You surely know the verse of Robert Burns: “Oh, what a gift the giftie give us, to see ourselves as others see us,” a verse evidently implying that we can gain true self-knowledge, the aim of the Greek philosopher, only when we behold ourselves mirrored in the clear glass of other minds.
Of course, it has to be a clear glass, a glass undimmed by prejudice, undistorted by hatred and envy. Otherwise the mirrored picture will not be a true revelation, but merely a caricature such as one sees sometimes in trick-mirrors, either distressingly elongated or hideously squashed. Only a straight mirror gives a straight picture.
Jews have suffered greatly from the fact that the mental mirrors in which their personal and racial traits were reflected lacked that necessary straightness and were faulty and distorted. Thus a picture was created which had no relation whatsoever to actual fact. It is, therefore, a real pleasure to encounter in a book a personality that is honest, straight, clear and limpid, and which mirrors Jews and Jewesses not as caricatures but as living beings. This personality is H, C. Bainbridge, and the book is called “Twice Seven.” It is a delightful autobiographical volume and in it Mr. Bainbridge has much to say about Judaism in general and Jews in particular.
Mr. Bainbridge is in a position to judge fairly and impartially. As a quite young man he did important chemical work for Dr. Ludwig Mond, who occupies in the chemical world the place which is accorded to Pasteur in medicine. Later, as a representative of the Russian court-jeweler FabergÃ©, he came in contact not only with crowned heads and the aristocracy of England and the Continent, but also with the so often and so much maligned rich Jews. What, then, has Mr. Bainbridge to say about our race?
He whole-heartedly admires Mr. Mond. “It has been my good fortune to know many great Jews, but the greatest of them all was Dr. Ludwig Mond,” he writes. “I formed the opinion that not only was Dr. Mond a Jew but that in him Judaism has produced one of its finest examples.” About Judaism itself Mr. Bainbridge says “The sanctity of everyday life and work…. the conception of Charity, Faith, and Hope as Sciences for everyday use instead of virtues to lead to heaven tomorrow, the influencing the character through conduct and not through emotionâ€”all seem utterly healthy and a sure way of turning this old earth of ours into the heaven it should be.”
Later he speaks of Jews in business lifeâ€”the Rothschilds, Mr. Charles Davis, the great antique dealer in Bond street, and gives instance after instance of the disinterestedness, the consideration, the innate kindness and courtesy of Jews. “Of all people,” he says, “I give the palm to the cultured Jew.”
Women readers will be interested to hear what he has to tell of Mrs. Leopold Rothschild, whose wealth and social position would have given her practically the privileges of royalty had she chosen to exercise them. Mr. Bainbridge says: “Whenever I think of the Rothschilds there comes to my mind one little incident: a barely opened door and through the crack Mrs. Leopold’s head. ‘May I come in?'” She must have known that the visit of a Rothschild client would be more than welcome to the representative of even the greatest artist-jeweler in the world, yet she did not sail in full of presumption but stood and asked courteously: “May I come in?” Mr. Bainbridge adds that this “May I come in?” hits off the Rothschilds to a T.
This, then, is the picture of Judaism and Jews if the mirroring personality possesses straightness, honesty and sympathy, and in reading “Twice Seven” every Jewess will feel truly gatified and proud of her race and its foremost representatives.