Joseph Witriol’s Journal – Part 41: Sol Loewe, Stern Burden

Sunday, 3rd May 1959, 3.45 p.m.

I gained second prize – 25 guineas – in the J.C. Essay Competition. They rang up for me to give them some dope, and a photograph, for their “Incidentally” column. Rather depressing to think this is the nearest to fame I shall ever get. The essay itself was a feeble affair; the lucid analysis, firm grasp of all the problems raise, are conspicuously absent. A few Hebrew and Yiddish phrases and – perhaps it is not unfair to say – a general readability – gained it the prize, I suppose. Anyway, the money has enabled me to put E’s bank balance in a healthy state; it needs to be, because as I keep on telling her, if we move – rather, when we move – her allowance will be cut by £7-10-0 a month. I suppose if I could rely on £150 p.a. net from “fees” before deduction of tax I could then keep my own finances on an even keel, on the assumption that gross rent would not exceed £7 p.w.

Sam [brother] in bed with cold, Mum has cold. The worry and sheer physical strain of his business is too much for him. He was offered a job with Shell Mex on leaving school, but my father ע״ה [may peace be upon him] wanted him to be with “Yiddishe people,” so he worked for Sol Levy (“there’s not a captain’s wife leaves the ship doesn’t buy one of Sol Levy’s handbags”). Hinc illae lacrimae. For the record, a drizzly day, Alf and Boobba Esther [Katz: brother-in-law and mother-in-law] have arrived. In any case, I cannot think – I never can – of any particularly noteworthy entry to make.

Thursday, 21st May 1959, 11.30 a.m.

Raining. Taking E. [Edith Witriol] & P. to Victoria Chest Hospital this p.m. Up early (6.25 a.m.), fed P., made own breakfast, cleared E’s, own shoes, wrote to Rothenberg – feeling virtuous.

A letter from Raphael Loewe saying he enjoyed my article (sc. prize-winning essay) in the J.C. I gather from his letter he was a runner-up; if so, it was very sporting of him to write to me – he bears, after all, a distinguished name in Anglo-Jewry (his father was Reader in Rabbinics at Cambridge) and is an M.C.

The Southend women Zionists want me to talk to them – I have arranged a tentative date for October. Left 34M+ words with T&H y’day. Very enjoyable evening at Richard’s [Gabriel Richard Stern, a good friend who helped with Polish and Russian words in Mumme Loohshen]  last Saturday, with Joyce; sherry, wine, French bread; Dr Zhivago, Sleepwalkers [presumably this book] lying around – pleasant. Also an enjoyable day last (Whit) Monday – perambulated P. to Moresby Road [mother’s home in Upper Clapton] & back. Sam & Lily there [brother and sister-in-law], but both run down. E. not her usual sunny self going, but coming back my kindness, forbearance, patience and general saintliness had its effect and she revived. P. has been grizzling, so E. has dumped him on to me while she makes feeds. I am entertaining him. Back to school on Monday! Must try to rally for this last (8 week -9 week?) lap. We have a new head; Burden, 35-ish. He seems a good type; footballer, cricketer. But he’s modern, which means I must try to get the kids to make models & so on. I think I shall let events take their course this term. If I find, as I probably shall, that I have a lower-stream class next term, I shall then assume that it is unlikely I will ever have an “A” class – the only thing that could have made primary teaching endurable, perhaps even pleasant – and will try to transfer to a selective secondary school. But I understand that even Burghleigh, the dumping ground, [now called Acland Burghley] want a head of languages (sic, plural) dept. I wouldn’t be eligible for that, but perhaps a French-teaching job there, even, if it turned up?

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Joseph Witriol’s Journal – Part 40: Inacceptable specimen

Sunday, 12th April 1959, 9.08 p.m.

A rather bad day, didn’t get up till midday after staying up till 2 a.m. As a result, headachey, irritable, taking it out of E., [Edith] who was on the go continuously from 7.30 a.m. On Sundays now the routine is for the family to come round for tea: the two boobbes [i.e. my grandmothers Yetta and Esther], Sam & Lily [his brother and sister-in-law], Alf [mum’s brother]. It means a certain amount of work, though I suppose it’s churlish of me even to mention it – after all we have been guests often enough of the “family.” But on top of coping with Philip…Though here again I am being unfair: first of all, I have very little coping to do myself; Edith does it all, except for an occasional turn I take with the bottle, and secondly Philip, touch wood, gives very little trouble, really. He can be left alone for 4 to 5 hour stretches by day and by night. At the moment complete silence while I write this in the front-room. E is ironing, P is sleeping, the next door’s are quiet so is Mrs F.D. E. has just said: “Bet you’re writing ‘Real Look-back-in-anger’ -set-up.” Actually, it’s a picture of domestic bliss – oh,sod it, I’m to blame, I know.

I have had a rather trying time with T & H. They sent me a contract which left me with the feeling I might deliver a 50,000 word TS & find them sending it back to me and stalling the payment. I’ve had the contract re-worded, and whatever happens I shall get £50, but – I’ve made a number of errors, I think. First – I should have asked a fee of 4 guineas a thou, not 3. I think they would have paid 4, or at least 3½. Secondly, I said that if I delivered 20M words by May 22nd, and they didn’t wish me to go ahead with the translation, they should pay me £50 in full settlement – I should have said 25M, & asked for £75 in full settlement (of the work I would have completed). However, I’m fairly sure I shall be asked to complete the commission and be given a pro-rata payment for the text I shall have delivered by 22nd May, which will amount to 30M words.

I am faced by a moral dilemma – “with” surely – why am I so shaky on prepositions? Why, at my time of life, is my English not impeccable? I wrote to Clark saying his contract was inacceptable and talking about a specimen translation; he wrote back saying he noted I found the contract unacceptable and agreeing to my suggestion about a sample translation. I looked it up in Fowler — he recommends unacceptable. I had already sent T&H a specimen translation, what I should have referred to was a sample of the actual work I was delivering.

Although my contract says I am to translate Rothenberg’s book & to be paid 3 guineas a thou English words, Clark told me orally that if the translator’s fee came to £250 it would make the book commercially impracticable. Also, I have to submit the complete TS by Sept.30th. I have done 30M words & now could do another 20 – 30M comfortably by July 31 – Aug 31. But my feeling is that these subsequent 20 – 30M words cover ground already covered. Should I advise Clark to limit the English version to what I have already done? Or should I go ahead regardless, and do another 20-30M words & get another 60-90 guineas? I feel rather inclined to the latter. If I limit my translation to 60M words (actually, without any cuts at all, it would go to 90M words, but I couldn’t get it done in time), Clark will have no cause for complaint, and if he decides to cut the extra 20-30M words, he will have saved himself the cost of the extra paper and composition.

School to-morrow. E. says she’ll be sorry because in a way, in many ways, I’ve been a help; in a way, glad because I shall be out of the way.