Page 67 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 5 (1946-1947)

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Memoirs of Viscount Samuel
(Cresset Press) is of unusual Jewish
interest, though the greater part of the volume is not related to
Jewish matters. One of the most eminent Jews in Britain, who has
held the highest offices of state, who was the first High Commis-
sioner for Palestine, Herbert Samuel gained prominence in spheres
of public life other than politics. He has written on philosophy
and various other subjects and has throughout the greater part
of his life been identified with Jewish affairs, very closely so in
the past three decades. Besides politics, in which he continues to
be a conspicuous figure, philosophy chiefly engages his attention.
I t was his intention, on the conclusion of his term of office as
High Commissioner for Palestine, to remain in the country, some-
where on the Carmel, to pursue the study of religion, ethics and
philosophy. But unfortunately he was advised by his successor,
Lord Plumer, that it was not proper for a former High Commis-
sioner to remain in the country, though the Government at home,
one gathers, saw no objection to his remaining in Palestine.
Fearing some embarrassment to his successor, and always bent
on doing what is proper, Lord Samuel decided to settle in Italy
for some time to concentrate on philosophy, but he was urgently
called upon by the Conservative Prime Minister Baldwin to act
as chairman of the Royal Commission on the Coal Industry, to
avert the threatened strike. He accepted the position reluctantly,
out of a sense of duty. The strike was not averted.
Lord Samuel’s Memoirs are Jewish not in the sense that the
volume includes three chapters on Zionism and Palestine, chapters
of paramount interest historically and factually, showing his own
positive attitude towards a Jewish Commonwealth as far back
as 1915 when, as a member of the Cabinet under Asquith, he sub-
mitted a memorandum to that effect; there are many other im-
portant details throwing new light on the subsequent development
of the policy of the National Home. I t is of absorbing Jewish
interest, too, in that the author presents the background of the
orthodox Anglo-Jewish family in which he was reared. He
sketches, in a few sentences, some members of his own family,
notably his uncle, Samuel Montague, who became the first Lord
Swaythling, and others. He tells of his drift away from Jewish
orthodoxy as an “ intellectual” and somewhat “revolutionary”
youth, though never severing some connection with certain Jewish
forms. We see him in the intimate company of agnostics and great
lights of the Fabians, Bernard Shaw, the Webbs and other icono-
clasts. But gradually, he comes nearer and closer to his people