UK National Yacht – Plato’s ‘Ship of Fools’.

The Prime Minister is no mean classicist and will therefore recall Book VI of Plato’s Republic. It contains the famous “ship of fools” allegory, illustrating the problems of governance prevailing in a political system not based on expert knowledge. It is of great relevance not only to the ludicrous UK National Yacht proposal but also to the many other problems we face as a result of poor governance over the last few years – and the unseemly leadership squabble we will inevitably see in the years to come. Of course, as well as a “national” reading of the allegory, one might also see each government ministry (Health, Education, etc.) as a ship in its own right. Plato:

There’s the shipowner, larger and stronger than everyone in the ship, but somewhat deaf and rather short-sighted, with a knowledge of sailing to match his eyesight. The sailors are quarrelling among themselves over captaincy of the ship, each one thinking that he ought to be captain, though he has never learnt that skill, nor can he point to the person who taught him or a time when he was learning it. On top of which they say it can’t be taught. In fact they’re prepared to cut to pieces anyone who says it can. The shipowner himself is always surrounded by them. They beg him and do everything they can to make him hand over the tiller to them. Sometimes, if other people can persuade him and they can’t, they kill those others or throw them overboard. Then they immobilise their worthy shipowner with drugs or drink or by some other means, and take control of the ship, helping themselves to what it is carrying. Drinking and feasting, they sail in the way you’d expect people like that to sail. More than that, if someone is good at finding them ways of persuading or compelling the shipowner to let them take control, they call him a real seaman, a real captain, and say he really knows about ships. Anyone who can’t do this they treat with contempt, calling him useless. They don’t even begin to understand that if he is to be truly fit to take command of a ship a real ship’s captain must of necessity be thoroughly familiar with the seasons of the year, the stars in the sky, the winds, and everything to do with his art. As for how he is going to steer the ship – regardless of whether anyone wants him to or not – they do not regard this as an additional skill or study which can be acquired over and above the art of being a ship’s captain. If this is the situation on board, don’t you think the person who is genuinely equipped to be captain will be called a stargazer, a chatterer, of no use to them, by those who sail in ships with this kind of crew?

How to Look at Portraits

Nicolas Poussin – self-portrait.

…or at least here’s just one more to add to the many ways one might look at them. Below is a wonderful passage by Bruno Snell (1896-1986), the great professor of classical philology at the University of Hamburg.  In it he reflects on ways of seeing in Homer, on the words Homer uses to “denote the operation of sight”. Derkesthai means “to have a particular look in one’s eye”, while paptainein means “to look about, inquisitively, carefully or with fear”. There are many other words, but I think these two are of particular interest and have some definite practical uses. Derkesthai and paptainein, for instance, are good concepts to bear in mind when one is trying to evaluate someone’s personality based on how they react to a given idea or situation, how they look. Second, the whole concept behind derkesthai is extremely useful to have to hand if one is attempting to describe and evaluate a portrait, say a painting, a photograph or a sculpture. There is often, in the best portraits, a degree of intensity that elevates them from the merely descriptive and places them in a higher realm, revealing some unique inner quality in the subject. Homer and Snell make good companions as one tries to unravel what that quality might be. As Snell put it, “The scholar too, like the restorer of an old painting, may yet in many places remove the dark coating of dust and varnish which the centuries have drawn over the picture, and thus give back to the colours their original brilliance.” 

Homer uses a great variety of verbs to denote the operation of sight. Of these several have gone out of use in later Greek, at any rate in prose literature and living speech: derkesthai, leussein, ossesthai, paptainein. Only two words make their appearance after the times of Homer: blepein and theorin. The words which were discarded tell us that the older language recognized certain needs which were no longer felt by its successor. 

Derkesthai means: to have a particular look in one’s eye. Drakon, the snake, whose name is derived from derkesthai, owes this designation to the uncanny glint in his eye. He is called “the seeing one”, not because he can see particularly well, but because his stare commands attention. By the same token Homer’s derkesthai refers not so much to the function of the eye as to its gleam noticed by someone else. The verb is used of the Gorgon whose glance incites terror, and of the raging boar whose eyes radiate fire. Many a passage in Homer reveals its proper beauty only if this meaning is taken into consideration: e.g. [Odysseus]: ponton ep’ atrugeton derkesketo dakrua leibon. Derkesthai means “to look with a specific expression,” and the context suggests that the word here refers to the nostalgic glance which Odysseus, an exile from his homeland, sends across the seas…. Of the eagle it may be said that ozutaton derketai, he looks very sharply; but whereas in English the adjective would characterize the function and capacity of the visual organ, Homer has in mind the beams of the eagle’s eye, beams which are as penetrating as the rays of the sun which are also called “sharp” by Homer; like a pointed weapon they cut through everything in their path. Derkesthai is also used with an external object; in such a case the present would mean: “his glance rests upon something,” and the aorist: “his glance falls upon an object,” “it turns toward something,” “he casts his glance on someone….”

The same is true of another of the verbs which we have mentioned as having disappeared in later speech. Paptainein is also a mode of looking, namely a “looking about” inquisitively, carefully, or with fear. Like derkesthai, therefore, it denotes a visual attitude, and does not hinge upon the function of sight as such. Characteristically enough neither word is found in the first person…. A man would notice such attitudes in others rather than ascribing them to himself. Leusso behaves quite differently. Etymologically it is connected with leukos, “gleaming,” “white”; three of the four cases in the Iliad where the verb is followed by an accusative object pertain to fire and shining weapons. The meaning clearly is: to see something bright. It also means: to let one’s eyes travel…. Pride, joy, and a feeling of freedom are expressed in it. Frequently leusso appears in the first person, which distinguishes it from derkesthai and paptainein, those visual attitudes which are mostly noticed in others. It is never used in situations of sorrow or anxiety.

Jewish LSE Students and Alumni say: No to Hotovely on Campus

An important letter from Jewish LSE students concerning Tzipi Hotovely, the right-wing Israeli Ambassador in London. It challenges various mistaken assumptions about Israeli policy, the Nakba, what does and does not constitute antisemitism, and much else. As the students put it, “Narratives which conflate criticism of the Israeli state with antisemitism are incredibly dangerous, serving to constrain the rights of Palestinians and their allies to speak out about their oppression while also harming our fight against the very real antisemitism that exists in our society.” Look to the young for wisdom. The letter can be signed here.


We’re a group of Jewish LSE students & alumni, and we say: No to Hotovely on campus

As Jewish students and alumni of the LSE who are committed to Palestinian liberation and to the fight against antisemitism, we are deeply concerned about the event that took place on campus this week with Israeli Ambassador Tzipi Hotovely, and about the conversations that have been generated in the aftermath of the protests.

First of all, we echo LSE Palestine Society’s condemnation of the decision by LSE Debating Society (with the backing of the Students’ Union) to legitimise Hotovely and her ideology by inviting her to speak at LSE, thus presenting Palestinian freedom as being a subject that is open for debate. Not only has Hotovely called the Nakba — the displacement and dispossession of over 700,000 Palestinians in 1948 — ‘an Arab lie’, she has also invited Jewish supremacists into the Knesset, advocated for complete Israeli annexation of the occupied West Bank without the Palestinians there receiving full citizenship rights, and publicly opposed intimate relationships between Jews and Arabs. Hotovely played an active role in the expansion of illegal settlements as the former Minister for Settlements in Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, and she has described Israeli human rights activists who campaign to end the occupation as ‘war criminals’. Put simply, she is one of the foremost advocates of apartheid in Israel-Palestine.

As such, we also condemn the way the mainstream Jewish media, as well as UK government officials such as the Home Secretary and Education Secretary, have immediately jumped to characterise the protests against Hotovely as antisemitic in nature. Analogies to Kristallnacht, for example, which saw more than 90 Jews murdered and 30,000 Jews deported to concentration camps, are deeply offensive to the Jewish victims of Nazi antisemitism and the Shoah, and bear no resemblance whatsoever to the events at LSE this week. Protesting against representatives of the Israeli state — be they Jewish or non-Jewish — is not antisemitic. Significant parts of the British Jewish community have been protesting against Hotovely since she was appointed as ambassador last year. So let’s be clear about why students protested Hotovely’s presence on campus: it was not because she is Jewish, but rather because she is the ambassador of a state that routinely flouts international law and is committing grave human rights violations against Palestinians on a daily basis.

Narratives which conflate criticism of the Israeli state with antisemitism are incredibly dangerous, serving to constrain the rights of Palestinians and their allies to speak out about their oppression while also harming our fight against the very real antisemitism that exists in our society. In the aftermath of the irresponsible claims by public figures and journalists accusing the protesters of antisemitism, several student organizers have been subject to racist abuse and threats online, which we unequivocally condemn. Senior politicians in government and opposition have also made calls for arrests and police action against protestors; we wholeheartedly reject these attempts by government figures to use Jewish students’ sense of insecurity as a pretext to expand the policing of student activists on campus.

We know that the last few days have been painful and fractious for much of the LSE community, including for Palestinian students who have had been made to feel unwelcome at their own university, and for Jewish students who have been left feeling unsettled and vulnerable. No student should feel unsafe on campus because of their religious, ethnic or national identity, and we are committed to the fight against all forms of racism and bigotry, both on campus and in wider society. The struggle against antisemitism and the struggle for Palestinian liberation are not mutually exclusive.

University campuses have the unique potential for bringing together different communities in solidarity with one another, and we know that it is only through this collective solidarity that we can achieve true liberation for Jews, for Palestinians and for all peoples.

Signed,

Bo Jacobs Strom
Asher Kessler
Max Hammer
Damon Hotz
Mira Mattar
Rachida Benamar
Daniel Bernstein Vulkan
Ben Reiff
Micol Meghnagi
Jo Bluen
Alex Small
Rachel Richman
Dave Postles
Douglas Gerrard
Hannah Swirsky
simon korner
Antony Lerman
Shay Lari-Hosain
Maarya Rabbani
Naomi Cavanagh
Shoshana Lauter
Ros Edwards
Jonah Lipton
Matt Gothill
Idan Sasson
Amy Perlin
Zak Cebon
Samuel Barnett
Maïa Pal
Rachel Cohen

The Anglo-German Review: A Portrait of Right Wing Britain in the Thirties

The following is an excerpt from my study, The Red Book: The Membership List of The Right Club. A new edition will be published early next year.

Those in favour of doing a deal with Hitler – in favour of Appeasement – found their views articulated and all the options explored in the pages of a significant publication of the late Thirties, the Anglo-German Review

In The Roots of Appeasement Martin Gilbert drew a useful distinction between the ‘old appeasement’ and the ‘new’. Whereas the old was ‘Victorian in its optimism, Burkean in its belief that societies evolved from bad to good and that progress could only be for the better’, the ‘new’ reflected a ‘mood of fear, Hobbesian in its insistence upon swallowing the bad in order to preserve some remnant of the good’. Something of the flavour of both brands comes across very strongly in the Anglo-German Review, published between 1936 and 1939, listing several Right Club members amongst its contributors, notably Lord Redesdale and Charles Sarolea – and many others closely connected with Archibald Ramsay, like Barry Domvile who used the Anglo-German Review as a mouthpiece for The Link, when that society was still at the fledgling stage. Under C. E. Carroll’s editorship, the A-GR proclaimed a clear message, a clear sense of purpose and direction. Judged in purely journalistic terms, it was a far greater success than Action, the magazine of Mosley’s BUF. That, under the fastidious but over-intellectual supervision of Harold Nicolson, had been an uneasy hotchpotch of sabre-rattling and highbrow, where stirring accounts of the Leader were juxtaposed with helpful gardening tips from Vita Sackville-West. A-GR, by contrast, was very sharply focused.

Peace at any cost was its keynote. The tone was upbeat and breezy, calculated as far as possible to appeal to the broadest spectrum of British society. The magazine sought, identified and celebrated common ground between Germany and the United Kingdom, cemented by shared values and aspirations on the one hand and, on the other, values and virtues that each side could offer the other in the spirit of friendship and reconciliation in the wake of World War I. At the outset, the A-GR was devoid of anti-Semitism or racism of any other kind, though there were outbreaks, notably in the music columns, where ‘negroid jazz’ was given a firm thumbs-down. Later on, with war imminent, anti-Semitism crept in, as we shall see. 

The advertisements and announcements in A-GR give an intriguing picture of Britain in the mid-Thirties, its values and susceptibilities. Modern Touring of Lower Regent Street offered ‘Eighteen Days through Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia for £31, in high-powered luxurious motor cars’; ‘The home without a piano lacks one of the greatest sources of pleasure – the capacity for full self-expression: Bluthner: “The Piano with the Golden Tone” ’; ‘Swastica [sic] Badges, black enamel chromium finish 9d each; Bar gilt brooch, 1/3, post free from T. C. Nobbs, 51 Gorringe Park Avenue, Mitcham’; ‘Under the auspices of the Anglo-German Academic Bureau a Company of German Amateur Players presents Friedrich Schiller’s “Maria Stuart” (in German) at Battersea Town Hall’. We learn that the All-Hohner Orchestra of the British College of Accordionists toured Germany in the summer of 1939. Events in Germany were prominently listed, the hurly-burly of social and cultural life called vividly to life in a monthly calendar. Readers were alerted to the German Dancing Championships in Kassel and the Exhibition of Degenerate Art in Stuttgart. At the Cologne Dog Show in November 1938, the Führer’s Special Prize for Best of Breed was co-adjudicated by Colonel G. G. Woodwark, the Mayor-designate of Kings Lynn. There was even a motoring column contributed by Gordon Fathers, founding father of the laddish lyricism favoured by today’s motoring correspondents. 

To the man to whom the smell of racing oil is the most fragrant perfume, the very name Frazer Nash evokes dreams as lotus-like as those of the opium-smoker.

In the October 1938 edition of A-GR Fathers performed the impressive journalistic contortion of weaving the Munich Agreement into the motoring review.

It [the Mercedes-Benz Type 540 Cabriolet] has eight super-charged cylinders, and a four-speed gearbox, all gears being synchronized, and an unusual fifth gear incorporated in the back axle. Although it is a monster of a car it has surprisingly graceful lines. The chassis price is £1,395. Those who have the necessary in the bank could not do better than to take the advice of a famous daily and buy themselves this as a “peace” car.

All of this was intended to create a sense of ‘normality’, common sense, co-operation; as time wore on, preceding and surrounding the Munich Agreement, the A-GR resolutely presented an upbeat picture of Anglo-German friendship, openly chastising the Winston Churchills, Duff Coopers and Anthony Edens for being irresponsible ‘warmongers’.

[Winston Churchill] has committed himself utterly and most emphatically to a power-policy that would lead straight to war. War we might perhaps win – but still, war. Let us pray that no Winston Churchill ever comes to power either in this country or Germany. He is unquestionably the biggest warmonger in the world today.

The A-GR line was communicated through an array of contributors, ranging from what would today be called ‘lifestyle’ journalists through to no-nonsense characters like Redesdale and Bruce Bairnsfeather or political heavyweights like ‘famous historian’ Sir Raymond Beazley and the Right Club’s Charles Sarolea. Each contributor was trumpeted in a succinct biog in the prelims of the magazine: ‘Elizabeth Craig, probably the world’s most famous woman journalist’ who ‘lives at Hampstead in a converted Wesleyan Chapel’, ‘the last thing in all electric up-to-dateness’. Mrs Craig’s piece in Volume 1 Number 1 of A-GR was entitled ‘The German Housewife’ and in it she leaves no doubt as to the lessons that British women might profitably learn from their opposite numbers in Germany:

If I had my way, I would turn every Englishwoman into the equivalent of a German Hausfrau, whether she were married or not. If the average Englishman realized the difference between having his home mismanaged and managed, he would back me up. There is no excuse for slovenly housekeeping any more than there is an excuse for slovenliness in the business world. If more women realized that, we should hear fewer tales of domestic strife. Looking back to the days I spent overlooking the Leitzensee, I wish I had paid closer attention to the example I found in Berlin. Meticulous in every detail appertaining to home comfort, the German housewife sees that her kitchen is efficiently equipped before she begins to think of her personal needs. A fur coat can wait. She does not know the call of a club. Bargain sales do not make her lose her head. In short, the German Frau puts the interests of her household first. I wish I could treat every budding housewife to a year in Germany. Germany is the only country I know where sheer common sense is brought to bear upon the minutest problem of the home.

The article develops further in the same vein and is accompanied by a useful photograph, by way of inspiration, captioned ‘Elizabeth Craig, chatting with “Ossi von Stresow”, her German Dobermann-Pinscher.’

In its first issue the magazine addresses the vexed issue of dictatorship in Germany. Since dictatorship is a very un-British thing, the A-GR needed to offer its readers some plausible justification for the German regime. This task fell to Redesdale, described as having a ‘broad mind, sound judgment’ and a ‘sense of humour’; ‘a strong, silent man, but not too silent’ who ‘speaks precisely and well’. In an article entitled ‘This Way Lies Peace – A Plea for Better Understanding Between Germany and Britain’, he tackled the issue head-on, his irresistible logic combining the elegance of Athens with the briskness of Ascot. 

What ill will does exist here against Germany is due largely to confused thinking.

For instance, there is the man who says “I am deadly opposed to any form of Dictatorship.” To him I say, “So am I,” but I qualify what I say by adding “…in this country.”

What is the sense of a man who is in the enjoyment of good health saying to another who is taking some potent drug and being relieved, if not completely cured, of some ghastly and agonizing disease, “I am opposed to the taking of potent drugs.” Obviously, there is no sense in that.

Equally, there is no sense in an Englishman saying to a German that he is opposed to Dictatorship.

Should this line of reasoning have failed to convince, then readers might have considered a more elaborate thesis put forward by Professor Charles Sarolea, a fellow Right Club member, in a later edition of A-GR. Scotland, he claimed, was the spiritual cradle of Nazi philosophy; Thomas Carlyle, with his mistrust of the ballot box, was the true inspiration of the Third Reich. After all, Carlyle had memorably said: ‘find in any country the ablest man that exists there; raise him up to the supreme place and loyally reverence him; you have the perfect government for that country; no ballot box, parliamentary eloquence, voting, constitution building, or other machinery whatever can improve a whit’.; another famous Scotsman, Houston Stewart Chamberlain, was a prophet of Nazism. Sarolea’s piece prompted a courteous challenge from south of the border by Professor A. P. Laurie, described by A-GR as a ‘famous scientist, pedagogue, student of human affairs and Member of the National Council of The Link’. Laurie quoted the following words of a revered English visionary:

[the] discipline of the masses has hitherto knit the sinews of battle: a government which shall have its soldiers of the ploughshare as well as its soldiers of the sword, and which shall distribute more proudly its golden crosses of industry – golden as the glow of the harvest – than it now grants its bronze crosses of honour – bronzed with the crimson of blood.

Whilst ‘his thought is often confused’, said Laurie of John Ruskin, ‘he is searching in the dark for a dimly visible light; but the germs of National Socialism, including the Labour Camp, and the recognition of the right foundation of the State on blood and soil, are to be found in his writings’. Elsewhere in A-GR, we read that a German director had recently completed a film of a play by that other well-known advocate of the National Socialist Weltanschaung, Oscar Wilde.

If Redesdale was its avuncular voice of common sense, Charles Sarolea provided the intellectual voice of the British right. His views are always expressed with balance and caution, especially so when addressing two contentious topics, one of them Russian Jews, the other the racial and cultural make-up of Poland. On Jews:

I am quite ready to admit that the Jewish leaders are only a proportionately infinitesimal fraction, even as the British rulers of India are an infinitesimal fraction. But it is none the less true that those few Jewish leaders are the masters of Russia, even as the fifteen hundred Anglo-Indian Civil Servants are the masters of India. For any traveller in Russia to deny such a truth would be would be to deny the evidence of our own senses. When you find that out of a large number of important Foreign Office officials whom you have met, all but two are Jews, you are entitled to say that the Jews are running the Russian Foreign Office.

Regarding Poland, Sarolea articulated more efficiently than most the view that Danzig was ‘a purely German town’. 

Ninety-five per cent of the population are Germans. So homogeneous a population is, in itself, sufficient to prove that Danzig always was a purely German town…. Nor, strangely enough, did the Polish people themselves ever try to settle in any large numbers in Danzig territory, so that a Polish minority problem never had any occasion to arise. It is, indeed, a curious anomaly, as was set out … in a recent article, that after 300 years of personal union under the Polish kings and of close commercial intercourse, a much larger proportion of the Danzig population should have been of Scottish origin than of Polish origin.”

Of the more obscure Right Club members, Nancy Brown contributed a travel piece, ‘Rhineland Holiday’, to the July 1939 issue. This holiday was one of several group tours organized by The Link and had clearly been enjoyed by the writer:

The sound of children’s voices raised in a marching song, while we sat in a beer garden, gay with flowers, shady with sweet-smelling lime trees, watching the ripples on the lake at Marcus Mill. Presently the children came into sight from out of the dark forest, knapsacks on backs, and swarmed into the garden for refreshment. One bright-eyed boy was playing his accordion, and as he played the shining plaits of the little girls around him gleamed in the sunlight like neat braids of gold.

It appears that every school has by law to take its children on such an excursion at least once a month, and the wisdom of such a step seemed amply justified by their physical perfection and high spirits.

The A-GR greeted the Munich Agreement with a series of ‘considered statements’ by its more prominent contributors, amongst them Ramsay himself and three other Right Club members, the Duke of Wellington, the MP Sir Ernest Bennett and Lord Redesdale. In these statements Neville Chamberlain was feted as hero and saviour, his detractors dismissed as troublemakers and warmongers. Ramsay scrupulously avoided any anti-Bolshevik or anti-Semite overtones in his statement, though seen in the context of utterances he made elsewhere, it is clear who he meant by his descriptions of ‘disruptive international forces’ which ‘seek to build a godless and materialistic hell out of the debris of European civilisation’. Taking a customary swipe at the press, he deplored ‘the systematic campaign kept up by international news agencies’.  Right Club member Ernest Bennett praised ‘the joint efforts of Herr Hitler and Mr Chamberlain’ that had ‘brought back to Europe that international peace and goodwill which the “men of Versailles” – to quote Field-Marshal Goering’s words – had almost “banished from mankind”.’ He offered a ‘word of advice to our German friends’:

If Germans see an insulting cartoon by Low or read abusive and vitriolic speeches by irresponsible English politicians, will they please remember that such exhibitions of malevolence spring to a large extent from mere party prejudice or personal animosities, that there is no machinery for controlling them in a democracy, and that the great mass of our people attach very little importance to them? The vast majority of our countrymen trust the pledge of both the Führer and our own good Prime Minister.

Redesdale was predictably unimpressed that anyone in the country should dare criticize Chamberlain – ‘I cannot recover from my amazement…’. The Duke of Wellington hedged his bets.

In the history of the world it is seldom found that any nation goes to war within fifty years of a great war. And it is very doubtful whether any representative plunging his nation into war would survive doing so, in modern times.

Throughout its 33-issue run, the A-GR consistently extolled Hitler as a dynamic, kind, firm saviour of an embattled nation – a nation with which Britain had for centuries sustained a strong cultural bond. By and large it reiterated Lord Redesdale’s opinion of Hitler as a ‘right-thinking man of irreproachable sincerity and honesty’. The position of A-GR contributors was concisely summed up in The Link’s famous 1938 letter to The Times.  

Sir, – The undersigned, who believe that real friendship and cooperation between Great Britain and Germany are essential to the establishment of enduring peace not only in Western Europe but throughout the whole world, strongly deprecate the attempt which is being made to sabotage an Anglo-German rapprochement by distorting the facts of the Czechoslovak Agreement. We believe that the Munich Agreement was nothing more than a rectification of one of the most flagrant injustices of the Peace Treaties. It took nothing from Czechoslovakia to which that country could rightfully lay claim and gave nothing to Germany which could have been rightfully withheld. We see in the policy so courageously pursued by the Prime Minister the end of a long period of lost opportunities and the promise of a new era compared to which the tragic years that have gone since the War will seem like a bad dream.

Yours truly,

Arnold, Bernard Acworth, Raymond Beazley, C. E. Carroll, J. Smedley Crooke, W. H. Dawson, Barry Domvile, A. E. R. Dyer, Fairfax of Cameron, Hardinge of Penshurst, Edward Inglefield, F. C. Jarvis, Douglas Jerrold, John Latta, A. P. Laurie, Londonderry, V. B. Molteno, Mount Temple, A. H. M. Ramsay, Wilmot Nicholson, Redesdale, G. Lane-Fox Pitt-Rivers, Arthur Rogers, Arthur Solly-Flood, Nesta Webster, Bernard Wilson.

Until 1937, even after Barry Domvile had established a regular spot as columnist and commentator of The Link, the magazine remained resolutely pro-German rather than anti-Semite in political tone. The first whiff of anti-Semitism came in the August 1938 issue of A-GR, which contained an article entitled ‘Regrettable Campaign’, opening with the following explanation.

A section of the Jewish community in Great Britain – we believe a small section – is waging a campaign which, though it contrasts sharply with the wise restraint shown by many leaders of British Jewry in their attitude towards Germany, is likely, if it continues, to do infinite damage to all British Jews. For that reason alone it should be discountenanced, for it leads inevitably to the creation of a Jewish question. But we are concerned with it here more especially because of its bearing on Anglo-German understanding.

Leslie and Lewis Lazarus, directors of Lucifer Ltd, manufacturers of boxes of matches and matchbooks, had waged the ‘campaign’. The Lazarus brothers, along with many Jewish businessmen in Britain, were dismayed at what had now become the widely publicised persecution of Jews in Germany. They and many others felt that a boycott of German goods would constitute an immediate and effective protest against the regime in Germany. Accordingly, Lucifer Ltd manufactured – ‘published’ would be an appropriate word – a match-book with the slogan ‘Boycott Everything German’ printed on the inside cover. A further flourish was evident on the matches themselves, each of which was individually printed in such a way that when the book was open, one was unequivocally invited to ‘Boycott’ ‘Everything’ ‘German’ and ‘Buy’ ‘British’. This simple but effective protest was described in reproachful tones by A-GR. Its reaction to the Lucifer matchbook captures exactly the spirit in which an influential cross-section of the British right wing approached any criticism of the Reich’s domestic policies regarding Jews. 

Undoubtedly the German Jews are being harshly treated, though the atrocity reports to which so much publicity is given are more often than not quite demonstrably untrue. 

On the other hand, the German Government, and the overwhelming majority of the German people, have a strong case against the Jews. That case is not given publicity in this country, and we have no desire to dwell on it here.

But there is one aspect that does concern us. It is this: We are most emphatically convinced that the charges levelled against the Jews by the German Government and those raised by the Jews against the German Government should not be used to foment discord between German and Britain and thus endanger peace.

Yet that is precisely what is being done. It is being done openly and ruthlessly, even by refugees to whom we are giving hospitality in this country, and all the protection and benefit of our liberal institutions.

We do not know into what category falls the firm of Messrs Lazarus but, if our assumption is correct, those gentlemen are allowing racial prejudice to outweigh their conception of what they owe to the country that harbours them.

Aspects of Venice: Tutorials with Robin Saikia

The Palazzo Manzoni (now Contarini Polignac) by John Wharlton Bunney

All of the following are available to individual students as personal tutorials. To book one or more of these tutorials, please email scholartext@gmail.com


1. Winnaretta Singer, Princesse de Polignac: The Venice Years. (1 hour. 25 euros) The Venetian life of the great American patroness of the arts, who transformed her palace on the Grand Canal into a haven for composers and musicians.

2. The Marriage of the Doge to the Sea: Pageant and Propaganda. (1 hour. 25 euros) The sposalizio del mare, an overview of its fascinating origin and depth of meaning.

3. Writing about Venice: Charles Dickens and Marcel Proust. (1 hour. 25 euros) How two very different writers triumphantly approached the difficult and at times over-written topic of Venice.

4. Lord Byron in Venice (1 hour. 25 euros) An introduction to the Venetian life of one of the city’s great British expatriate residents.

5. The Venice Lido – a General Introduction. (1 hour. 25 euros) The important role throughout history of Venice’s now glamorous beach resort.

6. The “Cockney Village”: The Development of the Lido in the 19th Century. (1 hour. 25 euros) The controversial beginnings of modern tourism in Venice, as seen by Henry James, John Ruskin and others.

7. From D’Annunzio to Churchill: The Lido in the Twenties and Thirties. (1 hour. 25 euros) How Giuseppe Volpi and other entrepreneurs transformed the Lido into an international destination that competed with the French Riviera.

8. Gay Life in Venice: Lord Ronald Gower, Frederick Rolfe, A. E. Housman and others. (1 hour. 25 euros) Some colourful gay residents and tourists from the 19th and 20th centuries.

9. Gabriel Fauré and Reynaldo Hahn in Venice. (1 hour. 25 euros) A exploration of the two composers’ Venetian song cycles and of their friendship with Winnaretta Singer, Princesse de Polignac.

10. The Barbaro Circle. (1 hour. 25 euros) An introduction to the Palazzo Barbaro, focusing on John Singer Sargent, Henry James and Robert Browning.


Robin Saikia is a British author and lecturer. His published work includes The Venice LidoBlue Guide Literary Companion London, The Red Book: The Membership List of The Right Club,;Blue Guide Hay-on-WyeBlue Guide Italy Food Companion. His most recent work is A Very Fine Cat Indeed, a dramatic monologue in which Samuel Johnson celebrates his favourite cat, Hodge. Robin is a Fellow of The Royal Asiatic Society. Other memberships and affiliations include The Johnson Society of London, The Johnson Society (Lichfield), The Wykehamist Society and The Oxford Union.

The Palazzo Dario, Venice, in 1900

Henri de Régnier describes the fountain in the courtyard of Palazzo Dario. « une fontaine coule dans une cuve de marbre, et son bruit surcharge et semble faire déborder le silence auquel il s’ajoute, goutte à goutte«

Winnaretta Singer’s 1900 visit to Venice gave her an opportunity to see familiar friends from Paris, the comtesse Isabelle Gontran de la Baume-Pluvinel and her partner, the writer and photographer Augustine Bulteau. Augustine and their mutual friend Anna de Noailles had for some years been members of a discreet but formidable lesbian circle in Paris. The couple had bought the dilapidated Ca’Dario from its Hungarian owners in 1896 and soon completed a major program of restoration. Isabelle and Augustine created an agreeable salon at Ca’Dario, which Winnaretta describes in the following extract from her brief memoirs. The ‘incomplete’ ‘marble palace’ nearby was the single-storey Palazzo Venier dei Leoni which was to become, over half a century later, Peggy Guggenheim’s home. Today, it houses the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. 

Life in Venice was then absolutely delightful. The Countess de la Baume lived in the lovely Casa Dario, next door to the Giardino Barbier, which was at the back of a marble palace that had been begun in the seventeenth century and left incomplete, so that only the ground floor was finished and the large terrace overlooking the Grand Canal. On this terrace we often had coffee or dined in the afternoons.

The Countess de la Baume had made the Casa Dario a marvel of comfort and good taste, and had filled it with the finest pictures and the most precious books and musical instruments, and here congregated the fine fleur of Parisian art-lovers. I sometimes met at the Casa Dario the Comtesse de Noailles, and her wonderful and gifted sister the Princess Alexandre de Caraman-Chimay, for whom the youthful Marcel Proust had written a long dedication and preface in his recently published translation of Ruskin’s La Bible d’Amiens. Leon Daudet, then very young and one of the most brilliant and cultured men I have ever known, was a constant visitor, as was also Henri Gonse the collector, and the great poet Henri de Regnier and his talented wife, the daughter of the famous Heredia and herself a celebrated poet. They spent many months at a time at the Palazzo Barbier, where a few rooms had been repaired and made comfortable for the guests of the Comtesse de la Baume. After her death, the Marchesa Casati took the Palazzo Barbier [Winnaretta carelessly writes Barbier, when she meant Venier. Her brief memoirs, hastily completed for Horizon shortly before her death, contain the occasional slip-up. RS] – or rather the ground floor of this unfinished palace – and there had a series of fancy dress balls that are now legendary. At one of these balls, held at the time the Russian Ballet was at the height of its glory, she appeared at the top of the steps leading to the garden, in a wonderful costume designed by Bakst, with a tiger stretched out at her feet. The tiger had been drugged, but it was nevertheless extremely frightening, as one came up from a peaceful gondola, to find it lying on the steps of the palace. At the end of the party some of the guests took the tiger on to the Piazza, where quiet citizens who were leaving the theatres were terrified at its appearance. The incident provoked general censure. 

This was clearly a Venetian way of life to be relished, and it is easy to see why so many grand expatriates were drawn to it. Informal dinners overlooking the Grand Canal, not to mention the occasional appearance of a tiger, albeit a drugged one, undoubtedly made a welcome change from the comparatively restrained atmosphere of Mayfair or the Faubourg Saint-Germain.

Edward Gibbon on Modern Life: Boris Johnson, Covid and Herd Immunity.

The Incoronated Microbe, more Minuscule and Venomous than any observ’d or imagin’d by Dr Hooke, blew uncheck’t around the Continents of Earth, assassinating first the unprepar’d Italian, before it increased with aggression its Empire of destruction in America, and performed its Dance of Death amid the squalid Pueblos of Brazil. Though faced with a grim ledger of this Pestilential Harvest, and supplied with urgent warnings by August Physitians, the Prime Minister conferred fatal credibility upon his own Amazing confession, that he loved not Detail. Just as the impatient Rake, tiring of Sport that depends on the exhausting study of Probability, prefers to stake his mighty Estate on the careless throw of a Die or the facile turn of a single card, so Mr Johnson diced amiably and easily with the lives of Albion, allowing Corses like Debts to pile high, as the Fatal Game progress’d. And just as every Rake diverts himself from the run of Loss by the Imagination of Sunlit Gain ahead, so the Prime Minister built his own flimsy Temple of Delusion, a theatrical Folly that rested on but two fragile pillars: first, a notion that the Pestilence would blow over, like the tiresome Tempest that intercepts a walk in the Row, or a day with Guns on the Moor; second, a wicked Theorem that when the Microbe had destroyed such Weak and Expendable wretches of Albion as it could, the Hardy Race of yeomen that remained would be Impervious to future Assault.

For the complete Edward Gibbon on Modern Life, click here.

Edward Gibbon on Modern Life: Boris Johnson as Artist

As he cowered in the precincts of Lord Goldsmith’s opulent villa, the Prime Minister sought to replicate the Depictive endeavours of Mr Churchill, a Masquerade he supplied by investing himself in the rude Smock of a limner, and the plausible arrangement before him of Canvasses and Pigments. However, unlike the persuasive Pictures wrought by his most Pugnatious and effective of Predecessors, who routinely set to rights the ills of the Realm before unfolding his Easel amid the groves of Chartwell or the sands of Antibes, Mr Johnson’s Delineative Enterprise was perceiv’d by the Mob as but the Pictorial equivalent of the Musickal essays of Nero, who, as the Temples and Colonnades of Rome were swiftly reduced by fire to Acrid waste, strumm’d tunelessly upon a Lyre, oblivious to the anguish’t wails of his flame-lick’t Subjects. A crowded Tableau of unrelieved Despair painted itself upon the broad elevation of the Kingdom, whose shores the Principal Limner had so ignominiously fled. Mr Johnson meanwhile prim’d his Canvass ’til it was clean as the Whited Sepulchre, then sought to reproduce upon it the crimson harmonies of a Balearique sunset, with a brush dip’t carelessly in the lifeblood of Albion.   

For the complete Edward Gibbon on Modern Life, click here.

Edward Gibbon on Modern Life: Jacob Rees-Mogg

Though his father was but the editor of a Broadsheet and schooled respectably enough at The Charterhouse, Mr Rees-Mogg was sent to Eton College, where he cultivated such a lofty and disdainful manner of diction and discourse, that soon not even the most languid and elaborately-escutcheon’d Duke might touch him for Flippancy and Insolence. When he pitched himself against the flower of Albion’s Aristocracy, e’en Norfolk and Spencer seem’d but Ploughboys to this polished Paragon. As he sauntered toward his Faction’s yearly gathering in Manchester, with leisurely gait and supercilious mien, he was surprised there by a Mr Hutchins, that daily fought hard for the benefit of Poor men stricken with the Palsy, though he himself laboured beneath the ravages of that cruel Distemper. This enrag’d Invalid, in a most Terrifick and guttural diatribe, berated the Elegant Parliamentarian for the contempt he had oft express’t for the Poor and Diseas’d (a failing many had noted was audibly discordant with the strains of Catholic Piety that daily emanated from Mr Rees-Mogg’s luxurious household). Though Mr Rees-Mogg immediately stammered out a rosary of Mellifluous Platitudes and Patrician Assurances, they served merely to darken and deepen the profound Gulf that prevails twixt Dives and Lazarus both in Albion and the Hereafter, that seem’d vividly delineated for onlookers by the dramatick appearance of Mr Hutchins.

For the complete Edward Gibbon on Modern Life, click here.

Edward Gibbon on Modern Life: Dominic Cummings

Of all that advised the Prime Minister on the Prospectus that led to Albion’s fatal removal from the House of Europe, few were more learnèd or subtle than Mr Cummings. He it was that dressed the ravaged limbs of the Prospectus in deceptive finery, just as the agile Perruquier applies Ribbons and Paint to improve the haggard Front of an exhausted Strumpet. Following his Ejection from the palaces of White-hall, Mr Cummings turned upon his erstwhile Masters, vividly and honestly delineating, for the benefit of the Mob, the Chaos and Catastrophe that reigned in the secret purlieus of State, neglecting not his own Culpability in the resulting enormities. Yet so far from endearing him to the populace he sought to please, the disclosures served to dim even further his once bright Star. There are numerous reasons that urged this outcome, but two that should be especially noted by those who would gain the Confidence of Princes and the Adulation of the Mob: first, his learning undid him, for no Britons love (to lend delicacy to a Vulgar expression) one whose Posterior is too ostentatiously immers’t in the Pierian Spring; second, no men love a Traitor, even such men as vehemently despise the Persons or Enterprise that hath been betray’d. So Mr Cummings must for the while take refuge in the obscurity of his own exclusive Broadsheet, or perforce embark on fresh conspiracies from within the sanctuary afforded by the quiet staircases and quadrangles of the University.   

For the complete Edward Gibbon on Modern Life, click here.

Edward Gibbon on Modern Life: William Shatner

There is in America a Mr Shatner, a renowned Thespian of some ninety summers. More than a half century before, this Veteran of the Playhouse had delivered, to resounding and universal admiration, the role of a Captain Kirk, who patrolled the Heavens in a vessel ingeniously adapted for the undertaking of hazardous voyages toward distant Planets and mighty Constellations. In this fictive Enterprise, the Captain was assisted by a crew of resourceful Lieutenants, their task to avert the numerous catastrophes that scheming Aliens, the scaly denizens of inhospitable Planets, perpetually sought to wreak upon the general Order of the Universe. Having repeatedly vanquish’t these Reptilian predators in the course of innumerable adventures, Mr Shatner withdrew gracefully from the Stage, to a tumultuous cadence of applause from both Pit and Gallery. At length, the gentle twilight of this affable Personator’s years was enlivened by a communication from a Mr Musk, a powerful merchant who had built a conveyance aptly equipped for the exploration of the Caerulean Zone. He offered that Mr Shatner should with no delay ride skyward in the Celestial Contraption, an invitation to which the ever-intrepid Player most readily assented. The hour of elevation was duly set for Mr Shatner to be ceremoniously installed at the Helm of the Rocket. Mr Musk’s Scientific attendants having ignited its massy Engines, the Ancient Thespian would in an instant be propelled with vertiginous speed into the Heavens, there gleefully to marvel at the sudden proximity of the Planets, Stars and Meteors he had in his youth so skilfully delineated within the Terrestrial limitations of the Stage.

For the complete Edward Gibbon on Modern Life, click here.

Edward Gibbon on Modern Life: Police Corruption

Civil Order was maintained in those days by a general assembly of Constables, most of them distinguished by their Valour, and readiness to give even their lives in the cause of general Security. However, just as the Costermonger’s Barrow, glistering with wholesome Hesperidin bounty, might be poisoned by a single blemish’t Globe that lay conceal’d within, so also was the Constabulary contaminated by hidden and scheming Malefactors. These would place a desirable object, be it either a luxurious Pocket-Watch or a negligible Turnip, by stealth within their innocent quarry’s Hovel. Then, in the presence of marveling Witnesses, they would Theatrically discover it, feigning glib astonishment, with such dark Rhetorickal utterances as “What have we here?” or “Thou shalt likely endure no fewer than Ten Years Servitude for this.” Having convey’d their bewildered prisoner to the Gaol, such spurious confessions as they could not obtain by civil Interrogation, they would wrest from him by means of brutish Coercion. At length, the unfortunate ruffian would emerge from the Dungeon, wearing the crimson Stripes and sooty Contusions of undeserved chastisement. If challenged upon this by the concern’d Chaplain or indignant Advocate, the Constables would lightly say, “He hath fallen upon the stairs.” or “He hath by unhappy accident collided with a Door.” Further, such Inveterate Reprobates as had riches within their grasp, were cordially invited to dispense portions to the Constables, in exchange for continuing indemnity from Arrest. This shameful bounty the Constables would solicit not through outright entreaty, but rather through subtle observations, such as “I would winter upon the shores of Spain…” or “The Ruinous cost of Meat is redoubling apace!”

For the complete Edward Gibbon on Modern Life, click here.