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Book Notes: A Family Postbag, 1908-1929, Ruth Sebag-Montefiore (ed.)

Miriam Rodrigues-Pereira

<plain_text><page sequence="1">A Family Postbag, 1908-1929. Edited by Ruth Sebag-Montefiore (Privately published, London 1994) 162 pp. Ruth Sebag-Montefiore has followed up her delightful paper to this Society on the Spielmann family with this small volume of letters. They were written mainly by Sir Isidore and Lady Spielmann (she was Emily, daughter of Sir Joseph Sebag-Montefiore) to their elder son Ferdinand who had emigrated to Canada. Sir Isidore was a prominent public figure, particularly in leading artistic circles in the country. He organized the successful 1887 Anglo-Jewish Historical Exhibi? tion and was concerned with the subsequent founding of this Society, becoming its President in 1902-4. In Canada, Ferdinand, a businessman, became involved with the affairs of the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue in Montreal and in the local Jewish and General Hospital. This publication, copiously annotated, is intended primarily for younger mem? bers of the family interested in their forebears, but the general reader, pleasurably 'eavesdropping', may also find in it a lively portrayal of the lives, characters and views of an upper-middle-class extended Jewish family in the period around and during the First World War. (A family tree would have been helpful.) Perennial problems there are - misunderstandings between father and son, 'marrying out', money - and the sorrow of the War is manifest: the younger son Harold was killed at Gallipoli. Wider political concerns such as Zionism and anti-Semitism are touched on, but the most appealing aspect of the letters is the wealth of period domestic detail. It illuminates the family's comfortable life style, cushioned by a phalanx of servants (though they too were a constant 'problem') and marked by severe constraints on the activities of women. Miriam Rodrigues-Pereira</page></plain_text>