The “Swarming of the Slav”

After Homer Lea’s death in November 1912, a variety of myths became associated with his life and career. One of the more prominent of these is the mistaken belief that he had plans to write a third book entitled, “The Swarming of the Slav,” which would have completed his trilogy of The Valor of Ignorance(1909) and The Day of the Saxon(1912). Harry Bowling, a Los Angeles Times journalist, first speculated that Lea’s third book would probably have been about Slavic expansionism in a December 12, 1922, Los Angeles Times article entitled, “The Unwritten Sequel.”[1]

He did not have any inside knowledge of Lea’s book plans, but credited Lea with foreseeing the coming of World War I (1914-1918) and speculated that Lea’s next book would have been about, what Bowling termed, “The Swarming of the Slav.” Bowling explained:“Fresh from witnessing the great Teutonic adventure [World War I], which he [Lea] foresaw, this warrior-student would have further interpreted the final awakening of the Slav through which he prophesied the British Empire would receive its death blow.” It was a misrepresentation of Bowling’s speculation, and nothing more, which has mistakenly been accepted by many that Lea planned a third book entitled, “The Swarming of the Slav.”

Although Bowling may not have intended to start “The Swarming of the Slav” myth as Lea’s unwritten sequel, twenty years later, journalist Clare Boothe Luce helped resurrect Lea as a forgotten military prophet during World War II and turned the myth into an accepted fact. In March 1942, she wrote a two-part article about Lea in the Saturday Evening Post that was subsequently used as an introduction in the 1942 reprints of The Valor of Ignorance and The Day of the Saxon. She was unaware that her article contained a variety of misinformation collected from earlier news articles, and in repackaging this information, which included Bowling’s article, she reinterpreted what he had written and made the erroneous assertion that when Lea was in London in late 1911: [2]

. . . he began to make notes for a third book, which, he said would complete the modern world’s military trilogy.  He called it, in his notes, “The Swarming of the Slav.”

Unfortunately, no one ever bothered to see what Lea himself had said about his next planned book. While he did not leave notes in his final years discussing his future book plans, in actuality, three months before his death, he publicly explained his plans for his next book (which is discussed in Homer Lea:  American Soldier of Fortune). In an interview with journalist Willard Huntington Wright on August 4, 1912, he stated his next book, to complete his trilogy, would be about democracy and its relationship with the world’s powers:

One might almost say that the principle of democracy is the principle of a man who wanted a drink of champagne, and who imagined he could realize his desire provided he could drink a sufficient number of glasses of beer.

My next book, the third of the trilogy will deal with this phase of government as it pertains to the inter-relation of world powers.[3]

Although “The Swarming of the Slav” myth became accepted as fact as a result of Clare Boothe Luce’s writings, and is perpetuated on the internet, along with other misinformation about Lea, it has been relatively easy for writers and researchers to verify or disprove such claims using an array of digital resources, including the Los Angeles Times, that started becoming available online in the 1990s. Fortunately, as more online research material continues becoming available, the less likely it should be to perpetuate such myths as “The Swarming of the Slav” being Lea’s unwritten sequel.

[1] Harry Bowling, “The Unwritten Sequel,” Los Angeles Times, December 12, 1922, Section 5, 32.
[2] Clare Boothe, “Ever Hear of Homer Lea,” The Saturday Evening Post, March 14, 1942, 40.
[3] Willard Huntington Wright, “Homer Lea Sorely Stricken,” Los Angeles Times, August 4, 1912, Section 5, 21.