Christianism ("Christianity"), Etc.

manuscripts. It contained, besides French epics and romances, and ostentatious manuscripts of the bible and liturgy, the many French translations from classical authors, church Fathers, and medieval works that the king had had made. Even painters from distant towns and foreign parts were drawn to Paris by his orders, amongst them Flemings and Italians." [230-231].

"The Age of Humanism

In northern Italy laymen interested in literature, and active members of the notarial or judicial profession, already in the THIRTEENTH CENTURY discovered copies of rare or forgotten authors from old ecclesiastical libraries and used them in their works. Thus Albertanus of Brescia (†c. 1248) copied from a carolingian codex of the letters of Seneca which he provided with marginal comments and sketches.1 The Paduan scholars Lovato dei Lovati (1241-1309), Geremia di Montagnone (†1321) and Iohannes de Matociis, mansionarius of the cathedral at Verona,2 were lucky to make genuine discoveries. Amongst these were Catullus, Tibullus, Propertius, Varro De re rustica, the Scriptores historiae Augustae, and letters of Cicero; treasures of the Verona cathedral library which Rather had seen in the tenth century were rediscovered. For Lovato a second source was the library of Pomposa; the best manuscript of Seneca's tragedies that he used was written there in the eleventh century.

The effect of these discoveries could have remained limited for a long time to local literature and their use in florilegia, if Petrarch [1304 - 1374]3 had not incorporated them in the comprehensive picture of Roman antiquity which from his youth he had sought to recover. In the course of his efforts to acquire newer and better texts external circumstances came to his assistance; through his sojourn at the curia in Avignon he was able to establish valuable contacts. In the course of extensive journeys he himself made discoveries but he also utilised the old Veronese codices. Petrarch copied and collated a great deal; his first great achievement was the unification of the three Decades of Livy [59 B.C.E. - 17 C.E.] in one single volume.4

In his time the library of Monte Cassino became known as a hoard of ancient texts thanks to Zanobi da Strada and Boccaccio [Giovanni Boccaccio 1313 - 1375] (Apuleius, Tacitus, Varro De lingua Latina) and its codices, written in Beneventan, later made their way to Florence. In Florence it was Coluccio Salutati, a collector and humanist in Petrarch's sense, who passed on the master's ideal to a younger generation, of whom the papal secretary POGGIO BRACCIOLINI [1380 - 1459] was most prominent as THE MOST SUCCESSFUL DISCOVERER OF UNKNOWN CLASSICAL TEXTS. A participant in the council of Constance, he brought a rich booty home from the monasteries of the surrounding region, as well as from his extensive journeys in Germany and France." [235-236].

PAGE 1941

from: Tacitus, The Man and His Work, Clarence W. Mendell, Yale, 1957.

"11. Credibility of Tacitus' [see 1991] History" [219]

"Since 1875 there have been at least five major attempts to discredit the [? (some?)] works of Tacitus [c. 56 - c. 120] as either forgeries or fiction. Voltaire [1694 - 1778] had perhaps been the first in modern day seriously to revive Tertullian's [c. 160 - 220] charge of mendacity, and his claims were elaborated by a lawyer named Linguet. Only with Napoleon [1769 - 1821], however, was this position given serious consideration. The leaders of the [French] revolution had found tremendous comfort in Tacitus' anti-imperialism. For the modern successor to the Caesars it was important politically to discredit the historian and discount his popularity, but any effect which Napoleon's attacks may have had largely disappeared with the collapse of the emperor.

Two curious attempts were made toward the end of the nineteenth century to prove not that Tacitus was a liar but that what purported to be his writings were fifteenth-century forgeries. W.R. Ross [see 1991] published anonymously in 1878 a book entitled Tacitus and Bracciolini, intended to prove that Poggio Bracciolini [see 1989] was the author of what had come down from antiquity under the name of Tacitus. Twelve years later P. Hochart [see 1990] (De l'Authenticité des Annales et des Histoires de Tacite) maintained the same thesis with a much greater show of learning, following up by a supplementary volume. These two attempts gave ample assurance that the attack on these lines was futile, and only one further attempt of this sort has been made. That was in 1920 when LEO WIENER (Tacitus' Germania and Other Forgeries [see 1959 - 1967]) sought in vain ["sought in vain"! This is how dismissal is done. Just pronounce! More, "Bluff and Bullshit"!] to prove by a bewildering display of linguistic fireworks that the Germania and, by implication, other works of Tacitus were forgeries made after Arabic influence had extended into Europe.

After Gaston Boissier's brilliant book (Tacite, 1903) had roused new enthusiasm for the historian, Eugene Bacha (Le Genie de Tacite, 1906) attempted to prove that Tacitus was the master of romantic fiction, and somewhat later T.S. Jerome (Aspects of the Study of History, 1923) presented him as a consistent liar both by nature and by deliberate choice. Bacha's book has some value for its comments on stylistic matters, Jerome's none because of its over-all inaccuracy, its complete confusion of narratio in a legal speech and narratio in history, and its wholly unconvincing method. Neither writer won any general acceptance of his estimate of Tacitus' integrity [in question: "Tactitus' integrity"; integrity of centuries of scribes; integrity of centuries of rewriters; centuries of forgers; etc.]." [220-221]. [See: 1886 (Hardouin)].

Comment: The above dismissals by Clarence W. Mendell, are complex. Of course, this Addition (36), sometimes, dismisses Clarence W. Mendell.

PAGE 1942

from: Testaments of Time, The Search for Lost Manuscripts and Records, Leo Deuel, Knopf, 1966 (1965).

'Ancient literature had fallen into neglect with the eclipse of the Roman order in the West. Barbarian tribes poured into the collapsing empire and destroyed libraries and seats of learning. Meanwhile the Church professed little affection for the books of the heathen Greeks and Romans. A sixth-century historian of the Franks, Gregory of Tours, dryly observed: "The study of letters has perished."3 Typically enough, he had no regrets. Instead, he exhorted the faithful: "Let us shun the lying fables of the poets...lest we incur the doom of endless death by sentence of our Lord."4

Even the most learned Christian teachers of the "Dark Ages" were wont to expiate their occasional lapses into reading classical literature. St. Augustine, whom Petrarch revered, professed to hate the Greek language and to curse the time he had wasted poring over Vergil. And Pope Gregory the Great, contemporary of his namesake of Tours, though he had been born into an old Roman family scorned classical learning, boasted of his ignorance, and fostered irrationalism. In Spain, the most respected scholar was Archbishop Isidore of Seville, one of the tireless compilers whom the early Middle Ages brought forth in profusion. Yet he forbade his churchmen and monks to read any ancient authors except grammarians. The rhetorical works of Cicero and Quintilian he dismissed as "too diffuse to be read"5--a flagrant case of the darkest of pots calling the kettle black. IS IT ANY WONDER THAT THE CLASSICS WERE FORGOTTEN, AND MANY MANUSCRIPTS WERE LOST?

Yet, not all was darkness in the medieval "millennium." Some religious houses continued to care for the works of ancient literature, just as Caroligian scribes in the eighth and ninth centuries copied various classics and thus helped to transmit them to a later age.

By the eleventh century, with the growth of trade and cities, learning was no longer in disrepute. Cathedral schools and universities had become intellectual centers. Contacts with the more advanced Islamic civilization in Sicily and Spain had brought several Aristotelian treatises and other, most scientific and philosophical works into the West by the way of translations from the Arabic. However, scholars concentrated almost exclusively on theology. Because of this preoccupation, the rising tide of the scholastic movement retarded rather than furthered a knowledge of classical literature. And the monasteries--once prime guardians of manuscripts--tended to lose to other institutions the little intellectual zeal they ever had.' [4-6].

'In sum, the Middle Ages lacked what we call a classical tradition--a more or less established, consciously perpetuated canon of literary works. Barely any of the classics formed part of the stream of culture,6 and people had the most muddled notions about the writers and poets of antiquity. One authority attributed the Illiad to Pindar; Homer and Vergil were likely to be depicted as contemporaries and friends. A prominent professor at the University of Bologna, with whom Petrarch corresponded, referred to Cicero as one of the ancient poets.7 In some parts of medieval Italy, legend had raised Cicero to a great warlord who had besieged and stormed a fortress city held by the rebel chieftain "Catellina."8

PAGE 1943

This was the situation when Petrarch appeared on the scene.

We are concerned here with the mature Petrarch, the man of letters, rather than the young Petrarch, the supreme lyricist of the Canzoniere--his love songs to Laura in Italian. Our Petrarch was above all a writer in Latin, counselor of kings and cardinals, Italian patriot, author of the epic Africa--which in Vergilian verse sang the glory of all-conquering Rome--and the sworn enemy of scholasticism, astrology, and medical quackery. He [Petrarch] inaugurated a movement known as Humanism which was to refashion European culture.

Petrarchan Humanism emphasized man's role in this world and looked to the long-neglected freedoms of the past. In classical antiquity Petrarch and his followers found ideals of truth and beauty which they urged the Western world to reclaim. The past was the key to progress. If one upheld the worth and perfectibility of man, one had a stake in the revival of classical learning. If one would develop one's personality, become a rational being, adopt a proper style in public and private conduct, achieve the highest skill in speaking and writing, lead and train men--one must read the ancients.

But how to get hold of the classic authors? Few of the great works were readily accessible, and some were known only in pitiful fragments. Petrarch must have suffered frustration many times as he came across references to ancient masterpieces which apparently had vanished. He would then cry out in anger over the losses inflicted by the "barbarian" successors of Rome. "For every illustrious name that I invoke," he once wrote, "I call to mind a crime of the dark ages that followed! As if their own sterility had not been shame enough, they left the books born of the vigils of our fathers [the ancient Latins!], and the fruits of their genius to perish utterly. That epoch, which produced nothing, did not fear to squander the paternal heritage."9 It was singular good fortune to obtain even one copy of the work of one illustrious ancient writer. And then, more often than not, the manuscript had been so ineptly transcribed that Cicero, or Livy, would not have recognized his own work.1' [6-7].

'admirable ingenuity and meticulous scholarship may go into the vain [?] attempt to prove the genuine work a fraud. In the 1890's, two scholars [apparently: J.W. Ross, and, Polydore Hochart (see 1816-1817)] neatly demonstrated that Tacitus' Annals, said to have survived in only one [two] medieval manuscript[s], had really been composed by Poggio Bracciolini, who [may have (see 1808)] rediscovered [one] it. They made a good and impressive case. Yet chances are that they are wrong.

There are some [most?] works whose authenticity has not been conclusively established--some of Plato's letters, several of the Pauline Epistles, or the Tao Tê Ching, a great Chinese classic, for example. Here final judgment may have to be suspended. But nobody can tell when a work of art or a piece of writing that has long been accepted as the work of a master will rightly, or wrongly, be branded as spurious. We have to be grateful to the doubters, no matter how irritating, who refuse to be overawed by authority and reputation. Yet how are we to separate the genuine from the false? Scholars cannot always comfortably defer a judgment. Once a discovery is announced, they have to take a stand, though they may live to regret it. And truth so often has a disconcerting way of remaining elusive and inconspicuous.

PAGE 1944

"O, what a goodly outside falsehood hath," said Shakespeare.

Fortunately, the faking of manuscripts is such an exacting art and demands such a rare combination of talents in order to be successful--that is, to remain undetected--that relatively few ever undertake it. The cruder productions never find acceptance for long, and with advances in textual criticism, palaeography, and chemical and physical analysis, faking may soon become a dying art. However, the issue still hangs heavily over many manuscript discoveries of the past.


The systematic study of manuscripts may be said to owe its inception to the growing need, in the late Middle Ages, to establish the spuriousness of false deeds and other "legal" documents. This need decisively stimulated palaeography, the science of determining the age and origin of a piece of writing. Nicolaus Cusanus, the cardinal, and Lorenzo Valla, the papal secretary, contributed enormously to textual criticism and philology--and to the scientific method itself--by unmasking FALSE CHURCH DOCUMENTS.

WE HAVE MET WITH FORGERIES AND THE LONG SHADOW CAST BY SUSPICIONS OF THEM AT ALMOST EVERY TURN OF OUR STORY. In the nineteenth century there were such colorful practitioners as Constantine Simonides and the Karaite fanatic, Abraham Firkovich. There have been a host of others before and after. Recent scandals of this nature, among them the Van Meegeren fakes of Vermeer and the false statues of Etruscan warriors in New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, have created considerable awareness of forgery in the arts and in archaeology.' [404-405].

PAGE 1945

Appreciation of Leo Wiener 1862 - 1939

from: "The New York Times", Thursday, December 14, 1939, page 27:

Dr. Leo Wiener, 77;

Educator, Writer

Professor Emeritus of Slavic

Languages and Literature

at Harvard is Dead

Translator of Tolstoy

Polish Immigrant Taught in

Middle Western Colleges

Before Returning East


Boston, Dec. 13--Dr. Leo Wiener, Professor Emeritus of Slavic Languages and Literature at Harvard College and widely known writer on history and philology, died late last night at his home in Belmont at the age of 77.

Professor Wiener was born at Bialystok, Poland [then, Russia], July 26, 1862, and was educated at Warsaw, Minsk, Russia, and Berlin. He came to this country in 1882 and settled in Kansas City, Mo. After serving for a time as an instructor in a small college at Odessa, Mo., he joined the faculty of the University of Missouri, where he was assistant professor of German and romance languages.

In 1895 he taught languages at the New England Conservatory of Music and in 1896 he became an instructor at Harvard, rising in 1911 to the rank of professor. At Harvard he specialized in teaching the Slavic and romance languages. He retired as Professor Emeritus in 1930.

Professor Wiener was a prolific writer, the author of many books and articles, as well as more important works. Among his works were the "Anthology of Russian Literature," "An Interpretation of the Russian People" and "Commentary to the Germanic Laws and Mediaeval Documents." He was also translator and editor of the "Complete Works of Leo N. Tolstoy," a twenty-four-volume work.

His widow, Mrs. Bertha Kahn Wiener, and four children, Professor Norberth [Norbert] Wiener of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Mrs. Philip M. Franklin of Belmont, Mrs. C.W. Dodge of St. Louis and Frederick Wiener of Vermont.

Funeral services will be held at 2 P.M. on Friday at the First Unitarian Church in Belmont.

PAGE 1946

from: American National Biography, Volume 23, Oxford, 1999.

'Wiener, Leo (28 July 1862-12 Dec. 1939), philologist, translator, and educator, was born in Bialystok, Russia (now part of Poland), the son of Salomon Wiener, a scholar and teacher, and Frederika Rabinowitch, who was descended from a distinguished rabbinic family. Wiener grew up in a multilingual environment congenial to his stunning linguistic abilities. Although Wiener had a French governess, his father insisted that German be spoken at home. Hebrew was cultivated as the traditional language of prayer, study, and Jewish intellectual discourse, while Yiddish, Russian, and Polish were the vernaculars most commonly used in Bialystok." [341-342].

"When the World War I erupted in 1914, Wiener attempted to explain the mentality of the Russian people to Americans in his popular work An Interpretation of the Russian People (1915). In the same spirit he translated V.V. Veresaev's memoirs of the Russian-Japanese War of 1904-1905, In the War (1917). With the ascendancy of the Communist regime, Wiener lost interest in Russia. He wrote only one other book about the literature he loved, The Contemporary Drama of Russia (1924)." [342].

'Wiener's linguistic interests ranged far. His articles include studies of Ladino (Judaeo-Spanish), Maya language, Native American languages, medieval Latin, Medieval Arabic, Sumerian, and Egyptian. Toward the end of his life Wiener was familiar with some thirty languages. Steady employment enabled Wiener in 1903 to purchase a farm in Ayer, Massachusetts. There his old enthusiasm for tilling the soil reasserted itself.

"To my father's dying day," Norbert Wiener observed in his memoirs, "he was more pleased by raising a better crop than his professional farmer-neighbors than he would have been by the greatest philological discovery."

In 1932 Wiener was injured in a car accident. He died of a stroke in Belmont, Massachusetts. His work combined prodigious research and scrupulous scholarship with informed guesswork. Wiener did not pursue philology for its own sake but thought it a useful tool in his true profession as cultural historian.

Wiener's papers covering the years between 1880 and 1935 are in the Harvard University Archives. Norbert Wiener, Ex-Prodigy: My Childhood and Youth (1953) [see 1948-1953], is a valuable source of information about Wiener's personality. A comprehensive modern assessment is Susanne Klingenstein, "A Philologist: The Adventures of Leo Wiener (1862-1839 [1939])," in her Jews in the American Academy, 1900-1940 (1991). An obituary is in the New York Times, 14 Dec. 1939 [see 1946].

Susanne Klingenstein' [342]

PAGE 1947

from: Ex-Prodigy, My Childhood and Youth, Norbert Wiener, M.I.T., 1953.


As this book will show, at one period I was an infant prodigy in the full sense of the word, for I entered college before the age of twelve, obtained my bachelor's degree before fifteen, and my doctorate before nineteen [Ph.D., Philosophy, Harvard, age 18]...." [3].

"Let me insert here a word or two about the Jewish family structure which is not irrelevant to the Jewish tradition of learning. At all times, the young learned man, and especially the rabbi, whether or not he had an ounce of practical judgment and was able to make a good career for himself in life, was always a match for the daughter of the rich merchant. Biologically this led to a situation in sharp contrast to that of the Christians of earlier times. The Western Christian learned man was absorbed in the church, and whether he had children or not, he was certainly not supposed to have them, and actually tended to be less fertile than the community around him. On the other hand, the Jewish scholar was very often in a position to have a large family. Thus THE BIOLOGICAL HABITS OF THE CHRISTIANS TENDED TO BREED OUT OF THE RACE WHATEVER HEREDITARY QUALITIES MAKE FOR LEARNING, WHEREAS THE BIOLOGICAL HABITS OF THE JEW TENDED TO BREED THESE QUALITIES IN. To what extent this genetic difference supplemented the cultural trend for learning among the Jews is difficult to say. But there is no reason to believe that the genetic factor was negligible. I have talked this matter over with my friend, Professor J.B.S. Haldane [1892 - 1964], and he certainly is of the same opinion. Indeed, it is quite possible that in giving this opinion I am merely presenting an idea which I have borrowed from Professor Haldane." [11-12].

Excursus: from: #3, 79-80; #4, 124 (Christian "Eugenics"):

408. "[Chapman Cohen] When the complete record of Christianity's misdeeds is finally and accurately written, this will stand out as its greatest crime against civilization. Its greatest crime has been, not the burning of men at the stake or the imprisonment of others in a Christian dungeon, but in the lower type of mind and character that it has encouraged, in the hypocrisy that it has made almost a second character. In Pagan Rome it was said that one priest could not meet another without a smile. If Christian can meet Christian today with a grave face, it is only because the selective influence of Christianity has developed a type that lacks the wit to perceive the absurdity of its own religious beliefs." [End of essay].

409. "the Church brutalised the breed of our forefathers. She acted precisely as if she had aimed at selecting the rudest portion of the community to be, alone, the parents of future generations. She practised the arts which breeders would use, who aimed at creating ferocious, currish, and stupid natures." [Sir Francis Galton 1822 - 1911].

PAGE 1948

410. '[Chapman Cohen] The nature of this process ["an hypocrisy that is unconscious, ingrained, organic, secured by a process of elimination that has been at work for many generations." (123)] has been well pointed out by Mr. [Sir] Francis Galton in the following passage:

The policy of the religious world in Europe...having first captured all the gentle natures and condemned them to celibacy, made another sweep of her [the Church's] huge catch those who were the most fearless, truth-seeking, and intelligent in their modes of thought, and therefore the most suitable parents of a high civilization, and put a strong check, if not a direct stop, to their progeny. Those she reserved on these occasions, to breed the generations of the future, were the servile, the indifferent, and again, the stupid. Thus as she...brutalized human nature by her system of celibacy applied to the gentle, she demoralized it by her system of persecution of the intelligent, the sincere, and the free. It is enough to make the blood boil to think of the blind folly that has caused the foremost nations of struggling humanity to be the heirs of such hateful ancestry, and that has so bred our instincts as to keep them in an unnecessarily long continued antagonism with the essential requirements of a steadily advancing civilization.2' ["2Hereditary Genius, p. 358."].

547. "the Church brutalized the breed of our forefathers...She [paraphrase]...aimed at creating ferocious, currish and stupid natures....It is enough to make the blood be the heirs of such hateful ancestry". [Sir Francis Galton 1822 - 1911].

End of Excursus.

'My father [Leo Wiener] chose to become a teacher of languages. He might almost as readily have become a teacher of mathematics, for he had both talent and interest in the field. Indeed, throughout my college training I learned the large part of my mathematics from him. There are times when I think that it would have been more fortunate for my father if he had taken mathematics for his field rather than philology." [21].

"I cannot imagine my father or myself being greatly moved as the Mills [James Mill 1773 - 1836, John Stuart Mill (son) 1806 - 1873] were by the icy glitter of Pope's translation of Homer. The poetry that most moved my father, as it has most moved me, was that of Heine [Heinrich Heine 1797 - 1856], with its aspiration for the beautiful and the bitter revulsion which comes as the poet sees far too clearly the horrible contrast of that which is with that which he would like to believe. I cannot imagine Mill [apparently, John Stuart Mill] regarding Heine as more than an impertinent upstart, although there well may be hidden references to Heine in Mill's books which give me the lie." [70].

PAGE 1949

"Religious problems seem to have dominated Samuel Butler [1835 - 1902] and also John Stuart Mill in the relations with their fathers. These problems were even more acute in the youth of Edmund Gosse [Sir Edmund William Gosse 1849 - 1928], another writer who must be mentioned in the discussion of father-son relations. Gosse's book Father and Son is like Butler's in being the account of the relations of a boy with a desire for independence to a very dominant father with theological interests. Indeed, Mill's book, for all of the want of a formal theology on the part of both father and son, has a strongly ethical tone which echoes similar preoccupation. In my own case, while my father was a man of strong moral sense, it cannot be said that he had any great interest in theology. The source of his humanitarianism was Tolstoy [Count Lev Nikolayevich 1828 - 1910], and even though Tolstoy embellishes his propagandist texts with many quotations from the Bible, he is at home with that side of Christianity which preaches humility and charity and extols the virtue of the oppressed and undervalued. I have already said that I had begun to express doubts of religion at the early age of five, in terms that would have brought me severe castigation and even more severe chiding at the hands of the elder Butler or the elder Gosse.

Let me return to the details of my own history. I certainly do not remember any effective opposition on the part of my father [Leo Wiener]. Indeed, I strongly suspect that my infantile adventures in agnosticism and atheism were scarcely more than a reflection of my father's own attitude which may have reflected the attitude of my scapegrace ["syn: black sheep"; etc.] grandfather, who had already left the fold of Judaism without embracing any equivalent religion. Even a skeptic like James Mill would have found my levity intolerable. My own career as an infant prodigy thus differs from that of these victims or beneficiaries of dominant fathers in that it was entirely on a secular plane.

It is clear that religion or the equivalent moral questions were what made the mid-Victorian tick. With my father [Leo Wiener] as with me, the predominating motive was that of a profound intellectual curiosity. He was a philologist; and for him, philology was more nearly an exploratory tool for the historian than a declaration of learning, or the means of taking to one's own soul the great writers of the past. Although there was always a strong moral implication in my father's personality and in the course of life toward which he directed me, my interest in science started with a devotion rather to the service of truth than to the service of humanity....

The service of truth, though not primarily a task of ethics, is one which both my father and I conceived to impose upon us the greatest moral obligation possible....

My father [Leo Wiener] felt the demand of intellectual honesty to be one which the scholar can as little repudiate on the basis of any personal danger into which it might lead him as the soldier can repudiate the duty to fight at the front or the doctor to stay and be effective in a plague-stricken city. Nevertheless, it was an obligation which both of us conceived to belong to a man, not merely as a human being, but precisely because he had chosen himself for the specific devotion of being a servant of the truth." [72, 73-74].

PAGE 1950

"I have said that my father [Leo Wiener] was a romanticist rather than a Victorian classicist. His closest spiritual kin, besides Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, were the German Liberals of 1848. His righteousness partook of the element of élan, of triumph, of glorious and effective effort, of drinking deep of life and the emotions thereof. For me, a boy just starting life, this made him in many ways a noble and uplifting figure, a poet at heart, amid the frigid and repressed figures of an uninspiring and decadent Boston. It was because of this, because my taskmaster was at the same time my hero, that I was not bent down into mere sullen ineffectiveness by the arduous course of discipline through which I went." [74].

"My parents took me [Norbert Wiener] to Dr. Haskell, our oculist, who gave strict orders that I was not to read for a period of six months, and that at the end of this period the entire question of my reading was to be reconsidered. Father [Leo Wiener] went ahead teaching me mathematics, both algebra and geometry, by ear, and my chemistry lessons went on. This period of ear training rather than eye training was probably one of the most valuable disciplines through which I have ever gone, for it forced me to be able to do my mathematics in my head and to think of languages as they are spoken rather than as mere exercises in writing. Many years later my training proved of great service to me when I came to learn Chinese, which a complicated notation has rendered far more difficult to the eye than it is to the ear. I don't suppose that this early training created the very good memory which I have carried with me down to the present day, but it certainly showed me that I had such a memory and made it possible for me to exploit it." [75-76].


This, then, concludes the account of my life from my birth in 1894 until 1926, when I was married at the age of thirty-one. I had joined the staff of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and there I have remained ever since." [288].

"I had the chance to sit under a very great man [father: Leo Wiener], and to see the inner operations of his mind. It is neither family conceit nor filial loyalty which makes me say this. I have lived the life of an active scholar for a third of a century, and I know very well the intellectual mettle of those with whom I have come into contact. My father's work was marred by flights of fancy to which he was unable to give full logical support, and more than one of his ideas has failed to stand the test of later criticism. To be a pioneer in a subject which, like philology, has a very attenuated inner discipline, is to run this risk. My father was a rather isolated worker, an enthusiast, and a man who had come from a different early career. This made his shortcomings almost inevitable; yet his influence in philology is comparable with that of Jespersen, and was an anticipation of the modern school of philologists who see in the cultural history of a language a stronger stream of continuity than in its merely formal phonetic and grammatical development. Both the phoneticists and the semanticists of the present day have come to a position closer to that of my father than to that of most of his contemporaries.

PAGE 1951

My work with my father [Leo Wiener] may seem to have been an almost unbroken series of clashes, and indeed the clashes were not few. He was a sensitive man, who felt the lack of the general recognition which he conceived to be his due. He sought for me to be not only his disciple but his friendly critic and perhaps his continuator. These were impossible roles for even a mature trained philologist to hold simultaneously; and they were absolutely out of the question for a half-grown boy. When I expressed any doubts of his logic, and I had some sincere doubts, I was berated as an impudent, unfilial child. Yet I could perceive at the same time the agony of my father and his need for approval. I knew that he sought for approval in what he felt was the one quarter in which he could expect it. Thus my self-protective anger and resentment were not unmixed with pity.

Father [Leo Wiener] was disappointed that his work did not achieve what he considered and what I consider adequate early recognition. He was not by any means a failure, nor did he think he was a failure, either in his intellectual contribution or in the general frame of academic success. As to the latter, Father reached and held the rank of full professor at Harvard, and was without any doubt esteemed very highly as a linguist and philologist of most individual genius. Yet among the very colleagues who esteemed him, I think there were few who realized that the position he was taking in the philological world was revolutionary. Neither do I think that, notwithstanding his respect for his Harvard colleagues, many of them represented to him a stage of philological learning and sophistication which could constitute a code whose judgment had any great meaning for him. Before he had repudiated Germany and Germany had repudiated him, his heart had been set on a German recognition which was unattainable in the closed German philological world of that epoch. Even after his break with all things German, I think he still looked toward Europe and hoped that in some miraculous way, a dove would appear from nowhere with an olive branch in its beak. I think he could never have looked forward, except as a dream, to the present state of affairs in which European scholarship is largely concentrated in America and in which his own point of view, instead of being regarded as a vision of a brilliant eccentric, is accepted and accredited.

Yet the fact that a posthumous success was awaiting him so little as fifteen years after his death [1939] can scarcely have mitigated the essential tragedy of his position. And it is possible to be a tragic figure even with an honored position at a great university and a considerable degree of regard among one's colleagues. This position Father had attained, and MY MOTHER [BERTHA KAHN WIENER] MUST BE GIVEN GREAT CREDIT FOR TAKING A BRILLIANT AND UNWORLDLY MAN AND LEADING HIM TO THAT DEGREE OF PERSONAL SUCCESS AT WHICH HE EVENTUALLY ARRIVED. It was a great success and he knew it. But it was not the position of a re-founder of a science which he deserved and to which he aspired. He had aspired to be Prometheus bringing light, and he suffered in his own eyes the fate of a Prometheus.

PAGE 1952

From him [father: Leo Wiener] I learned the standards of scholarship which belong to the real scholar, and the degree of manliness, devotion, and honesty which a scholarly career requires. I learned that scholarship is a calling and a consecration, not a job. I learned a fierce hatred of all bluff and intellectual pretense, as well as a pride in not being baffled by any problem which I could possibly solve. These are worth a price in suffering, yet I would ask this price to be exacted of no man who has not the strength to stand up to it physically and morally. This price cannot be paid by a weakling, and it can kill. That I was a boy not only endowed with a certain intellectual vigor, but also physically strong, made it possible for me to bear the wounds of this Spartan nurture. Before I should even think of subjecting any child, boy or girl, to such a training I should have to be convinced not only of the intelligence of the child, but of its physical, mental, and moral stamina.

Even if we take this stamina for granted, it is a special treatment only to be employed where no ordinary treatment is adequate to the needs of the case. With my own children, indications of the need for such a highly specialized procedure have not occurred. At no time have I tried to subject them to a similar training. I cannot say what I should have done if I had found myself faced by the problem that faced my father [Leo Wiener]." [290-293].

from: Webster's Biographical Dictionary.

"Wie-ner\'w-ner, 'v-\, Leo. 1862-1939. American scholar, b. Bialystok, Poland [then, Russia]. To U.S. (1882); taught Slavic languages and literature at U. of Missouri (1892-95), Harvard (1896-1930; professor from 1911). Author of An Interpretation of the Russian People (1915), etc.

Wiener, Norbert. 1894-1964. American mathematician, b. Columbia, Mo. Son of Leo Wiener; professor, M.I.T. (1919-60); contributed greatly to study of stochastic processes and harmonic analysis; best known as founder of cybernetics ( a term he coined), study of information processing and control. Author of Cybernetics (1948), Human Use of Human Beings (1950), God and Golem, Inc. (1964), and autobiographical Ex-Prodigy (1953) and I Am a Mathematician (1956)." [1094].

PAGE 1953

from: Jews in the American Academy, 1900-1940, The Dynamics of Intellectual Assimilation, Susanne Klingenstein, Yale, c1991.

"The focus of this study is not on the American finish line, but on the points of departure of the Jewish intellectuals portrayed here. Taking seriously their descent culture, that is, the culture into which they were born, reveals immediately that late-nineteenth century Jewry is not a monolithic culture. This study presents men (no female academics in the humanities could be found) from a broad variety of Jewish cultural niches. The men portrayed here come from German-tinged bourgeois Russian culture (LEO WIENER), from the Haskalah-touched world of the Lithuanian yeshivot, or Talmud academies (Harry Wolfson), from the impoverished world of the traditional shetl (Morris Cohen), from German Orthodoxy (Horace Kallen), from German Reform Judaism (Felix Adler), and from the post-Romantic Prussian-German bourgeoisie (Ludwig Lewisohn). The last portrait (Lionel Trilling) leads into the next generation but also refers back to the beginning of the study. Trilling's father came from the city of Bialystok, which Leo Wiener had left in his youth." [xiii].

Excursus: from: Enlarging America, The Cultural Work of Jewish Literary Scholars, 1930-1990, Susanne Klingenstein, Syracuse University Press, 1998.

"What a wee little part of a person's life are his acts and his words! His real life is led in his head, and is known to none but himself....Biographies are but the clothes and buttons of the man--the biography of the man himself cannot be written.

--Mark Twain

Whoever turns biographer commits himself to lies, to concealment, to hypocrisy, to embellishment, and even to dissembling his own lack of understanding, for biographical truth is not to be had, and even if one had it, one could not use it.

--Sigmund Freud

To write history is so difficult that most historians are forced to make concessions to the techniques of legend.

--Erich Auerbach" ["vii"].

Excursus: from: Sir William Osler [1849 - 1919], Aphorisms, c1961 (c1951):

"'[letter] Melancholy [see: Selected Writings of Sir William Osler] seemed to me [Charles Singer] to be his [Sir William Osler] essence, almost his driving force. Perhaps I saw wrongly but that is what I saw in him. I always felt 'this is a man who has had some deep sorrow.' What that was no living man knows. His biography glosses it, but there it was. BIOGRAPHIES NEVER TELL THE TRUTH--HOW CAN THEY, THAT IS WHY WE ALL READ FICTION."' [22-23]. [See: 1899 (Osler)].

End of Excursuses.

PAGE 1954


A Philologist: The Adventures of Leo Wiener (1862-1939)" [8]

'By the time Leo was thirteen he spoke several languages. His son, Norbert, explains that

    The role of German in his life was reinforced by the fact that because of the German bias of my grandfather my father went to a Lutheran school. He learned French as the language of educated society; and in Eastern Europe, especially in Poland, there were still those who adhered to the Renaissance tradition and used Italian as another language of polite conversation. Moreover, my father soon left the Minsk Gymnasium for that of Warsaw, where the classes were also conducted in Russian, although Polish was the language that he spoke with his playmates. (EP [Ex-Prodigy (see 1948-1953)] 12)

After gymnasium (high school), where he excelled in Greek, Latin, and mathematics, Leo Wiener went to Warsaw University to study medicine. But he did not take to the subject and soon left for Berlin to enroll in the Polytechnicum, a professional school for engineers. It was not a change for the better, even though in the drafting room, where he worked between a Serb and a Greek, he was able to add two more languages to his linguistic repertory (EP 14).3 Disgusted with the debauchery of German student life, he joined a vegetarian society and soon detected that "although the purposes of the new régime were of the most pacific kind, there was also a sprinkling of antisemites among them."14 The group, however, reinforced "a vein of Tolstoyanism which had long been in him, and he decided to forswear drink, tobacco, and the eating of meat for the rest of his life" (EP 14-15). The missionary strain in Tolstoyanism finally gave a direction to Leo Wiener's restless adventurous spirit. Bored with his studies and annoyed by German philistinism as he had been annoyed earlier by "Polish inflammability and Russian apathy," he decided to set out and found a vegetarian-socialist colony in British Belize.

He had enough money to sail steerage to New Orleans, where he arrived in 1880 with the essentials of both Spanish and English (learned from grammar books and Scott's The Pirate) and the notorious twenty-five cents in his pocket. By then the harebrained Central America plan had disintegrated, and so he looked for a job. He worked first as a laborer in a cotton factory, then on a railroad construction site. Later he took to the road again, fell in with "the remains of an old Fourierist community in Missouri" (EP 19) and eventually found himself at the door of a Catholic church in Kansas City lured by the sign "Gaelic lessons given." He joined the class (though not the faith), and soon became the head of the local Gaelic society.5 The "Russian Irishman" also became notorious at the public library, where he called for books nobody else would read. It was hardly surprising then that when Leo Wiener decided to end his anomalous existence as laborer, peddler, and farmer and return to intellectual work, the Kansas City superintendent of schools, to whom Wiener had applied for a job, did not hesitate to employ this strange individual.

PAGE 1955

It may reflect the superintendent's strange sense of humor that he first assigned the applicant to a country school in Odessa, Missouri. But Wiener was soon promoted to a position at the Kansas City High School, where he taught Greek, Latin, and mathematics from 1884 to 1892. Although Wiener was now on his way to becoming an academic, he remained a Tolstoyan and a passionate outdoorsman.

To the end of his life, "he was more pleased by raising a better crop than his professional farmer-neighbors than he would have been by the greatest philological discovery" (EP 19).' [8-9].

"The second half of Leo Wiener's life, which he spent in Cambridge [Massachusetts] and its vicinity, was not fundamentally different from his life before his arrival at Harvard. His rebelliousness, restlessness, and impatience, aspects of a deep-seated unease, did not disappear but merely found other outlets: in his indefatigable, almost compulsive academic production, in the frequent buying and selling of the family home, and in the education of his prodigy son. It is difficult to say to what extent his "excitability," his perfectionism which could turn into tyranny (EP 52-53), and his complete inability to ingratiate himself with anyone were part of his personal disposition and to what extent they were due to his fundamental cultural Unbehagen (discontent). He was not only thoroughly uprooted, estranged from his Jewish origins, but he was also, as a Tolstoyan peasant at Harvard, singularly displaced--a social outsider, an oddball." [12].

'Whether Leo Wiener experienced any anti-Semitism at Harvard is not known. It seems unlikely, because the identity he flaunted was that of a Russian. This is not to say that he denied being Jewish. But his relationship to his Jewishness was complicated, and was certainly not made easier by his wife's Jewish self-hatred.

Bertha Kahn would not only look askance at her husband's relatives--who by and by arrived in America (EP 42, 50-51)--and speak with contempt of the "gluttony of the Jews" as she spoke of the "bigotry of the Irish or the laziness of the Negroes" (EP 146), but she would even deny that her own family was Jewish. Her son Norbert learned by accident that he was a Jew when the legend of the Wieners' descent from Maimonides was mentioned in conversation by on old acquaintance of his father. When the child also found out that his mother's maiden name, Kahn, was a variant of Cohen, he was shocked. "As I reasoned it out to myself," he wrote, "I was a Jew, and if the Jews were marked by those characteristics which my mother found so hateful, why I must have those characteristics myself, and share them with all those dear to me....I could not accept myself as a person of any value" (EP 148).' [12-13].

"Leo Wiener's humanitarian solution, a staunchly advocated Tolstoyanism, never lost the flavor of being an escape, or rebellion, rather than a solution. This romantic return-to-the-soil that he practiced as a farmer was counterpoised by a second, highly abstract, solution to the problems arising in a life led in a confusion of cultures. This second solution, which eased Wiener's cultural Unbehagen, was a philological one. It developed from Wiener's phenomenal linguistic memory. Like Harold Bloom two generations later, Wiener succeeded in transforming an extraordinary natural gift into an academic method. Wiener had a command of about thirty languages, a third of which he spoke fluently.12 His linguistic competence gave him access to a variety of

PAGE 1956

cultures, ranging from the familiar Slavic, Western European, and Jewish, to the more exotic Gypsy, Arabic, Mayan, and Aztec cultures. The ability to compare liberates one from the confines of one's own culture by creating distance; and it develops structural thinking, because perception of common structures is a way to organize a profusion of material." [13].

"Academic research and farm work might be an ideal combination for romantic and other utopian minds, but it was not likely to enhance Wiener's acceptability in the eyes of his colleagues at Harvard. His unusual entry into the guild as well as his unorthodox philological methods made for further isolation. He did not belong. Moreover, his romantic idealism and exuberance seemed out of place "amid the frigid and repressed figures of an uninspiring and decadent Boston (EP 74); and for Wiener's love of Russia, its language and literature, Cambridge was a less welcoming place than New York might have been. At the time of the First World War Wiener's preference for Russia brought him into a head-on-collision with his German Jewish colleague at Harvard, Hugo Münsterberg." [14].

'Wiener's political stance and his psychological needs are hardly separable. He was restless, discontent, and he lacked patience with those surrounding him. His own interpretation of his difficulties in dealing with Jewish organizations and with the Jewish Publication Society of America in particular reflects his confusion of psychology and politics. He claimed "that the friction was the result of an arrogant insistence on the part of the Jewish organizations that a Jew was a Jew before he was a man, and that he owed inalienable allegiance to his own group before humanity itself" (EP 146). Just as Wiener was opposed to the separate existence of Jews within another nation, he was opposed to their forming a separate state. In his exchange with Israel Zangwill, whom he considered "one of the most eloquent British Zionists," he pointed to the difficulties arising "from the superimposition of a Jewish colony upon a Moslem background" and insisted "that the future of the Jews in the newer countries lay in their identifying their interest with those of the country, not in opening the wound of a separate new nationalism" (EP 56).' [17].

'Leo Wiener sought to transcend the particularity of his descent by entering the realm of language, where nationalist prejudice would yield to "scientific vision" and where insight into the "common linguistic phenomena" would establish equality in the "sisterhood of languages" (and thus among their speakers).42' [would Leo Wiener agree?]. [33].

PAGE 1957

from: Commentary to the Germanic Laws and Mediaeval Documents, By Leo Wiener, Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures at Harvard University, Cambridge, Harvard University Press, London: Humphrey Milford, Oxford University Press, 1915.

Abbott Lawrence Lowell
President of Harvard University

Who Has Encouraged Me in
My Labor of Research

This Volume is Gratefully
Dedicated ["v"]


Several years ago the study of the private and public documents of the Middle Ages, which I consulted for the etymology of difficult words, revealed to me a strange fact: the vast majority of words treated by the Germanic, Romance, and Slavic philologists had been studied with an utter disregard of documentary evidence. At every turn the facts belied the scientific deductions. Neither chronology nor phonetics were approximately correct in any given case....

Puzzled by this obvious discrepancy, I passed more than five years in analyzing and excerpting all the accessible documents, to the number of 250,000 or more, from the earliest times of the Roman Empire to the year 1300. When I finally arranged my material, and, in the light of the facts thus discovered studied the Germanic laws and everything that had been written on the subject, I was shocked to find that hardly a historical fact, hardly a law, had been ascertained in connection with the morphological and semantic development of intrinsic words. If the historian had to deal with a difficult word, he consulted the etymological dictionaries, and if the etymologist needed a historic fact in order to explain the meaning of a word, he consulted a historian. Thus there was created a vicious circle which produced Germanic, Romance, and Slavic philology." ["vii"].

"With rare exceptions all the modern writers who, since the seventeenth century, have written on the Gothic Bible have accepted the dictum of those older authorities as final and have proceeded on the assumption that we have before us genuine documents of the time of Ulfilas [c. 311 - c. 382] or, at best, of redactions not more recent than the middle of the sixth century. But a number of important facts have been overlooked by them or have been so interpreted as to fit in with the a priori assumption. It, therefore, becomes necessary to reinvestigate all the Gothic manuscripts, both textually and palaeographically, before any theory independent of the statement by Philostorgius [c. 368 - c. 433] and the other ancient writers may be propounded." [xxxvi].

"one must again remember Traube's own statement that the Carolingian [c. 613 - c. 987] writers imitated fifth century [400 - 500] books down to minute details." [xlii].

PAGE 1958

from: Contributions Toward A History of Arabico-Gothic Culture, Volume III, Tacitus' Germania & Other Forgeries, By Leo Wiener, Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures at Harvard University, author of "A Commentary to the Germanic Laws and Mediaeval Documents [see 1958]," "Contributions Toward a History of Arabico [Spanish Arabian]-Gothic Culture," "History of Yiddish Literature," "History of the Contemporary Russian Drama," "Anthology of Russian Literature," "Interpretation of the Russian People;" Translator of the Works of Tolstoy; Contributor to German, Russian, French, English, and American Philological Periodicals, Etc., Etc. Innes & Sons, 129-135 N. Twelfth St., Philadelphia, PA. MCMXX.

[I thank Cliff Carrington (search on, Australia, for this reference].

"Sources Quoted [some samples]....

  • Ammianus Marcellinus. Rerum gestarum libri qui supersunt, ed. by F. Eyssenhardt, Berolini 1971....
  • Augustine, St. Migne, vols. XXXII, XXXIII, XLII, and CSEL., vol. XL....
  • Bede. Migne, vol. XC....
  • Cassiodorus. Opera omnia, ed. by J. Garet, Rotomagi 1679....Codex Theodosianus cum perpetuis commentariis Jacobi Gothofredi, ed. by J.D. Ritter, vol. V, Lipsiae 1741....
  • Delahaye, H. Les légendes grecques des saints militaires, Paris 1909....
  • Dio Chrysostom. Dionis Prussaensis quem vocant Chrysostomum quae exstant omnia, ed. by J. de Arnim, vol. II, Berolini 1896....
  • Gregory of Tours. MGH., Scriptores rerum merovingicarum, vol. I....
  • Hochart, P. De l'authenticité des Annales et des Histories de Tacite,Paris 1890....
  • Migne, J. Patrologia graeca.
  • Vol. XLII. Epiphanius Episcopus.
  • Vol. LXXXVI. Eusebius.
  • Vol. CI. Photius C.P. Patriarcha.
  • Patrologia latina.
  • Vol. X. S. Hilarii opera omnia.
  • Vol. XVI. S. Ambrosii opera omnia.
  • Vol. XXIII. S. Hieronymi opera omnia.
  • Vols. XXXII, XXXIII, XLII. S. Aurelii Augustini opera omnia.
  • Vol. XC. Venerabilis Bedae opera omnia....
  • Orosius. Historiarum adversum paganos libri VII, ed. by C.
  • Zangemeister, Vindobonae 1882, in CSEL., vol. V....
  • Strabo. Geographica, ed. by C. Müller and F. Dübner, Parisiis 1853....
  • Tacitus. Opera quae supersunt, ed. by J.G. Orellius, Turici, Berolini 1859-95....
  • Zeno, Apostolo Dissertazioni Vossiane, vol. II, Venezia 1753....
  • Zotenberg, H. Chronique de Abou-Djafar-Mo'hammed-Ben-Djarir-Ben-Yezid
  • Tabari, vol. I, Paris 1867." ["xiii"-xx].

PAGE 1959


My Commentary to the Germanic Laws and Mediaeval Documents [see 1958], I must confess, suffers from a serious drawback--it is too conservative. When I wrote it, I was dimly conscious of the geological fault underlying the structure of Germanic history, philology, palaeography, and allied subjects, but I could not tear myself away from many accepted scientific [sic] conclusions, because it had not occurred to me that the stupendous scientific structure was reared exclusively on a foundation that would collapse the moment the geological fault led to an earthquake. Therefore I quoted Tacitus, Jordanes, and Auxentius as authorities, or, at least, did not disturb the conclusions to which they led. As my investigation proceeded, it became clearer and clearer that there was something wrong in the cherished authors, but I was totally unable to account for the positive references to Goths in the Greek authors, such as Procopius, and in the Greek synaxaries and martyrologies. It seemed incredible that such a distant subject as that dealing with the Goths, who had little in common with the Greeks, should have found its way so permanently into Greek thought.

A series of fortunate discoveries, many of them quite accidental, solved the puzzling questions beyond any expectation. The Graeco-Gothic relations became obvious at a flash, when the Tetraxite or Crimean Goths turned out to be a fraud. The whole history of the Crimean Goths is based on the definite account of John, the son of Photina, the bishop of the Goths, who was sent to the Tetraxite Goths at the end of the eighth century. All authors who have written on the subject have taken pains to elaborate on the importance of the story, and the presence of this saint in the Greek synaxaries under June 26. When I discovered, quite accidentally, that this saint was purloined from Jon Bar-Aphtonia, the Syrian saint, given in the Syrian synaxaries under June 26 as a Syrian bishop in the first half of the sixth century, all the other Gothic entries in the Greek calendars became invalidated, such as the burning of the Gothic church and the references to Ulfilas. THERE WAS NO ESCAPE--THE SPANISH GOTHS OF THE EIGHTH AND NINTH CENTURIES NOT ONLY FURNISHED WHOLESALE LITERARY AND DOCUMENTARY FRAUDS TO THE WESTERN WORLD, BUT ALSO INSPIRED INTERPOLATIONS AND MORE IMPORTANT FRAUDS IN GREEK LITERATURE.

I STILL CLUNG TO TACITUS. I HAD BEEN BROUGHT UP IN THE WORSHIP OF TACITUS, ESPECIALLY OF HIS GERMANIA. The more than seven hundred pages of A. Baumstark's Ausführliche Erläuterung des allgemeinen Theiles der Germania des Tacitus, and the more than three hundred pages of his Ausführliche Erläuterung des besondern völkerschaftlichen Theiles der Germania des Tacitus, filled me with awe. But one day, while confined to my room by an attack of the grippe, I picked up the Germania, to use it as an anodyne. Now, after I had become acquainted with the literary and linguistic balderdash of the Hispericists and had studied minutely Virgil Maro the Grammarian and Aethicus, I was struck by the amazing similarity in method in the Germania and the writers who had fallen under Arabic influence, and AT A GLANCE RECOGNIZED THAT THE GERMANIA WAS MERELY AN ELABORATION OF CAESAR'S DE BELLO GALLICO, where he deals with the manners of the Gauls and Germans and the mysterious animals. THE INVESTIGATION WHICH FOLLOWED PROVED THIS ASSUMPTION CORRECT DOWN TO THE MINUTEST DETAIL.

PAGE 1960

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