Sir Wilmot Harsent Lewis
是"博學多聞 談鋒最建的Sir Wilmot Lewis"
林友蘭《文學與報學‧記者大使路易士 》文星書店，1964，頁159-165---翻譯自讀者文摘。林友蘭1916- 《文學與報學》
Full text of "Post Biographies Of Famous Journalists"
127212 Famous Journalists Edited by JOHN E. DREWRY Dean, Henry W- Grady School of Journalism The University of Georgia A UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA PRESS BOOK flte?$y RANDOM HOUSE, NewYork
BRITAIN'S AMBASSADOR INCOGNITO By MAXINE DAVIS GREAT BRITAIN maintains two ambassadors in the United States, one appointed by the Foreign Office, the other named by the London Times. Lord Lothian, Viscount Hali- fax the Foreign Office envoys come and go, and many Americans do not know their names. But Sir Willmott Lewis, the emissary of the Times, stays. His detractors claim that Sir Willmott is a propagandist beside whom Goebbels is a lout with a toy horn. His ad- mirers maintain that he is an interpreter of events the price of whose wisdom is above rubies. They are practically unanimous in conceding that he has done more to improve relations between England and the United States than any other person, with the possible exception of Adolf Hitler. This despite the fact that Sir Willmott always insists that "the best thing to do for Anglo-American relations is to leave them strictly alone." His influence does not derive from any compelling will to power. On the contrary, Lewis is an indolent man, a play- boy and an actor. He performs the role of an English gentle- man, vintage of 1912, written to conform to the most roman- tic American imagination. He out-Hamlets Hamlet. No such English gentleman was ever seen in Mayfair or moor- land. When he walks into a drawing room or a barroom you have an impression of bands playing "Rule, Britannial" He is so British that his baffled countrymen say, "But he's American." That is true too. He has lived in this country so long, studied it so assiduously, that he has become American- plated. [Note: This artide appeared January 25, 1941.] 202 Sir Willmott Lewis 203 This combination has proved irresistible. The foreigner who genuinely understands us is rare. Sir Willmott knows us so well that he won the National Press Club pool pre- dicting the size of Roosevelt's 1936 majority. Therefore, people, whether they be Cabinet secretaries, newspaper cor- respondents or Sioux City clubwomen, listen. He is a male Cornelia Otis Skinner who composes his acts and then presents them alone. He talks steadily, always. Meet him on Pennsylvania Avenue, he will stop and address you as if you were an audience of 500. Ask him if he prefers milk or lemon in his tea, he will answer with a thirty-five- minute discourse on their relative merits. He may, perhaps, permit you to talk long enough to prevent his conversation from becoming a monologue, never long enough to permit its becoming a dialogue. He has even silenced Dorothy Thompson, whom he characterizes as "the woman who has discovered the secret of perpetual emotion." Though he is a British knight from the top of his well- brushed head to his well-brushed boots, his credo springs frankly from the fact that he is "of little streets and little people." The astonished David Sarnoff, hearing Lewis cham- pion the cause of the underdog one night, exclaimed, "I thought you played with the rich boys. I never knew you were one of us." The surprise was mutual. His act is a brilliant one, for he combines authentic scholarliness with an incredible memory. Though he may wear the red ribbon of the French Legion of Honor in his buttonhole, his real decoration should be a pair of quota- tion marks on each side of himself. "It is too much to ex- pect that the universal franchise and inequitable distribution of wealth will lie peacefully together; lor long," he will rum- ble in his rich resonant bass voice. Then he will raise his thin eyebrows to Gothic arches, his eyes will gleam, he will slowly wave a long forefinger. "Do you know who said that?" While you axe sorting out Berle or Tugwell or Jerome Frank, he will confound you: "Daniel Webster in 1830." You must see as well as hear Willmott Lewis or you lose half the effect. For six months he was on the air, on a coffee 204 Post Biographies of Famous Journalists program. He was not a success, though his periods were, as always, polished. Even when he has said nothing whatever at very great length, as he often does, you leave him feeling that you have been pausing in an intellectual Sistine Chapel. His epigrams and puns drop as diamonds, master-cut, every facet clean and glittering. Press-gallery wags say there is a mistake in his name; it should be "Bonmott." Though you may have gleaned no ideas from him, you always go away with something to quote. People often appropriate his verbal gems. One out of every five visiting celebrities has used Sir Willmott's "I feel like a lion in a den of Daniels." New Dealers are still quoting his "Who killed the goose that laid the golden age?" Naturally, he is not merely good entertainment. He is al- ways the advocate of the British Empire. He is a sort of con- nective tissue between England and the United States, ex- plaining one to the other. For instance: The British embassy went indifferently away on its vacation while the 1927 conference on limitation of armaments ground on. Lewis stayed sweltering in Washington, cabling warnings to the British of the temper of American public opinion, which was hotly resentful of the British demands. Again at the London Naval Conference of 1930 he made it clear to the British that the American people had their hearts set on "faith, hope, and parity." When the British repudiated the war debt, Lewis ex- plained and explained, over his own dinner table, at the homes of his friends especially such as the late Senator Borah at Mrs. Borden Harriman's Sunday-night suppers anywhere two or three senators or congressmen were gath- ered together. He has diagramed the British viewpoint to the isolationists, saying "You cannot print a positive image of peace on an American negative." He has never ceased demonstrating why the Neutrality Act is a handcuff to har- assed Britain. Too shrewd, of course, to meddle publicly in domestic American politics, he prayed for the New Deal, even if he could not vote for it. In Washington, which knew his sentiments so well, there was no need of hiding them. He Sir Willmott Lewis 205 was an original New Dealer; first, because he is more radical than the New Deal; second, because he is, of necessity, an in- ternationalist. And Mr. Roosevelt's determination to aid Britain by every measure "short of war" naturally has com- pounded that partisanship. Last November sixth, Sir Will- mott recovered miraculously from a depression he said had been caused by a cold. He does not confine himself to great issues; he knows the importance of small ones. There was the matter of Margaret McReynolds. The American embassy in London had ar- ranged that she be presented at court in 1933. Her photo- graph in her gown, complete with plumes, had appeared in the home-town papers; she had learned the proper genuflec- tions and etiquette. Then her father, Congressman Sam McReynolds, was appointed a delegate to the Economic Con- ference, to be held in London coincidently. As there were hundreds of delegates, all with wives and daughters, the Lord Chamberlain ruled, in the interest of harmony, that none should be presented. Imagine the misery of Miss McReynolds, already pictured in the papers. Imagine the outrage of her father. Officials at our embassy went to the then Prince of Wales, who pleaded the case to no avail. Willmott Lewis heard of it, envisaged headlines: "British Sovereign Snubs Tennessee Belle"; taxied down to his office, and returned to Bill Bullitt's room at Claridge's half an hour later with the assurance that Miss McReynolds would be received by Their Majesties. During the Spanish civil war, the Duchess of Atholl, a lady ablaze with her convictions, came to the United States. Wise Washingtonians noted happily that Willmott Lewis was usu- ally in her train, tweaking her into discretion whenever Spain entered the conversation. Several years ago a munitions investigation on Capitol Hill threatened a scandal concerning the allegation that the King of England was interested in arms contracts. Lewis ex- plained the position of the sovereign and convinced legis- lators that it could not be. During the Hoover Administration, when prohibition was 206 Post Biographies of Famous Journalists a fighting word, Sir Esme Howard, then British ambassador, went on record that he thought the law was a fine idea. To hose out the sulphurous response, Sir Willmott counseled Sir Esme's pacifying promise, "When my private stock runs out, I will not buy another drop." Which exasperated the other embassies and legations, those founts of fine vintages in an era of bathtub gin. Of the four ambassadors of Great Britain here during Lewis' twenty years in Washington, only Sir Ronald Lindsay refused to avail himself of Lewis' knowledge of American idiosyncrasies. Sir Ronald, a stiff-necked diplomat of the Kitchener type, disliked the press, and, although he saw him often, Sir Willmott as part of it. The clanking of the gates of the big red-brick bit of England on Massachusetts Avenue merely made Lewis more important. He became the only point of contact between the Washington correspond- ents and the embassy. In his latter years here, when anyone asked Sir Ronald a question, he would respond sourly, "Haven't you seen Willmott Lewis?" Washington laughed, "I told you sol" when the garden party for the King and Queen, organized without benefit of Lewis, made the embassy a host of enthusiastic enemies. Even today, when the British embassy has struggled to acquire the common touch, if you wish to get anything promptly, whether it be a statement from Churchill or a decision on a visa, you do not err if you go to Willmott Lewis. When he went to register as an alien, in accordance with the law, he was asked his nickname. "I guess everyone calls me Bill," he responded. They always have, in all the odd places in the world. For the journalist-diplomat you see to- day talking suavely with Senator Taft over a glass of cham- pagne in Alice Longworth's drawing room, kibitzing content- edly in the card room of the Press Club or holding forth to a group of entranced hardware manufacturers at the May- flower Hotel, is the product of the sort of life that makes small boys dream of being foreign correspondents. The American-plating process began in Bill's childhood. He was born in Wales, in 1877, "which makes me very, very Sir Willmott Lewis 207 old," he insists. Bill has always relished old age and de- crepitude with a purely platonic enjoyment. Army officers who knew him in the Orient, veteran war correspondents whom he fathered in Paris during the last World War, meet him now and are startled into "He was old then and no older than he is today 1" His grandfather, patriarch, justice of the peace, and twice mayor of Cardiff, used to take him for walks when he was small. He would talk to the child of the America he had never seen with a mystical and a passion- ate belief, according to the grandson. "There, my boy," he would say, waving a hand in the presumable direction of the United States, "there, my darling child, lies the hope of the world." After preliminary schooling in England, Bill went to Hei- delberg, where he was exposed to German Kultur, German beer and German Lieder, becoming proficient in each. Then to France, to the Sorbonne, where he became a young French- man and majored in French letters and French cates. With the facility of a chameleon, he adapted himself to his environ- ment. Or to put it as his admirers would, he outgrew pro- vincialism into the realization that all peoples are essentially the same people. When he finished his schooling, he had acquired a great deal of pure learning, an elastic intellect, a good singing voice and an almost native command of German and French in their more elegant forms. These talents found employment at twenty-five shillings a week on a Brighton paper, writing funeral and wedding notices. Having served this appren- ticeship and taught himself, on the side, shorthand out of a book, winning a certificate for taking 220 words of dictation a minute, he set out to conquer Fleet Street. In his Massachusetts Avenue home, with its shining silver and smiling servants, he can grow wistful now about trying to keep alive in dingy London lodgings forever smelling of Brussels sprouts on no more income than an occasional five shillings from a poem. In any case, he didn't come up the easy way. Unable to get a job on a London newspaper, he was an 208 Post Biographies of Famous Journalists actor for a brief season, and he might as easily have been an- other Ronald Colman in Hollywood now, or a Maurice Evans playing Malvolio to Helen Hayes* Viola, as what he is. The same latent talent was there, but the cards did not fall that way. The company manager chucked it, leaving the troupe stranded in a South-of-England town. Lewis got back to London, and there that shorthand schooling got him his first real job, but it was half the world away in Shanghai. The North China Star had advertised for an "assistant editor and shorthand reporter." TKe job was more shorthand than ed- iting, but it served. On the China coast, Bill Lewis is a legend. A dashing young blade, everything he did was spectacular. Even his debts, in that land of easy credit. As a gentleman jockey, owning a stable of fast little Mongolian ponies, the racing stock of the East, he was the despair of his groom. At five in the morning the groom would appear at his door, hear "Mas- ter not home tonight," and march, with Bill's boots and breeches, to whatever party was still continuing. Bill's life in the Orient was as full of ups and downs as a seismograph during an earthquake. One time he would be the darling of the local socialites; another he would be play- ing the piano in a honky-tonk off the Nanking Road. "Nations get drunk and disorderly, just like people," he will begin, if you ask him what he thinks of the present war. His consequent philosophical dissertation will be absorbing, because Sir Willmott has done his research work in war as well. After he had been in Shanghai a couple of years, Bill went to Japan, to Nagasaki, where he married, edited a small daily paper, and learned to speak Japanese with great fluency and little accuracy. In 1903, when he scented the Russian war on the wind, he journeyed to Korea, recommending himself highly to James Gordon Bennett, publisher of the New York Herald, and securing an assignment. On the covert advice of the influential friends he had made in Japan, Bill dug in at Chemulpho. In those days, Korea was a land almost unknown. Life there was much like that Sir Willmott Lewis 209 in the time of Abraham. There were few foreigners, mostly young men. Jack London got there in a rowboat. The Pooh- Bah of the country was William Franklin Sands, a twenty- nine-year-old American who was "adviser to the emperor." Bill thought he was the most romantic man in the world. Bill cheered up this colony of lonely youths. Then, as now, he was a superb raconteur, and when anyone pinned him down, he would quote Bennett's "Remember, young man, many a good story has been ruined by over-verification." Handsome, lighthearted, ready to sing, to play poker, to ex- periment with his talent for "keeping his head above alco- hol," of course he was popular. People told him things. He began to learn discretion. None of the English or Ameri- cans ever knew he spoke any other than his native language. Actually, by this time he also spoke Italian, Chinese, and readily picked up the Korean tongue. Thus he heard at once of the ultimatum issued by the Japanese Admiral Uriu to the two Russian ships at anchor in the harbor; learned also of the protests to be sent by the cap- tains of the British and French warships also there. The only newspaperman with the story, Bill hired a launch, fol- lowed the boat bearing the protest to Admiral Uriu, saw the Russian ships stripping for action, heard the cheering, and spent some pretty terrified minutes before he got out of the line of fire. He wrote his dispatch to the sound of the ex- ploding vessels, and was on his way north with General Kuroki. Then, as now, war news was censored. Bill therefore de- veloped a system of runners who relayed his copy to Seoul, where it was filed on a free wire. When news of his reports filtered back to Japan, the Japanese hunted him up. Bill was banished to Tokyo, where a group of American corre- spondents, including Richard Harding Davis, John Fox, Jr., and Martin Egan were drawing their pay and cooling their heels. At last this group was taken off to Dairen, where they were tantalized by hearing the guns of Port Arthur and finally were allowed to land and to catch up with the war. For once, money had accumulated. Bill decided, therefore, 210 Post Biographies of Famous Journalists it was high time to go to inspect the "hope of the world." In 1905 he saw the Golden Gate. The amiable people who showed him New York would have been incredulous had they been told that this eager but profligate young English- man was one day to succeed General Pershing as president of the Philippine Club; was to become the friend of Elihu Root, of Chief Justice Hughes and Justice Holmes; would receive an honorary degree from Trinity College; that Sec- retary of State Hull was to talk with him with complete can- dor. For Bill's life in the United States then followed his established pattern. He spent hours listening to his idol, Ar- thur Twining Hadley, president of Yale; operated a fight gym with Philadelphia Jack O'Brien; and often subsisted only through the generosity of his friends. Finally he drifted back to the Orient, first to Japan, then to the Philippines, where he found that his friend Martin Egan was publishing the Manila Times. Presently, Bill was its editor. In Manila, with its Spanish and American colonies set in the midst of eight million Fili- pinos, "the limey" became the voice of militant American- ism. He wrote the editorials, a column, most of the news. He and Edward Bruce, his boss, would sit over cocktails with the editor of the opposition journal, cook up fights, vitup- erate each other in print. Unable to afford the A. P., Bill watched his competitor's cable stories, figured out their prob- able sequels, printed his guesses as news. He was right often enough to astound his colleagues. When the first World War broke out, he offered his serv- ices to England, was told he was more valuable editing an American newspaper than catching cold or bullets in a trench. Once, in Manila, during a discussion of the war, someone asked him what he thought of these blank-blank English. "I can't say. I am one of them." "You arel" Astonishment was unbounded. "We always thought you were a Harvard man putting on dog." When the United States entered the war, Bill appeared in Paris and met James Kerney in some cafe. Kerney, editor of Sir Willmott Lewis 211 the Trenton, New Jersey, Times, was head of the Paris head- quarters of George Creel's Committee on Public Information, at President Wilson's personal insistence. Kerney knew no French, which infuriated him. "What's that man saying?" he'd storm. "Stupid creatures! Can't even speak English." He was charmed with Lewis, no less by his personality than by his ability to speak French. Kerney applied to Pershing, to George Creel in Washington, and got Lewis appointed as the No. 2 man on his staff. In no time at all Bill was han- dling the American propaganda in Europe. Shortly before the Armistice Kerney went home, leaving the entire job in the Englishman's hands. For this work Lewis was decorated with the Legion of Honor. Lewis wheedled Cardinal Mercier into the endorsement of a booklet praising American activities, persuaded Marshal Joffre to correct an impression made- by American Army offi- cers. A party of Dutch editors, taken on a tour of the Ameri- can front by Henry Suydam, were less than amused by the tale of the virtues of the A.E.F. as sung by its officers. Distressed, Suydam and Bill decided the best way to rem- edy this unfortunate impression was to persuade a French- man to tell it again. He selected JofEre, discussed it with him, and then led the party in to the marshal, seated in all his medals, in his office in a great gilded room in Les In- valides, "I have the most happy remembrances of your queen," said Joffre, eying Bill anxiously. "Such charm! Such beauty! Such chic!" Dutch eyes popped at this description of Wil- helmina, famed as a paragon of domestic virtue, as intelli- gent and steadfast, but scarcely chic. Enchanted, they then went off parroting Joffre's panegyric on * the American forces in France. Lord Northcliffe, in Paris, then, admired Lewis' adroitness as well as his penetration of American psychology and grasp of American techniques. So, once the captains and the kings departed, after Bill had spent another, and final, period of indigence with only a tentative connection with the Paris Herald, Northcliffe sent for him, offered him the post of 212 Post Biographies of Famous Journalists Washington correspondent of the Times, replacing Sir Ar- thur Willert, who was about to leave the Times. That was in 1920. Since his early years in Washington, when he lived with Harold Sims, attache of the British em- bassy, and rushed from dinner to dance with the then Wallis Warfield, Felipe Espil, now the ambassador of Argentina, Juan de Cdrdenas, now the Spanish ambassador, and others of the smart set o the brassy 20's since those years he has sobered. "Now," he says, "I have exhausted time in Wash- ington. I am impinging upon eternity." The bon vivant who once described, with the love of a sculptor at work, how you take a small melon, slice a piece off the top, empty it of seeds and fill it with strawberries and Grand Marnier, let it stand for twenty-four hours, then throw out the strawberries and serve the melon, has passed. In his place is a gentleman of unreliable digestion who drinks sparingly, and consoles his calory-counting friends with "Eating is a very minor pleas- ure." The days when he slept in a satin bed in a satin room are gone. While he was married to Ethel Noyes, daughter of Frank Noyes, president of the Washington Star, and long president of the Associated Press whom, it is said, he char- acterized as a perfect example of what is wrong with Ameri- can business he was a fashionable figure. Now that he is married to the former Mrs. Norma Hull, he lives a sedater life in a pleasant home, with his big boxer and his library of 7000 books. The only thing wrong with this picture is that he will not like country life and his wife likes duck shooting. As a correspondent for the Times, Bill was a prodigious success, both from the viewpoint of its readers and that of No. 10 Downing Street. Though his copy is usually late, though he never writes as well as he talks, his pontifical style of heavy "think pieces," sometimes meager in news, always rich in meditation, is entirely comprehensible to and appre- ciated by his audience. If it is true that a reporter is as good as his legs, Bill is not what he used to be, for he rarely goes Sir Willmott Lewis 213 to news sources, never to press conferences, never to the State Department over whose portals, he once said, there should be graven, "Out! damned spatl" He did not go in 1940 to the presidential conventions. "I know all about them," he sighs. "A party platform may be defined as abracadabra, or ten thousand words to that effect. Moreover, constant at- tendance at party conventions is a homeopathic cure for de- mocracy." However, he manages to be one of the best-informed men in Washington. He calls on the telephone; sees officials at dinner, reads prodigiously especially American history, past and contemporary always with a scratch-pad beside him, and talks to newspapermen. For this purpose he comes up to the National Press Club every day, sees the best of the Washington correspondents who have a theory that he absorbs what they know through his pores, for he never stops talking. In fact, he has a habit of telling you what you know. He's told Senator Barkley about conditions in Kentucky, paint manufacturers the prob- lems of their business. Once when he'd bested Herbert Bay- ard Swope in an argument about facts, Swope phrased a common irritation. "Plausible fellow," he said, "but un- sound." Bill himself is never witty at the expense of friend or enemy. When he described one politician as "a moralist in the worst sense of the word," and another as "Savonarola and soda," he was satirizing ideas, not personalities. He will go to endless trouble for his friends. When Edward Bruce suf- fered a paralytic stroke and went to a lonely Vermont village to recover, Bill wrote him long, sparkling letters every day of the long weeks of Bruce's convalescence. When he came back to town, Bill apparently forgot he existed. He'll do that too. He rarely loses a friend, whatever his many sins of omis- sion. When word came to the British embassy that Bill was to be made a knight commander of the Order of the British Empire in the New Year's Honors List of 1931, the ambassa- 214 Post Biographies of Famous Journalists "dor himself phoned the news, located Lewis at the Press Club playing cards. "Oh, my God," was Bill's only comment as he went placidly back to his rummy. The celebration organized by his colleagues and attended by 250 men and women of every condition was not casual, and signified the feeling for him. The invitations to the din- ner at the Mayflower Hotel bore the legend "Decorations." Guests arrived wearing candy-box ribbons, old convention badges anft buttons of the Taft and Wilson campaigns. They found five glasses at each plate, though Prohibition still ex- isted, got hilariously tight on five different wines, which, they afterward learned, contained not one tenth of one per cent of alcohol amongst them. They laughed at skits presented in the Gridiron Club manner a stereopticon lecture showing the ruin of Bill's house after one of his parties, a fake broad- cast by Ramsay MacDonald over B. B. C., and so on. Bill's greatest success in the United States is not one ap- parent to most of his friends. It is lecturing. When you speak his name to the chairman of a program committee, she breathes hard. To book him is a triumph. For Bill, it is a method of fulfilling his mission of interpreting his country to ours. By it, the ambassador of the Times makes friends for England in the highways and byways. He talks to town halls and women's clubs; to innumerable chambers of commerce and Rotary Clubs. He has made uncounted commencement speeches, has addressed the International Goitre Conference, the United States Army War College and the Princeton alumni. He loves to lecture, and has made competitors angry because he charged such small fees. When the war began, because he feared he might be accused of propagandizing, he "retired" from the rostrum. But still goes on lecturing, free. He may accept expenses. When he sent a bill of $2.19 to a group in Baltimore, the pleased pro- gram committee sent him a manicure set. His technique is worth reviewing. He never uses the loud- speaker if he can avoid it. "I loathe it. It makes my voice sound like any other voice," he complains. He talks just a little over his audience's heads. He will face a convention Sir Willmott Lewis 215 of produce merchants. Most of them have never seen an Englishman, certainly not an English knight. "I am sure," he will say, man to man, "that you all remember what Dis- raeli said to Queen Victoria." The faces of the produce mer- chants will light with synthetic recognition. He keeps on with his references. "I have always said that if Euclid had applied himself to politics instead of to mathematics, his first proposition would be, 'All politicians are the same politi- cian.' " The audience plans to remember that one. He as- sumes a depth of knowledge and breath of reason which they do not have at all. This flatters them. Never does he start, like so many speakers, with veteran minstrel-show jokes, and then say, "Now, to be serious " With more sophisticated gatherings he is not always so suc- cessful. For instance, the Foreign Policy Association no longer invites him, feeling, it is said, that he tends to de- fend the indefensible. But he patronizes the American busi- nessman so adroitly that he is in constant demand by them as a speaker, formal or informal; this despite his being rather to the left of the New Deal. His House of Lords presence, his knighthood and his me- lodious sentences tend to conceal his heresies. When Pren- tiss Coonley, of the Business Advisory Council of the Depart- ment of Commerce, was charged with seeing what could be done to compose the mutual recriminations of Government and business, Sir Willmott was one of the first persons he wig- wagged. Stettinius and Knudsen have asked him to talk with men associated with the Advisory Commission to the Council for National Defense. Bill is crafty in his approach. He would blush to be so obvious as to defend the New Deal frontally. No, he keeps severely away from current events, retiring into past Ameri- can history, from which he dredges out scholarly references, integrating the past with the present. "Man is the only animal," he is likely to begin solemnly, "who has the power to adjust his environment to himself." Then he will go on to remind his listeners that, after the Revolution, the men who framed the Constitution realized 21 6 Post Biographies of Famous Journalists that if the vast territory to the westward was not settled by Americans, it would be settled by the people they had just fought. To settle it would take both men and money. Wherefore the individual man and his money were granted a legal recognition never known in the world before. Then Sir Willmott proceeds to show that the businessman thought he was the country and tried to take over the Gov- ernment, looked upon his unique legal privileges as rights. He will put his chin into his collar, his voice in his toes, and continue, "To have a continuing democracy, there are two things the individual must have: The first is a home, his physical stake in his government; the second is a continuing job, which is his security. While there was the turmoil of continuing development in this country, the individual had his chance for success. With the growth of big business and the concentration of wealth, that general opportunity has diminished. The thing the average man has is his vote, and that he resorts to in behalf of the man making the battle for him." If the atmosphere is favorable, he may go on to propound his theory that labor's power will become not economic, but political, as it is in England. He used to argue this point with Samuel Gompers, who had an exactly opposed goal. Regardless of whether you quite understand or like his principles or objectives, you enjoy them. An English gen- tleman in manner who speaks the American language, he makes you feel you are surpassing in intelligence and per- ception. What more can you ask?
Chinese textile tariffs
The time is a bright, hot morning in the spring of 1940.
This small room has one well-worn easy chair, a small desk bearing a towering old manual typewriter of the earliest model.
There's a small bookshelf with a dozen or less reference books slumping against each other.
The door of the office is half open and once you enter through it you're aghast at the most characteristic feature of the office and its tenant.
There's a mountain of unread newspapers wobbling on a slapping tide of unanswered, indeed unopened cables from London.
All of them are from the foreign editor of the London paper of which we're poking into the Washington office: the Washington headquarters of The Times, irreverently called by Americans "The London Times".
At the time I was the second string to both the Washington and the New York correspondents, living in New York and doing odd pieces for the New York man but on call when need be by the chief, the great man of British journalism in America then, Sir Wilmot Harsent Lewis - known to everybody in the press building as Old Bill Lewis until he'd been knighted.
On that spring morning in 1940 Sir Wilmot had summoned me to Washington.
"I have," he said over the telephone in his rolling baritone, "something for you."
So now we enter that tiny office and face its giant inhabitant - giant by comparison with his surroundings.
He was well over six feet, he stood as straight as a grenadier normally and spoke like an archbishop, at least as archbishops used to speak, in a form of magisterial southern educated English with the articulation of a classical Shakespearean actor. Back in those days John Gielgud would have made a very good archbishop.
When I arrived he was sitting tapping away at this monstrous typewriter. Like all the best reporters of those days he used four fingers, at most, to type with.
At that moment he turned stiffly round - apparently he had a bad back. With one hand he waved me to the easy chair, his right hand picking up his smouldering cigarette.
He said in his most Episcopal manner: "What do you hear from the mob?"
In a moment, a sentence you see, he was able to puncture his austere façade.
He was in fact the most relaxed, informal, wittiest cynic I ever knew. He turned towards me his craggy, long face with small, hooked nose, the high forehead, the neat parted hair, but it was his eyes - gooseberry green, mischievous, with a hint of malice - that told you volumes about his past, present, disposition, most of all his built-in resistance to any form of pressure or persuasion from what he called "official sources".
In those far off days the two or three top British correspondents had easy access to senators, congressmen, governors. They all loved to have a mention, a good press, in England.
I should remind any puzzled younger listeners that at the time London was the capital of the British Empire and the British Empire owned between a third and a quarter of the globe.
Because of his position as The Times reporter, because of his formidable bearing but most of all because of the quality of his dispatches and the potential effect they could and often did have on British policy towards the United States, Wilmot Lewis had confidential access to the president himself.
And one or two presidents were not beyond suggesting the correct interpretation of some bill or policy they were pushing hard.
Now, 10 years before that spring morning, in June 1930, the Senate had passed a bill which Wilmot Lewis privately thought was the worst thing that had happened to America in his time.
It was a tariff bill, composed by two senators whose ill fame still resounds through Washington - Senator Smoot and Senator Hawley.
It was known as the Smoot-Hawley Tariff. And in spite of public protest and a petition to President Hoover of over a thousand American economists, it raised tariffs to the highest level in history.
The bill had been written on the inspiration of an encouraging rally in stock prices, which regained between a third and a half of the dreadful low to which they'd fallen the previous October 1929 - the month of the terrible Wall Street crash.
Senators Smoot and Hawley persuaded the Senate and President Hoover that a stiff, high tariff barrier for all but a favoured country or two would halt the Depression and fortify the economy against another slump.
Wilmot Lewis's despatch to The Times was an objective report but he included in it the fears of some senators and that army of economists that the bill would produce a wave of retaliatory tariffs.
At a White House party one evening President Hoover moved up close to Lewis and questioned his interpretation.
"Why, Bill," he wondered, "couldn't you have seen it more from the White House's view? What have you got to lose?"
Green eyes gleaming: "My virginity, Mr President," he said.
It could have been the curtain line to a fine old melodrama and I'd not be surprised if he hadn't waited for an occasion to use it.
Wilmot Lewis was a Welshman born, who in his youth found himself, as he put it, in the Far East where he did a variety of jobs including newspaper work and some unspecified financial advising to some unspecified oriental tycoon or provincial ruler.
And at one time he admitted he'd been a roving, not very affluent, actor. From two of these occupations you could infer two of his characteristics - his steady scepticism about Wall Street expertise and his love of what you might call theatrical pronouncements.
His polite refusal to take the administration line on the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Bill was, as it turned out, judicially taken.
The bill had hoped to boost the stock market, the spring rally, and help write the obituary of the winter Depression. It had the exactly opposite effect.
The rally proved to be not a rally but what Wall Street calls "a dead cat bounce".
Britain responded with a policy of what was called Empire free trade, excluding the dominions from new tariffs imposed against other countries.
Throughout the summer of 1930 many countries followed suit. The stock market went into an uninterrupted decline.
World trade kept in falling step with the market. Production dropped everywhere.
In the United States alone 1300 banks closed their doors. The country's unemployment rose to an unprecedented four and a half million.
By the winter of 1930-31 even the perpetual optimists admitted that a general worldwide economic depression had set in.
President Hoover's two-year-old boast that America had reached a plateau of permanent prosperity became a bitter mockery.
This memory of Wilmot Lewis and the Smoot-Hawley Tariff was inevitably called to mind when President Bush announced this week that he would follow up his long-lamented tariff on steel by limiting the huge amount of imports of Chinese clothing fabrics - shirts, blouses, dressing gowns, bras and those many exquisite little shoes and slippers that cost so little in this country.
Mr Bush yielded months ago to the pleas of unemployed American steel workers with that whopping 30% tariff and now of course he's protecting the work - and the votes next November - of the struggling American textile workers.
There's another presidential candidate who is eager to secure and likely to get the Democrats' presidential nomination.
He's a former governor of Vermont, a professed liberal. He nevertheless has swung into line with the new liberal line which is protection. Protection had always been a Republican monopoly.
He received this week with much joy the endorsement of the largest industrial union in the country.
So what has all this to do with Wilmot Lewis and my summons to Washington?
Flashback to that spring morning in 1940.
After we shared a Washington pleasantry or two, Sir Wilmot put his hand into an inside pocket and produced what might have been a small deck of cards.
He dealt them to me one at a time like a careful poker player.
They were all his correspondent's passes - to the Senate, to the House, to the White House and - glory be - his two press credentials to the coming Republican and Democrat presidential conventions.
I felt like a young baseball fanatic who has been given a privileged seat at the World Series.
"This is wonderful," I said, "but - but, Bill, why?"
He heaved a sigh.
"Because, dear boy," he said, "I have decided that what happened today happened yesterday and will happen again tomorrow."
For too long since the Boer War he'd watched the cycles of war and peace, war and peace, boom and bust.
From now on he would do the big authoritative pieces, no more daily grind. He lifted himself stiffly from his chair:
"Now for the treatment," he said.
He tottered to the door, chuckled at the litter of unopened cables and stood in the door like Henry V and said:
"Not Caligula nor the courts of Genghis Khan ever devised a torture so exquisite as the bi-monthly massaging of the prostate gland. Goodbye, my boy."
This programme was first broadcast on Friday, 21 November, 2003 on BBC Radio 4.