The Lady in Gold

The Lady in Gold by Anne-Marie O'Connor

Book: The Lady in Gold by Anne-Marie O'Connor Read Free Book Online
Authors: Anne-Marie O'Connor
people“thwarted mydesire, sometimes violently. Those people have always said to me: ‘Be still sir! For God’s sake, be quiet! Find another way to make yourself tiresome.’ ”
    His listeners were astonished, and delighted—Twain spoke and read what he had famously termed “the awful German language.” They leaned forward to listen, as Twain threatened to reform German “so that when you need it for prayer it can be understood Up Yonder.”
    Among the guests laughing at Twain’s send-up was the journalistTheodor Herzl, the founder of modern politicalZionism and a friend of Twain. They had covered the Dreyfus affair together in Paris, in which a Jewish officer, Alfred Dreyfus, had been unfairly accused by the French of spying for the Germans—a case that was a cause célèbre of anti-Semitic scapegoating.Twain began his Vienna sojourn by openly defending Dreyfus at the salon of ardent pacifistBertha von Suttner, who would be the first woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. This prompted the anti-Semitic
Reichspost
newspaper to sniff at “the unavoidable Mark Twain, who seems to have no idea of how he is being mishandled by the Jews in Vienna.”
    Vienna would watch every move of the man the press called “Our Famous Guest.” The city of 1.7 million had forty-five newspapers, a score of cultural journals, and a dozen humor magazines. Twain’s appearances would be covered byStefan Zweig.
    As Twain socialized with the high society, he puzzled over the anti-Semitism of Vienna. “The Jew is not a burden upon the Charities of the State, nor of the city. When he is well enough to work, he works; when he is incapacitated his own people take care of him,” Twain wrote a friend in Vienna. “His race is entitled to be called the most benevolent of all the races of men.”
    Twain and his family made a highly watched outing at his friend Theodor Herzl’s play,
The New Ghetto,
which predicted that invisible social walls would prevent Jewish assimilation as durably as the old walled ghettos of days past.
    It could even be said that Twain influenced early psychoanalysis.Sigmund Freud was a regular at lectures of “our old friend Mark Twain,” though there is no evidence that they ever met. The therapist took notes that would turn up in his
Jokes
and Their Relation to the Unconscious.
Freud confessed to skipping the lecture of a prince’s doctor to see Twain brag about teaching six members of the imperial family watermelon-stealing techniques—an anecdote Freud used in
Civilization and Its Discontents.
Freud would quote Twain in
Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious, The Psychopathology of Everyday Life,
and
Interpretation of Dreams.
    Historians believe Freud was also influenced by Mark Twain’s September1899
Harper’s
essay, “Concerning the Jews,” which Twain wrote in Vienna. Why is it, Twain asked, that “the Jews have thus ever been, and are even now, in these days of intelligence, the butt of baseless, vicious animosities? I dare say that for centuries there has been no more quiet, undisturbing, and well-behaving citizen, as a class, than that same Jew.
    â€œWill it ever come to an end?” Twain wrote. “Will a Jew be permitted to live honestly, decently and peaceably like the rest of mankind?”
    Twain delighted his new Viennese friends by becoming mixed up in open ridicule of Vienna’s anti-Semitic mayor,Karl Lueger, through a mysterious mock letter, published in the
Neue Freie Presse,
and bearing the signature “Mark Twain.” The letter described a heated city meeting on the “Jewifying” of judgeships—the anti-Semitic term for allowing Jews into the judiciary. The letter reported that Mayor Lueger recommended tolerance of Jewish judgeships, which made the writer so happy he jumped to his feet and waved his hat in the air, yelling, “Long live Lueger! Long live the

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