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Notes and Documentsill HENRI HERZ' DESCRIPTION OF THE AMERICAN QUAKERS Edited by Henry Bertram Hill and Larry Gara* Many travel accounts written by European visitors to the United States in the nineteenth century contain descriptions of Friends and of the Society of Friends. For the most part, such descriptive material was based on observations made of Friends in Philadelphia or its environs. The French pianist and composer, Henri Herz,1 also included an account of the Quakers in his travel book which was published in France in 1866.2 Herz, however, placed his Quaker material in his section on New York rather than Philadelphia. Little of Herz' account of the Quakers was based on firsthand observation. He gave no indication of having visited a Friends Meeting or having talked with Friends. Some of his facts, obviously gleaned from printed accounts or conversation, were garbled. He reduced Quaker tenets to four, omitting all mention of the Inner Light, his anti-British prejudice led him to poke fun at Quaker pacifism, and he confused the Quakers with the Shakers. Despite these serious shortcomings his account is of interest today because it furnishes a picture of Quakerism which was circulated in midnineteenth century France. While there is no evidence that his book had a very wide circulation, Herz was an influential figure * Henry Bertram Hill is Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin. Larry Gara is Professor of American History at Grove City College, Grove City, Pennsylvania. 1 Although he was a native of Austria, Heinrich Herz (1806-1888) considered himself French. He received his musical education in Paris and used the professional name Henri Herz. He had a long and successful career which included a professorship at the Paris Conservatory, a number of concert tours, two ventures in the business of manufacturing fine pianos, and the building of a concert hall. Although some critics claimed Herz lacked first-rate artistic ability, his concerts and more than two hundred compositions were very popular in his day. H. C. Colles, ed., Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians (3d ed., New York, 1927-1928), II, 620-621. 2 Herz came to America in 1846. He toured North and South America for five years and, after returning home, he wrote one of a projected two volumes containing his reactions to and descriptions of life in the Americas, Mes voyages en Amérique (Paris, 1866). 112Bulletin of Friends Historical Association in the musical world of his time. His impressions undoubtedly supplied many a French reader with a description of the sect whose members, Herz conceded, despite all their follies, had "admirable qualities and a gentleness of spirit" among their chief characteristics.3 Don Manuel4 and I entered several churches belonging to different sects, and it was in New York that I saw Quakers for the first time in my life—a man and a woman. This couple, austere and morally respectable, I am sure, made a ridiculous public appearance. In America, where everyone dresses in just the way everyone else does, where even the Catholic priests wear little or nothing to distinguish them from other men, the Quakers have adopted the plainest sort oí attire. For the men, this uniformlike garb consists of a somber-hued coat, wide trousers, broad and heavy shoes, a low-crowned, wide-brimmed hat, plus a cane such as doctors in France used to carry in the last century and Monsieur Joseph Prudhomme5 still continues to use in our day. The women, clothed below with heavy shoes and blue wool stockings, cover their heads with a kind of cap resembling a cowl, and their shoulders with a wide triangular shawl. They encase themselves in tight-fitting, pleatless dresses, which make them look like umbrellas in their sheaths, which they all the more resemble because of their stiff and measured gait. Add to all this a green apron, and I tell you that not even the charms of a Venus de Medici could overcome such treatment. One gets the best understanding of these people in their meetinghouses. They shake in order to call down upon them the favors of the Holy Spirit, and members of both sexes and all ages preach...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1934-1504
Print ISSN
0033-5053
Pages
pp. 111-114
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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