Schiele in Prison
SIR: Hans Keller’s polemical review of Schorske’s Fin-de-Siècle Vienna was most stimulating, but your caption review in the same issue of Simon Wilson’s recent book on Egon Schiele (LRB, 5 June) runs the risk of misleading readers. Most of this notice consisted of an excerpt from Schiele’s prison ‘diary’, allegedly written during his 24 days’ detention in Neulengbach and St Pölten. Recent research has concluded that this diary’s status is most charitably described as dubious.
Egon Schiele died in 1918. In 1922 Arthur Roessler, art critic and journalist, published the prison ‘diary’ as Schiele Im Gefängnis. This was translated into English by Alessandra Comini and published as Schiele in Prison in 1974. In her notes Dr Comini voices reservations about the ‘diary’ text, and she anticipates some of the points made below, concluding: ‘It is obvious that a definitive edition of Schiele’s prison diary can only be assured when the manuscript is released into the public domain.’ This event now looks most unlikely.
Christian Nebehay’s meticulous documentation of Schiele’s life (Egon Schiele: Leben, Briefe, Gedichte, Salzburg 1979) finds the ‘diary’ unconvincing on the following grounds: 1. No physical trace of the ‘diary’ has been found among Roessler’s papers. This is surprising since Roessler kept every postcard and scribbled message that he received from Schiele. 2. It is known that Heinrich Benesch visited Schiele in prison, yet there is no mention of Benesch in the ‘diary’. Instead there is an embarrassingly fulsome tribute to Roessler: ‘Of all my friends A[rthur] R[oessler] loves me the most strongly and the most purely because he understands me the most deeply, with his heart.’ 3. The most interesting piece of evidence which Nebehay introduces is a letter from Dr Max Scheffenegger, a judge from St Pölten, who wrote to a local newspaper in 1922 to challenge the veracity of the recently published ‘diary’. By reference to the court records this letter refutes several claims made in the ‘diary’, including Schiele’s outraged protest that he had no idea why he was arrested. This letter also points out that Schiele was assisted by a Viennese defence lawyer whose fees were probably paid by Carl Reininghaus, another of Schiele’s patrons. And the ‘diary’ makes no mention whatever of this important intervention.
The court at St Pölten was occupied by the Russians in 1945 and many of the records were burnt, including those covering the case of Egon Schiele. Therefore Scheffenegger’s letter stands as the only contemporary critique of Schiele’s prison ‘diary’, and it seems likely that the circumstances surrounding Schiele’s imprisonment and trial will never become totally clear. Since Schiele’s martyrdom became a central part of his image and importance, it is interesting that some of the evidence on which this martyrdom rests was rigged by one of Schiele’s greatest friends and patrons.
SIR: It was very kind of Herr Keller (LRB, 3 July) to write that my book, Association Football and English Society 1863-1915, was valuable in stimulating the mindful (amongst whom he obviously included himself) into ‘compensatory, reparative mental action’. However, I was disappointed to have discovered no evidence of this compensatory mental action in the review itself. Surely he was not counting those few commonplaces about Messrs Brooking, Clough and Greenwood? I would be grateful if he would tell me when and where I can see its fruits.
If I could pick up the list of things Herr Keller found particularly distasteful about my book. First, the style. Well, nobody is perfect. You only have to read ‘compensatory, reparative mental action’ to realise that. But if he thinks I write like a sociologist, it shows how little sociology he has read recently. Nor did he like the dates. Tough luck. I wrote about England during the period 1863-1915. I am sorry that he wanted a book about 1919-1979.
So far as the formation of Everton is concerned, if Herr Keller had read the book properly he would have seen that it was a club which originated from a church which had a cricket club first, and that they played on a ground owned by a public house. There was really no need for Herr Keller’s confusion. As for the role of the centre-half, he is just wrong. The book is about English football, and by the 1930s English centre-halves did not roam freely and regularly take part in attacks. They may well have gone up for free kicks and corners, so did Jack Charlton in the 1960s if it comes to that, but they were basically third backs.
I was heartened that some of my fact-grubbing proved worthwhile, but I did not link the origins of the Charity Shield with the present one because I assumed all my readers would know. Similarly, I had heard that Notts County were the oldest extant Football League club: as a matter of fact, I have seen the date on their stand on my many visits to Meadow Lane. It did not seem necessary to labour it.
Herr Keller is just silly about class. Of course it cannot explain everything, but in England, unlike classless Austria, it did matter, and it does help us to understand the way Association Football developed. Why did the amateurs and professionals in the England team travel separately and stay at different hotels? I suspect it has something to do with social origins, occupation, income, manner of speaking, place of residence – in fact, class. You do not have to be boringly Marxist to realise that.
I have one more disappointment to hand out to Herr Keller. I have played and watched an awful lot of football matches in my time and I am currently writing my football memoirs, which I shall dedicate to him. Like Kultur Gauleiter Keller I, too, prefer inventive attacking football rather than the overcaution of the English League. The question is how can such football be brought about? Not by insulting me, nor even Brian Clough, that’s for sure.
It is a sad but well-known fact that age does not bring wisdom with it. In Herr Keller’s case, it has certainly not brought humility either.
Centre for the Study of Social History
Unfair to gays
SIR: The purport of the letters in the last issue which criticise my review is that homosexuals are asking simply to be treated like everyone else – like ordinary people. But this is a very tall order (Letters, 17 July). For the trouble with most homosexuals is that they are obsessed by homosexuality: by which I do not mean that they may be obsessed by boys or men in the same way as heterosexuals may be obsessed by girls or women, but that they are obsessed by the whole circumstance and condition of being ‘queer’, by the whole business (in the actor’s sense), by the argot, the clubs, the drag, the slap, the ‘marriages’ – in a word, by the whole apparatus. They will make such a production of their taste. They will be special. They will often talk of nothing else, and the first question they ask about any new acquaintance is: ‘Is he?’ It is this which everyone else dislikes – often so much that they call for penalties, whether they be ‘readers of the Sunday Express and admirers of Mary Whitehouse’, or merely people whose nerves are set on edge by the incessant and shrilling noise.
War and Peace
SIR: In the early Seventies, Professor Freeman J. Dyson was involved, as a member of the JASON Division of IDA (Institute for Defence Analysis), in a controversy over the role of that group of élite academic consultants to the Pentagon. JASON was under attack for having recommended strategic choices such as the creation of the ‘electronic battlefield’ in Vietnam in 1966. On 16 January 1973, to a younger physicist who had urged him to ‘cease all [his] services for the Pentagon; repudiate the US militaristic policies and corruptions of science in that service; reveal whatever inside information [he had] about the military, as Ellsberg did’, Professor Dyson wrote in reply: ‘At the risk of appearing sanctimonious, I must say that the basic issue seems to me the one raised in Luke, Chapter Six, verses 30-31: “But their scribes and Pharisees murmured against his disciples, saying, ‘Why do you eat and drink with publicans and sinners?’ And Jesus answering said to them, ‘They that are whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.’” Professor Dyson also wrote: ‘It is important, quite apart from JASON, to establish the principle that one may eat and drink with sinners without being used by them. Was Jesus used by the company he kept?’ Readers of Mr Rudolf Peierls’s review of Professor Dyson’s autobiography, Disturbing the Universe (LRB, 19 June), in which the war in Vietnam is not even mentioned (let alone Professor Dyson’s participation in the JASON Division), will decide if the rejoinder was that of a scientist ‘thinking deeply and seriously about the ethical problems of war and peace’.
Department of English, Université Paris VII
SIR: I enjoyed immensely the humour of Clive James’s dismemberment of Princess Daisy (LRB, 5 June). However, I was somewhat struck by two points. Not having read Mrs Krantz’s work I had to rely upon the excerpts given by Mr James. In reading the first quotation I, too, was immediately annoyed, even a bit tortured, by the question as to how Stash actually was able to place the hat back on Francesca’s head. ‘Did he remount or is he just very tall?’ I agree completely with Mr James. When a writer ‘leaves out the indispensable’, it is exhausting. Yet this incident is, to my mind, much more revealing than Mr James leads us to believe. No man, except under certain, well-defined circumstances, or unless he wishes to utterly humiliate, will place a hat upon a woman’s head. The second point that I found disturbing is why Mr James needed to mention the fact that Mrs Krantz is Jewish.
Maurach am Achensee, Austria
SIR: I am doing research on the life and work of the poet Charlotte Mew (1869-1928) and I should be most grateful to anyone who could provide, or lead me to, material relating to the life of this author or the publication of her work.
4 Courthouse Road, Finchley, London N12