September 12, 1914
Page 4

Described by Charles Henry Meltzer, the Noted Literateur and Critic, Mrs. W. R. Chapman, President of the Rubinstein Club, and Dr. O. P. Jacob, the Berlin Correspondent of “Musical America”

September 12, 1914
THE following letters will give some idea of conditions in Europe at the outbreak of hostilities.

As will be seen, Charles Henry Meltzer is still firm in the faith. He believes
that the great outcome of the war will be
to force Signor Gatti-Casazza and other
managers to give opera in English. Mrs.
William R. Chapman, recently returned from Germany, gives an intimate view of the scenes in Bayreuth when war was declared. As for Dr. O. P. Jacob, who was stranded in Athens, his trouble−outside of money matters−was how to swallow the newspaper report that Egypt had declared war on Germany, while Switzerland had declared war on England.
However, here are the letters:
What Charles Henry Meltzer Writes:
Comfort modern, Hotel des E’trangers, Paris le 16, Aug. 1914
English spoken, Man spricht Deutsch
My Dear John C. Freund:
I am on the edge of things−great,
tragic, terrible things−and I can't get
into the heart of them, without being
shot. Scores of other scribes, more able than I have ever been, are waiting and watching, and some of us are eating out our hearts because we are denied the chance of seeing and describing the world-fight.
Twelve days ago I was caught suddenly in the net of fate in London.
You know what took me there−a plan for a “grand” opera in English, book by “Yours truly,” music by a composer whose name you have been told and will, I am sure, not publish. All had gone well and I had lingered in London, working on my libretto.
Then wars began and, after two days of uncertainty, England went in!
I was in Westminster Abbey a few
hours before the decision was reached and published. Crowds of quiet and or
derly men, women and children were walking up and down between the Houses
of Parliament and Trafalgar Square.
No cries, no “swank,” no bravado! Only
a grim, patient, resolute feeling of “If we must, we must!”
It did one good to see the crowd so calm. And it was just the same in Paris.
You would not believe how still and collected the people have been here after a few moments of quite natural heat and rage.
We are living in a perpetual Sunday−no commotion, no excitement and less business.
We who frequent the Café Napolitain sit, write and talk till, at 8 .p. m., we are turned out.
We dine, more or less cheerfully, and at 9:30 are again turned out.
It might have pleased or pained you to hear the French recruits in Leicester Square and on the Channel boats wrestling with “Rule Britannia” and the “Marseillaise.”
Alas! the French−as a nation−sing poorly!
Some of the French artists-who sing charmingly-are wondering if there will be any more cosmopolitan opera seasons in New York. Qui sait?
The one bright spot I can see in the tremendous tragedy, so far as music is
concerned, is this: If the mobilization of
the foreign artists, singers and musicians should upset the present arrangements of our Italian and Anglo-Italian opera managers they may have, at last, to
give opera in English a chance in the great American opera houses! Faithfully, CHARLES HENRY MELTZER.
Don’t know when I can get back. My steamer has been requisitioned. My youngest daughter is in Berlin, unable to get out. It’s all fearfully interesting and fearfully trying.
What O. P. Jacob Writes:
Phalere, Greee, near Athens.
August 10, 1914

Dear Mr. Freund:
From my cable, which I sent yesterday from the American Legation in
Athens, you will have understood that I
have been brought up to a dead stop here.
As soon as I can I shall leave for Italy on the next steamer to be had. From there I shall try my best to get into Germany, probably through Austria.
It may be of interest to note the influence of the war of nations on this seething corner, formed by Europe, Asia and Africa.
When I started from Genoa on the 21st of July for a much-needed “trip of repose” I little thought that my journey would terminate in a veritable Odyssie.
Upon our arrival in Alexandria, Egypt, conditions were still in such a state of unsettled fermentation that more than one means for a harmonious solution seemed possible.
What a change had taken place, however, when we arrived in Beyrout!
When, on the verge of starting for the interior of Syria, the American consul general of Beyrout very emphatically counseled me to desist from making the attempt.
It appeared that the unsettled state of affairs, with the likelihood of Turkey becoming involved in the conflict, wascausing a state of utter lawlessness to develop throughout the country, back of Beyrout and Damascus.
Besides, this very able representative of our country−rather more efficient than many we send abroad, I am sorry to state−took pains to point out that un less I hurried back to Europe as quickly as possible, I might not be able to get there for several months!
How very right Mr. Hollis was was clearly proven on the very same day.
Suddenly all banking business in Beyrout was stopped!
A rush on everything laying claim to the name of “bank” ensued. All foreign money−other than gold−was flatly refused!
By rare good fortune I succeeded in engaging passage on a Greek steamer going back to Alexandria. All the other lines had stopped their service.
This Greek steamer was literally crowded with Syrian, Armenian and other refugees, hastening to America to escape Turkish conscription.
On the biblical coast of Lebanon torch signals flamed up, during the night, in forming the captain that a party of refugees in a rowboat desired to be taken aboard. As far as possible these requests were granted.
In Alexandria we heard that the war of nations was no longer a chimera, but a fait accompli!
Here again all the banks had closed
and no money whatsoever was exchanged.
If you had time to go through the Arabian and Greek quarters and were lucky, you might find an enterprising money changer who would give you four pounds sterling for twenty-five dollars!
As England was not yet involved in the struggle, the Khedivian Mail Line−flying the British flag−still kept up its mail service.
Scarcely, however, had we left Alexandria for Constantinople on the Osmanich when the captain was distracted between orders and counter-orders from the board of directors in Alexandria. Now he was told to proceed toward Constantinople. Then again came an order not to leave the next port.
It seemed that the German warships Goeben and Breslau were cruising about these waters, which gave the directors of the Khedivian Mail Line much cause to worry, lest their largest and best steamer might be captured and looted.
Thus it came about that we were held up in Pireus, the port of Athens, for three days. In the meanwhile the Os manian Empire seems to have been approaching something of a climax.
It was and is the consensus of opinion that while one might enter Turkey with comparative facility, it would prove an extremely difficult matter to get out again.
Under such unfavorable auspices I considered it more advisable to stop here and to make the attempt to reach Berlin the other way round, i.e. to go to Italy and to try to get to Germany, through Austria.
This I am about to do, and if all goes well your correspondent will be in a position, in about two weeks, to get you a report on the effect the war seems to have on our artists in Europe.
The effect this war of the powers has produced in the Orient can scarcely be described in one sentence. Even Oriental fatalism seems to have been shaken!
Excitement everywhere, with a strong leaning of the sympathies towards France and England.
That Russia should be an allied power of these two is generally regretted. There is 'no limit to the hair-brained reports that are circulated, published and believed. For instance, a week ago a report appeared in print that Egypt had declared war on Germany and, laughable as it may seem, the astonishing bit of news had time to be born that Switzerland sent England a declaration of war.
But why comment on these absurdities,
which are only a degree more ridiculous than some of the geographical and other impossibilities that are concocted by some of the larger European parties; yes, and even by the International News Bureau.
The real, the authentic facts of this war will not be known till it is over!
What Mrs. W. R. Chapman (President of the Rubinstein Club) Writes:
BETHEL. MAINE, Aug. 29, 1914
My Dear Mr. Freund:
I have read your editorial in the issue of August 29 on “Some Causes of the World’s Greatest War.” It covers the subject better than anything I have read since this terrible calamity to all mankind started.
I have just returned from three months in Europe−came through the war zone on that never-to-be-forgotten Sunday, August 2.
Suffered discomforts and hardships, but was preserved from real danger and with money for all needs, was able to help others less fortunate.
Reached horne by S. S. Athenia from Glasgow to Montreal, coming in what was known as “second cabin extension,” giving us all the privilege of the ship, which was not all that we desired. However, we came safely to port with 500 other American refugees−all thankful to be here! We were in Greece when the fatal shots were fired.
From Greece we went to Trieste, thence to Vienna, to Buda-Pesth, through the Dolomites and the Austrian Tyrol, through Oberammergau and the castle country of Bavaria to Bayreuth, where we remained for the week, hearing “The Ring,” the “Dutchman” and the last performance of “Parsifal.”

We were sitting at the table with Schumann-Heink when Theodor Sheidl, who sang the part of Klingsor , came at the close of the second act to say “Good-bye! Off for the war!”


Search Musical America's archive of photos from 1900-1992.