrayal of Holy Russia was also beginning to grate on the nerves of critics. The Athenaeum suggested that Graham's determination to focus on "Russia at prayer and pilgrimage" led to a "misrepresentation" of the country "at which the average Russian simply scoffs".115 The author of the 'Russian Letter' in The New Age, C.E. Bechöfer, had previously dismissed Graham as a "mock mujik" [peasant] and a "sentimental innocent".116 The Times Literary Supplement criticised Martha and Mary for providing readers with a picture of "dreamy and delicate emotions" rather than a realistic portrait of the contemporary Russian Church. The reviewer went on to add that "It would be a pity [if] we remained content to think of [Russia] simply as a country of nobly simple peasants and archaic ikons".117 Other writers accused Graham of painting a picture of Russia that was "sicklied o'er with sentimentality".118 Although the outbreak of hostilities had stimulated interest in the "soul" of Britain's new ally, as the war progressed such language was increasingly seen as a distraction from the more urgent task of understanding how the country was changing. Graham seemed to have little to say about the practical issues shaping Russia's contribution to the war effort.

64The Tsarist Government's failure to prosecute the war effectively raised concern in London more or less from the moment war began in 1914. Although diplomatic protocol placed limits on the extent to which the British Government could interfere in the internal affairs of its ally, there was by the start of 1916 widespread acknowledgement within the Foreign Office that political reform in Russia was vital to improve the country's war effort. The British ambassador in Petrograd, Sir George Buchanan, warned the Foreign Office as early as October 1915 that the country was "almost ripe for revolution", and asked for permission to speak to the tsar about his anxieties,119 seizing an opportunity two weeks later when Nicholas made a brief visit to Petrograd from military headquarters. He repeated his warnings a number of times in the year that followed.

65Graham was perturbed by the negative view of the Tsarist Government that was becoming more and more widespread in Britain by the end of 1916. He met Lloyd George for a "prodigious breakfast" shortly before the Welshman replaced Asquith at Number 10, but it was clear that the soon-to-be Prime Minister was convinced that the political situation in St Petersburg was chaotic, and that Rasputin and others were working for a separate peace with Germany. Graham also discussed the situation in Russia with Andrew Bonar Law, the first Chancellor of the Exchequer in Lloyd George's coalition Government, who still had lingering hopes of a military breakthrough by the Russians in the east. Wherever he went in London, though, Graham found little support for the idea that Holy Russia could yet emerge victorious on the battlefield. The novelist John Buchan, who was already closely involved in efforts to promote British propaganda abroad, advised Graham early in 1917 to stop worrying about "Russia the God-bearer and all that", urging him to work instead for "a common-sense reasonable state with which the West could wholeheartedly cooperate".120

66It was a view echoed by The Times, which published several pieces implying that the Tsar would never make the kind of ministerial changes capable of improving trust in the Russian Government.121 Graham demanded a meeting with the paper's editor, Geoffrey Robinson, but he only offered an unconvincing apology. Lord Northcliffe was even more evasive. The idea that a new Government could help to improve Russia's contribution to the war was becoming widespread in Britain by the end of 1916.

67When Graham came to write his autobiography, almost fifty years after the events of 1917, he still gave some credence to the idea that elements in the British establishment had been complicit in a plot to undermine the tsarist regime. Although he believed that politicians like Bonar Law and Lloyd George had no "wind of the coming revolution", he was convinced that others like Henry Wickham Steed, Foreign Editor of The Times, had "been forewarned of the coming palace revolution".122 Graham's private diary shows that in 1918 he was still convinced that Nicholas II had been a victim of "cowardice, treachery and deceit".123 There is little serious evidence to support such a view, although it has been suggested that British intelligence may have been involved in the plot to kill Rasputin, in the hope of restoring order at the heart of Russia's Government.124 The revolution that erupted in Russia in February 1917 was driven, above all, by events on the streets. The abdication of Nicholas II was nevertheless widely welcomed in Britain. The Daily Mail described the February Revolution as a "benign revolution" that would rid Russia of "the pro-German and reactionary elements".125 The Times suggested that the Tsar had been deposed by representatives of a "Win the War Movement".126 Such views were echoed by Sir George Buchanan in Petrograd, who praised the new Provisional Government for its commitment to the "vigorous continuation of the war".127 His view was shared by many of his colleagues at the Foreign Office in London and by ministers in Lloyd George's War Cabinet.

68Graham's relationship with members of the British diplomatic establishment had become very strained by the end of 1916. It had never been close. George Buchanan was concerned as early as 1915 that Graham's activities might complicate Anglo-Russian relations (he was particularly angry at the way Graham quoted, or perhaps misquoted, Sazonov's views about Russia's Jews in his article in the Sunday Times). Buchanan warned the Foreign Office towards the end of the year that "it is certainly regrettable that the task of interpreting the Russian people to the British Public should have been assumed by a writer whose interpretation appears to give deep offence to many of our best friends in this country. I would suggest that it might be advisable, privately and confidentially, to call the attention of the Editor [of] The Times to the effect produced in Russia by Mr Graham's articles".128

69It is not entirely clear which "friends" Buchanan was referring to. Maxim Gorky certainly had no time for any spiritual-mystical interpretation of the Russian soul, lampooning such conceptions on the pages of the journal Letopis', including one attack that took the form of a spoof letter by a certain William Simpleton, whose ideas bore more than a striking resemblance to those of Graham.129 Simpleton's bons mots, at least as presented by Gorky, included such sweepingly banal observations as "in Russia there is nothing simple" and in Moscow life was "full of philosophy". Nor did Graham's views go down well even amongst those like the Symbolist religious poet, Dmitri Merezhkovsky, who might have been expected to be more sympathetic. Buchanan was not, though, really worried about the attitude of writers and artists. He was more concerned that members of the moderate reform movement, like Paul Miliukov and other leading Cadets, would assume that Graham's platform in The Times meant that his words had some kind of official imprimatur.

70Although these fears were probably groundless, the much-vaunted Russian soul had little appeal to members of the liberal-reform movement in Russia, who instead wanted their country to become more like the countries of the West (the Cadet newspaper Rech' printed sharply critical accounts of Graham's views on a number of occasions). Graham for his part felt little warmth for Buchanan, whose subtle mixture of arrogance and hauteur was disliked by many visitors to the Embassy, including the writer Somerset Maugham, who in one story provided a thinly-veiled portrait of the ambassador as a man possessing "a politeness to which no exception could be taken but with a frigidity that would have sent a shiver down the spine of a polar bear".130 In a review of Buchanan's memoirs, published a few years later, Graham accused the ambassador of being "as weak as the men he called weak". He also condemned him for failing to understand "the particularities of the situation" in Russia.131 Nor, in his memoirs written almost fifty years after the Revolution, could he refrain from some sarcastic remarks about Buchanan's "limp handshake" and "languid voice".132

71Graham first heard about the abdication of the Tsar from a copy of the Daily Mail. He was asked the same day to contribute a piece to The Times about events in Petrograd which duly appeared under the heading 'Causes of the Revolution', in which Graham wrote that "British public opinion has helped a very great deal to bring about the success of the movement". He praised the Tsar for acting "nobly" in abdicating power, thereby avoiding a civil war that would have "shed the blood of thousands and devastat[ed] his own country".133 Graham was moderately complimentary about the Provisional Government set up following Nicholas's abdication, but warned that "we are only at the beginning of a very long chapter", adding that the political struggle would continue with potentially damaging consequences for the Russian war effort. Such cautious words were not well-received. When he spoke a few days later at the Writers' Club in London, the audience was packed with "critics out for my blood".134 Lloyd George agreed to a brief meeting at which the Prime Minister was sympathetic, but made it clear that he did not share Graham's views, instead expressing hope that the emergence of a more liberal system of government in Russia would strengthen the Anglo-Russian alliance. Nor were Graham's reservations simply about narrow questions of politics and diplomacy. He later recalled that "the atmosphere receptive to Russian spirituality disappeared almost overnight" in Britain, as people began to focus on the practical question of how the Revolution would impact on the war, rather than more profound questions about the nature of Russian culture and identity.135 In a speech at the Royal Institution at the end of March, Graham told his audience of his fear that Russia would soon become a business empire "and a great many of the most beautiful institutions might be swept away".136

72Graham acknowledged that his distance from Russia made it difficult to understand what was happening in the country, and he resolved to return there as soon as possible, in order to see developments with his own eyes (he had already been asked by a group of businessmen to go back there a few weeks earlier, to negotiate a contract for raw materials, but declined on the grounds that "I had no experience of commercial activity").137 He was however frustrated in his intention by the Foreign Office, which refused to give permission for the trip, apparently fearing that Graham's close association with the tsarist ancien régime might in some way damage Britain's relations with the new Provisional Government. Graham later claimed that he was also prevented from accepting an invitation to visit America to discuss events in Russia since his "view of the Russian revolution [was] unhelpful".138 It is difficult to untangle the rights and wrongs of some of Graham's claims (it is not, for example, clear what would have been the legal basis for stopping him travelling to the United States). It was however true that official Britain was determined to work closely with the new democratic Government in Russia, and ministers and officials in London were ready to go to considerable lengths to reassure Russian public opinion that their allies had no desire to see the Tsar restored. Graham's warning that revolution was unlikely to bring stability or democracy to Russia did of course prove prescient. The Provisional Government only survived nine months before it was swept aside by Lenin and the Bolsheviks in October 1917. Graham cannot have gained much comfort from his foresight. He spent the last fifty eight years of his life exiled from the country which had, since his teenage years, been the focus of his hopes and dreams.

73The weeks and months following the February Revolution were a period of considerable uncertainty for Graham. He had for some time edited the Constable Russian Library, which published translations of short stories by contemporary authors such as Alexander Kuprin and Fyodor Sologub, a series praised by the Saturday Review for introducing lesser-known Russian writers to a British audience (Graham himself translated the Kuprin stories with Rosa).139 It also published Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol (another writer who was comparatively neglected in Britain at the time). The Constable series in addition included Natasha Duddington's translation of Vladimir Solov'ev's Justification of the Good, complete with an introduction by Graham, who described it as "a classic work of the utmost importance in Russian studies" that elucidated "the laws of the higher idealism".140 Graham also contributed a lengthy essay on Solov'ev to the theosophical journal Quest, praising the philosopher for providing "a very valuable service to the Church of Russia by breaking up its superficial formalism, orientating its traditions and genius with regard to Christian culture, thereby making it the Church of the cultured as well as of the peasant-pilgrim and the monks and priests".141 Although it is possible to take issue with some of Graham's interpretations, the Quest article displayed a good deal of analytical acuity, and serves as a salutary reminder that its author was capable of producing work that did much more than convey a sense of "dreamy and delicate emotions".

74Graham also spent the months following the February Revolution completing his manuscript of Quest of the Face, mentioned earlier – a dense quasi-novel written to inspire its readers "to become builders of the city in which Dushan (Dimitrije Mitrinović) and I have been active spiritual masons".142 The book begins with Graham – as the barely-fictionalised narrator – wandering the streets of London searching for the face of Christ in the human beings who passed him on the streets:

We are all seeking a face. It may be the dream face of the ideal, our own face as it ought to be, as we could wish it to be, or the face that we could love, or a face we once caught a glimpse of and then lost in the crowds and the cares. We seek a face of such celestial loveliness that it would be possible to fall down before it in the devotion of utter sacrifice. Some seek it desperately, others seek it ever hopefully, some forget and remember and then forget again and remember again. Others live their life in the consciousness of a promise that they shall see the face at some definite time by and by […] Each has his separate vision of the face. And as there is an infinite number and diversity of mankind, so the faces of the ideal are infinitely numerous and diverse. Yet as in truth we are all one, so all these faces are one, and all the loveliness is one loveliness.143

75Graham's description of this odyssey, which leads in time to the meeting with Dushan, is peppered with reflections on numerous cultural and religious topics. It also reveals a kind of religious philosophy, clearly influenced by Mitrinović, that Christ is best-encountered within even though this means that "to tell of Him is to turn into an egoist".144 The recognition of this interior presence of Christ in turn leads to a transfiguration of the individual personality:

So it was in the after years of first working for a living. The ideal personality obtained more sway in me, and I began to live in daily consciousness that I, the true ego of me, was a celestial being, one higher than any one dreamed or than I could openly assume. I grew in spiritual stature and watched myself changing. I marvelled at the new life. My direct centre of consciousness began to move from the lower towards the higher ego, and as it did so I became vocal and wrote poetry, read poetry, lived in poetry. I walked with feet on the earth and head in the sky. From then till now I have been conscious of a spiritual truth, in the atmosphere of which I have lived, so that all the negative values of earth-living have become positive values of absolute-living. And I have grown to identify myself with the ideal personality within.145

76The decidedly messianic tone of Quest of the Face comes from its description of how Graham joined with Mitrinović / Dushan to form a secret society to help the process of transfiguration move from the personal to the collective level. The fictional Dushan suggests to his friend that they should work together with others to realise "the universal consciousness of unity in Christ".146 This consciousness in turn contains a general truth since "no one true way of expression contradicts any other true way". The implication for the various religions of the world is clear since "all the sects and churches [...] are waiting in the darkness; but it is just before dawn. The connections between them will soon be seen: all will see them".147 This unity will in turn extend beyond the purely spiritual world and lead to a transformation of the international system, since:

what we apply to human society around us we apply also to Europe at large and to the world. The nations are a school hitherto run on old-fashioned lines with endless condemnation and bitterness and strife and little learning. Now Europe itself might be a sort of Montessori school where the nations are the children. If that is too childish a conception, remember the Christ's saying about children – of such is the Kingdom of Heaven.148

77The search for European unity, albeit from a characteristically eccentric perspective, was to become one of the defining hallmarks of Mitrinović's intellectual quest between the two world wars.

78There are certain sections of Quest of the Face that display an esoteric tone that smacks clearly of Theosophy. At one point the narrator-Graham suggests that:

There are possibly several mortals living, several men who though they were born thousands of years ago have never died. Not that their immortality is more real than ours. It is different, that is all. We pass through the gate of death, pass perhaps often through death on our long way. They simply never die. By now probably they have become invisible to ordinary human gaze, completely transparent, translucent, and it is in vain that pilgrims having the clue to their existence still seek them on the remote peaks of Hindu Kush. I have the story of Celeus, or Cilfa as he was called by another generation, who discovered the infinitely rare drug which alters the psychic state and liberates the partial human soul from the chain of death.149

79The final section of the book then fades away into a series of short stories, some clearly drawn from real life, including an account of a semi-fictional writer who, like Graham, abandons the "substance" of work and respectable society in order to pursue the "shadow" of self-fulfilment and authenticity. Such stories sit uneasily with the rest of the book, which, despite its elusive tone and indigestible style, was clearly inspired by a desire to impart a kind of poetic-religious vision to readers. It is perhaps no great wonder that reviewers struggled to know what to make of Quest of the Face. The reviewer in The Bookman praised Graham's "delicacy of touch", but found his philosophy "unconvincing", adding that he hoped the author would in time develop his powers and avoid "the overstrained idealism which has hitherto characterised his work".150 The book certainly represented the apogee of what might be termed Graham's mystical-theosophical phase. Although it will be seen in later chapters that many of the book's motifs recrudesced in his later writings, he was by the time it was published fighting in the trenches of France, a brutal experience that inevitably influenced and changed his view of the world. The intense spiritualism of Quest of the Face was diluted in Graham's inter-war work as he struggled to revise and articulate his esoteric vision within a more traditional vocabulary of fiction and travel-writing.

80Graham not only spent the months after the February Revolution completing the manuscript of Quest of the Face, but also contributed articles on the Revolution to journals in Britain and America. One in The Century Magazine discussed developments 'Inside Russia', fretting that the country would now become "free for commercial exploitation". He nevertheless hoped that Russia could resolve her problems and remain "the hope of Europe".151 When Graham was not writing he continued to give lectures up and down Britain, including some in factories, and was also invited to tour some of the Navy's warships. The turbulence of war that Graham had written about at such length finally caught up with him in a very personal way in the second half of 1917, when the arrival of his call-up papers meant that he was "belatedly" required to join those already in khaki, consoling himself with the thought that "those who praise a war should at least taste the actual experience".152 He refused to apply for an officers' training course, on the grounds that he wanted to see the war from the ranks, and, when given a choice of regiments, he opted to join the Scots Guards.

81Graham had little opportunity to reflect on the loss of Holy Russia over the following year. He had in his voluminous writings about Russia always tended to construct the country as a semi-mythological place, whose contours owed as much to his own ideals as they did to a sober observation of the complex and contradictory character of Russian society. The cataclysmic changes of 1917 made it hard for him to maintain the myth of Holy Russia even in the privacy of his own mind. It will be seen in a later chapter that Graham was, despite his anguish at the loss, often sceptical about hopes that Holy Russia could ever be restored. He certainly had little sympathy with the numerous white émigrés who crowded the capitals of Europe, hoping that their shattered world would somehow be restored to them. Although Russia continued to preoccupy Graham in one way or another for the rest of his life, the February Revolution marked a critical change in the way he thought about the nature of the Russian soul, prompting him in time to embark on fresh odysseys in search of the meaning of life in general and his own life in particular.

Notes de bas de page

1 The Times, 5 February 1914.

2 Ibid, 12 February 1914.

3 Ibid, 14 February 1914; 19 February 1914.

4 Ibid, 21 February 1914.

5 Ibid, 5 March 1916; 16 March 1916. See, too, Stephen Graham, 'Ilya Vilka', in Strange Assembly, ed. by John Gawsworth (London: Unicorn Press, 1932), pp. 171-84.

6 Daily Mail, 24 February 1914.

7 The Times, 31 March 1914.

8 Times Literary Supplement, 8 January 1914.

9 Ibid, 9 April 1914. The collection is presumably the one published under the title Dokuka i balagurie (St Petersburg: Sirin, 1914).

10 Stephen Graham, Part of the Wonderful Scene (London: Collins, 1964), p. 90.

11 Ibid, p. 90

12 T.I.F. Armstrong (Gawsworth) Papers (HRC), Misc. (Unpublished article by Graham on 'Christian Missionaries in India').

13 The Times, 23 May 1914.

14 Ibid, 23 May 1914.

15 Giles Whittel, Extreme Continental (London: Indigo, 1995), p. 42.

16 The Times, 30 May 1914.

17 Ibid, 8 June 1914.

18 Stephen Graham, 'Impressions of Seven Rivers Land and Russian Central Asia', Journal of the Royal Central Asian Society, 2, 3 (1915), pp. 113-26.

19 The Times, 23 June 1914.

20 For a superb analysis of Russian imperial rule in Samarkand see Alexander Morrison, Russian Rule in Samarkand, 1868-1910: A Comparison with British India (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008). See, too, Jeff Sahedo, Russian Colonial Society in Tashkent, 1865-1923 (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2007).

21 Graham, 'Seven Rivers Land', p. 115.

22 Ibid, p. 115.

23 Stephen Graham, Through Russian Central Asia (London: Cassell, 1916), pp. 134-55, version available at http://archive.org/details/throughrussiance00grahuoft.

24 Graham, 'Seven Rivers Land', p. 117.

25 Graham, Through Central Asia, p. 175.

26 Graham was not, however, the first Briton to visit the area and write about his experiences there. See Samuel Turner, Siberia: A Record of Travel, Climbing and Exploration (London: Unwin, 1905). For a helpful article putting Turner's trip in perspective see David Collins, 'Anglophone Travellers in the Russian Altai, 1848-1904', Sibirica 2, 1 (2002), pp. 43-68.

27 Graham, Through Central Asia, p. 229.

28 Stephen Graham, Russia and the World (London: Cassell, 1915), pp. 3-9.

29 For details of the journey see Graham, Russia and the World, pp. 10-14.

30 For a classic account of Russia in the First World War see Norman Stone, The Eastern Front, 1914-1917 (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1975). For a more recent account providing a useful focus on the domestic impact of the war see Peter Gattrell, Russia's First World War: A Social and Economic History (Harlow: Longman Pearson, 2005).

31 The Times, 13 October 1914.

32 Ibid, 31 October 1914.

33 Ibid, 21 November 1914.

34 Graham, Wonderful Scene, p. 94.

35 For full details of the interview by Graham with Sazonov written some months later, see his article 'The Russians and the War', Atlantic Monthly, 115 (March 1915).

36 Graham, Wonderful Scene, p. 94.

37 For a valuable discussion of the attitude of British Jews towards Eastern Europe see, Sam Johnson, 'Breaking or Making the Silence: British Jews and East European Relief, 1914-1917', Modern Judaism, 30, 1 (2010), pp. 95-119.

38 New York Times, 23 January 1915.

39 For details of the journey see Graham, Russia and the World, p. 247 ff; Daily Mail, 1 December, 1914.

40 Graham, Russia and the World, p. 256.

41 Graham Papers (HRC), Wonderful Scene (typescript), p. 82.

42 The Times, 5 August 1914.

43 Keith Neilson, 'Joyrides? British Intelligence and Propaganda in Russia, 1914-1917', Historical Journal, 24, 4 (1981), pp. 885-906.

44 Michael Hughes, 'Searching for the Soul of Russia: British Perceptions of Russia during the First World War', Twentieth Century British History, 20, 2 (2009), pp. 198-226.

45 Allies in Art: A Collection of Works in Modern Art by Artists of the Allied Nations (London: Colour, 1917); Winifred Stevens, The Soul of Russia (London: Macmillan, 1916).

46 Right Revd Herbert Bury, Russian Life Today (London: Mowbray, 1915).

47 Graham, Wonderful Scene, p. 98.

48 See, for example, Jewish Chronicle, 28 November 1913; Jewish Chronicle, 13 November 1914.

49 The Manchester Guardian, 19 January 1915.

50 Stephen Graham, 'Russia and the Jews', English Review, February 1915, pp. 324-33.

51 Graham Papers (HRC), Works File, Wonderful Scene (autograph).

52 Amongst the large literature on Tsarist Russia's Jewish population see Zvi Y. Gitelman, A Century of Ambivalence: The Jews of Russia and the Soviet Union, 1881 to the Present (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2001); John Doyle Klier and Shlomo Lambrozo (eds), Pogroms: Anti-Jewish Violence in Modern Russian History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004).

53 The Globe, 30 January 1915.

54 See, for example Jewish World, 10 February 1915; Jewish Chronicle, 28 November 1913.

55 The letters are reproduced in Israel Zangwill, Works of Israel Zangwill: The War for the World (New York: American Jewish Book Company, 1921), pp. 405-13.

56 The New Age, 25 February 1915.

57 Alfred George Gardiner, The War Lords (London: J.M. Dent, 1915), p. 95. See, too, the attack on Graham at a Fabian meeting held in London in February 1915 reported in the Manchester Guardian, 13 February 1915.

58 For an example of such anti-semitism within the context of Anglo-Russian relations, see Eliyahu Feldman, 'British Diplomats and British Diplomacy and the 1905 Pogroms in Russia', Slavonic and East European Review, 65, 4 (1987), pp. 579-608. Graham Papers (FSU), Box 577, 8 (Occasional notes).

59 Graham, Wonderful Scene, p. 99.

60 Graham Papers (HRC), Wonderful Scene (typescript), p. 89.

61 On the growing interest in spiritualism see Jay Winter, Sites of Memory, Sites of Mourning: the Great War in European Cultural History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), pp. 54-77. On the response of churches to the war see for example Alan Wilkinson, The Church of England and the First World War (London: SPCK, 1978); Keith Robbins, England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales: The Christian Church, 1900-2000 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), pp. 96-151; Michael Hughes, Conscience and Conflict: Methodism, Peace and War in the Twentieth Century (Peterborough: Epworth, 2008), pp. 46-78.

62 Graham, Wonderful Scene, p. 100.

63 The Times, 14 July 1915.

64 Graham Papers (FSU), Box 577, 13b (Graham's notes on his 1915 trip to Egypt).

65 Graham, Wonderful Scene, p. 107.

66 The Times, 21 July 1915.

67 Graham, Wonderful Scene, p. 110.

68 Stephen Graham, 'The Truth About the Bulgars', English Review, November 1915, pp. 405-10.

69 Michael Hughes, Inside the Enigma: British Officials in Russia, 1900-1930 (London: Hambledon, 1997), p. 65.

70 For Graham's views of Milukov, see Graham, Wonderful Scene, pp. 113-14; for Miliukov's views of Graham, see Paul Miliukov, Russia Today and Tomorrow (New York: Macmillan, 1922), p. 276.

71 Sunday Pictorial, 14 November 1915.

72 The Times, 11 November 1915.

73 Stephen Graham, 'Anglo-Russian Literature', Proceedings of the Anglo-Russian Literary Society, 74 (1915), p. 42.

74 Graham, Wonderful Scene, pp. 118-19.

75 V. Doroshevitch, The Way of the Cross (London: Constable, 1916).

76 Stephen Graham, The Way of Martha and the Way of Mary (London, 1915), p. viii, version available at http://archive.org/details/waymarthaandway02grahgoog.

77 Ibid, p. v.

78 Ibid, p. 93.

79 Ibid, p. 102.

80 Ibid, p. 180.

81 Ibid, p. 182.

82 Ibid, pp. 183, 191-94.

83 Ibid, p. 203.

84 Graham Papers (HRC), Wonderful Scene (autograph). For an account of these pot-luck lunches see, too, Graham Papers (FSU), Box 581, 23a, ('Nikolai Velimirović in London'). On Mitrinović see Andrew Rigby, Dimitrije Mitrinović: A Biography (York: William Sessions, 2006); Predrag Palavestra, Dogma i utopija Dmitrija Mitrinovića (Belgrade: Slovo ljubve, 1977).

85 Graham, Wonderful Scene, p. 121.

86 For works dating from Velimirović's time in Britain see, for example, Nikolai Velimirović, Serbia in Light and Darkness (London: Longmans, 1916); Nikolai Velimirović, The Agony of the Church (London: Student Christian Movement, 1917); Nikolai Velimirović, Christianity and War (London:Faith Press, 1918).

87 For details of action by the Church of England to help train Serbian theological students in London, a process in which Velimirović was closely involved, see G.K.A. Bell, Randall Davidson: Archbishop of Canterbury (London: Oxford University Press, 1939), pp. 844-46.

88 Graham, Wonderful Scene, p. 121.

89 Stephen Graham, Quest of the Face (London: Macmillan, 1918), p. 78.

90 Winter, Sites of Memory, pp. 54-77. For a classic and highly personal contemporary account of the issue by a leading scholar of the time see Oliver Lodge, Raymond, or Life and Death: With Examples of the Survival of Memory and Affection after Death (London: Methuen, 1916).

91 Vladimir Dedijer, The Road to Sarajevo (London, Macgibbon and Kee, 1967), p. 175 ff.

92 H.C. Rutherford, The Religion of Logos and Sophia: From the Writings of Dimitrije Mitrinović on Christianity (London: New Atlantis Foundation, 1966), p. 2.

93 Ibid, p. 10.

94 H.G. Rutherford (ed.), Certainly, Future: Selected Writings by Dmitrije Mitrinović (New York: Columbia University Press, 1987), p. 45.

95 For Mairet's reminiscences of these events see Philip Mairet, Autobiographical and Other Papers (Manchester: Carcanet, 1981), pp. 103-6.

96 Graham, Wonderful Scene, pp. 143-45; The Times, 23 November 1915.

97 Stephen Graham, Priest of the Idea (London, 1916), p. 19, version available at http://archive.org/details/priestofideal00grahiala.

98 Ibid, p. 15.

99 Graham Papers (HRC), Letters, Blackwood to Graham, 9 October 1917.

100 Graham, Priest, pp. 51, 101.

101 Ibid, p. 312.

102 Ibid, p. 326.

103 Ibid, p. 399.

104 Ibid, p. 332.

105 Ibid, p. v.

106 Hughes, Inside the Enigma, p. 78.

107 On the opening of the tramway see The Times, 11 October 1916.

108 Graham, Wonderful Scene, p. 131. For a longer account of Graham's visit to Ertelovo see Graham, Russia in 1916 (London: Cassell, 1917), pp. 44-53, version available at http://archive.org/details/cu31924010358244.

109 On Ivan Sytin, see Charles Ruud, Russian Entrepreneur: Publisher Ivan Sytin of Moscow (Montreal: McGill University Press, 1990).

110 Graham Papers (HRC), Letters, Countess Benningsen to Graham, 19 October 1916.

111 Graham, Russia in 1916, pp. 119-20.

112 Ibid, p. 121.

113 Graham, Wonderful Scene, p. 139.

114 The Times, 7 November 1916.

115 Athenaeum, January 1916.

116 New Age, 15 April, 1915; 25 November 1915.

117 Times Literary Supplement, 16 December 1915.

118 T. Lothrop Stoddard, Present-Day Europe: Its National States of Mind (New York: Century, 1917), p. 33.

119 The National Archives (Kew), FO 371/2455, Buchanan to Grey, 16 October 1915.

120 Graham, Wonderful Scene, p. 148.

121 See, for example, The Times, 16 January 1917.

122 Graham, Wonderful Scene, pp. 142, 146.

123 Graham Papers (FSU), Box 579, 49 (Diary for Private in the Guards).

124 Andrew Cook, To Kill Rasputin: The Life and Death of Grigori Rasputin (London: the History Press, 2006).

125 Daily Mail, 16 March 1917.

126 The Times, 16 March 1917.

127 Hughes, Inside the Enigma, p. 87.

128 The National Archives (Kew), FO 371/2455, Buchanan to Foreign Office, 8 November 1915.

129 Pis'ma znatnogo inostrantsa, Letopis' (April 1916), pp. 288-99. For Graham's criticisms of Gorky, see Graham, Russia in 1916, pp. 80-84.

130 W. Somerset Maugham, Collected Short Stories, vol. 3 (London: Pan, 1976), p. 147.

131 Evening News, 14 June 1923.

132 Graham, Wonderful Scene, p. 140.

133 The Times, 17 March 1917.

134 Graham, Wonderful Scene, p. 150.

135 Ibid, p. 151.

136 Observer, 25 March 1917.

137 Graham Papers (HRC), Wonderful Scene (typescript), p. 117.

138 Graham, Wonderful Scene, p. 153.

139 Saturday Review, 19 September 1916.

140 Vladimir Solovyof, The Justification of the Good, trans. N. Duddington (London, 1918), p. vi.

141 Stephen Graham, 'Vladimir Solovyof', Quest, 9 (1917-18), pp. 219-39.

142 Graham, Quest of the Face, Preface.

143 Ibid, p. 2.

144 Ibid, p. 66.

145 Ibid, p. 69.

146 Ibid, p. 78.

147 Ibid, p. 88.

148 Ibid, p. 118.

149 Ibid, p. 131.

150 The Bookman, September 1918.

151 Stephen Graham, 'Inside Russia', The Century Magazine, July 1917.

152 Graham, Wonderful Scene, p. 153.

Précédent Suivant

Le texte seul est utilisable sous licence Creative Commons - Attribution 4.0 International - CC BY 4.0. Les autres éléments (illustrations, fichiers annexes importés) sont « Tous droits réservés », sauf mention contraire.