Modest House in the Judengasse

C.H. Sisson

  • Random Variables by Lord Rothschild
    Collins, 238 pp, £12.50, May 1984, ISBN 0 00 217334 4

It is delightful and unexpected to open a book by a public Eminence to find the blue wings of Morpho cypris spread out before one. Then a few pages later there is the green and orange of Ornithoptera paradisea. This is, however, not a work of lepidopterology, except in the sense that it records that the author was ‘born into a family in which lepidopterology was a ruling passion’. Other illustrations suggest other interests: there is a black-and-white drawing of the fuse of an underwater sabotage bomb and a coloured ‘hydrodynamic model of gambling in Britain’ which can only be described as a trifle baroque. Then there are representations, in various genres, of members of the Rothschild family beginning with Gutle who was born in 1753, the daughter of Baruch Schnapper, a Frankfurt tradesman. A glance at the contents shows an even greater variety of subject-matters, in chunks varying from seven or eight lines to 50 pages. One might say this is not the sort of miscellany that every publisher would think of publishing and no doubt the fame of the author makes a special licence possible.

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