Ascendancy at Leeds
The Lattimores arrived in Leeds early June 1963, with the first challenge house hunting. Owen had done a lot of this in January but hadn't settled on anything. Now Eleanor took over, with an assist from Dorothy Borg, who spent a week with them. By mid-June they had settled on a place in Linton, near Wetherby, some distance from Leeds but with room for Owen's books, his father, and guests. The house was officially called "Old Rose Cottage." Eleanor thought this name "icky" and wanted to change it; Owen thought it corny enough to be funny and insisted they keep it.
Starting a new department involved Owen in unending conferences and paperwork. Bureaucratic chores were not his favorite occupations, but the excitement of building a program to his own specifications compensated for the drudgery. In addition, there was none of the opprobrium his heretical views had brought him in the United States. He was welcomed into the social and intellectual life of Yorkshire, with much broader contacts than either Johns Hopkins or the reactionary Baltimore suburbs had provided. On June 25 Eleanor wrote Evelyn Stefansson that "Owen hasn't been so happy in years."
Only one bit of bad news distracted from the euphoria of those first days at Leeds: the Dilowa had fallen ill with cancer. When the Page School folded, the Dilowa made his primary residence with the exile Mongol community in New Jersey, but he traveled frequently to universities where his linguistic skills were in demand. One of the places he visited often was New Haven; Lattimore's son David was a graduate student at Yale. Wesley Needham, curator of the Tibetan collection at Yale, hosted the Dilowa frequently for work on Yale's extensive collection of Buddhist texts. It
was during an August 1963 visit to New Haven that the Dilowa fell ill and was hospitalized.
The Dilowa did not want news of his illness to reach Lattimore, but the New York Times published the story of his hospitalization, and David sent a copy to his father. At Grace New Haven Community Hospital, high-voltage radiation treatment seemed to stabilize the Dilowa's condition, and David wrote that he seemed to be in no immediate danger. The Dilowa was eighty; Lattimore knew complete recovery was impossible.
At Leeds the British tradition of public inaugural lectures for prestige appointments was strong. Lattimore's was scheduled for October 21, 1963. Lattimore was determined to distill for a general audience the most important influences in making China what she then was. Titled "From China, Looking Outward," the lecture presents the core of what he intended to develop as his magnum opus, a rendition of the theme "China in World History" showing both the impact of "barbarian" invasion on China and China's impact on Western cultures.
The lecture hall at Leeds that night was packed, and the address was carried on BBC television. Reaction in Britain was uniformly laudatory. Strangely, those in America who might have been expected to monitor Lattimore's latest heresies seemed to miss it. Several of his judgments could have been distorted to imply that he welcomed the triumph of communism in China, but none of his detractors commented on the lecture. The core of his analysis endures as a sound rendition of China's route to communism:
Only from China, looking outward, can it be clearly seen that a Communist revolution would have been impossible without the century of Western and Japanese domination that began in 1840-2 when in the name of law, order and security for business (opium was not mentioned in the Treaty of Nanking) the Treaty Port system was created, and subsequently elaborated into a system of indirect controls and sanctions. It was this system of herding, coercing, coaxing, and at the same time frustrating the Chinese, so different from direct colonial rule, that fostered the growth in China of new economic interests, new social classes, new antagonisms, new alliances, and, because of a sovereignty that was impaired but not, as under colonial rule, destroyed, an increasingly impatient search by the Chinese for methods, however radical, by which to fuse all the discordant forces at work into a mighty national effort to break out of the net. . . .
It was not an upheaval from within, but Japanese invasion, that ruptured the net. Upheavals which had been premature, like the Taiping
Rebellion, or too primitive to know what direction to take, like the Boxer Rising, could now be followed by a much more intricate process of detonation and fusion, at great speed: open class conflict, accompanied by new class alliances, with the explosion confined, and its energy concentrated, by the pressure of a foreign invasion. When the enclosing Japanese pressure collapsed, the energy released within China went into a second stage of expansion in which . . . Chiang Kai-shek's regime was consumed. It was destroyed not only because it was corrupt, but because so much of its corruption was rooted in its function of being the end-product, the last and most hated phenomenon, of relying on foreign support in order to keep the upper hand in China.
Two weeks after his inaugural lecture Lattimore was contacted by the British foreign office. The adventure to which this call led brought glee to his voice when he described it twenty years later:
Very soon after I got to England, the Mongols and the British recognized each other, and the Mongols appointed their first Ambassador to Britain. One morning, I'd just got to the office at the University, and the phone rang. The voice said, "My name is—whatever [Dugald Malcolm]—at the foreign office. In a few days, the new Mongolian ambassador will present his letters to the queen. Would you consent to be the interpreter?" I said, "Well, that would be a great honor, but I'm not qualified. In the first instance, I'm not even a British subject." And the voice said, "Oh yes, we know all that, but you're the man we want." So I did that function. The man who was in attendance on the queen during the ceremony [Sir Harold Caccia], the queen, and I and the Mongol Ambassador were the only people in the room. The queen's attendant was a man I had met first in Peking when he was secretary at the embassy. . .. That whole ceremony shows how skillfully the British handle that kind of thing. The Mongol had, of course, his own English-speaking aide with him. But the British thought that for British prestige, they must have the interpreter on the British side, not on the visitor's side. To prepare for it—gain very British—they sent the ambassador up to Leeds, to see me. They put him in that famous resort hotel, and sent me over there to dine with him so we could get acquainted. We had a good talk. He was a crafty ambassador, too. He said, "I suppose there will be some small talk, and they will ask me how I like England. What should I talk about?" I said, "There's one sure thing. All the royal family are crazy about horses. So say something about horses." When we got there, the queen sure enough asked him if he'd had a good time so far in England. He said "Yes, I went to Yorkshire, and since we Mongols are crazy about horses, we know there are two great breeds in the world, the Arab horse, and the English
thoroughbred. So while I was in Yorkshire I went to several stables and saw your English thoroughbreds." "Oh," said the queen very interested. "And you have horseracing in Mongolia?" "Yes, at the big festival every summer we have the great national horse race. Only our horseracing is a little bit different from yours. You see, for us the race is a test of the horse, and not of the jockey. So we don't put a strong rider on the horse. We put a young rider on it. The race is about twenty-five kilometers and it has to be a horse that is willing to run that on his own, without being driven by his jockey. Our jockeys are retired for age when they are twelve years old." And that's the first and only time I have seen British royalty do a double-take.
The ceremony at Buckingham Palace took place November 14. Ten days later Lattimore got another call from London. This time it was the BBC: John F. Kennedy had been assassinated in Dallas. Would Lattimore explain to British listeners what this terible act of violence meant?
Lattimore hesitated to accept this invitation also. He had had his own exposure to the dark places of the American mind, but he did not feel prepared to deal with a presidential assassination and declined. Later BBC invitations called for commentary that would draw more directly on his own background, and he became less reticent about appearing. By the time he retired from Leeds in 1970, he was a frequent BBC commentator.
Lattimore heard in early November 1963 that a memorial service was to be held in London for Chi Ch'ao-ting, the Chinese economist whose articles he had published in Pacific Affairs . Chi had died in Peking August 9. Joseph Needham, fellow of the Royal Society and president of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, organized the service and asked Lattimore to speak about Chi's career. Joan Robinson, Cambridge economist, and John Keswick, prominent British businessman, were also to speak. Lattimore accepted but was unable to attend because his father fell ill. He sent remarks to Needham to read for him.
The service was held December 5. In his eulogy Lattimore did not have to explain why he had not known Chi was a Communist; he was free to describe the man he had known in Chungking in 1941. Chi was then confidential private secretary to H. H. K'ung, Chiang's minister of finance. As Lattimore and the sponsors of the memorial service had known him, Chi was a statesman and scholar no matter whether he was serving the Kuomintang or the Communists. Lattimore's was a moving tribute, one of those beautifully crafted encomia that deserve a place in the enduring literature of human achievement. Lattimore could never have given it in the United States. To speak of a Communist leader who was "hu-
mane to the marrow of his bones" would have again brought down the wrath of the Peking haters.
During his last years at Johns Hopkins and his first year at Leeds Lattimore kept up his correspondence with Arnold Bernhard of Value Line . The letters these two exchanged offer a fascinating commentary on world events during the last half of the Eisenhower administration and the two years of Kennedy. On December 15, 1963, when Lattimore had six months' experience living in England, he described his reactions for Bernhard. Lattimore found himself "a little to my surprise, more intrigued by economic than by political questions."
As soon as I got here I started reading all I could find that is readily available to the ordinary investor, and I was—and still am—aghast. In Britain, the classical country of the industrial revolution and of the forms of saving and investment that accompanied and followed the industrial revolution, it is exceedingly difficult, if you are native born and not a foreigner bringing with you your own sources of information, to get hold of basic data and plan your investments. Not only is there no hard-headed advisory service remotely comparable to the Value Line; there is no equivalent of the Wall Street Journal or—very significant— of Merrill Lynch. On the native heath of modern capitalism, there just isn't any "people's capitalism." In America, I thought that a rather corny slogan. Here—because of its absence—I see what it means.
Two days before Christmas 1963, Lattimore's father was operated on for colon cancer in the Leeds hospital. The operation only postponed the inevitable. David Lattimore died March 3, 1964, at the age of ninety.
Periodically, reporters from American papers would appear in Leeds to survey the new career of the onetime flagship heretic. Clyde Farnsworth of the New York Times was one of the earliest, visiting in February 1964. He found Lattimore ecstatic about the program's success in teaching spoken Chinese: "By the end of the first term, we had students taking simple dictation in Chinese characters." Farnsworth mentioned the "brain drain" of many British scholars leaving for the United States because of higher pay. Lattimore was a "brain drain" in reverse. Why had he come there? "Some people are interested in going where the money is, others where the brains are. That's why I am in Britain. In my field there is more original thinking here than in the United States." 
Lattimore put it more colorfully in a letter to Bernhard: "As soon as possible, you and Janet must come over. Eleanor and I are happier than we've been in years. So many interesting things going on, so many inter-
esting people. It's as if, in a weird way, Baltimore were the sleepy English village where nothing ever happened, and Leeds the driving, creative American city, with people thinking and doing all the time."
In May an Associated Press story probed Lattimore's reactions to the McCarthy years. " "I was angry at the time,' Prof. Lattimore said in an interview, 'as anyone would be had they been falsely accused. But it is no use sitting around nursing rancor.' "Lattimore had kind words for Charles de Gaulle, who had just recognized the People's Republic of China. This was a much-needed breakthrough. China was a great power, and her quarrel with the Soviet Union was a danger to the rest of the world; while recognition "will not make the Chinese all sweet and reasonable, at least then we would have some way of dealing with them." 
Lattimore was encouraged, in March 1964, to think that even he might have a way of dealing with the Chinese. Edgar Snow had met Chou Enlai in Africa and wrote Lattimore that Chou had expressed interest in the Department of Chinese Studies at Leeds. Lattimore decided to write Chou. Even though his own connection with the Mongols might make him persona non grata in Peking (Mongol-Chinese relations at the time were bitter), he desperately wanted other members of his staff to have access to China. The PRC chargé d'affaires in London was not responsive to inquiries from Leeds. Chou, at the time, was no better.
During August 1964 Lattimore went back to Mongolia. Eleanor was not able to go, so Lattimore's son David accompanied him. He described his trip in a letter to Mortimer Graves: "We did about 2,500 miles in a jeep-like vehicle, then came back to Ulan Bator and I saw a lot of my scholar friends. They did just about everything except make me a member of the University and the Academy, and we came back loaded with loot. In addition, we are getting eight students to come here [Leeds] this month for an intensive six-months' English course. A real scoop, first ever west of the Iron Curtain." David remembers that more than anything else on their trip, his father enjoyed talking with Okladnikov, whom the elder Lattimore regarded as the most impressive scholar-adventurer he ever knew.
The Lattimore house in the fall of 1964 was like a hotel. The rector of the Mongolian National University was just one of hundreds of guests who made the Lattimore residence a visitor's center. Americans, Mongols, British, French, Swedes—very conceivable nationality sent somebody to visit Lattimore. Reading Eleanor Lattimore's letters, one wonders
how her husband ever had time for scholarly activity. The long Christmas vacation was a blessing. Lattimore took seven days of it for a trip to Rome and Paris but spent the rest in his study.
In March 1965, at the end of the Leeds winter term, the Lattimores went to the United States, visiting David and family, Joe and Betty Barnes, Evelyn Stefansson and her new husband John Nef, Bill and Suki Rogers, and friends in California. While they were attending the Association for Asian Studies conference in San Francisco in early April, word came from David that the Dilowa, then in a New York hospital, was rapidly losing strength. Lattimore flew immediately to New York: "I found him very weak, but not in pain. I sat by his bed, holding his hand. He could only say a few words at a time, but wanted to be assured that all was well with me and my wife. At last I left, to go up to New Haven to see my son, saying that I would be back the next day: but he died in the night." The date was April 7, 1965; the Dilowa was eighty-one.
Of all the fascinating Mongols Lattimore knew, the Dilowa was the closest to him and the greatest influence on his life. They differed on many things, especially religion. As Lattimore explained it, the Dilowa "told me in a tolerant, friendly way that I had no vocation for religion and it was no use trying to explain Buddhism to me." But Lattimore did not disparage the old man's religion, and when he finally published the Dilowa's autobiography in 1982, his introduction gave a most sympathetic account of his friend's religious beliefs.
Sentiment among Lattimore's friends in the United States about the Vietnam War was rising. Particularly while he was in California, leaders of the antiwar movement urged him to speak out about American policy. He agreed and chose the medium of a long letter published in the New York Times April 9, 1965. The CIA recorded a remarkably accurate summary of his arguments. The summary did not, however, display the flavor of his impassioned prose. His last three paragraphs do that well:
Is the next Pearl Harbor to be an American bombing of China? Is that the meaning of the smooth, cold, authoritative, hypnotically evasive voices of McGeorge Bundy, Dean Rusk, Robert McNamara, and the imperfectly civilianized Gen. Maxwell Taylor?
One difference between Japan then and America now is that we are more free to protest. We must use that freedom. Between here and the Pacific Coast I have heard and read enough to know that many have been ahead of me in raising their voices and many of them are more influential than I.
But unless we all unite in a great outcry of horror, repudiating this
obsessed policy of doom, we shall not waken from the nightmare in time. 
Predictably, Lattimore's blast called forth equally fervent defenses of American policy. The Times carried one on April 20. Bruno Shaw, a former AP correspondent in China, interpreted our Vietnam adventure quite differently. We were, said Shaw, trying to "help save the free nations of South Asia and the Western Pacific from onslaught and domination by Red China's puppet armies," which, if allowed to conquer Vietnam, would set off World War III and dim the outlook for freedom all over the world. The paradigm had now shifted: Ho Chi Minh was the puppet of China, just as Mao had been the puppet of the Soviet Union. Perhaps the most obscurantist response to Lattimore's letter was that of his old enemy Robert Morris. His paradigm had not shifted at all. Red China and Red Russia were still "firm allies in war against us and have always said so." Lattimore, said Morris, was once again trying to guide us to disaster. Lattimore compounded his offense as soon as he got back to England. He joined in the formation of the Society for Anglo-Chinese Understanding, described by UPI as a "breakaway from the Britain-China Friendship Association, which always has been tied to the Moscow-aligned British Communist Party."
Lattimore did not participate in any of the British protests against U.S. policy in Vietnam. In June 1965 he told Norman Moss of the North American Newspaper Alliance, "I think it is more proper to confine my protests to my own country." On the larger world scene he was quite willing to comment, giving Moss an extensive analysis of the Sino-Soviet split. This split "is the kind that great powers have regardless of ideology. But don't count on it lasting forever. In international affairs, neither friends nor enemies are forever." As to relations between China and Vietnam, his sight was 20/20: if the Chinese tried to move into Vietnam, "they'd have insurrection on their hands. And they wouldn't be able to handle it any more than we can."
The summer of 1965 was one of Lattimore's best. In May he gave the Chichele Lectures at Oxford; on June 4 he received, finally, a university degree, Glasgow's D. Litt.; and in July he hosted at Leeds 170 participants in the International Congress of Chinese Studies. To keep up to speed he and Eleanor toured the continent again in August with granddaughter Maria (age eleven), taking in a history congress in Vienna along with Alpine scenery and Parisian dining.
Fall term at Leeds in 1965 brought heavy work and dank weather. The
Lattimores were determined to make up for the frustrations and tragedies of the previous Christmas and arranged to spend Christmas this time in sunny Israel. Letters to their friends were glowing; Eleanor took painting lessons, Owen lectured and consulted with Israeli scholars. The kibbutzim, he felt, were solidly established; Oriental and Occidental Jews, some Marxist and some not, got along because rugged pioneer conditions dampened "theoretical differences of ideology." But the economy of Israel was overwhelmingly capitalist, and if the socialized kibbutzim were "to start growing rapidly, the capitalist interest, backed by America, would very rapidly call them to order." 
In March 1966 Lattimore was back in the United States for an Asian studies meeting in New York, several lectures, and parties in Washington given by John and Evelyn Nef. Two of Lattimore's lectures can be documented: at Harvard March 26 and at Brown on the twenty-eighth. He was on American soil, free again to criticize American policy— Asian policy. Our policy in Europe had been a great success, but in Asia an increasingly disastrous failure. We had not learned to cut our losses and get out of a hopeless mess. He likened the situation to an American investor telling his broker one week that a stock the broker recommended at $100 was too high, then asking the broker to buy the stock a week later at $125.
The FBI followed Lattimore's lecture tour fitfully. They knew he lectured at Brown but were apparently unaware of the Harvard speech.
Lattimore had not written Arnold Bernhard for almost a year, blaming the hiatus on his obsession with the "Vietnam tragedy." He called on Bernhard when he was in New York April 5, 1966, and Bernhard encouraged him to write a signed article on the war for Value Line . This article appeared in the June edition, saying all the negative things about America's counterproductive approach to stopping communism that Lattimore had been telling audiences for several years. Value Line got some static because of the Lattimore article; William F. Buckley, Jr., and other columnists who still had an investment in the inquisition attacked the piece strongly. Bernhard did not regret carrying it. On June 23 he sent Lattimore a check for $1,000 and said that while Value Line had received a few cancelations because of the Lattimore article, he was glad and proud to have been able to print it.
While Lattimore was in Washington during April 1966, he used a private channel to further his objective of ending the Vietnam War. He believed that the power of the president to obtain public support for a change of policy was great enough that "it ought to be possible to adopt either a
'hard' or a 'soft' policy, or to switch from one to the other, and have the decision or the switch hailed as a stroke of genius." Thus President Johnson could successfully reverse course in Vietnam. Lattimore discussed this matter with Walter Lippmann and James Reston; both agreed. Reston, to support the idea, noted "that at the time of the Cuban Missile crisis Kennedy had the option of acting in several ways other than the way he finally adopted, and could have counted on a strong public support whichever way he acted."
Thus encouraged, Lattimore sought the best channel to LBJ. No public proposal stood a chance of adoption by the president; Johnson was gun-shy of having an idea "sold" to him or "planted" on him by someone else. The best channel was Lattimore's old friend and now Supreme Court Justice Abe Fortas, a presidential confidant. Lattimore went to Fortas with his idea. "My suggestion was that LBJ should make a startling, unexpected switch in policy. He should get away from the sterile insistence that all the trouble in South Vietnam was invented by Hanoi, and the Vietcong are mere puppets and instruments of Hanoi. In dropping this line he would get away from the endless blind alley argument about whether Hanoi should be allowed to bring some Vietcong representatives along with them to a negotiation. Instead, he should say boldly, we intend to negotiate with the people against whom we are fighting, the Vietcong. If the Vietcong want to bring along with them some delegates from Hanoi, that is up to them. This move, I believe, would act as a catalyst on the whole situation."
The meeting with Fortas was quite different from any of his other discussions of Vietnam. "With Abe, there was obviously no question of a 'conversation.' He . . . would never even talk to an old friend in a way that might indicate how far he is privy to LBJ's thinking. So all I could do was to talk to Abe as persuasively as I could, and this I did." Shortly after Lattimore saw Fortas, Senator J. William Fulbright published The Arrogance of Power , which proposed ideas similar to Lattimore's. Johnson's choler at Senator "Half bright" knew no bounds. The war continued.
Lattimore wanted to take David to Mongolia again the summer of 1966, but David was working hard on his dissertation and decided he shouldn't go. Eleanor preferred another visit to the United States, so Lattimore went to Mongolia with Urgunge Onon. He had a glorious month, recording songs and legends and visiting for the first time Gurban Nor, the alleged birthplace of Genghis Khan. He had all of July in the MPR, then met Eleanor in Copenhagen for a week before returning to Leeds.
Lattimore was now sixty-six, and retirement was creeping up. Leeds gave him a special dispensation to stay on active duty until he was seventy, but he and Eleanor began to plan their life after he had to give up his post at Leeds. Eleanor wanted to return to the United States, where friends and family were clustered in the Boston-to-Washington corridor. Owen was more inclined to stay in England, where the intellectual rewards were greater and the continent a mere train ride away. Apparently the deciding factor was a warning from Bill Rogers that were either of the Lattimores to die in England, the inheritance taxes would be colossal. American rates were much more modest. Rogers urged the Lattimores to buy land near them in Virginia.
Grappling with the retirement problem caused Lattimore to reflect on his attitudes toward the United States and Britain. In a letter to Bill Rogers October 10, 1966, he wrote, "I will be perfectly frank in saying that I am depressed at the prospect of having to return to live in America. England has its drawbacks, and the British support for American imperialism, almost unquestioning, is a scandal, but nevertheless university life is very much more stimulating than in America. I suppose that in England my views could be classed as more radical Tory than Left. Certainly I have no sympathy for the bogus socialism of people like Harold Wilson and George Brown, but I do find many points of sympathy for the views of a conservative like Enoch Powell."
During the Lattimores' years at Leeds, entertaining was so heavy that they moved to a larger house near the university. Lattimore wrote in 1975, "We lived successively in two houses, each made beautiful by Eleanor's genius for knowing both what to do to a house and how to live in it." Part of their entertaining was of potential donors to the Chinese and Mongol programs. Lattimore spent much time with Stanley Burton, an internationally minded businessman in Leeds who contributed both ideas and funds to advance the study of Asia. On March 18, 1968, the British Royal Society of Arts held one of its periodic celebrations; Lattimore was featured, delivering a lecture titled "China Today: Some Social Aspects." Then he flew to the United States for a lecture tour and came back into CIA cognizance; that organization clipped a report in the Boston Herald Traveler of his lecture at the Community Church of Boston head-lined "Lattimore Says U.S. Fails on Intelligence."
The cost of this constant activity—and of constant traveling—was reduced scholarship. Books that he was committed to review piled up on his desk. Letters from scholar-friends around the world, asking for advice or information, were answered months after arrival, if at all. The major work he intended on Chinese history was untouched. He wanted to edit and
publish the Dilowa's memoirs and started Eleanor working on it, but it made little progress.
A constant stream of scholars from all over the globe came to the grimy Midlands industrial town because Lattimore was there. One of these visitors was S. L. Tikhvinskii, Asian expert and member of the Soviet Academy of Sciences, whom Lattimore had known for a long time. Lattimore's colleagues at Leeds were a bit uneasy at this visit: Tikhvinskii was believed to be a KGB general. Lattimore didn't care. He wasn't doing anything classified, and he claimed to have learned more from Tikhvinskii than Tikhvinskii had learned from him. (When Soviet and American historians held their first joint conference on post-World War H relations in Moscow June 16-18, 1987, Tikhvinskii headed the Soviet historians; George F. Kennan headed the American delegation.)
Lattimore heard rumors during the mid-1960s that he had been proposed as a full member of the Mongolian Academy of Sciences but that Party authorities had vetoed the proposal. In 1967, though, it finally happened. He was notified that he had been voted in as the only foreign member. Investiture was to take place the summer of 1969.
Lattimore thought, in the first months of 1968, that it might now be time to revisit China. Accordingly he wrote Madame Sun, thinking her more likely to be able to answer his letters than Mao or Chou. He was right; she did answer, on February 13. But the answer was hardly comforting. She was pleased to hear of his Chinese curriculum at Leeds, welcomed his interest in events in China, and thought the "great changes" of the "Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution" should be studied by Westerners—but "Relations between China and the United States being what they are due to the hostile attitude and actions of the United States government, there is little hope for an invitation." She sent best wishes to him and his family.
Unable to visit China, the Lattimores decided to attend the European Congress of Chinese Studies to be held in Prague. Many of their Czech friends had visited them in Leeds and had promised reciprocal hospitality during the congress. Two days before the Lattimores were to leave, the Russians invaded Czechoslovakia, and the congress was canceled. This was a catastrophe of major dimensions to the entire European intellectual community. Lattimore worried over the Czech invasion for months. His final evaluation was expressed in a letter to Arnold Bernhard December 9, 1968:
Was the Soviet action "red imperialism?" No. It was a colossal blunder, a misreading of the situation, an unneeded security measure. Czechoslovakia was not trying to play the West, especially West Germany,
against Russia. The Russians were guilty of thick-skinned, "big brother" insensitivity to a small nation's justifiable confidence in its own intelligence and competence to manage its own affairs. The Russians are prone to the great power attitude. "We are in the big time. We deal with the U.S., atomic problems, and all that. You little fellows are only bush-league players. Your politics, and your understanding of world problems, are parochial." That is the Russian Big Power insensitivity.
There followed a five-page analysis going beyond the immediate Czech crisis to long-term prospects for the Soviet Union. Lattimore foresaw, in the distance, perestroika.
The final years of his Leeds professorship were the best years of Lattimore's life. Even though the administrative and teaching burden was oppressive, the rewards made it worthwhile. His department had more than fifty undergraduate majors, several graduate students on their own, two Leverhulme Trust Sino-Soviet fellows, and "the recent British ambassador to Mongolia who is with us as a research fellow on a year of sabbatical leave from the Foreign Office." There were even students from the U.S. Department of State specializing in Mongol studies. Lattimore had seven faculty members directly under him and three "lecturers planted as infiltrators in other departments." When he wrote Joe Barnes in November 1966, he was negotiating for three more faculty appointments and spending several hours a week with three students from Mongolia. He and Eleanor were their "godparents" while they were at Leeds.
The program of Mongol studies was the capstone of Lattimore's academic achievements. Having Urgunge Onon with him made it academically possible; Lattimore's stature in the global intellectual community made it financially possible. No university funds were available for Mongol studies; Lattimore financed them by tapping private donors, a rarity in Britain. His was the only program in the English-speaking world actively serving visiting Mongols and dealing with contemporary Mongol culture and politics.
Christmas 1968 the Lattimores again spent in the United States, primarily arranging architects and builders for the retirement home they were to build on the land in Southdown estates near Great Falls, Virginia, adjoining the new home of Bill and Suki Rogers. In addition to visiting in the East, they went to California to see the Robert LeMoyne Barretts. Barrett was now ninety-seven, living in a mountain retreat near Los Angeles. He was hard of hearing and almost blind but still "fantastically healthy," according to Eleanor, and still supportive of Lattimore's travels
and heresies. On March 5, 1969, two months after they visited him, Barrett died. Since Barrett admired Lattimore's fortitude in opposing the senatorial inquisition, a substantial part of Barrett's estate was left to Owen Lattimore and went to further Mongol studies. Joe McCarthy and Pat McCarran never knew how they had thus strengthened academic study of the MPR.
The summer of 1969 was special for Lattimore. He was to retire from Leeds after the next school year and return to the United States. Before making this move, he and Eleanor had a major tour to make.
They began with a week of frustration in Paris, where Lattimore had to deal with Soviet consular officials for a visit to Moscow and a transit visa to Ulan Bator. Lattimore's respect for most of the Soviet scholars he knew was high, but the bureaucracy drew his unmitigated contempt. His language describing the 1969 hassle was scathing. Soviet consuls were, among other things, "constipated."
Then to a happy week in Italy, attending the European Congress of Chinese Studies and visiting old friends. On to Moscow: Intourist fouled up again, and no one met them at the airport. But Lattimore had that valuable possession, a Moscow telephone number (for the Soviet Academy of Sciences). The Academy came to their rescue and put them up in the VIP scholars' hotel. As Lattimore described events in a letter to his son on October 12, 1969, there began a week of
long talks with individuals and small discussion groups on China, Mongolia, the history of Central Asian nomadism—all very professional, and real discussion possible. This is the fifth time I have been in Moscow since 1960, and never have I found people so relaxed and open. Not a single sign of the war-with-China scares that we have had all summer in the Western press. . . . On China, the Cultural Revolution, Mao himself the Russians are very , very tough, but they have shifted gears. Instead of vulgar abuse, a serious attempt to analyze Chinese history and society. . . .
We saw a lot of dear old Zlatkin, the chap who did that ponderous critique of my life and works in 1960. I become fonder and fonder of him as the years go by. He is undoubtedly the most flat-looted, unimaginative, do-it-by-the-book-and-by-the-rules Marxist I have ever encountered; but at the same time he is decent, honest, likeable. He is now engaged on an enormous steam-roller exercise in flattening out Arnold Toynbee's theory of nomadic history. He asked me to read this and criticise it (which I did). I also told him that I would see to it that Toynbee gets a translation of the critique when published, and said that Toynbee would not take offense at strong but honest criticism. (As a
matter of fact he will chuckle at Zlatkin's ponderousness.) Zlatkin knows my critique of Toynbee, published some years ago, but when he found that we are very good friends of the Toynbees he wanted to know all kinds of personal details. Finally he asked me solemnly to assure Toynbee that his criticism is in no way a personal attack, and not meant to be offensive; that he hopes Toynbee will live many more years and write many more books. (Arnold will be delighted.)
The Lattimores arrived in Ulan Bator in mid-September 1969 to what he described as a homecoming. The MPR was liberally sprinkled with former students from Leeds who competed with each other in providing both Owen and Eleanor hospitality to repay what the students had experienced in England. On hand to welcome him were not only former students but also friends like Dalai, the young historian whom Lattimore had met in Moscow years before and had as a companion during his travels in Mongolia in 1961. Dalai had just served a tour in the MPR embassy in Peking, where hostility between the two countries was, if anything, worse than that between China and Russia. Dalai was glad to be back in Ulan Bator; the isolation of Mongols in Peking he described as "deadening."
Lattimore found that he was now extended an unofficial honor in some ways more significant than membership in the Academy of Sciences; he was "La Bagsh." This title, which came from Manchu days, simply meant "teacher." Only three Mongol professors were addressed this way before the summer of 1969, and Lattimore became the fourth by consensus of the academic community. Even the president of the Academy was not so addressed.
Lattimore wrote David a long description of his investiture at the Academy. The president of the Academy, Shirendyb, began with a welcoming speech. Then two academicians presented him with a traditional scarf (Lattimore described it as magnificent) and a colorful gown. Eleanor was also honored with a "gorgeous Manchu-style sleeveless jacket." There followed a reading of Lattimore's biography by academician Lobsanvandan, and Lattimore then spoke.
Urgunge Onon had warned Lattimore to prepare his speech in English and get someone to help translate it into Mongol, but the press of socializing had been so great there hadn't been time for this preparation. Lattimore "just thought about it the night before and memorised the general outline. The only thing I carefully composed and memorised was a closing invocation to world peace, which I did in the traditional alliterative rhapsodic style—a five-line stanza. As I had opened with some very common-language, vernacular passages (they like changes of pace and the mixing
of style), this was a great success." Lattimore, who had never earned a college degree, took academic ceremonies lightly, except for his induction into the Mongolian Academy. Compared with the top scientific bodies in major-power states it may have been insignificant, but to him the Mongolian Academy epitomized all the glamour and glory of the ancient Central Asian kingdoms. He wore his Mongol gown from then on when he took part in academic ceremonies throughout the Western world.
Shortly after the investiture ceremony the Lattimores were invited to an official audience with Tsedenbal, first secretary of the Mongolian Communist party and premier of the government. Tsedenbal remembered Lattimore from the trip with Wallace in 1944 and produced a photograph of the two of them with Marshal Choibalsan. Surprisingly, Tsedenbal seemed indifferent to this opportunity to "prime" Lattimore with the Mongol version of the raging battles within the Communist bloc. Lattimore wrote David, "In fact, I was the one who tried a political demarche. Tsedenbal asked about our years in China, and my starting to learn Mongol there. I told him, and then said that some of the things happening in China recently must remind Mongols of their own period of 'leftist excesses,' about 1928-32. 'Yes, but the Chinese have been much more extreme,' he said, and went on to other things."
Owen and Eleanor were taken on a tour of the countryside, but extreme weather conditions (early snow squalls and heavy rain) kept them from enjoying it as much as usual. Mongol hospitality was greater than ever, however; Lattimore was now introduced with a whole new set of superlatives in villages they visited. He recalled David's explanation of why he got on so well with the Mongols: he was "culturally interesting, but no longer politically dangerous." At one village sending-off party someone asked him how many children he had: "I replied in the old set phrases, one single, solitary son, but from him six grandchildren, four mere girls and two girdled youths. An intellectual man spoke up: Nowadays, you know, we just say four females, two males. Yes, I said, but you can see that I am in my declining years, and for me the old way of speaking is better; I am, after all, just a feudal remnant, a relic of the bad old times. They nearly fell apart laughing."
In October 1969 the Lattimores returned to Leeds for their last year. It flew by unmercifully. The endless rounds of entertaining, the streams of visitors from abroad, the preparations for turning the department over to his successor, all kept Lattimore from digesting and writing up the huge amount of Mongolian material he had gathered. But these necessities did
not keep him from dictating long letters to Arnold Bernhard and to the recipient of his most reflective writing: Joe Barnes. He was, he wrote Barnes October 20, increasingly glad he was not a Marxist. He thought there had been a lot of devotion to blind ideology when the Russians panicked over Prague Spring and invaded that backsliding country. As for himself: "England, I love you. How sad that our principal reason for our Christmas visit this year [to the United States] will be not to observe the quaint manners and customs of the natives, but to get on with building our place of exile among the bien-pensants of Virginia."
Lattimore had now become fond of John Nef, Evelyn Stefansson's new husband, and had some philosophical reflections for him too in November. Lattimore was working on a lecture titled "Peking Seen from Moscow and Ulan Bator." As he wrote Nef, he got along well with both Russians and Chinese, but they were hard to argue with; there was a lot of "big nation" arrogance, similar to that of Americans. But the Mongols were different: "Perhaps the reason I get on best of all with the Mongols is that they are a powerless people. If they were a big nation, throwing its weight about in the world, I would probably have reservations about them."
Eleanor, for all her grace as a hostess, was weary by the end of their time at Leeds. The last year had been particularly trying, largely because of an important Mongol visitor and his wife, neither of whom spoke English. Eleanor bore the brunt of accommodating their needs, and her letters to Evelyn Nef in early 1970 showed her quite ready to give up the job of department chairman's wife and get on with her dream house in Southdown. The Lattimores were saddened by Joe Barnes's death from cancer on February 28; Owen had vowed to spend long hours with Joe when they returned to the United States, catching up on the mood of the country and tapping in to Barnes's fabulous journalistic pipeline. Owen was more hesitant to leave Leeds than Eleanor was, but even he welcomed the leisure that retirement would bring, enabling him to get back to writing. And the Library of Congress would be available.
On Saturday, March 21, 1970, he and Eleanor boarded a plane for Washington to inspect progress on the Southdown house, after which they would return to Leeds to close out the house and make their last farewells.