Monday, September 7, 2015

The Independent View of the First Congress

Just one big paragraph
The Independent, as Wikipedia points out, was a supporter of various progressive movements of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. For abolition, for women’s suffrage, and so, it should come as no surprise that their initial view of Esperanto was, on the whole, positive.

The 1905 Esperanto Congress, the first Universala Kongreso, was a big thing. It wasn’t the first international language congress, but the first two Volapük congresses were in a mix of German and Volapük, and the third was the one that brought that movement to its end. And now the Esperantists were trying it.

The Independent was a little late on reporting on the first Universala Kongreso. Their article appeared in their September 7, 1905 issue, while the first congress had ended on 12th of August, and so this was the fourth issue since the end of the congress.

Many international congresses have been held his summer, scientific, literary, legal, sociological, religious, medical and peace, but there is only one of them which was not happened b the fact that the members could not understand each other on account of the difference in language. This exception was the Esperanto Congress held at Boulogne-sur-Mer, where 1,200 men and women for all parts of the world met and talked Esperanto with each other for three days. Dr. Zamenhof, the creator of this new international language, in his opening address emphasized its importance in the promotion of amity and intercourse between different nations, in addition to its practical advantages in commerce, diplomacy and science. The Catholic Esperantists attended mass in the morning, where Esperanto hymns were chanted. In the evening one of Molière’s plays was given in Esperanto by a polyglot company of actors and actresses, Italian, French, English, Norwegian, German and Russian. We published recently [Vol LVII, p 326] an article on Esperanto by Dr. Zamenhof, so our readers are familiar with its general principles. On account of its regularity and simplicity it can be read at sight with the aid of a dictionary, and the study of an hour or two will give its grammar and a considerable vocabulary. In this country it has been used for the amusement of evening gatherings where all the guests are required to speak Esperanto under penalty of a fine of a cent for every English word spoken. A sheet containing the sixteen grammatical rules and a small vocabulary is sent out a day or two in advance with the invitation, which is, of course, printed in the new language.
Three days? Twelve hundred people? Actually, the first Universala Kongreso was six days long (August 5–12, 1905) and only 688 people attended it, a little more than half the number cited by The Independent. The Esperanto Wikipedia page says that there were two theatrical presentations, Mensogo pro Amo, a translation of a play by Eugène Labiche and the Molière play, Edziĝo kontraŭvola, which would be a translation of his Le mariage forcé (The Forced Marriage).

The description of the party sounds very much like that thrown by Mr. and Mrs. Eugene Brewster on April 29, 1905, though the idea might not have been unique to them. Still, it seems possible that the Brewster’s party is what the Independent is referring to.

Two years later, a Unitarian minister was asking the Independent if they would publish material in Esperanto. Their support of Esperanto of Esperanto, in English, was as far as they would go.
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