Israel Zangwill

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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.

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