Romain Rolland (1866-1944).

Two autograph letters signed ('Romain Rolland') to Albert Einstein, Hotel Byron, Villeneuve (Vaud), 21 and 23 August 1917.

In French, 7 pages, 178 x 135mm. One envelope.

Maja Winteler-Einstein (1881-1951) – her husband Paul Winteler (1882-1952) – Besso family.
Published in Schulmann, Kox, Janssen, Illy (eds). The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein (Princeton University Press, 1998), vol. 8A, pp.504, 510.
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Lot Essay

Rolland writes to express the hopes for pacifism which he shared with Einstein.

Rolland had intended to visit Einstein in Lucerne, but has heard from Heinrich Zangger that it will be too late. Nevertheless, he sends a warm expression of friendship, and concern for Einstein's health [Zangger had mentioned a rather improbable weight-loss of 30kg], describing Einstein's self-neglect as 'a crime against science': 'Je sais que votre santé a été assez éprouvée, et que vous ne voulez pas la soigner, comme il faudrait; ce qui est un crime envers la science et une peine pour vos amis'. He hopes nevertheless that Einstein's stay in Switzerland will have given him the strength to bear 'another winter of physical and psychological privation in Berlin', remembering the optimism which struck him when Einstein visited Rolland in Vevey two years previously – 'J'en ai conservé un souvenir tonique et lumineux'. Rolland himself is greatly distressed to see the West and especially 'ma France' bleeding itself dry during the Great War, but he remains optimistic: 'j'ai foi (pour un avenir prochain) en une civilisation plus riche et plus vaste que celle d'aujourd'hui'. He has been working on two books himself, and enjoying Georg Nicolai's Biologie des Krieges, whose 'great spirit' fills him with hope. 'C'est une revanche suffisante de la bêtise immense, qui est le nouveau Déluge universel. L'Arche flotte. Elle finira bien par aborder'.

Einstein responded to Rolland immediately, on 22 August, with a long letter condemning Prussian militarism and suggesting how it might be contained by a grand alliance of the nations. Writing again on 23 August, Rolland muses on the impossibility of stopping 'moral epidemics', like disease epidemics, at the frontiers: 'The present war seems to me like the Hydra of Lerna. For each head cut off, two others grow. – That is why I do not believe in the effectiveness of these clashes of armies'. His hope is rather in social forces – and if that fails, 'my God! It will not be the first time that a powerful civilisation has crumbled'. A postscript refers to Bertrand Russell, and to his hopes for pacifism, even if its advocates are always outnumbered: 'L'esprit n'est jamais vaincu, – que lorsqu'il y consent. Il devance les siècles'.

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