B. H. (Benjamin Harrison) Lehman.

Recollections and reminiscences of life in the Bay Area from 1920 onward : oral history transcript / and related material, 1964-1969 online

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University of California Berkeley

University of California Bancroft Library /Berkeley

Regional Oral History Office

Benjamin H. Lehman


An Interview Conducted by
Suzanne B. Riess


All uses of this manuscript are covered by a legal
agreement between the Regents of the University of
California and Benjamin H. Lehman, dated January 1, 1968.
The manuscript Is thereby made available for research
purposes. All literary rights In the manuscript,
Including the right to publish, are reserved to the
Bancroft Library of the University of California at
Berkeley. No part of the manuscript may be quoted for
publication without the written permission of the Director
of The Bancroft Library of the University of California
at Berkeley.

Requests for permission to quote for publication
should be addressed to the Regional Oral History Office,
^86 Library, and should include identification of the
specific passages to be quoted, anticipated use of the
passages, and Identification of the user. The legal
agreement with Benjamin H. Lehman requires that he be
notified of the request and allowed thirty days In which
to respond.

Benjamin H. Lehman


Born Mullan, Idaho, Oct. 20, 1889

A.B. Harvard, 1911; M.A. 1918; Ph. D. 1920

Assistant Professor of English, Univ. of Idaho, 1911-191*4-

Assistant Professor of English, Washington State College,


Instructor In English, Harvard, 1917-1920

Assistant Professor of English, Univ. of California,


Associate Professor of English, Univ. of California,

Professor of English, Univ. of California, 1928-1956

Chairman, Dept. of Dramatic Art, Univ. of California,

Chairman, Dept. of English, Univ. of California, 1944-1949

Phi Beta Kappa

Awarded Sohier Prize, 1911; Bowdoln Prize, 1920; both at


Author: Wild Marriage. 1925; The Lordly Ones. 1927;
Carlyle s Theory of the Hero. 1921T

Committee Memberships, Univ. of California
I. Administrative Committees

Building needs (Berkeley): 1943/44-1944/45, 1946/47


Drama., lectures and music: 1940/41
Fellowships and graduate scholarships: 19*4-1/42
Public research lectures: 1942/43, 1955/56
II. Academic Senate Committees

Advisory committee: 1945/46-1946/47, 19*46 A9-1940/50


Budget and interdepartmental relations: 19*4-2 A3-19*4>5/*4-6



Council of Graduate Division: 1926/27-1928/29,

Educational policy i 1 9^*8 A9 -19^9/50 (chairman 19^8 A9)
Honorary degrees : 1931 > 19^6A7-19^7A8

Library: 1920/21-1921/22, 1927/28-1931/32 (chairman
1930-1932); 19 33/3^-19 3V35 (chairman both
years )

Advisory Library committees:

Ancient and modern languages
council: 1936/37, 19 38/39-19^2 A3

Western authors: 1952/5 3-195 V55
Prizes: 1921/22, 1923/2^-192 V25, 1926/2?

Special committee of communication with the Regents:

Special committee of procedure for electing the
Committee on Committees: 19^6/47

Special committee on reorganization of the Academic
Senate i 1943A^-19^6A7

III. Committees of the College of Letters and Science
Council of the Humanities:
Executive committee:
Committee on Journalistic studies: 19 38/39-19^0 Al



Under a grant from the University of California Alumni
Foundation, the Regional Oral History Office has been conducting
a series of interviews with persons who have made a significant
contribution to the development of the University of California
at Berkeley. A list of University History interviews follows,
including an earlier group which had been conducted in cooperation
with the Centennial History Project, directed by Professor Walton
E. Bean. The Alumni Foundation grant made it possible to continue
this University-centered series, of which this manuscript is a

The Regional Oral History Office was established to tape
record autobiographical interviews with persons prominent in
recent California history. The Office is under the administrative
supervision of the Director of the Bancroft Library.

Willa Baum

Head, Regional Oral

History Office

15 July 1968

Regional Oral History Office
Room 486 The Bancroft Library
University of California
Berkeley, California


Interviews in the University History Series which have been
completed by the Regional Oral History Office. These are listed
in order of completion.


Shields, Peter J. Reminiscences . 195^
Woods, Baldwin M. University of California Extension. 1957

Stevens, Frank C. Forty Years in the Office of the President,

University oT~CaTTf ornia, TZJO^T^T. F^

Birge, Raymond Thayer Raymond Thayer Dli-p.e, Physicist. I960

Chaney, Ralph Works Ralph V. orks Chaney, Ph.JD., Paleobotanist,

Conservat lonTst . l"

Porter, Robert Langley

Robert Langley Porter, Physician, Teacher,
and GuaFdlan of "the Public Health. I960

Treadway, Walter Correspondence and Papers on Langley

Porter Clinic ~. (^ound into Langley Porter
interview. )

Waring, Henry C. Henry . Waring on University Extension. I960

Neuhaus, Eugen Reminiscences; Bay Area Art and the

University of California Art Department . 196!

Sproul, Ida Wittschen Duty, Devotion and De 1 i ght iri the President s

House, University of California. 1961

Hutchison, Claude B. The College of Agriculture, University p_f

CaTifornia, 1^22-195^ T9"62

Mer-ritt, Ralph P. After Me Cometh a_ Builder, the Recollections

of RalpR Palmer Merritt . 1962

Mitchell, Lucy Sprague

Pioneering in Education. 1962

Neylan, John Francis Politics, Law, and the University of California.


Richardson, Leon J. Berkeley Culture, University of California

Highlights, and "University ExlTonslon,

Leasing, Ferdinand D. Early Years. 1963

Olney, Mary McLean Oakland, Berkeley, and the University o

California, lcJOO- ~~

Pepper, Stephen C. Art and Philosophy at the University of

CaTirorni a , 1 9 1 9 To 19o2T 1963

Wurster, William Wilson

College of Environmental Design, University
of California, Campus Planning, and
TTrchltectural Practice . IS b^

Lenzen, Victor K. Physics and Philosophy.

Meyer, Karl F. Medical Research and Public Health. In process


Interviews fully or partially funded by the University of
California Alumni Foundation.

Cross, Ira Brown Portrait o_f_ an Hconomics Professor. 196?

Cruess, William V. A Half Century in Food and Wine Technology.


Davidson, Mary Blossom

The Dean of Women and the Importance of
?Eudents . 1967

Hamilton, Brutus Student Athletics and the Voluntary Discipline.

Wessels, Glenn A. Education of ari Artist. 196?

Witter, Jean C. The University, the Community and the

LlTeblood of Busines sT 1968

Elaisdell, Allen C. Foreign Students and the Berkeley Inter

national House,

Evans, Clinton W. California Athlete, Coach, Administrator,

Ambassador. 196U

Ebright, Carroll "Ky" California Varsity and Olympics Crew

Coach. ~

Hays, William Charles Order, Taste, and Grace in Architecture.

Lehman, Benjamin H. Recollections and Reminiscences of Life

in the Bay Area from 1920 Onward. 1969

Underhill, Robert M. University of California Lands, Finances,

and Investmerits~I


Corley, James V. Serving the University In Sacramento.

In process.

Dennes, William R. Philosophy and the University Since

1915 In process.

Donnelly, Ruth On housing for students. In process.

Johnston, Marguerite Kulp

Student Housing, Welfare, and the ASUC,
In process.

Mixer, Joseph R. On housing for students. In process.

Towle, Katherine A. On the Office of the Dean of Students.

In process.



The following interviews have been completed by the Regional Oral History
Office, a department of The Bancroft Library. The Regional Oral History
Office was established to tape-record autobiographical interviews with
persons who have contributed significantly to the development of the West.
The Office, headed by Willa Baum, is under the administrative supervision
of the director of The Bancroft Library. Interviews are listed in order
of completion.

Macky, E. Spencer

and Constance Reminiscences 1954

Siegriest, Louis B.

and Lundy Reminiscences 1954

Hagemeyer, Johan Photographer 1956

Coggins, Herbert L. Herbert Coggins: From Horatio Alger to Eugene Debs


Norris, Kathleen An Interview with Kathleen Norris 1959

Morley, Grace L. McCann Art, Artists, Museums, and the San Francisco

Museum of Art 1960

Cunningham, Imogen Portraits. Ideas, and Design 1961

Neuhaus , Eugen Bay Area Art and the University of California Art

Department 1961

Pepper, Stephen C. Art and Philosophy at the University of California,

1919-1962 1963

Graves, Roy D. Photograph Collection 1964

Lewis, Oscar Literary San Francisco 1965

Brother Antoninus Poet, Printer, and Religious 1966

Turner, Ethel Duffy Writers and Revolutionists 1967

Wessels, Glenn Education of an Artist 1967

Lange, Dorothea The Making of a Documentary Photographer 1968

Lehman, Benjamin Recollections and Reminiscences of Life in the

Bay Area from 1920 Onward 1969

Martinez, Elsie Whitaker San Francisco Bay Area Writers and Artists 1969
Sara Bard Field Wood Poet and Suffragist in Process



Advisors and

Time and
Setting of the

Benjamin H. Lehman was approached to be
Interviewed In April 1959* at the suggestion
of Professor Walton E. Bean of the Department
of History and Professor James Hart of the
Department of English. The interviews were
to be directed at gathering information about
Bay Area artists and writers, and recent
University history, because Professor Bean
was compiling a history to appear In centennial
year 1969. However, the interviews were put
off for a few years and when, in May 196^, Mr.
Lehman agreed to begin with Interviewer Mrs.
Amelia Pry, after two interviews it was
decided that Mrs. Suzanne Riess, because of
her recent interviewing work in related fields,
could more appropriately Interview Mr. Lehman
on Bay Area and University cultural history.

The dates of the interviews with Mr. Lehman
were May 1, May 2?, August 8, August 25,
September 23, 196^; January 29, 1965; June 23,
June 30 July 7, August 19, September 1,
November 10, December 15, 1966; May 1, May 2?,
1968. The several hiatuses in interviewing
were variously caused by trips to the East
and to Palm Desert by Mr. Lehman; and to the
maternity ward twice by Mrs. Riess.

The interviews were held at "Hayfield House,"
the Lehman residence in Saratoga. Although
Mr. Lehman often comes to the Berkeley campus,
when he does the pressure of the University
roles he fills is great, as it always was.
So, the decision to interview in Saratoga was
felicitous, both for Mr. Lehman, who was more
comfortable there, and certainly for the
interviewer, who was often made a lunch
guest in a lovely home.

To be met at the car by Mr. Lehman, coming
out hatted into the heat of a Saratoga
morning, was to enter into a world that was
always a pleasure to visit. After the grinding


noise and Industry of freeway Oakland and San
Leandro, and after the stretch of farmland
that is the future scene of a hundred new
tracts, one rounds the bend to San Jose and
heads West toward the pass over the Santa
Cruz mountains. Just before the climb are
Los Gatos and Saratoga. Up a great pear-tree-
lined drive, and briefly hidden by enormous
oleanders, is Hayfleld House. Julia Morgan
designed the house for Mrs. Lehman, and the
grandness of its location, and its great
fireplace and furnishings, are set off by
many small charms. Enclosed gardens offer
alternatives to the tremendous outlook down
across the Saratoga valley and up to the Santa
Cruz mountains. Peonies and carnations and
delphinium stand like hedges in the midst of
the kitchen garden that is visible behind a
grove of old and beautiful trees.

The veranda, where we often had coffee after
lunch, and sometimes Interviewed, was a
sheltered place of lush begonias and the
screened background to a rush of hummingbirds.
On the inside, the house worked a magical
balance of scale. The entrance and flanking
dining and living wings were large, cool, and
quiet, and then around a corner was Mr.
Lehman s study, full with books to read,
papers, correspondence, photograph albums,
piles that were orderly, but growing. Here,
where most of the interviewing took place,
was comfort of a special and inviting sort,
and the works of art were of the right size
and feeling for the room. It s a good house
to visit; often there were grandchildren in
residence, and a grandchild s dog, too. Mary
McHugh, the housekeeper, was a pleasant
hostess when Mrs. Lehman was away from the

Conduct of the Mr. Lehman was concerned that when the roachine
Interviews: was on we speak to the point, and this meant

that although written outlines were not
submitted ahead of the interview, we did
discuss subjects to be covered for about
fifteen minutes before turning on the already
set-up tape recorder. Then it was, "Well,
Mrs. Hiess, you have asked why... 11 and Mr.
Lehman s very orderly approach to an hour s

talk would dominate the interviewing
situation. He spoke in ideas, in paragraphs.
My questions generally cut into a sentence,
but the thought was not lost sight of and
the sentence continued around the question of
detail or amplification that I had injected.

His reputation as a clear and instructive
speaker is well known, but in one of our
interviews he said, as we talked about his
central idea of "the image of the work,"

"I thought [long ago], when people
were beginning to write books about
my approach to the novel and afterwards
dedicating the books to me but still
they were my ideas I thought that I
would get a stenotypist to take down the
lectures that explored and exhibited
works of fiction in the light of the
approach that I was making. When I got
the stenotyped manuscript, I thought,
My God, do I talk like that, all that
thin, thin stuff? 1 Then I realized that
a lecture has to be thinned down, as
distinguished from a seminar discussion,
because the undergraduates would not pick
up what you have to say if you made it
as compact as you make it for graduate
students. But I always thought that
what went on paper should be more compact
and have greater intellectual density.

"I often wondered whether Lionel
Trilling, when he got on the platform for
a lecture to students, weighed every phrase
and indeed every word and kept the
sensitivity which his published writing
has. I discovered that what I did in the
lecture hall was far thinner than what I
wrote when I sat down to say on paper what
I had said with the voice in the lecture
room. This is partly because the student
body cannot be counted on to take it in if
it is as compact and dense as you write
it. It is partly also because you have
an intuitive sense that personality and
voice are filling in where the actual
verbal thinness occurs. You yourself are
part of the lecture. The intonation


expresses your sense of excitement or
amusement or Irony in the words, so that
the words don t have to carry it all. It
may well be that even a laugh on your part
Is part of the lecture.

"When I was lecturing in Wheeler
Auditorium on The Bible as Literature, or
The Novel, and the auditorium was full,
a report verbatim of what I said was not
enough to Justify this congregation.
There was something else too, a communicated
sense of mental excitement, perhaps of
temperamental recognitions; these things
all are a part of it."

I asked him then, "And you feel that this
manuscript is thin in this way too?"

He said, "Yes, it doesn t seem to me to be
fully true."

This sort of disclaimer seems necessary to
many interviewees. He was concerned that the
manuscript was thin; he would be distressed
that a session was Just an hour of names and
that he didn t have time to give to the name
all the body and substance he wished it to
have. But beyond this, he understood the
needs of the Oral History Project and didn t
allow his ego as a writer and lecturer (and
later as his own editor) to swamp the
conversational and associative quality of the

Editing: The manuscript, as edited by the interviewer,

was sent to Mr. Lehman for editing in April
196? and completed by him in the spring of
1968. Editing by the Interviewer meant
punctuating and paragraphing to clarify the
structure of the sessions that was given by
Mr. Lehman but sometimes lost in transcription.
Some sections were shifted, for chronological
reasons, making the early autobiographical
material appear first; and to pull together
the last two chapters, "On Being English
Department Chairman, " and "On Writing and on
Living." Mr. Lehman s comments and corrections
were few, his editing was very light, mostly


in response to spelling and factual queries,
although he did wish to do the final May 1968
interview to add to the loyalty oath section
and to expand some other answers. (The May
1968 date is indicated in brackets.) Proof
reading was done by Mr. James Slsson of The
Bancroft Library.

Suzanne B. Riess

l+ June 1969

Regional Oral History Office
486 The General Library
University of California
Berkeley, California








Migration of the Lehman and Lflvinger Families 1

European Cultural Heritage 3

Adjustments to Living In Idaho and Philadelphia 6

Schooling and Entry Into Harvard 11

HARVARD, 1907-1911 *5

George Santayana 15

Joslah Royoe 17

Charles Townsend Copeland s Course In Composition 18

Other Teaching Personalities 21
The Class of 1911

Cambridge and the World 30




Marlon Randall Parsons 46

Bertha Pope Damon 47

Elizabeth Warder Ellis 48

Albert Bender 52

Mrs. William Penman 58

Differences Among the Social Groups 62

Benjamin Lehman, Berkeleyan 66

The Husbands 68

Rainy Night Club 71

Musical Experiences 73

The Duncan McDuffies 76

The Lordly Ones 78


Social and Working Life, Then and Now 81

Summer Sessions and Why They Throve 90

Jessica Peiiotto. the Adolph Millers, and Others 95

Gifts from the East: The Visitors 102

The Retirement Dinners: Summing-Ups 106


Introduction to Los Gatos and Carmel 109

Financial Aid to Artists 111

Charles Erskine Scott Wood and Sara Bard Field 113

Robinson Jeffers 116

A Guest at San Simeon, and Meetings with the

Grand Duchess 123


The Sullivan-Phelan Family Background 134
Living Abroad and Studying Voioe

Comments on Sullivan s Interests as a Calif ornlan

Personal and Religious Life l6l



Getting it Started 181

Pre-Department History of Theater in the Area 189

The Years as Chairman 19^

Benjamin Lehman and the Theater 197


English Department Curriculum and Comparative

Literature Course 201

The Library Committee 20?

The Novel Course and English 4l 218

Ph.D. Candidates and "The Image of the Work" 222

Budget Committee 236

The University s Reputation Grows 24?

The President s Advisory Committee 251


Regent John Francis Neylan and the Oath Proposal 259
"Loyalty." "Academic Freedom." and Feelings in 19^9 26?

President Robert Gordon Sproul and the Oath 2?6
Controller James Corley and the Oath

Benjamin Lehman and the Oath 283







The Migration of the Lehman and LoVinger Families

Lehman: I was born in a mining camp in northern Idaho.
Nobody s place of birth could have been more
accidental. My mother was a European, of a dis
tinguished family. She had been born in Ulm, on
the Danube Hannah LoVinger. She grew up in a house
on the Donaustrasse which had been a monastery and
was acquired a couple of generations back by her
family. She was the sixth of eight children; the
four oldest were sons, the four youngest daughters.

Of those eight children, only one remained in
Germany. The failure of the revolutions in 18^8 and
conditions in the 1880s had apparently disillusioned
the four brothers. In any case, they didn t like
what they foresaw to be the militarism of Germany,
and they all came to America. The two oldest came
first as travelers, to look the ground over, and
then after a year s return to Germany, they migrated,
setting themselves up in different cities one in
Chicago, one in Pittsburgh, one in Sioux City, and
one, an unmarried one, went on, I believe, to Australia
and was more or less out of touch with the family

The sisters traveled in America after the
brothers were settled here, visited a cousin by
marriage in Newark, New Jersey, and returned to
Europe. The eldest one then married there and
remained; she had ten sons, who were in the First
World War to make a very sorrowful element in the
lives of their aunts in America whose sons served
on the American side, while the German- cousins
fought on the German side.

My mother s return led to more travel. She had
an uncle, the father of Judge LCvinger of Minneapolis,
and the grandfather of the Lee Lflvinger who has
lately been Associate Attorney General in the present
Cabinet. She visited this uncle first, and then went

Lehman: on to visit her oldest brother, who had made Invest
ments in mines in northern Idaho. She knew nothing
about the climate, and In October of 1888 she
entered from Thompson Falls, on the Great Northern
Hallway, over the Glidden Pass into the mining town
of Burke, her brother s postal address. Burke had.
in it no woman who wasn t living under a sign of a
red light. This dismaying circumstance resulted
in her sending for her brother, who came to get her
from Murray, Idaho, and she spent November with him
there and there met again the man who became my
father, who had two years earlier been a guest in
her father s house in Ulm.

He [Abe Lehman] had gone abroad with his mother
for a year to travel; he was a cripple and couldn t
dance. His mother had a letter of introduction to
my Grandfather Lflvinger in Ulm, and sent it round
from the hotel and was invited that evening to an
already planned ball. The boy who couldn t dance
elicited the sympathy of the most sympathetic of the
four daughters of the house, who didn t herself dance
that night but saw that he was sufficiently entertained,
The next day the boy and his mother disappeared to
Munich and Vienna and Rome, and back to New York.

The daughter didn t see him again until she
ran into him by chance in northern Idaho, where he
was "pioneering," without any responsibility, on his
mother s income, or on allowances made by his mother.
They met again in November or early December of 1888,
and were married on the 19th of January, in Delta,
a mining town a couple of miles from Murray that has
completely vanished. I was born in Mullan, a few
miles south, in October of that year. Another son
a year later, and a daughter a year and a half later,
caused my Grandmother Lehman from New York to call a
halt to all this magnificent pseudo-pioneering. No
more allowances.

My father persuaded her to send him back to
school he d never gone to college. He went to
Philadelphia, enrolled in veterinary medicine,
graduated first in his class, then enrolled in human
medicine, graduated first in his class, in 1898, and
then we came back to Idaho where he practiced. It s
more exact to say that he practiced now and then, and
mostly rode horseback in the hills.

Fry: It sounds like a pretty unusual life.

Lehman: Well, It was peculiar simply In that we were

Europeans and New Yorkers In a mining camp. We had
books, such music as was then available on cylinders;
we had the report of life in Europe at the fireside.
In some ways we would not have had any different
life if we d been living in New York. Occasionally
a play came through, and we were always taken to the

Online LibraryB. H. (Benjamin Harrison) LehmanRecollections and reminiscences of life in the Bay Area from 1920 onward : oral history transcript / and related material, 1964-1969 → online text (page 1 of 29)