Hans and Sybil Eysenck
Dad and Mum age 90
It all began when my Dad threatened to shoot himself unless my Mum married him. So she did. But this was not easy as she was married to Felix Stoessinger, a writer, at the time. Shortly after my parents did marry, however, I was born. Unfortunately my Dad's family disapproved of the marriage as at that time to marry a divorcee was disgraceful and they never relented, more about that later.
My childhood was uneventful and normal until Hitler came to power and threatened to exterminate the Jews. When Hitler made his intentions clear in a radio broadcast my Dad laughed it off as "views of a madman" but very fortunately my Mum was more perceptive and insisted we emigrate as soon as possible. At that time you had to prove that you could support your family before you were granted a Visa, so my Dad arranged that several of his pupils would come with us to England and so in 1934 we came to live in London. One of these was Nanny Jamison, a Scottish pupil of my father's, who was instrumental in bringing most of his pupils to London as well as teaching us all English. Not surprisingly she became a good friend of the family.
My father, Max Rostal was a distinguished violinist who was a child prodigy and played in concerts when he was as young as six years old since his father discovered his musical talent, an asset that he was not slow to promote. So my Dad became the family earner while his Dad sat around in Austrian cafes talking philosophy and politics. Though my Dad was short on a normal childhood he became a very famous violin soloist of world renown and gave many brilliant concert performances as well as producing records etc. perhaps his eminence and need for perfection made me keen to do well at something which I did try to do. A story my father was often tempted to relate concerned his violin teacher Carl Flesch whom he admired and from whom he learned a lot. Flesch, who was Austrian, wanted to repeat the saying "The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak" so thought it needed re- writing and converted it to "The spirit is willing but the meat is weak".
I naturally would have liked my parents to remain together but it wasn't to be and my Dad went on to marry twice more once to Karoline (with whom he had a daughter Angela) and then to Marion a delightful Swiss lady. They lived in Switzerland partly because it was good for his asthma and partly because they were happiest there. Dad lived until his late eighties and when my Mum turned 90 he flew to Tasmania where she lived and they apparently sat together talking over past experiences. Strange to tell both died at the same time although the time difference in Tasmania and Switzerland needed to be calculated to discover this!
Sad to relate that my father's family disapproved of my Mum just because she was a divorcee and the whole of our family were not welcome as far as they were concerned. When Dad's Mother emigrated to Buenos Aires she opened a clothes shop and made a sizeable amount of money by all accounts. However because of the bad blood she left her money to my Dad and his new family, that is to say, Karoline and my half-sister Angela. What a pity that they took that grievance to the grave! My Dad's father stayed in England with his new young wife who very unfortunately was a paranoid schizophrenic who was deluded and thought my grandfather was trying to poison her milk and so she was eventually admitted to a Mental Hospital after which we lost touch with them.
My mother was a very talented Cellist whose stage name was Sela Trau. She was the youngest of three sisters and her parents made the same discovery about them as my father's had, namely that all three were musically very talented, so they too were on the stage performing and earning the family money at around six years old. The oldest, Pepi, played the violin, the next one, Lotte, played the viola and my Mum, as I said, played the cello. So this ready-made trio toured successfully until they grew up and each married and had a family of their own. Pepi was an extravert who had many affairs but finally managed a highly successful marriage to Hollander a music teacher, and they lived in the U.S.A. Lotte was not so lucky and married a very neurotic man who was convinced that if she had the baby she had conceived he would die! Unfortunately she gave in and aborted the baby, a thing she naturally regretted all her life especially as they divorced soon after and she never remarried and was left childless. Lotte also lived in America and played viola in an orchestra but she was an unhappy person who selfishly visited my Mum in Australia and committed suicide there, to my Mum's horror.
Mum made a career in London but when her friends, Jan Sedivka and his wife Beryl emigrated to Australia and then to Tasmania she went with them. By then I was married and had three children so could not have looked after her in as caring a manner as they promised to do and duly did. My cherished memory of her was of her appearance at a concert she gave when she wore a beautiful sky blue satin gown and I thought she looked so attractive and brilliant!
To continue how life treated me at an early age, the first thing that happened to me when we arrived in London was that I was sent to a boarding school at a very young age as my parents mistakenly, but well-meaning, decided would be best for me while they found a suitable house. This turned out to be the unhappiest year of my life as I was so young and could not speak English. I remember only the relief when my parents took me home at last.
There followed some years at day school which were uneventful during which my reports consistently said "Sybil could do better". The only other thing that stood out in my memory of those days was a traumatic event which was that my best friend at school died in the gym during a P.E. lesson. Her name was Rae Leeming and she lived very near us in Hampstead when we were in Kemplay Road and to this day when I pass there I remember her and the mystery of her death.
When the war broke out I was evacuated and lived with a pleasant family in Cambridge but was bored there so I spent a lot of time hanging around an army camp in the hope that a good looking soldier would notice me which fortunately never happened. However, I was soon returned home and we tried our old school for a place. This was refused on the grounds that I seemed too "sophisticated" to fit in with the rest of the girls!
From then on life became more adult as I went to a "further college" in town where we trained for the Matriculation exam and were treated as adults. There I met lots of boys as well as a girl friend called Marianne who is still my friend and who stayed in touch throughout all these years. The boys came and went but life was so much fun at that college with a great deal of social life and easily coped with studying. After getting my Matriculation exam results in English and Maths I continued studying at the Regent Street Polytechnic in pure and applied maths, physics and chemistry. This I achieved, I will never know how as I spent my time enjoying a riotous social life including lunch time dancing in the reading room instead of lunch.
The one subject I had difficulties with however was applied maths as my spatial ability was poor, so I attended private lessons with the head of the department called Dr. Topping. His teaching must have been good as I subsequently obtained better grades for that than for any other subject! Armed with reasonable results I applied to the Imperial College in London to study Chemistry and somehow succeeded. Then followed a dreary year of study with fellow students who had been to war and had thus lost many years and who were consequently "nose to grindstone" which did not impress me at all as all the social whirl suddenly disappeared . I dropped out after a year but not before making a close girl friend called Hannah.
Hannah was a beautiful and very intelligent girl who was not too worldly wise and so turned to me for clarification on "boy issues"; being extraverted I had been somewhat more experienced and passed my knowledge on with glee. Sadly when Hannah went to Italy for a holiday she was spotted at a hairdresser by a talent scout and invited to become a model which she did abandoning a budding career as a chemist having by now got a job and Ph.D. As for me, my ambitions for a chemistry career took a knock when I went to a party and someone said "if you want a degree without doing any work try Psychology". This seemed a super idea to me although at the time I had no knowledge of what Psychology was! In following this route subsequent events are best left to the next chapter.
Sybil, Father and Husband in Swiss chalet
I MARRIED A GENIUS
Chapter 1: The Beginning
Sybil Autobiography: Chapter 1
Mum playing the cello with bird on bow
Sybil at 6 with parents