Portsmouth Literary and Scientific Society (6 march 1886)

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

This article is a report of the Portsmouth Literary and Scientific Society published in the Hampshire Telegraph and Sussex Chronicle on 6 march 1886.

The report is about the lecture on "Moses Mendelssohn, his Life and Writings" attended by Arthur Conan Doyle on 2 march 1886 at the Penny-street Lecture Hall (Portsmouth).


Hampshire Telegraph and Sussex Chronicle (6 march 1886, p. 2)

Portsmouth Literary and Scientific Society

On Tuesday evening the seventh ordinary meeting of this Society was held at the Penny-street Lecture Hall, when the chair was occupied by the President (the Rev H Maxwell Egan Desmond, M A, F R G S), and the company included the following gentlemen: Captain Jackson, R N, Rev Dr W Stern, Rev A Halliday, M A, Rev T Timmins, Dr A Conan Doyle, Dr Bernard J Guillemard, Dr C C Claremont, Messrs J Hay, H Percy Boulnois, W H Kirton, S Pittis, J M Ollis, R N, W Inglis, R N, W E Welch, J A Wilson, R N, C Foran, Kelly, Bird, J Moses, J Friedeberg, G F Bell, and Dr J Ward Cousins, Hon. Sec. A large number of ladies were also present. — The Rev W Stern, Ph.D., in commencing a paper on "Moses Mendelssohn, his Life and Writings," said that his intention would be to prove that scholars, who were continually moving among books and making scientific research, were by no means so unpractical as they were so generally believed to be. The man with whom he intended to make them acquainted was a benefactor to his race, and he would contrast his life to a stream. The birth of Mendelssohn led them to the house of poverty, from which most of their great men had come, but his father was strictly honest, industrious, and upright. He was born on the 10th of February, 1729, in Germany, and at the age of 13, without resources and without friends, he set out for Berlin, where he acquired Latin, modern languages (including English), mathematics, and some other branches of learning. The more youthful events connected with Mendelssohn were then recited, and the eagerness of his philosophical studies were dwelt upon; he was, indeed, a self-taught man, but though self-teaching (the essayist remarked) was fraught with great danger not to be overrated, often creating one-sidedness and partiality, Mendelssohn soon became a favourite among the educated classes by the publication of a pamphlet and a series of dissertations. They stamped him as being a man of true German mind, and after he had spent some time as a tutor he secured an office as book-keeper, which enabled him to establish a home for himself. One book of his, "Phaedon; or, the Immortality of the Soul," shortly after brought Mendelssohn particularly to the front, and his writings found an echo in almost every heart, and were translated into almost every language. Subsequently the essayist dwelt upon the antagonism which took place between Mendelssohn and King Frederick, the translation of the Bible into German by the former (which for clearness excelled all his works), and the manner in which he commenced that which was now only beginning to be recognised in the political world — the separation of Church from State. The efforts of Mendelssohn in ennobling the mind of youth, independent of creed, were very highly praised, and his associations with his friend Lessing formed a point of consideration; and altogether, though a Jew, he had acted in a manner which had secured for him immortality and fame. — The Chairman, in opening the discussion, said that doubtless Dr Stern had described one of the greatest of German heroes, who had been a champion of humanity and had succeeded in putting down religious intolerance. He spoke of the terrible persecutions which in older days had followed the Jews, and said that they were only permitted to marry up to a certain number, while those who did marry were compelled to purchase a certain amount of china from the Royal manufacturers in Germany. The result of that was that in the choice which the managers of the factories chose to make for the purchasers they cleared of their old refuse stocks, by which system Mendelssohn was hampered with no fewer than twenty immense china apes, which still were in the houses of the Mendelssohn family. He moved an award of thanks to Dr Stern, which was seconded by Mr J Hay, supported by Dr Conan Doyle and Dr J Ward Cousins, and carried unanimously, after which Dr Stern briefly replied to a few questions which had been put to him.