THIS book by Mr. Ravage in which he recounts the story of the House of Rothschild cannot but evoke immediate comparison with the recent work of Egon Caesar, Count Corti dealing with the same subject. There is evident, indeed, in these two works the difference between two methods of biographical or semi-biographical exposition. Mr. Ravage is essentially the popularizer leaving out of the picture much that goes to make a complete panorama of the times and relations in which his central characters find themselves; Count Corti is essentially the historian, realizing the important part which character and heredity play in the lives of his subjects, but seeing also the great significance which many of the contemporary political events and personalities of which Mr. Ravage takes comparatively little notice, have in forming a complete picture of the whole.
Not that 'Five Men of Frankfort' is a poor book, but it is not, and perhaps does not strive to be a complete history of the great banking house which grew out of the little shop in the Frankfort Judengasse. For the average reader, neither a student of the period, nor one more than ordinarily interested in the history of the amazing growth to power of the House of Rothschild, for one who wishes to get some light on its development and influence, Mr. Ravage's book is well designed, and, so far as it goes, essentially correct.
Perhaps one of the chief virtues of the book, is that it is easy to read--truly an advantage under any conditions and particularly in a popular work. Moreover, the author, escapes, on the whole, the treacherous middle ground of striving to found his historical facts purely upon the trembling quagmire of psychological interpretation. And, happily, he successfully restrains--except for a few lapses--the temptation to be "bright.'
Taken then, all in all, and viewed from the standpoint of what it is meant to be, and not what it might be, "Five Men of Frankfort" deals very acceptably with a story which can perhaps never fail to arouse the interest and to some extent the wonder of the reader.
The third volume of Rupert Hughes' "George Washington", the first two of which aroused much comment, will be published in the fall.