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John Braham - from meshorrer to tenor

David Conway

<plain_text><page sequence="1">Jewish Historical Studies, volume 41, 2007 John Braham ? from meshorrer to tenor DAVID CONWAY John Braham (i774-1856), the one-hundred and fiftieth anniversary of whose death has recently passed, was one of the outstanding British opera singers of all time, yet still lacks an informed biography. True, this journal has published an article on Braham by Mollie Sands and references to his life from the Revd Cohen, Alfred Rubens, Professor Kaiman Burnim1 and others; but all of these, where they reflect on his person rather than his achievements, are to a greater or lesser extent influ? enced by the accumulation of legend and conjecture which his fame encour? aged in his time and later. Apart from these the reader can refer only to the largely anecdotal survey of J. Mewburn Levien, now sixty years old,2 the article in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography^ inaccurate as to Braham's dates and family, or the more cursory coverage in Grove.4 The present study is largely concerned with specifically Jewish aspects of Braham's life and reputation, and his reception as a Jew in the England of his time, particularly during his early career, as he made the progress from meshorrer (juvenile assistant to a synagogue cantor or hazan) to operatic tenor. It also seeks to place him in the context of other contemporary Jewish musicians, and of his own Jewish and Gentile public. It is intended as a contribution to the fuller treatment which this greatly talented if highly irascible character, and his troubled transit from the gutter to the world of the English aristocracy, so richly deserve. * This paper is expanded from a general survey of Jews at the opera in London, presented to the Society on 23 March 2006. 1 Mollie Sands, 'John Braham, Singer', Trans JHSE XX (1963); Revd F. A. Cohen, 'Anglo Jewish Song Writers', Trans JHSE II (1895); Alfred Rubens, 'Portrait of Anglo-Jewry 1656-1836', Trans JHSE XIX (i960), and 'Jews and the English Stage 1667-1850', Trans JHSE XXIV (1974); and Kaiman A. Burnim, 'The Jewish Presence in the London Theatre 1600-1800', Trans JHSE XXXIII (1995). 2 J. M. Levien^o/w Braham as a Singer (London 1944); slightly revised inj. M. Levien, Six Sovereigns of Song (London 1948). 3 George Biddlecombe, 'Braham, John (i777?-i856)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford 2004) &lt;http://;, accessed 29 Nov 2006. 4 Ronald Crichton, 'Braham, John', L. Macy (ed.) Grove Music Online, &lt;http://www.grovemusic. com&gt;, accessed 29 November 2006. 37</page><page sequence="2">David Conway Braham's origins and early career Primary sources for the life of Braham are few. The earliest published account of his life for which there is evidence of authenticity is the article about him in Sainsbury's Dictionary of 1827.5 Many of the entries for this volume were commissioned directly or indirectly from its subjects, and manuscripts for numbers of the entries, together with their covering letters, are preserved in the Euing collection at Glasgow University Library. While the manuscript of the entry for Braham is missing from this collection, the covering letter of a Mr Parry, who compiled it, to Sainsbury of November 26 1823 has been preserved: 'Mr. Parry's compliments to Mr. Sainsbury and sends a biographical [sic] of Mr. Braham who has seen it and approves of it.'6 This must upgrade any assessment of the veracity of the Braham entry, at least from 'rather dubious' to 'slightly dubious'. It does not, for example, mention his notorious association with Nancy Storace (of which more below), and is marked by some unconvincing obsequiousness as to the charm of Braham's famously fiery character. Apart from this there is extensive correspondence, largely relating to Braham's acrimonious break-up with Storace, in the archives of the Sir John Soane Museum in London; the architect Soane was a friend and confi? dant of Braham, and acted for him as a go-between at this critical phase of his life. Lastly there are assorted documents, mainly relating to Braham's last years, in the papers of the Strachie family in the Somerset Records Office. Secondary source material however abounds, especially after around 1815, in the extensive press coverage of Braham's exceptionally long career and in the memoirs and correspondence of musicians and musical devotees of his time. Braham's precise origins are uncertain. The Sainsbury article confirms only that he sang as a child in the choir of the Great Synagogue, London, where his talents were spotted by the hazan, Myer Lyon, who also sang under the name 'Michaele Leoni' at Covent Garden.7 It does not, however, mention Braham's parents. Levien claims to have seen a document in the Strachie family papers in which Braham states he is of Sephardic origin, born with the name Mendes, and also a letter in which Braham claims a 5 'John Braham' in A Dictionary of Musicians from the Earliest Ages to the Present Times (London: Sainsbury &amp; Co., 1827). 6 Euing Collection, R.D. 84/29. 7 For Leoni's colourful career see 'Leoni, Michael' in The Biographical Dictionary of Actors Actresses, Musicians, Dancers, Managers and Other Stage Personnel in London 1660-1800 (16 vols, Carbondale and Edmondsville, 1973-93). 38</page><page sequence="3">John Braham - from meshorrer to tenor relationship with the opera manager Benjamin Lumley, olim Levy.8 However a review of these papers, currently in the Somerset Records Office, by the present writer, did not locate either of these. A conflation of favoured present accounts is that Braham was born between 1774 and 1777, possibly a son of John Abrahams, who was possibly an operative at the Drury Lane theatre who died in 1779 (and had possibly once served himself as a meshorrer),9 and his wife, who may have been Esther, who may have been Lyon's sister. Certainly there is a persistent legend that Lyon was Braham's uncle. The Biographical Dictionary of Actors, Actresses, Musicians, Dancers, Managers and Other Stage Personnel in London 1660-1800 (BDA) goes further than other authorities and places John confidently as one of ten siblings, the children of Esther Abrahams, the others of whom also under? took musical livelihoods, albeit less illustrious. They are Harriett (?.1760?1821), Charles, Eliza (d. after 1827), Flora, Jane, Theodosia (^.1761-1849), David (1773-1837), William, and a 'Miss G. Abrams'. All these except David and 'Miss G.' are known from programme references as singers, dancers or (in the case of William) an instrumentalist. All used the name Abrams (except for David Bramah). The evidence for the mass consanguinity of these putative siblings is however entirely conjectural. 'Abrahams' and its various cognates were extremely common as surnames in the Jewish community.10 We know from Bramah's deposition to the Royal Society of Musicians that his mother's married name was Abrahams and that she lived in Wellclose Square, round the corner to the Great Synagogue.11 Of the Abramses, we know that the wages of Harriet were occasionally collected by a John Abrahams. Apart from this there are no circumstances, except contemporaneity, collocation 8 Levien, Six Sovereigns (see n. 2) 8. 9 Shai Burstyn, 'Jewish Singing and Boxing in Georgian England', YuvalVH. (Jerusalem 2002) 429, citing Israel Adler, Hebrew Notated Manuscript Sources up to circa 1840 (Munich 1989) 2:784. This would identify John Abraham as 'Abraham Singer of Prosnitz', following Abraham Idelsohn, Jewish Music - Its Historical Development (New York 1992) 226. Idelsohn however gives no source or basis for such identification, and I have been unable to trace any. The assumption that 'Abraham Singer' was the father of John Braham is also made by Cecil Roth in The Great Synagogue (London 1950) 87. 10 The 1841 census for Middlesex (the earliest available) gives 65 people with the surname Abrams, 19 with Abram, 380 with Abraham, 319 with Abrahams and 66 with Braham (Census details on &lt;;, consulted 19 September 2006). 11 Archives of the Royal Society of Musicians, file 'David Bramah', application of 1798. The statements in BDA (see n. 7), under 'Abrahams, John', that Bramah's mother was 'Esther Lyon, sister of Myer Lyon [Michael Leoni]', and that she was John Abrahams's wife, are with? out any apparent documentary foundation. However, Lyon was living at 1 Wellclose Square in 1787; see BDA under 'Braham, John', 292. 39</page><page sequence="4">David Conway and a similarity of surnames, which definitively link the families of Harriett Abrams, David Bramah and John Braham. There is, however, a strong contra-indication, suggesting that John Braham was not connected with any of the others: there is no single example of his appearing with any of them in a concert, as might have been expected at that time. During the 1780s and 1790s Braham, Bramah and the Abramses were all active in the London musical scene. Braham and the Abramses were popular and had their followings. Bramah made a living playing in London orchestras, and, falling ill, eventually died in extreme poverty. Yet while, for example, Braham appeared with Lyon/Leoni on at least two occasions (in 1787 and 1788),12 and while the Abramses frequently supported each other in concerts, there is no recorded instance of an Abrams/Braham or Abrams/Leoni appearance - or of any of them appear? ing with Bramah. Three concerts given by Joseph Haydn in London featur? ing Harriett Abrams indeed featured Braham's later inamorata Nancy Storace, but this was in the period before John and Nancy had met.13 Moreover there is no mention of any connection between Braham and the Abramses in any contemporary journalism, in Braham's known correspon? dence or the memoirs of those, such as Mount Edgcumbe or the musician Parke,14 who knew all the parties involved. Nor, despite Braham's relative prosperity at the period, does his supposed brother David seem to have considered asking him for help with a job or finance. There is a tiny point of contact between Bramah and Braham: both were subscribers to the Memoirs of the Jewish singer and comedian James De Castro when they were published in 1824.15 But this is as likely to be explained by their independent professional connections with De Castro as by any brotherly act. If, however, they were both the children of Esther Abrahams, I tentatively offer another candidate for their father, whom I believe has not so far been advanced, namely Lyon's bass at the synagogue, named Abram. All we know of this character is the note by the lawyer John Baker, who writes in his diary for March 19th 1773: 'To Synagogue or Shiloh in Duke's Place; heard Leoni, most excellent treble, one Abram, fine bass, who, they say, is an old clothesman, and the priest or reader, one Pollock, I think a tenor - it lasted an hour.'16 But it is safer simply to assume that Braham sprang from parents presently unidentified, one of 12 BDA (see n. 7) 'Braham, John', 292. 13 H. C. Robbins-Landon, Haydn: Chronicle and Works (5 vols, London 1976-80) 3:36-7, 43-4, 304 14 W. T. Parke, Musical Memoirs (2 vols, London 1830). 15 R. Humphreys (ed.) The Memoirs ofj. Decastro, Comedian (London 1824) x. 16 Phillip C. Yorke (ed.) The diaries of John Baker (London 1931) 255. 'Pollock' is Isaac Polack, who was the principal hazan of the synagogue until 1802. 40</page><page sequence="5">John Braham - from meshorrer to tenor whom had a family connection to Lyon, and that he had no other known relatives. Braham may indeed, as legend maintains, have sold pencils in the street as an orphaned child, a common activity for Jewish urchins of the time, pencil manufacture being a largely Jewish trade. But there can be no doubt that his apprenticeship as meshorrer to Lyon was the springboard to his theatrical career. His first stage appearance was in fact at Lyon/Leoni's Covent Garden 1787 benefit, when he sang Thomas Arne's The soldier tird of wars alarms. He next appeared in June at the Royalty Theatre (a Jewish favourite, located close to the Great Synagogue), where he again appeared with 'Leoni'. After 1788, however, we do not hear of a public performance until Braham appeared at Bath under the aegis of the tenor Rauzzini in 1794.17 This empty period will have coincided with the departure of Lyon from the Great Synagogue and also with Braham's voice breaking. It therefore suggests a birthdate of around 1774 or 1775, rather than the 1777 date given by nearly all modern sources.18 During this period Picciotto writes of him being supported by the Goldsmid and Polack families, but it is not clear whether the Polack family referred to by Picciotto was associated with that of the hazan Isaac Polack.19 The Goldsmids were influential financiers who maintained their friendship with Braham and also used him for their soirees as Franks had used Leoni - their estate at Roehampton was not far from Isleworth. Their neighbour and occasional guest there was Horatio Nelson, whose heroic fate was later to prompt Braham's greatest song-writing success, 'The Death of Nelson'.20 Levien recalls his grandfather telling him of sitting on Nelson's knee at the Goldsmids during a Braham recital,21 and during 1795 Braham gave singing lessons to Lady Nelson.22 According to the account in Sainsbury, 'under the protection [of the Goldsmids] he became a teacher of the piano-forte. His greatest assiduity, however, was employed in recovering the powers of his voice.'23 17 Nor do we find any evidence of his ever returning to the synagogue, and thus Werner's claim that 'he was the first great chazan to move back and forth between the synagogue and the theatre' (Eric Werner, A Voice Still Heard: The Sacred Songs of the Ashkenazic Jews [Pennsylvania 1976] 321) must be refuted in favour of Leoni. 18 See Sands (see n. 1) 204 and also the evidence of Braham's epitaph, discussed below. 19 James Picciotto, Sketches of Anglo-Jewish History (London 1875) 232.The Ephraim Polack named by Picciotto is described as 'father of Maria Polack an authoress, and grandfather of Elizabeth Polack, also a writer' (see note 61 below). 20 It first appeared in the opera The Americans (Lyceum Theatre, 1811). Lady Hamilton, who was in a private box for the performance, was reported to have been so overcome that she suffered a fit of hysterics and had to leave the theatre. 21 Levien, Six Sovereigns (see n. 2) 6. 22 ODNB(seen.3)'Braham,John'. 23 Sainsbury (see n. 5), 'Braham, John'. 4i</page><page sequence="6">David Conway From 1794 to 1796 Braham worked with Venanzio Rauzzini (1746 1810). Although Grove and others record him as a student of Rauzzini, a letter of Braham, written in 1821 in exasperation at his troublesome son Spencer abandoning his own apprenticeship as an architect, indicates that he was, rather, in musical service: 'When I served my apprenticeship in Bath to Rauzzini my eyes my ears and every faculty were devoted to Music - I neither sought nor was invited to Parties and as for "social engagements" it would have been ridiculous in an apprentice to make use of such an expres? sion.'24 It is very likely that the Goldsmids paid for Braham to be articled to Rauzzini.25 In such circumstances Braham can hardly have remained a yehudi kasher, and however religiously observant he might have been in the past, his accommodation to wider English society had clearly begun. Not that he was, by any means, the only Jew, or even the first Jewish musician, in Bath. Its popularity as a resort began at the start of the eigh? teenth century following visits by Queen Anne in 1702 and 1703, at which time its population was not much above 2000.26 The baths, under the control of a Company, became fashionable, and 'Beau' Nash, Master of Ceremonies for the Company from 1708, quickly assumed the position of 'King of Bath', whose word was law, setting the genteel tone which contin? ued long after his death in 1761. Already in 1715 the town had 8000 visitors during its season (October to June). By 1800 the permanent population of Bath, supported by its tourist trade, made it, with 33,000 residents, the ninth largest city in England. Wealthy Jews did not hesitate to participate in the social whirl: in 1761 Dr Ralph Sch?mberg wrote from Bath to a Jewish friend that there were 'a good many b'naiyisraelhere'.27 This participation was facilitated by Nash's principles: 'One of [Nash's] most considerable achievements was the break? down of class barriers, especially between the aristocracy and the emerging middle classes [...] [T]he ability to pay for one's pleasure was the only measure of acceptability Nash allowed.'28 From about 1750, after the enlargement of the Pump Room, private concerts organized by the Company became a leading feature of the 24 Archives of the Sir John Soane Museum, London, Private Correspondence, 1B14, letter no. 92, copy letter from Braham at Chester to unknown correspondent. Spencer was the child of Braham and Storace. 25 See Sands (see n. 1) 206. 26 I have derived much background information on Bath from Kenneth Edward James, Concert Life in Eighteenth-Century Bath (PhD Thesis, London University, 1987). Specific references are noted. 27 Todd M. Endelman, The Jews of Georgian England iy14-1830: Tradition and Change in a Liberal Society (Philadelphia 1979) 125. Sch?mberg, who was married to a Christian, was Garrick's physician. 28 James (see n. 26) 31. 42</page><page sequence="7">John Braham - from meshorrer to tenor entertainments and an important part of the life of the resort, with stan? dards that could be described as 'without competition in the Kingdom'29 attracting many leading musicians. In 1766 William Herschel (born Friedrich Wilhelm, 1738-1822, son of Isaac Herschel [1707-67] and his Christian wife), who had like his father begun his musical career in the Hanover Military Band and had already developed a reputation in England as violinist, composer and organist, made his first appearance at Bath. In the following years he and his siblings - notably the singer Caroline (1750-1848) - played a major role in the town's concert life.30 In 1776 William became the director of the Bath orchestra, giving up the music profession only in 1782 when he was appointed Astronomer Royal.31 Rauzzini, who had begun his career as a male soprano and was an amazingly proficient composer as well as a highly regarded teacher, dominated Bath's musical life after the departure of Herschel. Braham certainly benefited from Rauzzini's promotion of his talents. After his first performance at Bath in 1794, the Bath Chronicle eulogized him, inevitably, as 'a sweet singer of Israel' and explained that he 'derived [...] from the synagogue, though by the simple expedient of dropping the A at the beginning of his name, he got rid of the patriarchal appellation and Christianized himself.32 It is interesting that this positive review at the beginning of his career highlights Braham's Jewishness. This, together with the 'inside informa? tion' which had clearly been provided to the newspaper, suggests that (in England anyway) his origins were regarded as an interesting selling point rather than as a bar to his career. At this time, despite the implications of the article, Braham had in fact made no moves to conversion, although he may well have attended church as social custom of the time required. A need may therefore have been felt to temper Braham's intriguing exoticness with some social conventionality to put his audiences at ease. By contrast it 29 Bath Chronicle 15 December 1796, cited in James (see n. 26) 18. 30 Other musical Herschels active at Bath included Dietrich and Alexander. The eldest brother, Jacob (1734-92), also visited Bath for a period, but returned to become 'Vice-Konzertmeister' in Hanover, where he died in mysterious circumstances - according to the Berlinische Musikalische Zeitung of 1793, ''im Felde erw?rgf ('strangled in the field of battle'). See Arndt Lattustock and Michael Hoskin , 'The Murder of Jacob Herschel', Journal for the History of Astronomy, 34/2, no. 115 (Cambridge 2003) 234. 31 Herschel's dedication to astronomy arose from his studies of the relation of harmony to mathe? matics, which led to an interest in optics. His appointment as Astronomer Royal followed his discovery of the planet Uranus, which he in fact named 'the Georgian planet' in 1781. He was knighted for his work in astronomy in 1817. As the French called the planet 'Herschel' until the name Uranus was generally adopted in the 1850s, it remained, during much of the period of this study, the only planet with a Jewish name. 32 Bath Chronicle 20 November 1794, cited in James (see n. 26) 491. James also cites a report of the Chronicle in 1796 which identifies Braham as a nephew of Leoni. 43</page><page sequence="8">David Conway seems that the Jewish origins of the Herschels were never referred to, but they perhaps were perceived primarily as Germans. Picciotto reports that 'Of Braham it was said in questionable praise that he sang like an angel but spoke like a Jew',33 so his provenance from the London East End was there? fore rather more apparent. This 1794 performance also marked Braham's first encounter with the Storace family. Stephen Storace (1762-96), the son of an Italian musician based in Dublin and Elizabeth Trusler, daughter of the proprietor of the Marylebone Gardens, was an accomplished composer. His sister Anna, known as Nancy (1765-1817), formerly also a student of Rauzzini, was a talented soprano. They had already had much experience in Italy and in Vienna, where in 1786 Nancy created the first Susanna in Mozart's Figaro, both having been been friends of the composer. In Vienna Nancy had contracted an unfortunate marriage with the psychopathic English composer John Abraham Fisher,34 from whom she soon separated. At Braham's debut, which was the first of the season at Bath, Nancy performed as a soloist and in a duet with him. It was the starting-point of a liaison which was to last for over twenty years. In the 1790s Stephen worked closely with John Philip Kemble, manager at Drury Lane, and also with the Italian Opera company. He invited Braham to take the lead role in his new opera Mahmoud in 1796. Although the opening was postponed due to Stephen's tragic death, Braham triumphed at the premiere, at which the other singers included Nancy and Mrs Bland. Later that year he sang lead roles, also to acclaim, at the Italian Opera, a remarkable achievement for a British singer. In 1797 he appeared as Carlos in The Duenna at Covent Garden, a role created for his mentor Leoni. The long triumphant phase of Braham's career was launched, which in its early years saw him and Nancy singing in every major continental house as well as in Britain. Audiences contained, in Paris (1797), Napoleon, in Livorno (1799), Nelson, and equivalent notables wherever else they appeared. Braham became the first English male singer to command a European reputation. In 1809 he sang in Dublin at the unheard-of fee of 2000 guineas for fifteen concerts, an indisputable sign both of his fame and popularity, and of the growth of music and entertainment as industries. However, both by his own choice and by the sentiments of his audiences in England, Braham's Jewishness remained a prominent feature of his career until his marriage in 1816. As the most famous English Jew of this period he became a significant incarnation of 'the Jew' in the British consciousness. Braham's physical appearance made it in any case difficult 33 Picciotto (see n. 19) 232. 34 Surmised (incorrectly) to be Jewish in Burnim (see n. 1) 78, 93. 44</page><page sequence="9">John Braham - from meshorrer to tenor to disguise his origins, being short, stocky, swarthy and in general the epit? ome of a caricature Jew. Yet the quality of his singing rendered his looks irrelevant to his audience, as was unpleasantly expressed by the satirist John Williams who, at the end of a long catalogue of supposed Jewish malprac? tices-e.g. [...] From depots of stray goods which the holder ne'er steals, From merchants of wine that's eternally sour; From dealers in watches that ne'er kept an hour [...] and after some lubricious references to Braham's supposed venery, concludes his passage: His voice and his judgement completely atone For that heap of repulsion he cannot disown. [...] When he breathes his divisions and liquidly soars, Frigid Science first hears, then bow low and adores!35 Braham and the Family Quarrels affair The caricature of Braham (Plate i) prompted by disturbances at perform? ances of the comic opera Family Quarrels by Thomas Dibdin clearly and unsubtly indicates the physical differences between Braham and his English rival Incledon (and their respective admirers), as well as their singing styles. These disturbances have been discussed by others,36 but Braham's role in them has not until now been properly appreciated. Thomas Dibdin (1745-1814) was a prolific writer of entertainments, whose patriotic and sentimental song Tom Bowling is still occasionally exhumed. In his songs 'he told of some cockney debacle, made fun of coun? try yokels, Italian opera singers, French fops, Negroes, Jews and Welshmen',37 and his comic operas, like most of that time, carried through similar themes. Family Quarrels was premiered at Co vent Garden in December 1802 with a cast which included Braham as the young lover Charles Supplejack and Storace as a village-girl, Susan. The music was by the hack-composer and serial plagiarist William Reeve. As usual for such entertainments, however, the performers would often add their own music 35 John Williams, The Pin Basket to the Children ofThespis (London 1797) 99. 36 E.g. Rubens (see n. 1), Endelman (see n. 27) and Valerie E. Chancellor, 'Anti-Racialism or Censorship? The 1802 Jewish Riots at Co vent Garden Opera', Opera Quarterly 18/1 (Oxford 2002). 37 'Didbin, Charles', GMO (see n. 4) accessed 29 November 2006. 45</page><page sequence="10">David Conway Plate i Incledon and Braham in Family Quarrels: Print by Rowlandson, 1802. (Courtesy the Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary.) (especially if they were as popular as Braham). The comedian John Fawcett played the peddler Proteus, who disguises himself at one point as 'Aaron the Jew'. Fawcett's song in this role, / Courted Miss Levi, became the source of a minor furore. It recounts Aaron's problems in courting Miss Levi, Miss Rachel and Miss Moses, who were not, as Endelman tendentiously writes, 'three Jewish whores',38 but certainly materialist and no shrinking violets. Miss Moses is rejected by Aaron because she takes boxing lessons from her brother, and T shoudn't like a Vife to knock me down'. This is all, if anything, rather mild for its time - indeed it is a quite amusing comment on the contemporary prowess of Jewish boxers such as Mendoza - but it provoked cat-calls and demonstrations from Jews in the audience, which subsided after the fourth performance.39 Dibdin recalls the incident in his memoirs, in a chapter headed by the mock-biblical incipit 'And the twelve tribes waxed wroth'.40 38 Endelman (see n. 27) 217. 39 Dibdin's account makes it clear that Endelman and Chancellor are incorrect in saying that the song was withdrawn from subsequent performances. Indeed, an illustrated songsheet of the piece, '[as] sung by Mr. Fawcett', was on sale in 1806 (see Plate 3). 40 Thomas Dibdin, The Reminiscences of Thomas Dibdin (London 1827) 336. 46</page><page sequence="11">John Braham - from meshorrer to tenor Mr. Fawcett suggested [...] that I should write him a song, something in the style of my father's excellent comic ballad, called 'The Ladies'; and moreover that my ladies [...] should all be beauties of the Jewish persuasion.[...] Heaven knows that I, who had written 'the Jew and the Doctor' and Ephraim in the 'School for Prejudice' with no trifling applause from the critics of Whitechapel, Duke's-place, and Russel-court, never entertained [...] 'the minutest atom of an idea' that the harmless joke, as harmlessly suggested, could be taken as the most distant intention of giving offence.41 Dibdin asks rhetorically what would happen if attorneys, doctors and so on, regularly lampooned in such entertainments, took similar offence? However, a 'lady of the Hebrew race from Rochester' informed him that 'a general feeling prevailed all over the eastern districts' that the song was specifically written to insult Jewish women, and even after being shown the words and agreeing that there was nothing offensive in them, left Dibdin 'convinced that nothing but omitting the song would ensure the opera from certain perdition'. At which one actor astutely remarked 'If there really be a conspiracy against the opera, that conspiracy will be the making of it'. Dibdin quickly realized the commercial possibilities of sensation. He was very familiar with the London Jewish community, as the above quotations illustrate, and indeed in 1797 had sold the lease of his theatre, the 'Sans Souci' in Denmark Court, the Strand, to the Westminster congregation to become the first permanent home of the Western Synagogue.42 Early on the first night of Family Quarrels, he tells us, 'a skirmishing corps of hostile sharp-shooters in the gallery began to cry 'It von't do! It von't do, I tell you!' [...] The entry of Fawcett in his 'Jewish gaberdine' provided the moment for commencing an uproar[...]'. Newspaper reports included in Dibdin's account, however, tell a slightly different story from his dramatic version. Some papers waxed indignant about the Jewish behaviour: 'What prescriptive right [have] these men [...] to except to the universally-admit? ted license of the stage to place in a humorous, or even ludicrous, point of view the peculiarities local and characteristic, which discover themselves in the common intercourse of men and manners?'43 But The Times reports that at the second performance Fawcett's song was well received and encored. The Morning Chronicle interestingly noted that 'Jews in the boxes behaved in an exemplary manner', but 'some children of the circumcision in the galleries [...] raised a clamour so loud and dread that it was impossible from that moment to the end of the act to hear a single 41 Ibid. 339. Other quotations relating to this incident are to be found on pp. 340-7. 42 Arthur Barnett, The Western Synagogue Through Two Centuries (ij6i-ig6i) (London 1961) 40. 43 Monthly Mirror, quoted in Endelman (see n. 27) 217. 47</page><page sequence="12">David Conway sentence of dialogue'.44 Dibdin, however, had no cause to complain: he reports that Family Quarrels brought in about ?630, a very satisfactory return. What exactly was this fuss about? Endelman, who believes this to have been a specifically anti-Jewish event, clearly overstated his case.45 In his footsteps, Valerie Chancellor has mooted an even more exaggerated, yet utterly unsubstantiated, case of conspiracy, to the effect that Dibdin inserted the song 'to please the government' which 'looked for an opportu? nity to arouse popular feelings against minorities [....] to deflect attention away from the hardship, high taxation and repression [...] in Britain during the French revolutionary wars'. Other statements, completely unsourced or unverified by Chancellor, include: 'By the end of the eighteenth century there was suspicion of the Jewish community [...] The contentious opera Family Quarrels may be examined against this background of racial tension'; or that 'Braham's rejection of match-making efforts by the Jewish commu? nity [in the light of] his liaison with Nancy Storace' are supposed to have incensed the audience.46 These fantasies were perhaps necessary to justify Chancellor's somewhat sensational title: Anti-Racialism or Censorship? The 1802 Jewish Riots at Covent Garden Opera. In fact the source the audience's ire was almost certainly not the words of / courted Miss Levi, but its music, mentioned by neither Endelman nor Chancellor. The extract printed (Plate 2) is from the closing verse of the song. In each of the three verses the 6/8 jig-like tune of the melody breaks off for a section marked 'ad lib' in 2/2 time, in which the singer delivers the verse's punch-line (literally so in the present case). But the notes for this section exactly represent the rhythms and cadence commonly used in the synagogue prayer, the kaddish. (Compare the motif listed as 38 by Idelsohn in his analysis of Ashkenazic tunes for the kaddish).47 Specifically, the sequence of notes at the end of the 'ad lib' section, to the words 'knock me down', reproduces exactly the sequence in the kaddish, still to be heard in some synagogues today, that prefaces a cadential 'Amen'. This musical parody was very likely inserted by Braham himself, who would have known how best to catch the synagogue idiom and who certainly cannot be accused of anti-Jewish sentiments. It perhaps suggests why the Jews in the gallery, who were perhaps more regular attenders at synagogue than the gentrified Jews in the boxes, were the more incensed. It will be remarked that the Rowlandson cartoon has no references to the disturbances attached to Dibdin's opera, but is simply a satire on two public 44 Quoted in Chancellor (see n. 36) 23. 45 His account is accepted as face value in Burstyn (see n. 9) 434. 46 Chancellor (see n. 36) 20-2. 47 See Idelsohn (see n. 9) 151-2,161-2. 48</page><page sequence="13">John Braham - from meshorrer to tenor Plate 2 'I courted Miss Levy' - words by Dibdin, music by Reeve (and Braham?). Final section. From the vocal score to Family Quarrels. (By permission of the British Library. Shelfmark H.1993 qq.H.) favourites, using the title of the opera to encapsulate the rivalry of Braham and Incledon, which was in fact of a thoroughly genial variety and conducted off-stage as well as on. In 1813, at the annual fund raising dinner of the Jewish charity Meshivat Nefesh, Braham was the star turn. In 1814 Incledon was invited and 'declared that he would always attend the anniver? sary of this institution and requested that a ticket might be sent him (with? out fail) annually'. In 1815 Braham was back, paid for his ticket, performed and paid a subscription of five guineas.48 But there was no personal animos? ity in this. Fourteen years later the diarist Henry Crabb Robinson met by chance with Incledon's son, also a singer, who told him he 'has accepted a 48 Cecil Roth (ed.) Essays in Jewish History by Luden Wolf "(London 1934) 192. 49</page><page sequence="14">David Conway Plate 3 'The Jew Beauties' - print published in 1806 (artist unknown) four years after the 'riots'. While Aaron and Miss Moses both have 'Jewish' characteristics, they are dressed smartly, even genteelly. On the wall behind them is a portrait of the 'Game Chicken', the English boxing champion Henry Pearce. (Courtesy Leeds University Library, Roth Collection.)49 very advantageous offer from Drury Lane, and will come on stage under the protection of Braham, who will abandon to him his younger characters'.50 Perhaps the most interesting perspective of the Family Quarrels affair is that it reveals how Jews had become part of everyday theatrical life in London, and not only in the theatres of the East End. Dibdin took his Jewish audience into account in his commercial strategies since Jews were regulars in both the gallery and the boxes, and the newspapers clearly saw this as a 49 See Eva Frojmovi? and Frank Felsenstein, Hebraica andjudaica from the Cecil Roth Collection (Leeds 1997) 84-5. 50 Thomas Sadler (ed.) Diaries, Reminiscences and Correspondence ofHenry Cr abb Robinson (3 vols, London 1869) 2:418 (12 May 1829). 50</page><page sequence="15">John Braham - from meshorrer to tenor commonplace of London life. Moreover, Londoners were clearly familiar enough with the Jewish community to recognize the Jewish lilt in the music to / courted Miss Levy - or the joke would have been totally lost on them. Rather than exemplifying any vicious strife against Jews, therefore, the Family Quarrels incident indicates a quite advanced level of social accommo? dation between Jew and Gentile, certainly in advance of other countries of the time. It may also be noted that this snatch of song, despite its tawdry lyrics, is undoubtedly the very first presentation of genuine Jewish syna? gogue music in Britain in the context of Gentile stage entertainment. Lamb on Braham Braham's popularity is reflected in frequent mentions in published and private writings of his time. Charles Lamb is effusive if patronizing about Braham in a letter of 1808: 'Do you like Braham's singing. The little Jew has bewitched me. I follow him like as the boys follow Tom the Piper. He cures me of melancholy as David cured Saul [...] O that you could go to the new opera of Kais tonight! [...] Braham's singing when it is impassion'd is finer than Mrs. Siddons or Mr. Kemble's acting &amp; when it is not impas? sion'd it [is] as good as hearing a person of fine sense talking. The brave little Jew!'51 The opera mentioned, Kais, for which Braham wrote the music jointly with the composer of Family Quarrels, William Reeve, is perhaps of interest as the earliest I can identify whose libretto was written by an English Jew, Isaac Brandon.52 In his published essays, however, Lamb, while continuing to profess admiration for Braham, lets his prejudices rip, his attitude differing little from that of Williams already referred to, accepting Braham's talents only in the context of supposed distasteful practices of his people. It is worth quoting at length from Lamb's essay Imperfect Sympathies (published in 1821). 51 Charles and Mary Lamb, The Letters of Charles and Mary Lamb (3 vols, Ithaca and London 1976-8) 2:273. To Thomas Mannin, 28 February 1808. The first night of Kais was on 11 February. John Kemble (1757-1823) and Sarah Siddons (1755-1831) were famous actors of the period. 52 Isaac Brandon, Kais: or Love in the Deserts: An Opera in Four Acts (London 1808). The story line is adapted from Isaac DTsraeli's Meinoun and Leila. Brandon's other publications include an imitation of Laurence Sterne (1797) and an ode to Edward Jenner on vaccination (1807). He is an elusive character, but clearly an example of an emerging Jewish secular intelligentsia. There seems to be no connection between his family and that of the Brandons who worked at Covent Garden Theatre, and who seem to have been Gentile despite the asseverations of Burnim (see n. 1). 5i</page><page sequence="16">David Conway A Hebrew is nowhere congenial to me. He is least distasteful on 'Change ? for the mercantile spirit levels all distinctions, as all are beauties in the dark. I boldly confess that I do not relish the approximation of Jew and Christian, which has become so fashionable. The reciprocal endearments have, to me, something hypocritical and unnatural in them. I do not like to see the Church and Synagogue kissing and congeeing in awkward postures of an affected civility. If they are converted, why do they not come over to us altogether? Why keep up a form of separation, when the life of it is fled? If they can sit with us at table, why do they keck at our cookery? I do not understand these half convertites. Jews christianizing - Christians judaizing - puzzle me. I like fish or flesh. A moderate Jew is a more confounding piece of anomaly than a wet Quaker. The spirit of the synagogue is essentially separative. B-[raham] would have been more in keeping if he had abided by the faith of his forefa? thers. There is a fine scorn in his face, which nature meant to be of - Christians. The Hebrew spirit is strong in him, in spite of his proselytism. He cannot conquer the Shibboleth. How it breaks out, when he sings, 'The Children of Israel passed through the Red Sea!' The auditors, for the moment, are as Egyptians to him, and he rides over our necks in triumph. There is no mistaking him. - B- has a strong expression of sense in his coun? tenance, and it is confirmed by his singing. The foundation of his vocal excel? lence is use. He sings with understanding, as Kemble delivered dialogue. He would sing the Commandments, and give an appropriate character to each prohibition. His nation, in general, have not ever-sensible countenances. How should they ? - but you seldom see a silly expression among them. Gain, and the pursuit of gain, sharpen a man's visage. I never heard of an idiot being born among them. - Some admire the Jewish female-physiognomy. I admire it - but with trembling. Jael had those full dark inscrutable eyes.53 The entire essay - which also includes similar blows at 'Scotchmen', Blacks and Quakers - is a brilliant provocation, exposing private opinion vis-?-vis polite opinion. 'For myself [...] I confess that I do feel the differences of mankind, national or individual, to an unhealthy excess' writes Lamb, and he clearly insinuates that he knows the reader is likely to experience similar prejudices, giving himself the sophistic let-out 'I would be understood as confining myself to the subject of imperfect sympathies. To nations or classes of men there can be no direct antipathy.''54 Lamb is specific about the unease that the equivocal status of Jews in England creates in himself, and deliberately uses the disquieting example of the Jew most famous to - and most admired by - the public (including 53 Charles Lamb, Essays of Elia, edited by Philip Lopate (Iowa 2003) 140-1. Jael murdered Sisera, the enemy of Israel, after feigning to offer him refuge: book of Judges 4. 54 Ibid. 133-4. 52</page><page sequence="17">John Braham - from meshorrer to tenor himself), at a moment of'triumph', even evoking a spasm of masochism as Braham 'rides over our necks', while introducing in the same paragraph the traditional anti-Jewish issues of accent, hypocrisy and commerce. The duality of fear and fascination (with sexual undertones) runs through this passage to its finish. Fortunately, perhaps, the present study abjures amateur psychoanalysis. In 1816 Lamb attacked Braham rather more personally and at some length, in the essay 'The Religion of Actors', not subsequently collected into the Elia series. A celebrated performer has seen fit to oblige the world with a confession of his faith; or, Br-'s RELIGIO DRAMATIC! This gentleman, in his laudable attempt to shift from his person the obloquy of Judaism, with the forwardness of a new convert, in trying to prove too much, has, in the opinion of many, proved too little. A simple declaration of his Christianity was sufficient; but, strange to say, his apology has not a word about it. [....] We can do no less than congratulate the general state of Christendom upon the accession of so extraordinary a convert. Who was the happy instrument of the conversion, we are yet to learn; it comes nearest to the attempt of the late pious Dr. Watts to christianize the Psalms of the Old Testament. Something of the old Hebrew raciness is lost in the transformation; but much of its asperity is soft? ened and pared down in his adaptation [.. .].55 It is not certain to what statement by Braham Lamb refers in this passage; no document or publication has been identified in which Braham writes of his religion. It is possible that it refers to his letter to the New Times of February 1816 in which he writes (rather equivocally) that he had 'long been a member of the Protestant Church'.56 However the passage is undoubtedly associated with Braham's marriage to (the Gentile) Miss Bolton of Manchester in 1816, following a traumatic period for Braham in which his personal affairs were often before the public. Having fallen out with Nancy Storace, he had travelled to France in 1815 with a Mrs Wright whose husband sued him for criminal conversation and was eventually awarded ?1000. While this scandalous suit was pending, Braham had the unusual experience of being hissed during a performance of Handel's Israel in Egypt (the very piece cited by Lamb in his 1821 essay), on which he is said to have stepped forward and addressed the audience: 'I am now before you in a public character. If, in that situation, I have given you offence, you have an undoubted right to call for an apology or defence; but if I have erred as a private individual, the nature of that error cannot with discretion come 55 E. V. Lucas (ed.) The Works of Charles and Mary Lamb (3 vols, London 1903) 2:389. 56 Cited in Sands (see n. 1)210. The date given there is '1826', but from the context it seems clear this is a misprint for 1816. 53</page><page sequence="18">David Conway under your notice. It will probably be investigated by a court, constituted to hear both the accuser and the accused, and where justice only can be done.'57 Lamb's asperity probably reflects the unpopularity experienced by Braham at the time; but Braham's direct appeal to his audience is notable. Although his Jewishness was well known to everybody, his status as a musi? cal celebrity gave him the confidence to address them as a fellow-citizen, entitled like every Briton to civil justice. He undoubtedly struck the right note in this piece of oratory, as in his singing. Again, this scene cannot be imagined in any other European country of the time. Although it is not mentioned specifically in The Religion of Actors, it is very likely that a further stimulus to Lamb's bile was Braham's participa? tion in Isaac Nathan's setting of Byron's Hebrew Melodies, also published in 1816. The significance of this publication for Braham's career is discussed below. Lamb clearly carried some baggage regarding Judaism which was not shared by (or at least not as evident in) most other writers of the time; on the three occasions he mentions Braham the latter's Jewish origin is always prominent. Lamb's friend Leigh Hunt admittedly takes the opportunity for some snide comments in his memories of Braham from the retrospect of 1850, when from [the] wonderful remains of power in his old age we may judge what he must have been in his prime. [...] He had wonderful execution as well as force, and his voice could also be very sweet, though it was too apt to betray something of the nasal tone which has been observed in Jews, and which is, perhaps [...] a habit in which they have been brought up [...] it might not be difficult to trace it to moral, and even to monied, causes; those, to wit, that induce people to retreat inwardly upon themselves; into a sense of their shrewdness and resources; and to clap their finger in self-congratulation upon the organ through which it pleases them occasionally to intimate as much to a bystander, not choosing to trust it wholly to the mouth.58 Other writers, such as Crabb Robinson or Mount Edgcumbe, mention Braham frequently without a single reference to his religion. It may be remarked how Lamb's view changes from delight and surprise at the novelty of a talented Jew in 1808, to attitudes suggesting concern, fear and resentment when that Jew proves an overwhelming success later on. This is a pattern of opinion which became not infrequently associated with Jewish musicians in Europe over the ensuing years. The praising of Braham as a musician while damning (or at least demeaning him) as a Jew by Lamb also 57 BDA (see n. 7) 'Braham, John'. 58 J. E. Morpurgo (ed.) The Autobiography of Leigh Hunt (London 1949) 125-6. 54</page><page sequence="19">John Braham - from meshorrer to tenor presages Wagner's treatment of Mendelssohn in Das Judentum in der Musik and elsewhere. Hunt's comments are almost contemporaneous with, and very similar in tone to, Wagner's squib. Braham's voice and the influence of the synagogue Lamb, in his essay Imperfect Sympathies, as in his letter of thirteen years earlier, comments on Braham's expressive powers, comparing him to Kemble speaking. This 'otherness' of Braham's voice recalls comments made about the difference of style of Braham's teacher and mentor. '[T]he truth is, that Leoni has no voice at all - his tones being neither vocal nor instrumental. They have a peculiarity of soul in them that we never heard before.'59 Sheridan, in whose Duenna Leoni made a great hit, wrote to the composer Thomas Linley the elder: T think I have heard you say you never heard Leoni [...] I should tell you that he sings nothing well, but in a plain? tive or pastoral style: and his voice is such as appears to me to be hurt by very much accompaniment'.60 This was not lack of technique: another contemporary review states In the songs his taste and execution was manifest; and when it is considered that he sings in a feigned voice [i.e. falsetto], admiration cannot be carried too high. In the pathetic he evinced a feeling superior to any performer since Tenducci [famous castrato singer, active 1753-85]. He executed the divisions [i.e. runs] with a degree of neatness and articulation, that could not fail of giving delight to a cultivated ear [...] however, the total absence of any ability as an actor rendered his recitatives tedious and insipid.61 Moreover, Sheridan continues his comments on Leoni in his letter to Linley by saying that T have observed too that he never gets so much applause as when he makes a cadence [i.e. a cadenza or virtuoso improviza tion].' These comments suggest a transfer of techniques used in the syna? gogue - hazanic intonation, improvization and falsetto - onto the stage. 59 'Critique on the Theatrical Merits of Mr. Leoni', Westminster Magazine, June 1777, quoted in T. J. Walsh, Opera in Dublin 1705-1797: The Social Scene (Dublin 1973) 231. 60 Cecil Price (ed.) The Letters of Richard Brinsley Sheridan (3 vols, Oxford 1966) 3:88-9. 61 General Evening Post, London, 17/19 October 1775, quoted in Walsh (see n.59) 232. Leoni's woodenness as an actor is explained by a magazine correspondent some fifty years later: 'Leoni could sing English but could not speak it [...] could barely pronounce [it] so as to be intelligible [...] the music of his voice made ample amends for deficiencies of articulation. Sheridan showed much ingenuity in contriving to give him much to sing and little to say', Blackwood's Magazine, July 1826, quoted in Cecil Price (ed.) The Dramatic Works of Richard Brinsley Sheridan (2 vols, Oxford 1973) 1:196. 55</page><page sequence="20">David Conway Similar comments were made of Braham: The Harmonicon writes in a laudatory review of his career in 1832: One accomplishment, in which Mr. Braham exceeds every other tenor singer of his own, or, as far as we know, any former time, is the skill with which he has assimilated his falsetto to his chest voice, so that although the difference of tone at the extremes of the passage is discernible, the exact point at which he passes from one to the other is beyond detection by the nicest ear [...] Another perfection in Mr. Braham's singing - the quality to which, perhaps, after all, he owes his so long continued popularity [...] is the unrivalled distinctness of his verbal enunciation, and the fervidness with which he throws his whole self'mto the expression of his author. [...] Every shade of passion calls forth its varied expression. That he sometimes carries this last to an extent at least bordering on excess is true, but the error is at least on the safe side.62 As with Leoni, this is suggestive of Braham's synagogue training, introduc? ing timbres and expressiveness not readily derived from the standard Italian procedures that Braham learnt from Rauzzini or abroad. Levien suggests another area of influence. Discussing the vocal attack known as coup de glotte, he quotes a definition of this phenomenon from Riemann's Musical Dictionary, a standard work of the early twentieth century: 'When a note is produced without any previous breathing [...] and with a gentle cracking noise similar to a guttural sound (such as that which precedes the letter Aleph in Hebrew)'. Levien surmises 'Braham would therefore have this attack from his choir singing in Duke's Place, as well as from the Italian tradition'.63 In 1826 a writer in the Quarterly Musical Magazine and Review, in a letter entitled 'Foreign Instruction and English Judgement' over the signature 'An Englishman', states: 'We have no English male vocalist who is entitled to the character of impassioned but Braham [...] I remember Braham before he went to Italy [i.e. before 1798]. He was bred in the Italian school, but though he sung with great feeling, he was young and exhibited more of what I would call instrumentation than mind before he went abroad.'64 Both Robinson and Mount Edgcumbe agree on the specific dramatic quality that Braham brought to his singing. Robinson writes in 1811: 'His trills, shakes and quavers are, like those of all the other great singers, tire? some to me; but his pure melody, the simple song clearly articulated, is equal to anything I ever heard. His song was acted as well as sung delight 62 The Harmonicon, 1832, part 1,3. 63 Levien, John Braham (see n. 2) 33. 64 Quarterly Musical Magazine and Review 8(1826) 411. 56</page><page sequence="21">John Braham - from meshorrer to tenor fully; I think Braham a fine actor while singing; he throws his soul into his throat, but his whole frame is animated, and his gestures and looks are equally impassioned.'65 Mount Edgcumbe, in his memoirs, discriminates Braham's styles more closely: All must acknowledge that his voice is of the finest quality [...] he has great knowledge of music and can sing extremely well. It is therefore the more to be regretted that he should ever do otherwise, that he should ever quit the normal register of his voice by raising it to an unpleasant falsetto [...], that he should depart from a good style and correct taste [...] to adopt at times the over-florid and frittered Italian manner; at others, to fall into the coarseness and vulgarity of the English. The fact is, he can be two different singers according to the audience before whom he performs, and that to gain applause he condescends to sing as ill at the playhouse as he has done well at the opera.66 All this is further evidence that Braham's singing showed similar traces of 'otherness' to that of Leoni, and that this relic of Braham's early training was among the factors enabling him to present a singing style clearly demarcated, for the cognoscenti, from both the prevalent Italian and home? grown English styles. It further indicates that in choosing his style to fit his audience, Braham was conscious of his market, more so than he was for the purity of his art. In this of course he was no different to Incledon or his many other Gentile colleagues, and Mount Edgcumbe deplores him for his betrayal of art, not for his origins. Similar arguments against other musicians of Jewish origin were later to be given specific anti-Jewish spins in continental Europe, however, and once again we may point to Wagner's treatment of Mendelssohn and Meyerbeer and their Judentum (Jewishness/commercialism). Braham as a Gentile Despite English society's sometimes ambivalent attitude towards its Jews, and despite the presence of those like Lamb whose strong criticism was based on the traditional elements of Jew-hatred, such arguments did not take root in the case of Braham, who was able to pursue a remarkably lengthy and popular career for a quarter of a century after Mount Edgcumbe's critique. But this may be partly because, following his 65 Robinson (see n. 49) 11325,30 March 1811. Robinson was attending The Siege of Belgrade at the Lyceum in the company of Charles Lamb. 66 Lord Mount-Edgcumbe, Musical Reminiscences [...] of an Old Amateur (London 1827) 97. 57</page><page sequence="22">David Conway Plate 4 John Braham, an 'English' likeness of the singer by Samuel de Wilde. Watercolour, 1819. (Copyright National Portrait Gallery, London.) marriage, Braham seems to have brought to a close his overt identification with Jewish causes and the Jewish community. We do not find appearances at Jewish charities or functions after this date, the only hints of his former Jewish associations appearing in his subscriptions to the memoirs of De Castro and to the novel Fiction without Romance, or the Locket Watch by Maria, the daughter of his sometime benefactor Ephraim Polack.67 This withdrawal also follows the publication of Isaac Nathan's settings of Byron's Hebrew Melodies, with which Braham was associated by an agree? ment planned a year before Braham's marriage. In return for a half-share of the profits, the then unknown Nathan persuaded Braham to allow his name to appear on the title page as joint composer of the music, said by Nathan to be based on airs 'all of them upward of 1000 years old, and some of them performed by the antient Hebrews before the destruction of the Temple'.68 Although Braham in fact had no hand in the work, the extent to which 67 Maria Polack, Fiction without Romance, or The Locket Watch (London 1830) 2:277. The Gentile hero of this pale anticipation of Daniel Deronda encounters a 'good' Jewish family, the Zachariahs, and experiences various Jewish ceremonies including a wedding and a suecah. Braham subscribed for two copies, Mrs Nathan Rothschild for five and members of the Goldsmid family for six. There were about 120 subscribers in all, all apparently Jewish. 68 Gentleman ys Magazine 83 (January-June 1813) 461. 58</page><page sequence="23">John Braham - from meshorrer to tenor Nathan's and Braham's compositional styles conformed to the anodyne standards of the time can be judged by the comments of the reviewer of the Gentleman s Magazine: 'Those who are acquainted (and who is not?) with Mr. Braham's compositions and performances, will readily point out his touches'.69 Despite the intention that Braham would publicize the songs, there seems to be only one occasion on which he performed any of them, and that was in June 1815, well before his marriage. At a benefit concert at Covent Garden, Braham and Miss Stephen sang 'Jephtha's Daughter' and 'The Wild Gazelle', an event reviewed, with unusual self-restraint, by Nathan himself.70 Braham's marriage, coupled with the vehement anti-Jewish reviews which Byron's poetry received,71 may have provided significant disincentives for him to continue to identify himself with the work. Although Nathan's first edition of the Melodies seems to have been prof? itable, Braham declined lending his name on the same terms to the second edition in 1824.72 Thus the year 1816 marks the turning of the tide as regards Braham's Jewish identification. Leigh Hunt, writing in 1850, gives an ironic indication of Braham's eventual Anglicization, dropping many of his Jewish mannerisms: '[Byron] would pleasantly pretend that Braham called "enthusiasm" entoozy-moozy; and in the extraordinary combination of lightness, haste, indifference and fervour with which he would pitch out that single word from his lips, accompanied with a gesture to correspond, he would really set before you the admirable singer in one of his (then) char? acteristic passages of stage dialogue. He did not live to see Braham become an exception in his dialogue as in his singing.'73 A brief summary of the rest of Braham's career is appropriate at this point. Despite the dip in public support when he broke with Storace, Braham's reputation remained strong until at least the mid-1820s, when he created in London the role of Huon in Weber's last opera, Ob er on, and sang in Mozart's Requiem at Weber's funeral service not long afterwards (June 1826). In the 1830s critics began to dispute whether his voice still served, and he began to abandon tenor roles for the baritone, as the younger 69 Gentleman 's Magazine 85 (June 1815) i, 539. 70 Monthly Theatrical Reporter, June 1815, 356.1 am indebted for this reference to Graham Pont, who also identified Nathan as the reviewer. 71 See, for example, reviews reprinted in Donald Reiman (ed.) The Romantics Reviewed (9 vols, New York 1972) 61:258,424-5. 72 Isaac Nathan, Fugitive Pieces and Memories of Lord Byron (London 1829) vi-viii. The sugges? tion by Catherine Mackerras, The Hebrew Melodist: A Life of Isaac Nathan (Sydney 1963) 20 that the first edition brought in 'over ?5000' seems optimistic, as the expense of the volume at a guinea would have argued against the expense or necessity of a large print run. Nathan's continuing financial difficulties also suggest a more modest result. 73 Hunt (see n. 58) 354. 59</page><page sequence="24">David Conway Incledon's confidence to Crabb Robinson suggests. Poor investments, including an unhappy venture into theatre-management, meant that he was forced to continue to exploit his reputation long after his voice could justify it, at times retiring to the Continent to avoid bankruptcy proceedings. In 1840 he sang in Mendelssohn's Lobgesang at Birmingham under the composer's baton, and subsequently undertook a tour of America with his son Charles Braham. He continued to be dogged by the aftermath of the Storace affair, most notably by the antipathy (fuelled by personal enemies), of his son by Storace, Spencer. Spencer ended up, having taken the surname Meadows, as a canon of Canterbury Cathedral. Braham's last public performance was given in London in March 1852 when he was probably seventy-eight years old. He died on 16 February 1856 and was buried at the 'celebrities' cemetery' at Kensal Green, where I have been unable to locate the stone (in Square So, row 2), although the inscription is preserved.74 Commencing 'Arise Unchanged, and be an Angel Still' (quotation, if it is one, untraced), it ends T Know that My Redeemer Liveth' (cf. Handel's 'Messiah'). It gives Braham's age at death as eighty-one, supporting 1774 as his birth year. Although Braham's death was noted by obituaries in many newspapers and journals, it appears to have passed unnoticed in the Jewish Chronicle, the institutional Anglo-Jewish publication of record; although seven years later that paper, perhaps anxious to claim him as a Jewish asset despite his apostasy, published an anecdote about his later years, from which it drew the otherwise unsubstan? tiated conclusion that 'Cover and cloak it how they will, John Braham died in heart a Jew'.75 Braham's legitimate offspring progress his story interestingly. Most notable was his eldest daughter Frances (1821-79) who, in a sequence of four brilliant marriages wed the eldest, but illegitimate, son of the sixth Earl Waldegrave; then his brother, the seventh Earl; the elderly, wealthy and well-connected politician George Harcourt (1785-1861); and, finally, the politically ambitious Chichester Fortescue, later Lord Carlingford.76 Restoring, with Harcourt, Horace Walpole's Strawberry Hill estate which she had inherited from the Waidegraves (thus establishing an indirect link with her father's first teacher, Leoni), she became one of the leading society and political hostesses of her era. Gladstone, Disraeli, the Prince and Princess of Wales and the Due d'Aumale, youngest son of Louis-Philippe, were all frequent guests. She was also a friend and patroness of the 74 Somerset Records Office (Taunton), Strachie Papers, box 43. 75 'The "Norwich Argus" and the Conversionists', Jewish Chronicle, 16 October 1863,6. 76 Asked once on which day of the week she had been married, she allegedly replied 'Oh, my dear, I have been married nearly every day of the week'; Osbert Wyndham Hewett, Strawberry Fair: A Biography of Frances, Countess Waldegrave 1821-1875 (London 1956) 115. 6o</page><page sequence="25">John Braham - from meshorrer to tenor nonsense-pioneer, Edward Lear.77 Her wealth enabled her to bale out her father and her various siblings on sundry occasions. Braham's sons Charles, Augustus (who married, to Frances's distress 'a little Jewess, Miss Elizabeth Marks')78 and Hamilton had lack-lustre careers as singers in their father's footsteps. But Frances's marriages were not the family's only social coup. Charles Braham's daughter Constance was married, with some help from her aunt, to Edward Strachey, later first Baron Strachie. The social transformation that had been achieved within a generation, the foundation of which was Braham's reputation and achieve? ment as a musician, scarcely needs to be dwelt upon. 77 ODNB (see n.3) 'Fortescue, Frances Elizabeth Anne Parkinson'. See also Hewett (see n.76). 78 Hewett (see n. 76) 51. 6i</page></plain_text>

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