Skip to main content

Full text of "Some Literary Trifles"

See other formats


STOP 



Early Journal Content on JSTOR, Free to Anyone in the World 

This article is one of nearly 500,000 scholarly works digitized and made freely available to everyone in 
the world byJSTOR. 

Known as the Early Journal Content, this set of works include research articles, news, letters, and other 
writings published in more than 200 of the oldest leading academic journals. The works date from the 
mid-seventeenth to the early twentieth centuries. 

We encourage people to read and share the Early Journal Content openly and to tell others that this 
resource exists. People may post this content online or redistribute in any way for non-commercial 
purposes. 

Read more about Early Journal Content at http://about.istor.org/participate-istor/individuals/early- 
journal-content . 



JSTOR is a digital library of academic journals, books, and primary source objects. JSTOR helps people 
discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content through a powerful research and teaching 
platform, and preserves this content for future generations. JSTOR is part of ITHAKA, a not-for-profit 
organization that also includes Ithaka S+R and Portico. For more information about JSTOR, please 
contact support@jstor.org. 



SOME LITERARY TRIPLES 595 



SOME LITEKAEY TRIFLES ^ 

It sometimes happens to every one that the mind is 
in a state between sleep and vigilance. Then our thoughts 
run their own course; they are not marshalled into 
methodical grooves by the directing influence of our will, 
and are yet devoid of that admixture of absurdity and 
grotesqueness that accompany real dreams. The association 
of one idea with the other is of the slightest, the most 
divergent topics are taken up and dropped again to make 
room for the next that may happen to strike our fancy^ with- 
out any more than an imaginary connexion linking them 
together. Then there is no limit to the range of dissolving 
views that chase each other before the mind's eye ; past 
experiences, expectations, questions of pi-actical life, sub- 
jects of study, facts, and fancies roll and turn in the 
turmoil of an uncontrolled mental agitation, half imagina- 
tive and half intellectual. Sometimes the tumult is not 
quite so riotous; the ideas, it is true, gambol freely and 
tumble over one another, but they confine themselves to 
one particular range of topics, within which they play 
their antics, without, however, going outside the ring drawn 
round them. 

It is such a succession of vagaries which I propose to 
put before you. Experiencing once such a state of semi- 
somnolence, my riotous ideas were good enough to confine 
their game to literary points only, and to such as had 
some connexion with matters Jewish. Thankful for their 
considerateness, I resolved to snapshot them, and I now 

^ Bead before the Jews' College literary Society, London, on March 34, 
1901. 



596 THE JEWISH QUAETERLY REVIEW 

reproduce them in all their littleness and their unmethodical 
dissoJuteness. 

I do not know what it was that turned my mind to 
Charles Dickens, but I discovered myself wondering 
whether that great novelist had ever studied the Rambam. 
No need to tell you that the word " Rambam " represents 
the initials of the four words " Rabbi Moses ben Maimun/' 
and denotes the great Jewish sage commonly known as 
Maimonides. But we frequently denote by the expression 
" studying the Rambam," the study of the great religious 
code of his, to which he had given the title of the Fad 
Hachazaka, " The Strong Hand " ; and which he had also 
called the MisJine Torah, "The Deuteronomy." Now, of 
course, nobody would imagine such a thing as Dickens 
studying the Rambam, but the association which con- 
nected these two names in my mind was this. 

One of the principal characters in Oliver Twist is Fagin. 
This English gentleman of the Jewish persuasion — Dickens 
himself calls him all along "the Jew" — is not a very 
amiable personage, and in the end his moral and social 
aberrations bring upon him a sentence of death. Whilst 
awaiting his punishment he does not soften his heart, but, 
if possible, hardens it still more against every gentle 
feeling. His frame of mind is shocking. Dickens, in 
describing it, says : "At one time he raved and blasphemed; 
and at another howled and tore his hair. Venerable men 
of his own persuasion had come to pray beside him, but 
'he had driven them away with curses.' They renewed 
their charitable efforts, and ' he beat them off.' " 

It is this passage which reminded me so strongly of 
a passage in Maimonides' work, "The Strong Hand." It 
is said there that any one who sees his neighbour com- 
mitting a sin or walking in a way which is not good 
is in duty bound to reprove him, and to try to bring him 
to a better frame of mind ; for it is said : " Thou shalt 
reprove thy neighbour." It must be done as privately 
and gently as possible. Should such reproof be found 



SOME LITERARY TRIPLES 597 

without effect, a second and third effort must be made ; 
in fact, the attempts must be continued till the sinner 
finally refuses to listen to him who reproves him and " beats 
him off." Other Jewish authorities say that the efforts 
must be continued till the well-meaning mentor is " driven 
away by curses." Both the one and the other opinion is 
based upon precepts contained in the Talmud. 

Now I cannot help thinking that Dickens's description 
of Fagin cursing the venerable men that came to pray 
with him, and on a renewal of their efforts beating them 
off, is no mere coincidence. 

Dickens was a careful and painstaking author, and I 
do not doubt but that, before penning that horrible scene, 
he consulted some Jew, learned in the Law, and asked him 
what the Jews would do were a case like that of Fagin 
brought before them, and that thus he must have learned 
that the Law prescribes that attempts to arouse in a 
criminal a feeling of penitence must be repeated even unto 
curses and blows on the part of the sinner. 

But even if Dickens had quoted Maimonides by name, 
it would not have been so very strange. There are other 
instances of novelists citing Rabbinical books. Thus 
Mrs. Augusta Evans Wilson, in her well-known novel 
entitled At the Mercy of Tiberius, quotes the Mechilta, 
an ancient Rabbinical exposition of the book of Exodus. 
I am not going to pass judgment on this much-read 
romance; some people like it very much, others find it 
only passable. It certainly has one great defect, the book 
is much too learned. When the celebrated Lessing was 
quite young, he wrote once to his sister, that the best wish 
he could send her on the New Year was, that she might 
be robbed of all her money, because that would be of the 
greatest benefit to her. Li the same way, if the authoress 
of At the Mercy of Tiberius had been robbed of her learning 
before writiog the novel, it would have been to the great 
advantage of the book. It contains a murder trial, and 
the speech of the counsel for the defence is given in full. 



598 THE JEWISH QUABTERLY EEVIEW 

I -wonder what an English judge and jury would have said 
to such an harangue. The counsel commences by addressing 
the jury as follows : " To the same astute and unchanging 
race, whose relentless code of jurisprudence demanded an 
eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a life for a life, we owe 
the instructive picture of cautious inquiry, of tender 
solicitude for the inviolability of human life, that glows 
in immortal lustre on the pages of the Mechilta of the 
Talmud. In the trial of a Hebrew criminal there were 
' Lactees ' consisting of two men, one of whom stood at 
the door of the court, with a red flag in his hand, and 
the other sat on a white horse at some distance on the 
road to execution. Each of these men cried aloud con- 
tinually the name of the suspected criminal, of the 
witnesses, and his crime; and vehemently called upon 
any person who knew anything in his favour to come 
forward and testify. Have we, supercilious braggarts 
of this age of progress, attained to the prudent wisdom 
of Sanhedrim?" 

This pompous tirade has certainly a substratum of 
historical truth; it is incorrectly quoted, some details 
are wrongfully added, the demand of an eye for an eye, 
a tooth for a tooth, a life for a life is far from being so 
"relentless" in the Eabbinical "code of jurisprudence" 
as the authoress imagines. But what of that? Readers 
when taking up a novel of the kind expect a sort of 
entertainment which is quite different from exact instruc- 
tion on the details of Rabbinical penal procedure. It has 
no connexion with the rest of the book, and is, so to say, 
dragged in by violence. 

Quite different are the references to Jews and Judaism 
in a book like Daniel JDeronda. In that work, certain 
conditions of Jewish life constitute a considerable part of 
the plot. To inquire into their value would be an agree- 
able and useful task, and would not be by any means 
a trifle. But my mind being bent on trifles, I did not 
think of that, but it was Mr. Klesmer that kept dangling 



SOME LITERARY TRIFLES 599 

before my mental vision. Herr Klesmer is described as 
one of those virtuosos before whom every human interest 
sinks into insignificance compared with musical art. He 
belongs to several nations, and to no nation. He is "a 
felicitous combination of the Gei-man, the Sclave, and the 
Semite, with grand features, brown hair floating in artistic 
fashion, and brown eyes in spectacles ... He can hardly 
tolerate anything the English do in music." A lady 
asking him for his opinion about her performance, receives 
the reply, that she had not been well taught, for, as George 
Eliot says, "Woman was dear to him, but music was 
dearer." "He had an imperious magic in his fingers that 
seemed to send a nerve-thrill through ivory key and 
wooden hammer, and compel the strings to make a quiver- 
ing, lingering speech for him." The novelist describes 
Herr Klesmer's entrance into an assembly of ordinary 
well-bred Englishmen, "his mane of hair floating back- 
ward in massive inconsistency with the chimney-pot hat, 
which had the look of having been put on for a joke 
above his pronounced but well-modelled features and 
powerful clean-shaven mouth and chin; his tall figure 
clad in a way which, not being strictly English, was all 
the more strange for its apparent emphasis of intention. 
Draped in a loose garment with a Florentine beretta on 
his head, he would have been fit to stand by the side of 
Leonardo da Vinci ; but how when he presented himself 
in trousers which were not what English feeling demanded 
about the knees ? — and when the fire that showed itself in 
his glances and the movements of his head, as he looked 
round him with curiosity, was turned into comedy by a 
hat which ruled that mankind should have well-cropped 
hair and a staid demeanour?" 

Herr Klesmer's ideas of that which constitutes musical 
art are equallj^ transcendental. " A creative artist is no 
more a mere musician than a great statesman is a mere 
politician." — " The life of the true artist is out of the reach 
of any but choice organizations — natures framed to love 



600 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

perfection and to labour for it ; ready, like all true lovers, 
to endure, to wait, to say, I am not worthy, but she — 
Art, my mistress — is worthy, and I will live with her." 

Now this incarnation of the genius of music, this ApoUo 
of Belgravia, this Orpheus descended to the fogs of London, 
why did George Eliot give him the name of Klesmer? 
How did she come by the word? She must have picked 
it up in some place in London where Polish Jews live, 
for the word " Klesmer " is the Yiddish for " musician." 
Her description of Ezra Cohen, of his family, and his mode 
of living, shows clearly that George Eliot must have made 
excursions into those quarters of London city in which 
Polish Jews are wont to congregate. On some such ex- 
pedition in quest of models for her Jewish pictures, she 
must have come across the word Klesmer, and not the 
word only, but that which it represented, and she named 
her hero of musical art by that name. For the Klesmer 
used to play, and still plays in some countries in Eastern 
Europe, an important part in Jewish life. The word is 
a curious compound, and, if translated literally, means 
" instruments of music." As to the Mexicans, when they 
saw a European on horseback for the first time, man and 
horse appeared to be one, so to the popular Jewish mind 
the musician and his instrument was one, and the per- 
formers were called not v3 , musical instruments. In some 
pai-ts the grammatical vagary went even still further, and 
they were called Kle-Semorim, reminding one of the 
" Cherubims " of the English Bibles. I read once in German 
a description of such Klesmer, or Klesmorim, which is 
interesting for its truthful delineation of the importance 
of the Klesmer. It runs thus : " The ' musical instru- 
ments,* Kle-Semorim, are a portion of Jewish poetical life. 
They wander about with the fiddle from year's beginning 
to year's end, knocking at the doors of their brethren, and 
give him a word in music — his holy tunes. Oh, that 
Jewish music! It is more than the Alphornreigen to the 
Swiss mountaineer — it reminds one of so many countries ; 



SOME LITERARY TRIFLES 6oi 

it reminds one of Zion, of Greece, of Rome, of Spain, of 
Provence, of Italy, of Poland, and of many, many times — 
that music contains something of everything, but tran- 
scribed into Jewish tunes ; — at the same time weeping and 
laughing, exulting and moaning ; and how often does it 
happen that wild jubilation breaks forth from the shrillest 
cry of anguish, or a cry of anguish from the midst of 
joyful jubilation ! These living instruments go from door 
to door all the year round. When the children stand round 
the lights of the Chanuka lamp, and sing the song Moouz 
Tsur Yeshouosee, they suddenly hear two fiddles and a flute 
accompanying their song, so clearly and sorrowfully- - 
joyfully and sadly — warbling and trembling, as sueh 
Jewish songs are wont to be sung. And then gradually 
other Jewish songs have their turn, and are played — the 
Kol Nidre, the Avoudah, the Sefira Yotzer, Purim songs., 
and all such pieces, which our Troubadours, the Klesmer — 
for it is they who have entered so quietly with their 
wonderful evening greeting — bring with them of new and 
old — ever so old tunes." 

This striking picture of our Klesmer appeared many 
years ago in an anonymous article, but I have every 
reason to believe that it issued from the pen of Emanuel 
Deutsch. 

But these ambulant performances are not th© only duties 
of the Klesmer. One of their principal functions is that 
of assisting at weddings. Then it is not only the two 
fiddles and a flute that offieiate, but there is a whole 
orchestra in proper trim presided over by their band- 
master. The duties of that ruling spirit, the bandmaster, 
are of a peculiar nature. His functions are complicated, 
and, strange to say, need not include that of being a 
musical instrument himself. He is termed " Badchan," or 
also " the Marshallik " ; he directs what pieces are to be 
performed, and to what tunes his own humoristic com- 
positions must be recited. He is far excellence the provider 
of jokes, the professional jester. This is sufficiently indicated 

VOL. XIII. E r 



6o2 THE JEWISH QUAETEKLY EEVIEW 

by the appellation of " Mai-shallik," which is a popular 
corruption of the German " Schalk," and of " Badchan," 
which is from a Rabbinical root and denotes jester. In 
some parts of Russia and Poland it used to be, and is 
perhaps still, as impossible to have a wedding without 
a Badchan as without a bridegroom and bride. Whilst 
the wedding guests are dining, or dancing, or diverting 
themselves in some other way, the Badchan holds forth 
his jokes, his comic and his earnest songs, he carries on 
with great gravity a mock argumentation on some ridicu- 
lous question. It is not surprisiug that in many cases 
the jokes turn out to be rather broad, and the songs just 
verging upon the undesirable. But though that is not 
surprising, it is surprising that there are occasionally found 
among these Badchonim real poets, who know how to blend 
jest with earnest, and understand how to impressively weave 
into their songs the pathos of Israel's sufferings and Israel's 
joys. Some of these poems exist in print, but they are 
little known, clad as they are in their unconventional garb 
of Yiddish. 

But it is not only as the master of a band of Klesmer 
and of the professional jester, that the Badchan or Mar- 
shallik comes to the front. On certain occasions one of 
his functions is to ofBciate as preacher. In some districts 
at every wedding it is his task "zu strofen die KaUe,'^ 
to impress the bride with the solemnity of the hour. A 
chair is placed in the middle of the room on which the 
bride is seated, her head and face covered with a veil. 
The wedding guests sit round her in a circle, and the 
Badchan steps forward, and, in an impressive voice and 
tone, addresses the bride, and reminds her of her days 
of youth that are passed and her duties for the future, 
of the impoi-tance of married life, of those of her departed 
relatives to whom she had been particularly dear. Here 
again the surprising thing is that some of these Badchonim 
rise sometimes to remarkable eloquence and display a depth 
of feeling which sinks deep into the hearts of their audience. 



SOME LITERARY TRIPLES 603 

This combination of the functions of jester and preacher 
reminds us of a question which was once put to Lessinw, 
whether a preacher should be allowed to write comedies ; 
to which Lessing answered, " Why not, if he can ? " Again 
he was asked, whether a writer of comedies was allowed 
to write sermons ; to which he answered, " Why not, if he 
likes." So that, if anybody should object to the union of 
the functions of preacher and president of an orchestra 
of Klesmer, do not let him quote the authority of Lessing. 

But whether George Eliot's Herr Klesmer owes his 
patronymic to the circumstance alluded to or not, there 
is another Jewish trait in the same novel which is rather 
puzzling. It is the passage in which Deronda's visit to 
a synagogue in Frankfort-on-the-Main is described. It 
was on a Friday evening that "he happened to take his 
seat in a line with an elderly man — his ordinary clothes, 
as well as the talith or white blue-fringed kind of blanket 
which is the garment of prayer, very much worn." He 
attracted Deronda's notice, and returned it, till at last their 
eyes met. Deronda immediately felt a prayer-book pushed 
towards him. Meanwhile "the white thaliths had mustered, 
the reader had mounted the Almernor or platform, and the 
service began. Deronda, having looked enough at the 
German translation of the Hebrew in the book before him 
to know that he was chiefly hearing Psalms and Old 
Testament passages or phrases, gave himself up to that 
strongest effect of chanted liturgies which is independent 
of detailed verbal meaning ; . . . but this evening all were 
one for Deronda ; the chant of the Ghazan's or Reader's 
grand wide-ranging voice with its passage from monotony 
to sudden cries, the outburst of sweet boys' voices from 
the little choir, the devotional swaying of men's bodies 
backwards and forwards, the very commonness of the 
building and shabbiness of the scene." . . . 

Now, George Eliot, we have every reason to assume, 
wanted to give here a picture drawn from life ; how is it 
then that, in describing an ordinary Friday evening 

R r a 



6o4 THE JEWISH QUAETERLY REVIEW 

service, she makes the men wearing the talith, and 
describes the prayers as consisting chiefly of Psalms and 
Old Testament passages 1 There can only be one explana- 
tion. Something untoward had happened to George Eliot. 
She was determined to witness a Friday evening service 
in a synagogue, and it so happened that she chose a 
Friday evening which was, at the same time, the evening 
of Tom Kippur, of the Day of Atonement. This is the 
only occasion when the talith is worn on a Friday evening. 
Somebody must have pushed a Machzor of Yom Kippur 
into her hands, which she opened at random, and the 
contents of which she believed to be the ordinary Friday 
evening service. That this is the correct explanation is 
evident from the further description of the liturgy, for 
she proceeds: "The whole scene was a coherent strain, 
its burthen a passionate regret, which, if he had known 
the liturgy for the Day of Keconciliation, he might have 
clad in its antithetic burthen : ' Happy the eye which saw 
all these things, but verily to hear only of them afflicts 
the soul. Happy the eye that saw our temple and the joy 
of our congregation, but verily to hear only of them afflicts 
our soul. Happy the eye that saw the fingers when tuning 
every kind of song, but verily to hear only of them afflicts 
our soul,' " &c. 

This passage shows that George Eliot was somehow 
aware that something was wrong in her description, and 
that she mixed up the service of the evening of Yom 
Kippur with that of an ordinary Friday evening. 

Thinking of impressions experienced in the synagogue 
on a Friday evening, I wondered how the Portuguese Jews 
of the Bevis Marks Synagogue might have been impressed 
by their chazan on the Friday evenings of the years 1775 
and 1776. It was on the Friday evening that their chazan 
Leoni had his evening off from the theatre where he was 
one of the actors in Sheridan's play, the Duenna. We 
are able to form some notion as to the sort of voice he had, 
for, in a letter reproduced by Thomas Moore in his life 



SOME LITEEAEY TEIFLES 605 

of Sheridan, we find that this author wrote to Linley : 
"I think I heard you say you never heard Leoni, and 
I cannot briefly explain to you the character and situation 
of the persons on the stage with him. The first, a dialogue 
between Quick and Mrs. Mattocks (who played Isaac and 
Donna Louisa), I would wish to be a pert, sprightly air ; 
for though some of the words mayn't seem suited to it, 
I should mention that they are neither of them in earnest 
in what they say. Leoni takes it up seriously, and I want 
him to show himself advantageously in the six lines, 
beginning ' Gentle maid.' I should tell you that he sings 
nothing well but in a plaintive or pastoral style ; and his 
voice is such as appears to me always to be hurt by much 
accompaniment. I have observed, too, that he never gets 
so much applause as when he makes a cadence. Therefore 
my idea is, that he should make a flourish at ' Shall I grieve 
thee V and return to ' Gentle maid,' and so sing that part of 
the tune again." 

" The run of the opera," says Moore, " had no parallel in 
the annals of the drama." The Duenna was acted no less 
than seventy-five times during the season, the only inter- 
missions being a few days at Christmas, and the Friday 
in every week — the latter on account of Leoni, who, being 
a Jew, could not act on those nights." 

Leoni's part in the opera was that of Don Carlos. 
" Carlos was originally meant to be a Jew, and is called 
' Cousin Moses ' in the first sketch of the dialogue." But 
Moses was changed into Carlos, as Moore thinks, from the 
consideration that the former would apply too personally to 
Leoni, who was to perform the character. I do not think 
many particulars are known of the life of this chazan — opera 
singer. I believe he left England, and went to Jamaica, 
where nothing further was heard of him — a termination of 
his career at which nobody can be surprised. 

The impression which the Friday evening service in 
the synagogue at Frankfort-on-the-Main made upon 
Daniel Deronda was quite different from that which it 



6o6 THE JEWISH QUARTBKLY EEVIEW 

made about three hundred years ago upon another English- 
man who visited the synagogue in the same city. Hugh 
Broughton was a renowned Protestant theologian who 
lived 1549-1612. He was not only a good Hebrew scholar, 
but he was also acquainted with many Rabbinical works 
in the original. He occupied a great portion of his life 
in theological disputes, and was of a bitter, rancorous 
disposition. Joseph Scaliger called him " furiosus et male- 
dicus," of a fiery temper and a sharp tongue. Scaliger 
himself was not sweet-mouthed by any means in his con- 
troversies, and Broughton's invective must have been 
rather acute to appear remarkable to a man like Scaliger. 
Broughton travelled much in Holland and Germany, and 
had frequent disputes with Rabbis whom he wished to 
convert to Christianity. On one occasion he visited the 
synagogue at Frankfort-on-the-Main on a Friday or a Fes- 
tival evening, and on leaving, an acquaintance asked him, 
"Did not our Reader sing like an angel ?" "No," Broughton 
replied, "he barked like a dog." He must have thought 
that a snarl like this would contribute to his securing 
eternal bliss for himself. Daniel Deronda was diflferently 
impressed — the man who had been brought up as a 
Christian, and discovered in the end that he was really 
a Jew. 

There is another English novel which deals pre-eminently 
with Jewish characters, the plot of which is based upon 
a Christian having been brought up as a Jew, who dis- 
covers in the end that he is really a Christian. The novel 
is entitled The Limb, and was written by an anonymous 
author, who describes himself on the title-page as X. L. 
It was in 1896 that Dr. Theodor Herzl published his 
pamphlet Der Judenstaat. This was subsequently trans- 
lated into English, and Sir Samuel Montagu sent a copy 
of that translation to Mr. Gladstone. Mr. Gladstone sent 
a reply, in which he said : " The subject of your inclosure 
is most interesting: not easy for an outsider to form an 
opinion on ; impertinent, perhaps, to speak were it formed. 



SOME LITERAEY TRIPLES 607 

I am surprised, however, to see the misery of the Jews 
so broadly stated. Of course, I am strongly anti-8i,nti- 
Semitic. In a singular and rather striking novel called 
The Limb, you would find some rather exceptional 
handling." 

It is superfluous to say that the adjectives applied by 
Mr. Gladstone to that novel are remarkably coiTect. The 
novel The Limb is singular and strikmg, and the handling 
of the Jewish features, which form a great portion of the 
book, is exceptional. But there is no real connexion 
between the book and Dr. Herzl's pamphlet, except that 
in both religious persecution is accentuated. But on this 
point also the greatest discrepancy prevails. Nor is there 
any likeness between The Limb and Daniel Deronda, 
however much both are occupied with Jewish topics. It 
is strange that The Limb is not more widely known among 
the Jewish novel-reading public. It is greatly above the 
standard of every-day novels. The method of religious 
persecution, as pi-actised in Russia, is described in a realistic 
manner. But in the description of Jews and Judaism 
there is this difference between George Eliot and X. L., that 
in Daniel Deronda both the descriptions of Jewish persons 
and of Jewish customs are, in the main, portraits, they are 
not the fruits of mere book-learning or creative fiction, 
whilst in The Limb the Jewish customs are mostly the 
result of book-learning, and the Jewish characters the out- 
come of creative imagination, both being only scantily 
aided by portraiture. 

The town whence hail the Jews depicted in The Limb 
is described by the author himself as an extraordinary 
place. " A small town," says the author, " in White Russia. 
No one who has only seen the Jews as they are in 
Petersburg and Moscow can have any idea of what this 
extraordinary people really are like. At S., far away 
from any railway station, and indeed not near any 
navigable part of the Dwina, the appearance of this Hebrew 
settlement was as extraordinary as anything you can 



6o8 THE JEWISH QTJARTEELY EEVIEW 

imagine." The same is said of the Jews of that town, who 
are with one exception almost the only Jews that play 
a part in the narrative. They are depicted as " half-crazed 
fanatics and semi-barbarians." They are "not orthodox 
Jews, but ignorant fanatics, strongly tainted with Chas- 
sidism." The Eabbi of the place was " a half mad mystic," 
and his congregants are also "mad fanatics, and really 
most unorthodox Jews." We see that the Jews of that 
place are Jews of imagination and not of experience. 
They are painted with screaming exaggeration of colour. 
The same extravagant grotesqueness adheres to the two 
principal characters of the book. Faivel Ravouna is gro- 
tesquely wicked, Michael or Michka is grotesquely divine. 
Faivel was a " Jew such as you see in London, Paris, 
or Vienna, or Petersburg ; he was very rich ; he was a 
scofler, unbeliever, cynic, sceptic." He did not hesitate, 
whenever it suited his purposes, to conform to the most 
extraordinary rites of the congregation at S. He lived 
only for his revenge. He obtained a child, the son of 
Lotta Czapak, a Roumanian, and a gipsy musician. He 
names him Michael, and for purposes of his own brings 
him up as a Jew, Michael, or Michka, thought that he 
was Faivel's nephew. The boy was educated in the 
strictest Jewiah fashion by the Rabbi and the Melammed. 
He was handed by Faivel to the care of some powerful 
Christian protectors for the purpose of undergoing a 
thorough musical training abroad, on the understanding 
that no attempt of any kind should be made to convert 
the boy to Christianity, or to induce him to alter his 
religious views in any way. He came to Paris, studied 
music, and some Jewish friends took care of him, and saw 
that nothing was omitted which the most religious training 
of a Jew might require. His progress was extraordinaiy. 
Michka Ravouna and Herr Klesmer have this in common, 
that in both the genius of musical art is incarnated in 
its absolute purity. But whilst in Herr Klesmer every- 
thing is robust, massive, primordially vigorous, in Michka 



SOME LITERARY TRIFLES 609 

Ravouna everything is divinely gentle, womanly tender, 
delicate, and spiritual. He is called by all who heard him 
sing the angel-singer, the women say that they see his 
soul while he is singing, he has the face, and the voice, 
and the spirit of an angel. 

In the details of the book the author seizes upon every 
opportunity to air his knowledge of things Jewish. He 
says that Michka was never without his Arba Kanfoth or 
talith Katan, although he wore no peoth. He was careful 
not to wear Shaatnez and his food was prepared in a special 
way, and a double set of kitchen utensils and vessels for 
the table was kept for him. He is called an ascetic young 
Talmid-Chacham. The author must have spent a good 
deal of time over reading up such references about Jewish 
laws and usages as were accessible to him. The lack of 
original, first-hand knowledge displays itself frequently. 
He says, that the members of the Kahal consisted of twelve 
daions, who were leading citizens, being opulent merchants. 
They strictly kept the law of Sabbath, and as an example, 
the author says that they " devoutly refrained from walking 
more than 2,000 steps from their houses on the Sabbath, 
or, if they did so, they were careful to bury in the ground 
on the very two thousandth step a fragment, or a crumb, 
of their household bread, which, according to usage, 
establishing as it did their house, enabled them without 
sin to walk yet another 3,oco steps from the spot where 
the crumb lay buried." Those who know anything of the 
precepts about the " Sabbath boundary " see at a glance 
how matters become distorted and transformed into cari- 
cature when second-hand book-learning is taken in, but 
not digested. The author speaks of the school of Shammai, 
the school of Hillel, of commentaries on commentaries, 
which fill the 2,500 printed pages of the Halacha, of the 
Agada, and of the Gemara, of the book of Zohar, of Shiur 
Koma, Ozar Hakabod, Toledoth Adam, Sefer Jezira, Kaarat 
Kezef, and of the Kabbala, or Chochma Nistar (sic). He 
quotes Rashi's interpretation on Hillel's saying about the 



6lO THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

Messiah, reproduces scraps from Maimonides, and has some 
knowledge of the Jewish prayer-book, certain pieces of 
which he makes Michka recite, all the while interspersing 
remarks so as to point out the superiority of the Christian 
over the Jewish religion. This latter feature makes the 
denouement all the more striking; it is ghastly, yet 
eminently artistic, and I shall not tell you what it comes 
to, because I hope that those of you who have not read 
the book will yet do so. 

The author's remark that Faivel Eavouna " did not dress 
like a Jew " caused my wandering mind to fly off at a 
tangent, and I all at once thought of a passage in a modern 
novel, to which Mr. Israel Abrahams had once drawn my 
attention, which refers to clothes bought from a Jew. If 
students want fresh news about the presence of Jews in 
England during the period between their expulsion and 
their readmission, the novelists provide them with such; 
for instance, Scott in Kenilworth proves right enough that 
thex'e were Jews in England in Elizabeth's reign. But a 
new and rather popular romance of the Civil War, by 
Edward Pickering, The Dogs of War, introduces us to 
pedlars selling clothes outside Bristol about 1648 ! " I had 
a thought that you would fall into some trouble, and 
having got this dress from a Jew pedlar fellow, which for 
plain discomfort is the worst ever devised^ I left the camp." 
This anachronism made me think of another imaginary 
case of a person having got into trouble, not indeed by 
buying clothes from a Jew, but by looking at Jewish 
clothes. I allude to the second letter in the first book 
of the E^nstolae Obscurorum Virorum. I have given 
elsewhere a description of that book, and it suffices now 
to mention that it is a satirical production, in which the 
opponents of the celebrated Johann Eeuchlin are merci- 
lessly pilloried and scourged, and that it is written in the 
dog-Latin of the monks of the day, which gives the pictures 
a character of undescribable comicality. The impression 
these letters produced in Germany was electric. Even 



SOME LITEEAEY TRIFLES 6ll 

the scruples of the more sober friends of Reuchlin bad 
to struggle with the inclination to smile, but soon laughter 
gained the day and drove every other emotion before it. 
It is said that Erasmus of Rotterdam, while suffering from 
an affection of the throat, laughed so much at one of these 
letters that the abscess in his throat opened, and he was 
cured. Heinrich Heine alludes to the letters and their 
effect : — 

Der Erasmus musste lachen 
So gewaltig ob dem Spass, 
Dass ilun platzte in dem Rachen 
Sein Geseliwur, und er genas. 
Auf der Ebersburg desgleichen 
Lachte Sickingen wie toll, 
Und in alien deutsclien Reichen 
Das Gelachter •wiederschoU. 
Alte lachten wie die Jungen, 
Eine einzige Lache nur 
War ganz Wittenberg. Sie sungen 
"Gaudeamus igitur." 

Heinrich Heine proceeds in a style so peculiarly Heinian 
that you must excuse me from quoting it. In the letter 
I allude to, one Joannes Pellifex professes to be greatly 
agitated in his mind at an act of sacrilege which he had 
committed. He says : " Once I was walking with a friend 
in Frankfort-on-the-Main when I saw two respectable- 
looking men in black tunics, hoods, and scapularies (et 
habuerunt nigras tunicas, et magna caputia cum liripipiis). 
I took them for magistri nostri, and took my cap oflf to 
them. My friend exclaimed : ' Gracious, what have you 
done 1 These people are Jews, and you take your cap off 
to them ! ' I never was so frightened in my life (tunc 
ego ita fui perterritus, ut si vidissem unum diabolum). ' Do 
you think,' I asked, 'that I have committed a great sin? 
I did it in ignorance.* My friend said that he considered 
it a mortal sin, equivalent to idolatry; it was a violation 
of the commandment, ' believe in one God.' But I remon- 
strated that I did it in ignorance : ' I admit, had I done 



6l2 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

it knowing that they were Jews, I should fully deserve 
to be burnt alive, for then it would have been heresy ; but 
I swear and protest, I really believed they were Magistri.' " 
But his friend gave him only cold comfort. He said that 
there was only one thing to be done to save his conscience, 
and that was, to make a confession in the proper quarter. 
His plea of ignorance was all nonsense ; do not all Jews 
wear a yellow badge? "I noticed it, why didn't you?" 
The sinner is in a gi-eat perturbation of mind. "Pray," 
he writes, " tell me how I am to solve the question ; let 
me know whether my case is a simple case, or an episcopal 
case, or a case for the Pope himself. I ask you, is it right 
of the authorities in Frankfurt to allow Jews to walk 
about in the same garb as Tnagistri nostri'i I consider 
it a shocking scandal ; it simply makes a laughingstock of 
holy theology (mihi videtur quod non est rectum et est 
magnum scandalum, etiam est una derisio sacrosanctae 
theologiae)." 

Thinking of Keuchlin and his opponents, I wondered 
whether those who objected to innovations in Christian 
doctrine attached any sacredness to the sum of a thousand 
ducats. Eeuchlin's opponents did not understand how it 
was possible for a good Christian — not only to defend the 
Jews — but to refuse joining the hue and cry that was 
being raised against the Jews and their books by Johann 
PfefFerkorn and his abettors. They therefore invented the 
tale that Keuchlin had received from the Jews a bribe 
of a thousand ducats. It so happens that the Jews of 
Frankfurt were at that time penniless, and, when they 
wanted money to defend themselves against Pfefferkorn's 
machinations, they were obliged to borrow some at two 
hundred per cent. About 370 years later, a tale of a bribe 
of a thousand ducats from the Jews again made its appear- 
ance. It was after Lessing had published some fragments 
from a work by the physician Keimarus, and known as the 
Wolfenbiittel fragments. Their incisive critique of certain 
tenets of the Christian docti'ine scandalized several people, 



SOME LITERAKY TRIFLES 613 

and it was Pastor Goze of Hamburg wlio opened a 
campaign against Lessing. To use a homely phrase, Pastor 
Goze caught a Tartar. The controversy between Lessing 
and Goze is one of the most memorable specimens of 
controversial literature, and will not cease to attract notice 
as long as literature shall exist. Then some low-minded 
people invented the absurd fable that Lessing had accepted 
from the Jewish community in Amsterdam the sum of a 
thousand ducats as a fee for his attacking the Christian 
Church by means of the publication of the Wolfenbiittel 
fragments. The libel was published at the time, but it 
was so stupid on the face of it, that nobody, not even 
Lessing's opponents, took it up. 

Thinking of Amsterdam, an amusing skit occurred to 
me, in derision of the elder Jacob Triglandus. The 
religious world was at his time greatly agitated. The 
disputes for and against Calvin's doctrines ran high, 
and in Holland the quarrels between Gomarists and 
Arminians or between Eemonstrants and Contra-Remon- 
strants, derived additional virulence from the political 
animosities that were mixed up with the theological 
discord. The synod of Dordrecht became a powerful 
body ; it was the bulwark of those who were opposed to 
Arminianism, and it was presided over by Jacob Triglan- 
dus, who, although a Roman Catholic by birth, became 
afterwards a fervent defender of the doctrines of Calvin. 
The opponents spared neither him nor his synod. All 
sorts of lampoons were launched against them. Triglandus 
is described as having a violent temper, and he obtained 
the nickname of " de kalkoensche haan," the Turkey- 
cock. The Remonstrants accused him as being the most 
intolerant person under the sun. One of the lampoons 
written against him is ascribed to the great Dutch poet 
Vondel, who was so closely followed by Milton in some 
passages of the Paradise Lost, in Samson Agonistes, and 
elsewhere. Vondel was very violent in his outbursts 
against the Contra-Remonstrants, against Triglandus, and 



6l4 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

the synod of Dordrecht. Vondel says that the Turkeycock 
looks very red, because he drinks so much wine, and 
carries all the contents of the wine-cask of Heidelberg in 
his nose. He is above all things afraid of being considered 
tolerant in matters religious. Once when beating his wife 
the servant asked him, " Don't you know that the Mistress 
is not right in her head ? " " Hold your tongue," answered 
Triglandus, "I do it so as not to be suspected of tolerance." 

Hoort gy Heeren, hoort, ik laet u weteii 
't kalkoensclie Haentjen heeft zyn wijf gesmeten ; 
En zyn Meit, die wat snar in de bek is, 
Zey, Meester, weetje wel dat onze vrou gek is ? 
Swyg, zeide by, ik volg myn ordonantie, 
Om niet suspekt te zyn van tolerantie. 

Most probably not a particle of truth underlies this 
pasquinade. At that time Vondel was passionately defend- 
ing Arminianism, and continued doing so till in his old 
age he turned Koman Catholic, when he commenced as 
passionately to defend his new persuasion. 

The younger Triglandus was one of the scholars who gave 
a mighty impetus to the study of Hebrew. This Triglandus 
was a gi'eat scholar; he wrote several theological works 
in which he displayed a knowledge of Eabbinical litera- 
ture, and his inquiring mind led him even to enter into 
a correspondence with Karaites. It may be said that it 
was in Holland that comparative Semitic philology was 
promulgated, after Reuchlin had introduced into Christian 
Europe the study of Hebrew. There is in English a bio- 
graphy of Reuchlin by Francis Barham. On the title-page 
the author calls Reuchlin the father of the Reformation. 
He cannot be properly called this, much less can he be 
called the originator of modern Bible critique, in which 
character he is represented by Froude in his life of 
Erasmus. 

A propos of Barham's book, the author has made one 
of those curious little blunders which are not at all rare 
among such non-Jewish authors as receive their informa- 



SOME LITERAEY TRIPLES 615 

tion of things Jewish at second-hand. The mistake made 
by the Capucin friar, Henricus Seynensis, is well known. 
He thought that the Talmud was not a book, but a man, 
and he speaks of Rabbi Talmud, " ut narrat Rabbinus 
Talmud." Now Rabbi David Kimchi wrote a Hebrew 
grammar to which he gave the title "Michlol," Compendium, 
and Barham turns Rabbi David Kimchi into Rabbi Kimchi 
Michlol. 

A very amiable gentleman, who, I am happy to say, 
is still among the living, Dr. John Henry Bridges, fell once 
into a similar error. Dr. Bridges has written several 
works; he has written about the Positivist philosophy, 
and translated into English some of the works of Auguste 
Comte. He has also edited Roger Bacon's Opus Mains, 
which edition the critics consider far from being a success. 
As far back as 1857 he wrote an article, "The Jews of 
Europe in the Middle Ages." It was pubhshed in the 
Oxford Essays of that year. It is a well- written, sympa- 
thetic article, and does great credit to its author. Speaking 
of the sufferings of the Jews, he has occasion to cite the 
martyrology, Shevet Jehudak, "The Rod of Judah." This 
title denotes the contents of the book, at the same time 
alluding to the name of its author, who was Judah Virga, 
and would therefore mean also, "The Rod written by 
Jehudah." Dr. Biidges mixes up the title of the book with 
the author's name, and quotes him as Schaevet ben Virgae, 
" The Rod the son of Virga." 

Blunders of this kind are common enough, and pardon- 
able enough, even among such authors as endeavour to be 
accurate. I have, therefore, little patience when some 
people try to find out the sense of some allusion to things 
Jewish, which occur in authors who did not care at all 
whether they said the right thing or not. Thus we find 
in Horace, in the ninth Satire of the first book, that 
Aristius Fuscus said : " You do not think of doing any 
serious work on the thirtieth Sabbath, and thus grievously 
offending the Jews 1 " It is asked, what did Horace mean 



6l6 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

by the "thirtieth Sabbath." Some said he meant Rosh 
Chodesh, the " New Moon's day " ; others, Rosh Chodesh 
falling on a Sabbath ; others, again, that he meant Passover. 
As if Horace meant anything at all ! what did Romans 
of the stamp of Horace know about Jews and their usages ? 
They held the Jews in great contempt (they thought 
generally that the Jews fasted on the Sabbath and that 
they worshipped in their temple the image of an ass). 
In citing Horace now, I gave only the gist of the passage, 
but not a translation ; it is much too objectionable a phi-ase 
to bear rendering. 

Again, the question is asked, why should Horace, when 
relating his conversation with Aristius Fuscus, allude to 
the Jews at all ? Somebody wanted to cut this knot also, 
by assuming that Aristius Fuscus himself must have been 
a Jew! But why not make Horace himself a Jew whilst 
we are about it? Aristius Fuscus a Jew indeed! But 
then some of our brethren suffer of that malady of seeing 
a Jew in almost everybody. Thackeray, who was not 
particularly fond of Jews, broadly caricatures that pro- 
pensity, and also the inclination for display with which 
the Jews are charged, in his burlesque Godlingsby. We 
are introduced to the private apartment of Raphael Mendoza. 
"The carpet was of white velvet — laid over several webs 
of Aubusson, Ispahan, and Axminster ... of white velvet, 
painted with flowers, arabesques, and classic figures by 
Sir William Ross, Turner, Mrs. Mee, and Paul Delaroche. 
The edges were wrought with seed-pearls, and fringed with 
Valencienne lace and bullion. The walls were hung with 
cloth of silver, embroidered with gold figures, over which 
were worked pomegranates, polyanthuses, and passion- 
flowers, in ruby, amethyst, and smaragd. The drops of 
dew which the artificer had sprinkled on the flowers were 
diamonds. There were divans carved of amber covered 
with ermine. Miss Mendoza plays on an ivory pianoforte 
with silver and enamelled keys, and is seated on a mother- 
of-pearl music-stool. Everybody is a Jew, the composers 



SOME LITEEAEY TKIFLES 617 

Rossini, Braham, Sloman, Weber, are all Jews. Mr, Mendoza 
explains to his guest that his Majesty (the King of France) 
is a Jew, so is the Pope of Rome ; so is . . . — a whisper 
concealed the rest." 

It is ridiculous to say that Aristius Fuscus was a Jew. 
If there was a Jew alluded to at all in that Satire, it 
can only have been the third man mentioned there. In 
that case Horace caricatures one of that class of Jews 
of whom we have, unfortunately, a number among us, who 
want to force their company upon any man of distinction 
they come in contact with, especially if he is a non-Jew. 
They come across a high-placed personage, and they try 
to absorb him, to monopolize him. They try to get intro- 
ductions to the highest social circles ; they will hear, 
abjectedly patient, any slur cast on their faith and their 
race, and pretend not to notice it, as long as they are able 
to conceal, as they imagine, that they are Jews themselves. 
But at the same time they do not lose sight of their 
business concerns. Such tendencies are not themselves 
particularly Jewish, they are found among representatives 
of all denominations and nationalities, but a Jew displaying 
them is taken as the type of the whole race. It is just 
possible that Horace wanted to scourge a Jew of that 
kind. He says: "I was once walking along the Sacred 
Way, musing on trifles, when a person known to me only 
by name came up to me, grasped my hand, and said : ' My 
dearest friend, how do you do 1 ' — I answered, ' Quite well, 
thank you ; and you ? ' — The man following me, I asked, 
' what do you want 1 ' ' Oh,' he said, ' only to make your 
acquaintance ; I am a man of letters.' ' Indeed, I esteem you 
all the more for it.' " 

Horace tried every expedient to get rid of him : he stood 
still, he pretended to whisper something to his attendant, 
he is all in a perspiration. But it is of no use. The man 
continues talking, Horace does not answer. The man says : 
" You are in a terrible hurry to get away from me, but I 
shall stick to you. Where are you going to 1 " — " I must visit 

VOL. XIII. s s 



6l8 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

a sick friend who lives a long way off, on the other side 
of the Tiber, why should you go so far out of your way ?" — 
" Oh ! I have nothing to do ; I am not tired ; I will go with 
you." The man kept on rattling about hia accomplishments 
in singing, dancing, and poetry. 

" Have you a mother living 1 " Horace asked, " or any re- 
lations to whom your life is valuable ? " — " No, they are all 
dead." — How lucky for them, I thought. A fortune-teller 
once told me that I should not die by poison, or sword, 
or pleurisy, or cough, or gout, but that a chatterbox would 
be the death of me. 

It was now nine o'clock ; they had ai-rived at the temple 
of Vesta, and the man, who had a case in court, had to 
present himself there, or lose his case. " Do me a favour," 
he asked of Horace ; " assist me in my case." 

"Ill am not a lawyer ; besides, I am due elsewhere." 

" Well, what shall I do — leave you, or leave the case ? " 

" Me, by all means." 

"No, I won't." 

Horace gave himself up for lost. The man continued 
chattering ; he wanted an introduction to Maecenas. Horace 
refuses. The man says he would get it for himself. "I 
will bribe the servants. If the door is shut in my face, 
I will pei'severe. I will watch for opportunities ; I will 
meet him in the streets ; I will escort him home." 

Just then Aristius Fuscus came along. He knew what 
sort of man the stranger was. Horace thought relief was 
near. " I pinched Aristius Fuscus ; I caught his arms, 
nodded my head, rolled my eyes." But Fuscus pretended 
not to understand. "Didn't you say, Fuscus, you had 
some private matter to speak to me about?" "I re- 
member, but I will teU it you at a more proper time. 
To-day is the thirtieth Sabbath ; would you aflfront the 
Jews?" — "What do I care," said Horace. — "But I do care. 
I am somewhat weaker, one of the multitude. You will 
forgive me ; I will tell you another time." Fuscus went away. 
Horace gave himself up for lost, when the man's party in 



SOME LITERARY TRIFLES 6xg 

the lawsuit arrived. " Ho, scoundrel," exclaimed the man, 
"I arrest you. You, Horace^ witness the arrest." Horace 
consented ; both parties shouted, a crowd collected, and 
Horace was saved. 

It is just possible that Fuscus, who enjoyed Horace's 
discomfiture, is represented to have made that offensive 
remark about the Jews so as to give a hit to that bore 
who belonged to that abject class of Jew that gulps down 
any insults to his race, as long as he can be seen in 
the company of men of society. On the other hand, the 
remark about the Jews may have no particular meaning 
at all. I was pondering whether some Jews of quite 
a different stamp, men of noble aspirations, who are con- 
stantly at pains to show others that we are not so black 
as we are painted, were not sometimes too prone to urge 
their endeavours upon others — I was wondering whether 
they were wise in doing so. My thoughts took a more 
serious turn ; my semi-somnolence changed into complete 
somnolence, and I fell fast asleep. This was the ultimate 
effect of these mutoscopical vagaries of my mind ; they 
sent me to sleep. I shall not be surprised in the least if 
their description will have the same effect upon you. 

S. A. HiRSCH. 



S S 2