War Within and Without

(Literary Masterpieces, Volume 15)

Anne Morrow Lindbergh, renowned a generation ago as the wife of Charles Lindbergh and mother of the fated kidnaped baby, is now beginning to take her own place in American letters. With the publication in the past nine years of five volumes of her letters and diaries, the remarkable inner self of Anne Morrow Lindbergh has gained expression.

Although she has been a writer of essays and novels for five decades, Lindbergh has not enjoyed much critical recognition. For its symbolic meditations on the role of the modern woman, Gift from the Sea (1955) has enjoyed the most popularity and acclaim. Her occasional and travel pieces, essays in defense of her prewar isolationist position, her two novels and one book of poetry have received little attention. War Within and Without: Diaries and Letters of Anne Morrow Lindbergh, 1939-1944 completes an autobiographical series which covers the period from Lindbergh’s adolescence and college days at Smith College through her marriage and childbearing years to the end of World War II. Bring Me a Unicorn (1922-1928), published in 1971, describes her education, ending with her meeting Charles Lindbergh in Mexico, where her father was ambassador. Hour of Gold, Hour of Lead (1929-1932), published in 1973, recounts her sudden fame as Lindbergh’s fiancée, their marriage, and the flights (for which she was navigator) opening up transworld air routes. The second half of that volume covers the senseless kidnaping and her grief in its aftermath; the book ends with the miracle of birth, that of her second son. Locked Rooms and Open Doors (1933-1935), appearing in 1974, covers her return to flying, the family’s struggle with publicity, and the attempt to lead a normal, secure life. The volume ends with the voyage to England to begin a four-year sojourn as voluntary expatriots. The Flower and the Nettle (1936-1939), published 1976, chronicles the years in England and France, the beginning of her publishing career, the Lindbergh’s involvement in diplomatic circles abroad, and the birth of another son, Land.

War Within and Without concerns her return to America, her involvement with the prewar isolationist movement, her frequent relocations, her writing difficulties, and the birth of two more children during World War II. Much more of this volume is composed of diary entries, thus giving an intensely introspective and private view. The earliest volumes were mostly letters written to family members and close friends; with the publicity hounds at her door, she censored her own communications, and so the material is not fully revealing. Her earlier volumes were full of tales of flying and descriptions from exotic cultures—northern Siberia, Alaska, or China—where she and Charles were the first white faces ever seen, coming out of the air in a tiny seaplane. In the early 1930’s, she had gained a certain notoriety as her husband’s flight partner. She had flown cross-country when seven months pregnant, donned the heavy boots and regalia of the flying suit, and accepted the physical rigors of primitive aviation. In this volume, that robust life has disappeared; now she is domestic and only semi-public; there is little physicality (beyond giving birth) to her existence. She almost seems another person. She completely supports Charles’ public life, helps him with his speeches, attends and gives receptions, but stays in the background, filling her life with writing, children, decorating, and gardening—and seems not at all frustrated except when she is unable to keep up with her writing.

In her Introduction to War Within and Without, Lindbergh glosses the prewar period with its “great debate” over United States involvement in World War II. This era—from about 1938 to 1941—is, claims Lindbergh, almost totally lost from history as most people have forgotten the passion with which many Americans, most of them not pacifists, argued for an isolationist position. The Lindberghs returned from Europe committed, like many intellectuals, to that stance. Charles was later to become heavily involved in the America First movement, an organization devoted to keeping the United States out of the war, urging a negotiated peace, and protecting representative government. The issue of the undeclared war has plagued every president from Roosevelt forward; Korea, Vietnam, and El Salvador show the continued relevance of the debate.

The isolationist movement brought together a strange mix of people—Quakers, other pacifists, American Legionnaires, labor organizers, and right-wingers of various sorts. Some of Lindbergh’s most perspicacious writing in this volume comes in her descriptions of various leaders of the movement. She tellingly notes that the socialist leader Norman Thomas becomes “inflamed about ’Humanity’ but not about men as individuals, only as workers, as sufferers, as classes. He does not really love men, only ’Mankind.’”

Her own public involvement was minimal (she never officially joined “America First”), but she supported her husband throughout and wrote several important essays on the subject. The Wave of the Future (1940) gave the moral argument for isolationism; the book’s proceeds went to the Quakers, the group she most admired. Near the end of 1941, she did disagree with Charles’s allegation that the Jews were one of the groups pressuring the United States toward war. She correctly foresaw that he would be crucified by public opinion and called anti-Semitic, Fascist, and Nazi. After Pearl Harbor, of course, the movement became anachronistic, and Charles Lindbergh immediately issued a statement calling for the complete support of the war effort. He himself became an adviser to the bomber factory at Willow Run, Michigan, and later tested planes in the Pacific.

Anne’s own position during this period was colored by her self-identification as a European-American. Quizzical and ambivalent toward Americans, she felt more at home with Europeans. A visit to the National Gallery was refreshing because it felt like Europe again. In her diary entries about the war’s progress, she always wonders how the various European nationalities are reacting. A good example of her ambivalence is her attitude toward the Food for Europe program begun after the fall of France. Many felt that this program would only enhance the German position; starving Belgians or Frenchmen, they reasoned, would hamper the German military. Lindbergh, with her sympathy for the individual, could not countenance a view in which the end justified the means....

(The entire section is 2710 words.)