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BERNSTEIN, LEONARD - Childhood Essay by Leonard Bernstein about John Galsworthy
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BERNSTEIN, LEONARD - Childhood Essay by Leonard Bernstein about John Galsworthy

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BERNSTEIN, LEONARD. (1918-1990). American composer, conductor, teacher, and pianist. AMsS. (“Leonard Bernstein”). 3pp. 8vo. (Boston), October 15, 1934. A school outline and commentary entitled “‘Loyalties’ by John Galsworthy,” written by the 16-year old Bernstein as a Boston Latin School student.


I. Both narrative and a treatise on race prejudice.

II. Society versus the Jew.

III. Time: The present. Place: in and around London. The British social élite make up the environmental factors.

IV. Major Plot Episodes.

Act I, 1.

a. Discovery of theft of a thousand pounds from De Levis’ room at Meldon Court, owned by Windsor [sic.].

b. Interrogation of tenants and servants.

ACT I, 2.

a. Further investigation; Dancy accused by De Levis, in whom desire for revenge upon society’s treatment of the Jew is uppermost. Not believed by friends of Dancy.

ACT II, 1.

a. De Levis ousted from society of London; asked to resign from smart clubs.

ACT II, 2.

a. Mabel informed of accusation; decides with Dancy to wait out a trial.


a. Appearance of two witnesses, Gilman and Ricardos, who produce conclusive evidence as to Dancy’s guilt.

b. Dancy’s lawyer resigns from case.


a. Dancy informed of his lawyer’s knowledge.

b. De Levis triumphant, refuses returned money but recommends it to charity; his revenge is his balm.

ACT III, 3. Dénoument.

a. Dancy informs Mabel of his guilt; money needed to pay debt of honor.

b. Dancy decides to escape to Morocco with Mabel following.

c. Interruption by arrival of police causes Dancy to commit suicide to save his wife’s name.

V. Dramatis Personae.

Major Charles Winsor, of the élite

Ferdinand De Levis, young, rich but Jewish

Captain Ronald Dancy, O.S.O., retired, loyal, that is to say, prejudiced.


Major minors

Twisden, Dancy’s lawyer, righteous

Gilman and Ricardos, talkative


VI. Race prejudices are interpreted by Galsworthy as merely loyalties to one’s own race; that is the law of races―to cut each other’s throat. Therefore the least provocation is sufficient to start a racial battle.

As to the book itself, it is quite well written, though barely comparable to the masterly treatment of this theme by Shakespeare. There is one outstanding feature; Galsworthy makes the most of every character however minor his role.”


Talented as a conductor and a composer, Bernstein is remembered both for music he created and music he shared with the world through his leadership of the New York Philharmonic. Growing up in Boston, Bernstein began his musical instruction at the age of 10 and attended the famous Boston Latin School, where he wrote our essay. He went on to study at Harvard University and under conductors Fritz Reiner and Serge Koussevitzky. His talent for conducting led him to posts with several prominent metropolitan orchestras including the New York Philharmonic where he introduced his popular “Young People’s Concerts.” But Bernstein was also adept at composition, working in the disparate areas of classical, liturgical, jazz, and contemporary music. His works include West Side Story, the oratorio Kaddish and music for the film On the Waterfront.


Our essay, written when Bernstein was just 16, describes his impressions of English novelist and playwright John Galsworthy’s (1867-1933) 1922 play Loyalties, which was made into a film in 1933 starring Basil Rathbone and Basil Dean. Galsworthy is best-known for his stories which chronicle the lives of the Forsytes, a haughty, upper middle-class, British family. Grouped in three trilogies―The Forsyte Saga, A Modern Comedy, and End of the Chapter, they inspired both a film and a popular television series. Galsworthy also wrote several plays on social themes, including The Silver Box, Strife, Justice andThe Skin Game. He was the 1932 winner of the Nobel Prize for literature. Bernstein also refers to William Shakespeare’s (1564-1616) play The Merchant of Venice. 


Bernstein’s impressions and comments are interesting in light of his own Jewish identity and his most famous work, West Side Story, which explores the theme of racial prejudice.


Written on lined notebook paper with two file holes in the left margin. The teacher’s comments in black ink include “Too general” and “Inadequate.” In very good condition.



Item #20414


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