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May 22, 1964 - Image 16

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1964-05-22

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

AIIMBL -1111•111118_

George Eliot's Essays: Comments
on Scriptures, the Jews, Heine

George Eliot has written one
of the most powerful appeals for
Zionism—even before there was
a world Zionist movement in the
political sense—in "Daniel De-
ronda." That was not the limit of
her interest in Jewish history and
literature.
Columbia cniversity Press has
issued a most im-
port ant col
lection. "Essays
of George Eliot."
edited by Prof
Thomas Pinney
of Pomona Col-
lege, Claremont.
Calif., in which
we find evi-
dences of the em
inent author's ac-
quaintance with
t h e Scriptures
and her deep in-
trest in the ma-
jor issues con-
fronting man
kind.
The selections
for this volume
essays written George Eliot
between 1851
and 1857, include impressions of
her travels through Germany, crit-
ical views on many distinguished
English and German authors, an
essay on Heinrich Heine and Ger-
man wit and especially interest-
ing articles on "Silly Novels by
Lady Novelists" and "Introduc-
tion to Genesis."
With reference t Heine, George
Eliot wrote: "True, this unique
German wit is half a Hebrew,
but he and his ancestors spent
their youth in German air . . .
so that he is as much a German
as a pheasant is an English bird,
or a potato an Irish vegetable.
But whatever else he may be,
Heine is one of the most remark-
able men of this age: no echo, but
a real voice, and therefore, like
all genuine things in this world,
worth studying; a surpassing
lyric poet, who has uttered our
feelings for us in delicious song;
a humorist, who touches leaden
folly with the magic hand of his
fancy ... "
There is a satirical quotation
from Heine: He referred, speak-
ing of his studies, to Greek as "an
invention of the devil," and then
said: "With Hebrew it went some-
what better, for I had always a
great liking for the Jews, though
to this very hour they crucify my
good name; but I could never go
on so far in Hebrew as my watch,
which had much familiar inter-
course with pawnbrokers, and in
this way contracted many Jewish
habits—for example, it wouldn't
go on Saturdays."
In "The Progress of the Intel-
lect," an essay in which George
Eliot thoroughly analyzed Robert
William Mackay's studies of Greek
and Hebrew religious develop-
ments, she made this interesting
comment:
"The judicious reader of the
Hebrew Scriptures, however or-
thodox his faith, cannot fail to
perceive that they exhibit a prog-
ress from degrading to en-
lightened views of Divine nature
and government. The writings of
the prophets are full of protests
against the conceptions of pop-
ular ignorance, and by continual.
ly expanding, purifying the Jew-
ish ideas of Diety, prepared the
way for the reception of the
teachings of Christ."
She referred to the Septuagint:
"The Seventy who translated the
Hebrew Scriptures into Greek are
said to have been placed in sep-
arate confinement that each might
produce his independent version,
and their versions, when after-
ward compared, were found to be
identical. This agreement as to
the meaning of a text was highly
satisfactory, and some inconveni-
ence might have been saved if
subsequent interpretations h a d
been equally harmonious."
Noteworthy legends were

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS
Friday, May 22, 1964
16

quoted by the eminent novelist
and essayist in her article on
Genesis.
Luther's lack of mercy for the
Jews was mentioned in her essay
"The Influence of Rationalism."
Misconceptions about Jews and
the crucifixion were dealt with in
her essay on Dr. John Cumming's
"Evangelical Teachings."
There is this charming evalua-
tion in her essay "Silly Novels by
Lady Novelists":
"Admitting that genius which
has familiarized itself with all
the relics of an ancient period
can sometimes, by the force of
its sympathetic divination, re-
store the missing notes in the
sic of humanity, and recon-
struct. the fragments into a whole
which will really bring the re-
mote past nearer to us, and in-
terpret it to our duller appre-
hension,—this form of imagina-
tive power must always be among
the very rarest, because it de-
mands as much accurate and min-
ute knowledge as creative vigour.
Yet we find ladies constantly
choosing to make their mental
mediocrity more conspicious, by
clothing it in a masquerade of
ancient names; by putting their
feeble sentimentality into the
Roman vestals or Egyptian prin-
cesses, and attributing their rhe-
torical arguments to Jewish high-
priests and Greek philosophers.
A recent example of this heavy
imbecility is, 'Adonijah, a Tale
of the Jewish Dispersion', which
forms part of a series, 'uniting,'
we are told, 'taste, Humour, and
sound principles."Adonijah, we
presume, exemplifies the tale of
`souni principles;' the taste and
humour are to be found in other
members of the series. We are
told on the cover, that the inci-
dents of this tale are 'fraught
with unusual interest,' and the
preface winds up thus: 'To those
who feel interested in the di-
spersed of Israel and Judea,
these pages may afford, perhaps,
information on an important
subject, as well as amusement.'
Since the 'important subject' on
which this book is to afford in-
formation is not specified, it may
possibly lie in some esoteric
meaning to which we have no
key; but if it has relation to the
dispersed of Israel and Judea at
any period of their history, we
believe a tolerably well-informed
school-girl already knows much
more of it than she will find in
this 'Tale of the Jewish Disper-
sion.' Adonijah' is simply the
feeblest kind of love story, sup-
posed to be instructive, we pre-
sume, because the hero is a Jew-
ish captive and the heroine a
Roman vestal; because they and
their friends are converted to
Christianity after the shortest
and easiest method approved by
the 'Society for Promoting the
Conversion of the Jews;' and be-
cause, instead of being written
in plain language, it is adorned
with that peculiar style of grand-
iloquence which is held by some
lady novelists to give an antique
coloring . . . "
There is remarkable skill in the
writings of George Eliot who, a
century after her works first ap-
peared, continues to emerge as
one of the literary giants of all
time. Her essays now available in
the Columbia University Press
volume are convincing proof of it.
—P. S.

Pro-Hitler Historian
Has Ups, Downs on Tour

LONDON — American historian
David Hoggan, who defended Hit-
ler's role, has received both praise
and brickbats during his Germany-
Austria lecture tours.
He has been banned from lectur-
ing on his book "The Enforced
War," in Vienna, Graz and Linz
but received a 450-pound prize
from the neo-Nazi Society for
Public Relations.
The California University pro-
fessor was debarred from receiving
another prize from the Society of
Free Journalism at Heidelberg.

Dr. Stephen S. Wise's Genius Linked in
Friendship with Rev. Holmes in Carl Voss'
Double Biography, 'Rabbi and Minister'

An epic story about two dis-
tinguished ministers of religion,
both of whom worked together for
the advancement of human needs
and for the elimination of evils in
political q u a r-
ters, is told by
Dr. Carl Her-
mann Voss, an
eminent theolo-
gian who had
been active in
Christian ranks
of friends of the
Zionist m o V e-
ment.
In his "Rabbi
and Minister —
t h e Friendship
of Stephen S
Wise and John
Haynes Holmes,"
published b y
World, he links
the two, describes
-1r. Wise
their career s,
traces their activities and tells
how they had acted together when
calls for service linked them in
common causes.
Wise and Holmes commenced
their friendship and their life-
time collaboration in scores of
causes in January 1907. when both
came to New York. Dr. Wise died
in 1949—having been blessed to
live to see Israel an autonomous
state. Dr. Holmes did not live to
see the book about him and his
Jewish friend come off the press
—unless he had seen galley proofs
before he passed away. He died
the first week of April of this
year.
In the main, Dr. Voss links
their activities very ably. In
their efforts, in support of the
labor movement, in their oppo-
sition to Tammany Hall, in their
opposition to desegregation and
their battle for just rights for
the Negroes, and in a score of
other causes, they labored well
together. Separately, they had
their own deep interests and
their personal stories are well
related. It is questionable whe-
ther the story of two such giants
in the religious spheres can be
told as one. Each deserves a full
length biography. But insofar as
Dr. Voss aimed at showing a
close friendship between one of
the world's most distinguished
Jews and a noted Unitarian min-
ister, he has succeeded.
Dr. Wise's story is replete with
incidents about the eminent lead-
er's courageous position on many
matters—on Zionism, on the free-
dom he insisted upon in his pul-
pit, on political issues. The family
background, Stephen Wise's fath-
er's ministry in New York, the
young Rabbi Stephen Wise's call
to Portland and the commence-
ment of his distinguished career
as the founding rabbi of the Free
Synagogue, in 1907, are part of
an introductory story that be-
comes inseparable from a lifetime
of fearless activities among Jews
and non-Jews.
Having attended the Second
World Zionist Congress where he
had met Theodor Herzl, Wise was
among the pioneers in the Jewish
national movement. He was the co-
founder the American Zionist
Federation with Prof. Richard
Gottheil, who was the first Ameri-
can Zionist president. He was in
the thick of battles in defense of
the movement and he never
wavered.
Wise's friendship with Wood-
row Wilson whom he supported
for the Presidency, the negotia-
tions he conducted to secure
Wilson's endorsement of the Bal-
four Declaration, his subsequent
efforts, his activities in every
facet of Zionism, make the "Rab-
bi and Minister" story a vital
part of Zionist history.
Likes and dislikes are recorded.
There are the echoes of differ-
ences with Franklin D. Roosevelt.
which later were patched up; of
enmities with fellow Jews, Abba
Hillel Silver among them; of
struggles to gain favor for Zion-

ism among Christians. And while
he was battling for Zion he also
continued his efforts in behalf of
the NAACP, for civil liberties and
liberal religious thinking.
He had the backing of Holmes
in many of his activities—in be-
half of the cause of labor as well
as in defense of Zionism; and both
knew that there were missionary
forces among Christians who
"were of no disposition to let
Palestine be granted to the Jews
as a Jewish state." Dr. Voss indi-
cates that the missionaries' "friend-
ship with the Arabs, their stake in
the missionary enterprise in Arab
lands, and a subtle, well-hidden
anti-Jewish feeling led most mis-
sionaries to seek the destruction
of Zionist hopes. The influence of
this group within the ranks of Pro-
testantism was not inconsiderable."
The Hitler terror added to the
burdens of the two clergymen.
In the chapter "Haman Redivi-
vus" are told some of the diffi-
culties that faced the men of
action. Then there is the chap-
ter "Perfidious Albion" which
reveals the struggles with Great
Britain over the Zionist issue
and the manner in which the
British tried to undermine the
Jewish position in Palestine.
In like manner, the challenges
that faced Dr. Holmes are review-
ed in detail in this volume.
Being a combined biography of
two men, it is, perhaps, under-

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standable why so many details are
missing from the Wise story—his
role in the Cleveland Zionist Con-
vention in 1920, his relationship
with many leaders. including Na-
hum Goldmann, and many other
matters that are vital in the life
of the man who was in the center
of so many controversies. The in-
dex is this volume is faulty. But
the author's style is good. He has
written a work that serves to re-
vive interest in two great men of
the century.
—P. S.

Harman, Harriman Talk
About Eshk-l's Visit

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Israel
Ambassador Avraham Harman con-
ferred with Undersecretaay of
State Averell Harriman on plans
for the forthcoming visit of Prime
Minister Levi Eshkol in Washing-
ton. Harman returned last week
from Israel, where he participated
in top-level consultations toward
finalizing the agenda of E,shkol's
conferences here.

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