Strachey was unfit [for war service], but instead of allowing himself to be rejected by the doctors he preferred to appear before a military tribunal as a conscientious objector. He told us of the extraordinary impression that was caused by an air-cushion which he inflated during the proceedings as a protest against the hardness of the benches. Asked by the chairman the usual question:
`I understand, Mr. Strachey, that you have a conscientious objection to war?'
He replied (in his curious falsetto voice), `Oh no, not at all, only to this war.'
Better than this was his reply to the chairman's other stock question, which had previously never failed to embarrass the claimant:
`Tell me, Mr. Strachey, what would you do if you saw a German soldier trying to violate your sister?'
With an air of noble virtue: `I would try to get between them.'
Robert Graves, Good-bye to All That (1929), p. 308.
INTO this artificial paradise . . . visitors were admitted on certain afternoons—it may have been on every afternoon—and the silent elongated forms of Aldous Huxley and Lytton Strachey could occasionally be seen drooping round the end of my bed like the allegorical statues of Melancholy and of a rather satyr-like Father Time that mourn sometimes over departed noblemen on an eighteenth-century tombstone.
Lytton's debility prevented him from saying much, but what he did say he uttered in high, personal accents that floated to considerable distances, and the queer reasonableness, the unusual logic of what he said carried conviction. As an instance of his brevity, so off the point and on it, there is a remark of his that comes to my mind. When he was in Rome, Princess San Faustino entertained him to luncheon, and treated him and her other guests to a long explanation of a scheme she had recently thought of to aid the unemployed. It was all dependent on growing the soya bean. Factories, and synthetic chocolates and motorcars and building-material and bath-salts, all were to be made of this magical substance. She worked the whole idea up to an enthusiastic but boring climax, when she turned to the guest of honour, and appealed to him.
`Mr. Strachey, what do you think of my scheme?'
He replied in his highest, most discouraging key,
`I'm afraid I don't like beans!'
Sir Osbert Sitwell, Laughter in the Next Room (1949), pp. 38-39.
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