top of page
< Back

Hyman Hurwitz: The First Anglo-Jewish Professor

Leonard Hyman

<plain_text><page sequence="1">PLATE XVII Professor Hyman Hurwitz?litho by J. M.Johnson, from a picture by Kirkofer [See pp. 232-242</page><page sequence="2">PLATE XVIII r rz SS= ?I" -r-i r. ' n .Q .Xs*.. * rrr n- 1 ? P S &amp; rt- r&gt; d? -r^ ?i: n* ^ H- rr.. J^* Us ta? ?\ \L r- - fr ^ - P P ? ? ^ Q- a ?iV *3 r* r SB' 36t e r fei x3 *^ .25 IT? ?%' ? n&gt; ET *Z 3? *~ %? ~* K n St P&gt; 11 nF ri r~ n Hg* ? - -Xs-1. F1&gt; ' 5^ ZJ* g S: p: ^ &amp; ft rz J&gt; ^ J^: C ^ C ? y&gt; ^; ^ r. ^ %; 1 ^ b pi* ^ o o 5 - O o &amp; O 13 a ^ &lt;? ^ CO &lt;? ? Csf 2 ? ? a 2 ? V b?rg t &gt; ? ? ?5 Cj D U ^ O O ^ * ^ (j W [fl " o ? ? M ^ 00 1-1 T3 O ?a-S S&gt;?) &lt; s go iti ^ cd 5 &lt;L&gt; Sh 'S PH d CO t- C2 y H' S n *^ ^ S ri? ?J &gt; ?? 5 SS*? 53 m ^ o _q n ? ? 'S-5 ? ff ^ ^ S Q s-i ^ &gt; n</page><page sequence="3">Hyman Hurwitz: the First Anglo-Jewish Professor LEONARD HYMAN Hyman Hurwitz is one of the few Jews who have found a place in that greatest of English reference books, the Dictionary of National Biography. It is there stated, in an unsigned article, that Hurwitz was born at Posen in Poland in 1770, came to England about 1800, conducted a private academy for Jews at Highgate, established a close friendship with Coleridge, became Professor of Hebrew in University College, London, in 1828, and died in 1844. Then follows a list of his published works taken from the British Museum Cata? logue. The chief source of information about the outlines of Hurwitz's career, apart from this short and rather bleak note in the Diction? ary of National Biography, is the obituary which appeared in the Voice of Jacob on 2 August 1844, written by Leopold Neumegen, who took over Hurwitz's Academy from him. He says that Hurwitz's father had preceded other members of the family here from Poland. The son, when he arrived, was quick to realise the importance of mastering English and strenu? ously applied himself to the study of it. He made such remarkable progress that very soon he obtained employment in a Gentile school, giving religious instruction to the Jewish pupils. His success and his character must have been outstanding, for some of the parents joined together to set him up as the principal of his own seminary for Jewish boys. Neumegen names the prime movers in this enterprise as Dr. Van Oven, Moses Samuel, Hyman Cohen, and Michael Josephs, and he gives the date of its establishment as 1799, one year before, according to the Dictionary of National Bio? graphy already quoted, he arrived in England. Howitt's book, The Northern Heights of London, published in 1869, says that it was the only school of its kind in the kingdom, except for one on a small scale at Brighton, and that Hurwitz had generally about one hundred pupils, some of the chief families of the Jews, with a synagogue. Howitt also mentions a girls' school run by Miss Hurwitz. In Holden's Directory for 1802 the entry is 'Hyman Hur? witz, Boarding School for Young Gentlemen, Highgate'. From this corroborative informa? tion about the date of the establishment of the academy, we can assume that Hurwitz came to this country from Poland certainly no later than 1796 or 1797. The house chosen for Hurwitz's Academy was No. 10 South Grove, Highgate Village, a fine eighteenth-century mansion, which re? mains substantially as it was in Hurwitz's day, though it then had extensive grounds and stabling, which have since been converted to other uses. It was in the ownership of the family of Sir John Hawkins, historian of music and member of the Johnson circle. It has had at least one other Jewish tenant since the middle of the nineteenth century, Professor J. Isaacs, Professor of English Language and Literature at Queen Mary College, University of London, who lived there immediately before the Second World War. By the courtesy of the present occupier, Dr. J. N. Hunt, a visit was recently made to the house to see a part of the interior, including the basement which Pro? fessor Isaacs thought had contained a ritual bath. In 1810 Hurwitz also acquired a lease of No. 9 South Grove, called Russell House, which, although not as large as No. 10, is yet an impressive building. It may be that this was used for the girls' school just mentioned, which seems not to have prospered. Whatever may have been the reason, only two years later, in 1812, Hurwitz disposed of the long remainder of his 50-year lease. He decided? Neumegen suggested for health reasons?to retire in 1821. In that year he renewed his lease of No. 10 South Grove, probably to give security of tenure to his successor, who was Neumegen himself, and he went to live on the other side of London, in the rustic neighbour? hood of the Old Kent Road, then rather more fashionable than in recent years. It is pre? sumed that he became a teacher of Hebrew for 232</page><page sequence="4">Hyman Hurwitz: The First Anglo-Jewish Professor 233 private pupils, and he may have had a small income too from his books. Neumegen mean? while continued in Highgate for another 20 years and then he too decided to retire. Unfortunately his money had been badly in? vested and he found soon afterwards that he needed to reopen the school, which he did in Kew, in Gloucester House, once the residence of the Duke of Gloucester, brother of George III. Neumegen now prospered and until his death in 1875 at a great age he was a highly successful schoolmaster through whose hands passed many boys subsequently eminent in Anglo Jewry. His wife, Belinda, carried on the school after his death with comparable success, and their daughter followed her, but seems to have lacked the abilities of her parents, and the school came to an end in 1928 after an almost continuous existence of 130 years. Gloucester House has now been demolished, and on the site there stands today a block of flats. Within a few years of Hurwitz's departure from Highgate to the Old Kent Road, there was set up the powerful committee of dissenters ?Nonconformists and Jews?which sponsored a University of London. Among the most active of the promoters were Isaac Lyon Goldsmid and the poet Thomas Campbell, at the time tutor in Goldsmid's family. The project materialised, and by 1827 the building of University College, London, was erected, and professorial staff was being appointed. Gold? smid was keen that there should be a Chair in Hebrew, and this was advertised. Hurwitz, by now in his middle fifties, was among several applicants, but Campbell, for reasons which did him credit, thought that a Jewish holder of the post might find himself in theological difficulties, and therefore favoured the selection of a Gentile, but in the event Hurwitz was chosen. Goldsmid's influence was exerted in his favour, but he was, in any case, almost certainly the best equipped of the candidates, and he was surely the only one of them who was able with his application to send copies of six of his own works, all of them on Hebrew themes, and he had Coleridge's commendation as well. On 11 November 1828 he delivered his inaugural lecture as Professor of Hebrew Language and Literature at University Col? lege, and this was afterwards published and, indeed, went into at least two editions. For him the solemnity of the occasion is evident: The impressive character of all that sur? rounds me, where the best hopes, wishes, and meditations of my life, seem at once repre? sented and realised, and where, beyond hope, my labours and aspirations have found a sphere and an object?the importance of the charge consigned to me?the novelty of the situation in which I now for the first time stand before those whose favourable opinion and kind anticipations have placed me in it, my unusedness to public speaking, and even the strangeness of my own voice to my own ears, in the silence and felt attention of such an audience: all these causes of emotion, that impede the utterance which they excite, and threaten to baffle the wish by its own intensity, these in the kind, may have been felt by some of those that have preceded me. But there are other thoughts, other im? pressions, if not more calculated to agitate the spirit, yet more awful and of a less transitory force, that I share with none, which I appropriate as my proper burthen, and by the sacred right of gratitude, claim as my peculiar privilege. For can I forget? dare I suffer a false delicacy to prevent me from expressing the reflection?that novel as the situation is to me, I myself, viewed in connection with the name and characteristic distinction of my Race, am no less a novelty in this situation? Was it possible that I should not hail the hour, in which I heard my name among the Professors of the London University as the commencement of a gracious revolution? As the dawn of a moral sun that rises with the blessings on its wings ?' Hurwitz divided his discourse into three parts. 1. The antiquity of the Hebrew language. 2. The importance of the study of it. 3. The necessity of its thorough attainment. He ended with a moving appeal to his co? religionists to use the opportunities afforded by</page><page sequence="5">234 Leonard Hyman University College, London, to educate their children in Hebrew culture. For the most part, the appeal fell on deaf ears, as it would have in the Anglo-Jewry of today. There is something in the Anglo-Jewish atmosphere which is inimical to Jewish studies. There were never more than a few students at Hurwitz's classes, though some of them were eminent people. Moses Montefiore and George Jessel attended some of his lectures. Numbers fluctuated between two and ten. Within a few months of this brave and splendid inauguration, Hurwitz asked permission of the University Council to be excused attendance until numbers were sufficient to form a class. In January 1829 he wrote: 'Of the four individuals who have entered their names in the Hebrew classes, only two attended, and one of these was a private pupil of mine from whom I derived an income of ?50 per annum, which of course ceased since the opening of the academical session.' And in 1830 he wrote again that 'the emoluments were not sufficient to cover even the third part of unavoidable expenses'. However, in the same month (July 1830) he let the Council see an essay written by one of his students, a Mr. Yonge, and was authorised to purchase a book as a prize for him at a cost not exceeding two guineas, including binding. It will be seen from these comments, as indeed Professor Siegfried Stein showed in his lecture in 1951, 'The Beginnings of Hebrew Studies at University College',1 that Hurwitz's work at University College, London, was anything but onerous, and that such pay as he received for his professional duties was small and was probably provided by Goldsmid, his patron and friend. He con? tinued to occupy the Chair until his death, that is, for 16 years. Professor Stein has dealt fully in his paper with Hurwitz's excellent syllabus set out in the University Calendar for 1831. In his latter years, Hurwitz occupied a posi? tion of eminence within the Jewish community and was greatly respected outside it. Evidence of this respect was a tribute paid by the Arch? bishop of Canterbury in the House of Lords on 1 August 1833 during one of the earlier debates on the Emancipation Bills. Hansard reports the Archbishop as saying: With respect to the state of intellectual culture which the Jews possessed in this country, he had lately read a work by a gentleman of the Jewish persuasion, a work published some years ago. It was in relation to the authenticity of the Bible, and certainly the justness of the observations, and the sagacity of the criticism, were such as would do honour to any Christian commentator. He had also seen, not long since, a letter from the same gentleman [Hurwitz] in refutation of some charges which were made against the Jews, and the reasoning and the style, and tone and temper, did honour to that gentleman's feeling and understanding, while through the whole composition there was that dignified calmness which belongs to conscious innocence. Hurwitz was undoubtedly a pious and observant Jew, though not unaffected by the liberalising processes which were very much in the air. He would, of course, have taken ser? vices at Highgate for the boys of his school. He was an honorary member of the Vestry of the Great Synagogue, and a seatholder there, though owing to distance he could seldom have attended. There are possibly other reasons for the small share which he took in synagogue affairs, for a cryptic sentence in Neumegen's obituary note already mentioned hints at something of the sort. The sentence reads, 'Oratory not being one of his shining qualifica? tions, will in part account for his not taking a more active part in our congregational affairs'. On which one might fairly comment that lack of oratorical skill does not usually deter those who have the inclination from engaging in communal activities. It seems clear from the phrase Hn part' that there were other reasons, at which one can only guess. It may be relevant to mention that a German Jewish historian believed that Hurwitz had a hand in the pre? paration of the first English Reform prayer book. The passage occurs in Jost's Geschichte des Judenthums und Seiner Secten, and in transla? tion it reads: 4A talented Englishman, W. Marks, worked in collaboration with a well known scholar who resided there, Hyman</page><page sequence="6">Hyman Hurwitz: The First Anglo-Jewish Professor 235 Hurwitz, on a new prayer book, and it was decided to build a reform synagogue in the West End of the town.' According to the late Rev. Arthur Barnett's history of the Western Synagogue,2 both Hurwitz and Neumegen were members there, and he says that many of their pupils were drawn from the families of its members. Hurwitz was married in Duke's Place Synagogue on 20 October 1802 to Hesther Levy, Chief Rabbi Hirschel officiating. There seems to have been only one child (or only one survived). This was a daughter, Rachel, who married Reuben Salomons. The census returns for 1841, the first census to give significant detail, show him to have been living at the home of one of the Salomons family at 26 Highbury Place, in a neighbourhood just beginning to be favoured by well-to-do Jews. There were, besides the Salomons and Hurwitz, two maidservants and a young manservant. On the census form Hurwitz's age is given as 65, and if this is true, Hurwitz was born in 1775 or 1776, far later than the date of 1770 given in the Dictionary of National Biography. He died at Artillery Place, City Road, London, on 18 July 1844, and on the death certificate his age is given as 70. Hurwitz's obituary notice in the Voice of Jacob was followed by an announcement that his library would shortly be sold by auction, and Dr. Cecil Roth in his bibliography listed a copy of the relevant portion of the catalogue3 at the Mocatta Library, but it is without date or auctioneer's name. This catalogue portion did not survive the war, and unfortunately it has so far proved impossible to trace another copy, but it seems that the sale was much delayed, for as long as 18 months after his death there was an advertisment in the Jewish Chronicle by Evans, the book auctioneer, which announced that his library would be sold in February 1846. For some reason this date was changed, and it was advertised again on 6 March that the sale would be on 23 March. Two portraits of Hurwitz are known to have survived. One of the portraits was given to Mr. Alfred Rubens by the late Mr. Charles Emanuel, a direct descendant of Hurwitz. The second portrait is mentioned, though not illustrated, in Mr. Alfred Rubens's Anglo Jewish Portraits,5 and there is a copy in the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. This portrait,* by J. M.Johnson, was published in 1846, two years after Hurwitz's death, and shows him to have been a striking-looking man. Copies of the engraving were advertised for sale in the Jewish Chronicle in 1846 with a commendation in the paper itself6 mentioning his connection with Coleridge and also the tribute, to which reference has already been made, by the Archbishop of Canterbury. It was said that the engraving was made from the original in the ownership of Neumegen. Hurwitz's will is at Somerset House. He named Aaron Salomons as sole executor and left small bequests to two brothers?one of whom still lived in Poland?and ?100 to each of his grandchildren in trust. The most interest? ing legacy was one for Hyman Cohen, who had been one of his sponsors when he set up his school in Highgate 45 years earlier. Though an older man, Cohen did in fact survive Hurwitz by a year. And now some mention should be made of Hurwitz's published works, the first of which was his elements of the Hebrew language, Sepher-Rishon le-mikroi kodesh, printed for the author in 1807. There was a second volume of this grammar, and the two went into at least four editions, being standard works until well into the second half of the nineteenth century. Perhaps the appendix of passages from scarce works still has some interest. One of these is supplied with a German translation and an? other, surprisingly, with one in Italian. Pro? fessor Stein says of these and other of Hurwitz's works that they are now 'scientifically value? less';7 Dr. Meyer Waxman, in his History of Jewish Literature,8 takes an opposite view and regards the grammar as 'notable from a scientific point of view'. Apart from revisions of these works, nothing of Hurwitz seems to have been published until, on the death of the youthful Princess Charlotte in 1817, he com? posed a Hebrew dirge for recital at the Memorial Service at the Great Synagogue, and got Coleridge to translate it into English. Again in 1820, when George Ill's long reign * Illustrated facing p. 230.</page><page sequence="7">236 Leonard Hyman came to an end, Hurwitz showed that the poem he had written on the death of the King's granddaughter three years earlier had not exhausted his supply of loyal tears. On both these sad occasions, some copies of the dirges were printed on silk. There are examples in the Mocatta Library of University College, London, and also in the Jewish Museum. Coleridge's name appears on the first of these dirges, but for the second one the translator is said to be 'a friend'. Of this the British Museum now possesses the Ashley Library copy, which is Coleridge's own, given to him by the author. Beneath the printed words 6by a friend' in this copy there can be seen in ink the initials STC, almost certainly in Coleridge's own hand. Although this copy was once in the library of Thomas J. Wise, the forger, there seems little reason on this occasion to suspect the authenticity of the initials. There are 18 stanzas in Hebrew, each of four lines, some of which are assigned to the Chazan (Cantor) and others to the congregation. Here is a typical example of a translation of one of the verses: Brittania! Sister! Woe is me! Full fain would I console thy woe But ah! how shall I comfort thee Who needs the balm I would bestow? Taking into account the closeness of their relations in 1820, it is difficult to envisage Hurwitz turning to anyone besides Coleridge for a translator. Coleridge may have had reasons for not wanting his name to appear. Another English version of Hurwitz's verses on the death of George III, translated by a Scottish minister, is something of a biblio^ graphical curiosity, for it was published in 1827 as far north as Thurso in Scotland, price in English 6d., with the Hebrew 2s. (copy in the British Museum). The year of publication of the second of these dirges, 1820, saw also the publication of a work by Hurwitz of perhaps greater sign? ificance, Vindiciae Hebraicae, being a defence of the Hebrew Scripture as a vehicle of Revealed Religion, in refutation of J. Bellamy. Bellamy had published in 1818 what purported to be an entirely new translation of the Old Testa ment from the Hebrew. The book, a quarto of 1,290 pages, had a most distinguished list of subscribers headed by the Prince Regent, to whom the volume was dedicated with per? mission, though history does not relate whether or not the Prince Regent read the 1,290 pages. It was fiercely attacked by Hebraists as pre? sumptuous, ridiculous, and worthless. The Quarterly Review gave it a deadly 30 pages of close examination and, when the unsnubbable Bellamy came up with a pamphlet by way of reply, devoted another long article to a further assault on the translation. And there were several other attacks on it. It might have been thought that sufficient had been said about Bellamy's work, but Hurwitz apparently took the view that a Hebraist who was also a Jew should undertake a further and final exposure, and he proceeded with patience, scholarship, and good manners to do just this. He said of it: 'The rendering which Bellamy has substituted or proposed is devoid of all probability, logical, philological or grammatical, and demonstrated his utter unfitness for the task which he has presumptuously undertaken.' Before publica? tion Coleridge went through the book for Hurwitz, suggesting alterations, and tried un? successfully to induce Mr. John Murray to publish it. Bellamy's translation is now for? gotten (it is not included in Darlow and Moule's Bibliography of Writings on the Holy Scriptures) and this controversy today has little interest for us, but Hurwitz's work of demoli? tion included an exposure of plagiarism by Bellamy which gives his little book an un? expected detective interest. 'Sometime ago', writes Hurwitz, T happened to pass one of those rag-fairs of literature called Book Stalls, the habit of hovering over which I have in common with many of my betters, living and departed. My eye was attracted by a small volume with the following singular title respecting an art no less strange, the name at least of which was new to me, viz: "The Taghmical Art, or the Art of expounding scripture by the points usually called accents, but are really tactical, a grammatical, logical or rhetorical instrument of interpretation, by Walter Cross, 1698". I bought the volume and amused myself on my walk homeward with conjectures concerning</page><page sequence="8">Hyman Hurwitz: The First Anglo-Jewish Professor 237 my Taghmical Art. Need I say that my earliest leisure hour was devoted to its perusal?' Hurwitz found passages in this book which seemed oddly familiar, this one in particular: In the beginning [wrote the worthy Cross] of all created being, motion, time or season, within the compass of the first week, prob? ably the first of December, God the only adorable one, and that on the very bottom, created, made out of nothing, I say, by infinite power and skill, brought forth, without the assistance of any antecedent matter, this Heaven and this very Earth. Hurwitz turned to Bellamy's work and found this very curious passage reproduced almost word for word without acknowledgment. Very effectively, after his painstaking examination of Bellamy's translation and its incompetence, he saves till near the end of his book his final deva? stating exposure of Bellamy and his methods. The diary of Lady (Judith) Montefiore?Sir Moses Montefiore's wife?has an entry under the date 26 December 1825, while they were staying at Great Yarmouth: 'I may class this as one of the happiest days of my life', and the activities she describes for the day are: 'Walked out and on the jetty for two hours. Purchased a pair of walking shoes, very easy, and some fruit. Dined at 5 p.m. The evening passed delightfully in reading Hurwitz's Hebrew stories9 The Hebrew Tales to which this refers was indeed the most popular of Hurwitz's books. Its full title is cumbersome: 'Hebrew Tales selected and translated from the writings of the Ancient Hebrew Sages, to which is prefixed an essay on the uninspired literature of the Hebrews.5 The tales were moral and aphoristic ones taken from Talmudic sources, and Hur? witz was a pioneer in popularising them for an Anglo-Jewish audience which was unable to read the original. Its popularity is indicated by the fact that it was almost continuously in print for a hundred years. There were several editions here, and when a Jewish Publications Society was formed in America, just after Hurwitz's death, the Hebrew Tales of Hurwitz were the second work in its list. There was another edition only two years later, and in this century there have been American reprints in 1911, 1917, and again in 1929. A German translation was published in 1846. For the Jew in the twentieth century the essay which precedes the Hebrew Tales still retains considerable interest. Hurwitz accepts the inspiration of the Bible completely, and sharply distinguishes the Rabbinical writings as being uninspired, though containing a great reservoir of wisdom. There is a vigorous defence of the Rabbinic writings against all those Gentiles who had studied them chiefly with the object of belittling them and drawing attention to their less edifying parts and in general using them to develop the age-long prejudices which they felt for anything Jewish. Patiently and skilfully, and with great knowledge, Hurwitz meets these critics and concedes the weak? nesses which are present in so vast a collection of opinions and judgments, but stoutly main? tains their overall greatness and value. He does not shrink from inquiring about their validity for his own time. He asks: 'How far was it in the power of any man or set of men, however learned and wise and pious, to bind posterity in matters of conscience ? How far was it even their intention that those ordinances and regu? lations should permanently remain an integral part of religion under circumstances totally different from those under which they were first enacted? and whether those pious men, were they now alive, would not see the neces? sity of abolishing some of them, particularly when those ordinances instead of proving pre? servatives of the law, tend to injure it? are questions which, if they do not suggest their own solutions, would require an answer incom? patible with the limits and specific object of this disquisition.5 Hurwitz does not defend in this essay the practice of studying Mishna and Talmud in preference to the study of the Bible itself. A good deal of his essay is an examination of words and phrases in the Bible where the Hebrew has been mistranslated, a subject on which he was especially well qualified and had already made a reputation in his attack on Bellamy men? tioned above. But the whole essay does (as the Archbishop of Canterbury well said of him) display the advantage of his merits of good temper, patience, and sagacity. In the moral</page><page sequence="9">238 Leonard Hyman climate of today, Hurwitz's Tales are out of fashion, but their time may yet come again. Nothing came from Hurwitz's pen after this until his inaugural lecture at University College to which reference has already been made, and in fact the only other writing to come from him was the letter addressed to Sir Isaac Goldsmid on certain misstatements respecting the Jewish religion made in 1833 by the Hon. Member for Oldham, who was none other than William Cobbett. Cobbett had made a pre? posterous attack on Judaism in a debate on the Emancipation Bill, and the choice of Hurwitz to make a public exposure of the charges is evidence of his prestige and authority. In the course of it, Hurwitz expressed regret that 'in our enlightened days there should be found any well-educated man so ignorant of our laws, customs and manners, as to renew against us charges first invented in the darkest ages, by our enemies for the basest purposes'. Although Hurwitz lived for another 11 years, until 1844, he published nothing else, although there may have been a number of contribu? tions to periodicals which have not yet been noted, some of which may have been anony? mous. The death of Coleridge in 1834 may have affected his will to write and he himself may have suffered some loss of vigour. Coleridge's friendship with Hurwitz has already been mentioned once or twice and this remarkable friendship deserves further comment. Cole? ridge came to Highgate in 1816 at the age of 44, and at this time Hurwitz had become a relatively old resident, having lived there about 17 years. There is nothing to indicate that the two men had met or corresponded prior to this. Coleridge's sad circumstances at this time are well known. He was debilitated by long addiction to opium and went to live in Highgate with a doctor friend of his, Dr. Gillman, who, with his wife, looked after Coleridge for the remaining years of his life. Hurwitz's school in South Grove was an easy two or three minutes' walk to the Gillmans' house in the Grove, across a square in which at at that time there were two ponds, which have long since been filled in, and it is pleasant to think of the two men meeting during their walks in the village and discovering many common interests?among them the Bible and Oriental languages, Hebrew especially, and philology in general. Hebrew had always inter? ested Coleridge, and he must have been familiar with it from childhood, for his father, a country parson in Devon, had been known to begin his sermons with a text delivered in Hebrew. Since they were at this time near neigh? bours, there was, unfortunately for the student of Anglo-Jewish history, little need for letter writing between Coleridge and Hurwitz, and indeed only one letter of Coleridge to Hurwitz survives of 1817 and another single one for 1818. Both of these have been included in the definitive edition of the letters of Coleridge edited by Professor Earl Leslie Griggs, of which the first four volumes (up to the year 1819) have been published.9 One of the letters deals with a point of Hebrew translation about which Coleridge had sought Hurwitz's help, and ends with a quaint theory?the notion that the carnivorous animals were posterior to the Deluge. T confess', he writes, 'that the ape, cat, lupine, tribes etc. have often appeared to me a super-addition to the animal creation, destined only for a given period,' though Cole? ridge puts forward no arguments to support this curious theory. The other Coleridge letter is about the Hebrew dirge on the occasion of the death of Princess Charlotte (referred to earlier) which Hurwitz composed and for which Coleridge provided an English transla? tion. Coleridge in this interesting letter, dated 23 November 1817, points out to Hurwitz his difficulties in translating Hurwitz's dirge: 'the difficulty consists in the simplicity of the thoughts, well suiting a dirge and still more a Hebrew dirge: but for that reason hard to be translated into our compressed and mono? syllabic language without one or other of two evils?either that translator must add thoughts and images, and of course cease tobe a translator, or he must repeat the same thoughts in other words and become tautological'. This dirge was recited at the service at the Great Syna? gogue, St. James's Place, Aldgate, on the day of Princess Charlotte's funeral, and has 14 stanzas, each of four lines. Coleridge's transla? tion of the first verses reads:</page><page sequence="10">Hyman Hurwitz: The First Anglo-Jewish Professor 239 Mourn Israel: Sons of Israel mourn Give utterance to the inward throe As wails, of her first love forlorn, The virgin clad in robes of woe. and one of the later verses Mourn for the universal Woe With solemn dirge and falt'ring tongue For England's lady is laid low So dear, so lovely, and so young! The author of 'The Ancient Mariner' and of 'Kubla Khan' is scarcely recognisable in this, and indeed Coleridge's days as a poet were practically over. When Israel Abrahams read a paper to the Jewish Historical Society on 'Hebrew Loyalty to the First Four Georges',10 he discussed Hebrew verses by various Anglican divines fabricated for royal celebrations and memorials. Hurwitz was the only Jew to figure in his survey, and Abrahams called him the Hebrew Poet Laureate and considered his Hebrew much superior to Coleridge's English. From this judgment, Coleridge himself would not have dissented, for in a letter to a woman correspondent enclosing a copy of the dirge for the Princess he wrote: 'Of this I am con? vinced, that a dozen such pretty, and so sweet and how smooth, well that is, charming com? positions would gain more admiration with the English public than twice the number of poems twice as good as the Ancient Mariner, Christa? bel, the Destiny of Nations and the Ode to the Departing Year.' Ernest Hartley Cole? ridge's opinion was that the version was below Coleridge at his worst. What strikes one as odd is why Hurwitz did this sort of thing at all, and why he should have been so moved by the death of a princess, a member of a not notably likeable family. But taking into account that this kind of occasion has seldom evoked inspired works from poets, laureate or otherwise, this is certainly little inferior to subsequent out? pourings on royal occasions. After this collaboration the acquaintance between Hurwitz and Coleridge ripened into friendship, and in such letters as have survived there is much cordiality and indeed some affection. From being 'My dear Sir', Hurwitz became in time 'My dear Friend', and from a superscription of 'Your obliged servant' Cole ridge later signed his letters 'God bless you, STC\ It has fortunately been possible to obtain from the University of Pennsylvania for this paper photocopies of a small collection of un? published letters from Coleridge to Hurwitz, which until 1949 belonged to the family of Charles and Frank Emanuel, who were direct descendants of Hurwitz. In 1949 these letters were sold at Sotheby's, who in cataloguing them added a note to the effect that Hurwitz was Coleridge's teacher for Hebrew and Sanskrit? information which could only have come from the family. It has been impossible to sub? stantiate this from any other source and is unlikely to be strictly true, though no doubt Coleridge did revive his earlier acquired know? ledge with the help of Hurwitz. Unfortunately Hurwitz's side of the correspondence has not yet been discovered, but the Coleridge letters do reveal the intimacy between the two men and the genuine pleasure with which Coleridge followed Hurwitz's career, as well as the guid? ance he was able to give about his publications. There are in all sixteen letters relating to Hur? witz in this unpublished collection in the University of Pennsylvania, and they will be included in Volumes 5 and 6 of the Collected Letters of Coleridge, which Professor Earl Leslie Griggs, of the University of California, is editing for publication by the Clarendon Press, and Professor Griggs describes them as being of first-rate importance. Professor Griggs wrote, in a letter dated 24 December 1963, in connection with this paper, that 'no study of either Coleridge or Hurwitz would be complete without a consideration of their remarkable friendship'. With one of these letters, dated in 1825, Coleridge sends Hurwitz a draft for a fresh introduction to a new edition of the elementary grammar, and in the same year he was active in urging on the completion and publication of the Hebrew Tales. In May of that year he writes advising a reduction of the length of the introductory essay 'as nearly to the form in which you first read it to me as possible, and to reserve a more minute detail for another work in which it would be exceedingly interest? ing if you could give something like a critical</page><page sequence="11">240 Leonard Hyman biographical memorabilia of the several Hebrew sages who have been eminent each in a different age. Three or four I can furnish you with the material for'. When there was a possibility of Hurwitz be? coming Professor of Hebrew at University College, London, Coleridge was active in assisting his candidature, and a remarkable letter in the Pennsylvania collection, dated November 1827, is worth quoting, as it throws considerable light on the closeness of the re? lationship between the two men. Coleridge writes: T hope that my knowledge of your brother, and (I need not say) the reverence in which I hold him will be my apology for addressing you, tho' personally a stranger. I now write at the request of a very particular friend of mine, who will not be persuaded that my testimony respecting his talents and character will be as ineffectual or as superfluous as my estimation of my own influence and my friend's well-earned reputation in the literary republic would lead me to apprehend. I have known Mr. Hyman Hurwitz most intimately for many years. I know that the most learned of his people rank him among the profoundest and most exacting Hebraists, but of his strong and sound judgment in the use and application of his attainments, of his pure and exemplary moral being, the liberality of his principles, in short, of Mr. Hurwitz as a man, a man of great natural abilities, and a philosopher, I can attest on the ground of my own knowledge, and have already given public testimony in my Aids to Reflection. Mr. Hurwitz is a candidate for the Professorship of the Hebrew language in the London University. About this time last year I wrote to Lord Dudley, the Marquis of Lansdowne, Mr. Brougham and Sir James Mackintosh, and from the three former received such an answer as from such men I had anticipated, an assurance and a kind acceptance of my testimony, as one among the data on which their final judgment would be formed. In this view I entreat you to consider this letter, not as a request or solicitation, but as a simple testimony which in one honest man and a hearty well-wisher to a plan of a Univer? sity of London, I believe it is my duty to offer; the more so that my consideration bears me witness that if I knew another man in my belief more worthy of, or better suited to, the Pro? fessorship, I would strike out my friend's and substitute his name.' Coleridge referred in this letter to public testimony he had already given about Hurwitz in Aids to Reflection, where he describes him as 'This latter and most endearing name [i.e., 'fellow-Christian'] I scarcely know how to withhold from my friend Hyman Hurwitz, as often as I read what every reverer of Holy Writ and of the English Bible ought to read, his admirable Vindiciae Hebraicae. It has trembled on the verge, as it were, of my lips, every time I have conversed with that pious, strong-minded and single-hearted Jew, an Israelite indeed, and without guile'. Brief mention may be made of three other letters in the University of Pennsylvania collec? tion. Two were written towards the end of 1828, around the time of the Inaugural Lecture in University College. One is addressed to 'My dear Professor' and begins rather charmingly: 'Your letter of this morning's post made me eat my round of toast and sip my cup of tea in gladsomeness of heart. Need I say that the contents gave me cordial delight, and Mrs Gillman, I can assure you, was scarcely less gratified than myself by this reception of your first fruits, a reception equal to your wishes, beyond your anticipations and only inferior to your deserts.' A few days later Coleridge acknowledges the receipt of a copy of the Inaugural Lecture published by the University's printers: 'I have received but one copy of the lecture, which I am about to send off with a few remarks to our literary newspapers. Curious that we neither of us noticed the "characteristic distinction" on page 1, which might lead to a rather laugh? able mistake of your meaning. "The name and distinct history of my Race" would have been far better.' Another Coleridge letter was addressed from the Highgate Academy when Neumegen was at its head, which shows that he as well as Hurwitz were on friendly terms. He explains in a short note to Hurwitz (beginning again 'My dear Friend') that just as he was undress? ing on his return from a visit to Ramsgate he</page><page sequence="12">Hyman Hurwitz: The First Anglo-Jewish Professor 241 had found one from Hurwitz which he did not understand and that via Neumegen he had just had another which, he says, 'lets me into the business just far enough to make it possible for me to apprize you of the only scheme now in my power, namely that I will be in Town to-morrow morning at Mr Ingram's, hatter, in Coleman Street by ten o'clock, there wait for you, and go with you wherever it may be desirable and requisite'. And there this mysterious letter ends. What sort of a man was Hyman Hurwitz that he could at the same time become a close friend of Coleridge and reach such a position in the Anglo-Jewish world? Coleridge himself in a letter to John Murray, the publisher, in late 1819 or early 1820, assesses Hurwitz as 'in many respects an extraordinary character. A Jew, not more by birth than by conviction, not merely honest and strictly conscientious, but even delicately and honourably so, liberal in all his principles and opinions, and of all the religious men I have known, perhaps the most deserving the name of a philosopher, a sound Mental scholar and a profound Hebraist'. Neumegen speaks of his mildness of disposi? tion and suavity of manner, and in Johnsonian phrases describes him as 'religious without bigotry, benevolent without ostentation and learned without egotism'. The only other account by someone who knew him is by a former pupil, Joseph Barrow Montefiore, given to Lucien Wolf when Montefiore was an old man. 'Hurwitz's school', Montefiore is sup? posed to have told Wolf, 'declined. The pupils of the richer boys objected to Hurwitz, who was a Pole and used to wear a tall Polish hat, and stride about the school-room with cane feroci? ously stuck in his Wellington boots.' There must be an element of truth in this, but it strikes one as the typical reaction of an over Anglicised Jew, and perhaps Neumegen and Coleridge were fairer in their estimates. What is Hurwitz's place in Anglo-Jewish history ? He was a pioneer in Jewish education at most of its levels. From the school which he founded with the help of patrons, there went into the Anglo-Jewish community many of those destined to do credit to it. If his tenure of the Professorship in University College was frus? trating, it is not for us to say that anyone else would have done better. The claim made by Neumegen that Hurwitz was a great man we would not now accept, but he had some claim to be regarded as the second Anglo-Jew to make a reputation as a man of letters, assuming Isaac Disraeli (with whom Hurwitz corresponded on a Biblical query of Disraeli's in 1838) to have been the first. One cannot press this claim too far, for the body of Hurwitz's work is small. But taking into account that English was not his native tongue, his command of it was excellent, and there is occasionally a pleasing turn of phrase, such as the one on bookstalls quoted earlier, 'the rag-fairs of literature'. He assimilated to English life with remarkable speed, and the identification with it as displayed in his loyal dirges is astonishing in a Polish-born Jew who had come over only 20 years before. He seems to be a good example of a Jew acquiring loyalty for and sympathy with the country of his adoption, without giving up any of his greater devotion to Judaism. Perhaps we may conclude this short survey, looking back on Hurwitz's career, with two thoughts: first, that his friendship with Cole? ridge was the most deeply satisfying phase in his life, and that the benefits he received from it may have been nearly matched by the satis? faction it gave Coleridge at a difficult time in his life; and secondly, that Hebrew studies in University College, London, have once again attained the status of a Professorship would surely have given him profound pleasure. %* Mr. Leonard Hyman died on 14 April 1964, and this paper was read to the Jewish Historical Society of England on 13 May 1964 by his younger son, Mr. Robin Hyman. NOTES 1 Delivered at University College, London, on 1 August 1951. (Published for the College in 1952 by H. K. Lewis &amp; Co. Ltd., London.) 2 The Western Synagogue through Two Centuries (1761-1961), by the Rev. Arthur Barnett (Western Synagogue and Vallentine, Mitchell, London, 1961).</page><page sequence="13">242 Leonard Hyman 3 Magna Bibliotheca Anglo-Judaica, new edition, revised and enlarged by Cecil Roth, J.H.S.E., 5698?1937, p. 131. 4 6 February 1846, p. 75. 5 Published by the Jewish Museum, 1935. 6 See J.C., 16 April 1846, p. 126, col. A. 7 See Note 1, above. 8 Published by Bloch, New York, 4 vols., 1930 1941; 2nd edition, 1938-1947. 9 Published by the Clarendon Press, Oxford (further volumes in preparation). 10 Transactions, IX, pp. 103-130.</page></plain_text>

bottom of page