24 APRIL 1936, Page 42


Current Literature

By Heinrich FeIbermann

The author of these Memoirs of a Cosmopolitan (Chapman and Hall, 158.) presumably wrote them for publication. Indeed, some of the chapters appear to have been published in periodicals during his lifetime. But there are certain passages which might perhaps have been omitted in the interests of his reputation, though not in those of the reader. A Jew born in the middle of last century in a Hungarian village, and given a strict Jewish education which included nothing but Hebrew and the Talmud, Felberrnann made his way into the best, or nearly the best, society of three or four European countries. He frankly treats the world as fair game, and is in love with his own ingenuity in mastering it. But it is a game played under " all-in " rules. The best story in the book relates how, by discreet borrowings from people willing to take him at his own valuation, he set up an establishment in Paris which he called "The Tower of Babel," and which offered to give, for fees varying from 50 to 125 francs a month, lessons in any subject from Sanskrit to the bagpipe. What the pupils thought about it, Felbermann does not record ; but he himself made his fortune. His principal title to fame in England was the foundation of that vivacious periodical Life, which he edited for many years ; and the pages devoted to this adventure will be of considerable interest to students and historians of English journalism. Among those who, in Felbermann's phrase, "passed through my hands," were Justin Huntly Macarthy, George Moore (of whose capacities he formed a low opinion) and the dramatic critic J. T. Grein. Anyone interested in the ethics of advertising in journalism will be amused to discover a hidden connexion between" John Oliver Hobbes," the famous woman writer of the 'eighties, and Carter's Little Liver Pills. Before we reach the end the pace becomes a little too hot. The reader's breath is so constantly taken away by these exhibitions of unfailing resourcefulness and unbounded self-assurance that he has scarcely enough left to stay the course. But there was at any rate plenty of the spice of life about Heinrich Felbermarm.