Rose and Salomon Reinach and that Certain Special Something (Part 1 of 4)

Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

by Norman Simms (May 2018)

Alone Together, Malcolm Liepke, 1999

How and Why this Essay

. . . the Roman encyclopaedist Pliny claimed that mirrors reflected the shadows of the dead.[1]

uring my research on what eventually became three books about Alfred Dreyfus,[2] several unexpected facets of his life became clear to me: it was Alfred’s life that I was most interested in and not the legal and political matters constituting the Affair that bears his name, and, that being so, where and how did he find the strength of mind to endure the opprobrium and shame of the false accusations and then the punishing isolation of five years on Devil’s Island? It also became evident that among all the people who came to his support, the one solid rock was always his wife Lucie. Not only were they physically separated from each other during the years of near-despair and physical wasting way, but he and she could only communicate through letters they knew were constantly monitored, censored and blocked, that everything they wrote was subject to intense scrutiny by those who wished to find evidence—since it was really nowhere else—that he was a traitor and a spy, a “dirty” Jew who could not be trusted. 

Rose and Salomon Reinach

Through very careful reading, creative contextualization and midrashic analysis of their correspondence I found that together, husband and wife—and perhaps she more than he—created a sense of Jewishness within themselves they could call upon to shape a secret language of mutual reinforcement. It means that as couple Lucie and Alfred developed a kind of marriage that was most unusual for fin de siècle France, if it might be found elsewhere and at any time. But whatever it was that made them grow stronger together may also be what caused many others around them then to draw apart and today to misunderstand their relationship. There was a certain special something in their marriage that made them strong.

Lucie and Alfred Dreyfus in retirement

Then, over the next decade when I started to work on the two-volume study of Jews who thought they were assimilated and discovered they weren’t, who felt safe in what seemed like a tolerant and secular Western Europe but actually were not in a welcoming culture at all, I was on the look-out to find if the important men who came to be at the centre of the study were close to women who more than gave them active and cooperative support also forged bonds that mutually enhanced their own lives.[3] This special something (the je ne sais quoi) was there in Monsieur and Madame Dreyfus, and it lasted after the end of the Affair and the return of Alfred from imprisonment right up to his death in the early 1930s. This is a quality that many biographers have noted in the marriage of Marie and Pierre Curie, though their special relationship was broken when Pierre died suddenly in an accident. Despite some scurrilous rumours about Marie being a Jew, this couple did not fit with the people chosen for Jews in an Illusion of Paradise.

The main examples in those two volumes were, however, usually anything but the kind of husband-wife team the Dreyfuses were and more like what one comes to expect of nineteenth and early twentieth-century people, except perhaps with Collette (the good shicksa) and her third husband, the novelist Maurice Goudeket, a Jew she went to extremes to rescue from the Gestapo in Paris. Certainly that special something was not there in Bernard Berenson and his Quaker wife Mary whose relationship was fraught with domestic and professional difficulties.

For this new (so far untitled) book I am working on, I am looking for men and women who are basically nice (rather than nasty) to each other and whose bonding helps them achieve more than they might have on their own. They also should be people who are nice to others—kind, patient, generous, forgiving, helpful. I can respect many philosophers, novelists, artists and scientists, but I would want to be friends with only a very few of them and I am too old to spend precious time reading and thinking about the other type. Obviously, to find out the right sorts means research into the lives of those who are egotistical, aggressive, mean-spirited and cruel to their spouses, associates and others. I am not searching for perfection—human beings are all flawed in one way or another—but rather for good intentions.

My methodology requires the rejection of some truisms. It is said that language was created so that people could communicate ideas to one another, but it is more likely that languages arise to do other things, such as for mothers to reassure their frightened infants that they are close by even when they can’t be seen; or that words come into being both as qualitative supplements to noises, gestures, and movements that indicate awareness of things in the world, and that these more subtle distinctions—likes and dislikes, preferences and avoidances, memories of past experiences and anticipations or fears of future encounters—are to be hidden, from oneself as well as from others, the space of distinction becoming a ground for inventing metaphors, allusions and substitutions. This perspective on language in its broadest sense that includes all sorts of symbolic systems of thought and expression means that communication is fraught with tensions, with the need to assess and interpret, with drawing inferences and following clues, and with a constant readjustment to circumstances and relationship with the other participants in the game of life. We need to look closely at what is said so as to be aware of what is not said—and what it is impossible to say, imagine, remember or think about.

The reasons why information is not easily available about Rose Margoulieff Reinach and why she is not mentioned in essays precisely where her achievements fit are part of the mystery, just as much as why Salomon has fallen into oblivion for all his manifest achievements.[4] There are a few documents we will read about Rose where, however, we must not only read closely and contextualize, but also read symptomatically, assuming that small apparently trivial details are clues to be followed into the labyrinth, then fractured and fissured into particles or sparks that trace out unexpected movements into unknown spaces. We must do more than read between the lines, or look behind the tapestry to untangle knots of hidden connection, but analyse the materials out of which the silence and invisibilities are constituted. Then, since most of the published and unedited data available is about Salomon, we have to re-examine those bits and pieces of information as though they distorted mirrors of Rose’s life or inadvertent remnants of her presence in his life—tear stains, finger prints, impressions on a sofa where they both once sat.

Bernard Berenson examines a painting

Here for example is a passage from one of Bernard Berenson’s post-World War Two reminiscences from his home near Florence:

How I used to laugh forty years ago at Salomon Reinach’s when I saw that almost all the Academicians and members of the Institute I met there wore elastic-sided boots. I had no idea then as I have too clearly now that this saved those elderly people the trouble of bending to lace their footgear.[5]

Is this all that Bernard Berenson can recall about the man who helped him meet important French scholars and museum directors, as well as influential socialites? Later in his life Berenson was not so callous or cruel about Reinach. Could this silly comment be a cover memory for the failure of Berenson to fully understand the danger that Jews in Europe like Salomon Reinach could already sense was impending in the days when the Nazis were gathering strength? André Suarès, poet and essayist, could smell the stench in the atmosphere already with the publication of Hitler’s Mein Kampf; but when he expressed his misgivings and tried to sound a warning, he was scoffed at by his intellectual and left-wing colleagues in Paris—and, in due course, was abandoned by them as they rushed to collaborate with the Germans in the Occupied Zone and with Marshall Pétain in Vichy.

Berenson was late in realizing what was going on even in Italy, leaving an escape “to the woods” (actually to a friend’s estate close to home) until the last moment, with his mistress—and leaving his bedridden wife to her fate. Berenson was too much an aesthete, womanizer, and egotist to have his relationship with his wife or his favourite lover-assistant to count in his search for the certain something. Whenever Berenson recalls meeting Salomon, he doesn’t remember that Rose was there—or he only recalls that she was somewhere in the room or in the house.

It was Salomon Reinach who, in 1901, helped with the translation of a long theoretical essay[6] when the young Berenson, struggling for recognition, had written and who also smoothed the way for the young art historian and connoisseur a way into recognition by the establishment by way of a long rave review in one of the prestige journals of turn-of-the-century France.[7]  But that is the way it is, then and now. Once success hits, the recipient does not want to recall his obligations or to let others know such obligations exist. As for Reinach, he probably didn’t notice the ingratitude of this crass young man he had helped to launch into a new non-academic career in the art world. Or perhaps the older scholar chose not to make any fuss, knowing how thoughtless such ambitious young men could be. If he lacked resentment, it is likely that Rose saw the insult and silently smoothed over the hurt, something she would have to do all through the marriage. He had always been more interested in his studies and in what he believed in than in pleasing others or entering into controversies—though such controversies dogged him throughout his career despite his “très grand désintéressement” (his very great lack of interest in making an impression on others).[8] What his teachers and associates noted in his youth, that he was prone to illness (in adolescence a cancer on his face and since the age of twenty-five diabetes)[9] and melancholy (that is, despair and moodiness),[10] she would have noted before they married, during their lives together, and in the end when they were dying in the last years of their lives. At the end, it was Liane de Pougy who noticed some of the signs but in a strange way that merits close examination.

For all his artistic and intellectual accomplishments, for all his discoveries and bravery in controversy, Salomon Reinach seems almost always to have been someone else’s afterthought, a footnote, or nothing at all. For instance, the American-Armenian philosopher George Santayana wrote to a friend in 1927 that “I have also read Salomon Reinach’s Lettres à Zoé,” and adds that “on the whole [it is] less amusing than I expected. I suppose you have seen the book: a history of philosophy for young ladies.”[11]  Well, what did he expect? Reinach often wrote for children and women and his charm and wit are not directed at philosophers and their friends. But, then, Santayana was disappointed because he recognized how popular and generally respected the French commentator was. Nor did he notice that the more Reinach felt secure in his various museum posts and institutional memberships, the more he joined in Jewish cultural and charitable organizations. Unlike many others, he didn’t take success as a licence to hide his identity and pretend he just didn’t notice what was happening to Jews in the world—he certainly knew and it depressed him, and must have depressed Rose even more. If, as the record shows, Salomon is often interested in women, all sorts, prostitutes included, but not for their sexual favours, but for their emotional comfort and idle chatter, we have to remember that he was the youngest of the three Reinach brothers, the one they called Bébé (baby).

Alfred Dreyfus was also the Benjamin, the youngest son and child in his family, who, after the Franco-Prussian War, was coddled at home in the trying days immediately following the German take-over and then when only eleven sent to France to be brought up by his sisters. He was the only sibling not brought up as a Yiddish-speaker and was to grow up as a French soldier (his sister made the choice for him; he would have preferred to be an engineer). Alfred came to depend on Lucie, the same way that Salomon found a refuge in the home where Rose was the resident physician. When he went out to be with “the girls,” whether to lecture to women audiences at the Sorbonne or to visit Liane de Pougy’s old friends from her courtesan days, Rose was often there—again, in the background.

The Songs of Salomon

Pour les chansonniers de Montmartre, Salomon Reinach était l’un des frères Je-Sais-Tout, celui qui, avec Joseph, le secrétaire de Gambetta au temps du « Grand ministère »,[12] et Theodore, le numismate propriétaire de la villa Kérylos [13] avait remporté tous les prix du Concours général.[14] De bonne ou de mauvaise foi—de Zola à la presse antisémite—, on a souvent confondu le cadet avec l’aîné, élu de la circonscription de Digne,[15] et le benjamin, députe de Savoie.[16]

To the café singers of Montmatre, Salomon Reinach was the one of the three Know-it-All Brothers, the one, who along with Joseph, Gambetta’s Secretary in the time of the “Great Minister”, and Théodore, the numismatic owner of the villa Kérylos, had carried off all the prizes in the General Competition. In good or bad faith—from Zola to the anti-Semitic press—the older brother was confounded with the younger, the elected in the ward of Dignen with the other who was Deputy [to the National Assembly] for the department of Savoi[17].

Salomon Reinach (1858-1932), like his two brothers Joseph (1856-1921) and Théodore (1860-1928), was an assimilated and highly-educated French Jew,[18] that is, he and they were more involved with charitable and cultural affairs than religious practices. Like his brothers, too, Salomon was wealthy enough to be an art collector and connoisseur, particularly active in ancient and medieval art. He was the archaeologist, museum curator and art-historian. One brother Joseph, the lawyer, had become involved in politics early and was prominent in arguing Alfred Dreyfus’s case in the courts and later published a major multi-volume history of the l’Affair.[19] The other brother, Théodore, a well-known academic classicist, was also very much a Renaissance man—mathematician, jurist, philologist, and historian.[20] Michael Burns says of them, “In Parisian fin-de-siècle circles, the Reinach brothers were known as a trio of intellectual brilliance, and, for those threatened by such things, their success seemed, as one contemporary put it, like ‘an act of violence.’” [21]

José Faur, a Sephardic chacham (rabbi) now living in Israel, however, sees the three Reinach brothers as somewhat foolish in their attempt to be taken as part of the French intellectual establishment—to the point where they referred to themselves as nous Gaulois, “we Gauls.”[22]  According to Faur, this claim caused “the French public to burst into laughter since everybody knew that their family came from Germany.”[23] By Germany, of course, was not what we today refer to as Germany; there was no such country until 1871 with the declaration by Prince Otto von Bismarck of the First Reich. What is meant is Alsace[24] and much of Lorraine, as well as any other German-speaking principality, city, or territory. To be German meant a choice not to be French: to be German or French was a state of mind, an ideal of civilization, and a specific body of culture. Because of their territorial losses and the bad feelings left over from the War, especially the bombardment of Paris under the Commune, Frenchmen were sensitive to suspicions of mixed loyalties or even treason in these francophone Jews with German connections. Nationalism easily elided with a rising current of anti-Semitism, and both were associated with romantic ideals of the medieval Catholic Church and regressive anti-modernism—fear of rapid industrialization, international capital, Europe-wide socialism, and challenges to France’s assumed cultural hegemony in the civilized world.

Among religious Jews, too, there was discomfort and anger at what seemed to be a betrayal and a defection by many young people from traditional values, customs, and institutions.  Hence, the more serious charge that Faur makes about the Reinach Brothers, insofar as they represented other prominent and not so prominent figures in the ambiguous social spaces between old-fashioned Jewish community life and the new liberal, secular Republic: “In general they promoted the kind of ‘Jewish’ scholarship designed to please their French masters by discrediting Jewish values and tradition.”[25] If so, then they were, as we have indicated, in good company, as many of the great names in French scholarship not only were Jews of the same sort (assimilated, German or at least Alsatian-born, and distrustful of popular mysticism and superstition) but many who were not Jewish at all valued the Reinachs—not as their masters but as their peers. Except for Salomon who was often treated as a buffoon and whose tendency to adopt to Anglo-Saxon ideas and to follow his own enthusiasms made him seem like a socially dangerous character. When he proclaimed the need for an internal reform of Judaism, so that it would shed its superstitions, ritualism, and racist exclusivism, he was only declaring his adherence to the universal ideals of the Rights of Man and the French Republic and to the kind of Jews to which Napoleon I had granted full citizenship.[26] The Alliance Israïlite Universelle which Reinach had helped found and fund rejected him from continuing in its ruling body when he made his views on Judaism known. He did not retract his statements, did not back down on his principles, and maintained his efforts to make Judaism more modern.

From the Dreyfus Affair to the Affair of Glozel

Salomon Hermann Reinach along with his two brothers Joseph and Theodor came to the aid of the Dreyfus family in their time of need.[27] The more Salomon Reinach fascinated me for his way of turning up in all sorts of other topics I was studying, such as the way he helped young Bernard Berenson make useful contacts in France and elsewhere in Europe or the role he played in the Glozel Affair during the late 1920s, two things engaged my special attention. One was that, despite his attainment of high positions in French intellectual life, especially in regard to museumology and art history (prehistory and classical art), as well as history of religions, the reputation he had was always tarnished by disparaging remarks made by his peers then—and even now. He is seen as someone more interested in compiling lists and writing catalogues than in developing theories, and when he does deal with theories he seems to work within paradigms that, during his lifetime, were already on their way out of fashion. When Salomon entertained visiting young scholars and artists in order to introduce them to the cultural elite of France which his family’s wealth and influence allowed him to do, he was treated as something of a buffoon and laughing stock, not to his wife, to be sure, but in their letters and private memoirs. There was something about his personality and behaviour that put them off: what could that something be? If it was anti-Semitism, it was not the kind these people would express so openly or even obliquely about his two brothers, Joseph and Théodore—though the three were often referred to as The Three Know-It-Alls. This was a time when dislike of Jews was shifting from religious antipathy to biological hatred. Yet, here is what I think is a clear case of cultural or aesthetic anti-Semitism, something evident in would-be assimilated Jews like Bernard Berenson, that is, people embarrassed by their own backgrounds and therefore sensitive to aspects of Jewishness non-Jews were barely if at all aware of. The kind of attitude self-styled Catholic atheist[28] Maurice Cuddihy discusses in The Ordeal of Civility[29] is an illusion generalizing the anti-Semitic stereotype of the rude, pushy, and foolish Ostjüden to a universal figure—not for derision—but supposedly as a template for modern secular Jews. How off-key this “arch-goy’s” [30] version of American stage-Yiddishkeyt is requires not just a reminder that  until modern times half the Jews in the world were Sephardim (speakers of Judeo-Español) not Ashkenazim (speakers of Yiddish). There are also Arab-speaking Jews of the Mid-East, North Africa, and the Levant, along with assimilated Yekkars (which is how the long-gabardine coat-wearing Jews of Poland and Romania viewed the jacket-sporting German Jews) or proudly self-denying Jews of Austria and Germany. Moreover, the French Jewish community began in the Mediterranean towns and cities of the south and came, after the expulsions from Iberia, to dominate the cosmopolitanism of Paris, with the arrival of German-speakers after 1848 and Francophile Alsatians after 1870. All this makes it difficult to speak of the Jewishness of the Dreyfus clan, the extended Reinach family, and their friends and associates as though they were American East-European migrants from the Lower East Side of Manhattan or Boro Park in Brooklyn. The intellectual, highly-educated, and the upper middle-class circles in which the Hadamards, the Dreyfuses, the Reinachs, and their relatives consorted considered themselves part of an élite Franco-Judëité. Unfortunately, the anti-Semites continued to call them sales juifs “dirty Jews” and treat them accordingly. And Salomon often provoked their rage.

The War of the Stones: A Second Dreyfus Affair

Excavations at Glozel conducted by the official International Investigating Committee: Reinach in a double-bullock-drawn farm cart taken down the muddy slope to the site.

Mais ma vieille expérience  de la grande affaire me persuade que certaines gens ne se rendront pas à l’évidence même . . .[31]

But my former experience with the Great Affair convinces me that certain people will not even confront the evidence . . .

Another controversy that seemed to split the French intellectual establishment occurred in the 1920s, following the discovery in a small hamlet about fifty kilometres from Vichy of a series of brick chambers containing a medley of disparate objects—bone and horn carvings, clay urns, brick tablets, beads, fishing hooks . . . Amazing to all concerned was not so much the mixture of the types of find, which later C14 and thermoluminescent datings showed ranged from early Palaeolithic through to Gallo-Roman times, the site itself having been constructed for still undetermined reasons about 2100 to 1900 years ago; but the indication of some sort of “writing” on virtually all of these objects. Though the most recent clay and brick materials might be manifestations of some variant on Punic or Alpine scripts, that there would be an alphabet of sorts going back many thousands of years prior to the invention of such writing in the Near and Middle East about eight to six thousand years before the present raised a storm of controversy. Because it was only in the previous two decades that professional palaeontologists and archaeologists were in agreement that alphabetic writing came from Babylonia, Egypt, and similar civilizations, the discovery of a possibly much older alphabetical system—and in the heart of Western Europe itself—was an unacceptable affront. 

Reinach aggravated the experts by saying they were deluded by the “Mirage of the Orient.” He meant that modern civilization had many starting points, not least in Western Europe. This turned the tables on the anti-Semites who thought of Jews as non-Aryans, as primitive and superstitious Orientals who did not belong in the advanced civilizations. For Reinach, Jews were a classical people in their own right. People like himself were real Frenchmen because they were also like the intelligent middle-class German Jews, like the proponents of the Wissenschaft des Judentums (the scientific study of a rational, tolerant and secular Jewishness) and, without saying so explicitly, like the Sephardim who brought with them from Iberia into their own Diaspora the values of cosmopolitanism, multi-lingualism and aesthetic sensibilities.

Salomon’s Neighbour, Liane de Pougy

Solomon? I admire him, I adore him—is that friendship?—Liane de Pougy[32]

It has always struck me that what went on during the “War of the Stones” or the “Glozel Affair” was similar to the long and rancorous Dreyfus Affair from 1894 to 1906 but surprisingly very few historians have noticed this similarity. Only Salomon Reinach, in several letters to his neighbour Liane de Pougy, develops the comparison. Even then he does not make everything explicit about the points of similarity, especially the role of Jews and anti-Semitism as points of provocation and of Jewish ideas not always being points of irritation.[33] Nevertheless, we can read the Glozel Affair emblematically: it is another place where Salomon’s defence of an unpopular and apparently lost cause marks his defence of other things in his life, and also a phantasm, a comic mask for his relationship with Rose. Liane de Pougy listens to his complaints about the injustices associated with Glozel; she is bemused and does not understand. Rose must have heard the same kvetches,[34] understood the pains and humiliations he felt, and stayed close to him when others didn’t.

There were attempts made during the Glozel Affair, which went on from 1924 to the end of the decade, to dismiss Salomon Reinach as a buffoon. When he visited the site at Glozel, because of his age and weight, he had to be taken down the hillside in a small cart, and opponents of the validity of the dig mocked his awkwardness in the photographs taken of the event. Postcards and newspaper photographs played up the grotesque inappropriateness of this mode of transport during his visit. The real point, however, is that unlike most of the establishment archaeologists and historians who scorned Dr Morlet and Emile Fradin, Reinach both visited the site, did not trample down the artefacts, and attempted to put the new evidence into a viable perspective.

It should be no surprise then that Salomon came up against the Orientalist establishment in Paris in the 1920s with his questioning of the archaeological and philological assumptions of the men in the Institut des Inscriptions. For to them it was only western science and rationality that could discover or invent, interpret and apply the knowledge gained from ancient societies—not the degenerate and static peoples who came to settle on the sites of these sources of Occidental enlightenment. By that time, following World War I, much of the tolerance, geniality and openness of Parisian society had passed, as we can see in the intimate portraits painted by Marcel Proust in the final volumes of A la recherche du temps perdu. Proust the author, like his narrator Marcel, and the profound elderly character of Swan all come to realize in the course of the Dreyfus Affair and its aftermath that things were not as they once had been.[35]

It is therefore apt that the controversy over the findings at Glozel—which pitted Salomon Reinach against the French establishment’s man, the Christian favourite, the Abbé Henri Breuil (1877-1961),[36]—was called by many journalists and scientists a second Dreyfus Affair.[37] What makes Reinach’s discussion of the “Mirage of the East”[38] different from all the Nazi, neo-Nazi, and other New Right racialist movements today is that they try to stir up support for themselves by giving crazy interpretations of the Glozel evidence.[39]

Unlike the Aryanist ideologues, Salomon Reinach’s reading of the findings at Glozel postulates a racially indeterminate group of people whose culture, manifest in their craft and artwork is—though clearly based on hunting—peaceful, maternal, and even child-centered. The images depicted show no scenes of violent slaughter, but images of nurturing mothers, foetal, and infantile babies, and loving child-care. While there are several instances of phallic forms, these are not aggressive figures; on the one hand, the male member is only partly erect, and, on the other, it is integrated into the form of female genitalia. The range of objects, such as harpoons, fish-hooks, arrow-heads, and beads, as well as the earless heads and clay tablets, for the most part are miniaturized versions of analogues found in contemporary sites, and this reduction in size, congruent with the manuscript often found with more legible types of alphabetic lettering, suggests either or both children’s toys and ritual performance and display. The entire ensemble of artefacts discovered, the series of storage chambers unearthed, and the orientation of these material objects to the immediate and larger-scale geographical contexts all suggest a sensitive, aesthetic and intellectual community completely different from the warlike, invading and conquering hordes conceived by Antoine Meillet, Émile Benveniste, and Georges Dumézil, all serious scholars to be sure, but whose racialist Aryan propensities leaned towards and were taken to extremes by Nazi scientists before and during World War II.[40]

This is certainly not part of Salomon Reinach’s programme when speaking of the Mirage of the East since his theory is concerned with peoples and events long preceding the cultures and movements of the last two or three millennia. Prof. Bayet of Belgium warned in 1927 that, once Glozel is accepted as genuine, “we must revise all our traditional givens on the Oriental origins of our civilization that our classical education has too easily inclined us to accept…”[41] Then, in a clear and cogent summary of his argument, Reinach asserts (and I cite the passage in extenso because it is important to our argument) in De Bello Gallico:

Alors—et voici la grande nouveauté—qu’on faisait venir de l’Orient méditerranéen après l’an mille les rudiments d’écritures linéaires en Gaule et en Espagne, les fouilles ont prouvé que, sur le point explore, l’écriture linéaire sur terre cuite et sur pierre, sans aucun vestige d’emploi du métal, était déjà très développée vers 3000 à 4000 avant notre ère. Les tablettes de Glozel, dont une contient plus de 100 caractères, sont contemporaines des plus anciennes inscriptions d’Egypte et de Chaldée, sinon plus vielles, et ne leur doivent absolument rien. En revanche, les 120 ou 130 signes de cette écriture comprennent, à côté de beaucoup qui sont nouveaux, presque tous ceux des écritures ibériques, phéniciennes, grecques, italique, etc. (Cet etc. est indispensable, car il faut penser aussi aux écritures de Libye, de Chypre, de Crète, peut-être même du nord de l’Europe.) Force est donc de se demander si l’alphabet dans lequel j’écris ces lignes ne serait pas d’origine occidentale, hispano-gauloise, et non-orientale, c’est-à-dire syro-phénicienne.[42]

Well then—and this is the great novelty—they make the rudiments of linear writing come into Gaul and Spain out of the Eastern Mediterranean after the year 1000 [BC], while these new excavations have proved that, right here on this place of the dig, linear script was on baked clay and carved on stone, without any vestige of metal tools being used. In brief, a writing system was already well-developed about 3000 to 4000 years before the Common Era. The Glozel tablets, containing more than one hundred characters, are contemporary with the most ancient inscriptions of Egypt and Chaldea, if not older, and owe nothing to them. On the other hand, the 120 to 130 signs of this writing comprehend, along with much that is new, almost as much as  all of those [symbolic] signs known as Iberian, Phoenician, Greek and Italic, etc. (This etc. is indispensable, as we must also think of the writing styles of Libya, Cyprus, Crete, and perhaps even northern Europe.) We are therefore forced to ask if the alphabetic script in which I am now writing these sentences may not be of an Occidental origin, Hispano-Gallic, and non-Oriental, that is, Syrio-Phoenician.

Though certain details of date and provenance are definitely in need of updating in this sweeping generalization, Reinach’s main position still stands as a valid view of Occidentalism. It also alerts us to the way such valid positions are all too easily laughed out of popularity and legitimacy by establishment journalists and academics. After all, it now appeared that Neanderthals were already artists and users of written signs 20 to 30,000 years before Homo Sapiens crossed over from the Levant.

[1] Cited in Carola Hicks, Girl in a Green Gown: The History and Mystery of the Arnolfini Portrait (London: Vintage Books, 2012) p. 211.

[2] Norman Simms, Alfred Dreyfus: Man, Milieu, Mentality and Midrash ( Brighton, MA: Academic Studies Press, 2012), In the Context of his Times: Alfred Dreyfus as Lover, Intellectual, Poet and Jew ( Brighton, MA: Academic Studies Press, 2013) and Alfred and Lucie Dreyfus: In the Phantasmagoria  (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2013). 

[3] Jews in the Illusion of Paradise: Dust and Ashes, Volume I “Comedians and Catastrophes” Volume II “Falling out of Place and into History (Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2017).

[4] Hervé Duchêsne, “Un Athénien: Salomon Reinach “ Bulletin de correspondance hellénique 120:1 (1996) 273-284 ; available at

[5] Bernard Berenson,  Rumor and Reflection (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1952) p. 99.

[6] Based on Adolf  Furchtwängler, Meiserwek des Grieschen Plastik, Berenson published Lorenzo Lotto: An Essay in Constructive Art Criticism (London: Bell, 1901).  Berenson was pleased to have the task of translation taken over by someone as eminent as Reinach  enthusiastic to serve him, but later complained that Reinach was “too literal and lacked creative  insight (Ernest Samuels, Bernard Berenson: The Making of a Connoisseur [Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1981], p. 207).

[7] Samuels, Bernard Berenson, pp. 207, 222, 317.

[8] René Cagnat, «Notice sur la vie et les travaux de Salomon Reinach » Comptes rendus des séances de l’Académie des Inscription et Belles Lettres 77 :4 (1933) 446.

[9] Cagnat, « Notice de la vie » 459.

[10] Duchêsne, “Un Athénien”  273.

[11] George Santayana, The Letters, ed. William G. Holzberger and  Hermann J. Saetkamp, jr. (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2002) vol IV, p. 317.  The letter is addressed to Otto Kyllermann, 31 January 1927 from Rome. Salomon, however, did write a book of art history for young and not-so-young ladies called Apollo: Histoire générale des arts plastiques  professée à l’école du Louvre (Paris: Hachette, 1904 and many times reprinted in revised editions) based on a series of popular open lectures at the Louvre

[12] Wikipedia : «Le gouvernement Léon Gambetta (ou Grand ministère Gambetta) désigne les 73 jours, du 14 novembre 1881 au 26 janvier 1882, pendant lesquels Léon Gambetta accéda à la Présidence du Conseil de la Troisième République en France

[13] Wikipedia: “Villa Kerylos in Beaulieu-sur-Mer, France, is a house in Ancient Greek style built in the early 1900s by French archaeologist Theodore Reinach. It has been listed since 1966 as a monument historique by the French Ministry of Culture.

[14] Wikipedia: “In France, the Concours Général is the most prestigious academic competition held every year between students of Première (11th grade) and Terminale (12th and final grade) in almost all subjects taught in both general, technological and professional high schools.”

[15] Wikipedia: “Digne-les-Bains is the capital of the Department of Alpes de Haute-Provence. Placed in the geographical centre of the Department, the commune is home to 17,400 inhabitants, making it one of the smaller prefectures of France by its population”

[16] Duchêne, “Salomon Reinach“ 1.

[17] Savoy or Savoi, according to Wikipedia, “is a French department in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region of the French Alps. Together with the Haute-Savoie, Savoie is one of the two departments of the historic region of Savoy that was annexed by France on 14 June 1860, following the signature of the Treaty of Turin on 24 March 1860.”  Knowingly or not, I think Duchêne’s comment contains a hidden dimension that illuminates further the Reinach Brothers as proleptic comical and ambiguous caricatures of the Three Stooges. On the one hand, the little township of Digne stands for a word digne with three inherent meanings: 1. worthy; honourable, as in dignified; 2. deserving, suitable or adequate and fit, as in a dignitary who is elected or self-appointed to these honours  and 3. haughty; disdainful, as in indignant.  In addition, the department or district of France near Italy known as Savoy or Savoi, in French makes an easy pun on savoir, to knowledge, to be learned, to be aware of, but sliding towards savoir faire, the worldly knowledge of social decorum and relations and good breeding, but often marked by pretentiousness and pushiness. The Reinach boys not only did very well on their exams and in their choice of professions, nicely backed up by their family fortunes, but like all Jews they were perceived as knowing too much about things they really did not understand or have the right to know. In a nasty anti-Semitic essay by  Arnold Leese, “Gambetta the Jew” (online at we find the following slander about Leon Gambetta himself: However, further evidence has now come to light of which the authority seems unimpeachable. It is found in a letter from the Archduke Albrecht, uncle of the Emperor of Austria, dated 5th Jan., 1883 quoted by the liberal Crown Prince Rudolph in a letter from him to the political Jew Morris Szeps, dated the 13th of the same month. This, in turn, is quoted in a new book My Life and History by Berta Szeps, daughter of Morris Szeps, published 1938, p. 52.

The letter runs thus about Gambetta “That he owes the fact that he became a dictator at once to his high position as a Freemason, to his Jewish origin, and to his will power, all of which secured him the allegiance of all Freemasons, all Republicans, all Jews, and all those who do not know how to help themselves. But he always remained a Jew through and through. Nearly destitute in 1870, a year later he [was] a multi-millionaire, for he gambled and stole wherever he could.”

The circulation of fake news and phoney information such as this, driven by extreme malice, indicates the atmosphere in which the Reinach Family had to live, something the Dreyfus and Hadamard families had not expected would threaten them personally in 1894. Wikipedia amplifies on who the author of this screed was: “Arnold Spencer Leese (1878–1956) was a British fascist politician…Known for his virulent anti-Semitism, Leese led his own fascist movement and was a prolific author and publisher…”The essay, such as it is, was first published  in The Fascist (March 1939).

[18] Michael Burns, Dreyfus, A Family Affair, p. 406.  For the earlier period in French Jewish history, see Robert Badinter, Libres et égaux… L’émancipation des juifs (1789-1791)  (Paris: Fayard, 1989) and Jay R. Berkovitz, Rites and Passages: The Beginnings of Modern Jewish Culture in France, 1650-1860 (Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004).

[19] Joseph Reinach, Histoire de l’Affaire Dreyfus, 2 vols.  (Paris: Robert Laffont, 2006; orig. 1901, 1908, 1911).

[20] Théodore Reinach,  Textes d’ auteurs grecs et romains relatifs au Judaïsme (Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 2007; orig. 1895).

[21] Michael Burns, Dreyfus, A Family Affair, 1789-1945 (New York: Harper-Collins,  1991) p. 189.

[22] In their youthful careers they were called the Je sais tout brothers, “know-it-alls”, in the sense that Americans since the 1950s have adopted the Yiddish express mayvins (from the Hebrew ?????, mayvin, I know or understand it) because they were successful in many fields of intellectual endeavour.  The expression is used to mean someone who is considered (perhaps a bit too self-consciously a self-appointed) an expert in a field just outside their own speciality.

[23] José Faur, Horizontal Society: Understanding the Covenant and Alphabetic Judaism, forthcoming.“ Section 4, §39, n. 63.

[24] This is where the Dreyfus family originated.

[25] Faur here cites as his authority, A. S. Yehuda, ‘Ereb ve-‘Arab (New York: Ha-Histadrut ha-‘Ibrit be-Ameriqa, 1946), p. 100, n. 43. 

[26] The National Assembly in 1790 gave those rights to Sephardi Jews living in France for centuries, and then gradually the rights were extended to all Jews, as individuals, so that there would no longer be a Jewish nation as a state within a state with its own laws, language and customs. Napoleon also granted such civic rights to Jews in the jurisdictions he conquered.

[27] As all three brothers grew up in the same Jewish household in Saint-Germaine-en-Laye and had similar educations, their different personalities and interests makes it difficult to make deterministic comments on their future lives. They were all precociously clever and had a famous name which could provide either entrée into various professions or draw down envy and criticism. See René Cagnat, “Notice sur la vie et les travaux de M. Théodore Reinach » Comptes rendus des séances de l’Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, 75e année, N. 4 (1931) 374-393 online at

[28] Also described as “scion of one of the great Catholic families of America.”

[29] Maurice Cuddihy, The Ordeal of Civility: Freud, Marx, Lévi-Strauss and the Jewish Struggle with Modernity (Beacon Press, 1974),

[30] In a stinging  rebuke to Cuddihy’s unchanged 1986 re-issue of The Ordeal of Civility, Sandor L. Gilman sets the record straight (The Jewish Quarterly Review 78:3-4 [1988] 305-307).

[31] Letter 64, Wednesday 28 September 1927 in Lettres à Liane de Pougy et Salmon Reinach, ed. Paul Bernard, p. 257.

[32] Liane de Pougy, My Blue Notebooks, trans. Diana Athill (London: Century, 1986 (1979) pp. 73-74. Mes cahiers blue (1977).

[33] Or, as my mother would call it, aggravation. An irritation can be a one-off point of annoyance or physical pain; aggravation is the repeated experience and the expansion of pain into new sites of suffering.

[34] Kvetches are more than conscious complaints, they are visceral indications of pain, and yet present themselves in a self-mocking manner. As one wit put it, Jews are not necessarily more unhappy than other people: they just want you to think so.

[35] George D. Painter, Proust: The Later Years (Boston and Toronto: Little, Brown and Company) p. 1965.  Salomon Reinach gets only passing mention in this book (p. 328) but the whole situation surrounding the place of Jews in France in the fin-de-siècle is well set forth.

[36] Salomon Reinach, ?phémérides de Glozel (Dijon and Paris: KRA, 1924-1928) available online as an EBook #1001191, Project Gutenberg, 24 September 2006.

[37] See the entry on “Joseph Reinach” in the Classic Encyclopedia: Based on the 11th Edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica (pub. 1911) available online at mhtml:file://JosephReinach-LoveToKnow 1911. (Read 3 January 2008)

[38] In the revised edition of his Apollo : Histoire générale des arts plastiques professée à l’école du Louvre (Paris : Hachette, 1939 (orig. 1904), Reinach incorporates reference to his study of Glozel in a discussion of prehistorical art: « Lorsque la période de froid eut pris fin, le renne fut peu à peu remplacé par le cerf. Les gravures deviennent alors plus rares ; mais on en trouve encore avec les premiers essais de poterie ornée et, chose étonnante, avec une écriture linéaire sur os, sur argile et sur pierre, qui s’est rencontrée à Alvao (Portugal) et à Glozel (Allier).  Cette écriture offre de curieuses analogies avec celle de la Phénicie et de la Grèce, beaucoup plus récentes ; toutefois, on ne peut encore établir de connexion suivie entre l’art des chasseurs de rennes et ceux de l’Orient ; on ne peut que la présumer, en attendant d’autres découvertes » (p. 6). Aside from his own Éphémérides de Glozel, he cites Dr Morlet’s Glozel (1930).

[39] Jean-Paul Demoule, « Desrin et usages des Indos-Européens ». Mauvais temps no. 5 (juillet 1999) available online on the personal pages of Michel Fingerhut http://www/ (Seen: 3 March 2008).

[40] Demoule, “Destin et usages des Indo-Européens”.

[41] « Il faudra réviser nos données traditionnelles sur l’origine orientale de notre civilisation, que notre éducation classique nous avait trop aisément inclines à accepter… » in an open letter written to Dr. Morlet in Mercure de France on 15 October 1927, p. 465, cited by Reinach, Éphémérides, p. 47.

[42] Reinach cites himself in his Éphémérides, p. 75.

Norman Simms
taught in New Zealand for more than forty years at the University of Waikato, with stints at the Nouvelle Sorbonne in Paris and Ben-Gurion University in Israel. He founded the interdisciplinary journal Mentalities/Mentalités in the early 1970s and saw it through nearly thirty years. Since retirement, he has published three books on Alfred and Lucie Dreyfus and a two-volume study of Jewish intellectuals and artists in late nineteenth and early twentieth century Western Europe, Jews in an Illusion of Paradise; Dust and Ashes, Comedians and Catastrophes, Volume I, and his newest book, Jews in an Illusion of Paradise: Dust and Ashes, Falling Out of Place and Into History, Volume II. Several further manuscripts in the same vein are currently being completed. Along with Nancy Hartvelt Kobrin, he is preparing a psychohistorical examination of why children terrorists kill other children.

More by Norman Simms here.

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