JCS/The Great Enablers:
E.J. Harrison

 
On Robert W. Smithís long out-of-print A Complete Guide to Judo (Rutland, Vermont and Tokyo: Charles Tuttle, 1958), a book that began life as a bibliography.

Extracts from letters written by E.J. Harrison to Robert W. Smith. Letters in the Joseph R. Svinth collection, reprinted courtesy of Robert W. Smith and Joseph R. Svinth. Copyright © 2000. All rights reserved.

 (January 19, 1955)

At first blush this proposition submitted to you by these publishers seems quite a tall order. Incidentally the apparent location of the firm [Charles Tuttle] somewhat intrigues me. You describe them as a "dignified and old concern" and from that description I would naturally infer that they are American and located somewhere in the USA. Yet in their paragraph 6 their spokesman writes: "Photographs and line drawings are comparatively cheap to print here in Japan." What does that remark mean? Have they a branch house in Tokyo and does the quoted comment emanate from their manager in that country?

Getting down at once to brass tacks: Iím not at the moment in a position to return a hard and fast answer to the questions you raise.

(March 21, 1955)

I shall not fail to put in a plug for your Bibliography of Judo to Belasco [Harrison's publisher]. There is no question of adding one to my revised version of The Fighting Spirit of Japan, however. Despite perchance the sordid undertone neither Belasco nor I is or are anxious to boost the outpourings of other authors. Also it seems to me that there is little point in expanding the terms of reference ad infinitum.

That said, your tentative grouping of articles is unquestionably interesting and I should much like to cooperate.

(January 29, 1956)

I received a copy of your really remarkable "Bibliography of Judo, etc." I note that this is to be part and parcel of the major opus you have in view. One has to be young and enthusiastic and have no thought of eventual disillusionment to undertake such tasks.

Admittedly in my day I have done a bit myself along those lines but "as it finds me at present" I become almost uneasily conscious of a growing disinclination to assume fresh literary commitments and obligations beyond the orbit of the routine "demnition grind" inseparable from the struggle to earn our daily crust of bread. As between friends such as we are there can be no harm in confession which is said to be good for the soul, assuming that we have one which I doubt. I may therefore honestly say that even at my advanced age, if only I were materially affluent and independent instead of being perennially on the verge of insolvency, and daily hard put to it to cope with the almost non-stop demands of our bureaucratic bloodsuckers whose name is legion in our precious Welfare State, I could much more cheerfully devote my recurrent leisure to such less sordid literary tasks.

Before I forget: Going through your Bibliography, I donít find any mention under "English" of the huge Illustrated Kodokan Judo now on the foreign market. Already a number have been sold through the Budokwai at 45 shillings. Belasco showed me a copy some days ago. I hadnít time to examine it exhaustively but even a cursory survey sufficed to convince me that we have here the most exhaustive work of reference hitherto available. True, it does not include such unorthodox strangulation and dislocation methods as you will find in Kawaishiís My Method of Judo but in all other respects and not even excepting Mifuneís tour de force not yet issued in an English version it is the most complete work of its kind extant. Thus it covers all the kata and more important and useful kuatsu in this single volume. But of course the snag about all bibliographies is that they can never be up to date! Our friend Greg is not, as you know, enamoured of the Kodokan, but as a professional judo instructor he will be well advised to obtain a copy for reference.

Does your remark "I have secured the Budokwai permission for various usage and now ask for the use of your article on English judo" apply to an article previously printed in the Budokwai Bulletin? If so, needless to say I shall be only too happy to see it used by you in any way you like. But if you are in need of a really up-to-date survey of judo in England, your very best man for the job would be John Barnes, a member of the Budokwai Committee and chairman thereof. Barnes has all the data in his possession and in every other respect is wholly competent to do a first-class job and I am pretty certain that he would gladly undertake it on your behalf.

A foreword is another matter, although I should without any affection of false modesty be inclined to question whether I have done more than any Japanese in promoting judo in the world at large, unless the factor you have in mind is my would-be expositions of the art through the printed word. Doubtless later on youíll be able to brief me more fully on what you need for your ambitious literary enterprise.

(February 15, 1956)

This short letter by surface mail is to accompany that Foreword for which you have asked me to go with your major opus. I do hope it will serve its purpose and comply with your requirements. I also enclose a small photograph of myself taken way back in 1911 in Tokyo, since you are good enough to say that any date would do. Actually I donít at the moment possess anything more recent. Several hitherto given to the Lithuanians and others have never been returned. Perhaps therefore when the enclosed print has served its purpose you would kindly let me have it back?

(February 20, 1956)

Since mailing that packet I have heard from Belasco in a letter under cover of which he returns your Bibliography, my copy of which I had sent him some days before. I quote the salient passage of his short letter. "I am returning the pages to you as I am quite sure it would not pay us to publish this in book format. I suggest you write to Bob Smith and suggest he sells it by way of roneo sheets bound up in a paper folder." This suggestion itself implies that he hasnít made any note of your major opus now in process of gestation. However, I think you must objectively confirm his judgment that it would not pay him to publish this material in book format.

(April 25, 1956)

Thank you for return of the photo. I am not likely to need any replicas of that reminder of my long lost comparative youth, but should I do so I shall not fail to avail myself of your kind offer to use your negative.

I had no idea that your work would be handled by a Japanese publisher. Am I right in assuming that this scion of the tribe of Barabbas functions in Dai Nippon?

I feel confident that your book is destined to fill a long-felt want and that the bodements for its success are good. As a matter of fact I have of late had from fans inquiries about the availability of a really exhaustive history of judo and on that ground I do not share your view that "the overweighting given the historical and theoretical aspects" is in any way a defect. Quite the contrary. Knowing you and your flair for le mot juste as I do, coupled with your enormous industry and solicitude for detail, I harbour no foolish fears for the issue. And I am hoping to survive long enough to welcome the finished product that will surely possess a permanent value as a work of reference indispensable to every self-respecting judoka.

(July 18, 1956)

I am gratified to hear that your Complete Guide has been accepted and that some delay involved in its appearance will redound to your benefit.

(April 10, 1957)

Seeing that your manuscript is in Dai Nihon Iím hardly surprised at the delays to which it is being subjected, as procrastination may well be styled the badge of all the Nipponese tribe, as I know from early experience.

(August 13, 1957)

Glad to hear that your magnum opus will see the light in August 1958. May I still be cumbering what the Manchester Town Councillor dubbed "terracotta" to welcome it!

(July 11, 1958)

The receipt this morning of your air letter dated July 7 has almost, but not quite, coincided with the arrival of your truly astonishing magnum opus, A Complete Guide to Judo: Its Story and Practice. While very naturally long in germination, its now concrete form more than justifies the Herculean labour which you must have devoted to it.

The book reached me yesterday morning and since then I have spent a good many hours dipping into its pages. First of all let me thank you wholeheartedly for the kind things you say about this Ancient of Days, very particularly your mention of me as having inspired the work and the flattering words adjoined to my photograph (Plate 68). Viewed from this dizzy coign of vantage it is hard for me to credit that I could ever have looked like that. Nor should I overlook the felicitously worded phrases which precede the reprint of my article "The Budokwai in Retrospect" from the Budokwai Bulletin; your inscription tickles my senile vanity. In all seriousness it is highly gratifying to note that everything I wrote about you in my Foreword has been more than justified in the pages which follow it. Damme, I might almost have been clairvoyant!

I donít think you need worry over minor lapses. Personally I am satisfied on the strength of inductive evidence that there has never yet been written a book that is entirely free from errors. I know full well that I am in danger of heart failure whenever I peer into the pages of my own modest contributions to the judo bibliography. Take such a major work as Astonís Grammar of the Japanese Written Language which Iíve been studying for some time now: why, it bristles with Errata. The same remark applies to J.L. Piersonís stupendous Ten Thousand Chinese-Japanese Characters which has for years been my ever-present help and standby in the concoction of judo dope. I am fully aware of my limitations and can honestly say that I could never have had the patience and tenacity of purpose that must have gone into, for instance, the amassing of the astounding Bibliography which completes your book.

(February 21, 1959)

Iím delighted to know that your splendid Guide is going well but less so to be told that damaged copies and so forth have ruled out much chance of pecuniary profit. Surely there must be bad staff work on the part of the publishers. With all their faults I am not aware that Foulsham & Co. have ever yet been guilty of a comparable lapse.

I was really annoyed to ascertain that Koizumi hadnít up to some weeks ago even seen the book although you have included among the illustrations of my "Budokwai in Retrospect" article a sketch of his physiognomy! So over the telephone not long ago I called his special attention to this fact and strongly urged that space should be found in the Budokwai Bulletin for an appreciative review of your book.
 

JCS Jan 2000