My American Lectures

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Roumanian ț = ts.
ș = sh.
ă = as the French e in: bonne.
â = as the French e in: quelque.



During the great historical movement known to us as the Renaissance, there appeared in one country after another men gifted with universal minds — men possessed of such extraordinary intellectual power that no domain of human knowledge seemed to be beyond their grasp. From Leonardo Da Vinci in Italy to Erasmus in Holland we find such a flowering of genius as has never been equalled in the history of the world.

Recently the question has been brought forward: Did the Renaissance so utterly exhaust the intellectual vitality of men that succeeding centuries have only been able to offer feeble imitations of its awe-inspiring minds? Are there no great men in modern times? When these -questions aroused discussion in the public press a few years ago, when even great men seemed to feel that modern life was not propitious for the unfolding of such extraordinary intellectual attainments, my thoughts reverted at once to Nicolae Iorga, that master intellect.

Whether we are willing to admit it or not, the fact still remains that Nicolae Iorga is one of the most outstanding intellectual figures — if not, as I am firmly convinced, the outstanding personality — of the modern world. Indeed, if Nicolae Iorga hailed from a large country, instead of a small one, there is no doubt that he would have been acclai med with the world-wide recognition which his genius so richly deserves. But time will in the end demolish those barriers of nationalistic feeling which prevent us from appreciating the true worth of man, irrespective of his origins.

It is to the great credit of France, the second patrie to Iorga as to all intellectuals of all times, that she was prompt to evaluate justly the all-embracing genius of Iorga. But it is to the still greater credit of Iorga’s countrymen of Roumania that they have always felt in their hearts his greatness, and that the magnitude of his mind and character has aroused in them a veneration unequalled in modern times. In my humble opinion, one of the finest expressions of what may be called the spiritual in this materialistic world has been the eagerness with which our worthy fellow citizens of Roumanian extraction — from the humblest workman to the leading intellectual — have sought to attract Professor lorga to our shores. Indeed, during the years that I have had the pleasure of associating myself with their endeavours, I have found that the magic name of lorga was always the open-sesame to the hearts of his countrymen.

Since the remarkable career of our distinguished guest may not be so wellknown to Americans as it is to Roumanians, I am taking the liberty of giving a few facts regarding his life and activities. Nicolae Iorga was born on June 6, 1871, in Botoșani, Roumania. His father having died while Nicolae was yet very young, his mother took charge of his early education. His great-uncle, Manolache Drăghici, a well-known historian, gave him the necessary elementary training. So unusual was the mind of young Nicolae that at the age of six he read the Chronicles of Moldavia and knew by heart Florian’s Fables and Victor Hugo’s Orientales. At that time he was also reading in the original French Champfleury, Amédée Pichot and Émile Souvestre as well as Roumanian authors. At the age of thirteen he was contributing articles on foreign affairs to «Romanul» (The Romanian), a provincial journal.

From Botoșani Iorga went to the University of Jassy, where at the age of nineteen he received the degree of Licentiate, or Master, in Letters. During his course of study he was writing poetry for the « Contemporary » (Contemporanul) and the « New Review » (Revista Nouă) and contributing literary criticism to «Arhiva» (The Archives).

After graduating at Jassy, Iorga continued his studies at Paris, Berlin and finally Leipzig, where he was rewarded with the doctorate for his thesis on Thomas III, Marquis de Saluces. Shortly afterward, the University of Paris awarded him a diplome des hautes etudes for his dissertation on Philippe de Mezieres.

On Nov. 1, 1894, at the early age of twenty-three, he was appointed professor in the University of Bucharest. He then traveled extensively in the Roumanian provinces and continued his researches in the libraries of more than a dozen different countries — from Sweden and England, in the north, to Italy and Turkey, in the south, and as far west as Portugal. The results of this gathering of a vast material are revealed in his numerous works.

In 1903, Iorga became editor of the well-known literary review The Sower (Sămănătorul), to which his contributions, consisting of articles and essays, resulted in a reawakening of Roumanian literature, changing its course completely for the generations to come. In fact, one may say without fear of contradiction that all the leading writers of present-day Roumania are still under the spell of Iorga’s genius.

When he entered the Roumanian Parliament for the first time in 1907 as Deputy for Jassy, Iorga interested himself at once in the emancipation of Roumanian peasantry; and again it may be said that the remarkable bloodless revolution which took place in Roumania a few years ago, the consequences of which have been so far-reaching as to result in the revival of democracy in several countries of western Europe — this great liberal movement for which we are all grateful, harks back to the steadfast faith in the principles of democracy shown at all times by the great Iorga. The Roumanian people expressed their gratitude to him by later making him the first President of the Parliament of Greater Roumania.

But Iorga’s indefatigable activity did not stop there. He realized at once that, if Roumanians were to enjoy to the full their new found liberty, they must be educated, and so he founded in 1908 the popular University of Vălenii de Munte, where he counted among his disciples not only plebeians but even royalty, for His Majesty King Carol II was among those who received inspiration from his lectures there.

Professor Iorga then shed the light of his genius upon Roumanian drama, which he felt was in need of new form and new ideas in order to interpret adequately the life and character of the Roumanian people. In order, therefore, to illustrate his theories with examples, Iorga wrote several plays which were produced with great success at the National Theatre of Bucharest.

For the past twelve or more years, Iorga has been Exchange Professor at the Sorbonne of Paris, where, as member of the Academy of Inscriptions, he has continued to give to the world a remarkable series of historical, scientific, philosophical and literary studies. To list them would be like cataloguing a large and choice library. They run from a monumental History of the World through Histories of Romance Literatures and of Roumanian Literature down to such specialized studies — illustrating the wide range of his genius — as History of the Roumanians in Portraits and Ikons and Inscriptions in Roumania’s Churches. Suffice it to say that all important questions of historical, scientific, political, literary and artistic interest are treated therein with critical acumen and extraordinarily sound judgment.

Professor Iorga, it would be almost absurd for me to present you to the members of this audience who already know you and love you. I can only say that, on behalf of the President of Columbia University — who regrets his inability to be present because of a long arranged visit abroad— we wish you a cordial welcome and extend to you our deep appreciation for the honour of your presence here.


Professor of Celtic, Columbia University


In September 1929 I was invited by a club of my fellow-countrymen at Indiana Harbour near Chicago, to attend an anniversary of their foundation. I accepted with the greater pleasure as it made it possible for me to visit nearly thirty similar Roumanian centres in the United States, where some 120.000 of my compatriots are employed, for the most part, in factories. The Roumanians living in Canada, however, are working in agriculture, or at least the greater part of them.

As a happy coincidence, too, it so chanced that about the same time Sir William Craigie, the celebrated compiler of the English dictionary published under his name, inspired me with the idea of delivering a series of lectures at various of the American universities. Arrangements had still to be made when I arrived in that country, but I was nevertheless warmly welcomed by my colleague, Mr. Duggan. There could however be no question of a regular course of lectures, but only of the occasional presentation of such subjects as were more or less connected with my better-known researches. In some cases the lectures were prepared beforehand, in others they could not be delivered, and in still others a change of topic was requested and arranged for. In all I spoke at universities, chambers of commerce and intellectual circles nearly twenty times.

Now, by combining one or more lectures into one chapter and by elaborating many points which could not then be developed I have found it possible to gather sufficient material for a very slim volume. A friend has corrected my English, my stumbling, almost irremediable English, and so it comes before a public which has ever received me generously and by whom I hope to be better understood, in a world of new ideas, than would perhaps be the case in other parts of the world.


Rector of the Bucharest University


To face page

1. Country House — Wallachia..................................... 5

2. Dragomima Monastery.......................................... 32

3. Old Moldavian Church......................................... 34

4. Moldavian Church (15th century).............................. 38

5. Moldavian Fortified Church................................... 45

6. Sucevița Monastery (Old Moldavia).......................... 53

7. Putna Monastery — general view.............................. 64

8. Wayside Cross (Roumania)................................... 105

9. Wallachian Farmhouse......................................... 110

10. Entrance to Peasant Dwelling (Roumania)................... 118

11. An old church (Bukovina).................................. 127

12. The cloisters — Hurez (Wallachia — 18th century).......... 134

13. Iconostasys in a Roumanian Church......................... 136

14. Roumanian woman — (Macedonia)............................. 138

15. Peasant — Northern Moldavia............................... 141

16. Interior of a peasant-dwelling (Roumania)................. 185

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was first published outside the United States (and not published in the U.S. within 30 days), and it was first published before 1989 without complying with U.S. copyright formalities (renewal and/or copyright notice) and it was in the public domain in its home country on the URAA date (January 1, 1996 for most countries).

The author died in 1940, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 75 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.