In the days of my youth I kept a diary – not occasional reflections set down at the instruction of an editor but systematic jottings recording the events of each day. The diary became a slavery. Not a day passed without my sitting down to write in it. I imposed events on myself so that I should have something to write about. Passages were inserted in order to please or sometimes to offend my friends and relations. In fact, there came a time when the diary existed more than I did. When I reached man’s estate I ceased to write in my diary and destroyed all the previous volumes. I have never regretted this decision. All that remains of my diary-keeping is a reading-list in which I have recorded the titles of all the books I have read from 1926 to the present day. This comes in useful to remind me of books I had quite forgotten. It also fills me with shame to discover the amount of time I wasted on books not worth reading. But this is a habit that still persists.
Vol. 5 No. 1 · 10 January 1983
SIR: I was greatly distressed to read in Professor Taylor’s ‘Diary’ (LRB, 4 November 1982) that he will never more express an opinion pro or con Israel or the Jews. This is hardly an example of British pluck for Anglophiles like myself to admire. We jews have grown so great, particularly in the United States, that we are in danger of being overcome by hubris. In my own state of New Jersey, the Attorney-General is a Jew, the Chief Justice is a Jew, the Administrator of the Courts is a Jew. The newly-elected Senator is a Jewish millionaire. I feel that we could use some legitimate criticism to remind the great among us, who live beyond the wildest dreams of the Tsars, where they came from and who they are. If the British academicians are frightened off, who will dare to speak the truth?
Summit, New Jersey
Vol. 5 No. 4 · 3 March 1983
SIR: A shame that our worthy Anglophile Joseph Ginsburg (Letters, 10 January) should have been deceived by A.J.P. Taylor’s legerdemain. Under the guise of suspending all comment on all matters connected with Israel or the Jews (for fear of retribution: LRB, Vol. 4, No 20), Taylor is of course saying a great deal. He is saying that he considers the Jews to be a neurotic people, incapable of accepting criticism, eager to be offended, and typically given to frenetic and impertinent campaigns against the objective discriminating intellect; this persecution is co-ordinated in order to impede the much-needed task (in the words of your deferential correspondent) of reminding the Jews ‘where they came from and who they are’. To anticipate a reply from the Disinterested Intellect, may I say that mailers would hardly be improved were he to claim that his views of the Jews’ Middle Eastern cousins were identical. If this is indeed all that Professor Taylor has to say, he has already said too much.
Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge
Vol. 5 No. 6 · 1 April 1983
SIR: Daniel Eilon, in his letter on A.J.P. Taylor’s comments on Israel (Letters, 3 March), has not only anatomised the problem: he has, I fear, also exemplified it.
University of Surrey