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Candles in the Night: Jewish Tales by Gentile Authors

by Joseph Baron

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TitleCandles in the Night: Jewish Tales by Gentile Authors
AuthorJoseph Baron
PublisherVarda Books
Publication Date2002
SubjectGeneral Jewish-Interest Literature


It is important that the pathos and courage of Jewish life, the virtue and spiritual dignity of Jewish character, as delineated by brilliant non-Jews, be brought again and again to the attention of the public. It is important that Jew and Gentile alike bear in mind that the cause of the Jew—which is the cause of Humanity—has been championed by the choicest spirits on earth.

With this purpose in view, to keep aglow the candles of human sympathy, the editor has compiled nearly a thousand items of significant non-Jewish literary and historical expression about the Jew. This volume includes twenty-three short stories and episodes from fourteen different national literatures. The stories are of unequal size and technical merit, and their subject-matter ranges from the oriental scene at the time of the Crusades (Strindberg, Boccaccio) to the subversive infiltration of New York with Nazi propaganda in our own day (Hunt). The representative character of the collection could be achieved only at the sacrifice of any attempt at uniformity of viewpoint, style or mood. The main thread of coherence in the volume is the uniformly s sympathetic approach to the Jewish question, whether the Jew appears in person as the central figure of the tale (e. g. in Klostermann, Orzeszko) or remains altogether in the background (e. g. in Ewald, Huch), whether he is essentially endowed with spiritual dignity and vigor (e. g. in Jokai, Hallström, Dawson) or is primarily the pitiable victim of a cruel environment (e. g. in Chekhov, Villiers de l’Isle Adam, Cargiale).

The collection is representative in spite of the omission, for want of space, of many splendid stories, novelettes and episodes from the long novels of such eminent authors as Hans Christian Andersen, Vincent Blasco Ibanez, Guy de Maupassant, Thomas De Quincey, George Eliot, Victor Gomulicki, Luigi Pirandello, Boleslaw Prus, Walter Scott, Francis Hopkinson Smith, William Thackeray, and others. The arrangement of the stories follows three central motives: the plea for toleration (Nos. 1–8), the description of Jewish martyrdom (Nos. 9–15), and the portrayal of Jewish life and character (Nos. 16–23). While there is naturally overlapping in this organization of the material, and some of the stories may be transposed, there is this merit to the order: the volume begins and ends with the lighter and more positive aspect, while the middle section presents the more somber and tragic side, of the Jewish question.

About the Author 

Joseph Baron ---



Preface, by CARL VAN DOREN

  1. GIOVANNI BOCCACCIO. A Tale of Three Rings

  2. CARL EWALD. My Little Boy

  3. MAURUS JOKAI. How I Became a Friend of the Jews

  4. ANTON CHEKHOV. Rothschild’s Fiddle

  5. MAXIM GORKY. The Little Boy

  6. RICARDA HUCH. The Jew’s Grave

  7. ANATOLE FRANCE. An Anti-Semite in the Country

  8. THOMAS NELSON PAGE. The Jew and the Christian

  9. JOHAN AUGUST STRINDBERG. Peter the Hermit

  10. PER HALLSTRÖM. Arsareth

  11. VILLIERS DE L’ISLE ADAM. The Torture of Hope

  12. I. L. CARGIALE. The Easter Torch

  13. KARL KLOSTERMANN. The Jew of S

  14. ADAM SZYMANSKI. Srul—from Lubartów

  15. HAMLEN HUNT. The Saluting Doll

  16. ELIZA ORZESZKO. “Give Me a Flower!”



  19. STEPHEN VINCENT BENÉT. Jacob and the Indians

  20. MYRA KELLY. Morris and the Honorable Tim

  21. BEN AMES WILLIAMS. Sheener

  22. SINCLAIR LEWIS. The Life and Death of a God

  23. CONINGSBY DAWSON. The Unknown Soldier


I arrived rather late and the term had already begun, so that all the desirable rooms had been taken. I was told that I would either have to room out of college or take quarters with a young man by the name of Wolffert—like myself, a freshman. I naturally chose the latter. On reaching my quarters, I found my new comrade to be an affable, gentlemanly fellow, and very nice looking. Indeed, his broad brow, with curling brown hair above it; his dark eyes, deep and luminous; a nose the least bit too large and inclining to be aquiline; a well-cut mouth with mobile, sensitive lips, and a finely chiselled jaw, gave him an unusual face, if not one of distinction. He was evidently bent on making himself a agreeable to me, and as he had read an extraordinary amount for a lad of his age, and I, who had also read some, was lonely, we had passed a pleasant evening when he mentioned casually a fact which sent my heart down into my boots. He was a Jew. This, then, accounted for the ridge of his well-carved nose, and the curl of his soft brown hair. I tried to be as frank and easy as I had been before, b but it was a failure. He saw my surprise as I saw his disappointment —a coolness took the place of the warmth that had been growing up between us for several hours, and we passed a stiff evening. He had already had one roommate.

Next day, I found a former acquaintance who offered to take me into his apartment, and that afternoon, having watched for my opportunity, I took advantage of my roommate’s absence and moved out, leaving a short note saying that I had discovered an old friend who was very desirous that I should share his quarters. When I next met Wolffert, he was so stiff that, although I felt sorry for him and was ready to be as civil as I might, our acquaintance thereafter became merely nominal. I saw, in fact, little of him during the next months, for he soon forged far ahead of me. There was, indeed, no one in his class who possessed his acquirements or his ability. I used to see him for a while standing in his doorway looking wistfully out at the groups of students gathered under the trees, or w walking alone, like Isaac in the fields, and until I formed my own set, I would have gone and joined him or have asked him to join us but for his rebuff. I knew that he was lonely; for I soon discovered that the cold shoulder was being given to him by most of the students. I could not, however, but feel that it served him right for the “airs” he put on with me. That he made a brilliant exhibition in his classes and was easily the cleverest man in the class did not affect our attitude toward him; perhaps, it only aggravated the case. Why should he be able to make easily a demonstration at the blackboard that the cleverest of us only bungled through? One day, however, we learned that the Jew had a roommate. Bets were freely taken that he would not stick, but he stuck—for it was John Marvel. Not that any of us knew what John Marvel was; for even I, who, except Wolffert, came to know him best, did not divine until many years later what a nugget of unwrought gold that homely, shy, awkward John Marvel was!

It appeared that Wolffert had a harder time than any of us dreamed of.

He had come to the institution against the advice of his father, and for a singular reason: he thought it the most liberal institution of learning in the country! Little he knew of the narrowness of youth! His mind was so receptive that all that passed through it was instantly appropriated. Like a plant he drew sustenance from the atmosphere about him and transmuted what was impalpable to us to forms of beauty. He was even then a man of independent thought; a dreamer who peopled the earth with ideals, and saw beneath the stony surface of the commonplace the ideals and principles that were to reconstruct and resurrect the world. An admirer of the Law in its ideal conception, he reprobated with the fury of the Baptist the generation that had belittled and cramped it to an instrument of torture of the human mind, and looked to the millennial coming of universal brotherhood and freedom.

His father was a leading man in his city; one who, by his native ability and the dynamic force that seems to be a characteristic of the race, had risen from poverty to the position of chief merchant and capitalist of the town in which he lived. He had been elected mayor in a time of stress; but his popularity among the citizens generally had cost him, as I learned later, something among his own people. The breadth of his views had not been approved by them.

The abilities that in the father had taken this direction of the mingling of the practical and the theoretical had, in the son, taken the form I have stated. He was an idealist: a poet and a dreamer.

The boy from the first had discovered powers that had given his father the keenest delight, not unmingled with a little misgiving. As he grew up among the best class of boys in his town and became conscious that he was not one of them, his inquiring and aspiring mind began early to seek the reasons for the difference. Why should he be held a little apart from them? He was a Jew. Yes, but why should a Jew be held apart? They talked about their families. Why, his family could trace back for two thousand and more years to princes and kings. They had a different religion. But he saw other boys with different religions going and playing together. They were Christians, and believed in Christ, while the Jew, etc. This puzzled him till he found that some of them—a few—did not hold the same views of Christ with the others. Then he began to study for himself, boy as he was, the history of Christ, and out of it came questions that his father could not answer and was angry that he should put to him. He went to a young rabbi who told him that Christ was a good man, but mistaken in His claims.

So, the boy drifted a little apart from his own people, and more and more he studied the questions that arose in his mind, and more and more he suffered, and more and more he grew strong.

The father, too proud of his son’s independence to coerce him by an order which might have been a law to him, had, nevertheless, thrown him on his own resources and cut him down to the lowest figure on which he could live, confident that his own opinions would be justified and his son return home.

Wolffert’s first experience very nearly justified this conviction. The fact that a Jew had come and taken one of the old apartments spread through the college with amazing rapidity and created a sensation. Not that there had not been Jews there before, for there had been a number there at one time or another. But they were members of families of distinction, who had been known for generations as bearing their part in all the appointments of life, and had consorted with other folk on an absolute equality, so that there was little or nothing to distinguish them as Israelites except their name. If they were Israelites, it was an accident and played no larger part in their views than if they had been Scotch or French. But here was a man who proclaimed himself a Jew; who proposed that it should be known, and evidently meant to assert his rights and peculiarities on all occasions. The result was that he was subjected to a species of persecution which only the young Anglo-Saxon, the most brutal of all animals, could have devised.

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