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Isaac D'Israeli and his quarrel with the Synagogue - a re-assessment

A. L. Shane

<plain_text><page sequence="1">Isaac Disraeli and his quarrel with the Synagogue-a reassessment* A. L. SHANE Isaac Disraeli was born in 1766 and died in 1848 aged 81. His lifetime thus coincided with the growth of religious toleration in England and the granting of civic rights to minorities such as Catholics and Jews. But it was not until 1845, just three years before his death, that the Jewish Disabilities Removal Act was passed, granting Jews full rights. It was a period when the Jews in England felt sufficiently secure to loosen their allegiance to Judaism, which they thought hindered their entry into the wider Christian community. They were no longer prepared to limit their ambitions to the advice given to fellow-Jews by Moses Mendelssohn, 'adapt yourselves to the customs and conditions of the country in which you find yourselves, but also be steadfast in upholding the religion of your fathers. Bear both burdens as well as you can.' Many Jews found the burden of Judaism too heavy and abandoned it. Other pressed for its reform, not only to lighten their burden, but also, as they saw it, to enable Judaism itself to survive as a religion. Isaac Disraeli was in the forefront of this movement for reform and although he admired Mendelssohn's philosophical outlook he did not share his enthusiasm for the principles of Judaism and its ceremonial practices. This paper is intended to sketch Isaac Disraeli's personality, and particularly his attitude to religion in general and Judaism in particular, both of which justified Isaac's contention that he was not a suitable person to serve as Warden of a synagogue, and to proceed from there to examine Isaac's influence, if any, on the movement in Britain for the reform of Judaism. There is little room here for an assessment of Isaac's literary career, which would justify a paper in itself. Cecil Roth in his biography of Isaac's distinguished son Benjamin, later Lord Beaconsfield, wrote: 'The passage of years has somewhat blurred the reputation that was so great a century and a half ago, but Isaac Disraeli was in all probability the first European Jew since the Renaissance, if one excepts Moses Mendelssohn in Germany... who had ostensibly reached the front rank in what was then termed the Republic of Letters.'1 Isaac's most valuable literary work was judged to be his five-volume Commentaries on the Life and Reign of Charles the First, published between 1828 and 1831, in which he defended the reputation of the king. It was for this work that Isaac was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Civil Law by Oxford University in 1832. * Presidential Address delivered to the Society on 6 November 1986. 165</page><page sequence="2">A. L. Shane As such tributes imply, Isaac D'Israeli was in the fortunate position of having his genius recognized in his own lifetime. Tributes came from friends and critics alike. Typical of these is the following note entitled 'A Biographical Sketch of Mr. I. D'Israeli, Esq.', which appeared in the Monthly Mirror for December 1796, in Isaac's lifetime. It read: 'He is a rare instance of a person of [Jewish] origin acquiring any literary reputation. But he is truly a philosopher, and we believe, although a descendant of Israel, is disgraced by no vulgar superstition, and, as he says, he has quite forgotten his Hebrew alphabet.' But Isaac's literary reputation did not last long, and in 1881, the Illustrated London News could write: 'The father of Lord Beaconsfield was Isaac D'Israeli, Esq.,...who was not a man of business or man of the world, but learned as a grammarian of the Middle Ages. Yet he was, to judge from his books which used to be read and quoted, but which are now almost forgotten, a man of the eighteenth century type of dilettante scholarship, with its narrow range of sympathies and its rather shallow critical philosophy. But the anecdotal and biographical lore of his 'Curiosities of Literature', 'Calamities of Authors', and 'Quarrels of Authors', have furnished mild entertainment to a multitude of readers; and his fondness of historical paradoxes... was so little sustained by force of argument that it could do nobody any harm.' However, some biographical details must be given to broaden the story of the quarrel and give it some life.2 Isaac's father was Benjamin Israeli, who changed his name to D'Israeli shortly after arriving in England in 1748 from Cento, a small town near Ferrara in Italy. His first wife died and Benjamin then married Sarah Shiprut, the daughter of Isaac Shiprut, a wealthy City of London merchant, whose family probably also came from Italy. This Benjamin took an active part in Jewish communal matters and contributed generously to communal funds. He died in 1816 aged 86. His wife Sara had predeceased him in 1791. Isaac, the subject of this paper, was the only child of this marriage. He was born in London on 11 May 1766. Isaac's maternal grandmother was Esther Shiprut and on her death he inherited from her a substantial fortune which enabled him to devote the rest of his life to literary pursuits. Isaac was then 25. Benjamin D'Israeli (Beaconsfield) recalled that his grandmother Sarah suffered greatly from the rebuffs she encountered from her Christian neigh? bours at Enfield in Middlesex, where her husband had taken a country house. Her rejection by her neighbours made her ashamed of her Jewish ancestry which she regarded as a curse; and she foresaw for her son Isaac only a life of degradation as a Jew. When she died she was buried in a Christian cemetery. Her attitude must inevitably have affected her children. Although Isaac was circumcised (the entry of this event being recorded at Bevis Marks where it can still be seen) he seems to have received little or no Jewish religious education and was educated at a private school run by a nonconformist minister before being sent to the Continent to widen his experience. Nevertheless, Isaac did not later cut his ties with the Jewish 166</page><page sequence="3">Isaac Disraeli's quarrel with the Synagogue community, and maintained his membership of his father's synagogue and seems to have attended services there. As to Isaac's personal appearance, this was sufficiently odd to attract attention and several of his contemporaries noted it. The author Washington Irving observed him at work in the British Museum in 1817 and wrote: 'There was one dapper little gentleman in bright coloured clothes, with a chirping, gossipy, expression of countenance, who had all the appearance of an author on good terms with his bookseller. I was curious to see how he manufactured his wares; he made more stir and show of business than any of the others, dipping into various books, fluttering over the leaves of manuscripts, taking a morsel out of one, a morsel out of another... '3 As to the quarrel itself, on the face of it this was over Isaac's refusal to pay a fine of ?40, but it is clear from the correspondence which passed between Isaac and the Wardens of Bevis Marks Synagogue, and to which reference will be made later, that there was more to it than that. The crux of the matter was the Wardens' insistence that Isaac take up the duties of Parnass and actively involve himself in the affairs of the Synagogue. It was this insistence which provoked Isaac's quarrel with the Wardens and led to his eventual withdrawal from the community. But another factor was involved which is usually overlooked, namely Isaac's dissatisfaction with the state of the Jewish community, and the plea, which he included in his letter to the Wardens, for the community to improve itself, and in particular to improve the teaching in its schools. Although he lived outside the community, Isaac was concerned for its welfare and expressed his concern in a part of the letter that has likewise generally gone unnoticed. Picciotto, in his Sketches of Anglo-Jewish History4 observed that at the beginning of the eighteenth century several Jewish families of Portuguese descent abandoned Judaism for Christianity, and added that 'the greatest loss to Judaism, at least from the intellectual point of view, was unquestionably the secession of Isaac Disraeli'. Picciotto added that 'without going so far as to admit the entire justice of I. Disraeli's strictures on the authorities of Bevis Marks Synagogue, we find much in his remarks on the religious condition of that community, that should have been received with greater attention and consideration than were vouchsafed to his words.' Picciotto was undoubtedly referring to Isaac's plea to the Mahamad to modernize its procedures. 'You have laws to regulate that which has ceased to exist...and for the new circumstances which have arisen, you are without laws', is how Isaac put it. And Isaac added, 'It is of these obsolete laws that so many complain.' To understand the significance of Isaac's break with the synagogue, it has to be seen against the background of the general social and religious life of the Jewish community in England at the time. There was among the upper strata of well-off Jews a desire for social acceptance which they thought could be best achieved by an abandonment of what they considered the restrictive practices of Judaism. Economic factors also played a part. As Jews 167</page><page sequence="4">A. L. Shane prospered they entered into the general life of the country and their ties with the Jewish community became weaker, although the formal step of baptism was not always taken. Intermarriages became more numerous. This attitude mirrored the religious attitude in England as a whole, which underwent a great change in the eighteenth century and which saw a gradual relaxation of the authority of the Church of England and religious observance. Reform was in the air and Anglo-Jewry could not remain unaffected. This in turn led to tensions within the community, and disputes became inevitable. Haham Gaster, far later the spiritual head of the Spanish and Portuguese Congregation, commenting on this period, wrote that the 'internal harmony which had prevailed at the opening of the new Synagogue [in Creechurch Lane in 1664] had since then completely vanished. Defections became the order of the day; the ranks grew thin; few names of prominence in literature or in art can be mentioned during the last half of the eighteenth century.'5 The Ashkenazi religious leader, Chief Rabbi Hirschel, writing in about 1790, summed up this attitude. He complained, 'We want to be like them, dress as they dress, talk as they talk, and want to make everybody forget that we are Jews.' English Jews however were reluctant completely to cut their ties with the community, and went to some trouble to maintain some link with it, however tenuous. This was the case not only with Isaac DTsraeli but with others both before and after him. The Elders of the Synagogue were slow to appreciate the changing social and religious conditions in which they lived, and which were very different from those on the Continent. In particular they failed to appreciate the voluntary nature of their control over the lives of their members. The failure led to several confrontations with members, who were accused of breaking the laws and practices of the synagogue. One of the earliest of these occurred in 1772, when the Mahamad excommunicated Mr and Mrs Lara and others for assisting Joshua Lara's clandestine marriage with Sarah Ximenses. The incident is well recorded in a pamphlet entitled, 'A Letter addressed to the Overseers of the Portuguese Jewish Synagogue in Bevis Marks, London, upon the Extraordinary Conduct in the Dispute between Mr. Ximenses and Mr. Lara', published in 1771. In this, the anonymous writer complains that the Overseers had not acted impartially but had favoured Sarah's father, and he ridicules their authority and standing in the community. 'Your intentions are contemptible', he wrote, 'but they cannot be accomplished, and your inability to carry your resolves into execution, is a matter of ridicule and merriment for the most insignificant reptile in Duke's Place.' But the writer consoles himself with the thought, 'But of what importance are your resolves, after all the trouble and pains you have been at? You impose fines without having power to exact them;...Your anathemas may frighten old women and children, and very probably alarm the weak and bigoted in 168</page><page sequence="5">Isaac DTsraeli's quarrel with the Synagogue your society; but men of common understanding regard them with the most perfect indifference_' Isaac Disraeli was to make a similar challenge to the authority of the Elders of the Bevis Marks Synagogue some forty years later although in a more dignified manner. It should be noted in passing that the Mahamad consisted of four Parnassim or Wardens and a Gabay or Treasurer, so that Isaac would have had experienced fellow officers had he chosen to take up the duties. Moreover, the synagogue records show that Isaac was not alone in refusing office in that year, and that three other members refused office. Presumably they paid the fine. Those who remained were the two Gabays Isaac de Emanuel Baruh Lousada and Joshua Rodrigues Brandon; Daniel Mocatta, Meir Cohen Macnin and Jacob da Fonseca Brandon. It was these gentlemen who conducted the correspondence with Isaac and so were the other parties to the quarrel. The haham at the time was Raphael Meldola, who had been appointed in 1805 and who came from Leghorn to take up his appointment. Solomon Hirschel was Chief Rabbi of the Ashkenazi community at Duke's Place. Meldola was shocked by the laxity of the English Jews in religious observance and actively encouraged the opening of more schools and the improvement of teaching in them, which he saw as the best way of securing improvement. He was thus putting into effect what Isaac Disraeli was preaching, although it is doubtful whether he was influenced by Isaac. Meldola's efforts were however severely restricted by the fact that he never succeeded in becoming fluent in English and he was obliged to give his religious instruction in Spanish which not all his congregation understood. Meldola does not appear to have taken any part in Isaac's dispute with the Mahamad which the latter clearly saw as a simple matter of synagogue or communal administration. Isaac's attitude can be contrasted with the earlier case of Moses de Joseph da Costa, who was elected Parnass in 1769, also without his knowledge or consent, but who on learning of the appointment took it up and began to discharge the duties of the office. The Mahamad refused to allow him to continue to do so and fined him '?40 damages' which da Costa refused to pay. He wrote: 1 am your Parnass, and was obligeingly (sic) chosen contrary to my desire or wish, for I do not want honors, but since I am fully established... I will continue as such....6 While it takes two to make a quarrel, and Isaac was undoubtedly its main antagonist, the attitude of the Mahamad deserves consideration. It has to be said that they acted strictly in accordance with the Ascamot of the synagogue. Isaac was prepared to admit this, but observed that the spirit of the laws required wise administration. There was some point in this observation, for it was well established for the Mahamad to appoint a person to be Parnass, intending from the outset that he should refuse the office and accept the 169</page><page sequence="6">A. L. Shane consequential fine, which was usually ?40. The unusual feature of Isaac's case was the Mahamad's insistence that he actually take up and discharge the duties of the office. No doubt the Mahamad felt that Isaac's fame would add prestige to the office. If so, then they were doubly disappointed, for Isaac refused both to take up the office and to pay the fine. The quarrel itself is well recorded in the correspondence between the parties. The issue over the fines, although small in itself, must have been the last straw in Isaac's lingering doubt as to whether he could reconcile his philosophical principles with the traditions and ritual observances of Judaism. Earlier, Isaac had felt sufficiently attached to Judaism to have both his sons circumcised. But Isaac, although a regular contributor to synagogue funds, would have nothing to do with its services or ritual; and the Jewish dietary laws were certainly not observed. He was astonished and indeed annoyed when he received a letter on 3 October 1813, informing him that he had been elected Parnass of the synagogue without any prior notice or consultation. Isaac replied in a letter dated 3 December 1813, expressing his surprise and his unfitness for the appointment. He wrote: You are pleased to inform me that my election of Parnass is in strict conformity with your laws. Were I to agree to this it would not alter the utter impropriety of the choice. Whatever may be the laws, the spirit of the laws must depend on their wise administration. A person who has lived out of the sphere of your observation, of retired habits of life, who can never unite in your public worship, because as now conducted it disturbs instead of exciting religious emotions, a circumstance of general acknowledgement, who has only tolerated some part of your ritual, willing to concede all he can in those matters which he holds to be indifferent; such a man, with but a moderate portion of honour and understanding, never can accept the solemn functions of an elder of your congregation, and involve his life and distract his business pursuits not in temporary but permanent duties always repulsive to his feelings. I lament the occasion which drives me, with so many others, out of the pale of your jurisdiction... Even the government of a small sect can only be safely conducted by enlightened principles, and must accommodate itself with practical wisdom to existing circumstances, but above all with a tender regard to the injured feelings of its scattered members... Many of your members are already lost; many you are losing! Even those whose tempers and feelings would still cling to you, are gradually seceding. But against all this you are perpetually pleading your existing laws, which you would enforce on all the brethren alike! It is of these obsolete laws so many complain. They were adapted by fugitives to their peculiar situation, quite distinct from our own, and as foreign to us as the language in which they are written. Some of you boast that your laws are much as they were a century ago! You have laws to regulate what has ceased to exist; you have laws which, through the change of human events, prove to be new impediments to the very purposes of the institution, and for the new circumstances which have arisen, you are without laws. 170</page><page sequence="7">Isaac Disraeli's quarrel with the Synagogue Such, gentlemen, is my case; invincible obstacles exist against my becoming one of your eiders, motives of honour and conscience! If you will not retain a zealous friend, and one who has long had you in his thoughts, my last resource is to desire my name to be withdrawn from your society... It remains for you, gentlemen, to set a noble example of dignity and political wisdom. Let the award of the Mahamad be revised because they have erred in the choice of a fitting person to become Parnass. Isaac could have ended his letter there. He had made his protest; he had resigned his membership and that was all that was required. Instead, he added a final paragraph which went to the root of his dissatisfaction with the Jewish community, namely its lack of respectability and schools. He wrote: 'At all events you have my warm wishes for happier days. Do not shut out the general improvement of the age. Make your schools flourish, and remember that you have had universities ere now; a society has only to make itself respectable in these times to draw to itself the public esteem.' The Mahamd replied to this letter, simply informing Isaac that their action was in accordance with the Ascamot and that by refusing to take office he had made himself liable to a fine of ?40.7 Isaac's letter has been described by Cecil Roth as 'without doubt one of the most significant [in Anglo-Jewish letters]; for to the circumstances which gave rise to it is due (it may be said) the foundation of the modern Conservative Party and modern British imperialism.7 Neither party was prepared to give way and a lengthy correspondence ensued, with the Mahamad continuing to issue summonses to Isaac to attend meetings or to pay the fines, and Isaac continuing to refuse. Finally, in March 1817, four months after the death of Isaac's father, Isaac brought matters to a head with a letter to the Mahamad regretting that, as he put it, he had not been 'suffered to remain in quiet as a useful contributing member', and adding: 'I have patiently sought for protection against the absurd choice of two or three injudicious individuals, but find that you as a body sanction what your own laws will not allow. I am not a fit member of your society, and I certainly am an aggrieved one. I must now close all future correspondence, and I am under the painful necessity that my name be erased from the list of your members.'7 The 'injudicious individuals' of whose attitude Isaac com? plained, and who composed the Mahamad, were the two Gabays, Isaac de Emanuel Baruh Lousada and Joshua Rodrigues Brandon, together with Daniel Mocatta, Meir Cohen Macnin and Jacob da Fonseca Brandon. To them must be given the dubious distinction of having created a situation which later led to Benjamin Disraeli being baptized and able to become Prime Minister of Great Britain with the results noted by Cecil Roth. Although Isaac ceased to be a member of a synagogue, he took no steps to become a Christian and it was not until some years later that he had his children baptized. In his letter to the Mahamad refusing to act as Parnass, Isaac pointed out 171</page><page sequence="8">A. L. Shane 'the utter impropriety of the choice'. This was clearly so when Isaac's attitude to Judaism is taken into account, and the Mahamad must have known it. This attitude can be ascertained from several of Isaac's works,8 but particularly his The Genius of Judaism, written in 183 3.9 It shows that Isaac had a good knowledge of the Hebrew Scriptures and Talmudic writings, which must have been obtained from translations as Isaac had no knowledge of Hebrew. Isaac also displays a detailed knowledge of the Jewish religious festivals and practices, which are described as by one who has seen them practised but does not practise them himself. It is significant that this book was published anonymously. Isaac does not state exactly what he saw as 'The Genius' of Judaism, but one can attempt to ascertain his meaning from the general flow of his arguments. The 'genius' can be seen as the creation by the Jews of a chain of oral traditions which had never been broken from the foundation of Judaism, and which supplemented the Law of Moses. But, argued Isaac, if tradition is persisted in too long, it leads to doubtful and spurious dogmas and customs; and he charged the Rabbis, the Fathers of the Synagogue, with having done just that and of admitting of no criticism or denial. Isaac did not stop there in his condemnation of the Rabbis, but went on to claim that 'The calamity became more fearful' when they received the Talmud. 'Here then we find a prodigious mass of contradictory opinions, an infinite number of casuistical cases, a logic of scholastic theology, some recondite wisdom, and much rambling dotage; many puerile tales and oriental fancies; ethics and sophisms, reasonings and unreasonings, subtle solutions, and maxims and riddles; nothing in human life seems to have happened which these Doctors have not perplexed or provided against... '9 And Isaac went on to claim that the study of these books was the sole education of Jewish youth to the exclusion of all other subjects. Isaac blamed the Rabbis for this state of affairs which, he said, 'kept the national genius stationary and unchangeable... liberty of thinking... was utterly abrogated'. Isaac concluded his book with a plea. He wrote: I would implore the Jews to begin to educate their youth as the youth of Europe, and not of Palestine; let their Talmud be removed to an elevated shelf, to be consulted as a curiosity of antiquity, and not as a manual of education. Many, indeed, among the higher classes of the Hebrews, have attempted to educate their children in Christian schools, for they have no others, but the conflict of parental feelings, of their own good sense with the conflicting dicta of the Talmudists-the forbidden food and omitted customs-have scared even the intelligent among them. The civil and political fusion of the Jewish with their fellow citizens, must commence by rejecting every anti-social principle; let them only separate to hasten to the Church and to the Synagogue... The common enjoyments of civil rights will neither endanger the genius of Judaism, nor the genius of Christianity. 172</page><page sequence="9">Isaac Disraeli's quarrel with the Synagogue Isaac was not alone in calling for reform, but undoubtedly he was one of the most outspoken advocates for it, although in many respects his proposals went far beyond those of his contemporaries who were similarly minded. Neverthe? less, he created a forum for discussion, and his views, which were much publicized, helped to create a body of opinion which was to culminate in 1840 in the proposal for the establishment of a Reform Synagogue by dissatisfied members of his own synagogue. The changes were modest, as is indicated by the resolution passed on 15 April 1840, at which both Ashkenazim and Sephardim were present. It declared: We the undersigned, regarding public worship as highly conducive to the interests of religion, consider it a matter of deep regret that it is not more frequently attended by members of our religious persuasion. We are perfectly sure that this circumstance is not owing to the want of general conviction of the fundamental truth of our religion, but we ascribe it to the distance of the existing Synagogues from the place of our residence, to the length and imperfections of the order of service,... and to the absence of religious instruction in our Synagogue. To these evils we think that a remedy may be applied by the establishment of a Synagogue at the Western part of the Metropolis, where a revised service may be performed at hours more suited to our habits, and in a manner more calculated to inspire feelings of devotion, where religious instruction may be afforded by competent persons, and where to effect these purposes, Jews generally may form a United Congregation under the denomination of British Jews.4 When this resolution is analysed it will be seen that the 'evils' of which the reformers complained, namely the length and imperfections of the synagogue service, which, they claimed, were not conducive to feelings of devotion, and the lack of religious instruction by competent persons, were precisely the matters of which Isaac had complained in his letter to the Mahamad some twenty-eight years earlier, it is clear that Isaac's views on Judaism influenced the reform movement, although no direct connection can be established. It is enough that they helped to create a climate of opinion which made it possible for the reform movement to establish itself in England. The following year, in 1841, David W. Marks, then serving as Assistant Reader and Secretary at Liverpool, and also occupying the position of Professor of Belles-Lettres at the College of Wigan, was appointed Minister to the new Reform Synagogue in London. Professor Marks had already at Liverpool given indications of his desire for reform. Among the reforms he urged on his congregation was the modernization of the Prayerbook, and he also questioned the authority of the Oral Law. Professor Marks went on to produce a new set of prayerbooks for use on Sabbaths and Festivals and to create a new theology for his followers, which can be said to be in line with the views expressed by Isaac Disraeli, if not directly influenced by him. As might be expected, these works brought forth a tirade of abuse from the 173</page><page sequence="10">A. L. Shane authorities of the established Bevis Marks community who considered them little short of heretical. How seriously they took the challenge can be seen from the terms of the various sermons and broadsheets addressed to their congregants. Typical was the one issued in 1842 entitled 'A CAUTION to all who bear the name of Israel', and which stated: But now behold we have a new Book of Prayer, called [Hebrew title] Forms of Prayer used in the West London Synagogue of British Jews, edited by D. W. Marks... in which it is evident to the eyes of all, that the manner and order of our Prayers and Blessings have been curtailed and altered, and otherwise arranged not in accordance with the Oral Law,... Seeing this evil, we have risen and strengthened ourselves to set aside this stumbling block from the path of our Brethren, the Sons of Israel; and we hereby admonish every person preferring the faith of Israel and having the fear of God in his heart, that he do not use, or in any manner recognize the said Book of Prayer,... and whosoever shall use it for the purpose of prayer shall be accounted sinful... The Reform Synagogue was consecrated at Burton Street, London, on Thursday 27 January 1842, and Isaac is said to have been present.10 To celebrate the event a banquet was given by Moses Mocatta, to which Isaac, then some eighty-one years of age and nearly blind, was invited. Isaac is reported to have remarked to Professor Marks on this occasion: 'Had such a Synagogue been in existence some years earlier, I and all my family would have continued to profess Judaism at this day.'11 On the opening of the synagogue, the sponsors sent a copy of this Resolution to the Mahamad of the Bevis Marks Synagogue and expressed a wish to participate in the various communal organizations with which they had previously been connected. No reply was received to this request. Instead a Herem was issued signed jointly by the Members of the Sephardi Beth Din and Chief Rabbi Hirschel denouncing the secessonists and excommunicating them, thus perpetuating the break.12 The early years of the West London Synagogue were beset with many difficulties. The Reform Movement was bitterly opposed by the leading members of the Jewish community, notably Sir Moses Monteflore, who lost no opportunity of creating difficulties for it. Isaac was fortunate in that he lived to see many of the reforms he had advocated put into effect. He died on 19 January 1848, aged 81. Many obituary notices appeared, recording his literary works and speaking appreciatively of them. Isaac did not indulge in an autobiography as such, but the final article in his Curiosities of Literature, entitled 'Life and Habits of a Literary Antiquary Oldys and his Manuscripts', is generally accepted as a biographical review by Isaac of his literary life as he saw it. He wrote: It is time to vindicate the honours of the few whose laborious days enrich the 174</page><page sequence="11">Isaac Disraeli's quarrel with the Synagogue stores of national literature, not by duplicates but the supplements of knowledge. A literary antiquary is that idler whose life is passed in a perpetual 'voyage autour de ma chambre',... critical as well as erudite; he has to arbitrate between contending opinions,... to clean up the obscure, and to grasp at the remote; so busied with other times, and so interested for other persons than those about him, that he becomes the inhabitant of the visionary world of books. He only counts his days by his acquisitions,... often exciting the gratitude of the literary world, while the very name of the benefactor has not always descended with his inestimable labours. Such is the man whom we often find, when he dies, leaving his favourite volumes only an incomplete project! But the final and probably the best memorial to Isaac was the inscription placed on the monument erected in his memory by Mary Anne, the wife of his son Benjamin, then Earl of Beaconsfield, in the grounds of their new house at Hughenden. This read: In Memory of Isaac Disraeli of Bradenham House, in this county, Esquire, and Honorary DCL of the University of Oxford, who by his genius, diffused amongst the multitude that elevating taste for literature which, before his time, was the privilege only of the learned. This monument was erected by Mary Anne the wife of his eldest son, the Right Honourable B. Disraeli, Chancellor of the Exchequer, 1852, 1858-9, Lord of this Manor, and now for the sixth time, Knight of this Shire. NOTES 1 Cecil Roth, Benjamin Disraeli, Earl of Beaconsfleld (New York 1952) 16. 2 For a detailed biographical study of Isaac D'Israeli, see James Ogden's monograph, Isaac D'Israeli (Oxford 1969). 3 Ogden (see n. 2) 114. 4 James Picciotto, Sketches of Anglo-Jewish History (revised edition edited by Israel Fine stein, London 1956). 5 Moses Gaster, History of the Ancient Synagogue of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews (London 1901) 144. 6 Gaster (see n. 5) 142 ff. where the whole letter is quoted. 7 Picciotto (see n. 4) where the letter is set out in full. See also Roth, Anglo-Jewish Letters (London 1938) 237. 8 See, for example, articles by Isaac entitled The Talmud and Rabbinical Stories res? pectively, in Curiosities of Literature published in a series extending from 1791 to 1823, and collected in one volume in the edition published by Routledge and Sons; no date but c. 1848. 9 Published by Edward Moxon, London 1833. 10 Roth (seen. 1) 19. 11 Quoted in article The Rev. Professor Marks in The Jewish Chronicle, 23 November 1900. I am indebted to Rabbi C. E. Cassel for this reference. 12 The Herem, together with Hirschel's caution and the correspondence which ensued relating to the establishment of the West London Synagogue, are to be found in the Historical Notices contained in The Jews of the Nineteenth Century, by W. Ayerst (London 1848). This is a missionary tract, and Ayerst argues that 'the desire of reform which has been extensively felt amongst Jews in London and the steps which many of them have taken for the attainment of that object should be consid? ered as a first step in reducing the obstacles to embracing the Christian religion.' 175</page></plain_text>