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From Poland to Paddington: the early history of the Spielmann family, 1828-1948

Ruth Sebag-Montefiore

<plain_text><page sequence="1">From Poland to Paddington: the early history of the Spielmann family, 1828-1948* RUTH SEBAG-MONTEFIORE May I say how delighted I am to give the Magnus Lecture, which was founded by my paternal grandfather Sir Philip Magnus in memory of his wife Katie, an author best known for her book Outlines of Jewish History. I have called my talk 'From Poland to Paddington'. It is the story of my maternal great-grandfather Adam Spielmann1 (1812-69) and his three sons: my grandfather Sir Isidore Spielmann, who was President of the Jewish Historical Society from 1902 to 1904, Sir Meyer Spielmann, and untitied, but perhaps the ablest of the three, the youngest son, Marion. I must warn you that the family's first names are muddlingly repetitive: spread over two generations are two Isidores, two Meyers and two Marions, one of whom is male, the other female. I have tried to clarify matters by calling them the first or the second. There is also a confusing amount of intermarriage within the family. Please bear with me. As a result of the three partitions of Poland between 1772 and 1795, together with the decisions of the Congress of Vienna in 1815, the northern portion of Poland passed into the possession of Prussia and the central provinces were made into a kingdom by Alexander of Russia. Poland has always been restive under foreign domination and one instance of this was uprisings which broke out in Warsaw in 1830. The fall of Warsaw to the Russians led to a mass emigration of thousands of Poles, mainly to England, France and America. Among the emigrants to England were three brothers, Isidor, Meyer and Adam Spielmann, who came from a village called Schocken, near Posen (now Posnan). They were the sons of Lewin and Michele (nee Meyer) Spielmann, who remained behind in Poland with their two daughters. Lewin was described on his youngest son's marriage certifi? cate as a merchant (possibly a corn merchant, given the nature of Posen's chief industry). It is open to question whether the family bore the name of Spielmann originally. Germanization of Jewish names became obligatory towards the end of the 18th century when the third partition of Poland ceded Warsaw to Prussia. A spielmann is a 'musician' or 'minstrel', while a spieler is a 'gambler', 'player' or 'artist'. Drawing * Magnus Lecture delivered to the Society on 9 July 1992. 237</page><page sequence="2">Ruth Sebag-Montefiore a discreet veil over gamblers, perhaps my first Spielmann forebear was a lover of music and art, and to this his mind turned instinctively when choosing a new surname. Certainly to this day some of Adam's direct descendants have a love of art amounting almost to a passion. Adam, the founder of the English branch of the family, arrived in this country at the age of sixteen. He was accompanied by his eldest brother, Isidor the first, who shordy afterwards emigrated to America. Adam appears to have gone straight to Liverpool and to have been welcomed by the close-knit Jewish community there. By 1839, when he was twenty-seven, he records that he was 'established in business' and by 1843 he had a firm of his own: the bullion exchange office of Adam Spielmann &amp; Co operated in South Castie Street, close to the docks. The early movements of the middle brother, Meyer the first, are unknown until he appears in Liverpool in 1843 as a partner in the firm. He eventually settled in Paris where he acted as Adam's agent. The year 1845 was an eventful one for Adam. In April, aged thirty-three, he moved to London; on 17 August he married Marian, the twenty-three-year-old daughter of Louis Samuel, a watchmaker and silversmith of Liverpool, and on 27 October he became a British subject. The first step of the journey from Poland to Paddington had been taken. Adam's parents-in-law, Louis and Henrietta Samuel, had eleven children of whom ten survived. The second child, Marian the first, as we have seen, married Adam Spielmann. The fourth, Edwin, was a co-founder, with his brother Mon? tagu, of the banking and bullion firm of Samuel Montagu &amp; Co. (Edwin married Clara Yates and had five children, among whom were Mabel, who married her first cousin, Adam and Marian's son Marion the second; Sir Stuart Samuel, Liberal MP for Whitechapel, 1900-16; and Herbert, ist Viscount Samuel, leader of the Liberal Party, 1944-55, and High Commissioner for Palestine 1920-5.) The seventh of Louis and Henrietta's children was Adelaide, who married Ellis Franklin: their daughter, Beatrice, married her first cousin Herbert Samuel. The eighth child, Montagu Samuel, reversed the order of his names, and as Samuel Montagu became the first Lord Swaythling. Samuel Montagu began his business career at the age of thirteen in the firm of Adam Spielmann &amp; Co. Four years later, failing to obtain the promotion he wanted, he left the firm to become manager of the London branch of the French bank, Monteaux. Here again his youth stood in the way of promotion, so he resigned. Still under age, he approached his father for funds to start his own business, and his father, a cautious man, agreed to advance money to his elder son Edwin - a money changer in Liverpool - on condition that both brothers should open in London in partnership. Edwin was in effect a sleeping partner and Montagu the driving force in the banking and bullion firm that came to be known as Samuel Montagu &amp; Co. Soon after S. M. &amp; Co was established a quarrel broke out between Adam and 238</page><page sequence="3">From Poland to Paddington Plate i Adam Spielmann (1812-69), perhaps by Rosenthal. 239</page><page sequence="4">Ruth Sebag-Montefiore 240</page><page sequence="5">From Poland to Paddington his former head clerk, Samuel Montagu. Family hearsay has it that Montagu wrote round to Adam's clients urging them to change firms. Hijacking your brother-in law's clients is not a sin, but it is not a virtue either. Family feelings ran high. Letters from Adam's grandchildren, written in the 1950s to Percy Spielmann when he was writing the family's early history, refer to the matter as 'the Feud', and after reading them I am left wondering why Adam appointed Montagu to be his children's guardian. Audi alterant partem. In old age Montagu used to say he would have been satisfied to have remained in Adam's firm if he had seen any chance of earning more than ?300 a year. Either way Adam must have regretted his lack of prescience, for his young brother-in-law proved to be a financial genius. For the first seven years of their married life Adam and Marian lived over his new office at 10 Lombard Street. The firm developed steadily. In 1851, the year of the Great Exhibition, Adam issued a remarkable chart of the Money of all Nations according to Course of Exchange, a copy of which is in the Bodleian Library. It was something new in salesmanship, and reflects, perhaps, the chutzpah of this pro? gressive newcomer whose innovative style must have raised many eyebrows and hackles among the old-established Lombard Street banking houses. In 1856 Adam Spielmann &amp; Co attained the status of a fully developed bank, for after that date its name appears in classified lists of banks for the first time. Nine years later, in 1865, Adam retired from business and his firm was taken over by one of the new joint-stock companies - the London, Hamburg and Continental Bank. The following year, 1866, the London, Hamburg and Continental Bank went into liquidation and ceased to trade. Neither the Bank of England nor the British Bankers Association were able to supply any details beyond this stark fact. Adam's moves from over-the-shop in Lombard Street to Camden Cottages, NWi, and from there to Mecklenburgh Square, Bloomsbury, reflect his rising prosperity. On his retirement he made his last move to Hereford House, in what was then known as Old Brompton, now West Brompton. The previous tenant had been Dion Boucicault, the actor, from whom Adam bought a small collection of Dutch and Flemish pictures when he purchased the lease. It was a large, red-brick house, built around 1815, and the two-and-a-half acre grounds were attractively designed with a sunk garden, a pond with an ornamental bridge and a wooded area. Adam's children remembered an acacia tree that was home to a pair of nightingales. To the west of the property was a three-acre estate called Coleherne House (an earlier house existed on the same site in 1647). During Adam's occupancy of Hereford House his neighbour in Coleherne House was Edmund Tattersall, head of the bloodstock auctioneers. Both these houses were demol? ished in 1900 to make way for Coleherne Court, a large block of flats built around three sides of a square, enclosing a central garden. Adam was liberal in politics and, like his wife, was deeply religious. When his weak heart prevented him walking to synagogue he built a small private one in his garden. A rabbi walked there each sabbath after his own service to officiate for him 241</page><page sequence="6">Ruth Sebag-Montefiore and his growing family. The synagogue stood on high ground above the pond and had room for some thirty people. It was a wooden structure with a small steeple and much glass along the sides. The subsequent tenant, Leopold Seligman, used it as a studio, and when the new Coleherne Court was sufficiendy completed to be partly occupied comments were heard about the 'odd looking summerhouse' which was demolished with the laying out of the grounds. Marian Spielmann the first died in 1858 of atrophy of the heart. She was only thirty-six years old and died a month after giving birth to her eighth child, a son who was given his mother's name, Marion. He was sensitive about his girlish first name. The fact that it was a man's name in Poland was no comfort to him in his schooldays or, for that matter, in old age. He did not escape the attention of 'Lord Haw-Haw' (William Joyce, the Fascist traitor) who gave a characteristically inac? curate broadcast from Bremen in 1939, with the aim of pointing out to his listeners the degree to which Britain was in the hands of the Jews. The Times commented on this: 'Among other things he solemnly informed his - fortunately unseen - audience that "Miss" Marion Spielmann is the editress of the Magazine of Art - the reference being to Mr Marion Spielmann, the former art critic, and to a paper which was published as long ago as 1887 to 1904.' Adam died in 1869, aged fifty-seven, of heart disease. His will was proved at ?100,000. After many bequests to his family and staff, he left a generous donation to the Jewish poor of Schocken, his birthplace. Let us now meet the members of Adam's and Marian's family. Of their eight children, two died in infancy of cerebral inflammation. A daughter died aged twenty-three from tuberculosis, and the eldest of the family, Lionel, a stockbroker by profession, died from hypertrophy aged thirty-two: a microcosm of Victorian death certificates. The surviving daughter, Jessie, married Edouard Wiener, a Belgian banker, whose parents had been friends of her mother's from childhood. Edouard's father, Jacques, was a medallist and engraver long remembered for having designed and engraved the first Belgian and also the first Dutch postage stamps; his younger brother, Senator Sampson Wiener, married Jessie, daughter of Sampson Lucas of London, and was lawyer to King Leopold II. There was much coming and going between the Wieners in Boisfort and the Spielmanns in London. Edouard's and Jessie's elder son, Ernest, was in the Belgian Army and later became a general. Thus he was the only male member of the Wiener family to survive the Second World War. The three youngest of the family were all boys - Isidore the second, an engineer turned organizer of art exhibitions, Meyer the second, a stockbroker who became a Home Office Inspector of Reformatory and Industrial Schools, and Marion the second, a leading art critic and art historian. These three boys were aged four, two and one month when their mother died. A spinster great-aunt took charge of the running of the house, assisted by a widowed friend of Marian the first's whose husband, Captain Paget, had been a customer of Adam's bank. This sudden 242</page><page sequence="7">From Poland to Paddington change in their upbringing followed by their father's death eleven years later, may explain why the three brothers did not follow their parents' strict orthodoxy. They were all members of St Petersburg Place - their father's synagogue, but unusually for the family at that time, they were sympathetic to the new Reform and Liberal movements. After Adam's death the family home, Hereford House, was given up. The furniture and pictures - which included a Goya, a Constable and a Romney - were stored at Whiteleys and subsequendy destroyed in one of the disastrous fires which plagued that ill-fated store. The children's uncle and guardian, Samuel Montagu, first Lord Swaythling, rented a house for his wards in Cleveland Square, Pad? dington, a few doors from where he lived with his wife and ten children, and there the three boys, Isidore, Meyer and Marion, with their eldest brother and surviving sister, grew up. Isidore Spielmann was born in 1854 at 22 Camden Cottages. He was educated privately and trained as an engineer. In 1879 ne married Emily Sebag, only daughter of Joseph Sebag (later Sir Joseph Sebag-Montefiore) the nephew and heir of Sir Moses Montefiore whose name he added to that of Sebag by deed poll in 1885. Joseph was the son of Moses' sister Sarah, whose first husband, Solomon Sebag (1783-1831), came from Morocco.2 There was not much love lost between Isidore and his wife's family. He was sensitive and artistic and had little in common with his sports-loving in-laws who revelled in raucous jokes and fierce arguments. Some people found it bracing, but it was not the sort of atmosphere in which Isidore was able to shine. He avoided, when possible, accompanying his wife on visits to her old home, East Cliff Lodge, Ramsgate. 'Tomorrow', wrote Emily in 1916 in a letter to her son,' Addie and I are off to Ramsgate for a week. How I wish we were accompanied by Father. However, he would not like it.' At the time of his marriage Isidore was well established in his career with offices in Broad Street, registered in 1876 as Isidore Spielmann &amp; Co, civil engineers and contractors. Two years later he was joined by his brother Marion. The firm did well, with interests in tramway rails and in Siemens Patent Gas Light Company, and was also contracted to design and build bridges in India, Belgium and Holland - it was in the last country that Isidore began his collection of Delft and lustreware, some of which he bequeathed to the Victoria and Albert Museum. Soon after his marriage, under pressure from his millionaire father-in-law who considered engineering an unsuitable profession for a son-in-law, Isidore wound up his firm and turned to stockbroking, but City life did not appeal to him, so in his early thirties he quit business for good and devoted the rest of his life to art. Isidore and Emily made their home in Westbourne Terrace, Paddington, from where, in spite of a diversity of tastes and interests, they made a happy, stable home for their five children. Theirs was not a love match. There was less insistence on marrying for love in the mid-Victorian era. Suitability was considered to be of prime importance, provided, of course, that the couple liked each other. 243</page><page sequence="8">Ruth Sebag-Montefiore Plate 3 Sir Isidore Spielmann (i 854-1925), in 1897. 244</page><page sequence="9">From Poland to Paddington m Plate 4 Emily Spielmann (i 857-1929), nee Sebag, daughter of Joseph Sebag (later Sir Joseph Sebag Montefiore). Oil painting by Henry Weigall, area 1885. 245</page><page sequence="10">Ruth Sebag-Montefiore The two families were connected by marriage through Levi Barent Cohen, and no doubt a united family background, a seven-storey house and ample means enabled them to live together contentedly for forty-six years, each to a certain extent following their own interests independendy of the other. Isidore's tastes ran to music and art, Emily's to racing and bridge. Their common ground, from which each drew deep satisfaction and strength, was family life and their faith. In 1887, aged thirty-three, Isidore began to exercise his talent for organizing art exhibitions with a display at the Grosvenor Gallery; eventually he became Director of the Exhibitions Branch of the Board of Trade. He was responsible for arranging exhibitions in the various capitals of Europe as well as Buenos Aires and New Zealand. When invited to organize one in St Petersburg during the Czarist regime he declined, saying he was unwilling to enter Russia under special patronage when his fellow Jews were refused admission. Isidore was also a member of the advisory council of the Victoria and Albert Museum and a Governor of the British Institute of Industrial Art. The Times obituary notice tells us that he took a chief part in the arrangements for building - and filling - the beautiful Lutyens-designed British Pavilion for the Rome Exhibition in 1911. The building is now, in enlarged form, the headquarters of the British School. Perhaps the exhibition that meant most to Isidore was the Anglo-Jewish Histori? cal Exhibition, held in London at the Albert Hall in 1887. In the Report to the General Committee of the exhibition appears the following passage: 'The idea of such an exhibition originated with Mr I. Spielmann, who, from its conception to its end, was the leading spirit of the undertaking, at which he worked with indefati? gable energy.' Isidore's aim was to bring together all objects illustrating the history of the Jews of England. The exhibits, loaned by members of the community, by the deans of Canterbury and Westminster Cathedrals, the Society of Antiquaries and so on, included historic relics, portraits and prints, documents and books, and Jewish ceremonial art. It was an exhibition after Isidore's heart and from it grew, to his own and his colleagues' delight, the Jewish Historical Society of England whose centenary is celebrated in 1993. Isidore should also be remembered for his work in connection with the Mocatta Library and Museum. He played a large part in the creation of the Library and had the great satisfaction of presenting it, in the name of the community, to University College. In 1903 Isidore began working for the National Art Collections Fund, serving for many years as joint Honorary Secretary with Sir Robert Witt. The NACF was founded in 1903 by four people, D. S. MacColl, who thought England should have an organization like Les Amis du Louvre; Christiana Herringham, who gave the money for starting it; Roger Fry; and Claude Phillips of the Wallace Collec? tion. It is for his work for this organization that Isidore is chiefly remembered. He was instrumental in securing various great masterpieces for the national collec? tions, including Holbein's 'Duchess of Milan', now one of the treasures of the 246</page><page sequence="11">From Poland to Paddington National Gallery. It was bought for ?72,000 in 1909 from the Duke of Norfolk, who would otherwise have sold it to Henry Frick of New York. An ugly rumour circulated concerning Isidore's work for the NACF, in connec? tion with the 'Rokeby Venus' campaign. I am glad to have this chance to repudiate it. Both directly and indirectly the Fund was accused of collusion with art dealers for its own profit. The finger of blame pointed at Isidore who was alleged to have been in the dealers' pockets. This scurrilous and false accusation, made by Lord Ronald Sutherland Gower in a letter to Lord Balcarres in 1905 may well have had its roots in racial prejudice. Some of Balcarres' and Sutherland Gower's unpublished letters have ugly anti-Semitic undertones. Isidore had a fulfilled life. He followed his natural bent and counted many prominent figures in the art world among his friends. He built up, guided by the more knowledgeable Marion, a good collection of pictures that included works by Jan de Heem, George Hilditch and William Beechey. He was knighted for his services to art in 1905 - 'very deservedly', according to The Times obituary7 notice, and became a CMG in 1907. He died in his home in Westbourne Terrace, Paddington, in 1925. The second of the three brothers, Meyer the second, was born at 7 Meck lenburgh Square in 1856, and educated at University College School and Univer? sity College. He began his working life as a stockbroker but retired from a profession he never much cared for in middle-age. His life thereafter was a long record of public service. His real interest lay in the welfare of young people in need and he was closely connected with amost every institution and organization work? ing towards that end, among them the Borstal Association and the Children's Aid Society. He was particularly concerned with boys in trouble, and was a founder and then chairman of managers of Hayes Industrial School, the first Jewish Approved School. In this he was so successful that it became a model reformatory school in the eyes of the Home Office. Later he presided over a second foundation - the Park House School in Surrey. His book, The Romance of Child Reclamation (1920), reflects his compassion and dedication to deprived children. Meyer's knowledge and experience led to his joining the Home Office Inspec? torate in 1914. He held many other Home Office posts, serving as either treasurer, honorary secretary, chairman or manager of numerous associations and commit? tees. He also worked tirelessly for the Jewish community. Chief among a multiplic? ity of interests were the Anglo-Jewish Association and the Jewish Peace Society. He showed his sympathy with the ideal of a Jewish National Home in Palestine by his presidency of the Keren Hayesod Committee, one of the institutions that supplied the Zionist Organization with its funds. Meyer married Gertrude, eldest of the six daughters of George Raphael, a millionaire bullion merchant. When, owing to an unfortunate speculation by her stockbroker, a large part of her fortune was lost she took it not only in her stride but with some relief, merely saying she was only too pleased to exchange her huge 247</page><page sequence="12">Ruth Sebag-Montefiore 1884 ORCHESTER HOTEL, LONDON, W.l. DINNER SUNDAY, 17th JUNE, 1934. 1934 mm Plate 5 Brochure for the Golden Wedding of Sir Meyer Spielman (1856-1936) and Gertrude Spiel man (nee Raphael, 1864-1949). 248</page><page sequence="13">From Poland to Paddington house in Gloucester Square for a (relatively) modest sized one in Cambridge Square. This, said Gertrude, was easier to run and gave her more time for her charities, for she had unusual qualities for a woman of that era. She was educated at Queen's College, Harley Street, at a time when most girls were being taught at home, well below their intelligence, by untrained governesses. Besides being well educated she was public spirited and possessed a strong social conscience. As its chairman she guided Norwood Orphanage, as it was then called, through three decades of its early history and pioneered many reforms, most notably the discard? ing of uniforms, the inauguration of cottage homes and her insistence on the children attending LCC schools instead of having private tuition at the orphanage - the first step towards integrating them into the local community. Gertrude led a full and active life and made a fine consort for her husband. Meyer's marriage to Gertrude, like Isidore's to Emily, was based on mutual liking and affection. While no pressure would have been put on Gertrude, it was no doubt pointed out to her that as the eldest of six daughters she would please everyone by accepting Meyer's offer. But they suited each other well, their total compatibility was rooted in the same ideals and interests, and they lived to enjoy fifty-two years of happy married life. Meyer was knighted for his services to child welfare in 1928. He died in 1936 at his home in Cambridge Square, Paddington. The youngest brother, Marion, was born in Mecklenburgh Square in 1858, and followed Meyer to University College School and University College. He qualified at the Institute of Mechanical Engineers but his career in that profession was short-lived; like Isidore, his real interest lay in art. For this account of him I have made use of an unpublished biography of Marion by his son Percy, and have also read two essays on Marion's work in the Victorian art world by Julie Codell, both written in 1989.1 would also like to thank my cousin, Prudence Spielman, for the loan of her family papers and photographs. Marion married his first cousin, Mabel Samuel. They had been inseparable friends from childhood. Marion proposed as soon as he was twenty-one and was immediately accepted by the seventeen-year-old Mabel. The engagement was frowned on by the couple's respective families who considered them to be too young and too closely related. Marion's uncle and guardian, Lord Swaythling, who was also Mabel's uncle, wrote to Jessie Wiener, Marion's elder sister, to say: 'surely you would not encourage a boy like Marion to fix his mind on anyone, least of all a child like May. Before a year has passed they may hardly be on speaking terms'. But in spite of family misgivings the marriage took place in 1880. It was a strange love story. In his unpublished biography their son Percy wrote that it was based on loving protection on Marion's part and a profound gratitude on Mabel's; but, he added, her ill health, which necessitated the couple spending long periods abroad, drastically limited Marion's social life to the detriment of his career. Referring to these long absences from home Cecil Roth wrote in a short memoir of Marion: 'This may perhaps have prevented him from attaining even greater dis 249</page><page sequence="14">Ruth Sebag-Montefiore Plate 6 Marion Spielmann (i 858-1948), aged about twenty. 250</page><page sequence="15">From Poland to Paddington tinction, for he was one of the foremost figures of his time in English intellectual life.' Mabel was the author of several novels and children's books. She had a witty, lively pen and her books were well received. The doctors never discovered the cause of her illness, real or imaginary. The family judged her to be a malade imaginaire and spoke of her with a marked lack of sympathy. Her sister-in-law Emily's letters often refer to solo visits from Marion, in which she describes him as being 'as charming as ever', adding laconically: 'May as usual was unwell'. No doubt in these more enlightened days her symptoms - a lack of nervous energy that led to severe migraine - would be diagnosed and treated. The marriage, which apparendy brought them both great happiness, lasted fifty-seven years. It produ? ced one son, Dr Percy Spielmann, a research chemist and scientific writer, who died unmarried. Cecil Roth's assessment of Marion as a pivotal figure in English intellectual life is echoed by Julie Codell in her two essays, one dealing with his contribution to artists' welfare in the Victorian art world, and the other exploring his influence with the press as he attempted to establish the professionalism of artists. She describes him as being one of the most influential and prominent figures of his time, yet his name is curiously absent from memoirs or biographies of the many artists who wrote to him seeking his advice on their work in hand or their careers. In the Rylands Library, Manchester, there are over a thousand letters to Marion from artists and sculptors such as Holman Hunt, H?mo Thornycroft, Millais and von Herkomer, thanking him for his wise counsel and encouragement - 'you are not only clear sighted, but have the artists' cause at heart, and you have never done anything (and never will) to shake our entire confidence', wrote the last in 1893, echoing the sentiments of them all. Marion was also on intimate terms with the leading literary figures of the day, including Ruskin, who was both mentor and friend. He was twenty-six and Ruskin sixty-five years old when the circumstance of their both being collectors of Cruickshank's plates brought them together in 1884. Marion joined the staff of the Pall Mall Gazette under W. T. Stead's editorship in 1883 at the age of twenty-nine, succeeding Edmund Gosse. During his career he was art critic for many leading journals, including the Illustrated London News and Black and White which he helped to found. He edited The Magazine of Art for seventeen years (1887-1904) and was a regular contributor to the DNB and the Encyclopedia Britannica. To this one must add that he was a lecturer at the Royal Institution and the author of a score of books on artistic subjects, including a witty history of Punch (1895). He was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and of the Society of Antiquaries. At the request of the Maharaja of Baroda Marion spent ten years forming the collection for the State Art Gallery. The collection was completed in 1913 and reflects his personal taste. It includes works by Peter Lely, Delaroche, George 251</page><page sequence="16">Ruth Sebag-Montefiore Frampton, Poussin, Fragonard, Cuyp, Hogarth, Turner, Constable, Landseer, Watts, Millais, Leighton, Poynter, John Linnell and Simeon Solomon. In a contemporary Who's Who Marion gives his recreations as billiards, books and collecting pictures. As a young man he was an avid collector of the works of graphic artists and received many art works as tokens of gratitude from their creators - a bronze horse by Thornycroft (now in the Preston Art Gallery) and sketches by Whisder among them. (Interviewed by the Oxford Mail on his 85 th birthday Marion remarked: 'I've never quarrelled with anybody in my life except Whisder. Everyone quarrelled with Whisder. You couldn't help quarrelling with him.') Marion also collected Old Master drawings and small pictures. Twelve years before his death he began to disperse his collection, selling some, giving many more to museums and galleries. In 1936 the National Portrait Gallery bought ten of his artists' self-portraits, including those of Romney, Keene and Tenniel. He later gave them a further twenty-six together with a wash drawing by Grenville Manton, of 'The Royal Academy Conversazione, 1891'. This group picture contained portraits of many eminent Victorian RAs; of Ellen Terry and Henry Irving; and one of Marion himself. He was painted and sculptured many times. H. J. Thaddens gave this description of him in his Recollections of a Court Painter: 'Youthful and frail in appearance, his pallid countenance was illuminated by the most remarkable eyes, black and luscious, that I have ever seen. They literally danced with life, alertness and intelligence, riveting your attention with mesmeric attraction.' The present whereabouts of these portraits, and of one of Mabel by Perugini, are unknown. Inevitably, the paths of Marion's and Isidore's professional lives often crossed. Both brothers played a prominent part in organizing international art exhibitions, on several occasions working together, and each was the author of numerous monographs and catalogues. In addition, Marion published essays on art educa? tion and museum administration. But there was no rivalry. The three brothers, orphaned in childhood, were devoted to each other. They were alike in appearance, with dark eyes and hair and finely chiselled features, and all three were retiring by nature. It is interesting to note that in his funeral addresses Ephraim Levine used an identical phrase to describe each brother - 'modest almost to a fault'. Through his journalism Marion aimed to educate the public to the infrastruc? ture of the art world. He sought to change the straighdaced Edwardian attitude towards artists by publishing articles depicting them as models of middle-class respectability - no mean feat when you think of the extraordinary relationships of the Pre-Raphaelites and their circle. He determined to raise the social status of artists, and their incomes, by advocating a number of professional improvements - the creation of a travelling scholarship was one; the formation of societies for every branch of art another. He invented new forms of recognition for artists, suggest? ing, for instance, that Holman Hunt be awarded the Order of Merit (which he 252</page><page sequence="17">From Poland to Paddington Plate 7 Marion Spielmann, pencil sketch by Ponsonby Staples, i? 253</page><page sequence="18">Ruth Sebag-Montefiore was) on the grounds that: 'his work stirred more profoundly than any other the emotion of the nation with his painting The Light of the World'. Marion was one of the first to practise 'interviews' - a technique he learnt from W. T. Stead - giving artists a chance to speak for themselves. In The Magazine of Art he encouraged them to air their views on disparate subjects - copyright laws, art-market prices, Art Nouveau - looking for articles, he wrote to William Ros setti: 'to lash up the experts and raise discussions'. He sought to counteract what he believed to be an apathetic public and a hostile government by recommending the election of an artist, preferably one with administrative skills, to parliament. He attacked the Oxbridge pundits as elitist prigs who considered art to be an unmanly and affected profession, declaring that respect for art would not take root in England until it became a university discipline. He criticized the Victoria and Albert Museum for employing civil servants instead of art specialists and asserted that artists, like writers and scientists, should be awarded honorary degrees. He led the fight for a revision of copyright laws and made sure that artists and patrons met each other, though it is doubtful if these meetings took place in his own home. His son Percy wrote: 'his position was compromised through home conditions heavy with ill-health'. When Marion took over The Magazine of Art as editor in 1887, he explained his intentions in a letter to Whistler: 'I do not want', he wrote, 'to force the Old Masters - rest their souls - down the unwilling throats of the public, but I want to place art and what its exponents do and have to say unaffectedly before our readers and hope that I may be supported by those whose opinions ... command audi ority.' Contributions to the magazine were drawn from London's leading literati, only one of whom, R. A. M. Stephenson (a cousin of Robert Louis Stephenson), defended the work of the Impressionists and Cubists which Marion and his friends abhorred and were incapable of understanding. The bell began to toll for them. By 1900 those dealers and critics whose opinions commanded authority in the art world were greeting the new movement with enthusiasm. The Magazine of Art could no more stem the tide of Modernism than Marion could compromise his traditional values to accommodate changing tastes. He had written articles accus? ing the Impressionists of being 'madmen', 'acknowledged lunatics' and 'poor draughtsmen' and was now attacked by a new generation of critics for his resistance to the avant-garde. The sales figures of The Magazine of Art dropped disastrously and in 1904 Marion had no alternative but to close it down. Deprived of his pulpit, and perhaps feeling himself unseated by younger critics excited by creative freedom, Marion eased himself out of the art world and embarked on a new career at the age of forty-eight: that of writing and lecturing. He gave lectures up and down the country on art-related subjects that included British Sculptures Today, Art and Humour, Shakespeare Portraits, and on individual artists. His two most popular were on the Wallace Collection and the National Gallery. The following two episodes concerning Marion's involvement with the Bronte 254</page><page sequence="19">From Poland to Paddington and Charles Dickens families come from Percy's unpublished biography and show him, as it were, in action. Marion's friendship with the Heger family of Brussels, whom he knew through his Wiener cousins, led to his being closely involved with the four letters Charlotte Bronte wrote to M. Constantin Heger, which reveal, with terrible clarity, her feelings towards her former teacher. For it was to Marion that Madame Heger and her son Paul gave the task of translating the letters, after first taking his advice to place them in the British Museum for permanent custody. Marion was unworldly enough to be convinced that in no sense could these agonizingly embarrassing letters be regarded as love letters, but that their emotion was a profound and passionate gratitude. He expressed these views in an article in the Fortnightly Review (1919), at the same time giving the reason for the decision to publish. The existence of the letters, he told his readers, was perfectiy well known in literary circles and truths but half told are misleading. He gave the whole story of the inner history of the Bronte-Heger letters, but that has no place here. They were first published in The Times in 1913 in an article headed Lost Letters, Text and Transla? tion by M. H. Spielmann. 'I am authorized', he begins, 'to lay before the public ... the four letters by Charlotte Bronte.' Nothing could be clearer than that. But once again his name is absent from any account of the Bronte story. The publication of these important letters was a cause celebre, a resounding literary sensation: clearly this self-effacing man who, his son tells us, 'possessed a modesty that made self emphasis an impossibility', remained out of the limelight by his own choice. In spite of this innate diffidence he was a sought-after and witty after-dinner speaker. Some of his epigrams became famous. 'I understand that scientists consider it possible to produce babies out of test tubes', he once said, 'however, that will never be the popular way'. Marion's link with Charles Dickens' family sprang from his friendship with Dickens' daughter Kate Perugini. Kate was uncertain about what she should do with a packet of 136 letters written by Dickens to his wife and sought Marion's help. Acting on his advice she placed them in the safekeeping of the British Museum with a proviso that they should be withheld from readers until her own death and that of her brother, Sir Henry Dickens. In a statement accompanying the gift, Kate mentioned that: 'the letters had been given her by her mother for ultimate publication, as a proof that Dickens had once loved her, and that, whatever the cause of the separation, the fault was not on her side.' Sir Henry Dickens felt strongly that the letters should never be published, but Kate, as an affectionate daughter, did not want a shadow of blame to fall on her mother as a result of keeping silent. Torn between her loyalty to both parents Kate wrote what she called a book of explanation, but was always indecisive about when to publish it. Writing to Marion in 1903 she says: 'after twisting and turning the matter over in my mind I have come to the conclusion my book must not be published until after my death ... I 255</page><page sequence="20">Ruth Sebag-Montefiore shall leave written directions with my husband ... as to what to do with it [and] might direct (if I may) that you should be applied to for advice in the matter ... and perhaps you might induce Mr Magnus to offer the same terms for the book as those you read to me yesterday. There is only one event that might shake my determination not to publish the book during my lifetime. That would be any flagrant attack on my father's character which I might be compelled to refute.' Kate, like her brother, was aware of what Percy primly calls 'some irregularity' in their father's life; she must have felt between Scylla and Charybdis in her efforts to keep her father's reputation intact and her mother's memory unsullied. Shortly before her death in 1929 Kate wrote again to Marion about her wishes for the book and the letters. After her death Sir Henry's wife Marie wrote a somewhat testy letter to Marion on her husband's behalf reiterating his wish to hush matters up. I quote part of Marion's tactful reply: I certainly gathered from Kitty that the book she was writing would smooth matters out... I gathered it would be a tactful book that would bring peace, while removing the injustice which has usually been thought to have been meted out to the wife .... That is the book. But the letters now spoken of are something quite different. When I advised her ... to send the letters to the British Museum I supposed that it was a safe way of keeping family history without offending anyone ... and although I am not considering myself, I felt that I should be relieved of the difficult and painful duty if, at Kitty's death, I should find myself in charge of the letters, with instructions of how to deal with them irrespective of the wishes of her brother (as to whom she would not answer my question) .... I do not quite see how your suggestion would be worked - that Henry should request the Museum to destroy the documents as soon as the period should come to an end ... They could hardly be expected to act as storage of documents which at the end of the period are to be taken from them and destroyed, they reaping no advantage from the custodianship. Pray consider how this works. It seems to me that the whole matter, this question between man and wife, is so small a thing in relation to the whole life of a genius that the public would be no losers as far as the husband is concerned. The main and only point is, of course, the cleaning away of any possible reproach against the wife, supposing that her reputation is suffering. Marie Dickens replied saying that for her part she was still of the opinion that all the letters at the British Museum should be burned and the whole sad business buried. 'I cannot understand', she wrote, 'why the 3rd generation (or either the BM) should open up a history and set tongues wagging to satisfy a morbid curiosity. I know dear Kitty was intensely sorry for her mother and admired her father (as a genius); if she could not bring herself to explain their private lives to the Public let it (in my humble opinion) remain a mystery like his last work. The 4th generation will not trouble about the matter, and his works alone will remain to rejoice the world_' She added, somewhat inconsequentially, that 'Harry sends his love'. As a postscript Marie Dickens wrote: 'Kitty is always in my thoughts; I miss her very much. She was such a dear to me. Harry did not write to the British Museum, so the matter is just as Kitty left it. I shall tell my sons about it, and give them my 256</page><page sequence="21">From Poland to Paddington views and hope that they will follow them. But - who knows, I may be wrong and perhaps the right solution will be reached by some one [sic] else.' The silence Sir Henry Dickens hoped for lasted only until his death in 1933: the letters were then made available to students and publication soon followed. Kate's book was never discovered. Its fate, as Marie Dickens had hoped, remains a mystery. Marion spent his last years in Folkestone. He died there at the age of ninety in 1948. Today, when I find myself near their London homes I am filled with a potent nostalgia for the past when I recall the three quiet lives of Isidore, Meyer and Marion. It was an extraordinary odyssey from Poland to Paddington. Their father was born in Schocken in 1812. Their grandfather died there in 1837. The three brothers achieved distinction in the civil, literary and artistic life in England in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. The theme of the Spielmann family is dedication to the welfare of young people in our society and to the arts. Marion's closing words to a speech given in 1900 contain the kernel of all three brothers' beliefs and may fidy close this paper: 'By the arts of a nation is a nation finally to be judged, by the arts of peace, not by the arts of war - the art of the painter, the sculptor, the architect, the musician, touch between them the whole chord of the feelings of mankind ... and lead the blood of true life to course through our veins.' NOTES i The second N of Spielmann was dropped by Sir Meyer Spielman and his family and by Sir Isidore's son Ferdinand in 1917. Sir Isidore Spielmann and Marion Spielmann and their families kept to the original spelling. 2 In 1839 Sarah married Moses Asher Goldsmid, youngest brother of Sir Isaac Lyon Goldsmid. 257</page></plain_text>