< Back

Israel Zangwill

Joseph Leftwich

<plain_text><page sequence="1">Israel ZangwilP By Joseph Leftwich SIR Arthur Quiller Couch relates that Thackeray once rebuked a young man who spoke disrespectfully of Scott in his presence. "You and I, sir", he cut him short, "should lift our hats at the mention of that great name." I am no Thackeray but I would apply that rebuke to those who think it adds to their own stature to dismiss Zangwill. Mr. Henry Hurwitz, the Editor of the New York Menorah Journal recently took up the cudgels for Zangwill after a New York broadcast in connection with the 25th anniversary of his death. It was "so inadequate, so condescending a discussion of his spirit and works", he complained, "so bent upon belittling Zangwill." "It is a pity", he wrote, "that your large body of listeners throughout the country should not have been given a fairer notion of an outstanding Jewish figure of modern times." I find it interesting that Dr. Lyman Bryson, who arranged the broadcast, confessed in his reply that he, the non-Jew, "was surprised by the way in which" the two Jewish speakers, Ludwig Lewisohn and Maurice Samuel, "dismissed Zangwill. My own reaction to Zangwill when I read him many years ago," he went on, "was excitement and the recogni? tion of a world that had been strange hitherto. On re-reading him I found him uneven but of very high quality at his best. But I hope we aroused enough interest to make it possible for Zangwill to speak to new readers himself." That is all we can hope for; it is what I am always urging. In my article on Zang? will in the Jewish Chronicle in the week of his 25th death anniversary I spoke of the discussion that is going on about a possible Zangwill biography, and I suggested as I have done many times before that more important and more pleasing to his wishes than a Life of Zangwill would be a live Zangwill, a Zangwill whose books are not out of print, as they are now, but will be read. Ten years ago, in an article for the 50th birthday of Children of the Ghetto, I quoted the then Editor of the Jewish Chronicle, who had written to me that he looked up the 1892 review by Israel Abrahams and had found the proem to the book printed in the previous issue. "Turning it up for you", he wrote to me, "I was tempted to re-read it. What a magnificent piece of writing, and how the years have if anything mellowed its appeal!" "If Zangwill is not read to-day", I commented at the time, "it is because he is not read; because people don't make the attempt to read him. If they did they would go on reading him." Of course I know that it is natural for writers and artists to derogate their pre? decessors. They could do nothing if they stood all the time overawed by them. Also time works on the men of the past like the sea on our coasts. "How cruelly has history dealt with our immortals", Sir Max Pemberton cried shortly before he died. He was speaking of Meredith. The critics had declared that he would never die. "He was dead", he wrote, "six months after they carried him to his grave." It is true of Hardy and Galsworthy, and it is becoming true of Shaw and Wells. Their judgment by posterity has begun. Even the "moderns" share the common fate. "D. H. Lawrence is sure of his place", I read, "but it will probably be a less conspicuous place than his devotees expect." "Do you suppose that if the fame of Shakespeare depended on the man in the street it would survive a fortnight ?" Arnold Bennett asked, and added : "In the case of an author who has emerged into glory after his death the happy sequel has been due solely to the obstinate perseverance of the few." 1 Memorial Lecture delivered before the Jewish Historical Society of England on 3rd March, 1952. 77</page><page sequence="2">78 ISRAEL ZANGWILL Writers do slip out of the public memory when they cease to write new work and to be spoken about. Zangwill knew it. A year before he died he wrote of his works as belonging "to the despised Victorian era", and said that he found it gratifying that they had survived so long "the annual avalanche of myriads of new books, and the distractions of an age increasingly oblivious of yesterday." I am therefore aware that what I am doing here must appear to some people as though I were burrowing among literary tombs. It is true also that besides being overtaken by the common fate of writers Zangwill has suffered, and suffered in his lifetime, from having devoted himself to writing so much about Jewish life and working for Jewish causes. There is truth in the bitter Yiddish jest: "So you're also only a Jew !" It concerns a Jew who found himself in a railway carriage with a gentleman he took to be a non- Jew. He was painfully ill at ease and respectful, till his companion told him that he too was a Jew. Then he became embarrassingly familiar. Zangwill was once stung to tell the story of a man who said there was nothing clever in a Jew writing about Jewish life, because he knows all about it. "It is the fashion in some quarters", I wrote in an article in the Newjudea in 1929, "to decry Zangwill as having obtained his place in English literature by trading in Jewishness, presenting us as a peculiar people, exotic, strange." I am not going to make the opposite mistake of denying that Zangwill, for all his insistence that "the bulk of my work has nothing to do with the Ghetto" and that he did indeed write good books about what he called "the general human life", leaped into world fame and will survive because of Iiis Jewish books, because in this field he found his true expression and did his best work. And though, as Luden Wolf related in his paper to the Jewish Historical Society when Zangwill died, he had felt the big world tugging at him, and it had therefore not been easy to get him to accept the commission to write the book which became Children of the Ghetto, he came himself to realise at the end that his Jewish books "represent my best work", and even to claim that "all my work is Jewish." This is Lucien Wolf's contention too : "The appraisement of so varied a life as ZangwilPs is not easy, but it may be simplified if it is realised that it can all be summed up in his relations to Judaism and Jewry. There is very little even in the most non Jewish of his work which has not a Jewish inspiration or which does not owe much to Jewish ideas and experiences." It is the feeling of a man like Holbrook Jackson who used to say to me that ZangwilPs works must be judged as English literature, yet con? cluded that "several short studies collected in Ghetto Tragedies and They That Walk in Darkness are perfect of their kind." St. John Adcock calls three of his Jewish stories They That Walk in Darkness, Transitional and To Die in Jerusalem "for their delicate art and simple directness of narrative among the greatest in the language." I might have chosen others, like The Sabbath Breaker, which I selected for my anthology Yisroel, or The Red Mark, which P. G. Wodehouse included in his anthology of humorous short stories, or added others; what is important is what St. John Adcock says about his general work and his Jewish work?"Jinny the Carrier is a charming story of mid Victorian life and character in rural Essex, but his finest, most memorable work has been done as the interpreter of his own people." ZangwilPs stories of East End life live. A few weeks ago Ian Mackay, the News Chronicle columnist, wrote : "Considering how much history and romance has been packed into the East End it is strange that so little has been written about it. Apart from Dickens and Walter Besant, a few tales by Zangwill and Arthur Morrison, a grand book by Robert Sinclair and a scene or two in Candida, I can think of nothing worth bothering about,"</page><page sequence="3">ISRAEL ZANGWILL 79 That East End of ZangwilPs is the mother of Anglo-Jewry. It is from that East End that we most of us emerged. He painted in his books our portrait, our physical and spiritual portrait, the life of Anglo-Jewry as it was in his day and as it very largely con? tinues to be in essence both in what remains of the East End and in those other places to which it has expanded, Hackney and Dalston, Golders Green and Cricklewood, and Manchester and Leeds, even Johannesburg and New York. In so far as we still live a Jewish life, an English-speaking Jewish life which is distinctive and different from the surrounding Christian life we still live in our various localities a Ghetto life. For whether the Ghetto walls are physical, imposed from outside, or spiritual, erected by ourselves, Zangwill reached the heart of the problem when he came to "the undeniable conclusion that Jewish life disappears outside the Ghetto. A life these Jews (outside the Ghetto) have indeed, not necessarily inferior to the Jewish life. But a Jewish life it is not." Zangwill painted that Jewish life of ours on an immense canvas, created an imperishable work of art. Some later Jewish writers complain that the colourful East End of ZangwilPs day has disappeared, that there is nothing left for them to paint. Barnett Litvinoff, who paid me the compliment in his article in the New York Commentary of October 1950 of describing me as "happily a living and articulate link with Zangwill" and the Whitechapel of his day, which Zangwill in fact, however, gave to the world in Children of the Ghetto the year I was born, finds Whitechapel to-day "drab and uninteresting". I am glad he goes on to suggest that "it probably always was." For indeed it was always, except to us who lived there, and spent our youth there, and remember it as the wonderful place in which our loveliest memories are centred. It depends on how you look at it. In Sholem Asch's Salvation Yechiel looks at his mother with love and the poor harassed woman who stands haggling in the market place, screaming, scolding, telling lies becomes in his eyes an angel, with maternal love shining from her face. Of course, Hitler's bombs made the East End desolate. They wiped out whole streets. There are large tracts of waste land where I remember there was teeming life. Where I lived with my parents as a boy there is an empty space. The whole street where Professor Brodetsky lived no longer exists. Where Isaac Rosenberg lived there is a desert.. But there are still about 25,000 Jews living in those houses and streets which have remained, as many Jews as there are in Manchester or Leeds, which both pride themselves on their rich Jewish life. The East End waits for a rebuilding scheme to restore life to it. There are of course the planning schemes of the London County Council and the local Borough Councils, which aim at a certain amount of dispersal and thinning out of population. But there will have to be rebuilding schemes for the East End. The blitzed Jews' Free School building has been bought by Mr. Halperin and Mr. Burston of the Houndsditch Warehouse Company near by, and Mr. Burston has taken me over the site and explained how when the building permits do come they will erect there a block of modern flats, with shops below, to house 700 families. They dream of bringing into their rebuilding scheme the whole stretch from their Houndsditch Warehouse along Stoney Lane right up to the Free School site. Alfred Wolmark, wrho illustrated ZangwilPs last collected edition, and whose portrait of Zangwill is in the National Portrait Gallery, suggests that such a new housing estate should be named Zangwill, as another East End area has been named Lansbury, for Zangwill was born off Stoney Lane, in a court known at the time as Ebenezer Square, on whose site now stands a block of tenements called Artizan Dwellings, built in 1884, twenty years after ZangwilPs birth; and in Jews' Free School Zangwill spent many years both as pupil and teacher.</page><page sequence="4">80 ISRAEL ZANGWILL It would be nothing new to name a place after Zangwill; in 1897 To-Day reported that a small town in Oklahoma had been "named in honour of the author." And in 1926, when Zangwill died, his friend Dr. Jochelman announced at a London Memorial Meeting that a Jewish colony had been established in Russia in the name of Israel Zangwill. I have walked many times lately through the East End streets and seen the Jewish life that is still there amid the desolation. There are still Jewish houses there, with mezuzas on the street door, and small grocers' shops and bakeries which unlike those in the big East End markets, the Lane and Hessel Street, do not exist to serve Jewish shoppers coming from other parts of London, but the Jewish population round about. There are still too, as in my time, Oxford and Cambridge undergraduates in those East End streets. One came into the London newspapers a few weeks ago. Nor have all East Enders that I knew moved out of the East End. Ephraim Strellet, the artist, whose father was President of the Netherlands Club in Bell Lane, which was one of ZangwilPs haunts, still lives in a street off the Lane. I stood the other day outside the Stepney Jewish School and watched a crowd of children who looked very much like my own childhood playmates playing the same games that we had played. I have found also the same spirit of eager Jewish youth that I knew in the East End as a boy in other parts of London where there are now large Jewish agglomerations ; I have seen them walk up and down the Golders Green Road, arguing and discussing as we went up and down the Mile End Road and Aldgate to the Bank of England or by way of the Minories to the Tower of London and the Thames. The spirit is the same. When Henry Cohen writes as Roland Camberton about the Jews in North London (which the Mayor of Stoke Newington has just said has the largest Jewish population of any district in Europe) a discerning critic asks with justification : "A hint of Zangwill, perhaps ?" The critics said the same of Louis Golding's stories of Manchester Jewry, and Zangwill himself recognised the kinship. As for the complaint of drabness in the East End, it is not new. It is not the result only of the desolation caused by Hitler's Blitz. In 1912, two years before the First War, there were already such complaints made by people who revisited the East End and found "no life in it", compared with "what it was not so many years ago." It was also a place of poverty and hardship. When Jack London came to the East End he called it an Abyss ; he described Frying Pan Alley, along which ran one end of Jews' Free School, as an "Inferno". He found six rooms in an "abomination called a house" occupied by over twenty people of all ages, who ate and slept and worked there. I remember similar conditions in other such streets. I don't want to romanticise over the old East End and pretend that it was something it was not. It had a wonderful spirit, but it also had dire want. What Zangwill did in his East End books was to sing the beauty of spirit of the poverty-stricken immigrant Jew, the richness of soul of the Jewish poor. He knew that life from his own experience. "Having known intimately many Jewish households in the slums on a pound a week or less, and in no instance seen personality destroyed or degraded, but in numberless instances accentuated and uplifted", he writes in The Voice of Jerusalem. His brother Louis and his widow assured me that one of those families was his own, his own parents. Zangwill was proud that he had through his books brought an understanding of the immigrant Jew to the general English reading public. Mrs. Zangwill sent me a copy of a letter Zangwill had written to Judge Sulzberger, who had commissioned Children of the Ghetto, written soon after the book was published, where he said that he had met the Editor of a leading Conservative daily who told him that influenced by the Children</page><page sequence="5">ISRAEL ZANGWILL 81 of the Ghetto he had prevented the exclusion of the immigrant alien being made a plank in the Conservative platform. But he also brought understanding to the Anglicised Jews of the West End. "In the eye of the average Anglo-Hebrew of the epoch", his brother Louis Zangwill explained in an article in the Menorah Journal in 1927, "the entire foreign element in London was an uncivilised element." ZangwilPs Children of the Ghetto showed them what these poorer Jews really were. There is a letter of ZangwilPs to Lucien Wolf in which he wrote : "Few of our Anglicised Jews will consent to under? stand the rich manysided life that pulses in the great Jargon-speaking communities." "So many Jews are ashamed of anything Jewish", he said on another occasion. Zangwill had not seen that his mission would be that of a Ghetto writer. He had turned his back on the Ghetto in anger. He tells the story in his article "My First Book" which he contributed to The Idler in 1893. He had written a Jewish story which was published anonymously, but his authorship came out, and it was denounced as vulgar to the authorities of the Jews' Free School, where he was a teacher. He was given the alternative of expulsion or of publishing nothing which had not passed the school censor? ship. "I do not possess a copy of my first book" Zangwill explained, "but I discovered the MS. when writing Children of the Ghetto. The description of market-day in Jewry was transferred bodily from the MS. of my first book and is now generally admired." "The great mass of prosperous Anglo-Judea had assimilated to the British philistinism of the day", Louis Zangwill complained. "Small wonder", he said, "that here and there a youth of sensibility turned from the barrenness of his own kin to what he deemed the light." Israel Zangwill had rebelled also against the strict Jewish religious orthodoxy of his father, and that too took him away from the Ghetto to what he deemed the light. When Zangwill finally undertook to write Children of the Ghetto he needed, his brother Louis said, "after years of work in Fleet Street to refresh his knowledge, and he made expeditions for the purpose." It is not strictly true, for in the years between Zangwill worked on the Jewish Standard, which appears in his Grandchildren of the Ghetto as The Flag of Judah. And he wrote for the Jewish Quarterly Review his analysis of the Jewish Community, which according to Lucien Wolf impressed him so much that when "Judge Sulzberger sent Rabbi Krauskopf to tell me that they wanted a Jewish Robert Ellesmere and to ask me either to do it myself or to find somebody to do it I replied at once that there was only one man in England capable of the work and that was the author of Satan Mekatrig and of the article in the Jewish Quarterly"'. Zangwill had found by that time what he called "my first laurels as a new humorist, with my friends Jerome K. Jerome, Eden Phillpotts and Barry Pain." Satan Mekatrig and other Jewish stories had appeared in The Jewish Calendar. The Premier and the Painter had already been published, and so had The Bachelors' Club and The Old Maids' Club. He had obtained some reputation by then, but no great success. After the publication of The Premier and the Painter Zangwill wrote of its failure, and the literary apathy which succeeded its failure. "Not only did The Premier and the Painter fail with the great public", he said, "it did not even help us (his collaborator, Louis Cowen and himself) one step up the ladder; never got us a letter of encouragement nor a stroke of work. I had to begin journalism at the very bottom and entirely unassisted, narrowly escaping canvassing for advertisements, for I had thrown up my scholastic position and gone forth into the world penniless and without even a character, because I did not worship the Lord who presided over our school-committee" (Lord Rothschild). Then came the commission to write Children of the Ghetto and, as his cousin Dr. Eder, with whom he lived at the time in a Bloomsbury boarding house (in Bernard Street,</page><page sequence="6">82 ISRAEL ZANGWILL near the Russell Hotel) said : "Zangwill who had hitherto belonged only to the New Humour became an immortal." Lucien Wolf says it was the success of Mrs. Humphry Ward's Robert Ellesmere which, according to Professor Ifor Evans, looking back on the period 50 years later, was swept by topical interest into every drawing room in England, that led Judge Sulzberger to want a Jewish Robert Ellesmere. But Zangwill wrote no Robert Ellesmere, whose authoress said that she "wanted to show how a man of sensitive character, born for religion, comes to throw oil the orthodoxies of his day and to go out into the wilderness, where spiritual life begins again." Children of the Ghetto is an entirely different book, a greater and much more living book. I do not say that because I believe everything Zangwill wrote was important and lasting. He said himself years after of his Celibates' Club that "there are pages in it which I myself find rather forced." It is not a book to be reprinted. His Master, of which he had a better opinion, does not to my mind differ from hundreds of other similar novels. If it were even better than it is it would not stand out any more than for instance John Masefield's book The Street of To-Day, of which Arnold Bennett, when it appeared in 1911, 17 years after Zangwill's Master, wrote that ha found it "artistically futile", and said : "Cleverer small talk than this smothered and ruined a novel more dramatic than this?I mean Zangwill's The Master". "I am not likely to be suspected of under-rating Zangwill", I wrote in the Jewish Monthly in 1950, "but it does not do Zangwill any good to pretend that he is more than he is." Zangwill has written enough great work to stand on it. Most of all, he will stand on his Children of the Ghetto, the book into which he poured his soul, told his own story. When Louis Golding published his Forward from Babylon Zangwill reviewed it, praised it highly, and premised "an element of autobiography". Golding wrote a letter thanking Zangwill for "his generous remarks", and said : "Mr. Zangwill may or may not be right in premising an element of autobiography, but his premise remains totally irrelevant." Golding is of course right. The materials do not matter, only what the author makes of them. Yet when we see the author's own life-blood run through his story we feel, as Zangwill felt about Golding, "that when a man can tell his own story, it may be that this is the best story that he can tell." It means of course not the mere narration of events but the s tory of the adventures of the man's own soul, his spiritual struggles, his doubts and triumphs, his agony, his labours, and his faith, and his relations with his fellow-men, with his environment, the life to which he belongs, of which he is part. "I wrote about the Jew because I knew the Jew", Zangwill confessed. But he was also reluctant to return to the Ghetto. Some success had come to him in the other world. "In 1891", he writes, "having lived unsuccessfully for a score of years and seven upon this absurd planet I crossed Fleet Street and stepped into what was called success." That was the publication of his Bachelors' Club, by which, however, Zangwill would never have taken the place in world literature that Children of the Ghetto gave him. Louis Zangwill told me that neither Lucien Wolf nor Cyrus Adler had been the first to approach his brother on behalf of Judge Sulzberger, but that the Judge had made the first approach himself during a visit to London, and might have asked both of them to follow it up for him. Judge Sulzberger also wrote direct to Zangwill. Mrs. Zangwill showed me a letter which Zangwill wrote to Sulzberger about 1891 : "Your very kind and complimentary letter finds me immersed in work and complaining that only 24 hours have been allotted to the day. It is obvious that unless I drop some of my work (I would willingly drop some of the journalism) I cannot undertake anything new; and speaking quite frankly, since we are on the brutal question of money the temptation to do</page><page sequence="7">ISRAEL ZANGWILL 83 the Jewish novel now would be purely pecuniary. I certainly intend, if I am spared, to write a Jewish novel; there is one inside me, and it must come out some day ; but I had not thought of doing it at present, as I wished to make my first appeals in more catholic form. As for my value in dollars, to tell the truth I am rather in the dark at present. My publishers think that The Bachelors' Club being of a popular nature will do for me what The Premier and the Painter did not, e.g. give me as fancy a value as an author as my friend Jerome K. Jerome. Whether they are right or not will be deter? mined in the next few'months. I could easily work on the lines you have indicated? very good ones, too?only I could not undertake for any amount of dollars to write a novel which would appeal exclusively to a section. You will remember I told you something of the kind when I had the pleasure of meeting you in London when you broached the subject. Behind all the Jewish details there must be the human interest which will raise it into that cosmopolitan thing, a work of art. I want to put my best into everything I do." So there had been an earlier personal meeting in London between Judge Sulzberger and Zangwill, and Louis Zangwill told me he had been present at this meeting, as he was also present at the meeting in the Zangwill family home three years after the publica? tion of Children of the Ghetto with Herzl, who arriving in London drove straight to Zangwill, purely on the strength of what Nordau had told him about the author of Children of the Ghetto. So much in the direction taken by Zionism might have been different but for the fact that Children of the Ghetto was written, and Zangwill was as a result called upon by Herzl to launch him in England and become his publicity agent. It is true, as Louis Zangwill pointed out, that when his brother went back to the Ghetto to work up his material for Children of the Ghetto it was no longer the Ghetto of his boyhood. He found it much changed and new people there. When his father Moses Zangwill came to London about 1850 and when Zangwill was born in 1864 the great influx of Jews from Russia and Poland after 1881 had not started. It was a different and a smaller Ghetto. George Lansbury writing about his East End as it was in 1870, when Zangwill was six, said : "First of all, you would have seen hardly any Jews. There was a small Jewish colony between Bishopsgate and Aldgate, but it was not in the least obvious to the eye." Zangwill integrated this new Ghetto into his own story. He looked at the new life through the eyes of the young Zangwill of a decade earlier, whose own experiences are introduced artistically transmuted into every page of the book. I could trace him and his family's fortune right through the book. Yet the book is not straight? forward autobiography, with every character drawn exactly from life. It is an artistic creation. Zangwill drew from living models, but he did not copy them. He gave them his own artistic integrity. Yet they are recognisable, as the whole book is recognisably an authentic picture of the London Ghetto of sixty years ago, lifted by his genius to the plane of timeless literature. Rabbi Harris Cohen claimed in the Jewish Chronicle in 1948 that his grandfather "was the prototype of Reb Shemuel." His brother, Rabbi Barnett Cohen wrote to me "that he was Reb Shemuel I.Z. himself confirmed in the Jewish Chronicle in May 1893, when my grandfather died." Their grandfather, who was also the grandfather of their sister, who married Dayan Lazarus, was Dayan Jacob Reinowitz, whose son-in-law, Dayan Susman Cohen, was a close friend of Zangwili's father. Rabbi Barnett Cohen told me that he had known well Simcha Baker, Harry Lewis of Toynbee Hall (both of whom I also knew) Joseph Levy and N. L. D. Zimmer, and said that everybody in East</page><page sequence="8">84 ISRAEL ZANGWILL London recognised them as the originals of ZangwilPs characters. The Jewish Encyclo? pedia in its note on Zimmer says : "He was one of the founders of the Federation of Synagogues, and is supposed to be the original of Karlkammer in ZangwilPs Children of the Ghetto." Harry Lewis, who was the Editor of the Jewish Standard on which Zangwill worked, seems to have been the original of Raphael Leon, who plays a big part in Grandchildren of the Ghetto. Louis Zangwill has written : "The scenes laid by my brother Israel in the office of The Flag ofjudah were suggested by the easy-going regime of the Vecht period." Israel Zangwill once wrote to Aaron Vecht, who had been the manager of the Jewish Standard : "You are not in my book. I wish you were. I quite spoiled some of the scenes we have laughed over together by leaving you out. A pale shadowy figure stands indeed in your shoes, but it is not you." There are other recognis? able figures in the book. Simon Wolf, the Labour leader, is modelled on Lewis Lyons. And there is the famous identity of Melchitzedek Pinchas with Imber who wrote Hatikvah. I have a copy of Imber's book of poems, Barkai, inscribed "To the famous Israel Zangwill as a token of gratitude by the author." Zangwill, with characteristic audacity, makes his Pinchas "pungently merry over" the real Imber's "pretensions to be the National Poet of Israel." "It must be remembered", Zangwill wrote when Imber died, "that to the general herd of well-to-do Jews Imber was only a shabby, disreputable and unsavoury outcast." But most revealing in the book is the description through the medium of the Ansell household of the dreadful poverty of ZangwilPs childhood. The Ansells are not the Zangwills, but there is the authentic note of the Ansell children's talk, based on his own memories. He himself is Esther Ansell, and several others besides. There is the crotchety grandmother, and the domineering cousin, Malka, drawn from his own mother. Some of the talk between Moses Ansell, who was his father, Moses Zangwill, and Malka might have been between his father and mother. "They were a strange couple", ZangwilPs niece Primrose Horn writes of her grandparents. "Moses Zangwill was so calm and resigned and so full of religion. My grandmother was brilliant and stormy and did not find the uses of adversity at all sweet." Finally they parted. As soon as Israel Zangwill could afford it he enabled his father to realise his dream to live in Jerusalem. There is a letter which Zangwill wrote to Eder in 1896, where he says : "Father is, as you know, living in Jerusalem and by latest accounts seems to be praying happily there." "I don't know", he adds in this letter, "if the project of the new Jewish State reached you. Dr. Herzl came to me with an introduction from Max Nordau." Zangwill himself was disappointed in all his causes, Zionism and Territorialism, women's suffrage and the peace movement. He seemed to regret at the end that he had wasted many years of his life in what he called "the futile quest for a potential Jewish State". But I like to think that in his story To Die in Jerusalem Zangwill had his father in mind, when he wrote of the old Maggid who had gone to Palestine, that "such disappointment as often befalls the visionary when he sees the land of his dreams was spared to the Maggid, who remained a visionary even in the presence of the real." ZangwilPs mother stayed in England and ran her children's household. Primrose described her grandmother as "charged with great vitality, a fiery little woman, with luxuriant white hair and darkly smouldering eyes. She was a dominating personality." Zangwill never wrote a biography of anyone, not even of Herzl, whom he so much admired. He wrote sketches about Heine, Spinoza, Disraeli, Nordau and others; he outlined their character and achievement, and he gave the few essential biographical details, but he wrote no biography. He clearly had no liking for the biographical form.</page><page sequence="9">ISRAEL ZANGWILL 85 "Once and once only", he wrote, "did I strive to penetrate to the sources of history? it was the life of Spinoza, and I found to my amazement that the traditional detail of his doings and habits rested on little more solid than the mistranslated scribbling of a Lutheran pastor who had occupied his lodging a generation after his death." Generally about biographies, he exclaimed : "How shall we abstract the personal equation from the reports ? How allow for individual prejudices, jealousies, stupidities, malobserva tions and dishonesties ?" Authors have their own way of writing their biography. Shaw said : "The prefaces to my early novels contain as much autobiography as is worth writing." Zangwill has written in his books as much autobiography as he wants. Yet there are certain biographical facts. Jacob de Haas suggested when Zangwill died that "whether Zangwill was born in London on February 14th, 1864 is doubtful. The probabilities are that he was born in Poland?his name is Polish." The American Jewish Year Book after ZangwilPs death said that his parents came to London from Russia, as though they had come already married. That is not so. They came separately, almost children, from lands far apart, though they were both at the time under the rule of the Russian Czar. Others placed ZangwilPs birthplace in Portsmouth, Bristol (where Louis Zangwill was born), and Plymouth. Even when his London birth was conceded, a man like Samuel Roth, to one of whose books Zangwill wrote a foreword and got into trouble for it, though he said expressly in that foreword that he was "responsible for nothing in the book except the foreword", and did not share Roth's views on the Jewish problem, placed his early boyhood, in an essay that appeared in the Menorah Journal in 1923, in the neighbourhood of Jane Street off Commercial Road, where Louis Zangwill assured me the family had never lived, and that the events described there had never occurred. It is true that a biography must use imagination, but not to the extent of inventing facts. ZangwilPs mother and her cousin, who afterwards became the mother of Joseph Cowen, arrived in England as young girls from their native township Ravinisek, in Poland, between Warsaw and Brest Litovsk. They had relatives in London, an aunt who became Dr. Eder's grandmother, and relatives in Plymouth; it was a question which of the two girls should stay in London and which go to Plymouth. ZangwilPs mother-to-be remained in London, and Joseph Cowen's mother-to-be went to Plymouth. The girl who was to become the mother of Israel Zangwill lived in the Eder home, or rather the Solomons home, for the future mother of Dr. Eder was not yet married, and the two girls lived together. To that house came a young lad with an adventurous history. He had been born in a little place in what is now Latvia, called Zemiatchy, where the Zangwills had lived quietly and unobtrusively for generations. There were Zangwills still living there up to the outbreak of the war, and Mrs. Zangwill kept in touch with them as long as it was possible. In January 1939 she had not heard from them for some time and asked me if I knew anyone in Latvia who could find out what had happened to them. I was able through a friend in Latvia to trace some of the Zangwills to a town called Preili. "I am so much obliged to you for making enquiries about the Zangwills in Latvia", Mrs. Zangwill wrote to me then. One of the Latvian Zangwills wrote from Preili to Mrs. Zangwill. "Will you please let me know when your late husband died, as I want to know exactly the day. I remember it was in August month. According to our religious ritual I want to bring a candle to the Synagogue and to do the praying." As a young boy (Louis Zangwill said he was about eight) Moses Zangwill?and the name is not Polish but Hebrew, and means "ginger", exactly what Imber means in G</page><page sequence="10">86 ISRAEL ZANGWILL Yiddish?as a cantonist, one of the boy soldiers seized for the Russian army, had refused to eat the pork served out to the soldiers. He was punished by being put into confine? ment, but an officer took pity on the boy and helped him to escape. He ran away to England. He arrived knowing nobody here. A Jewish minister, the Rev. Mr. Shapiro, who used to go to the docks to meet the new arrivals, took him home and treated him as his own son. Mr. Shapiro knew the Solomons, Dr. Eder's grandparents, and there the parents of Israel Zangwill met. Moses Zangwill spent most of his time praying and "learning". He peddled and did odd jobs. When Israel Zangwill was born he described himself on the birth certificate as a glazier. In Children of the Ghetto Old Hyams says, "at the worst I can always fall back upon glaziering." Louis Zangwill used to tell me how his father took his basket of wares about the country, carrying his own kosher pots and pans with him. Israel Zangwill in Watchman What of the Night ? said : "My father as he wrent about the country was subjected to endless sneers and persecutions because he was a Jew." Israel Zangwill was born in London, at 10 Ebenezer Square, on January 21st, .1864. For some reason he never bothered to get a birth certificate or to look up the records, and he made a wild guess at the date and adopted the 14th February. He had found in the calendar of birthdays that every day was occupied by some celebrity, but February 14th was unoccupied. So "I pounced on it." It became accepted as his birthday. Mrs. Zangwill once wrote to me about something I had sent her bearing "by happy chance the date February 14th, the birthday of my husband." Zangwill was a Cockney Jew. "I am a Jew, of course", he said. "But I am not an alien. I am a pure Cockney." He often spoke of having been born within sound of Bow Bells. During the war, when he was saying unpopular things about the war, the Manchester Courier used his own description, and said of him : "We object even to a Cockney Jew speaking otherwise than Imperially in the centre of an Empire that 'does him so well'." It is tempting to speak of ZangwilPs stand in that First World War, and of that splendid book of his The War for the World, but there is no space for it here. Nor is there space to deal with ZangwilPs great work for Zionism and Territorialism, and for the Jews in every other possible way. He spent himself for the Jewish people. In 1908 Zangwill told the Jewish Chronicle that he was no longer a writer. For he used to go to the ITO office and spend the whole day there, busy with Jewish emigration and Jewish relief work. He even found virtue in the fact that for years "the middle decade of my working life was monopolised" by Zionist and Itoist work, or "I should possibly have succumbed to the current temptation to overwrite." He took up not only his own time, but he annoyed other writers by worrying them to help him in his work for the Jews, Wells grumbled to me that Zangwill pursued him with demands that he should interest himself in the Jewish question, which he said, was "not on my doorstep." Wells wrote in Homo Sapiens that "Zangwill adopted the role of Champion to the Jewish race and brought his Championship to our deliberations." Holbrook Jackson told me that he remonstrated with Zangwill for not sticking to his writing, instead of fighting for all sorts of unpopular causes. "Why don't you stick to your own work ?" he said. "But which is my work ?" Zangwill retorted : and "of course", Holbrook Jackson added, "I could not say anything more after that. Because perhaps the other was really his work." But he hated deceiving himself or others about his causes. Speaking as President of the ITO he said : "You see, I do not hide from you how high the mountain is and how</page><page sequence="11">ISRAEL ZANGWILL 87 difficult it is to climb. Why should I deceive you ?" "The case for an Itoland as for Zionism is unanswerable. The theory is all right. It is only in the realm of practice that they are assailable." Yet he died convinced that the fault was not that of the Jews who need a territory, but of the world which keeps its gates barred. Even now, with the State of Israel in being, it seems to me, as it did to him, a monstrous thing that Australia and Canada should have such small populations scattered over vast areas, or that an immense rich undeveloped continent like Brazil keeps immigrants out. About "Uganda" too, which was really East Africa and is today Kenya, we must not forget the conditions of the time, with the Jews of Russia desperately seeking a way out?"Wohin?", and Palestine under the Turks closed to Jewish immigration. It was because of the "footling report of the American Jewish Congress" on the offer of Jewish colonisation in Mexico which the Congress refused as involving too much responsibility, that Zangwill abandoned the writing of a novel on which he was engaged at the time, and which is still unfinished and unpublished. It is The Baron of Offenbach, a story about Jacob Frank, the pseudo-Messiah who followed Sabbathai Zevi and, as Sabbathai became a Moslem, turned Christian with his followers, and retiring to Offenbach assumed the title of Baron of Offenbach. He cast the story in the form of a supposed contemporary eye-witness account, which in a Head Note he claimed to have discovered and which he said he did not propose to give to the British Museum, where his typescript of the novel lies, but "as its legitimate place to the Mocatta Library" of the Jewish Historical Society, or "the Zionist Library at Jerusalem." In May 1924 he wrote to me, "I am going abroad for a month to study material for my new Jewish novel." But he was caught up by his disastrous experiment of producing his own plays, in which he lost his money, his health and perhaps his reason. An old friend of his has written to me : "I think you have realised that for the last two years of his life he was not really compos mentis." He certainly was hysterical when he telephoned me one day and in a quick rush of words told me that his doctor had ordered him to rest, and he was going back to East Preston, but as soon as he was better he would come and resume his fight for his place in the theatre. He never came back. I had a letter from Mrs. Zangwill telling me that the doctors had ordered him a complete rest and had sent him to a nursing home. "He is already much better", she wrote, "so I hope that his health will with sufficient time be completely restored." That was June. On August 1st Zangwill died. I still have the telegram from Mrs. Zangwill telling me of his death. Though he was only 62, it was perhaps as well, for the doctors said that if he had lived he would never have been able to do any more work. He had burned himself out. And his mind had given way. Perhaps really he had been always mad. A man must be to give himself in the way that he did. But in return such a man achieves immortality. I remember going to the cremation at Golders Green with his brother Louis Zangwill, and hearing Stephen Wise, who happened to be in London and officiated, say that "now Zangwill belongs to the ages. Zangwill will be remembered when the puny protestants of his day shall have been forgotten." I wish I could go on to say something more of Zangwill's plays and of his other work, of various aspects of ZangwilPs life and personality as I was privileged to know him during the last ten years of his life. There are qualifications and criticisms which I should have liked to make. For Zangwill is not without his faults, and it is not every? thing he said and did with which I would agree. But I am proud that in a way I did not expect it has fallen to my lot to do something, in Mrs. Zangwill's words, to keep Zangwill's life and work to the fore. A little over fifteen years ago I was largely responsible for</page><page sequence="12">88 ISRAEL ZANGWILL the Zangwill Memorial Meeting held in London for the tenth anniversary of his death. "Is it ten years since Zangwill went ?" Tom Moult, the novelist, whose daughter has since married ZangwilPs son Oliver, wrote to me when I approached him. "Of course I will give you all the help I can." Lord Cecil was in the Chair, and the speakers were the late Chief Rabbi Hertz, Mrs. Zangwill and her sister Mrs. Ayrton Gould, Humbert Wolfe, Dr. Redcliffe Salaman, Dr. Mattuck and Sir Philip Hartog. There was a dis? tinguished Committee beginning with Sholem Asch and ending with Stefan Zweig and including Shaw and Wells, Belloc, Priestley, Holbrook Jackson, Shneour, Louis Golding, Dr. Weizmann, Sir William Rothenstein and Alfred Wolmark. I was thrilled the other day, looking at the report in the Jewish Chronicle, to re-read the speeches and see what Mrs. Zangwill said then in her speech, that "she especially wanted to thank Mr. Leftwich who was responsible for the holdirg of the meeting". She also inscribed a copy of Watchman What of the Night ? for me "In appreciation of his work for the Memorial Meeting to I.Z." Israel Zangwill is the greatest man of letters that English-speaking Jewry has yet produced. As Sholem Asch said to me recently, he is the Jewish classic in English literature; he places him as a Jewish writer at the side of Peretz, equal to Peretz. Zang? will is also in his work for Jews one of the great figures of modern Jewish history. As a great writer and as a great Jew he seems to me an immortal. And we who honour his memory, and refresh ourselves with his work, honour ourselves and refresh our lives and fortify our future.</page></plain_text>