Page 73 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 1

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THE PEOPLE WITHOUT BOOKS
By
Bernard G. Richards
From
1 9 0 6
to
1 9 0 7
—perhaps the longest year in my life—Jacob
de Haas and myself published a weekly newspaper called
The
Chronicler
which was chiefly devoted to the application of
democracy to Jewish communal affairs. The idea has since be-
come quite popular and has remained superbly unrealized. Our
struggling periodical also dealt with other related aspects of
Jewish life and thought, and we naturally gave some attention to
the budding English-Jewish literature of the time, which is still
trying to grow up.
In the issue of May
2
,
1 9 0 6
, I wrote an article that was called
“Jewish Neglect of Jewish Literature,” in which I endeavored to
show how the boastful people of the book were sadly neglecting
the volumes that were devoted to Judaism and Jewish life, as
was witnessed by the harrowing experiences of writers, publishers
and booksellers.
I then said, among other things, “Most of the gentile pub-
lishers who have brought out Jewish-English books, with a view
of reaching the large, intelligent, prosperous Jewish public of
the country, have been sadly disappointed. . . . Gentiles, on the
whole, buy very few Jewish books; and Jews buy still fewer.”
The Li terary Digest,
the most widely circulated weekly of the
time, which summarized and reviewed everything (and years
later was to die from undigestible political campaign figures),
was apparently struck by the novelty of the criticism and re-
printed the article in condensed form. The question is how far
we have progressed, not only in the purchasing, but in the actual
reading of books since the above criticism was leveled against
our people. The answer may emerge out of the subsequent
paragraphs before these observations are concluded, but I would
like first to recall something of the state of affairs in our earlier
little literary world, the books that circulated at the time, the
taste that prevailed, the fortunes or misfortunes of different
volumes. The members of the Jewish Publication Society were
still subsisting mainly on Graetz and were grateful for the relief
from the tedium induced by ponderous tomes of history that
was offered by Zangwill, whose
Children of the Ghet to
was then
brought out by the Society. Stories by Herman Bernstein, Henry
Berman, Samuel Gordon, Ezra Brudno, Bruno Lessing, Rudolph
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