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Mrs. Brydges Willyams and Benjamin Disraeli

L. Wolf

<plain_text><page sequence="1">6. Mrs. Brydges Willyams and Benjamin Disraeli. A note in the recently published third volume of the Life of Disraeli (p. 454) credits me with the discovery that the mysterious Mrs. Sarah Brydges "Willyams nee Mendez da Costa, who left some ??40,000 to Benjamin Disraeli, was a daughter of Abraham Mendez da Costa of Bath, who died in 1782. As the identity of this lady has long puzzled Jewish genealogists and students of Disraeliana, it may be worth while to place on record the simple but indisputable evidence on which my identification rests. This is contained in the following hitherto un printed letter of Mrs. Willyams to Disraeli, written in reply to the letter from him of July 20, 1859, printed on p. 467 of the Life: Mount Beaddon, July 22, 1859. I received this morning your most kind letter, and soon after the lost arms of my family, for all of which I most gratefully thank you. It would be the greatest additional gratification to me if there could be traced through the Lions rouge my alliance to the Laras. The shield is beautifully emblazoned. It is, however, remarkable that there are no supporters to it, and that the Coronet is different from the Coronet on a seal in my possession of my grandfather, Daniel Mendez da Costa, which is undoubtedly original, and instead of a motto on the scroll of the shield, there is the name Mendez da Costa. The reference here to Daniel Mendez da Costa is conclusive. This gentleman, who was of the Jamaican branch of his family, had a con? siderable posterity, but he had only one granddaughter in the male line, named Sarah. She was the younger of the two daughters of his younger son, Abraham Mendez da Costa of Bath, and it was consequently she who became Mrs. Brydges Willyams.</page><page sequence="2">MRS. BRYDGES WILLYAMS AND BENJAMIN DISRAELI. xxi This identification is proved in another way. From a passage in a letter written by Disraeli on July 12, 1861 (Life, p. 467), it appears that Mrs. Brydges Willyams' mother's maiden name was " Legh." The following extract from the Marriage Register of St. Margaret's, West? minster, for which I am indebted to Mr. Colyer-Fergusson, shows that Abraham Mendez da Costa married a Miss Elizabeth Leigh, who was, no doubt, the same person :? No. 891. Abraham Mendez da Costa of this Parish, Bachelor, and Elizabeth Leigh of this Parish, Spinster, were married by license 29th Dec. 1775 by me J. Mor Curate I should add that the proof is clinched still further by the fact that Abraham Mendez da Costa of Bath, the father of Sarah, refers to his wife as "Elizabeth" in his will (Prob. Off. Reg. Gostling 91). This identification enables us to trace the hitherto mysterious provenance of Mrs. Brydges Willyams's wealth. It did not come from her father, who inherited only .?4000 from his father and the residue of his mother's savings, nor from her mother, who is expressly stated in the correspondence with Disraeli not to have been an heiress. The source was her uncle, Isaac Mendez da Costa, who died in 1766 before his brother Abraham's marriage. He had inherited the larger part of his father's fortune, to which he had added considerably by his successful dealings in West Indian produce. He had also married one of the richly dowered daughters of Isaac Lamego, a prosperous merchant and planter of Jamaica. Isaac Mendez da Costa had, however, no children, and he consequently left the residue of his large fortune to be invested for the benefit of his brother Abraham, "and after his death the capital to go to his children" (Prob. Off. Reg. Tyndall 349). As no trace can be found of Abraham's elder daughter Juliet, it is probable that she died in infancy, and that the whole of this capital came eventually to Sarah Brydges Willyams. It will be seen in the above letter that Mrs. Willyams believed she In presence of : Richard Riches Mary Riches da</page><page sequence="3">xxii MISCELLANIES. was connected with the Laras, whom she apparently identifies with the noble Spanish House of Lara. Disraeli had a similar belief with regard to himself, but there was very little foundation for it in either case. I have shown elsewhere (Jeiu. Ohron., October 31 and November 21, 1890, J. H. S. Trans., vol. v. pp. 208-209) that the Jewish Laras, with whom the connection really existed, were never a family of any exceptional social distinction, and that they were certainly not armigerous in the Peninsula; also that Disraeli's only connection with them was through the family of the first wife of his grandfather, from whom he was not descended. Mrs. Willyams's connection was even more remote. The only discoverable link is through a brother of her aunt's husband, David Ximenes, whose daughter Sarah Ximenes eloped with Joshua Lara, a son of Aaron Nunez Lara. Curiously enough, Joshua's brother Aaron became the first husband of old Benjamin D'Israeli's daughter Bachel, by his first wife Rebecca Mendez Furtado, and thus something of a link between Disraeli and Mrs. Brydges Willyams was established, as may be seen by the following table :? J I Abraham = Elizabeth Sarah de = Benjamin = Rebecca Abigail = David Isaac Mendez da | Leigh Syprut Costa D'Israeli Mendez Mendez Ximenes Ximenes Furtado da Costa | Sarah = Col. Brydges Isaac Rachael = Aaron Jacob = Sarah Willyams D'Israeli D'Israeli Lara Lara Ximenes ! Benjamin Disraeli (Lord Beaconsfield). It is not easy to express r'this link, or even its component parts, in genealogical terms. The precise relationship of Benjamin Disraeli to the Laras was that of a half-nephew by marriage of Aaron Lara; that of Mrs. Brydges Willyams, a maternal cousin of the paternal cousins of Rachael D'Israeli's sister-in-law, Mrs. Joshua Lara. This is perhaps not very comprehensible, and even when mastered it cannot be very satisfying. Nor is it in truth worth while. It would have distressed and astonished both Disraeli and Mrs. Brydges Willyams to know that Isaac Ximenes, the father of the adventurous Sarah, actually regarded the connection with the Laras as a mesalliance, and for that reason in? duced the Haham D'Azevedo to excommunicate Joshua Lara and all who had abetted him in the elopement. The unedifying story may be read</page><page sequence="4">COLONIAL COMMERCE. XX?i in a curious and rare pamphlet, of which I possess a copy, entitled, "A letter addressed to the Overseers of the Portugueze Jewish Synagogue in Bevis Marks, London, upon their extraordinary conduct in the dispute between Mr. Ximenes and Mr. Joshua Lara; with a full explanation of the affair." (London, 1772.) Lucien Wolf. April 1915.</page></plain_text>