Ludwig Lewisohn.

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Copyright, 1922, by


Printed in the United States of America
First Printing, March, 1922
Second Printing, May, 1922
Third Printing, June, 1922
Fourth Printing, June, 1922
Fifth Printing, July, 1922
Sixth Printing, August, 1922
Seventh Printing, September, 1922
Eighth Printing, November, 1922




PROLOGUE V . . . . . . ra 9








IX. MYTH AND BLOOD . . ... . 198

X. THE WORLD IN CHAOS . . . . 220

EPILOGUE . . . 247


The world is full of stories and many of the stories
are true. But they are not true enough. An artistic
pattern comes between the teller of the tale and his
reality, or a vague fear of stupid and malicious com-
ment or especially in America a desire to avoid
singularity. Yet, somehow, we must master life or it
will end by destroying us. We can master it only by
understanding it and we can understand it only by tell-
ing each other the quite naked and, if need be, the de-
vastating truth.

Some such perception and some such motive is in
the consciousness of every serious novelist and in that
of every thinker. But the novelist sacrifices to a form
and the thinker to a system. Each has had an anterior
vision into which he lets his facts and even his emo-
tions melt. And this anterior vision of a fable in the
one case, of a logical structure in the other is nothing
but a mask. For both the novelist and the philosopher
is only an autobiographer in disguise. Each writes a
confession; each is a lyricist at bottom. I, too, could
easily have written a novel or a treatise. I have chosen
to drop the mask.

It is not a simple thing to do. One likes to be decor-
ous. The folds of this mantle of civilization we wear
in public, and often enough, in private, are graceful
and accustomed. They give a dignity to the figure
that the mind may lack. But if no one will ever speak
out for fear of wounding his own susceptibilities or



those of others, this hush of cowardly considerateness
and moral stealth in which so much of our life is
passed will either throttle us some day or sting us into
raw and mad revolt.

In every other country men have spoken out in
prose or verse and have recorded their experience and
their vision and their judgment on this civilization in
which we are ensnared. But no one has spoken out in
America. We have not suffered enough, and man is a
timid and a patient creature from whom nothing less
than the unendurable itself will wring a protest.
There are thousands of people among us who can find
in my adventures a living symbol of theirs and in my
conclusion a liberation of their own and in whom, as in
me, this moment of history has burned away delusions
to the last shred. But how many will admit that and not
rather yield to the insidious fear of those to whom they
owe deference or money or a social position in Gopher
Prairie or Central City? It is a nice question which
must be settled in each conscience. I have done my




The city that I remember, the Berlin of the
eighties, was rugged and grey. But it had nothing
forbidding in its aspect, rather an air of homely and
familiar comfort. There were few private houses, but
people lived in their apartments in large, airy rooms
with tall French windows and neat, white tile ovens.
The streets were monotonous in appearance but ad-
mirably clean. There were no posters, no public ad-
vertisements except upon the pillars erected for that
purpose, the traffic of horse-cars, omnibuses and cabs
was orderly and convenient. The cabs, driven by red-
faced, loquacious cabbies in blue-caped coats and top-
hats, were cheap. My father and mother, though far
from rich, used them constantly, and I remember be-
ing driven for hours through the black-draped city on
that icy day in 1888 on which the old emperor's body
lay in state in the cathedral.

My earliest glimpses of beauty are characteristic
of the city. One was the windows of the Royal Porce-
lain Works on the Leipziger Strasse. With all the
exquisite sensitiveness of childhood I saw those won-
derful little figures and their porcelain veils and
draperies and delicately moulded forms. They were
so tiny and yet so perfect, and they thrilled me far
more than Ranch's equestrian statue of the great
Frederic or the chariot of victory over the city gate.



The latter were dutifully impressed upon me by my
father ; my mother let me stand and gaze my fill before
the windows of the porcelain shop . . . But the great
sight to me, which I never saw without a lifting of the
heart, was a certain public square. One walked or
drove through a short street in which, villas stood in
gardens; at the end of that street one came upon the
square quite suddenly. To that moment I always looked
forward ; the sensation was like the sudden crash of an
orchestra. For the square spread out with an airiness,
a fine and noble amplitude of shape and proportion, a
grace and majesty at once that I despair of rendering
into words. I have seen nothing like it since. Perhaps
it seemed finer to my childish eyes than it was or is ;
but I am willing to yield to that old vision as a true
one, since the seat of beauty is after all in the behold-
ing mind . . .

Beyond the square lay the Tiergarten. Thither I
was taken on many pleasant afternoons. And I can
still see very clearly the statue of Flora surrounded by
gorgeous flower-beds and the monument to Queen
Louise and the " snail hill" swarming with other chil-
dren and their nurse-maids; I can still hear their
merry cries ; I can still feel the stinging coolness on my
heated throat of the milk sold at the famous kiosks of
Bolle. But when I was four or five years old I would
beg my nurse to take me to the gold-fish pond. It was
generally still by the little artificial lake and I loved
the stillness ; the dark green f oilage was very thick all
around and the dusk fell early there. The mute dart-
ing about of the fishes seemed mysterious and soothing,
the stone benches were cool and strong and bare. I
felt in this spot without knowing it, the majesty of



places withdrawn from the cries of men . . . Another
scene of the great park I remember: a winter scene.
Bare trees and the frozen river around the Rousseau
Island and the gay scarfs of the skaters. And sud-
denly dusk and a brazen sun-disc black-barred by
trees. Then the swift early winter night and the gas-
lamps of the streets and the warmth and security of
home . . .

But the out-of-door scenes of winter that I recall
are few: another square and the snow-flakes falling
thick and my father and I walking across it to a Vienna
cafe where he played chess on Sunday mornings. This
is one scene. And another is our sturdy maid carry-
ing me from a playmate's house to a cab through a
blinding blizzard. And the third is the Christmas fair
long since abolished on the Belle-Alliance Square.
Twinkling lights in the frosty air, and booths noisy
and gay with cheap toys and cakes, and everywhere
the sharp odor of the fir-trees.

I loved spring more than even this the cool, vir-
ginal, gradual spring of the North. The windows
were opened and children reappeared on the streets
and great boughs of lilacs were sold. Have the Ger-
man lilacs a headier and sweeter fragrance than ours?
It seemed to fill the air and the heart; it meant the
winds of spring and people sitting in gardens and cast-
ing aside their cares. For the Germans, I can recog-
nise now, yield to the natural moods of the seasons.
Spring is to them still the spring of the folk-songs and
they would like to pack a bundle and wander out into
the land with lilac blossoms in their hats . . . My father
and mother took a cab on Sunday and drove in the
Tiergarten or else went by boat up the river Spree to



Treptow and there we sat on pleasant terraces and
watched the life on the water. Even then I loved to
see men and youths in their skiffs with bare white arms
and legs and paddles flashing in the sunlight and took
a deep delight in the strong, silent, virile rhythm of the
rise and fall of their oars. And my father gave me a
cylindrical box of tin and taught me to recognize and
gather a few of the commoner herbs and grasses. Or
tried, rather, for even at five my mind was impervious
to the facts of science and soon I carried sandwiches
in my "botanising drum. 7 '

In the summer of my sixth year my father rented a
house by a lake in Straussberg near Berlin. The vil-
lage was still isolated. You took the train and then a
stage-coach to reach it. There were swans on the lake
and a boat, sheep in the meadows and goose-berry
bushes in the garden. Over all a deep, brooding, old-
world peace. My father employed weavers in the vil-
lage and I saw them in their houses at the hand-
looms. It was a city-child 's first taste of country life.
And the crow of a cock across the fields or the bleat of
a sheep still brings to me a vision of the Brandenburg
country-side. When we returned to Berlin I entered
school and life became a grave and ordered matter.

Our home was a flat of seven rooms furnished with
more solidity than grace. Beds, tables and chairs
were of massive walnut and of a design so old-fash-
ioned that I see it returning into favor. All these
things had not been bought in shops. According to a
sound, old custom even then, I suppose, on the wane,
they had been made to order by a small master cabinet-



maker. Here lived my father, my mother, my maternal
grandmother and I. Nor must I forget the faithful,
kindly Kathe who was with us and served us until that
home was broken up. There entered into my percep-
tions, also, a janitor, his lank wife, their pale, blond
children. But these remained remote and dim.

My people were Jews of unmixed blood and descent
who had evidently lived for generations in the North
and North East of Germany. I have before me now a
picture of my grandfather taken in the sixties. Despite
the fact that he performed rabbinical functions to scat-
tered congregations in East Prussia, I observe that in
contravention of the law, his face is clean-shaven and
that he has no ear-locks; he is clad in the Western
European fashion of his day. He was a large man with
a liberal forehead, a humorous mouth and kindly eyes.
From old, half -forgotten anecdotes I glean something
of this character. He had much rabinnical learning,
but a whimsical contempt for the ritual law; his
familiar friends were the Protestant Pastor and the
schoolmaster of the village ; he was of frugal habits but
of something dangerously like incompetence in worldly
things. The power and intensity of the family belonged
to my grandmother, who was much his junior and who
survived him for over twenty years. It was she who
had run the primitive little factory that turned cotton
into wadding for the greatcoats needed in the severe
winters on the Russian frontier; it was she who had
toiled early and late that her sons might have an
academic education. They were grateful to her and
provided for her in her old age with a fine generosity.
Of intimate tenderness to her they felt but little. She
was a tall woman and a dour. She had strong prac-



tical sense but a tyrannical and gloomy temper. To
me she melted, the only child of her youngest and
of her only girl, and the memory touches me of her sit-
ting on the green rep sofa, glasses on nose, and read-
ing aloud to me the German fairy tales of which 1
never tired.

My father and mother were first cousins. Their
racial and social origin was the same. So that I need
not dwell on my paternal grand-parents of whom I
know but little. The mother (my grandmother's sis-
ter) had died early. My grandfather had started out
in life as a tanner, but had succeeded neither at his
trade nor at anything else. I remember him well, for
he was our guest on every Sunday. His white mous-
tache and Vandyke beard gave him an air of false dis-
tinction, for his intelligence was limited and his man-
ners clumsy. My mother treated him with gentleness,
my father with a distant kindness. For my grand-
father, being poor, had turned over his oldest child at
the age of five to childless but wealthy, relatives and
this uncle and aunt had been, in the deeper sense, the
only parents whom my father had ever known. From
them, too, came the moderate but real prosperity that
we enjoyed.

Other forms and faces are much clearer in my
memory a large circle of uncles and aunts and cousins,
all acting with a special tenderness to me as the young-
est child in the group. And chiefly I recall my mother's
oldest and favorite brother. He was a man in the
forties when I knew him, very tall and very stout. He
was his mother's son. But her imperiousness and
moroseness had been tempered in him by a fine and
trained intelligence and by contact with men and with



notable affairs. He had passed through the gymnasium
at Insterburg and then studied law at Konigsberg.
Thrice he had fought for his country, in 1864, 1866 and
1870, and from the campaign in France he had re-
turned with the iron cross. He had abandoned the law
and occupied a distinguished position on the staff of a
well-known Berlin newspaper. Punctilious and exact-
ing and a tireless worker, he showed the kindlier ele-
ments of his nature in a wide hospitality and for many
years his house in Berlin was the gathering place of
the younger graduates of his Burschenschaft and his
university. The letters which he wrote to my mother
in America in the course of two decades I am glad to
possess. The style is clear and expressive with a touch
of austerity, the contents unaffectedly high-minded,
melancholy (the badge of all our tribe) and warm-

This uncle had married a Gentile woman and for
years the marriage was a stormy one. But his daugh-
ter, a fair, engaging girl somewhat older than I, was
the companion and playmate of my earliest years, and
the relations between my aunt and her Jewish kin were
cordial and unclouded.

In truth, all the members of my family seemed to
feel that they were Germans first and Jews afterwards.
They were not disloyal to their race nor did they seek
to hide it. Although they all spoke unexceptional
High German they used many Hebrew expressions
both among themselves and before their Gentile
friends. But they had assimilated, in a deep sense,
Aryan ways of thought and feeling. Their books, their
music, their political interests were all German. I
remember but one phrase disparaging to their Christ-



ian countrymen. It was a curious one : " What can one
expect? The Gentile has no heart!"

Two scenes stand before me which symbolise the
character of the social group from which I sprang.
This is one : I am sitting in a half -darkened room and
my heart beats and my cheeks burn. It is Christmas
Eve. I look out through the dark pane and across the
street. Ah, there, behind an uncurtained window, a
tree with candles. Quickly I turn my eyes away. I
do not want to taste the glory until it is truly mine.
And at last, at last, a bell rings. The folding doors
open and there in the drawing room stands my own
tree in its glimmering splendor and around it the gifts
from my parents and my grandmother and my uncles
and aunts charming German toys and books of fairy-
tales and marchpane from Konigsberg. And my mother
takes me by the hand and leads me to the table and I
feel as though I were myself walking straight into a
fairytale . . .

And the other scene: It was my grandmother's cus-
tom, in pious remembrance of her husband, to visit the
temple on the chief Jewish holidays New Year and
the Day of Atonement. And once, on the day of the
great white fast, I was taken there to see her. The
temple was large and rather splendid ; the great seven-
branched candelabra were of shining silver. The rabbi,
the cantor and the large congregation of men were all
clad in their gleaming shrouds and their white, silken
praying shawls and had white caps on their heads. I
can still see one venerable old man who read his He-
brew book through a large magnifying glass. The
whiteness of the penitential scene was wonderful and
solemn. Then the first star came out and the great day



was over and in the vestibule I saw my grandmother
being reverently saluted by her song who wished her
a happy holiday.

Two scenes. But the first was native and familiar
to the heart of the child that I was : the second a little
weird and terrifying and alien.


My father's foster-father was a man of some educa-
tion and reading. Also an astute man who despite his
severe lameness conducted a successful importing
business from his armchair. His wife was a warm-
hearted woman, but incurably erratic and had ended
in hopeless madness when my father was a youth. It
is clear that the adopted child received great kindness,
was treated with indulgence or overindulgence, but
never received any rational guidance. He was taken to
France and Switzerland before he was fifteen, his
ample allowance permitted him to satisfy his tastes in
books and music and amateur scientific experimenta-
tion. But neither his mind nor his character under-
went any discipline. Thus he grew up generous but
wasteful. The bitter experience of later years cor-
rected that fault. It could not correct his over-
eagerness, his lack of intellectual restraint, his habit
of Utopian scheming, or the harsh self-assertiveness
by which he strove to deaden his own sense of failure
and insignificance. But neither could it impair his
beautiful unselfishness and courage or his tireless de-
votion to the things of the mind. In later years I
often found myself at variance with him in matters of
opinion and belief; yet in face of his unfaltering de-



votion I was always consoled by the thought that 1
have scarcely a sound interest in literature or philoso-
phy the impulse toward which had not come to me
from his teaching and from his example . . .

He completed the course of the Eoyal Realschule
at nineteen. He was too uncertain of himself to in-
sist on prolonging his studies at the university; he
already loved my mother and so he entered a well-
known house of woolen manufacturers. By this time
his foster-mother was hopelessly insane and his fos-
ter-father had fallen under the influence of an inferior
woman. He had no real home. And so his request to
be set up in business and to marry was readily granted.
At twenty-three he was a father.

I often reflect upon his tragic youth. He was only
a boy, crude, passionate, impulsive. He disliked his
business but dared not slight it. Upon him were the
eyes of my grandmother and of my mother's brothers.
Their scrutiny, I am afraid, was more severe than
sympathetic. The society in which he lived placed
great stress on dignity and seemliness of demeanor.
And so he tried hard to play the man and the man of
business. That, under these circumstances, he escaped
obvious disaster for eight years bears witness to his
feeling of duty and his endurance.

My earliest recollections of him are all of his hours
of escape from drudgery and care. He would sit in the
mellow gas-light of our sitting-room and read far into
the night. Or I would wake up and see him in the ad-
joining room, reading in bed by candle-light. And on
cold or rainy Sundays and holidays he would spend
hours and hours at the piano. He played most imper-
fectly at best, but he read his scores accurately and



with fine musical intelligence and his halting technique
did not prevent him from hearing all the grace and
charm of Mozart, all the loftiness and solemn sweet-
ness of Beethoven . . .

My mother did not come to Berlin until her father
died. She was then only twelve years old. But a
deep and tenacious loyalty attached her to the bleak
East Prussian village of her childhood, and for years
she was never weary of telling, nor I of hearing, stories
of those early days. Thus I know how the intense,
dark-eyed little girl with the very red cheeks of a
northern climate hastened, wrapped in a heavy shawl,
through the snowy dusk to afternoon school, clutching
a candle with which to light her form. Or how, on
other days, she went eagerly to the house of a super-
annuated spinster who had been a governess in gen-
tlemen's families to learn French and crocheting and
tatting. She brought from that old home, moreover,
a fine heritage of folk-songs and tales and sayings.
Much that I learned from her lips as early as I learned
anything I have found since in the collections of f olk-
lorists and students of popular poetry and song. She
was all her life, despite her Jewishness, her wide and
sad experience and her artistic tastes, a spiritual child
of the German folk. A hundred times, when her hair
was white and her heart worn with sorrow and disap-
pointment, I have seen in her eyes, in her whole self
arise suddenly a ghostly but sweet shadow of the
sturdy East-Prussian lass simple and deep-hearted
and of the very soul of her homeland.

Her education in Berlin was old-fashioned and lim-
ited. It was long before the days of the gymnasium
for girls. Yet within its narrow range the Hohere



T5chtersdmle had thoroughness. My mother's knowl-
edge of French, at least, was sound and extensive.
Her chief interest, however, in those days, was music.
Her alto voice was well cultivated. When I awoke
to the consciousness of art I found that I knew and
could remember no time at which I had not known
the words and music of practically all the great songs
of Schubert and Schumann, of Franz and Mendelssohn
and Brahms. So often, during my childhood, had I
heard them from her lips.

Her girlhood was not happy. The social environ-
ment was cruelly rigid; one breathed according to law.
She wanted to enter a seminary for teachers; she
begged to be allowed to learn book-keeping. But since
there was no need, her brothers decided that it was
unseemly for a young woman to work outside of the
home. When the dusk stole into the small Berlin flat
and she was weary of music and embroidery, she would
go out in all weathers and hurry through the streets
and let the rain beat upon her face intensely troubled,
rebellious against the forces that held her. Yet she
was quite helpless. For her strength never lay in
nimbleness of mind ; neither then nor later did she re-
flect closely; it lay in the fullness and richness of her
emotional nature. But she had been carefully taught
to distrust her impulses. She wrote verses and dared
not show them. Even so she was considered uncon-
ventional and shrank more and more within herself.
She entertained a deep affection for a young pianist
through whom she caught glimpses of a freer life. But
he was hopelessly poor and drifted away. She re-
ceived the most intelligent sympathy, after all, from
her young cousin, my father. They read the same



books, loved the same music, nursed their enthusiasm
on the same plays. He was reputed, moreover, to be
the heir of a very large fortune. Neither knew that
his foster-father, as a matter of fact, had lost many
thousands in the financial collapse that followed the
inflation of the early^ seventies. And she thought,
quite rightly, that money means liberty in the higher
and finer as well as in the coarser and more obvious

Once married, however, my father's crudeness and
violence wore on her; a moroseness in him which was
the result of the harsh pressure which he endured and
would not admit, estranged her. Again she was baffled
and solitary. Then her child was born. The tension
snapped. Into the channel of her maternal love she
poured all her passionate ideality, all her deep yearn-
ing, all her half -inarticulate ambitions, all the splen-
dor of her frustrate hopes. In the wild and tragic
munificence of her love she kept nothing for herself.

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