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THE JEW IN ENGLISH POETRY AND DRAMA 4II 



THE JEW IN ENGLISH POETRY AND 
DRAMA. 



The aim of this paper is to present the salient features 
of the Jew as depicted in English poetry and drama 1 . The 
presence of Jews in England can be traced back to 
an early period in its history. It is uncertain whether 
they accompanied Julius Caesar in his invasion of 
Britain in 55 B. c. ; but they came over in considerable 
numbers during the Norman period, and subsequently — as 
in all other countries where they ever settled — played an 
important part in determining and regulating the economic 
condition of the kingdom. It is therefore not surprising to 
find that references to the Jew should abound throughout 
every section of English literature. Nor is it surprising 
that the greater number of these references should embody 
the popular conception entertained of the Jew in the dark 
and Middle Ages — a conception inspired by intense religious 
fanaticism and a singularly deep racial antipathy, to which 
was superadded a profound ignorance of his personality. 
Dwelling apart in a separate quarter of the town, belonging 
to another race, and professing a different creed, the Jews 
were only too likely, under such conditions, to become the 
objects of dark and fanciful suspicions. And in the domain 
of imaginative literature, especially, was it likely that these 
ideas should find concrete expression, and the figure of the 
Jew assume those grotesque and distorted forms with which 

1 Of the many previous essays on some sections of this subject the 
following may be specially mentioned : Sidney L. Lee, " Elizabethan 
England and the Jews" (Proc. New Shakespeare Society, 1888); D. 
Philipson, "The Jew in English Fiction" ; I. Abrahams, "Jews and the 
Theatre " {Jewish Chronicle, Jubilee Supplement, 1891). 



412 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

the superstitions of the age invested him With few ex- 
ceptions, it must be admitted, however, that the majority 
of these allusions, more particularly in early English 
literature, are of a casual and incidental character, and void 
of any set purpose or intention to present Jewish life and 
character with any pretence to verisimilitude. 

In the few early specimens of English ballads, as in that 
solitary Scottish example, The Jew's Daughter, the feeling 
is anti-Jewish. The same must be said of the blood- 
curdling Prioress's Tale, embodied in Chaucer's Can- 
terbury Tales, where the terrible blood-accusation against 
the Jews finds a double reference. In the vision of Piers 
Plowman by William Langland, there is an allusion which 
can be fairly termed sympathetic. The poet prophesies 
a time when there shall be — 

Such a pees amonge the people and a perfit trewthe, 

That Jewes shall wene in here witte and waxen wonder glade, 

That Moises or Messie be come into this erthe, 

And have wonder in here hertis, that men beth so trewe. 

He evidently felt that the abundant peace to which he 
looked forward could only be reached by allaying the feud 
between the Jew and the Gentile. Even when his Chris- 
tianity leads him to desire the conversion of all who are 
outside his own religion, a friendly, almost universalist 
feeling betrays itself. They who were afterwards stigmatized 
in the Booh of Common Prayer as " Jews, Turks, infidels, 
and heretics," were not so utterly outcast but that the poet 
could say " Cryste cleped us alle . . . Sarasenes, and scis- 
matickes . . . and Jewes." Saracens and Jews especially, 
the one representing a branch and the other the root of 
Christianity. Both, because of their religious kinship, are 
to be taught and gently entreated. They had " a lippe of 
owre byleve." Langland also unites to a singular toleration 
a just and rare appreciation of Jewish charity. "Alias," he 
says, "that a Cristene creature shal be unkynde til an 
other. Sitthen Jewes that we jugge Judas felawes. 



THE JEW IN ENGLISH POETRY AND DRAMA 413 

Ayther of hem helpeth other of that hym nedeth." In 
what way the poet arrived at this generous estimate of the 
Jew can only be matter for conjecture. His knowledge 
of Jews was probably obtained from travellers, a supposition 
in some measure borne out by his reference to Avignon, 
then a place of protection for Jews. 

In Stephen Gosson's School of Abuse, published in 1579, 
there appears the title of a play " The Jew shewn at the 
Bull," of which, unfortunately, no copy is extant. 

The production of the Jew of Malta, by Marlowe, marks 
a considerable advance, if not in any more favourable con- 
ception of the Jew, at least in the artistic treatment of him. 
Although it bears his name it is probable that only the two 
first acts are from Marlowe's pen. These are so finely conceived 
and executed that it is hard to believe that the melodramatic 
and farcical conclusion of this play should have been drawn 
by the same hand. It is in manifest disharmony with the 
original conception of the plot. Did sufficient historical 
materials exist, it would be extremely interesting to dis- 
cover who were the prototypes of Barabbas and his daughter 
Abigail. Were they merely the creations of fancy or were 
they drawn from living types 1 For, although Jews were 
still legally forbidden to reside in England during Marlowe's 
lifetime, it is well known that many Jews — some even of 
note, such as Roderigo Lopez, Queen Elizabeth's physician — 
lived in that sovereign's reign. 

About the same period appeared the ballad of "Gernutus, 
a Jew," which is based on a story of a bond akin to that 
which forms the central incident in The Merchant of Venice. 

Following Marlowe's death appeared a play, the author- 
ship of which, although veiled under a cover of anonymity, 
may be ascribed to Robert Greene. In this play, entitled, 
The First Part of the Tragicall raigne ofSelimus, Emperour 
of the Turks, we meet with a Jewish character which bears 
a striking resemblance to, and was evidently suggested by 
the career of the unfortunate Lopez. Selimus, in plotting 
the death of his father Bajazet, utters the following words — 



414 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

words which must have had a peculiarly pointed meaning 
for playgoers of that period : — 

Bajazet hath with him a cunning Jew 
Professing physicke ; and so skill'd therein, 
As if he had pow'r over life and death 
Withall a man so stout and resolute 
That he will venture anything for gold. 
The Jew with some intoxicated drinke 
Shall poyson Bajazet and that blind Lord ; 
Then one of Hydraes heads is cleane cut off. 

This proposal is assented to by Abraham, who not only 
gives the poisoned liquid to Bajazet and his lords, but 
drinks it himself. That Lopez is the prototype of the Jew 
in Selimus is made still more evident when we note that 
Abraham calls himself an old man, which was likewise the 
case with Lopez. 

Following hard on this play, or perhaps contemporary 
with it, appeared that masterpiece of Shakespeare, The 
Merchant of Venice. I do not propose to add to the already 
numerous criticisms which exist on this play, except to 
observe that popular interest in the Jew would seem to 
have been greatly aroused at that period. Whence Shake- 
speare drew his inspiration remains still a matter of dispute. 
It is now generally agreed that he owed nothing to 
foreign travel for his knowledge of the Jew. On the other 
hand, the alternative theory, hinted at by Mr. A. W. Ward 1 , 
that Shylock is a pure creation of the mind is controverted 
by Mr. Sidney Lee 2 . From a coincidence of dates in the 
respective live3 of Lopez and the dramatist, it would appear 
highly probable that the latter enjoyed a personal acquaint- 
ance with the former, and that Lopez served, if not wholly, at 
least in part, for the portrait of " the Jew which Shakespeare 
drew." 

Outside The Merchant of Venice but few references to 
Jews are to be found in Shakespeare's works. In Macbeth, 

1 A History of English Dramatic Literature to the death of Queen Anne, 1875. 
J "The Original of Shylock," in the Gentleman's Magazine, 1880. 



THE JEW IN ENGLISH POETRY AND DRAMA 415 

among the curious ingredients of the charm which the 
witches are brewing is the "liver of blaspheming Jew." 
In the Two Gentlemen of Verona, Launce addresses his 
fellow servant, " If thou wilt go with me to the alehouse, 
so, if not thou art an Hebrew, a Jew, and not worth the 
name of a Christian." A somewhat similar and tautological 
epithet, "an 'Ebrew Jew" is to be found in the first part 
of Henry the Fourth. 

Douce alludes to a play acted at Cambridge in 1597, in 
which a Jew was the principal character. It is doubtful 
if the piece could have been one of those already described. 

In The Malcontent, by John Marston (1604), the terms 
"Jew " and " poisoner " are used in a convertible sense. 

Mendoza. Canst thou impoyson ? Canst thou impoyson ? 
Malevole. Excellently— no Jew, pothecary or politian better. 

In several parts of the same playwright's Insatiate 
Countess, Signior Rogero is repeatedly accused of being 
a Jew. 

The references contained in the works of Ben Jonson are 
significant as foreshadowing that Puritan upheaval which, 
half a century later, was to dominate the entire nation 
Bound up with this movement was a remarkable attraction 
to the study of both the literature and language of the 
Old Testament. The study of Hebrew even spread to the 
common people. In the Magnetic Lady, Gossip Polish 
says of Mistress Steele — 

She was too learned to live long with us, 

She could the Bible in the holy tongue 

And read it without pricks 1 ; had all her Massoreths. 

A similar idea is conveyed in the Alchemist, where 
Ananias the deacon scornfully intimates that he under- 
stands no heathen language, " All's heathen but the 
Hebrew." 

This revival of interest in the ancient language and 
literature of the Jews naturally induced a milder attitude 

1 Points. 



416 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

in regard to them, and the references that occur at this 
period are characterized by a far more friendly spirit. Jewish 
interest in Jonson's dramatic works centres undoubtedly in 
Bartholomew Fair, where the proclivities of the Puritan 
elder, Zeal-of-the-land-Busy, gained for him the cognomen 
of Rabbi. 

To the dual personality of Beaumont and Fletcher we 
are indebted for the Jewish character of Zabulon in The 
Custom of the Country. Zabulon in the play acts the part 
of servant to Hippolyta. In the second act he is met in 
Lisbon by Arnoldo and Rutilio, both impoverished, and the 
latter having given expression to his belief that no help or 
courtesy can be expected from a Jew, Zabulon replies — 

We are men, 

And have, like you, compassion when we find 

Fit subjects for our bounty. 

A noble sentiment of Jewish charity, hardly less finely 
expressed than in Lessing's play of The Jews. 

In the Double Marriage, the disguise of several characters 
is made up by a Jew, who, however, does not appear on the 
stage. We have it on the authority of the Duke that he is 
" a most excellent fellow." The boatswain likewise testifies 
that " this Jew might live a Gentile here." An instance 
of the interchangeability of "Jew" and "Usurer" is given in 
the concluding act of the Scornful Lady, where Morecraft, 
a usurer, is dubbed "converted Jew" because of his 
liberality. 

A vivid picture of Hebrew and theological scholarship 
among the mechanics of England, recalling the memory of 
" mechanic Rabbies " in Talmudic times, is to be found in 
a Mask produced in 1620, by its joint authors Thomas 
Middleton and William Rowley and entitled The World 
Tost at Tennis. 

I'll show you, sir, — 

And they are men are daily to he seen. 
There's Rabbi Job, a venerable silk weaver, 
Jehu, a throwster dwelling i' the Spitalfields, 



THE JEW IN ENGLISH POETRY AND DRAMA 417 

There's Babbi Abimelech, a learned cobbler, 

Eabbi Lazarus, a superstichious tailor. 

These shall hold up their shuttles, needles, awls, 

Against the gravest Levite of the land, 

And give no ground neither. 

A few casual references to Jews are to be met with in 
several other of Middleton's plays and masques, but they 
are of no particular interest. The Jew finds a place among 
a selection of typical nationalities in Triumphs of Honour 
and Industry, and in The Widow occurs another Jewish 
allusion. 

Two of Webster's dramas, Vittoria Corombona and The 
Devil's Law Case, have likewise kindred allusions to Jews. 
In the former, Flamineo has the most unusual contention 
that there were not sufficient Jews. " There are not Jews 
enough," he exclaims, "priests enough, nor gentlemen 
enough." 

In The Devil's Law Case, the scene of which is laid in 
Italy, we have the unique device of a Christian merchant, 
who, in order to secure greater safety and freedom for the 
carrying out of his nefarious design, adopts the garb of 
a Jew. 

The works of Massinger, Shirley, Ford, Dekker, and 
Chapman contain but sparing and mostly trivial references. 
These are to be found in The Maid of Honour, The City 
Madam, The Gentlemen of Venice, and in Fancies Chaste 
and Noble. One of Dekker 's characters speaks thus : — 

To give those tears a relish, this I add, 

You're like the Jews scattered, in no place certain, 

Your days are tedious, your hours burdensome. 

Thomas Randolph (1605-1635) speaks of "the learned 
Cabalists and all the Chaldees," a curious confusion of 
authorities. 

There are two passages, at least, which are worthy of 
transcription from the works of Herrick, the celebrated 
lyrical poet. The first, contained in Noble Numbers, is 
entitled ''An Observation." 



418 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

The Jewes, when they built houses (I have read), 

One part thereof left still unfinished 
To make them, thereby, mindfull of their own 

Cities most sad and dire destruction. 

The other will be recognized as a well-known citation from 
the Ethics of the Fathers — 

The doctors in the Talmud say, 

That in this world one onely day 
In true repentance spent will be 

More worth than Heaven's eternitie. 

In the Hollander, one of the little known plays of Henry 
Glapthorne (1635), the populousness of the Jews in the 
Netherlands is attested by the statement that all "Hollanders 
were Jewes/' and in the same play mention is made of the 
fact that " Jewes at Rome weare party-coloured garments." 

Milton, who represented in his own person the two forces 
of Hebraic and Hellenic culture, and whose lifetime 
synchronized with the zenith of the Puritan movement, 
embodied the genius of the Hebrew spirit which had 
then taken hold of the nation. The idea of renewing for 
mankind the glory of the ancient Jewish theocracy sank 
into many souls. In Paradise Lost, the ancient Hebrew 
spirit is to be looked at more in its general than in any 
separate features. Milton, as is well known, had a con- 
siderable knowledge of Hebrew, though the only part of 
the epic for which he is directly indebted to Rabbinical 
sources is the description of the fall of the angels l . 

The custom of lauding Jews of the past at the expense 
of those of the present is illustrated by Abraham Cowley 
(1618-1667). In his Discourse on Oliver Cromwell, he 
shows himself hostile to the legal re-settlement of the Jews. 
But this feeling does not appear to exist outside politics. 
Of Jewish piety he seems to have a just appreciation. 

With more than Jewish reverence as yet 
Do I the sacred name conceal 3 . 

1 Yalkut, Rubeni 3, sub tit. Sammael. ' Her name. 



THE JEW IN ENGLISH POETRY AND DRAMA 419 

In that short poem The Prophet, he writes : — 

Teach me to love ! go teach thyself more wit, 

I chief professor am of it. 
Teach craft to Scots and thrift to Jews. 

The following, from Butler's Hudibras, will be easily- 
recognizable as a reference to Kol Nidrei — 

The Rabbins write, when any Jew 
Did make to God or man a vow, 
Which afterward he found untoward 
And stubborn to be kept or too hard, 
Any three other Jews 0' the nation 
Might free him from the obligation ; 
And have not two Saints power to use 
A greater privilege than three Jews? 

It should be noted that Butler, like so many others even in 
recent times, laboured under the erroneous impression that 
a vow to God or man can be annulled. As a matter of 
fact, this form of absolution concerns only religious vows 
made to God alone. 

Dryden, like Milton, drew a great deal of his inspiration 
from the Bible. In his most famous satire he utilized his 
knowledge of the Jewish state, as it was constituted in the 
time of the Second Temple, to mirror the political condition of 
his own country. In Absalom and Achitophel we have the 
English people and Parliament, as well as the Bishop of 
London, speaking to us with the respective voices of the 
Jews, the Sanhedrin, and the Sagan of Jerusalem. Dryden's 
knowledge on this subject seems to have been deeper and 
more accurate than that displayed by most of his contem- 
poraries. The Jew is alluded to in The Hind and the 
Panther, and there are some passages of interest in his 
plays of Tyrannic Love and Love Triumphant. Berenice, 
in the former, when replying to the advice tendered her by 
the Captain of the Praetorian bands to attack the enemy at 
once so as to ensure victory, supports her refusal by a 
reference to the well-known episode of Judas Maccabeus: — 
I would, like Jews upon their Sabbath, fall, 
And rather than strike first, not strike at all. (Act iii, sc. 1 .) 

VOL. XI. G g 



420 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

In the fifth act of Love Triumphant occurs a passage 
suggestive of the position of Marranos in those days. 
Sancho refers to turning " Jew again, like my father of 
Hebrew memory." 

The Mall, which has been ascribed to Dryden, though 
upon slender grounds, also contains an allusion to the 
prevailing custom of intermarriage among Jews — 

Lovechange. But prithee was there never a donna in all Spain 
worthy your kindness, but you must come back to England and, 
like a Jew, be forced to wed in your tribe, ha ! 

Two dramas of Crowne possess some antiquarian Jewish 
interest — The Destruction of Jerusalem, and Caligula, in 
the latter of which we meet with the figure of the philo- 
sopher Philo, who appears as the ambassador for his 
Alexandrian co-religionists. 

Further references, nearly all of an inconsequential 
character, are to be found in Wilson's Belphegor, where the 
words "Mazal Tob" are introduced, and in the works of 
John Lacy, Otway, Vanbr ugh, Falkland, Congreve, Farquhar, 
and Southerne, which author brings to a close the English 
dramatists of the seventeenth century. 



II. 

The opening years of the eighteenth century, while 
brimful of political interest, show no signs of that literary 
exploitation of the Jew which was so abundant in the 
previous century. Swift and Fielding hardly mention the 
Jew, and this is also the case with Chatterton and Oliver 
Goldsmith. In Love a la Mode, a farce written by Macklin, 
a Jew is introduced into the play, but no specific Jewish 
interest attaches to his part. Sheridan was the first to 
attempt to portray characteristic Jewish traits in his 
dramas, and although they are in some instances gro- 
tesquely overdrawn, it is something that their author 
managed to invest them with his own saving humour. 
The Duenna, which contains Isaac Mendoza among its 



THE JEW IN ENGLISH POETRY AND DRAMA 42 1 

dramatis personae, merits some attention on account of 
the circumstances of its production. Leoni, the celebrated 
singer and teacher of Braham, acted the part of Don Carlos, 
and as he was a strict conforming Jew, the piece was 
never played on a Friday night. The Duenna is full of 
sparkling dialogue. When, in the course of the plot, Louisa's 
lover objects that Mendoza is a Portuguese, the argument 
is thus continued : — 

Jerome. No such thing, boy ; he has forsworn his country. 

Louisa. He is a Jew. 

Jerome. Another mistake; he has been a Christian these six weeks. 

Ferdinand. Ay, he left his old religion for an estate, and has not 
had time to get a new one. 

Louisa. But stands like a dead wall between Church and Synagogue, 
or like the blank leaves between the Old and New Testament. 

The Jewish element in the School for Scandal is repre- 
sented by Moses, a character in no way removed from the 
usual disagreeable type. 

Of the many comedies by John O'Keefe, two — The Little 
Hunchback and The Young Quaker — contain Jewish parts. 
In the former we are introduced to Zebede and his nephew 
Absalom, whose marriage has converted him into as good 
a Christian as he had formerly been a Jew. The second 
comedy furnishes the unusual spectacle of a Jew, Shadrach 
Boaz, making love to a pretty American Quakeress, but 
without any better result than that afforded by Dinah's 
appreciative though equivocal remark, " This seemeth a 
righteous man though a Jew." 

The attraction of the gaberdine as a means of stage 
disguise seems to have been too strong to be resisted by 
the author of Hercules, King of Clubs 1 , while in an operatic 
drama, The Forest Oracle 2 , we meet probably with the first 
example in an English play of a personage purporting to 
be a Polish Jew, Aaron, who is described as " a very good 
sort of man as times go, but quite attentive to the main 
chance." This list of dramatists of the eigtheenth century 

1 P. F. Cooper. 2 M. Campbell, a little known writer. 

aga 



422 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

fitly ends with Kichard Cumberland, whom Goldsmith 
called " the mender of hearts." Although he cannot be 
classed among the great English dramatists, his efforts to 
raise the public appreciation of the Jewish people — even if 
these efforts had been less successful than they really were — 
merited much more than a posthumous gratitude. In spite 
of many defects in his two plays, The Jew and The Jew of 
Mogadore, they come with an agreeable freshness after 
most of the previously enumerated works. This is due to 
the transparent honesty and good feeling with which the 
author has delineated his Jews. Nadab, in The Jew of 
Mogadore, and Sheva, in The Jew, use their wealth for 
the needy and the unfortunate. They do good by stealth, 
and reveal themselves as philanthropists inspired by as 
high a sense of honour as their benefactions are administered 
in a spirit of true humanity. Cumberland, in his memoirs, 
while deploring the haste with which The Jew was written, 
notes with pleasure the immediate and emphatic success of 
his play. 

In 1 800, Thomas Dibdin produced his farce The Jew and 
the Doctor. It was written at the request of Mr. Dowton 
of Drury Lane Theatre, who, as Dibdin informs us, wished 
to have a play with a Jewish character quite as benevolent 
but more farcical than Mr. Cumberland's Sheva. The 
author succeeded admirably in his task. Abednego, the 
compassionate Jew who adopts a foundling, is, however, 
not so obviously sentimental as Sheva. Dibdin also intro- 
duced a Jew, Ephraim, into his School for Prejudice. But 
in 1802 the production of his opera, Family Quarrels, 
which contained some humorous sallies at the expense of 
Jews, aroused the unwonted opposition of the Jewish 
patrons of the theatre. Dibdin very cleverly defended 
himself in much the same fashion as was afterwards done 
by Mr. G. R. Sims, who declined to alter the part of Harry 
Ascalon in London Bay by Day, as he had similarly made 
amusing capital out of lawyers and other people. It is 
somewhat difficult to hold the balances evenly between 



THE JEW IN ENGLISH POETRY AND DRAMA 423 

Gentile humour and Jewish sensitiveness, but I venture 
to assert that no Jew need feel aggrieved at the wit of 
a man who could put in the following fashion Abednego's 
final words to Doctor Specific — 

I'll tell you how to pay me. If ever you see a helpless creature 
in need of assistance . . . and if the object should even not be a 
Christian, remember that humanity knows no difference of opinion ; 
and that you can never make your own religion look so well as when 
you show mercy to the religion of others. 

In Leman Rede's drama, The Skeleton Witness, we meet 
with a complete reversal of the customary relations between 
the Jewish merchant and the Christian client, for it is the 
Jew, Simon Levi, who is duped and nearly ruined by the 
villain of the piece. 

Both George Colman (the younger) and Theodore Hook 
availed themselves of a Jewish disguise for their Gentile 
swindling characters in Love laughs at Locksmiths and in 
The Invisible Girl, part of the humour consisting of the 
attempts made by Captain Beldare and Captain Allcrack 
respectively to pass for conventional Jews. 

Byron was the first of a long line of illustrious poets 
whose song broke upon the earlier years of the nineteenth 
century. His Hebrew melodies, written at the request of 
a friend, are instinct with elevated sentiment, pathos, and 
majesty, and helped in no small degree to surround the 
name of the Jew with something of its ancient historic 
character. Scott, and Burns, too, in some measure possessed 
something of this appreciative reverence for the story and 
tragedy of Israel, and there can be little doubt that these 
authors counteracted to a considerable extent the effect 
produced on the minds of the populace by the low comedy 
impersonations of the Jew with which the dramatists were 
wont to invest him. Scott, besides his poetical references, 
likewise embodied in his Ivanhoe an ideal conception of 
Jewish female character, which will live as long as the 
English language will endure. Shelley's indebtedness to 
Jewish sources for his lyrical inspiration is confined to 



424 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

the introduction of Ahasuerus, the legendary Wandering 
Jew, into his Queen Mab. 

Coleridge's intimacy with Hyman Hurwitz naturally 
and strongly influenced the former's literary treatment of 
the Jew. He translated the two poetic dirges, Israel's 
Lament and The Tears of a Grateful People, which 
Hurwitz originally composed in Hebrew. In The Friend, 
Coleridge versified three Talmudical tales, one of them 
being the well-known story of Rabbi Meir and the death 
of his two sons. [There is a Jew, Ezril, in The Second 
Brother, that incomplete and somewhat shadowy play by 
T. L. Beddoes, but there is nothing distinctive to call for 
special comment.] 

Wordsworth's collected works yield a small return, if 
bulk alone be considered, of anything objectively Jewish. 
His Song for the Wandering Jew, in which the legend 
becomes so to speak de-Christianized, and spiritualized into 
a longing for the unfathomable and the unattainable, together 
with his modern transcript of The Prioress's Tale, belong in 
point of time to the dawn of the present century. One of 
the finest and most touching of Wordsworth's poems was 
due to an incident which occurred to him in 1828, when 
travelling with his daughter and Coleridge along the banks 
of the Rhine. They met in one of the neighbouring valleys 
a poor Jewess with her three children. It was a fast day 
with these — the particular one is not mentioned — and 
Wordsworth and his companions offered to share their own 
meal with the humble strangers. They declined it, how- 
ever, and the simple incident inspired Wordsworth to write 
A Jewish Family. In a prefatory note he writes — "Though 
exceedingly poor and in rags, they were not less beautiful 
than I have endeavoured to make them appear." The 
following are the two last stanzas of this beautiful poem: — 

Two lovely sisters still and sweet 

As flowers, stand side by side ; 
Their soul-subduing looks might cheat 

The Christian of his pride ; 



THE JEW IN ENGLISH POETRY AND DRAMA 425 

Such beauty hath the Eternal poured 

Upon them not forlorn, 
Though of a lineage once abhorred, 

Nor yet redeemed from scorn. 

Mysterious safeguard, that, in spite 

Of poverty and wrong, 
Doth here preserve a living light, 

From Hebrew fountains sprung; 
That gives this ragged group to cast 

Around the dell a gleam 
Of Palestine, of glory past, 

And proud Jerusalem ! 

The works of Sheridan Knowles and Douglas Jerrold, 
following upon the above-named authors, deal, in so far 
as they concern the Jew, with his intrinsic qualities and 
depend little upon mere ad captandum stage effectiveness. 
This is especially so in the Maid of MaHendorpt, by Knowles, 
in which the ethical motive is distinctly predominant over 
and above its purely artistic setting. The incidents of 
Jerrold's comedy, The Prisoner of War (produced in 1842), 
are supposed to take place at Verdun during the time of 
Napoleon's consulate. In this play we have a Jew, Boaz, 
who lends money to the English prisoners. He is quaintly 
but not unkindly characterized, and evokes our ready 
sympathy by the equanimity with which he bears losses 
occasioned by debtors escaping or being shot. Jerrold takes 
still higher ground in his dramatic sketch The Painter of 
Ghent, which contains two Jewish characters, the venerable 
Ichabod and the youthful Isaac. 

In Sir Henry Taylor's play, A Sicilian Summer, the 
Jewish dramatic character reverts to the older and more 
obnoxious type. In labelling his brigands as Jews he has 
travelled beyond the confines of actual knowledge and 
experience. 

Of far higher poetic rank, as well as truer and more 
broad-minded in his treatment of the Jew, is Kobert 
Browning. All his writings were based on a sympathetic 



426 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

and intellectual study of the Jewish race. I do not know 
of anything which expresses so intensely and with such 
concentrated language the semi-tragi-comedy enacted at 
Rome every year on Holy Cross Day, as does the poem 
bearing this name. The scorn, the contempt, the bitter- 
ness, and the mockery of the Jews, driven like Bheep 
and compelled to listen to the annual sermon preached 
with the view of converting them, is portrayed with 
a rare and wonderful power. The conclusion, too, with 
its reconciliation over the bond of suffering could never 
have been conceived by any one with merely a passive 
interest in Judaism. To Rabbi Ben Ezra as a subjective 
poem, one would naturally turn for the purpose of dis- 
covering in what measure Browning appreciated the inner 
workings of the Jewish spirit. The colouring here does not 
depend on past persecutions or on the contrast between Jew 
and Gentile. The persistence and frequency with which 
these latter have been exemplified in real life has somehow 
led to their undue adoption as the material of poetry and 
fiction. But, after all, the portrayal or suggestion of 
oppression only shows one phase of existence, and that not 
the most important, being in essence transitory. Our lasting 
desire is not simply or chiefly to know the feelings of down- 
trodden human beings, although our sympathies are widened 
by such knowledge ; it is rather to penetrate to the inner 
motives of man when he is completely man. And so it is 
not the outer or chance characteristics appertaining to 
Jews which give an insight to their moral and religious 
nature ; this insight can only be obtained through what is 
permanent and therefore spiritual. 

Rabbi Ben Ezra may in a manner be called a poetical 
portrait of that dominant Jewish habit of viewing things 
which is neither ascetic nor epicurean, but which accepts 
both pleasure and pain as having distinct but rightful Uses. 
That effort after, and consequent sense of progress towards 
perfection, of which Browning is ever fond of discoursing, 
has much in common with the unconquerable optimism 



THE JEW IN ENGLISH POETRY AND DRAMA 427 

that lies at the root of the Messianic idea in its widest 
range : — 

Grow old along with me ! 

The best is yet to be, 
The last of life, for which the first was made ; 

Our times are in His hand, 

Who saith " A whole I planned, 
Youth shows but half; trust God, see all nor be afraid." 



There are other pieces like Filippo Baldinucci on the 
Privilege of Burial, Jochanan Hakkadosh, Ben Karshook's 
Wisdom, &c, which give abundant evidence of Browning's 
wide knowledge of, and sympathetic insight into Jewish 
character. 

Of more profound and popular interest, in Jews and 
Judaism, were George Eliot's studies in that direction. 
Daniel Deronda, although the chief of her works informed 
with a Jewish meaning, had yet a precursor in her poem, 
The Spanish Gypsy. Sephardo, albeit a mere subsidiary 
figure in the story, is drawn with graphic clearness and 
distinction. He is rather a type than an individual, and 
we can hardly avoid viewing him with light borrowed from 
Daniel Deronda. Had the latter never been written, Jews 
should have been more than satisfied with the Jewish 
portrayal in The Spanish Gypsy. The perspective, if I may 
use the expression, has been altered for readers since the 
publication of the novel. George Eliot claims, however, 
this paramount distinction, that the light of her genius was 
the first to illuminate the darkness which had enveiled the 
higher ideals of the Jewish race, and which were preserved 
in all their integrity through that long night of persecution 
which had been their lot. 

There are a few poems by Archbishop Trench which, 
both in spirit and form, are excellent contributions to the 
storehouse of Anglo-Jewish literature. He wrote, among 
other pieces, The Righteous of the World, and two apologues, 
one of which, The Lost Jewels, is the same story which 



428 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

Coleridge translated into prose. In the first mentioned of 
these poems, we are told of the belief of the Rabbis : — 

As many as with true 
And faithful heart fulfilled and loved the good they knew, 
The Righteous of the world shall once delivered be 
From darkness and brought in God's countenance to see. 

Trench also wrote a legendary poem, Alexander at the Gates 
of Paradise, the idea of which is taken from the Talmud. 

From the same source the Rev. S. Baring Gould derived 
the material for a metrical tale, The Gift of the King. 
A slight Jewish element is introduced in Sir Arthur Helps' 
tragedy, Oulita, the scene of which is laid in Russia. 

The strange pathos and poetry which hangs over Jewish 
burial-places has called forth poems by men of such widely 
differing sympathies and character as Longfellow and 
J. A. Symonds. Any comparison between them must be 
incomplete because, while that on The Jewish Cemetery at 
Newport extends to fifteen four-line stanzas, The Jews' 
Cemetery, Lido of Venice, is constructed within the limits 
of a sonnet. Longfellow's poem is the foremost of those in 
which he evidences his sympathetic feeling towards his- 
torical Judaism. It was followed, after an interval of five 
years, by Sandalphon (1857), and that again after a further 
and similar interval, by the " Legend of Rabbi Ben Levi," 
the first narrative of the Spanish Jew in Tales of a Wayside 
Inn. Besides Rabbi Ben Levi, there is a story of the 
Inquisition, entitled Torquemada, and three others told 
by the Spanish Jew, Kambalu, Azrael, and Scanderbeg. 

Of other American writers may be mentioned Oliver 
Wendell Holmes — whose poem, At the Pantomime, is a 
singularly beautiful story of a spiritual revulsion in the 
heart of an Anti-Semite — and Lowell and Whittier. Both 
these poets had inherited the spirit and traditions of their 
Puritan ancestors, and the Hebraic culture which inspired 
and dominated their lives is largely present in their anti- 
slavery poems, written during the War of Emancipation. 
Like so many others we have noticed, the idea of Lowell's 



THE JEW IN ENGLISH POETRY AND DRAMA 429 

striking poem, What Rabbi Jehosha said, is taken from 
post-Biblical Jewish sources. The poem is based on the 
legend that certain angels were created at intervals for the 
sole purpose of praising God, and after fulfilling their 
object they ceased to exist. Lowell sees in this a lesson 
of encouragement to those humbler souls who are debarred 
from entering the strong-wiDged hierarchy of Heaven. 
They, too, will have their reward, and find acceptance for 
their less celestial hymns of praise — 

And God would listen 'mid the throng 
For my one breath of perfect song, 
That, in its simple human way, 
Said all the Host of Heaven could say. 

In The Two Rabbin, Whittier has delved deep into 
Jewish soil. It may be noticed that Whittier here — like 
Milton in Paradise Lost, and Wordsworth in his Ode to 
Duty 1 — has utilized the poetical idea of the Bath Kol. 
The poem tells how Rabbi Nathan, after having lived 
righteously for fifty years, succumbed at last to a tempta- 
tion which had beset him. He looked upon himself as no 
longer worthy to teach in the place which had known him 
so long and so honourably. So vacating his seat among 
the elders, he departed in sackcloth and ashes from out the 
congregation. Consumed with repentance, he spread before 
him his copy of the Scriptures, and as it opened, his eye 
fell upon the verse in the Book of Proverbs, " A friend 
loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity." 
He bethought him of one whom he had once known, Rabbi 
ben Isaac, and determined to set out upon a journey to 
Ecbatana, in order to tell him of his degradation. But ere 
he had finished his self-imposed pilgrimage, he met his 
friend by the roadside, and far from looking down upon 
him for his transgression Ben Isaac, too, confessed that 
in thought, though not in deed, he had likewise sinned. 
They prayed one for the other, and found that in so doing 

1 "Stern daughter of the Voice of God." 



43° THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

each had made his own atonement. The poem concludes 
with these noble lines — 

Long after, when his headstone gathered moss, 
Traced on the Targuin-marge of Onkelos 
In Rabbi Nathan's hand these words were read ; 
Hope not the cure of Sin till Self is dead, 
Forget it in Love's service, and the debt 
Thou canst not pay the Angels shall forget. 
Heaven's gate is shut to him who comes alone, 
Sate thou a Soul, and it shall save thine own. 

Brief mention can only here be made of later writers. 
Matthew Arnold, wrote an elegiac poem on Heine's grave. 
Swinburne has a characteristic sonnet On the Russian Perse- 
cution of the Jeivs(i8$2), and Robert Buchanan has a poetical 
version of The Wandering Jew, in which he conjures up as 
witnesses to the Unity of God the dead millions of the 
Hebrew people. 

From this sketch, Anglo-Jewish writers have been pur- 
posely omitted in order to eliminate the refractive tendency 
induced by their intimate relationship with the subject. 

In concluding this paper, one cannot but be sensible of 
the absolute preponderance of distinct Jewish suggestion in 
the drama when compared with that contained in ordinary 
poetry. And if we consider the minor theatrical pieces 
produced in this country during the last twenty years, it 
will be seen that the stage Jew is as much in request as ever. 

Within the past six centuries, the vicissitudes of Jewish 
life have been great, and fraught with consequences which 
can only be estimated by means of a wide and impartial 
study of history. It would be idle to hope that a mere 
survey of one branch of literature should ever be raised to 
a level of comparison with such a study ; but the facts 
herein noted may have accomplished a minor service in 
presenting, with some show of connexion, the gradual 
development — though with frequent and notable retrogres- 
sions — of a kindlier and therefore truer spirit by which the 
Jew is viewed, through the medium of English poetry and 

drama. 

Charles B. Mabon.