There were giant-killers in those days. Storm Jameson, rallying English writers in defence of peace and collective security, had to toss up to decide between Rebecca West and Rose Macaulay for the place of honour. Between these three women enough power should have been generated even for an impossible cause. They were tireless collectors of facts - Rose used to take her newspaper-cuttings everywhere - and what courage they showed, what endurance, what determination to call the world sharply to order, what unanswerable wit, what impatience for justice. They were all prepared to outface the mighty, but they also judged themselves, on occasion, more strictly than anyone else would have dared. 'When I come to stand,' wrote Storm Jameson, 'as they say - used to say - before my Maker, the judgment on me will run: she did not love enough ... For such a fault, no forgiveness.' 'As we grow older,' said Rebecca West, 'and like ourselves less and less, we apply our critical experience as a basis for criticising our own consciences.' It isn't surprising that her son grew up with the 'idea that a woman was the thing to be, and that I had somehow done wrong by being a male.'
LRB 12 November 1987 | PDF Download