If Tom Paulin is in need of more attention (Letters, 6 June), I am happy to oblige. I shall proceed by way of analogy. In Graham Greene’s novel Brighton Rock, published as late as 1938, the mobsters who run the Brighton underworld are Jewish, their behaviour and physical features described with Eliotesque repugnance. Around 1960 all this changed. No revised edition was officially published but the Jews were transformed overnight into Italian mafiosi. This sleight of hand is not very edifying. It is damaging to Greene as a writer because it suggests he fell back on prejudice and caricature to fill in the murkier corners of his canvas. But it does not indicate serious moral turpitude. It does imply, though, that, before the Holocaust made it unthinkable, anti-Semitism was a conventional prejudice, to which few gentiles gave much thought.
It should also be remembered that Jews were thought to stand for a number of undesirable social forces. For both Greene and T.S. Eliot, they were as casually associated with graft and usury as Italians are with organised crime today. I have never understood why prejudice against nations that have suffered persecution is thought shameful and offensive when the same prejudice against other nations is not. But it is certainly the case. One cannot imagine even a writer as enlightened as Tom Paulin devoting three pages of the LRB to anti-Italian feeling. Eliot’s anti-semitism is hateful to the modern reader who knows what the Jews have suffered and painful to his admirers (especially to his Jewish admirers). But prejudice is a failing most of us share with him. Paulin himself is no stranger to it. He is, after all, an admirer of Ian Paisley, whose bigotry has had far more effect than Eliot’s ever did.
I hesitate to respond to Tom Paulin because what I have to say about the subject of Eliot and anti-semitism is personal and anecdotal. I own a copy of T.S. Eliot’s poems stamped with the crest of St Paul’s School and given to me as a school prize. At the time I went to St Paul’s there was a quota for the entry of Jewish pupils: the school’s Christian orientation (it was founded by John Colet, the Dean of St Paul’s, in 1509) was reflected in the fact that scholarship pupils wore a little silver fish in their lapels – there were 153 of these fishes, the number hauled in by Peter in the miraculous draught of fishes (John 21:11). Many of these scholarship pupils were Jews. I had never experienced anti-semitism until I went to St Paul’s, where it was prevalent in a petty fashion. I am not saying that my life was blighted by it, but I remember it more vividly than most of my lessons. At the time the irony of receiving a volume of T.S. Eliot’s poems as a school prize, and at such a school, escaped me. But this was not the school’s doing. They did not foist the book on me – I chose it. I did so because my father, a devout Orthodox Jew, many of whose extended family died in the Holocaust, and who refused to set foot in Germany after the war, had passed on to me his deep love of Eliot’s poetry. I still cherish the truths that Eliot speaks (or chants, because his music is the inimitable thing). Perhaps what Julius says about Eliot is right. But it misses the point, and what Paulin says we must now all think about Eliot misses it twice over. A self-hating Jew is a sad sight. But a self-hating goy is truly pathetic. I’ve mislaid my little silver fish, but I still have my prize poems. I think my father was wise.
University College London
Tom Paulin’s article does indeed invite controversy, yet one of its most revealing comments appears to have been made almost in passing, as if it were itself uncontroversial. Speaking of Eliot’s anti-semitic poems he says that these ‘have been in practically continuous print since they were first published, yet there has been no protest at this, and little protest at the poems themselves’. The clear suggestion is that we should have protested against these poems remaining in print. But if we object to the availability of Eliot’s anti-semitic utterances, we presumably should seek, in one way or another, to render them unavailable. Paulin, of course, does not utter the word ‘censorship’. Indeed he waxes eloquent in the cause of free speech when castigating the ‘repudiation’ of Julius’s book by a number of publishers. But Paulin cannot have it both ways. He cannot deride timorous publishers who found Julius ‘too controversial’ while at the same time calling for restrictions on what he judges to be objectionable in Eliot – unless, like Eliot, he believes in tolerance, but finds that ‘a spirit of excessive tolerance is to be deprecated’.
Hands up any Eliot student who is not aware that the poet wrote ‘The Jew is underneath the lot’ or ‘Rachel née Rabinovitch/Tears at the grapes with murderous paws’. Perhaps I was peculiarly fortunate in my doctoral mentor, David Daiches, who was both a leading critic and, at times, a spokesman on anti-semitism. Any doubts I might have had about such lines, Eliot’s social views, or those, indeed, of other Modernists such as D.H. Lawrence, Wyndham Lewis, Ezra Pound or Virginia Woolf were informatively addressed in his seminars. Yet he always insisted that such writers were worthy of serious attention and discussion and were cultural touchstones of the century. So quite what ‘profound questions’ does Julius’s book now raise, some years after Christopher Ricks on T.S. Eliot and Prejudice or John Carey’s ‘populist’ attack on the Modernists in The Intellectuals and the Masses?
I imagine the scandale of Julius’s book owes much to Eliot’s one-time reputation as the ‘Pope of Russell Square’. But the canon (whichever) has been under attack in the literary academy for years, and Eliot’s disturbed and disturbing comments are scarcely scholarly news.
It was very gracious of Valerie Eliot to consult the records of the Criterion and to make available (in the TLS, for no apparent reason) the information about the authorship of the Yellow Spot review, discussed by Tom Paulin. It was admirable of her to do so, but unnecessary: the information is contained in the Criterion itself, both in the review and the journal’s index. What would be most useful to scholars would be for Mrs Eliot to make available the material that is not already in the public domain. It is, however, interesting that critics and scholars have chosen to continually repeat the allegation that Eliot wrote the ‘anonymous’ article and that it ‘had the stamp of his tone’.
The Criterion review of The Yellow Spot has been cited in discussions of Anthony Julius’s T.S. Eliot, Anti-Semitism and Literary Form by Paulin, Louis Menand, Valentine Cunningham and Craig Raine. All but Cunningham quote the entire review. Christopher Ricks also used this review in his T.S. Eliot and Prejudice. Ricks wrote: ‘By 1936, even more too late, Eliot was prepared to print in the Criterion an unsigned review which was armoured in fastidious unimagination and which – whether or not the review was by Eliot – had the stamp of his approval and the stamp of his tone.’ Menand wrote that ‘because it is the most explicit, this is the most appalling of Eliot’s refusals to engage with the reality of fascist anti-semitism.’
The section where the book reviews were located was towards the back of the journal. The Criterion titled this section ‘Books of the Quarter’. The first half of the section usually contained reviews of single titles and were signed with the full name of the reviewer. These reviews were indexed by title and by author at the front of the journal when it was bound by volume. Following this section, and still carrying the title ‘Books of the Quarter’ at the top of the recto page, came a section named ‘Shorter Notices’. These were also signed, but only with initials. Sometimes these were batch reviews, signed at the bottom of the last entry. By looking at the index it is usually possible to determine the full name of a set of initials because the writers often contributed other fully signed pieces. The editor assists the reader in this venture by avoiding ambiguity: when a reviewer shares the initials of another writer the second initial of the surname is included. Montgomery Belgion and Montgomery Butchart were frequent reviewers. When Butchart’s reviews appeared in ‘Shorter Notices’ they were signed ‘M. Bu.’ and Belgion’s were signed ‘B.M.’ The Yellow Spot was included in a batch review which covered 13 books. This batch was the first entry in the section and The Yellow Spot was the penultimate book reviewed in the set. The last book was Bastard Death: The Autobiography of an Idea by Michael Fraenkel. Below this review appear the initials ‘B.M.’ If we look at the index under ‘Shorter Notices’ we find ‘reviews by M.B. (for titles see B.,M.:), No LXI, p.756’. At the entry for B.,M. are listed 13 titles, including The Yellow Spot.
The problem of identifying the authorship would seem to have arisen from the practice of only indexing the longer notices by title, with the shorter reviews being indexed under the initials of the reviewer and then by title. This is then complicated by the 1967 reprint of the Criterion where the shorter reviews are indexed by title but the names of the reviewers have been removed (the body of the journal remains unchanged). But as batch reviews are not an unusual feature in a journal it is puzzling that the authorship went unnoticed.
Mr Paulin says that the book was ‘briefly and anonymously noticed in the Criterion’. Menand tells us that the ‘unsigned book notice’ ‘chillingly suggests’ that Eliot was indifferent to the fate of German Jews. This is clearly not the case, as Mrs Eliot has confirmed from the (unavailable) records of the journal. Raine is the only one to state that the review is ‘inadmissible evidence’ if we cannot prove Eliot’s authorship.
In addition to the wholesale claim that the review was anonymous is the assertion that the typography of the Criterion text is anti-semitic. All words in titles are capitalised in the Criterion house style, excepting conjunctions and non-initial articles. Oddly, four words in the 36-word subtitle of The Yellow Spot do remain lower-case – ‘chiefly’ and ‘very carefully assembled’ – but I fail to see how the presentation of these words adds to the presence of anti-semitism, and anyway, I doubt that Eliot’s duties as editor included selecting or setting the type. It has become traditional to attribute Eliot’s use of a lower-case ‘j’ in his poetry to an anti-semitic agenda. Paulin declares the typography of the review a ‘striking and significant substitution’, adding that Eliot ‘used the lower-case j to diminish Jews in “Gerontion", but here employed upper-case to mock their suffering’, Only four words of the subtitle on the title-page are in upper-case, ‘German Jews’ and ‘National Socialist’, Are we meant to believe that Victor Gollancz is ‘mocking the suffering’ of the Jews? And what about Menand, who, when citing The Yellow Spot, creates a subtitle different from that on the title-page (and in upper-case)?
Paulin says that the subtitle contradicts house style. If he had looked at the next entry he would not only have seen the signature of the reviewer but also that house style is consistent: Bastard Death: The Autobiography of an Idea. The review immediately preceding the infamous review also follows house style in its subtitle. (The exception seems to be French titles where only initial words and proper nouns are upper-case.) But Paulin’s real contribution is the creation of a Kinetic Theory of Literary Criticism. After telling us that he was ‘disturbed by’ the review’s ‘sinister dismissiveness’ he then elaborates upon the difficulty of producing the sinister upper-case type. ‘Imagine the extra effort … which went into typing those initial upper-case letters.’ Does Mr Paulin believe that someone (Eliot?) produced the Criterion on a typewriter rather than with typeface and a printing press? Has literary criticism descended to the level that we analyse the kinetics of the keyboard? Shall we begin to examine the frequency of letters such as q, p, and b because of the musculo-skeletal activity involved in reaching them?
It was a mistake to believe that in the widely assumed absence of signature we could discern the authorship by the tone of the review. Ricks says that it has ‘the stamp of his tone’. I find this as remarkable as the alleged anonymity of the review. It is difficult to believe that Eliot would write, let alone start a review, with the phrase ‘There should be somebody to point out that this book …’ The tone of Belgion’s pieces is consistent and does not, I believe, bear any similarity to Eliot’s own very distinctive manner, ‘so nicely/Restricted to What Precisely/and If and Perhaps/and But’.
The ‘malignity’ Tom Paulin notes in Eliot’s work is not to be divorced from his view of society; it is not surprising that the mentality which produced The Waste Land, along with the horrifying ‘Dirge’ stanzas Paulin and Julius quote, could also have it, in the Egoist (5, 1918), that ‘the forces of deterioration are a large crawling mass, and the forces of development half a dozen men.’ One gasps at the blatant unfairness of Eliot charging Milton with lacking ‘that understanding which comes from an affectionate observation of men and women’.
If Tom Paulin is now so repelled by T.S. Eliot, on account of the latter’s anti-semitism, what has he been reading and teaching for all these years?
In complaining about there being ‘only one brief and one trivial letter’ as a reaction to his Eliot piece, Tom Paulin does not make it clear into which category mine fell. Either way, I can take heart. Brevity is precious enough in these correspondence columns, and Paulin can have little idea about ‘the current state of British literary culture’ if he feels that it is trivial to complain about the price of books. There are many of us who would like to discuss the questions raised by Julius but can hardly do so; even libraries balk at paying so much for a book, and the only discussion of it is likely to be among those who have received a copy for review.
Generous of Christopher Hitchens to allow that ‘Clinton was technically born in the dull hamlet of Hope, Arkansas’ (LRB, 6 June). Clearly Hitch should have jumped into his Tardis, nipped back then, and dragged Bills mum – protesting weakly but contracting strongly – across the state line to the lesser-known hamlet of Despair, Louisiana, so that parturition could take place in a location more nominally suited to the tone of his piece.
University of Bath
Carried away by contempt for bipartisanship, I allowed myself to describe former Senator Bob Pack wood as a Democratic saurian in your last issue. I know better. He was of course a Republican saurian.
In her review of my edition of Théodore Flournoy’s From India to the Planet Mars: A Case of Multiple Personality with Imaginary Languages (LRB, 23 May), Terry Castle presents a phantasmagoric rendition of my Introduction, ‘Encountering Hélène: Théodore Flournoy and the Genesis of Subliminal Psychology’ (while making liberal use of material contained therein). ‘Encountering Hélène’ gave an account of the psychological interest in mediums at the turn of the century, how and why they became the principal subjects of subliminal psychology, which in turn was situated within the wider problematic of how psychology found or created its subjects. This was followed by a discussion of the initial reception of From India to the Planet Mars, its subsequent reading by linguists and Surrealists, a critical discussion of the recent feminist historiography of spiritualism and, finally, an indication of its relevance to contemporary issues in psychology.
Far from depicting an ‘essentially malign encounter between mental science and spiritualism’, I set out to show how such an encounter gave rise to subliminal psychology. Nowhere was it suggested that in séances, ‘male scientists like Flournoy discovered both a sexual and an epistemological threat’, or that the spirit medium ‘had to be “contained" within the evolving masculinist discourse of psychiatry’. I did not characterise Flournoy’s relation with Hélène Smith as an ‘emotional transference’, or suggest that he was ‘unmanned’ by their encounter. Indeed, Flournoy was not a psychiatrist, as Castle mistakenly believes. According to Castle, my reading could be framed by Brouillet’s 1887 etching of Charcot lecturing on hysteria and a cartoon of Freud tormenting Dora. However, I showed in considerable detail how for Flournoy, mediums presented the best opportunity for studying the subliminal creative imagination, and how his valorisation of the trance differentiated his position from the pathologisation of the trance in French neurology and abnormal psychology as represented by Charcot and Janet, and subsequently by psychoanalysis. Castle’s judgment of Hélène Smiths spiritualistic activities as arising from ‘a narcissistic craving for attention’, in contrast to Flournoy’s valuation of their compensatory and teleological function and their telepathic and telekinetic elements, is a curious coda to such pathologisation. The gendered reading is not mine but Castle’s, who in her essay ‘Marie Antoinette Obsessions’ interpreted Hélène Smith’s ‘royal romance’ in terms of latent homosexuality. In that essay, Castle had also erroneously claimed that Flournoy was ‘one of the earliest disciples of Freud’. Nothing could be further from the truth.
What Castle reports as my conclusion, that mediums like Hélène Smith were the victims of the masculine gaze of science, is also nowhere to be found in my Introduction, the actual conclusion being: ‘the study of the history of psychology, the questioning of the standards of legitimation by which particular psychologies became regnant, rescripting history in the process, while others are relegated to psychology’s “unconscious" – the depiction of how psychology constructs its fabulous genesis, its subliminal romances – is of critical importance to today’s psychological agenda.’ The attribution of meaningless monikers, ‘Post-Modern’, ‘post-feminist’, and ‘post-Foucauldian’ does not help much in this regard.
In addition, Castle characterises Mireille Cifali as ‘a feminist writer’ and her essay ‘The Making of Martian: The Creation of an Imaginary Language’ as ‘fiercely hostile’ to Flournoy. Cifali is a psychoanalyst and professor of psychology, whose sympathetic reappraisals of Flournoy did much to instigate the new Flournoy scholarship. Her essay was a detailed comparison of Flournoy’s account of a Martian séance with the séance transcripts, and a significant contribution to the contemporary understanding of glossolalia as a conjoint, staged production.
Castle makes much of Hélène Smith’s refusal to allow a photograph of herself to appear in the book. For those interested, a photograph of her with Flournoy was reproduced in Olivier Flournoy’s Théodore et Léopold: de Théodore Flournoy à la psychanalyse. Correspondance et documents de Hélène Smith, Ferdinand de Saussure, Auguste Barth et Charles Michel, which forms an ideal accompaniment to From India to the Planet Mars. For the record, the picture of Hélène Smith is far from the squalor that Castle claims characterised séance photography.
Finally, I am the editor of Jung’s seminar The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga and not of ‘several works by Jung’.
Avi Shlaim (LRB, 9 May) offers an insightful review of Zionist ideology and its champions. While he discusses the split between mainstream Labour Zionism and the militant revisionists advocating territorial maximalism, the state doctrine of Eretz Yisrael itself is left unquestioned. The Land of Israel that most Zionists claim as their God-given space on earth corresponds to the Hebrew kingdom during the reigns of David and Solomon (-1000 to -925). This realm came about when the kingdoms of Israel (representing ten tribal districts) and Judah (two tribal districts) were united. After Solomon’s death, his sons divided the Hebrew kingdom again. About two hundred years later, the Assyrians conquered the kingdom of Israel. While the ten northern tribes vanished without a trace, the kingdom of Judah managed to hold for another century or so. Its end came when the Babylonians invaded the country and forced many of its inhabitants into captivity. Considering that Jews believe themselves to be descendants of Judah, I wonder why Zionists don’t focus on the lands once forming part of the kingdom of Judah and leave the rest to the Palestinians. In other words, vacate the coastal plains from Gaza to Tyre as well as Galilee and the rest of the north, but keep the West Bank, in particular the southern part around Hebron. But, of course, this is just a mirage. The paradox of Middle East realpolitik is that Judea, the only Biblical region Zionists can claim as ancestral domain, will remain in Arab hands.
When Stephen Howe writes, in his review of The ‘New Statesman’: Portrait of a Political Weekly, 1913-1931 by Adrian Smith (LRB, 23 May), that ‘in recent years, its Indian namesake, under the editorship of an Oxford-educated former Trotskyist has become a cheerleader of the Hindu supremacist, ultra-right BJP,’ he simply parades his ignorance. Swapan Dasgupta – who I presume is Howe’s ‘Oxford educated former Trotskyist’ – was an assistant editor of the Statesman from 1985 to 1990, never the editor. Mr Dasgupta now works for the Times of India. The Statesman has been an outspoken critic of the BJP since the destruction of Babari Masjid in December 1992.
The Statesman, Calcutta
In his review of Sebastian Faulks’s The Fatal Englishman, Philip French (LRB, 6 June) sneers at the musical Salad Days with its theme tune, ‘We said we’d never look back,’ but then looks back in nostalgic detail at his own salad days at Oxford in the company of the late Jeremy Wolfenden, one of the fatal Englishmen. I knew Jeremy Wolfenden much less well than he did. I accidentally shared a sleeper carriage with him from the Crimea to Leningrad in 1956, inadvertently introduced him to one of his earliest presumed KGB contacts, mistakenly got drunk with him once from the barrel of brandy kept on top of the wardrobe in his Moscow flat, and was rewarded by the great man occasionally sticking his tongue out at me – not nearly enough to earn me an invitation to the recent Jeremy Wolfenden celebration at Magdalen.
But are those Fifties days of wine and poses really worth two pages of the LRB? Our generation was privileged, in comparison both to those that followed and to those that immediately preceded it, with more potential to change Britain radically for the better. Instead, by omission or otherwise, we let in Thatcherism and its aftermath. So why not admit that the most that can be said about those student days is that they happened, and were fun? Salad Days, appropriately playing now at the Vaudeville Theatre, is a truer record than Philip French’s ancient prejudices will allow.
In his review of Bertrand Russell: The Spirit of Solitude, Frank Kermode (LRB, 4 April) notes that Russell was not a pacifist pur sang – which was borne out during the Second World War, when he gave a number of lectures under the title (I believe), ‘Why I am no longer a pacifist’, the change having been due to Hitler’s vicious treatment of Jews, Poles, Catholics and Gypsies. He spent part of the Second World War near Philadelphia at the Barnes Foundation in Marion, where he gave a course in the history of philosophy; his later book of that title was based on these lectures. He had been scheduled to teach at the City College of New York, but this was disallowed by its board of directors because he countenanced free love and pre-marital sex (‘You wouldn’t buy a horse without taking off the saddle’). CCNY’s stance outraged Albert Barnes and his friend and mentor John Dewey, who wrote a pamphlet entitled ‘Democracy in Education’. Unfortunately, Russell was later fired by Barnes for failing to give a lecture between Christmas and New Year in 1944; Russell had told the class that they probably would not be able to make any New Year resolutions after listening to him. Gossip among the students was that the firing was for other reasons, such as Russell’s not relating philosophy to art in his lectures, placing his moveable blackboard in front of Renoir’s The Mussel Fishers, one of Barnes’s favourite paintings, and Barnes’s lack of success in seducing the then Mrs Russell.
Did Virgil really depict, as W.V. Harris says in his review of T.P. Wiseman’s Remus (LRB, 23 May), ‘not the murdered Remus … but a Remus who ruled harmoniously with his brother’? What he says is that when wars are put aside and the sour centuries turn ripe, grey Faith and Vesta and Quirinus (that is, Romulus) together with Remus his brother shall give the laws, and adds that then impious Rage will be chained.
aspera tum positis mitescent saecula bellis; cana fides et Vesta, Remo cum fratre Quirinus iura dabunt …
It seems better interpreted if he has in mind precisely that Rome began with a primal fault, Romulus’ fratricide, the work of impious Rage: and that when the brothers are reconciled, the civil wars of Rome will cease, and the sour forces of the world will lend their strength to the full flavour of the ripened fruit of history. Doesn’t one always hope this of civil wars, whether in the first century BC or now?
School of European Studies
The gun hanging from John Wayne’s statue at the Orange County International Airport is, as I originally wrote in my review of John Wayne: American (LRB, 9 May), ‘about at the mouth-level of passers-by’. Refusing to participate in what you perhaps saw as an innuendo of yellow journalism, you located the weapon instead ‘just below the eye-level’. John Wayne knew better. ‘Make like this is a nipple,’ he orders in his last movie. The Shootist, as, shoving his gun into an intrusive reporter’s mouth, he backs the gun-sucker out of his room.
University of California, Berkeley
David Halperin (LRB, 23 May) complains that something in the book he is reviewing is ‘unjust and insulting’. Yet he does not hesitate to repeat one of the ‘big lies’ of our time: that the cardinal in New York is ‘homophobic’. How does Halperin reconcile that comment with the cardinal’s establishment and maintenance, from the beginning, of the largest Aids ward in the United States? That establishment and maintenance go against the strong feelings of many of his cash-paying flock. They, not unjustly, point out the comparable needs of poor children and the aged and afflicted. To those he will reply, as inoffensively as he can, that by the rules of the organisation, he is the man in charge and he will decide. Although the cardinal does not refer to it, I suppose that he has probably a far larger experience of the gay community than most of his critics. He was, after all, a confession hearing chaplain in the Navy for many years.
Elisa Segrave’s Diary (LRB, 18 April) was a garble of private, unmalicious conversations which she was given no permission to use. It was even in places a crude little example of that English phenomenon known as drawing room anti-semitism. It purported to be an informed, witty, political/literary Key West Diary. It was the opposite. Particular distress has been given to my elderly, frail and loved friend Helen Rosen, a distinguished American liberal beside whose decades of experience and achievement Elisa Segrave’s comments were absurdly cheap. This is quite astonishing, because Elisa Segrave was over the course of two years given much practical help and hospitality in Key West by myself and my partner, as our friend, an affectionate, gallant woman – so we thought. We introduced her to some of the people she subsequently meanly misquoted, as she did myself. We had always assumed the LRB was against this kind of journalism. Cheap laughs at an elderly foreign lady’s expense?
Elisa Segrave writes: I’m not anti-semitic in the drawing-room, or anywhere else for that matter, and I do not make things up, though I was mistaken in saying that Mrs Rosen had travelled in Europe during the war rather than the Fifties. As for Victor Menza (Letters, 6 June), he wasn’t even at the supper which I describe. I already apologised to Judith over a month ago for having unaccountably offended her by my Diary. I am surprised and saddened that she has chosen not to accept my apologies. What more does she want – a public flogging?