Harold James

Harold James is a Fellow of Peterhouse, Cambridge.

Orpheus in his Underwear

Harold James, 1 November 1984

In 1892 the English Wagnerphile Mary Burrell tracked down a proof copy of the autobiography dictated by Wagner covering the first 51 years of his life, which had been printed privately in an edition of only 15 for his friends and patrons. She was appalled: she believed the picture Mein Leben gave of Wagner was so unpleasant that the work must have been a forgery by the Master’s enemies. The book was only published, in a version made doubly inaccurate by dependence on the sloppily-printed private edition and by deliberate excision of controversial passages, in 1911. In 1963 it appeared in its complete form, based on a transcript of Cosima Wagner’s manuscript. This is now available in English.

Interpretation of Dreams

Harold James, 5 February 1981

Cosima von Bülow (née Liszt) met the composer Richard Wagner briefly in 1853, lived with him from 1864, bearing three children, and married him in 1870. She was a devoted wife, who put up with every whim and eccentricity of a being she acknowledged as the embodiment of genius: she had married her first husband after she had heard him conducting the overture to Tannhäuser and realised that genius needed genius to interpret it: in her relation with Richard she was to display her own genius too. From 1869 she kept an extensive diary in which almost no insignificant or significant event or word concerning Wagner was omitted. It formed an extensive and intimate record. For a long time the diary remained unpublished because of a characteristically bitter family dispute in Bayreuth, though some of its substance had appeared in a garbled and unacknowledged form in the early biography of Wagner by Glasenapp, and was subsequently used by other Wagner scholars. This diary was published in Germany a few years ago, and became instantly a central work for an understanding of Wagner; the edition is now complete in English, in a magnificent and accurate translation by Geoffrey Skelton, and is accompanied by the splendidly detailed notes of the German edition by Martin Gregor-Dellin and Dietrich Mack, with additions by the translator.

Nothing They Wouldn’t Do: Krupp

Richard J. Evans, 21 June 2012

‘Of all the names which have become associated with the Nuremberg Trials,’ declared the prosecutor at the proceedings intended to bring the surviving Nazi leaders to justice at the...

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Germans and the German Past

J.P. Stern, 21 December 1989

The ‘white years’ of German history – the period between the end of the war and Adenauer’s first government of 1949 – were notable for two blank spaces in the...

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Starting up

Peter Clarke, 6 November 1986

Ramsay MacDonald christened it an ‘economic blizzard’, suggesting that the world slump of 1929-32 was an Act of God which his hapless Labour Government could not be expected to have...

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