Page 114 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 18

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J
e w i s h
B
o o k
A
n n u a l
102
others were hissed.”3 How, for example, was he to understand
Ernst Hartmann, to whom in 1887 he had sent his play
Der
F luechtling,
returning it promptly as unsuitable,4 but performing
it unaltered at the famous Vienna
Burgtheater
two years later,
and subsequently fifteen times over a period of ten years?5 While
unable to understand such metamorphoses, he found his own
cure for their depressive influence on him. “There exists a more
powerful, nay even the most powerful anti-critic,” he wrote,
“that is the next play.”6 Isn’t all this also characteristic of Herzl
the Zionist, at first misunderstood, and appreciated only long
after the success of his efforts?
This does not mean there were no basic flaws in his plays, such
as the unreality of certain characters in some of the early ones, or
the overemphasis of this or that type of middle-class life in others.
Many of the contemporary newspaper critics stressed these flaws,
and subsequent biographers, in their references to Herzl the play-
wright, echoed their judgments. Thus Manfred Georg dismissed
the dramatist Herzl altogether, stating that “for us these works
filled wih stiff chatter and romantic pathos are barely readable,"
for their author “does not reach the line behind which art com-
mences.”7 So, too, Ludwig Lewisohn asserted that Herzl the play-
wright remained stuck in middle-class problems and could not
look ahead to a new world like others of his generation, for ex-
ample, Gerhart Hauptmann “of whose existence Herzl seems un-
conscious.”8 Lewisohn obviously was not aware that Herzl's
Fluechtling
and Hauptmann’s
Hannele
were performed together
on the same evening, February 11, 1894, at the Vienna
Burg-
theater.
Such generalizations make one doubt if either of these
writers, and many like them, have actually read Herzl's plays.
For it is now quite difficult to obtain copies, and I am not cog-
nizant of any library in the United States possessing any of his
plays apart from
Das Neue Ghetto .
Views like those quoted above
are uncritically copied from one author to the next, and live on
in an almost dogmatic tradition. They only confirm the necessity
for an independent original research on the “other” Herzl.
Having recently reread a great number of Herzl's plays in my
possession, I believe his comment on Nordau’s
D ok tor Kohn
ap-
plies, probably even to a greater degree, to himself. I would not
hesitate to venture that it was inspired by Herzl’s personal ex-
periences:
3 “Autobiography,” in
Jewish Chronicle,
London, January 14, 1898.
4 Hartmann,s letter to Herzl of February 7, 1887, quoted in Kellner,
op. cit. ,
pp. 68-70.
5 Dr. Alexander von Weilen,
Der Spie lplan des neuen Burgtheaters 1888-
1914,
Vienna, 1916.
6
Buch der Narrhei t
( “Book of Folly” ) , Leipzig, 1888.
7
Theodor Herzl : Sein Lehen und sein Vermaechtni s,
Berlin, 1932, pp.
20-21.
8 Theodor Herzl : A Portrai t for This Age ,
Cleveland and New York,
1955, p. 43.