Brave Deeds by Brave Men
From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia
Brave Deeds by Brave Men is a book written by C. Sheridan Jones published in october 1925 by Raphael Tuck & Sons (The Raphael House Library) and including a foreword written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Foreword illustrated by Harry Payne.
In these days of reaction and exhaustion we have heard much of the terror and the wickedness of war. It is good that we should insist upon it, for at least it is certain that these national resources which are spent upon the preparations for war would alter our whole civilization and solve our social problems, could they be used for purposes of peace. That must be conceded. But war itself has its uses and its beauty. Have we not ourselves been conscious of the real nobility and strength and splendid patience of our British people during those four long-drawn, fateful years in a way which could in no other manner have been elicited ? Have we not known what it was to rise above personal interest, above the base desire for ease and comfort, and to feel, perhaps for the first time in our lives, that the individual is nothing when weighed against a great cause. Duty, self-sacrifice, abstinence, simplicity, sobriety, steady perseverance — all of these virtues came in the train of war.
Can we not preserve them without so terrible a reason? With conscious effort perhaps we can. If we cannot, then we must sink back into that slough of ignoble life where money and ease and outward show take precedence of the sterner, harder qualities which make a fine man or a great nation. If Fate so ordains it that no great trials come to toughen the fibre of our children, then at least by reading in such a book as this what their fathers have endured and done they will feel shame to sink into an inglorious ease. The need of physical courage may be less pressing, but the need of moral courage is ever with us. The unseen battles of peace are no less real than the visible battles of war, and they too can never come to an end on this side of the Millennium. To fight for an unpopular cause, to cut through all shams, to say what you know to be true however it may affront popular prejudice, to work selflessly for the common advance, these also are duties less spectacular but no less real than the sacrifice of the soldier. The Gordon of the Lancashire famine was as great and as brave as the Gordon of the Chinese battles.
Courage is the root of all human excellence, and in such books as these the inspiration to courage may be found. It has to be held ever before the eyes of each generation lest degeneration should come. This volume deals with war. I would see a second volume which would treat with the courage of peace, the courage of the lifeboat, of the smoke-damp, of the fireman, of the merchant seaman, of the men of the police. Yet a third, and perhaps the best of all, might treat the courage of the mind. It could be drawn from all faiths and peoples. I would have the Catholic Father Damien on his leper island or the Curé d'Ars in his little parish. I would have the Protestant Luther speaking what he believed to be the truth, "though every tile on the town were a devil." I would have Jew and Moslem and Buddhist and show how beneath the various phases of religion there lie the same great human qualities of self-abnegation and self-surrender for that which is greater than oneself. No trumpet should sound or charger prance, and yet such a volume might well be as tense in interest and as elevating in its lesson as this splendid little soldier book which is here introduced to the public.
ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE
- September, 1924