Better drowned than duffers

Posted in advice, Arthur Ransome, Books, Lenin, Nepmen, swallows and amazons, writers by Deputy city editor on August 15, 2007

After covering the Russian revolution as a bold radical journalist then marrying Trotsky’s secretary, Arthur Ransome wrote a classic series of children’s stories, Swallows and Amazons, the first of which, itself titled Swallows and Amazons (1931), begins with a famous Post Office telegram:


This advice would nowadays provoke prosecution by the health and safety executive.

While a character named Titty presents its own difficulties.

Ransome believed that children should grow up doing dangerous things, whereas now society with its principles of precaution and inspectorates of correctness insists on risk assessments. Ransome’s world was different but I am more with him than against him on the idea that the best way for children to learn how to handle risks, is to start allowing them to face some. Obviously individual circumstances will vary.

Ransome is intriguing both for his radical ideas in child raising and his career as a foreign correspondent specialising in Russia.

See also (for hard core amateurs of Ransome): Arthur Ransome’s interview with Lenin, on

This is a text – really, two versions of a transcript – of an interview in 1922 in which Ransome strongly challenges Lenin on the contradictions of the New Economic Policy which Lenin (at the time – he would later change his mind) strongly defends. Ransome uses the word “Nepman” to describe traders who are evidently prospering and in whom, Ransome suggests, will soon grow a thirst for political power to match their economic muscle. Lenin denigrates this proposition by means of a logic that is pretty specious, offering a physiocratic view of the real wealth of the nation, to wit all the happy and productive peasants, easily paying their taxes. Obviously all this would end in tears for the peasants as well as many of the Nepmen.

This is quite a gutsy bit of interviewing by Ransome even if he is attacking Lenin from the left. A curious cameo, nevertheless.

The Arthur Ransome Society is here.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: