top of page
< Back

Eighteenth Century English Jewry Through Foreign Eyes, 1730-1830

Dr. J. Rumney

<plain_text><page sequence="1">323 Anglo-Jewry as seen through Foreign Eyes (1730-1830) By J. Rtjmney, B.Sc, D.Phil. A Paper read before the Jewish Historical Society of England. November 17, 1930. We are indebted to many foreign travellers who visited England not only for valuable information on the life and manners of the English people, but incidentally for fascinating glimpses into the growth and development between 1730 and 1830 of the Anglo-Jewish community. Continuously from the end of the seventeenth century there had been an increasing influx into England of Jewish immigrants from Holland, Germany and Poland. Synagogues sprang up and the growing community began to assume a definite shape with definite characteristics. But in general this growth passed unheeded and unobserved, by contemporary English historians. Barring the Naturali? zation controversy of 1753, English observers tell us very little about the Jews. Eor information about them we have to go to the traveller and visitor, who unlike the natives of a country, are not unobservant of ordinary happenings in their midst. The traveller liked to spy and ferret out curious items of information for his memoirs or letters. He went into the synagogue, and argued with Jews about their religion. He wanted to know what their businesses were, and how they were treated. He noticed their distinctive dress, language and occupations. And scattered in his memoirs, diaries and journals, he has left us some intimate glimpses often more valuable than laborious description, for the understanding of the Jewish community. In the following essay an attempt will be made to reconstruct certain aspects of this newly developed community from the records and memoranda of foreign travellers through England. The accounts</page><page sequence="2">324 ENGLISH JEWRY of German, French, Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch and American travellers were examined and utilised. As it was desired to give the views of non-Jews, the records of Jewish travellers through England, of whom there were a number during this period, have not been embodied in this paper. These alone would constitute an interesting essay. It was of some interest to discover that eminent visitors such as Voltaire, Rousseau, Chateaubriand and Madame Roland who had stayed in England, make no mention of the Jews in this country, although Voltaire has some pungent remarks on Jews in general. Perhaps they were not interested in them or had no occasion to meet them. In any case, though philosophers make penetrating psycholo? gical analyses into the nature and character of a people, rarely do they give us simple and honest descriptions of their stay in a country. For such descriptions born of idle curiosity we go to ordinary visitors. We have included among them two pseudo-travellers, both English? men who wrote, however, as Spaniards. Southey wrote his Letters from England in 1807 under the pseudonym of Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella, and that amiable young man, Cochrane, wrote A Tour through Great Britain and Ireland in 1829 under the name of Juan de Vega. Both endeavoured to see this country through foreign eyes and both have interesting remarks to make about the Jews in England. In the midst of their activities a number of our foreign visitors made a point of visiting the synagogue and describing it. In 1730, Gonzales1 a merchant from Lisbon writes : " The Jews' synagogues are in Dukes' Place, where and in what neighbourhood many of that religion inhabit. The synagogue stands east and west as Christian churches generally do : the great door is on the west within which is a long desk upon an ascent raised above the floor, from whence the law is read. The east part of the synagogue also is railed in, and the places where the women sit, inclosed with lattices : the men sit on benches with backs to them running east and west: and there are abundance of fine branches for candles besides lamps, especially in that belonging to the Portuguese." 1 Don Manuel Gonzales, A Voyage to England and Scotland : Translated from the Portuguese : in Pinkerton's Travels, vol. ii. p. 49.</page><page sequence="3">THROUGH FOREIGN EYES, 1730-1830. 325 In the previous year, Saussure2 a Swiss visitor, whose picture of England in the reign of George I. and George II. is extremely interesting, visited the Dutch synagogue and remarked " that the women do not mix with the men, but that they stood in a sort of shut-off gallery. The men covered their heads with a piece of silken stuff or veil, the Rabbi's veil being black, as also their cloaks and garments." He was lucky to witness a circumcision, and he gives a sprightly and amusing description of the scene such as only a French? man could give. That charming Blue-Stocking, Madame du Bocage,3 informs us in 1750, that she went, following a Quakers' meeting, to the synagogue " whence the frightful cries of the Hebrew prayers made us fly with all speed." No wonder after a Quakers' meeting ! Some fifteen years later, Grosely4 a visitor from France, visited the Spanish synagogue and wrote as follows : " The psalmody of the English synagogue surprised me, by the sweetness as well as the agreeable simplicity of its modulation. My astonishment was caused by a comparison of this symphony, with the vociferation of the German synagogue, and even with the Church music which I had heard in England." In 1776, Curwen,5 an American refugee in England, paying a visit to the synagogue was told by a master " that the common people cannot read the Pentateuch without points, although it contains only alpha? betic characters; that the points were invented about the time of Christ in the reign of Tiberius and that they are necessary to ascertain the sense, which, in many places, would be wholly unintelligible with? out them, and that it would cost six months of study to understand the language to follow them in their prayers." About the same time the Frenchman Lacombe6 tells us the Jews had " a very fine syna? gogue near the Tower of London, and two others a mile and a half 2 M. Cesar de Saussure, A Foreign View of England in the Reigns of George I. and George II. Translated from the French, London, 1902, p. 328. 3 Madame du Bocage. Letters concerning England: from the French, 1750, p. 45. 4 M. Grosely, A Tour to London in 1765 ; from the French, 1772, vol. i. p. 363. 5 S. Curwen, Journal and Letters of an American Refugee in England, 1775-84, London, 1842. 6 M. Lacombe, Observations sur Londres et ses environs, London, 1777, pp. 44-5.</page><page sequence="4">326 ENGLISH JEWRY away where these unfortunate Israelites offer to the God of Mercy their praises and prayers." Some years later, F. A. Wendeborn,7 the pastor of the German Chapel in Ludgate Hill, who stayed in England a considerable time, wrote that the Portuguese Jews " have but one synagogue in London in Heneage Lane, near St. Mary Axe, which has a Rabbi and an assistant Rabbi. Besides, the Portuguese Jews have a kind of academy, or college where about twenty young students are instructed in Rabbinical learning. The Rabbi of the synagogue is the head, and has several under-masters to assist him." "I have reason to think," Wendeborn continues, "that among the Portuguese Jews more learning is to be found than among the others. Even the pronunciation of the Hebrew in the Portuguese synagogue is at least in my ears more pleasing than in the German, though I am myself accustomed to the latter." This is only one point of differ? ence between the Portuguese and the German Jews. As we shall see later on, in every point of comparison, the poor Ashkenazim were classed as inferior to the Sephardim. The Ashkenazim being poor and dirty, it was natural to regard them as immoral and dishonest. Not one visitor or traveller has anything nice to say of these Polish, Dutch and German Jews. Nevertheless, as Wendeborn tells us, " they have three synagogues in London. One is in Dukes' Place near Aldgate, the second in Church Row, Fenchurch Street, and the third in Leaden hall Street." Both sections of the community, we are told, " are Rabbinists who receive the Talmud ; no Karaites are to be found in England." In 1804, according to Ferri de St. Constant,8 there were in London three synagogues and two cemeteries. There were another two by that time unknown to St. Constant, so rapidly had the Jewish community grown. Two Americans who evidently disliked the Jews saw them on the Sabbath. This is Professor Silliman's9 impression in 1805 : " It was the Sabbath of the Jews. This despised people form a consider? able part of the crowd in the streets. Most of the graver men wear 7 G. F. A. Wendeborn, A View of England Towards the Close of the Eighteenth Century; from the German by the author himself, 1791, vol. ii. pp. 467-71. 8 Ferri de St. Constant, Londres et les Anglais, Paris, 1804, vol. iv. 9 B. Silliman, A Journal of Travels in England, Holland and Scotland in 1805 and 1806, vol. i. p. 133.</page><page sequence="5">THROUGH FOREIGN EYES, 1730-1830. 327 their beards at full length, and some among them, distinguished by full robes, were said to be Rabbis." Ballard,10 a young Boston merchant, writes ten years later as follows : "It being the Jewish Sabbath, I was induced to visit the synagogue, near Duke Street, the residence exclusively of these Shylocks. The church is a neat edifice. It is lighted with seven chandeliers, the pulpit or desk stand being in the centre : at the end is an altar or holy of holies towards which they turn their faces and bow, while repeating their prayers. The men sit with their hats on. The women are in a screened gallery apart from the men ! The service was chanted in Hebrew, the congregation joining at times, in a din most horrible. I came away disgusted with the little rever? ence they seemed to pay to that Being who pronounced them His chosen people." Some of our visitors were fortunate to have conversations with Jews, that are interesting for revealing not only the Jewish attitude, but the questioner himself. " Why then do you continue to make a separate body \ " Grosely11 asked a Jew, 165 years ago. "Is it necessary for us," answered the Jew, " to go to those who are advancing apace towards us ; and who will soon come up to us : besides, in such a change, every individual exposes himself to contempt, both of those who profess the religion which he forsakes, and the followers of that which he embraces." The conversation then turned on the Messiah, with reference perhaps to the pseudo-Messiahs that were always arising. " I then asked him what was their way of thinking with reference to the Messiah, whether they still waited for his coming ? and whether, upon his arrival at Jerusalem, all the Jews whom he saw would quit England, their houses, their commerce, wives and children, to go over to Syria to join him." This was the sensible answer of the Jew : " They will wait till the report of his coming is confirmed ; till then the people of sense will let those, who have nothing to lose, run after him as fast as they think proper." A hundred years ago Juan de Vega12 had similar conversations 10 Jos. Ballard, England in 1815. Published in 1913, pp. 128-29. 11 Grosely, I.e. 12 Juan de Vega (Cochrane), Journal of a Tour through Great Britain and Ireland, 1828-1829, London, 1830, vol. ii. p. 77 ff.</page><page sequence="6">328 ENGLISH JEWRY with a clever Jew. " ' Pray,' said I, 6 do persons of yonr persuasion in anticipation of eternal bliss in the time to come place reliance on any mediator, to lessen the sins which they have committed, after the manner we do in our saviour.' ' No,' he replied rather indignantly at the idea, ' we suffer for ourselves, and would not allow another to suffer for us. We have a prophet called Moses, but I don't place my trust in him for salvation. It is to my own conduct, that I look for reward. If good, God will reward me, and if bad, punish me : for I have the power of discerning right from wrong, and if I do wrong and know it to be so, I deserve to be punished.' ' Do you ever think of recovering Jerusalem, and becoming a distinct nation ? ' ' We do expect it,' said he, i and wish it: there is a continual correspond? ence on the subject kept up between us and the priests in Jerusalem.' ' By what means,' ? I asked. ' When we become sufficiently rich, we will raise powerful armies to recover it, but I hope it will never happen in my time, as the carnage and slaughter will be dreadful.' " Let us now leave the synagogue and go out into the wider world, or perhaps narrower world, of the Jewish quarter. The first thing that impressed our foreign visitors was the tremendous difference between the German and Portuguese Jews. They not only had, as we have seen, their own synagogues but their dress, speech and manners were different. These differences were very pronounced two hundred years ago : the Spanish and German Jews almost formed two distinct nations. In 1765 we are told that the Sephardim " behave with all the pride of Spaniards to the German Jews whom they look upon as vile remains of the tribe of Benjamin. W7ith regard to themselves they affirm that they are descended from the tribes which Nebuchadnezzar had transplanted to the banks of the Euphrates ; the Arabian Caliphs becoming masters of Asia, extended their conquests by degrees to Spain, where several Jewish families came to establish houses of commerce, and where they multiplied to such a degree, that, if we may believe them, all the families both in Spain and Portugal most distinguished both for noble births, or for opulence are of Jewish. extraction."13 Lacombe14 informs us that " the Spanish and Portu? guese Jews settled in London are rich and distinguished." " The Grosely, l.c. 14 I.e.</page><page sequence="7">THROUGH FOREIGN EYES, 1730-1830. 329 Jews in London," writes Wendeborn,15 " may be divided into two classes, the German and Portuguese Jews, of which the latter is by far the smallest. In the former class are included those who came from the Netherlands, Germany, Poland and from the North. The Portuguese, whose number may be about 4,000, consist of such as come from Portugal, Spain, Italy, France, Barbary and the Levant. . . . Comparatively speaking, the moral character and the manners of the Portuguese are much superior to those of the German Jews ; they are richer and more fond of cleanliness than the latter; these wear their beards which the others do not, who, therefore, have not so much of that Jewish appearance which otherwise is so easily observed." " We are astonished," writes Von Archenholtz16 in 1780, " at the difference between the Portuguese and the German Jews established in this island. Dress, language, manners, cleanliness dis? tinguish them much to the advantage of the former, who have little to distinguish them from Christians. That difference is discernible even in their public worship and prejudices : the physiognomy is the only thing they have in common." In 1814 Ferri de St. Constant,17 an Italian visitor writing in French, noticed that " in general the Portuguese Jews are different from the others in that they are much more honest. They do not associate with the German Jews although they are likewise Rabbinists." The Sephardim being richer, cleaner and more like Englishmen were in general treated better than their poor co-religionists. From a study of our travellers' impressions, it can hardly be doubted that the treatment accorded to Jews became more brutal as they became more numerous, and especially when the destitute and uncouth Ashkenazi elements entered the country. Thus, at the beginning of our period they were treated well. We are told in 1729, that " com? merce is considered England's strength, and care has been taken not to drive away anyone who contributes to build it up. Jews are there? fore protected by laws, and even granted certain privileges. They are not forced to bear a distinctive mark as is the case in many countries : if you see Jews wearing beards you will know that they 15 I.e. 16 J. W. von Archenholtz, A Picture of England, 1790, pp. 177 ff.; from the German. 17 I.e.</page><page sequence="8">330 ENGLISH JEWRY are Rabbis, or newcomers to this country." " Since their being restored in England by Cromwell," Grosely18 informs us, " the Jews dispersed through the different classes of commerce, share public offices with other merchants, amongst whom they distinguish themselves by sentiments and punctuality in their dealings from which those of their persuasion think themselves dispensed, in countries where the name of Jew is a mark of ignominy and reproach." By 1782 these generous sentiments had disappeared. Moritz,19 a German visitor writes, " antipathy and prejudice against Jews I have noticed to be far more common here than it is even with us, who certainly are not partial to them." He was assured by an Englishman that " the present race of Jews were all descended from those in the Bible and were damned to eternity." He narrates the following story: "In Kensington where we stopped, a Jew applied for a place along with us in the coach, but, as there was no seat vacant in the inside, he would not ride on the outside ; which seemed not quite to please my travelling companions. They could not help thinking it was somewhat pre? posterous, that a Jew should be ashamed to ride on the outside, or any side or in any way, since, as they added, he was nothing more than a Jew." Von Archenholtz20 in 1797 refers to the Ashkenazim in London as " offscourings of humanity " and as " a troop of banditti." He could not possibly have used milder terms when we recollect that he was an officer in the Prussian army. And truly the ways of Provi? dence are marvellous when we read what Silliman21 says: "in the reproaches and ridicule everywhere poured upon the Jews, we observe a living and striking fulfilment of the prophecy of their great legis? lators, that they should become an astonishment and a byword among all nations." Don Manuel Alvarez Espriella (Southey)22 recounts: " At one of the public schools here, the boys on Easter Sunday, rush out of the Chapel after prayers singing : He is risen, He is risen All the Jews must go to prison. 18 I.e. 19 C. P. Moritz, Travels Chiefly on Foot through England in 1782. A reprint of the translation of 1795 ; from the German ; Ed. P. E. Mathieson, 1926, p. 103. 20 I.e. 21 I.e. 22 Letters from England in 1807. Second Ed., 1808, p. 148 ff.</page><page sequence="9">THROUGH FOREIGN EYES, 1730-1830. 331 One day some of the boys cut the straps of a Jew's box, and all his ginger-bread fell into the street. Complaint was made to the master, and, when he questioned the culprits what they could say in their defence, one of them stepped forward and said, ' Why Sir, did they not crucify our Lord ? ' " Southey nevertheless, is of the opinion that the Jews enjoy unbounded liberty in England, and adduces as proof this incident: "A farce was brought out another time called ' The Jew Boy' and the fraternity knowing that it was impossible to present their class favourably, assembled in great numbers and actually damned the piece. This single fact is sufficient to prove that the liberty which they enjoy is unbounded." From 1770 onwards, Jews could be treated very savagely, as we learn from the Francis Place manuscripts in the British Museum: "It was thought good sport to maltreat them, and they were often most barbarously used even in the principal streets. This treatment intensified after the notorious Chelsea murder in 1771. As the murderers it seems, all wore beards, and as their persons were not unknown, every Jew was in public opinion implicated ; the prejudice, ill-will and brutal conduct this brought upon the Jews, even after the criminals had been tried and punished, did not cease for many years. ' Go to Chelsea,' was a common exclamation. When a Jew was seen in the streets, it was often the signal of assault. I have seen many Jews hooted and hunted, kicked, cuffed, pulled by the beard, and spat upon, and so barbarously assaulted in the streets without any protection from the passers-by or the police, as seems impossible to have existed at any time. Dogs could not then be used in the streets in the manner in which Jews were treated." In this connexion the following item of information from the Times of January 31, 1811, is illustrative : " The following ludicrous circumstance occurred on Tuesday week at Bristol. A couple of Jews being apprehended in the act of stealing several articles from the stables of the White Hart Inn, were hauled into the yard by two stout fellows, whither the whole fraternity of the currycomb were immediately summoned. The long beards of these disciples were then stuck together with pitch (their hands being previously tied behind them) and, whilst thus face to face, a profusion of snuff mixed with hellibore was adminis? tered, which caused them to sneeze in such a manner, that by the frequent and violent bobbing of noses one against the other, a copious</page><page sequence="10">332 ENGLISH JEWRY stream of blood issued from either nostril, whilst the engaged culprits were kicking and capering about in all directions." Our sources contain very little information regarding the number of Jews in England, and when estimates are given they are probably based on the calculations of others. In 1730, the Jewish population in England was about 6,000. According to Lacombe, " no less than two thousand Jewish families had settled in England from Spain between 1720 and 1745." According to Wendeborn,23 in 1791 the total number of Jews was no more than 12,000 and of these, 11,000 resided in London, the remainder being distributed in Falmouth, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Exeter, Chatham and Liverpool. Portuguese Jews amounted to 4,000 and lived only in London. This estimate is probably too low and Ferri de St. Constant24 is nearer the mark when he suggests more than 20,000. In 1830 there were probably 27-30,000 Jews living in England. Thus in one century, from 1730 to 1830, the Jewish population had quintupled, this rapid growth being mainly due to immigration. In the century following, the rate of growth was twice as fast, the 30,000 Jews having grown to over 300,000. Immigration was again the chief factor. As the population increased, it became more diversified, and different occupations arose. At the beginning of our period, most of the Jews were merchants, some of whom, as we learn from Saussure, being extremely wealthy.25 Gonzales26 has an interesting map of the Royal Exchange showing the location of Jew's Walk where the Jewish merchants and brokers congregated and made their fortunes. As early as 1725, it struck Defoe, in his " Tour thro' London," how the wealthy Jews particularly fixed upon Highgate for their country retreats. " Their wealth," writes Grosely, " makes part of the capital of a nation, and they contribute to its splendours."27 In 1791, we get a different picture. We are told by Wendeborn that " Jews here support themselves by some sort of traffic as they do in all other countries, though they have people of almost every profession among them. The German Jews of the better class are engaged in negotiating bills of exchange, and those of the poorer wander through the streets of London, which they fill with noise in calling for old clothes, which 23 Ix. 24 Ix. 25 Ix. 26 Ix. 27 Ix.</page><page sequence="11">THROUGH FOREIGN EYES, 1730-1830. 333 they buy up and mostly send abroad."28 Again the distinction between the German and Portuguese Jews is stressed. " The praise which is due to the generosity of the Portuguese relative to their manners and morals cannot be bestowed upon the majority of the German Jews. They are sticklers for their old tenets and usages; but they allow themselves great liberties in regard to their morals. I believe few burglaries, robberies, and false coinages are committed in which some of them are not, in one shape or another, concerned. They steal not only themselves, but assist Christian thieves by receiving their stolen goods, and buying them at a very reasonable price. In Dukes' Place, where hardly any but Jews live, during the whole night furnaces are ready to melt the stolen silver and gold, as soon as the thieves bring it, that it may be rendered undistinguishable before daylight." We are also told that " the Portuguese take care to maintain their poor ; and though the German Jews do likewise make some provision for others, yet some of them, particularly Jewesses, are frequently seen begging in the streets." The strictures on the honesty of the Jews become so frequent that one begins to suspect that they were arrived at not by first hand information. It is an interesting fact that whilst many of our visitors went to the synagogue and were curious about the Jew's religion, few made any attempt to examine and understand the social life of the Jew. On this topic they merrily copy each other. Both Von Archenholtz and Ferri de St. Constant follow Wendeborn very closely, and seem to have made good use of Colquhoun's Police of the Metropolis. It can hardly be doubted that the dishonesty of the Jews is exaggerated. Says Von Archenholtz, " all the children of Israel who are obliged to quit Germany and Holland take refuge in England, where they live by cheating and nocturnal rapine, and if they do not steal themselves, they aid the thief in con? cealing and vending the stolen goods. Thus, they are so much abhorred by the English that the honesty of the Portuguese cannot obliterate the unfavourable impression which this troop of banditti has made on them." A similar opinion is expressed by Goede,29 who, it is evident, 28 F. A. Wendeborn, Ix. 29 C. A. G. Goede, A Foreigner's Opinion of England ; Trans, from the original German by Thomas Home, 1821. 3 vols. See vol. ii. p. 116. z</page><page sequence="12">334 ENGLISH JEWRY did not like " rascally German Jews." Ferri de St. Constant writes in the same vein, and repeats the mystery of the all-night furnace in Dukes' Place. He points out, and this was probably right, that the number of poor is so large that it is impossible to give relief to all: and some therefore are driven to a dishonest life. He writes : " philanthropic writers have frequently urged the necessity of Jews learning trades, of sending their children to schools and of setting up a fund to establish all necessary reforms. Why should we not take care of them ? writes one. Even the most dishonest Jew has in common with humanity an innate principle of justice which needs only to be developed and put in action for it to become the guide to his conduct." He is referring no doubt to Joshua Van Oven's letters to Colquhoun published in 1802. There are a number of references to what was then known as Jew-Bail, that is, the practice of Jews fraudulently offering themselves as security. " I was witness," recounts Von Archenholtz, " of a very singular scene between Lord Mansfield and a German Jew who appeared at his Bar all in rags. This fellow came with great effrontery to offer himself as security for ?300. Lord Mansfield expressed some doubt as to the pecuniary circumstances of this surety ; but the Jew, taking from his pockets several bank bills, asked his Lordship in a sarcastic manner if he knew that money. Lord Mansfield was silent and the security accepted. It is more than probable that some of the rich Jews who were present, had slipped the notes into his hands to serve the particular purpose." St. Constant also refers to this practice. Another criminal offence of the Jews was the uttering of false coin. Meister,30 in passing through Newgate in 1799, saw " a young Jewess of most interesting appearance, and was told that she had solicited to be shut up in this doleful situation, that she might afford comfort to her father who was to suffer for coining during the short time he had to live." Jewish old clothes men being very common at that time, it is very interesting to get two pictures of " Rag Fair "30a where all the old 30 Henry Meister, Letters Written During a Residence in England, 1799 ; Translated from the French. 30a Alias " Hog Lane," used to run from Royal Mint Street, Minories, to Cable Street, E. For this information, I am indebted to Mr. Wilfred S. Samuel.</page><page sequence="13">THROUGH FOREIGN EYES, 1730-1830. 335 clothes were exchanged. " As I was going to the London Docks this evening with some companions we passed through a great crowd of dirty ragged people, to the number of some hundreds. They appeared to be very busy in displaying and examining the old clothes which they were pulling out from bags. This, I was informed, was Rag Fair. It is held here every evening for the sale of old clothes, which are collected all over London, principally by Jews who go about with bags on their shoulders crying, with a peculiarly harsh guttural sound, c clothes, clothes, old clothes.' You will meet them in every street and alley in London, and, at evening, they repair to Wapping, where a grand display is made of every species of apparel, in every stage of decay." Thus wrote Silliman in 1805. Ballard visited it ten years later and was highly amused. " Just before we got there," he writes, " we were pestered with Jews in front of their shops who gave us pressing invitations of ' plesh to valk in Shur, and puy a shecond hand coat shust as coot as new.' " He also saw " a party of sailors having the American flag displayed in honour of Independence Day. They were headed by a Jew playing on a hand organ. Each one had his girl with him, and the procession was closed by two large negroes each with a white girl under his arm." Some years later Juan de Vega went to Monmouth Street to forage for a jacket and cloak, and this is his account of the expedition. " I was very soon invited by a Jew to ' walk in.' " " One has only to pause for an instant in front of any old clothes establishment, when the anticipating Israelite, like a spider in his web, will instantly dart upon his prey. . . . ' Got any old clothes to sell, Sir ? Give the full value for them, Sir; pray valk in, Sir; my articles is very cheap and goot.' " (Vol. i. p. 15.) Here is Southey's account of their social and economic conditions in 1807. " Some of their lower orders let their beards grow, and wear a sort of black tunic with a girdle ; the chief ostensible trade is in old clothes but they deal also in stolen goods, and not infrequently in coining. A race of Hebrew lads, who infest you in the streets with oranges and red slippers or tempt schoolboys to dip in a bag for ginger? bread nuts, are the great agents in uttering base silver; when it is worn too bare to circulate any longer, they buy it up at a low price, whiten the brass again and again, and send it abroad. You meet</page><page sequence="14">336 ENGLISH JEWRY Jew pedlars everywhere travelling with boxes of haberdashery at their back, cuckoo-clocks, sealing wax, quills, weather glasses, green spectacles, clumsy figures in plaster of Paris which you see over the chimney of an ale-house parlour in the country, or miserable prints of the King and Queen, the four seasons, the cardinal virtues, the last naval victory, the prodigal son and such like objects ; even the Nativity and Crucifixion, but when they meet with a likely chapman, they provide others of the most obscene and mischievous kind. Any? thing for money in contempt of their own law as well as the law of the country?the pork butchers are commonly Jews. . . . Some few of the wealthiest merchants are of this persuasion. You meet with more among the middle orders of tradesmen except sometimes as silversmiths, or watchmakers ; ordinary profits do not content them. Hence they are stock jobbers and the business of stockbroking is very much in their hands." By 1830, Jewish pedlars were to be met in every part of the country and Juan de Vega met quite a number of them in Bath, Bristol, Pontypool and the villages of Wales. He asked one why so many of his persuasion walk about the streets crying " old clothes," yet manage to get a livelihood by it. " 'Tis but a scanty one indeed," was the answer, " and there are many I assure you who are half starving. They follow this calling because they are brought up to no particular trade. They do beg sometimes but never of Christians, and as soon as they can scrape up a shilling or two they buy scissors, or pencils, and, if they can get twopence or threepence a day, they prefer it to begging. . . ." On being asked if the Jews had aim-houses for their poor and superannuated, the pedlar answered that they had none, " but those persons who are so old as to be unable to work, and with? out money, go to the priests and state their distress. . . . They get a weekly allowance from ten to twelve shillings a week out of a fund supported by voluntary contributions." We are told that Rothschild always gives an annual donation of ?5,000, and that the rest of the family also contribute handsomely. As we shall see later, our foreign visitors have left us with two excellent miniature sketches of Rothschild. But let us first deal with the lesser men our travellers met. These were not as many as one expected and it was surprising to find that so few Anglo-Jewish</page><page sequence="15">THROUGH FOREIGN EYES, 1730-1830. 337 characters appear in their records. In 1761 Count Kielmansegge31 travelled over from Holland with a number of Portuguese Jews from Amsterdam, one of whom was Cappadocci, whom he designates as " a real epicure." The reference is probably to the son of Aaron Cappa? docci who had a beautiful villa at Stanmore, Middlesex, and died in 1782, aged 105 years. On his arrival in London he dined with his banker, Joseph Solomon, who had " a very pretty dinner service of Japanese China, with his armour consisting of a lion with a woman's face, and the outstretched hands (des armes parlantes) for grasping." Casanova,32 of amorous fame, while in London called for an artist to engrave one of his mistresses. The artist was most likely the famous miniature painter, Jeremiah Meyer (b. 1753, d. 1789). Our visitors to England, with one exception, appear to know nothing of one feature of contemporary Jewish life which deserved attention. Jewish exponents of the fistic art were prominent in the latter half of the eighteenth century,?pugilists like Dan Mendoza, Aby Belasco and others being public heroes. Sophie de la Roche in her Diary recently published, makes the one reference when she reports that she observed a notice in a newspaper advertising a match between a Jew and a harness-maker in Epping Forest.33 Von Archenholtz furnishes us with an interesting account of Rabbi Falk. " There is of this nation a very extraordinary man, who for thirty years has been celebrated in cabbalistic annals. He is named Cain Chenul Falk, and is generally known under the name of Falkon. A Count de Ranzon, who died lately in the service of France, with the rank of field-marshall, affirms in his Memoire cabalistique, magique, etc., that he saw Falk at Brunswick at an estate belonging to his father, and, in the presence of many known persons, whom he names, calls to witness the truth of what he advances. Whether Falk made use of the methods practised by Schrofer in the same case I do not know. It is however certain, that Falk at present lived in London, without having ever assumed the character of a cabalist. He occupies a large 31 Count Frederick Kielmansegge, Diary of a Journey to England ; from the German, 1761-62. London, 1902. 32 Casanova in England, 1763-64. Ed. by H. Blackley, London, 1923. 33 Sophie in London, 1786. Being the Diary of Sophie de la Roche. Translated from the German with an introductory essay by Clare Williams, 1933.</page><page sequence="16">338 ENGLISH JEWRY house with a small number of domestics, carries on no trade, lives very soberly and gives liberally to the poor. When he goes abroad, which he does very seldom, he is always wrapped up in a great cloak, which suits his long white beard and his noble and interesting figure. ' He is at present upwards of seventy years of age. I will not here attempt to relate the many strange and incredible things which are told of this man. It is probable that Dr. Falkon is an able chemist, who has acquired some knowledge in that science which he does not choose to communicate. A few years ago a certain prince, very zealous in the search after the philosopher's stone, wanted to see him, and he called at his house but was refused admittance." Meister tells us of that " sagacious Israelite M. Ephraim of Berlin who was in Paris in a diplomatic character from the court of Prussia. Upon being roundly asked by one of our Jacobins whether he did not think that all Europe would imitate the French in their Revolution, he replied, ' I cannot certainly say, but it appears to me that people never have recourse to strong physic till they are well assured that they are sick.' " From Silliman and Ballard, we hear of the famous quack doctor Solomon of " Balm of Gilead " fame, and of his beautiful residence, Gilead House, outside Liverpool. And as late as 1829,34 we hear mention of Braham the famous operatic singer?but his voice, we are told, has only changed slightly with the passing of the years. Finally, we get two interesting thumbnail sketches of Rothschild. " I found him," writes the German Prince von Pueckler-Muskau, " in a very obscure looking place, and, making my way with some diffi? culty through the little court-yard, blocked by a waggon laden with bars of silver, I was introduced into the presence of the Grand Ally of the Holy Alliance. I found the Russian Consul in the act of paying his court. He is an acute, clever man, perfect in the part he has to play, and uniting the due respect with a becoming air of dignity. This was the more difficult because the very original aristocrat of the City did not stand much on ceremony. On my presenting the letter of credit, he remarked ironically that ' we were lucky people who could afford to travel about while he, the poor man, had such 34 Prince von Pueckler-Muskau, Tour of a German Prince : from the German, 1832, vol. iii. p. 62 ff.</page><page sequence="17">THROUGH FOREIGN EYES, 1730-1830. 339 a heavy burthen to bear.' He then broke out into bitter complaints that every poor devil who came to England had something or other to ask him, and, 4 yesterday,' said he, 4 here was a Russian begging of me ' (an expression which threw a bitter-sweet expression over the Consul's face) 4 and,' added he, 4 the Germans here don't give me a moment's peace.' . . . After this, the conversation took a political turn, and we both of course agreed that Europe could not subsist without him ; he modestly declined our compliment and said smiling, 4 Oh no, you are only jesting. I am but a servant whom people are pleased with because he manages their affairs so well, and to whom they let some crumbs fall as an acknowledgment.' " All this was spoken, the prince informs us, in English with a broad German accent, but the effect was in no way displeasing. We get another vivid picture of him from an American35 who, walking through the City, 44 was struck with the regal air of a man, who was leaning against one of the columns, with his face towards the courtyard giving audience to a crowd of suppliants. He was a very common looking person, with heavy features, flabby pendent lips, and a projected fish eye. His figure, which was stout, awkward and ungainly, was enveloped in the loose folds of an ample surtout. Yet there was something commanding in his air and manner, and the deferential respect which seemed voluntarily rendered him by those who approached him, showed that he was no ordinary person. 4 Who is that % ' was the natural question. 4 The King of the Jews,' was the reply. The persons crowding round him, were presenting bills of exchange. He would glance for a moment at a paper, return it, and with an affirmatory nod, turn to the next individual pressing forward for an audience. Two well-looking young men, with somewhat of an air of dandyism, stood beside him making memoranda to assist in the recollection of bargains regulating the whole Continental exchanges of the day. Even without this assistance he is said to be able to call to mind every bargain that he has made. Of these (the Jews), he may now be esteemed the King : unless indeed his title to assume royal honours should be disputed by our clever and facetious high priest who, not long since, conceived the prospect of uniting the scattered 35 An American in England, 1835, vol. ii. p. 25.</page><page sequence="18">340 ENGLISH JEWRY 1730-1830 tribes on tbe new Ararat of Lake Erie, and, robed like Melcbisedek of old, enacted such a delectable farce within the hearing of the roar of the Niagara." The reference is of course to Mordecai Manuel Noah's proclamation to establish a Jewish colony in Grand Island in the state of New York. The " delectable farce " seems to have borne fruit later when we think of the millions of Jews who now live in the United States. With Rothschild we can stop our peregrinations with our enter? taining foreign visitors. Certainly from their point of view, and that is the view that has been of interest to us,?a century's development from 1730 to 1830 shows no mean achievements when at its culmina? tion a Rothschild stands out. Nor from the view of Anglo-Jewry itself can that century's development be insignificant. For a wide and sound foundation was then laid, in numbers, wealth and learning, upon which the Jewish community in England to-day is firmly estab? lished.</page></plain_text>

bottom of page