Page 117 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 22

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L
el yv e ld
— M
aur ice
S
am u e l
111
This message defines him. He has been the best beloved plat­
form personality of American Jewry not only because of his
brilliance but primarily because of his earnestness. He has not
equivocated and he has been heard.
There is a special quality to the Samuel elan. He relishes intel­
lectual combat with a worthy opponent and he enters the lists
with enthusiasm. This is still true in his ripe and mellow years
when his sense of humor, his perspective and his compassion
have modified his indignation. As a young man he was deadly
serious, almost tedious at times in the tractlike repetitiousness
of his radical insights. When he assayed humor, bitterness turned
it into lampooning which, as in
Jews on Approval,
was some­
times cruel. He was an angry young Jew. He is still angry—
“A good hate is hard to come by” he recently advised a friend.
“Don’t give it up!”—but he is more controlled. In
You Gentiles
and
I , the Jew
he was the Jewish James Baldwin of the twenties
writing his own form of notes of a native son and speaking out
his unpopular truths. The assimilationists and cosmopolitans
hated those truths. They said that
You Gentiles
gave aid and
comfort to the Ku Klux Klan and sinned doubly by being both
false and “conducive to more anti-Semitism.” Time has validated
his thesis. Maurice Samuel has seen much of what he preached
come to fulfilment and even begin to show the first tarnish of
real existence. But as the mature spokesman of that same point
of view he has had to put up with its increasing popularity.
Rich Intellectual Experience
That he wrote out of his own direct intellectual experience
is attested not only by the insistent self-revelation of his works
and the brilliant capacity for spiritual autobiography revealed
in
You Gentiles, I, the Jew, The Gentleman and the Jew
and
in
Little Did I Know,
but is also affirmed frequently in so many
words. “. . . My life philosophy was not born of the objective
contemplation of historical records.” He has been able to feel
compassion as well as contempt for the alienated, for he himself
has been so profoundly “engaged.”
This is why he is a preeminent stylist—“beyond any question
and according to the most authentic fashion,” wrote Ludwig
Lewisohn, “one of the best prose stylists now writing English”
—for depth of conviction and integrity of style are inescapably
wedded; one cannot separate the man from the style. Maurice
Samuel is a magician with words, in descriptive power and as wit
and outrageous punster (“Marx rushed in where Engels feared
to tread”), but he does not use words to dazzle us. He uses them