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518 Jewish Quarterly Review. 


Tlie World and the Cloister. A Novel. By Oswald John Simon. 

(2 vols. 1890.) 

Mr. Oswald Simon is an idealist. This accounts both for the strength 
and the weakness of his book. As an idealist the goal to be desired is 
for him nothing less than unity of religion, in which humanity will form 
one great holy brotherhood, with bye-laws from that code which is the 
inheritance of Israel ; but as such he little reckons with the obstacles 
preventing the attainment of this goal. " He cometh leaping over the 
mountains, skipping over the hills," and gets a glance into the promised 
land, into which neither he nor his contemporaries nor many future 
generations will come. 

But this is only an amiable weakness, and we must not complain too 
much of it. It is now nearly a generation since Daniel Deronda set out 
for a wedding trip to the Holy Land, full of hopes and ideals. But not 
much was heard of him, nor did he find such a great following as his 
well-wishers expected. "We are rather afraid that Deronda's enthusiasm 
was quenched a little when he saw that the realisation of his hopes is in the 
first instance very much a matter of shillings and pounds, of which the 
noble, but unpractical Mordecai knew nothing. He might also have found 
that " to bind our race together in spite of heresy, for our religion united us 
before it divided us," is a much more difficult task than he had thought. 
People are determined to keep up the divisions, and to place each other 
without the pale of Judaism. And as to the Gwendolens they (the Jewish 
ones at least) are now worse than ever. To judge from their latest 
novels they look again at the world from the Monaco point of view, 
every thing being to them — religion, marriage, calling — nothing else but a 
game, the success in which depends entirely on accomplishment in the 
art of cheating. And what is still worse is that they want to persuade 
us that they give us only facts. 

But if these be facts they are brutal facts, and Mr. Simon has done 
well in dispensing with them, and transporting us into a region of the 
noblest aspirations and purest ideals with which his book is permeated. 
This he was able to do by a strong appeal to the past, when " there was 
self -negation " even " on the part of men and women who have not been 
trained in the monastic life," who have shown " examples of heroism 
more signal than the accumulated incidents of the whole body of 
Christian saints," and by placing an unbounded faith in the future, when 
" the Supreme Being, as the Parent of all, will be recognised as the greatest 
bond between men and nations, so great a bond, indeed, that all differ- 
ences sink into a subordinate place." 

It is true that Mr. Simon, overpowered by the glorious vision of a re- 
mote future, is rather inclined to see the present in much brighter colours 
than it really is. M.P.'s in the close of our century, for instance, are not 
supposed to be in search of a religion. Generally they are satisfied in 
conforming to that of their constituency, and it happens only very seldom 
that their religious aspirations mount higher than the stairs which lead to 
their platform. "VVe may also remark that Roderick is a little too much 
of a rationalist for us. Indeed, it would seem to us that Mr. Simon's 
hero has too good a lot in this world. Without the least personal ani- 
mosity to Roderick, we should have liked to see him go through some 
great spiritual crisis, followed by those mental agonies for which the 
Psalms form the only cure which Providence has prepared for us. Again, 

Critical Notices. 519 

instead of passing his time in yachts and drawing-rooms, where, as it 
would seem, both salvation and politics are the subject of intrigue, we 
should have preferred him to mix a little with some simple-minded 
people whose religion is a warm and real expression of the heart. In 
this case Roderick would have shown more sympathy with ceremonies 
and observances that do quicken spirituality, though we can quite 
appreciate the notions of ihose who prefer "religion without form" 
to " form without religion." 

But it must not be supposed that Mr. Simon's ideals are so much in 
divergence with re<ality as these minor points would suggest. Irene's 
exaltation over the " two distinct propositions : first, the historical 
national sentiments of the Hebrew race, bearing traces of great anti- 
quity ; and, secondly, those essential elements of the Jewish faith 
which represent universality," which may be described as the racial and 
the missionary elements in Judaism, expresses fully the sentiments of the 
great majority of those of our generation who still take the trouble to 
think over our position and destination in the history of mankind. 
We must say that personally we are not very fond of this over- 
emphasising of the racial element which degrades Jews into a kind 
of " Monotheistic breed," and makes religion a mere matter of blind 

However, here again the force of Mr. Simon's idealism asserts itself, 
and ennobles everything on which he touches. To him this racial 
element only serves to show that the Jews have the innate ability for 
their mission, which consists in proclaiming the name of God — and God 
alone— to the world, for which Mr. Simon pleads with the ardent faith 
worthy of such a sublime idea, an idea which has animated all our sages, 
from those who compiled our prayer-book down to the latest historians in 
the present century. The following passage displays the feelings of 
Mr. Simon's heroes when they enter the synagogue on their wedding- 
day : — '"They saw before them the two tablets of stone holding up 
the Ten Commandments, and in them they saw not a tomb nor an 
image, but the imperishable corner-stone of the world's civilisation." 
We have no doubt that this faith will prove contagious to the reader, 
who, after having finished the book, must feel that he has spent an 
hour with one whose heart is pure, whose mind is noble, and who has 
something to say to the world worth listening to.