Odd Choices

To the Editors:

How odd of Christopher Hitchens, in his review of Douglas Murray’s biography of Lord Alfred Douglas [NYR, September 21, 2000], to attribute to Douglas the familiar anti-Semitic doggerel “How odd/Of God/To choose/The Jews.” Usually the attribution is to Hillaire Belloc, but in fact the verse was written by William Nor-man Ewer (1885–1976). The almost equally well known reply was written by Cecil Browne: “But not so odd/As those who choose/A Jewish God/But spurn the Jews.” The riposte quoted (actually misquoted) by Hitchens—“Not odd/Of God./ Goyim/Annoy ‘im.”—was penned by the noted American author and Yiddishist Leo Rosten.

Earl L. Dachslager
Spring, Texas

Christopher Hitchens replies:

A contest of precedence about this doggerel seems odd also. However, I am glad in a way that a pardonable misprint in Douglas Murray’s index sent me back to Alfred Douglas’s Collected Satires of 1926, a volume now confined to the rare books section of the Library of Congress. In a dedication of fifty-two distraught lines, Douglas sought to rebuke: “All the persons who were wont to be so eloquent/About the “rottenness of the Jews”/And who ended by forcing me to think far better/Of the average Jew than of the average Englishman.”

Might this be called progress of a kind? I hope not, and I am sure I carry much goyische opinion with me. Meanwhile, I suspect that Douglas did publish Mr. Ewer’s lines in his magazine Plain English. And I am quite content (having wrongly admitted the keyword “the” from the fourth line of his verse) to yield this and many other palms to Leo Rosten.