A Tale of Two Scholars
To the Editor:
Cynthia Ozick’s often enlightening article . . . , “Mark Twain and the Jews” [May], might have been less superficial and more factually accurate had she read my recent book, “Our Famous Guest”: Mark Twain in Vienna (University of Georgia Press, 1992), or even if she had perused my entries on the subject in The Mark Twain Encyclopedia (J.R. LeMaster and James D. Wilson, eds., Garland Publishing, 1993), or the Fall 1985 issue of The Mark Twain Journal containing my discoveries about Twain’s essay “Concerning the Jews,” along with Sholom J. Kahn’s excellent piece on Twain’s philo-Semitism.
Had she done so she would have learned, for example, that “Concerning the Jews,” arguably Mark Twain’s most cogently organized polemical essay (or “meditation,” as she calls it), has less to do with the Dreyfus Affair or the November 1897 language-war in the imperial Austrian parliament that precipitated . . . widespread anti-Semitic riots than with personal attacks on Twain himself in the Viennese anti-Semitic press during his residence there from September 27, 1897 until May 26, 1899.
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