Warshow and Trilling
To the Editor:
After reading Lionel Trilling’s recent article [“The Mind of Robert Warshow,” June] one feels that Trilling has revealed more of himself than of Warshow. . . . For example, in attempting to understand the latter’s attitude toward Judaism, he discusses his own feeling of detachment from the Jewish community and then vaguely concludes that Warshow’s feeling “was essentially not very different from my own.” Trilling overemphasizes his role in the relationship with Warshow and sometimes brings himself into the picture in ways that cannot even begin to shed light on his subject. . . .
Richard M. Sloane
To the Editor:
In his moving essay on Robert Warshow, Lionel Trilling gives an account of an altercation with me that squares little with what I myself remember of it.
The incident dates back to June 1945, which was many months before Robert Warshow came on the staff of COMMENTARY (of which I was an associate, never a managing, editor). I do not remember ever being shown a letter from Mr. Trilling in which he refused to “involve” himself with this magazine. The altercation that June night started over some remarks occasioned by an article of Edward N. Saveth’s called “Henry Adams’s Norman Ancestors” that had appeared in the June 1945 (and final) number of the Contemporary Jewish Record (of which I had been managing editor). I objected to what I thought was Mr. Trilling’s assertion that Mr. Saveth was damning Henry Adams in toto for his anti-Semitism. A few sharp words were exchanged, but I do not at all remember accusing Mr. Trilling of “Jewish self-hatred.” Least of all was there any suggestion of resorting to violence in order to settle the matter. What I do remember is that we ended up by glaring at each other amid a strained silence. . . .
New York City
Mr. Trilling writes:
Clement Greenberg is quite right in his recollection of the particular subject that made the occasion of our dispute—it was, as he says, Edward Saveth’s article on Henry Adams. I had entirely forgotten this until Mr. Greenberg’s mention of it brought it at once and very clearly to mind. But I am as certain as anyone can be in a matter of memory that my letter to Elliot Cohen did have its part in our disagreement. My recollection is that I made the first reference to it and that Mr. Greenberg showed knowledge of it and commented on it adversely. And I am no less certain that—on the basis either of the letter or of my objections to the way in which Mr. Saveth had dealt with Henry Adams’s anti-Semitism—Mr. Greenberg did accuse me of “Jewish self-hatred.” The subject of our dispute being what it was, I cannot imagine what else Mr. Greenberg could have said that would have made me as angry as I was. On the question of whether or not we invited each other to step outside for purposes of violence, I must consider myself outvoted, for my wife’s recollection agrees with Mr. Green-berg’s and not with mine. Nevertheless I can say without any qualification of my certitude that the encounter was far more intense than Mr. Greenberg remembers it to have been; although we were both too sensible to allow the episode to make a permanent breach between us, at the time it took place it was charged with an extreme antagonism. . . .