A World War One novel ought to be strange and sad; this novel was published in 1919 and reprinted twice in 1920, seems to have hit a nerve in its day, and goes from the odd to the inconsolable.
The outward odd thing is a novel about bedsits and witches, in which a committee devoted to helping the deserving poor in WWI London is bewildered by a witch who happens to dogfight in the city's defense. Her magic is explained in terms of past lives; but, unusually, in this cosmology one only has magic power in one's first life; old souls are too worn down and sad. This is a recognizable view of The Cute and the Cool idealization of the young, and there are little bits of that, but mostly it's a principle of universal decline -- there is nothing to explain why the world is better off with old sad souls in it, or the souls better off, or the world lovable at all if this is what it turns us into.
Why the title? Much of the story is set in a boardinghouse in London which obliges its boarders to solitude, and discomfort, and scarce friendship. One bildungsroman character, poor and honorable, earnest and hardworking, moves in because there is no rent and she's broke. (The combination of London, poverty, gentility, and a war is another trope of universal decline.) In almost any story that we now have with witches and dogfights -- in Harry Potter or Dr. Who, let alone Disney -- this would be the heroine, and she would make some friend, acquire some skill, possibly be fallen in love with, and would leave the House of Living Alone as Inanna left the Underworld.
But no! it goes with her instead! The witch escorts her nearly to the New World and then abandons her with these words:
Dear Sarah Brown, you did mean well. How sad it is that people who have once lived in the House of Living Alone can never make a success of friendship. You say you left all you loved--what business have you with love? [...] Did you think you had destroyed the House of Living Alone? Did you think you could escape from it?
I seem never to have mentioned's The Great War and Modern Memory, which is a terrible oversight, as it is an excellent book connecting the bored, bruised swoonings of the late Victorian poets -- , etc. -- to the imaginative experience of World War One. (I remember Fussell citing a poet as describing going to war as 'into cleanness leaping'. I'm pretty sure that was before the actual war.) From there I can go by easy steps to , and modern tastes for romantic adventure; and therefore Star Wars, the fictional one and the factional project.
What molded the architects of World War One? The long, long end of the nineteenth century reared up more than one biological generation of gilded youth into... bored, entitled fools who thought a war would be as manageable as a peace? (The film Oh! What A Wonderful War is amazing, by the way.) This bodes ill for us;is probably right when he says that the U.S. could change course and lead a world of developing equals into peace; but I don't see why anyone should assume, on our current form, that we will.
History; did we think we could escape from it?
Living Alone, Stella Benson; Project Gutenberg etext 14907
Find in a Library: The Great War and Modern Memory, Paul Fussell
A. C. Swinburne, many works at Project Gutenberg
Find in a Library: Oh! What A Lovely War; if the blocking in the opening scene is inherited from a stage play, it's even more amazingSo wrote clew in Fiction (20th c.).