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Jews and the English Stage, 1667-1850

Alfred Rubens

<plain_text><page sequence="1">Jews and the English Stage, 1667-1850* ALFRED RUBENS, F.S.A., F.R.Hist.S. Preliminary The prominence of Jews in the field of enter? tainment is a phenomenon around which a considerable literature has grown up. One of Lucien Wolf's first efforts in journalism was an article entitled 'Jewish Actors/ in the St. James1 Gazette of 27 August 1885, republished in the Jewish Chronicle for 26 May 1893 with the title 'Astley's Jews', and I cannot resist quoting the beginning ofthat article both for its content and style: 'The Hebrew has been the classic mime of the world's history and the Jewish actor is the final product of the procrustean bed of the Hebrew Diaspora.' The emergence of the Jew as a popular entertainer seems to stem from certain features of Jewish social life mainly connected with weddings and festivals. On the Continent the seven-day feast in celebration of a wedding was accompanied by continuous musical performances as well as the presentation of Hebrew plays specially written for the occasion and a marshalik, or jester, was invariably present. In England also, music used to be a feature of Jewish weddings. Barnett Isaacson, who had conducted for Paganini, interviewed in 1900 when he was 90, recalled how he had started his career as a musician: 'First we went to the bride's house and played there, then to the bridegroom's and performed for his benefit, and then we went to the wedding room, Jewish weddings being generally held at Howard's Coffee House in Dukes Place or at the "Green Man" in Stepney . . . There was a regular Chupah march which we played when the bride took her place under the canopy.' He also recalled the gift of a cigar from the Chief Rabbi, Solomon Hirschel, as a special mark of appreciation after one of his per? formances.1 A recent example of the rise of a star from the same kind of background is furnished by the career of Danny Kaye, who gained his early experience working for hotels in the U.S.A. catering for Jewish weddings known as the 'Borsht Belt'. Plays in Hebrew or Yiddish were specially written and performed for Purim and Simchat Torah. The Ahasuerus-Spiel in Yiddish for Purim, which reached its peak in the eighteenth century, had gradually developed over many years. The six-day Jews' Fair, as it was called, to celebrate Purim, held annually in Duke's Place by permission of the City of London authorities, provided a wide range of enter? tainment, including plays. (J. T. Smith, Ancient Topography of London, 1810, pp. 20 and 21) Many Jewish musicians undoubtedly found their inspiration in the synagogue and the cyclopaedist Abraham Rees (1743-1825) did not exaggerate when he stated: Tn the principal capitals of Europe wherever there is a synagogue we have generally found a vocal performer or two who sang in the Italian manner and in exquisite taste.'2 Audiences Jews were inveterate theatre-goers and their presence in London audiences was already noticeable in the eighteenth century, being referred to in the epilogue to Frederick Reynolds's 'The Dramatist', performed at * Paper delivered to the Jewish Historical Society of England on 13 June 1973. I have to thank Miss Sybil Rosenfeld for giving me the benefit of her vast knowledge of the history of the theatre, Mr. John Shaftesley for much valuable advice, and Mr David Garrington for tracing a number of references in the Jewish Chronicle. 1 Jewish Chronicle, 14 December 1900, p. 21. 2 Isaac Nathan, Musurgia Vocalis, London, 1836, p. 116. In his list of Jewish musicians Nathan mistakenly includes Manual Garcia (1805-1906), Henry Phillips, (1801-1876), who was half Jewish, and Paganini. 151</page><page sequence="2">152 Alfred Rubens Covent Garden on 15 May 1789, from which the following is an extract: 'What an overflowing House, methinks I see! Here, Box-keeper, are these my Places? No, Madam Van Bulk has taken all that Row; Then I'll go back?you can't?you can, she fibs, Keep down your Elbows, or you'll break my Ribs; Zounds, how you squeeze! Of what do you think one made is ? Is this your Wig ? No, it's that there Lady's. Then the Side-Boxes, what delightful Rows! Peers, Poets, Nabobs, Jews, and 'Prentice Beaux.'3 Audience participation was a feature of the London theatre until the middle of the nineteenth century. Managers did their utmost to avoid the violent and riotous scenes which an unpopular play could produce and the gradual change from the evil Jewish stereotype set by the sixteenth-century dramatists was partly due to the influence of Jews among the audiences, even if sometimes they were unduly sensitive. A case in point arose out of the performance of Dibdin's opera, 'Family Quarrels', at Covent Garden on 18 December 1802. A song sung by Mr. Fawcett called 'The Ladies' referred to Jewish prostitutes, while the actor himself had taken on a Jewish dis? guise. On the other hand, John Braham had a leading part. After the rehearsal, Dibdin, having been warned by a friend, a Jewish lady from Rochester, that the Jews objected strongly to the song and would do their best to stop the show, published the following announcement: 'The author of the new opera, with implicit deference, assures the public, he never entertained the remotest idea of giving offence to any class of society by the intro? duction of a character, which was not that of a Jew, but an assumed disguise, and which, had there been no interruption arising from misconception, would have appeared as no more intended to convey disrespect than were either the parts of Ephraim in "the School for Prejudice", or Abednego in "The Jew and Doctor", which have hitherto been honoured with the most flattering and general approbation.'4 Despite this announcement the Jews demon? strated so violently for the first two nights that Dibdin was obliged to withdraw the offending song. The Jews' behaviour was strongly criticised by the Monthly Mirror, which re? minded them of 'our impartiality by the most lavish encouragement and enthusiastic admira? tion of Mr. Braham's very astonishing vocal powers'.5 Rowlandson, in his caricature 'Family Quarrels or The Jews and the Gentile', published a month later, 25 January 1803 (see Plate VII), rather misses the point by treating the incident as arising out of the rivalry between Braham and the singer Charles Incledon. Shakespeare's 'Merchant of Venice' seems to have been accepted without any protest and in fact when it was produced at Covent Garden in July 1817, Sherenbeck, a Jew of Rochester, took the part of Shylock in the lisping dialect of the stage Jew. This innovation was not a success and The Theatrical Inquisitor commented: 'Mr Sherenbeck's exposition of Shylock . was neither sound nor orthodox and the equipment of this Jew in the dialect of his tribe seemed equally absurd and ineffective. His enunciation was painfully correct and divested of every claim to professional merit.'6 On the other hand, the Jews are said to have boycotted the London theatres for a whole season in protest against the revival of Mar? lowe's 'The Jew of Malta' in April 1818. They had no chance to demonstrate at the first performance, which was on a Friday night, 3 Allardyce Nicoll, A History of English Drama 1660-1900, Vol. Ill, Late Eighteenth-Century Drama 1750-1800. Cambridge, 1952, p. 10, and see Trans. XXIII, p. 12. 4 The Reminiscences of Thomas Dibdin, London, 1827, Vol. 1, pp. 336-348. 5 Vol. 14, 1802, pp. 404-405. Vol. 15, 1803, p. 54. H. S. Wyndham, 7~fo? Annals of Covent Garden Theatre, London, 1906, pp. 290-291. 6 Vol. II, 1817, p. 70.</page><page sequence="3">Jews and the English Stage 1667-1850 153 and Edmund Kean playing the part of Barabas 'was rewarded by the plaudits of an overflowing house',7 but their opposition may explain why this antisemitic play was not revived for another century, the next production being at Daly's on 5 and 6 November 1922. The Jewish Stereotype From the time of Marlowe and Shakespeare there was an increasing tendency to introduce Jewish characters into plays, and 80 plays published in England between 1584 and 1820 contained at least one Jewish character, who was almost invariably portrayed in an evil light (see Plate V). Probably the most important influence to improve the stage Jewish stereotype was Richard Cumberland's play 'The Jew', pro? duced in 1794, which, for the first time, introduced a benevolent Jew in the person of Sheva. Its influence on public opinion went far beyond the stage and Anglo-Jewry's debt to Cumberland was recognised by a lecture in his memory given to this society by Louis Zangwill in 1911 on the centenary of his death.? Although the play was a success and was frequently revived and reprinted, the character of Sheva was still regarded as unrealistic as late as 1814. When the play was revived at Covent Garden on Saturday 7 May of that year, with Sherenbeck playing the part of Sheva, the Theatrical Inquisitor reported that 'the only plaudits proceeded from his own brethren', although they found the actor 'with many qualifications for the stage, his person manly, his intonation vigorous and distinct and his manner impressive'.9 The scurrilous monthly magazine, The Scourge, commented on Sherenbeck's perform? ance: 'report says that he is by birth and religious persuasion one of that class of people whose benevolence Cumberland sought to propitiate when he delineated a philanthropic Jew', and continued, 'the house indeed con? tained no small proportion of circumcised auditors who were inordinately clamorous in supporting their representative'.10 Jewish Playwrights Another important influence leading to the introduction of a less offensive Jewish stage type was the emergence of Jewish playwrights, although the first of these, Moses Mendez (d. 1758), took no part in Jewish life. Charles Zachary Barnett (known also as C. J. Barnett), a brother of John Barnett, the composer, wrote a number of plays, including 'The Rise of the Rothschilds' or 'The Honest Jew of Frankfort' (c. 1831), 'The Dream of Fate or Sarah the Jewess', performed 20 August 1838 at Sadler's Wells, and 'The Mariner's Dream' or 'The Jew of Plymouth', which was played at the Pavilion, Plymouth, on 23 October 1838." Morris Barnet wrote about a dozen plays between 1830 and 1850. Elizabeth Polack (b. 1794), a cousin of Francis Cohen (later Palgrave), wrote 'Esther, The Royal Jewess', a drama in three acts, performed at the Pavilion Theatre on 7 March 1835.12 Jewish theatre directors began to have an influence during the nineteenth century. The most important was Benjamin Lumley (1811-1875) (see Plate XIX, fig. 19), son of Louis Levy, who in 1841 took over control of the Haymarket Theatre and became one of the great opera directors. He introduced over thirty Italian operas to England, including Donizetti's 'Don Pasquale' and Verdi's 'La Traviata'.13 E. Barnett managed theatres at Bath, Croydon, and Newbury in 1833. John Braham built and managed the St. James's Theatre. Charles and Henry Sloman managed the Rochester Theatre from about 1834, and Barnett 7 Theatrical Inquisitor, April 1818, pp. 291-292. s Trans. VII, pp. 147ff. 9 Vol. 4, May 1814, p. 311. 10 Vol. 7, June 1814, p. 516. 11 M. J. Landa, The Jew in Drama, London, 1926, pp. 183-184. 12 Notes and Queries, 5th s., Vol. 1, pp. 288 and 415. 13 P. H. Emden, Jews of Britain, London, 1943, D.N.B., etc.</page><page sequence="4">154 Alfred Rubens Nathan managed Rosherville Gardens in the same town. One Maddox, who had changed his name from Medec, had been stage manager, acting manager, and general agent before taking over the management of the Princes Theatre in Oxford Street in the 1840s, with the financial help of the Duke of Brunswick.14 The Theatres The Licensing Act of 1737, which remained in force until 1843, created a monopoly for the performance of legitimate drama in favour of the three patent theatres, the Theatres Royal, Drury Lane, Covent Garden, and Haymarket, while the King's Opera House in the Hay market had a monopoly for opera. Other places of entertainment in London licensed by the Lord Chamberlain were allowed to put on variety and musical per? formances. They included Sadler's Wells, Islington (1765); The Lyceum in the Strand (1765); The Royalty, Ensign Street, White chapel, (1787); Sans Souci, Leicester Square (1796); Astley's Royal Amphitheatre, near Westminster Bridge, (1777); and Royal Circus, Blackfriars Road (1782). The two theatres most popular with Jewish audiences and players were the Royalty and Astley's. The Royalty Theatre, adjoining Wellclose Square, Goodman's Fields, was in an area where there had been several theatres, it was close to the Jewish quarter of Duke's Place, and according to William Clark Russell (1844-1911), son of the Jewish singer, Henry Russell, most of the patrons were Jews and there were always at least two Jewish members of the company. Braham sang at the opening performance on 20 June 1787; his teacher, Leoni, actually resided in Wellclose Square and the Jewish connections were probably strengthened when the theatre was taken over by Philip Astley's son in October 1800. Its name was changed to the East London Theatre in 1816 after renovation and again to the Royal Brunswick when reopened on 25 February 1828 after a fire. A week later it collapsed. Among the new theatres in the East End of London opened between 1800 and 1850 were Ducrow's New National Arena, Church Street, Whitechapel, opened 27 January 1834; Garrick's Subscription Theatre, Leman Street, Whitechapel, on the site of the old Goodman's Fields Theatre, opened 3 January 1831, damaged by fire in 1846, and rebuilt, later used as a music-hall; the Effingham Saloon, Whitechapel Road, opened 1843, rebuilt in 1867, and renamed the New East London Theatre. Managed at one time by Morris Abrahams, it was burned down in 1870. The Royal Pavilion, Whitechapel Road, E., opened on 10 November 1828, was burned down in 1856. It was rebuilt and was taken over in September 1871 by Morris Abrahams, to become the home of Yiddish drama. The Players Biographies of most of the important Jewish characters connected with the English stage will be found in the Dictionary of National Biography, Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians, or the Jewish Encyclopaedia. They include the Abrams sisters, Harriet, Theodosia, and Eliza; John Barnett; Morris Barnett; Mrs Bland (nee Romanzini); John Braham; Jacob de Castro; Jacob Cervetto; C. A. Delpini; Rachel; Isaac and Rebecca Isaacs; Esther Jacobs; Henry Lazarus; Michael Leoni; Lyon Villiers Levy; Felix Mendels? sohn; Daniel Mendoza; Barnett and Isaac Nathan; Hannah Norsa; Giudetta Pasta; Henry Russell; and Charles and Henry Sloman. The notes which follow are mainly confined to material which has not hitherto been published or is not readily accessible. MRS MANUEL The date 1667 as my point of departure is somewhat fortuitous, since it stems from a few entries in Samuel Pepys's diary. 12 August 1667: Mrs Manuel, the Jew's wife formerly a player, who we heard sing with one of the Italians that was there and 14 E. Sherston, London's Lost Theatres of the 19th century, 1925, pp. 126, 133.</page><page sequence="5">Jews and the English Stage 1667-1850 155 indeed she sings mightily well and just after the Italian manner. 23 March 1668: Mrs Manuel sings very finely and is a mighty discreet sober carriaged woman that both my wife and I are mightily taken with her and sings well and without importunity or the contrary.15 (During 1667 and 1668 Pepys was several times in the company of Mr. and Mrs. Manuel.) HANNAH NORSA Nothing more is known about Mrs. Manuel, but the first authentic Jewish player was again a woman in the person of Hannah Norsa. She probably came to the notice of John Rich, the producer (1682 ?-1761), in the bar parlour of the 'Punch Bowl' tavern in Drury Lane, kept by her father. Rich had produced Gay's 'Beggar's Opera' for the first time in January 1728 at his theatre in Lincoln's Inn Fields. It was an enormous success and he revived it at his new Covent Garden theatre in December 1732. On the opening night, Saturday, 16 December, the part of Polly was played by 'Miss Norsa who never appeared on any stage before'. It was largely due to her performance that the opera had a continuous run until Janu? ary 10 and she remained the star attraction for many other performances, including one on Saturday, 1 December 1733, when it was played by Royal Command. On Monday, 19 May 1735, it was produced at the theatre in York Buildings, Villiers Street, for the benefit of Hannah and her brother, 'Master Norsa', who took the part of Macheath. This was not his first stage appearance. On 24 May 1734 he was in two plays with 'The Lilliputians' at the Tennis Court theatre in James Street, Haymarket. When Hannah was not playing in the 'Beg? gars' Opera' she was to be seen at Covent Garden in light opera and comedy. For her benefit at Covent Garden on Tuesday, 29 April 1735, her sister, 'Miss Norsa Junior', a dancer, made her first stage appearance and danced there again on 6 May 1735, but this is the last we hear of her nor do we hear any more of Master Norsa. Hannah herself made her last appearance on the stage as Phillida in 'Damon and Phillida' on 4 May 1736.16 She left the stage to become the mistress of Robert Walpole (1701-1751), who had been created Baron Walpole in 1723 and was the eldest son of Sir Robert Walpole, 1st Earl of Orford, of Houghton in Norfolk, whom he succeeded in 1745. It is said that Robert satisfied Hannah's parents by promising to marry her on the death of his wife, who, however, survived him.17 Their association is referred to in several letters written by his brother, Horace Walpole, who also mentions a meeting with Hannah's father at Westminster Hall in 1746, when they were both occupying seats reserved for Robert during the trial of rebel lords. He writes, T was diverted too with old Norsa, the father of my brother's concubine, an old Jew that kept a tavern'. During her residence at Houghton Hannah met the wife of a local vicar, who in a letter to her sister dated 18 October 1749 writes: 'To tell you ye truth I made Mrs Norsa a vissit first my Lord ask'd me several times very kindly, I believe it was taken well for she soon return'd it . . . She is a very agreeable woman and nobody ever behaved better in her station, she have everybody's good word and bear great sway at Houghton, she is everything but lady, she came here in a landau and six horses and one Mr Paxton a young clergyman with her'. After Robert's death in 1751 at the early age of 50, Hannah lived with John Rich until his death in 1761. She herself is said to have died at an advanced age in 1785. The only contemporary portrait of Hannah Norsa is an etching by Bernard Lens of which the only example known is that in the British Museum (see Plate VI). A copy engraved by S. Harding appears in F. G. Waldron's Shakespearean Miscellany, 1802. A mezzotint engraving called 'Polly Peachum', exhibited at Heidelberg and reproduced in The Times, 9 July 1966, as a 15 H. B. Wheatley (ed.), The Diary of Samuel Pepys, London, 1896, Vol. VII, 66, 256, 372-373, 378, 397, 407. 16 A. H. Scouten, The London Stage 1600-1800, Part 3, 1729-1747. Carbondale, 111., 1961. 17 A similar story is told about Lavinia Fenton (1708-1760), who took the part of Polly in the original production of 'The Beggar's Opera'. She, however, was more fortunate and became Duchess of Bolton.</page><page sequence="6">156 Alfred Rubens newly discovered portrait of Hannah Norsa, is, in fact, an altered portrait of Princess Carolina, daughter of George II (J. Chaloner Smith, British Mezzotinto Portraits, 1888, p. 1075). References: Wm. Cooke, Memoirs of Samuel Foote, London, 1805, Vol. 3, pp. 82-83; F. G. Waldron, Shakespearean Miscellany, London, 1802, 'The English Stage', pp. 44-45 (with portrait); Horace Walpole\ Correspondence, Yale ed., Vol. 9, p. 109, Vol. 19, pp. 284-285, 419; A. Henriques Valentine, 'The Romance of Hannah Norsa', in the Jewish Guardian, 15 August 1930, p. 7; A. Hartshorne (ed.), Memoirs of a Royal Chaplain, London, 1905, p. 244. MICHAEL LEONI There is a considerable gap in time between Hannah Norsa and the next Jewish figure. He was a singer of some importance known in the synagogue as Meir Ben Judah Meir Lyon and on the stage as Myer or Michael Leoni. He made his debut at Drury Lane on 13 December 1760 as Kaliel in 'The Enchanter', a new musical entertainment written by Garrick. As recorded in Cross's diary, 'Master Leoni a Jew made his first appearance in this piece and was received with, great applause'. In 1767 he joined the choir of the Great Synagogue at a salary of ?40 per annum and, according to Hogarth, many people of distinction came to the synagogue to hear him sing. They included Charles Wesley. In the 1769-70 season he sang at Covent Garden in 'Harlequin's Jubilee', a new panto? mime which had a successful run of 30 per? formances. In the bill for the first night, Saturday, 27 January 1770, he is called Master Leoni; for subsequent performances he becomes Master Lion or Lyon, in which name he was paid 10 guineas on 29 May 1770, the close of the season. In the 1770-71 season he appeared once at the Haymarket on Monday, 1 October 1770. In 1771 he was engaged at the Grotto Gardens, St. George's Field, where he had his Benefit on Tuesday, 31 August 1771. Horace Walpole was enthusiastic about Leoni when he heard him sing at Aaron Franks's house at Isleworth in November 1774. Leoni is said to have been dismissed by the synagogue because of his connection with the stage and particularly because he sang in Handel's 'Messiah'. i? His first big part was that of Arbaces in Dr. T. A. Arne's opera, 'Artaxerxes', at Covent Garden on Tuesday, 25 April 1775. As Mr. Leoni, he appeared frequently in the same part during the 1775-76 season, the final performance on Saturday, 20 April 1776, being for his Benefit. The success of the 1775-76 season was R. B. Sheridan's opera, 'The Duenna', first staged at Covent Garden on Tuesday, 21 November 1775, which had a continuous run of 75 performances. Leoni by this time was regarded as the leading English tenor and in the part of Don Carlos (see Plate X, fig. 6) was as great an attraction as was Hannah Norsa in the part of Polly if we may judge by the street ballad, 'The Duenna or the Double Elopement, a new song to an old Tune': In the days of Gay, they sing and say, The town was full of folly: For all day long, its sole sing-song Was pretty, pretty Polly. So now-a-days, as it was in Gay's, The world's run mad again-a From morn to night its whole delight To cry up the Duenna. One half the town still talks of Brown The other of Leoni, While those sly curs, the managers, Keep pocketing the money . . . Don Carlos was originally intended to be a Jew but the part was altered by Sheridan out of consideration for Leoni and for the same reason the opera was not performed on Friday nights.19 On Tuesday, 23 January 1776, Leoni sang in a sacred oratorio at the Society of Artists' Exhibition Rooms in the Strand to raise money for the repair of a chapel in Crispin Street, Spitalfields. According to the bill, 'the performers are so obligingly generous as to 18 G. Hogarth, Memoirs of the Musical Drama, London, 1838, Vol. 2, p. 435. 19 T. Moore, Memoirs of the Life of. . . Richard Brinsley Sheridan, London, 1825, Vol. 1, pp. 167-171.</page><page sequence="7">Jews and the English Stage 1667-1850 157 give their services to promote the charity and Mr Leoni having obtained leave to sing, the Public may be assured of his performing his part in this oratorio'. Leoni sang on a number of occasions in Dublin, his first appearance there being at the Rotunda Gardens on 13 June 1777. In Septem? ber 1783 he and Tommaso Giordani announced that they had taken the New Theatre in Capel Street for the production of English opera during the ensuing winter season. The opening was postponed for various reasons, one being 'on account of Mr Leoni's not arriving from England till Saturday last' (6 December). When the theatre eventually opened on 18 December 1783 Leoni took one of the principal parts. In February 1784 a second season of English opera was announced under the same manage? ment but Leoni, realising perhaps that the venture was doomed, took his Benefit on March 2 and the following month was back at Covent Garden.20 When 'The Duenna' was revived at Covent Garden in 1787 Leoni was paid the top rate for a singer of ?10 per night (most actors received ten shillings to a pound per night; Macklin, the highest paid, received ?31). On Saturday, 21 April 1787, when 'The Duenna' was played for Leoni's Benefit, his pupil, John Braham, in his first appearance on the stage, sang two songs. The house receipts were ?278. Leoni, who sold the tickets, gave his address as 1 Wellclose Square, which must have been within a few yards of the Royalty Theatre, where he also made several appear? ances. Leoni left the stage to take up an appoint? ment as Hazan at the Ashkenazi Synagogue in Kingston, Jamaica. His tombstone in the Kingston Cemetery reads: 'Michael Leoni, principal reader of our congregation and one of the first singers of the age, died suddenly 6 November 1797.' References'. C. Roth, The Great Synagogue 1690-1940, London, 1950; The London Stage, Carbondale, 111., Part 4, pp. 1947, 1949, etc., and Part 5; M. Sands, 'John Braham, singer', in Trans. Vol. XX, pp. 204-205; Thespian Dictionary, London, 1805; D. Macmillan, Drury Lane Calendar 1747-1776, Oxford, 1938. THE ABRAMS SISTERS Harriet Abrams (b. 1760), the eldest of the three sisters (see Plate VIII), was also the most distinguished both as singer and composer. She was a pupil of Dr. T. A. Arne and made her debut at Drury Lane on Saturday, 28 October 1775, in 'May Day or The Little Gipsy', a musical farce by David Garrick, with music by Dr. Arne. Hopkins noted in his diary: 'This musical farce of one act was wrote by Mr Garrick on purpose to introduce Miss Abrams (a Jew) about 17 years old. She is very small, a swarthy complexion, has a very sweet voice and a fine shake but not quite power enough yet?both the piece and young lady were received with great applause.'21 ESTHER JACOBS, MR. JACOBS AND MISS JACOBS These stage personalities call for mention purely on account of their names, and Esther Jacobs is known only by her portrait painted by Reynolds about 1760. Mr Jacobs, an actor, made frequent appearances at the Haymarket and Drury Lane between 1769 and 1784 and he was also at the Theatre Royal, Edinburgh. Miss Jacobs, dancer, actress, and singer, a pupil of Mrs Crouch, appeared at Drury Lane in 1791 and 1792." JOHN BRAHAM As I have mentioned, Braham made his debut at Covent Garden when he sang two songs for Leoni's Benefit on 21 April 1787. A few months later, on 20 June 1787, he appeared at the opening of the Royalty Theatre, Wellclose Square. There is some doubt about his birth date but he seems to have been about ten at that time. His background was very strongly Jewish, his teacher was Leoni, and his great patron Abraham Goldsmid. As we have seen in con? nection with the production of 'Family Quarrels', in his professional career he was very much identified with the Jewish community, 20 T. J. Walsh, Opera in Dublin 1705-1797, Dublin, 1973, pp. 230-237. 21 Wm. Hopkins, MS Diary 1769-1776, in Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, D.G. 22 The Thespian Dictionary, 1805.</page><page sequence="8">158 Alfred Rubens a member of which sprang to his defence when he was criticised in the Monthly Mirror in 1807 ;23 and the theatre critics and the caricaturists never missed an opportunity to remind the public of his origins. Nevertheless, in 1826, he claimed that he had long been a Christian (Trans. XX, p. 210). It is not known whether he was ever baptised, but his illegitimate son by Anne Storace, Wm. Spencer Harris Braham, became a canon of the Anglican Church and his marriage with Frances Elizabeth Bolton in 1816 took place in church. MARIA TERESA ROMANZINI (MRS. BLAND) Mrs. Bland (see Plate XIII, fig. 11) was the daughter of Italian Jewish parents and came to this country as an infant. She was still a child when she made her first appearance at Hughes' Riding School, later the Royal Circus, in the spring of 1773. At about the same time she toured the provinces under Philip Breslaw. The numerous engraved portraits published of her are some indication of her popularity with the public as an actress and singer despite her somewhat unattractive appearance. One critic commented: 'Though Mrs Bland was only a singer of second class, few, if any, English singers who have appeared at the opera, sang with such pure Italian taste, or equalled her in recitative and pronounciation of the language.'24 She was always identified as a Jewess even when her husband died, on which occasion the Monthly Mirror published the following announcement: iMrs Bland: Mr Bland, the husband of Mrs Bland the singer is dead. His disconsolate widow, formerly Miss Romanzini, is of the Jewish persuasion and follows their form in her mourning which is confined to letting the beard grow.'25 ASTLEY'S JEWS The theatre manager most closely concerned with Jews was Philip Astley (1742-1814), noted for his equestrian performances at his arena close to Westminster Bridge, known after 1798 as Astley's Royal Amphitheatre, and he also operated in Paris, Dublin, and Liver? pool, while his son took over the Royalty in 1800. According to Clark Russell there were many Jews among his equestrians.26 His playbill (see Plate IX) features a 'Signor Jacob' and we know of a certain Cohen, but there were enough Jews in his employ for them to be called 'Astley's Jews'. The most prominent of them was Jacob de Castro (1758-1824) (see Plate X, fig. 7), a clever mimic, whose memoirs are the chief source for Astley's biography in The Dictionary of National Bio? graphy. He started working for him about 1783 and remained with him until Astley's death in 1814. De Castro tells us how he and six of his friends from the Sephardi Jewish school pooled their pocket money in order to see Garrick and how he acquired his first taste for the theatre by performing in Purim plays. An opportunity arose through an introduction by Joseph D'Almeida (1716-1788) to the manager of Covent Garden, in which theatre he appeared in 1778 or 1779. In 1782 and 1783 he was at the Royal Circus with Miss Romanzini (later Mrs. Bland). The pugilists Dutch Sam (Samuel Elias, 1775-1816) and Daniel Mendoza (1763-1836) both worked for Astley. In 1813 Dutch Sam gave an exhibition at the Olympic Pavilion, which was one of Astley's theatres.27 Mendoza, like Jacob de Castro, had partici? pated in Purim plays as a boy and always maintained close contacts with the stage. His reputation as a boxer enabled him to attract audiences for exhibitions of the art of self defence, which usually formed part of a variety programme. In January 1789, at Covent Garden, he took the part of a pugilist in 'The Recruiting Officer', and received a fee of ?21. In 1791 he put on a display at the Lyceum Theatre, when he announced that 'the manly art of boxing would be displayed divested of all ferocity'28 (see Plate XI). 23 Monthly Mirror, 1808, N.S., Vol. 3, p. 47. 24 Grove; T. J. Walsh, Opera in Dublin 1705-1797, Dublin, 1793, pp. 252-256. 25 Monthly Mirror, N.S., Vol. 2, 1807, p. 365. 26 W. Clark Russell, Representative Actors, London, c. 1860, p. 256. 27 The Memoirs of J. de Castro, Comedian, London, 1824, p. 105. 28 Boxiana, London, 1812, p. 9.</page><page sequence="9">Jews and the English S;age 1667-1850 159 In 1792 he and his brother were engaged by Astley to appear at the amphitheatre in Peter Street, Dublin. Returning home one evening by way of the castle with Mr. and Mrs. de Castro, they were stopped by a sentry. Mrs. de Castro took exception to the man's manner and ordered her husband to knock him down. De Castro, as Mendoza explains, being a little fellow less than five feet high, demurred, whereupon, to quote Mendoza, 'this high spirited lady (who is a native of Ireland) exclaimed with great indignation "Now, by Jasus, if you don't knock him down, I'll knock you down", and she proceeded to do so'. On leaving Dublin, Mendoza was engaged by Astley to appear the following season at Liverpool. Mendoza made many tours covering the whole country, giving displays of the art of self defence. In one of his bills he states: 'The ladies are respectfully informed there is neither violence or indecency in this spectacle, that can offend the most delicate of their sex: as an affirmation of which, Mr Mendoza has, by repeated desire, performed before their Majes? ties and the Royal Family'2* (see Plate XII). The O.P. Riots Daniel Mendoza's connections with the stage led to his employment in another capacity at Covent Garden Theatre when it was re? opened in September 1809 after being burned down. Serious disorders occurred owing to the number of private boxes and the prices in the pit being increased from 3s. 6d. to 4s. Night after night demonstrations, known as the O.P. (old price) Riots, took place in the theatre, and the management engaged Mendoza and Dutch Sam to maintain order. They were supplied with tickets which they issued to Jewish friends known to be handy with their fists and thereafter any interruption of the show was met with violence. The caricatures of the time include two which refer to the part played by Jews: 'Kings Place and Chandos Street in an uproar' and 'Killing no murder. As perform ing at the Grand National Theatre' (see Trans. XXIII, PL 23). The considerable street literature also contains many references to Jewish bruisers, of which the following are examples: 'They think' said he 'John Bull to awe By means of constables and law By Bow Street officers and those Brave Hebrews who delight in blows. The pit display's a curious sight For 'bout three hundred Jews that night Had kept possession of the rows? All warriors who by their blows Give a black eye to bloody nose But though these men take great delight in Knocking down, cuffing, sparring, fighting The Christians on the Public's side Mendoza's scholars now defy'd The Israelites were sorely griev'd They such a beating had receiv'd (next night). The Jews assembled in the pit Together in a ring they sit The best of seats they occupied With orders they had been supplied Mendoza had a pocket full Then down our poor throttles new prices to cram Hey populorum jig He hired Mendoza, he hired Dutch Sam Hey populorum jig O wonderful story! O wonderful news John Kemble, the Papist, in league with the Jews With his battle 'em etc'30 When the author of a handbill was prose? cuted at Bow Street, the box-office manager swore that the contents were untrue. The text was as follows: 'Mendoza and Kemble. 'It is a notorious fact, that the managers of Covent-garden theatre, have both yesterday 29 Memoirs of the Life of Daniel Mendoza, London, 1816. 30 Thos. Tegg, The Rise, Progress and Termination