Together seven three-ring binder notebooks (binders worn, boards on vol. VI broken off) -- retained by us as out of "respect du fonds" -- containing approximately 876 typescript and manuscript pages. TOGETHER WITH: 29 file folders of articles, ideas, proposals, and miscellaneous publishing materials, consisting of approximate 300 typescript and manuscript pages, housed in a new Hollinger box. TOGETHER WITH: two of Lasker's passports (1921 and 1926) and a large b/w studio portrait photograph (undated). Item #3080
An important discovery. This is the private, largely unpublished literary archive of the noted social reformer Bruno Lasker (1880-1965), containing well over a thousand pages of typed and hand-written manuscripts. These writings date from 1923 until the year of his death in 1965. Lasker's social work is well known, and concerned racial prejudice and justice, trafficking and human rights, immigration and immigrants' rights, poverty in America and economic inequality. The present literary archive is hitherto UNKNOWN; without it, a full and balanced assessment of Bruno Lasker's life and work cannot be undertaken.
That the materials herein are mostly unpublished is attested by Lasker's own statement in the first of seven folio notebook diaries named "Reflections." In addition to the "Reflections," the archive also contains working typescripts of 29 essays, speeches, and proposals, including 19 writings which were evidently destined for a collection (to be entitled "Rational Sympathy") that never appeared. It is instructive to present the transcription of Lasker's handwritten "To My Executors" in its entirety, which appears in the seventh and final volume of his "Reflections" diaries:
"This is the seventh volume of what might be called a diary, though entries never were made with the frequency suggested by that term. It consists of original reflections, observations, and discussions, suggested either by experiences, by reading, or by verbal colloquies. Only a minute portion of this material therefore has ever entered into literary use [i.e. publication], and the bulk of it constitutes a continuous though not intentional progression of my major concerns, sentiments, and ideas over a large part of my life. Or rather, it constitutes a collection which represents my un-professional pre-occupations (sic). Those connected with my work are more likely to be embodied in memoranda, articles, prefaces, book reviews, reports, and lectures. These are for the most part either on record as printed documents or in the parallel series of binders, much larger in number (which has now reached vol. XXX), which I call my workbooks and which properly form an appendix to my recorded autobiography, made for the Oral History Project at Columbia University, and will be deposited with it in the archives of the Butler Library of that institution. [NOTE: the 30 volumes were indeed deposited at Columbia University -- Bruno Laster Papers 1923-1951].
"The present collection or diary, therefore, is unpublished literary raw material and on my decease may either be handed to some interested person to be mined for items worth preserving (perhaps even for the production -- such as I contemplate myself if I should find myself with enough time, energy and self-confidence for such a task -- of an unpretentious volume or two of short essays), or may also be appended to my MSS autobiography at Columbia University. Seattle, May 8, 1957. [signed] Bruno Lasker."
Lasker "Reflections" diaries were written for an audience of just one person: himself. It is clear that again and again Lasker turned to the writings herein for inspiration as is attested by other materials in the present archive (SEE FINDING AID). As a social commentator, Laske was erudite and penetrating. He observes and elaborates on an unusually broad array of topics (SEE FINDING AID), and have found ourselves continuously impressed by his intelligence, imagination, introspection, and his command of the English language. The personal nature of the diaries is attested by just one poignant passage in Vol. I, namely the entry dated July 26, 1925 (which in its entirety consists of 18 paragraphs):
"Yet but two weeks ago, everything seemed so plain; I had the sensation of knowing that all was right, that I was encircled by an all-loving power, that there was in the world an all-seeing eye, comprehending everything, comprehending everything there is from the beginning to the end of time, that nothing was impossible (and therefore nothing pre-determined). I must have known, or at least I must have been overpowered by consciousness that the being of this overarching trinity of power was knowable even though I could only see a glimpse of it afar. And that consciousness did not come to me in a state of dreaming but in one of those rare states of unusual clarity when the mind leaps unimpeded over chasms of difficulty. For days after I walked as one who had seen, as one who thought he saw -- and then gradually the light grew dimmer, and I saw no more.
"Yet, even in this returning blindness I do not feel as one utterly lost, neither worried nor sorrowful; for what I have glimpsed once I know I shall glimpse again, and from that lighted cave I shall proceed to other caves as yet unexplored."
A sample passage from the same volume of "Reflections" on a very different topic:
"These suburban and small-town Negroes are magnificent. They dress well without garishness; their children are clean and well behaved; they are courteous without being abject -- above all, they are available for any odd job that needs doing, whether it be an extra hand in the kitchen on Jane's wedding day, the cleaning of a gutter, the hauling of a load of gravel or voting hansome [sic] Herman into office as overseer of the poor. The question is, how long will they remain contented with the modest roles we have assigned to them? How long will it be until their bank savings will make them independent of contractors and tradesmen who overcharge them, of housewives who too openly and sneeringly despise them, of landlords and industrialists who exploit them?
"Another question is, how long will it be until the white Americans, with their insane pride in an imaginary Nordic descent, will realize that the annual addition to the population they have denied to east and south European peoples, or part of it, is being made by a race which they deem even lower in the scale of human values?"
Reflections Vol. 1: January 24, 1924 to September 8, 1925. Ca. 120 pp. (numbered 1-112), with "Rough Index" manuscript; topics include -- but certainly are not limited to -- telepathy, surplus wealth, the social worker's dilemma, assimilation and language, the Americanization of the Iroquois, Goethe's botanical writings, popular fiction, "My Reputation for Wit," habits and survival, poverty, prejudice, measure of civilization, "If This Be Treason," suggestions for authors, world friendship, beauty and illusion, sex interest, American manners, wage-slaves, substitution for war, mechanics and divinity, whimsical news, seeing cities, international credit, sanctity of the home, childhood reminiscences, "Natural Science," Bible reading, Bragdon's "Four Dimensional Distances," suffering for an ideal, man-made trouble, tradition, the failure of Christianity, the deteriorating environment and climate change, Europe's race, overpopulation, the character of race, the Christian church, idealists' fractured man, "Go and Sin No More," beauty of landscape, workers' participation, baby language, erotic theology, self-government for India, "Das Heilige," liberation of youth, a suction theory of population, suburban and small-town negroes, white Americans, and much more.
Reflections Vol. 2: September 9, 1925 to July 12, 1926. Ca. 92 pp. (numbered 113-205), with "Rough Index" manuscript; topics include -- but are certainly not limited to -- jaywalking, "Nibelungenlied," social observations, patrician cultures, contract and conduct, moral unrest in modern life, "Religious" architecture, the Golden Rule, Holy Communion, Christian dynamic, intuition and experience, internationalism, America's mental age, the 18th century, stray thoughts, stray observations, friendliness and mechanism, teaching internationalism, social workers and the churches, dishonesty, Tompkins, Square, dramatic value of absence, stature and experience, claims of the church, reading habits, sex relations, cultural heritages, the Cleveland Madonna, Christianity, life and breath, philanthropists, the absurdity of female models as ideals of beauty, and much more.
Reflections Vol. 3: August 10, 1926 to March 23, 1928. Ca. 130 pp. (numbered 206-334), with "Rough Index" typed; topics include -- but are certainly not limited to -- theory of chance, pluralism and free will, fantastic eugenics, comparison with Rome, laws of life, neighborhood as sociological museum, an outline for a comedy, bias of "scientists," Dewey on animal experimentation, unreality of Jewish ideals, Freud: Beyond the Pleasure Principle, Freud's scientific courage, Mozart and Jazz, stray thoughts, sacrifice of racial and cultural heritage necessary, real sex problems of today (that of normal folk), El Greco and Van Dyck, Fiction: a bridge between folkways and new understanding, Broadway: a vain search for life, Bach and the inferiority complex, the future of music, the absurdity of War Departments of Government, the neighborhood playhouse, public celebrations and rites, modern music, diet and internationalism, sport and commercialism, acting and the Kinema (sic), the "Modernistic" home, kinetic aims in painting, fear of religion, art criticism in America, conflict of creative and possessive impulses, popular reactions to cleverness in the arts, and much more.
Reflections Vol. 4: April 28, 1928 to January 30, 1934 (and June 25, 1934). Ca. 138 pp. (numbered 335-473), with "Contents" in manuscript / partially typed; topics include -- but are certainly not limited to -- immortality, A.E. Housman, socialism in a new world, free will, the new industrial revolution and land values, progress and vandalism, choral music, "Can We Change Human Nature?", ethics and aesthetics, continuous social registration, cultural conservation, ribaldry, Ruth St. Denis: Symbol of Vandalism, dynamic architecture, dream cities, enlarged horizons and morality, superstition, satire, the "Medea of Euripides, reflections at fifty, hypocritical liberals, science and consciousness, "Rome is Burning" (notes for a play), "Ancient Sound" (notes for a play), common sense may be nonsense, why radicals have long hair, "Are Canaries Cheerful?", ventriloquists in the pulpit, life without sentiment, social work as a profession, gardens, "C'est l'heure," aerial surveys, a dream ("Most people would rather have footmarks around their grave than flowers"), museum policy, new problems of wealth, social theory and social practice, our concern with techniques, the Last Judgment, severity of colonial powers, a Christmas card, blessings of poverty (sic), notes for sociological studies, extremists, fashions and new wealth, from a future textbook of literature, "What We Confront in American Life" (notes for a speech), two news films, the greatest luxury, Germany: a nation in flight, the sense of guilt, the immoral science, what is "social" reform, social re-education, obeying traffic signals, party principles, the need for laughter, and much more.
Reflections Vol. 5 (according to the "Advertisement" laid into Reflections Vol. 1) was "unfortunately mutilated, apparently to provide the main substance for one or more projected volumes of essays"): April 18, 1936 to July 19, 1936. Ca. 14.5 pp. (numbered 96-111) with typed "Contents." NB: Lasker writes: "Pages 1 - 96, consisting of observations and reflections in Eastern Asia in 1935-1936 (mainly China, Japan, Java, but also including Malaya, Indochina, Philippines, and sea voyages) have been incorporated with the documentary material appended to the typewritten record of the tape-recorded autobiography made by the Oral History Project, Columbia University, and to be deposited in the archives of the Butler Library of that University, 1957. No literary use has been made of that material; but since it is largely reportorial and perhaps rather unique because of its informal character and aesthetic as well as sociological appreciation of things seen, it seemed more appropriate for preservation in that connection than for the possible implementation of future reflective lectures or articles. ~ BL." Lasker also writes: "The diary pages following p. 111 are temporarily mislaid" as of January 1957 (these are not known to have survived). Topics include American symphonic music in our time, Common sense and universally valid knowledge, Patriotism, The intimacy of Oriental art, symmetry in art, the precariousness of the present peace, expensive vulgarity, dogmatism in "factual knowledge," and literacy and propaganda.
Reflections Vol. 6: January 31, 1937 to October 31, 1952 (sic). Ca. 187 pp. (numbered 1-187), with "Contents" in manuscript / partially typed; topics include -- but are certainly not limited to -- socialism and aristo-democracy, authoritarian education, age composition of the Supreme Court, feminine beauty, boys' clubs as citadels of capitalism, institutional philanthropy and the relief of suffering, on breaking a cut-glass dish, understanding the self-sufficient cultures of Germany and Japan, on getting wet with two raincoats, selection as a creative process in art, visual unreality in America, eggs in modern literature (notes for an article), our lessening dependence on land surface, "God knows," the cross on Mt. Davidson, industrial unionism, reflections in a library ("The limited edition is a parasite that flourishes where literature is in decay"), landscape with a figure, desire for survival, Bruckner's Fourth Symphony, antisemitism and the Jewish future, invention and war, sexual promiscuity, translation from Victor Hugo, reducing college admission, failures of American social science training, reflections on Easter, marriage for life, impressionism and peace, America's 20th-century Chinoiserie, Bibles are dangerous, Catholic priesthood, a subway ride and the shadow of the third World War, "Who are the Slum Dwellers of Today?", experimental art, free enterprise, love of children, walnuts and class government, the poison of advertising, fear of books, satiety, epic follies, "The Fur Coat" (outline for a short story), loud song, loud color, the blight of old age, the Russian communist, a young priest, Descartes' idea of God, loneliness in a crowd, freedom of women, "Career" an outmoded concept, prohibition of firearms, thrift, early morning, things rarely seen, an old man's joys, efficiency expert, revolutionary fanaticism, death in a hospital "private room," American humor, and much more.
Reflections Vol. 7: January 3, 1953 to June 25, 1965. Ca. 195 pp. (numbered in 1-31, 32-195), with typed "Contents" and instructions "To My Executors" in MS (see transcription); topics include -- but are certainly not limited to -- Stalin's divinity (and my own), theories of probability, Nicolai Hartmann's ontology of a stratified universe, the vanity of "saints," Tristan and Iseult and the temper of medieval life, childhood memories and religious conversion, Milton's "Paradise Lost," the measurement of happiness, crime and business, classical perfection, childish innocence and imagination in literature, a squashed mosquito, Boethius and prophecy, the moral dilemma of our time: support for the stand of J. Robert Oppenheimer, an old man's dreams: their moral significance, love and morality, the future of socialism, national defense, Salvator (sic) Dali's "Crucifixion," looking at life through the sun-glasses of prejudice, the dream of human flight, uniformed women, youthful marriages, the right to live, cultural decay, loneliness, fatalism, "Pictures that have influenced my life," Ruskin, the American standard of living, teaching science, widowhood and its terror, Trotsky's diary, the burden of memories, social change without revolution: the American home, our decaying speech habits, a reasonable view of death, friendship and spiritual growth, "Come Nearer Death," and much more.
ADDITIONAL TYPESCRIPTS / MANUSCRIPTS: 29 file folders preserved in a Hollinger box, together with Bruno Lasker's 1921 U.S. passport (featuring a signed photograph Lasker as a 41 year-old man); his 1926 U.S. passport; and a large undated b/w photograph of Lasker as an elderly man.
"Notes for Articles and Unfinished Articles":
1. Pragmatism and Prophesy, 1927 (see also Rational Sympathy IX)
2. By a Javanese Roadside
3. Goethe: the Poet as Botanist
4. Social Work and Social Forecast, 1929 (for a speech at Smith College)
5. The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (notes for a one-act play)
6. Village of a Thousand Mandarins (Pearl River Delta), 1941
7. Why Porcelain is Called China, 1928
8. The Youth Movement of Germany, 1921 and 1924 (for Survey Graphic journal)
9. Some Observations on Harlem, 1924 (for Survey Graphic journal)
10. A Philosopher on the [Fifth] Avenue
11. The Good Life: prospectus and proposal for an ethics magazine (social ethics, social education), 1929-1931
12. Conflict of Values
"Notes on Diary and Other Material for Possible Book Use":
13. "Go and Sin No More": Pages from a Sociologist's Diary -- plans for publication of materials from "Reflections" vols. 1-6 (SEE BELOW)
14. Misc. Publications Files: Upcoming Projects and "Manuscripts in Hand"
15. Fugues: Studies in Life's Counterpoint (90 pp., for the Survey journal)
"Rational Sympathy and Other Essays" (Manuscript / Unfinished Book), 1952
16. Man's Changing Universe
17. The Combat of Superstition
18. Fear of Religion
19. This Talk about Spiritual Dynamic
20. Individual and Society / Self-Indulgence and Discipline
21. Thoughts on Immortality I
22. Thoughts on Immortality II
23. Pragmatism and Prophecy
24. On the Sharing of Food
25. The Philanthropist
26. Humility: True and False
27. Fidelity and Honor
28. Published articles 1927-1946
29. An Old Man Speaks.
Lasker defines and refines the fascinating history and sweeping contents of the "Reflections" series for some future reader on a typed "Advertisement" sheet laid into Vol. 1. It bears repeating in full:
"This series of seven manuscript volumes - the fifth unfortunately mutilated, apparently to provide the main substance for one or more projected volumes of essays ("The Good Life", "Science and Religion," etc. ) - started as a journal or diary. But in the course of time the entries became fewer and longer; and it seems to me that the new title " Reflections" with which I am now relabelling these binders is more appropriate.
"This series was preceded by other - handwritten - diaries, one or two may inadvertently be preserved, together with a thin paper cahier of carbon-copied early letters home from London, in my green sailor's chest. These early diary entries are in part excessively sentimental and betray a highly emotional attitude toward my experiences and observations in my early twenties. And even up into the thirties, for I distinctly remember a piece written on the birth of my daughter which I later have read with astonishment.
"Although it began as a diary and continued as a more or less conscious endeavor to preserve some of my passing thoughts for potential further literary uses, this series in the main has been [in my mind] a substitute for lacking opportunities to express myself in writing on matters of intensive, though passing and unprofessional interest. I wrote each piece - usually late at night or in hours of uninterrupted leisure at home - as a sort of editorial addressed to just one reader, my future self. The occasions which stimulated such writing ranged from personal experiences to things seen and heard, but more and more came to be dominated by my reading in many fields. Many of them carry on a sort of dialogue with some author or other, not always in stark disagreement with his views but more often in admiration for him but somehow feeling urged to stress some aspect of the matter which to me he seemed to have neglected or, perhaps, misinterpreted. In this way, I have managed through the years [to retain] my status (in my own eyes at any rate) as a writer and social student, fully conscious though I have been at all times of my lack of skill and literary grace.
"This attitude on my part more fully revealed itself to me when I tried, on various occasions, spread over many decades, to collect some of these minor essays for publication as contributions to some particular field of interest, such as the change in moral standards, the survival of a truly religious faith when all superstitions have been thrown out of one's conscious awareness of the personal relation to the cosmic forces, and so forth. The task, it always appeared, was beyond my capacity - not because of insuperable technical difaculties, but simply because these spontaneous and previously uncorrected entries were too clumsy, too half-cocked, and sometimes too dull and verbose, to lend themselves to rewarding further manipulations - and to publication in any form. In part too intimate, and in part roaming over too vast a region of concerns in which I needs must remain an errant amateur traveller, these pages essentially remained either intellectual exercises of insufficient substance to be of interest to anyone but their perpetrator, or else too way moody to represent even the writer's own thinking about the subject at issue under conditions other than those which had stimulated the initial effort at self-expression.
"That the entries gradually peter out is not so much a result of lacking enterprise or mental energy as of the fact that in recent years I have used another outlet for many of my cogitations and reflections: the notes appended to my collection of abstracts on Prophetics - a theme so large as to invite comments on my part on the widest range of topics. -- July 1, 1962 Bruno Lasker."
The present archive contains Lasker's own design for a possible publication of selections from the "Reflections" (SEE FINDING AID, Hollinger box folder 13. The title of the proposed work is "Go and Sin No More: Pages from a Sociologist's Diary" (alternate title: "Looking at Life: Chosen Leaves from the Diary of a Sociologist to 1950)." A truncated version of Lasker's outline follows:
I. Faith and Knowledge / On Human Worth
II. Rational Sympathy / Family
III. Conflict of Values
IV. Contact and Conduct
V. Moral Attitudes / Crime
[VI]. Morals and Taste / Parables
[VIII]. Social Reform.
COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY BRUNO LASKER PAPERS: These were donated by Lasker himself in 1965, includes "further material on Mr. Lasker's history of his life career, namely, material covering the period 1957-1965, and material for his Study of Prophetics. The latter group -- the result of several decades of accumulation -- deals with conditions (psychological and physical), methods, history, and case studies of prediction. It comprises some 5,000 pages (in 33 binders) of abstracts and comments; an index of abstracts by names, topics, and sub-topics; notes for a substantial bibliography; printed and manuscript materials; and the typed draft of an unpublished book, 'Dates of Destiny'" (SOURCE: Columbia University Columns, XV:1, 1965, pp. 40-41).
PARTIAL BIBLIOGRAPHY (MONOGRAPHS):
Bruno Lasker, Race Attitudes in Young Children (1929), one of the first to challenge notions of innocence, race, and "color-blindness" in young children
-----. Human Bondage in Southeast Asia (1950), a classic study of the evolution of dependency in the history of human -----. Changing standards of living in South China as affected by overseas migration (1935)
-----. Japan in jeopardy (1937)
-----. Living on a moderate income; the incomes and expenditures of street-car men's and clerks' families in the San Francisco bay region (1937)
-----. Populations adrift (1941)
-----. Problems of the Pacific (1931)
-----. Propaganda from China and Japan: A case study in propaganda analysis (1938)
-----. Standards and planes of living in the Far East; a guide to discussions of postwar changes and prospects (1953)
-----. Books of Southeast Asia: a select bibliography (1956)
-----. Asia on the Move (1945)
-----. Peoples of South-East Asia (1944)
-----. Filipino Immigration to Continental United States and to Hawaii (1931)
-----. Jewish Experiences in America (1930)
-----. (With B.S. Rowntree). Unemployment [in York, UK]: a social study (1911).
PROVENANCE: Estate of Russell Johanson, Ravenna Rare Books, Seattle.