2'he Waltz Kings of Old Vienna. By Ada B. Teetgen. (Herbert Jenkins, 12s. 6d.)
Reviewed by WILFRID MORE LEY
I WILL not say that this book has come I too late, only that it is a pity it was not available a few years ago, when Vienna was still Vienna, and before the almost intolerable sadness which a Strauss waltz provokes to-day. We were just beginning to take Strauss seriously An England. His waltzes were at last escaping from the ballroom into the concert hall. her Fledermaus was rubbing shoulders with Mozart and Wagner at Covent Garden; and we were anxious to learn something about the man who had once set Europe on fire by his dance music, at the same time earning from his contemporaries, men like Wagner and Brahma the kind of praise the English had been taught to reserve for oratorios.
However, better late than never; and Miss Tcetgen has been good enough to give us in her short arid most readable volume the history not only of the more famous of the waltz kings, but of his father, Johann Strauss the elder, and of their predecessor, Josef Lessner.
HE"you have the whole story of the waltz told in English for the first time. I have few quarrels with Miss Teetgen. I think she exaggerates the position of Offenbach as any rival to the eider Strauss as early as 1873—Offenbach at that date was surely no more than a popular 'cellist—and of Waldteufel as a rival to the younger Strauss at any time; and she fails to tell the story of The Blue Danube as well as it ought to be told. Otherwise, the book is unexceptionable, and though Miss Teegen's enthusiasm for her theme is always at boiling point it never betrays her into fine writing or, worse, into sentimentality.
She is to be commended for keeping out the amatory tittle-tattle on which the manufacturers of film stories and the writers of radio scripts delight to feed. There is romance enough in this history without any such embellishments.
PERHAPS the most surprising impression the reader will carry away is the discrepancy between these men and their musics. It is among the happiest music the world has ever known. Were they ever more than surface-happy themselves, these two Strausses? Miss Teetgen makes us doubt it. They had never to wait for inspiration—it bubbled up in them day end night; they had the adulation of the world; they had at times all the money they could do with; yet neither could pass a cemetery without a shudder, and Strauss the younger was so terrified of death that when his wife died he rushed out of the house and caught the night express from Vienna so as to avoid being present at her funeral.
Miss Teetgen has been first in the field with a book long needed, which must now find a place in every shelf of musical biography, and at the same time can be enjoyed by the general reader.
!"--\ CYAAA Frikeff IN last week's CATHOLIC HERALD I contributed a short article on your recent book, Guide to Modern 1Vickedness. I am afraid that the article, written in great haste and after a very rapid reading indeed of your essays, scarcely did justice to many of the chapters where you diagnose the evils of our times and their causes with remarkable insight.
As a Catholic myself, and yet in agreement with so much of what you appear to have found out for yourself (whereas most of these discoveries were implicit in the Faith taught me from childhood) I was more interested in the violent antiChristianity which seems to me to sit so uncomfortably on the philosophy and general outlook which you now profess. I could only account for it by supposing that you, who have discovered so much of the truth, decided that you could safely go a little further and set up ynur own mind and judgment as the ultimate and sole arbiter of what is, what can be and what ought to be.
As this seemed to me to be tantamount to your putting yourself in the place which, as it seems to me, belongs to God, I was forced to conclude that, however wicked the world may be, you were, after all, the wickedest person in it. " Who is like to God?" as my patron St. Michael said to Lucifer.
But perhaps I was jumping to conclusions. On reflection I have come to the conclusion that It is not so much pride as a huge blind spot which accounts for your present position. And I owe this conclusion in large part to the reading of a little book by my friend, Mrs Bernard Wall (Barbara Lucas). It is Called And Was Crucified and is the seventh volume in a series called I Believe, edited by R. Ellis Roberts. It has only just appeared. T HAT I should have read this book I immediately after yours is a strange coincidence, for every page fills up the Immense gaps in your mind. I do hope you will read it.
It is not a treatise on Christianity, nor even a reasoned account of the effects of Christ's death on the Cross. There is no theology, philosophy or apologetics in it. I doubt whether it will make you want to argue. I would call it a very spontaneous and artless personal testimony to what Christ means In the life and mind of a very sensitive young woman of much more than average intelligence. I am not asking you to enquire into the authenticity of her beliefs. I would only wish you to consider whether your philosophy can find a place for her and the values upon which she sets the highest store.
I would like to know whether the existence of those values has ever struck your own mind. I would like to put it to you that, if you once allow for the existence of Barbara Wall's way of looking at things, then the Christian dogma and practice which you so airily dismiss have to be seriously considered as contributing a key that accounts for something which has hitherto entirely passed you by. And in accounting for this (hitherto unknown to you and yet, I think, such that you will appreciate it as something at once precious and objective when its existence is pointed out to you) you may find that they will also help to clear away some of the mists which still hang about your own philosophy.
NOT that Mrs Wall cannot make a point here and there that shatters your own views. Thus you say in effect that Christianity has never produced the goods. To which Barbara answers simply ; "Some people say that Christianity has failed. I don't know what that means. . . . Chesterton said Christianity hasn't failed; it has never been tried. I don't know what that nteans, either, for it has been tried and lived by thousands of people and has made them so adorable that one can hardly think of them without crying. St. Francis of Asstsi seas such a Person." Again, how simply she answers the common objection to immortality : "In talking of eternal life it occurs to mind that some people have thought how boring it will be to go on and on for ever. . . . Almost invariably this thought is expressed by people who fear death and long for this life to en on for ever— which SeentS to me strange. If I, in contemplating this life and its joys and the love I feel for people, cannot bear to think of it ever ending, how much less could I bear to think of life in heaven ever ending."
HOWEVER, it is not to these occasional childlike insights into what remains dark to the philosopher that I would draw your chief attention. It is rather to the chapters on Suffering, Joy, Freedom, and to the permeating theme of Holiness. Particularly suffering, for I think that it is here especially that your outlook is so dark and Barbara's so luminous, and your darkness throws a shadow over the whole of your vision, while her light Illuminates the places that otherwise lie in deepest darkness. Actually her chapter on Suffering is mostly quotation from Leon Bloy, Mauriac, her husband, Unamuno, but these quotations, taken together, not only come nearest to explaining the mystery of evil, but demonstrate the intrinsic impossibility of human achievement except in and through suffering.
You declare your belief in the objectivity of beauty, goodness. truth and happiness as the highest values. I put it to you that Barbara Wall affords glimpses of a beauty. a goodness, a truth, a happiness that rise to a higher plane and plumb greater depths than have so far occurred to you. You will have to account for their possibility somehow. I wonder how!
Meanwhile I hope you will read her unpretentious but magnificently sincere and sensitive little book—and I hope many others will, too.