A family at war
Sir: Having been abroad. I have only just read the article by Lord Lambton on David Pryce-Jones's book on Unity Mitford (13 November). I have not yet read the book itself but, like Lord Weidenfeld, I am a Jew and a publisher and so might, perhaps, be allowed to express the opinion that the 'review' is as vulgar a piece of writing as I have seen in your distinguished journal. Lord Weidenfeld and I are rivals in a highly competitive business but it is never theless my opinion that he earned his peerage by working hard to become one of the leading publishers in England. I do not know how Lord Lambton acquired his title or how hard he works at whatever it is that he does when not mingling anti-semitic innuendo and personal invective, lightly disguised as book reviews.
After paying lip service to what he calls 'the Jewish establishment Lord Lambton proceeds to attack Lord Weidenfeld for all manner of things: snobbery, semi-literacy, having faith in his author's integrity and for being an inaccurate and untruthful representative of that same mythical Jewish establishment. It seems to me that Lord Weidenfeld (whose love of serious intellectual books is well known) should be applauded for having stuck to his publishing principles and resisted pressures from precisely that group of people to whom Lord Lambton accuses him of genuflecting. Naively, I would have thought that noblesse oblige might extend to the art of literary criticism as much as to the rallying of the hereditary clans.
I cannot help wondering whether Mr Pryce-Jones's book can be as trivial and inaccurate as all that if. after making these unsubstantiated claims, its reviewer concentrated on a vindictive personal attack on the character and social habits of the head of its publishing house. Perhaps the book hurts by truth rather than inaccuracy and Lord Lambton thought that making fun of the author, his father and his publisher would provide a useful smoke screen.
As the child of Jewish refugees whose presence in England is due partly to the lunacies of Adolf Hitler and those who admired him, and partly to the great generosity and hospitality of this country which received my parents in the 'thirties, I believe that one of England's greatest virtues was, and is, its ability to accept and absorb strange and foreign people of all sorts and conditions and to give them equality of opportunity and freedom of speech. I think that Lord Lambton's vituperation has abused these privileges and, in the manner of his doing so, denied them.
T. G. Rosenthal Secker and Warburg Ltd, 14 Carlisle Street, London W1