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Portrait of Anglo-Jewry, 1656-1836

Alfred Rubens

<plain_text><page sequence="1">Portrait of Anglo-Jewry 1656-18361 By Alfred Rubens, f.s.a., f.r.hist.s. I THE ANGLO-JEWISH COMMUNITY Source Material IT is not unusual for a presidential address to be devoted to the president's pet subject and this one is no exception. Its source material is the political and social caricatures, book illustrations, portraits, topographical prints, trade cards and ephemera of a similar nature which this country has produced in such abundance and which have been my special interest for a number of years.2 The picture which emerges is one of Anglo-Jewry seen through Christian eyes with the emphasis on social conditions and with some bearing on a subject which has not hitherto been explored : the development of Jewish political thought in this country. In this connection, the political caricature, which is said to mirror public opinion, is of special value. People began to appreciate the importance of pictorial matter of this kind about a century ago. The first recorded collection, made by a non-Jew, was sold by Messrs. Sotheran in 1881 to the Hon. Harry Lawson (later 1st Viscount Burnham) who presented it to this society in memory of his grandmother, Esther Levy. It contained a number of rarities and was one of the irreplaceable losses the society suffered when the Mocatta Library was bombed. The first Jewish collector seems to have been Alfred Alvarez Newman (1851-1887), an active member of the 1887 Exhibition Committee, whose collection was acquired by Asher I. Myers (1848-1902), and now belongs to this society. Newman was followed by Israel Solomons (1860-1923), whose various collections are now at the Jewish Theological Seminary, New York and the Hebrew Union College, Cincinatti. These collections consisted mainly of engravings; for other material the chief source is the catalogue of the Anglo-Jewish Historical Exhibition, 1887, while the catalogue of the 1956 Exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum shows the losses and gains in the interim. The First Hundred Years Judging by the absence of pictorial matter on the subject, the readmission of the Jews in 1656 provoked little public interest and the only reference to it occurs in a satirical portrait of Hugh Peters. In fact, for the first century after the readmission the chief feature noticeable in prints and drawings is the gradual emergence of a Jewish type. The German prints depicting Jews as demons fortunately had a Hmited circulation and when the English engraver was called upon to produce a picture of a Jew he was 1 This composite title embraces two presidential addresses : Anglo-Jewish History in Pictures (1656-1856) and The English Radicals and the Jews (1769-1830) delivered 24 October 1956 and 13 November 1957 respectively. 2 A fuller description of the engravings referred to below will in most cases be found in the author's Anglo-Jewish Portraits (1935) and A Jewish Iconography (1954), or in the British Museum Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires. 13</page><page sequence="2">14 PORTRAIT OF ANGLO-JEWRY (1656-1836) at a complete loss. Lancelot Addison's Present State of the Jews in Barbary, first published in 1675, contains a picture of a Jew (Plate 1) which must have been borrowed from a book on Red Indians and in fairness to the author one should say that it bears no relation to the costume of the Barbary Jews as described in the text. In P. Calmet's Antiquities Sacred and Profane, published in 1727, the plate entitled 4A Jewish Physician' was copied from N. de Nicolay's Les quatre premier livres des navigations . . . orientates, published at Lyons in 1568, that is, nearly two centuries earlier and is in fact the portrait of Moses Hamon, physician to Suleiman the Magnificent. Had the engraver been better acquainted with the London community he might have used the portrait painted in 1721 by Catherine da Costa of her father, Dr. Fernando Mendes.1 One can understand the illustrator's difficulty because the few Jews who settled here after the readmission kept themselves as inconspicuous as possible and the bulk of them being Sephardim were not distinguished by any oddities of dress or appearance. John Greenhalgh when he visited their synagogue in 1662 counted about a hundred of them : 'they were all gentlemen* (merchants), he wrote, 'and most of them rich in apparel, diver with jewels glittering . . . they are all generally black so as they may be distinguished from Spaniards or native Greeks, for the Jews hair hath a deeper tincture of a more perfect raven black, they have a quick piercing eye, and look as if of strong intellectuals, several of them are comely, gallant, proper gentlemen'.2 Even the rabbis did not differ greatly in appearance from the Christian clergy. David Nieto, the most distinguished of the 18th century Hahamim, was the first to have his portrait engraved in this country. It was published in 1704 and is in the same style as the other ecclesiastical portraits in which the engraver, Robert White, specialised. Nieto wears the English clerical wig and is without a hat, his little tufted beard being less a concession to orthodoxy than the relic of an outmoded fashion. The earliest illustrations of Jewish ceremonies and customs published in this country are in Bernard Picart's Ceremonies et Coutumes Religieuses de tous les Peuples du Monde, the first English edition of which appeared between 1731 and 1737 followed by another on a more lavish scale started in 1733.3 Picart's sympathetic touch made his plates very popular and they have been frequently copied. His Jews are real people and although the setting is Amsterdam where Picart made his sketches from life, one can picture the same scenes in London. A Jewish cause celebre gave Hogarth the idea of introducing a Jew into his 'Harlot's Progress'. He is Jacob Mendes da Costa who achieved notoriety in 1733 by suing his cousin for breach of promise. The art of personal caricature?the 'caricatura' popularised by Annibale Carracci? owed perhaps not a little of its success to the existence of subjects with suitable features in its country of origin. Fully a century elapsed before it took root here and then the fashion was started by Tillemans who made a sketch of a picture dealer, 'a little ugly fellow', which he called 'Mr. Nunez the Jew. A caricatura'. In the same vein is 1 Catalogue of an Exhibition of Anglo-Jewish Art and History, 1956, No. 97. 2 Quoted from A. M. Hyamson, The Sephardim of England, 1951, 19. 8 Published in shilling numbers beginning in March 1733 by Claude Du Bosc who engraved most of the plates. It was in rivalry with the edition started in 1731 with Picart's original plates published in whole volumes by Nicholas Prevost. See R. M. Wiles, Serial Publication in England before 1750, Cambridge, 1957.</page><page sequence="3">PORTRAIT OF ANGLO-JEWRY (1656-1836) 15 the drawing at Windsor Castle by Peter Paul Lens, dated 1737, called 'Moggedorio the good clerk'1 (Plate 2). But these are not characteristically Jewish types and the designer of 'The Lottery' published in 1740, whose Jew looks like Hogarth's Jew Protector, was no more successful in producing one. The trend of this satire is supplied by the opening lines beneath the design : Here smouching Jews combine to choak us With worser schemes than Hocus Pocus. Lotteries, after 1693, were restricted to those authorised by the government and the engraving refers to the methods of disposing of the tickets. Both in England and on the Continent Jews were active in this business but they were not the principal dealers and the only Jewish dealer of note, Jacob Henriques, seems to have been quite well regarded. Like Sampson Gideon he had his headquarters at Jonathan's where he was a popular figure judging by the print of that Coffee House dedicated to him and he is referred to by Oliver Goldsmith as 'that venerable unshaken and neglected patriot, Mr. Jacob Henriques, who though of the Hebrew nation, hath exhibited a shining example of Christian fortitude and perseverance'.2 An intimate close-up of the English Sephardim is given in cThe Jerusalem Infirmary', a satire published in 1749. Showing also the influence of Hogarth, and obviously designed by a member of the congregation, it is a unique example of the engraved satire being used to air communal differences, the subject being the alleged md-administration of the Beth Holim, the hospital of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews in Leman Street, Goodmans Fields. A spurious play published at the same time helps to identify the figures and supplies scandalous details about their private fives. Only one copy of the play and four copies of the engraving are known to have survived. The Jews' Naturalisation Bill The seclusion which the English Jews enjoyed was shattered by the storm which followed the passing of the Jews' Naturalisation Bill of 1753. For the first time in English history caricature was able to play a decisive part in influencing public opinion and the tiny Jewish community found itself thrust into the limelight. A third of all the political caricatures issued during that year were devoted to the Jewish question; most of them were of the most virulent character and it was a long time before the excitement they produced died down. Joseph Salvador, the chief Jewish promoter of the Bill, writes bitterly of the attacks made on the Jews and contrasts their loyalty during the 1745 Rebellion with the treacherous behaviour of other City men with Jacobite sympathies who were now taking their revenge. Of the Jews he writes : 'They are in their manners (like Cloth ready to receive any Dye) liable to the Impressions they receive from the various nations among which they reside; thus those from Spain have the Pride, Ostentation and Jealousy peculiar to that Nation; those from Barbary the tricking and meanness of that people; those from Holland and Germany many of the vices of those 1 Catalogue 1956 Exhibition, No. 298. 2 P. Cunningham ed,, The Works of Oliver Goldsmith, 1854, III, 289.</page><page sequence="4">16 PORTRAIT OF ANGLO-JEWRY (1656-1836) natives ; and among those of this country may be found many of the English virtues and more particularly Love of Liberty and their Country.'1 There is little doubt that the increasing trend towards secession from Judaism among the Sephardim was partly due to the feeling aroused by the 1753 agitation.2 The Pedlars Most of the 1753 caricatures were aimed at Sampson Gideon who, quite incorrectly, was believed to have used his political influence in favour of the Bill. The Jews in these caricatures are usually of a nondescript character but in one instance we find a Jew represented as a bearded pedlar. It is the first sign of a new development. For some years prior to 1753 there had been a small influx of Jews from Germany and Poland. Their dress remained as it had been described more than a century previously by Leon of Modena in a book on Jewish rites and customs written for James I of England and published in Italian at Paris in 1637 : 'They do not willingly imitate any other Nation in the fashion of their Apparell unless their own make them seem very deformed. Neither may they shave their Crown, nor wear Locks of hair upon their head, nor any the like things. And in what country soever they are, they generally affect the long garment, or Gown . . . The Men also have no very good opinion of going Bareheaded, neither do they use it, one to another, as an Act of Reverence. They hold it also an unbeseeming thing for a man to make himself ready without putting on a Girdle, or something that may divide the lower part of the body from the upper.'3 The English public now awoke to the fact that these strange looking people who were beginning to roam about the countryside were Jews. The sudden emergence of a Jewish problem is illustrated by the case of Henry Simons, a Polish Jew.4 His story is extremely involved, abounding with charges and counter-charges of robbery, assault and perjury. Simons first came to England in 1746 and bought goods in London and Bristol which he took back to Poland. He returned in 1751 for the same purpose financed by Polish noblemen and travelled from Harwich to London with two other Jews, one of whom was apparently a wig maker. After lodging in Dukes Place, Simons, speaking scarcely a word of English, with 500 gold ducats in his belt, set out on foot for Bristol 'in his Polish Garb' and on his way there was robbed of every penny he possessed. His attempt to obtain justice merely resulted in his own conviction and he was exculpated only after his case had been taken up by Moses Franks and the other wardens of the Great Synagogue. Simons on one occasion travelled with a Jewish pedlar who was taking his box of goods to Colchester Fair but it is apparent from his story that the country folk had not by then become accustomed to the sight of Jewish pedlars on the road. His own appearance was considered so 1 Thilo Patriae', Considerations on the Bill to Permit Persons professing the Jewish religion to be naturalised by Parliament . . . 1753, 52-3, and Further Considerations on the Act to Permit Persons professing the Jewish Religion to be Naturalised by Parliament, 1753, 6-7. These pamphlets are attributed to Salvador on the strength of the reply by Jonas Hanway : Letters ... from J. H. .. .y, Merchant to J. S.r, Merchant in Reply to . . . Further Considerations etc., 1753. 2 See W. F. Monypenny, The Life of Benjamin Disraeli, 1910, I, 4. 3 E. Chilmead trans., The History of the Rites, Customes and Manner of Life of the Present Jews throughout the world, 1650, 13-14. 4 The Case of Henry Simons a Polish Jew Merchant, 1753.</page><page sequence="5">On U m c? O &lt;L&gt; oo O ?a o co P .2'5b 3 ?. m ? ? a S TO O ^ So &gt; O rQ a 2 a O -m ? co c3 ^ -a ? ?-( ? ? ? o &lt;u o (J ? ? CT VC &lt;N W ^ . Oil co &lt;u (D ? ? S o tt v bo a, ^ co a o .| s 8 Si5 O? coi.</page><page sequence="6">4 Chelsea figure of a Jewish pedlar ; red anchor period, 1754-8&gt; in the possession of Mr. Charles Clore. (See p. 5).</page><page sequence="7">PORTRAIT OF ANGLO-JEWRY (1656-1836) 17 unusual that 'A curious print of the person and dress of the said Henry Simons' was prefixed to The Case and Appeal of James Ashley, 1753 (Plate 3). Etched by Thomas Worlidge, it is a remarkably sympathetic portrait of Simons considering that it was published on behalf of the man who had robbed him. It is the first appearance of the Polish Jew in our picture gallery. After 1753 the Sephardi Jew disappeared from English prints and his place was taken by the unmistakeable figure of the Polish Jew in his most characteristic role, that of a pedlar. We see him in Plate 2 of Hogarth's 'Election' (1757)1 and again in a Chelsea china figure made between 1754 and 17582 (Plate 4). These are sympathetic figures treated objectively and there are many like them. But in the caricatures the Jewish pedlar was essentially a figure of fun, the humour being based on the length of his beard and his aversion to pork. Richard Newton's'Tricks upon Travellers' (1795) (Plate 6), in which we see a pedlar leaving an inn chased by a sow, is typical. His wares include spectacles which Mayhew tells us were sold exclusively by Jews. This type of humour also vented itself on the unfortunate Lord George Gordon who was always portrayed by the caricaturist after his conversion to Judaism as a bearded pedlar. Beards became the characteristic of Jews; any Christian who wore one was regarded as an eccentric and, having gone out of fashion in the middle of the 17th century, they did not return to favour for nearly two hundred years. It was not only their dress and appearance that made the Jews conspicuous : their numbers were rising rapidly through immigration. The Jewish population estimated by Jonas Hanway at 6,000 to 8,000 in 1753 had reached 30,000 by 18303 and a large number were engaged in peddling goods all over the country. They became part of the English scene and are frequently shown in pictures of the English countryside and country fairs. At a time when many villages lacked means of communication the Jewish pedlar performed a valuable function in the distribution of goods and the housewives turned out in a body when he arrived at a village.4 In country districts he travelled with a pack laden with fancy goods but in London the type most commonly seen was the dealer in old clothes and, although the earliest picture of one I have been able to trace is dated 1789, by the turn of the century the trade was exclusively Jewish.5 Sometimes he carried only a sack but the recognised feature of the dress was the pile of hats worn as headgear inherited from the English old-clothesman seen in Tempest's 17th century Cries of London and it was in this guise that the Jew was introduced in the numerous books of Street Cries, a favourite subject for children (Plate 5). Rag Fair in Royal Mint Street, where all the old clothes were finally disposed of, was one of the London sights (Plate 8). 1 Believed to refer to the Oxfordshire election of 1754 and to have been painted in that year. 2 Catalogue 1956 Exhibition, No. 429, PL 9. 3 Trans. J.H.S.E. XVII, 173. 4 W. H. Pyne, The World in Miniature. England, Scotland and Ireland, 1827, 224. 5 Levi Nathan, a remarkably literate old-clothesman, started up in London in 1759. See A Short Account of the Life and Transactions of Levi Nathan in which is included part of the Life and Behaviour of Mrs. Maria Parry . . . Printed for the author, Levi Natan. (1776). At that time the working classes could not afford new clothing and relied entirely on second-hand goods. Old-clothes shops were very numerous particularly in Monmouth Street and Middle Row, Holborn and in the City of London. By the 1830's most of them had disappeared. Place writes : 'The Jews were the only people who went about crying "old clothes" . . . They were then as now exceedingly dirty in their persons but they were then much more ragged than they are now and they then almost universally wore their beards long. (Brit. Museum Add. Ms. 27827 ff. 141-7.) c</page><page sequence="8">18 PORTRAIT OF ANGLO-JEWRY (1656-1836) The Eastern Jews, many of whom came to London during the siege of Gibraltar in 1781, also attracted notice on account of their dress. Jacob Kimhi, a Turk, whose venerable appearance caught the eye of Ozias Humphry, sold slippers outside the Royal Exchange but most of the Moroccan Jews specialised in the sale of spices and 'Turkey' or 'Russian' rhubarb, a medicinal root. A picture of one appears in Modern London (1804) (Plate 7) and they were still in evidence when Mayhew's book appeared in 1851. According to Mayhew, the sale of oranges, lemons and nuts was entirely in the hands of Jews by about 1810 and this is borne out by the prints of the period. When they were supplanted by the Irish the orange venders turned to the sale of fancy goods and concentrated on the coaching inns. The prints show that by the early 1800's many of the Jewish street traders had anglicised their appearance and in fact in some cases it would not be possible to identify them as Jews without the accompanying text. On the other hand fresh tides of immi? gration restored the numbers of Polish Jews in their characteristic dress as seen in 'The Razor Seller' (Plate 9). Besides the London streets, the coaching inns and the country villages, seaports were profitable centres for the pedlar's activities. In the print 'Paying Off' we have an illustration in typical Cruikshank style (Plate 10). Social Conditions The extreme poverty of the London working classes during the second half of the 18th century and the enormous amount of crime were paralleled by similar conditions among the Jews and Mrs. George thinks that they were not exceptionally dishonest.1 This aspect of Jewish social life is illustrated by 'Jews receiving Stolen Goods' (1777) sometimes called 'A Scene in Dukes Place', while 'A Fleet of Transports under Convoy' (1781) shows Jews among the convicts awaiting transportation. The Chelsea murders are illustrated by several engravings of Levi Weil and his associates. Many Jews lived by their wits and frequented the courts and sponging houses, ready for a consideration to stand bail for anyone. 'Jew Bail/ as it was called, is referred to in Isaac Cruikshank's 'The Last Day of Term' (1786), Rowlandson's 'Kitty Careless in Quod or Waiting for Jew Bail' (c. 1800), and his 'Lady in Limbo or Jew Bail Rejected' (1802). Their supposed erotic tendencies probably originated with Hogarth's 'Harlot's Progress' already mentioned, the plates of which were continuously re-issued during the 18th and 19th centuries. The theme is found in 'The Jew Rabbi turn'd to a Christian' (1772), a smaller version of which is called 'The Enamour'd Israelite', 'Beau Mordecai Inspir'd' (1773), 'One of the Tribe of Levi going to Brakefast with a young Christian' (1778) , 'Cries of London No. 5' (1799) 'Solomon in his Glory', 'Ladies Trading on their own Bottom' and 'Introduction or Moses with a Good Bargain' (1806). The efforts of Dr. Joshua Van Oven and others to improve the conditions of the Jewish poor resulted in the foundation of the Jews' Hospital, Mile End, an engraving of which was published by Samuel Josephson from a drawing made in 1816. This institution no doubt contributed to the enormous improvement in Jewish social conditions already noticeable early in the nineteenth century. This improvement was accompanied by a more sympathetic attitude in the press of which this extract from a popular periodical is an example : 1 M. D. George, London Life in the XVIIIth Century, 1930, 130.</page><page sequence="9">PORTRAIT OF ANGLO-JEWRY (1656-1836) 19 'The Jew is a most interesting character and notwithstanding his gloomy looks, his hollow voice and the exclusion of his race from the general citizenship of the world . . . the Jew has an honest heart and a kind heart. And mean though he may be in his appearance, uncouth in his beard and time-worn in his clothes, the Jew is honest and his word once passed is irrefragable as the Laws of the Medes and Persians . . . Then the Jew is a kind man and bountiful to all his kindred and you will often find his name down in the list of a Christian charity . . . Besides in spite of all our beadles and policemen our way-sides and lanes are infested with Christian beggars?but who ever saw a Jew begging ? . .. Go to the Jews' annual dinner and see if you find equal kindness either to one another or to strangers at any other meeting for a similar purpose. Go to the Jews' Hospital at Mile End and say that in point of regularity industry and usefulness, has it a superior among the countless institutions of the metropolis. We should love the Jew, he is worthy of being seen twice.'1 The theme that beggars are seldom found among the Jews also occurs in J. T. Smith's Vagabondiana (1817), where the following description is given of one of the plates : 'The figure in the box is that of a Jew mendicant who has unfortunately lost the use of his legs and is placed every morning in the above vehicle so that he may be drawn about in the neighbourhood of Petticoat Lane and exhibited as an object of charity. His venerable appearance renders it impossible for a Jew or a Christian to pass without giving him alms although he never begs but of his own people ; a custom highly creditable to the Jews.' The traditional attitude of the Jewish beggar towards the rich is brought out in the caricature 'A King bestowing favours on a Great Man's Friends' (1824) which shows Nathan Meyer Rothschild being waylaid by a number of Jewish beggars who complain of his meanness. Trades and Professions While most of the English Jews in the second half of the 18th century were engaged in peddling which provided the easiest means of livelihood for the immigrant, the few Trade Cards which have survived are evidence of a wide range of other occupations. The trade most frequently recorded is that of watchmaker, goldsmith and silversmith with which the traditional Jewish craft of engraving was frequently associated. E. A. Ezekiel of Exeter on his Trade Card dated 14 March 1796, calls himself engraver, optician, goldsmith and printseller. J. Abraham of Bath and Cheltenham, of whom we have a silhouette by Edouart dated 1829 (Plate 11), carried on another typically Jewish trade, that of optician, and from his Trade Card we find that he held appointments as optician and mathematical instrument maker to the Duke of Gloucester and the Duke of Wellington2 (Plate 12). One feature of the Trade Cards is the amount of royal patronage they disclose.3 1 Guide to Knowledge, 15 Sep. 1832, 104. 2 The Duke of Wellington when he was at Montpelier Spa used to call in at Abraham's shop adjoining the Pump Room to look at the barometer and discuss the weather. J. Goding, History of Cheltenham, 1863, 318. During the eighteenth century England was supreme in the manu? facture of wratches and mathematical instruments. 3 This is more strikingly shown by the register of royal warrant holders (1837-1868) at the Lord Chamberlain's office from which the following names have been extracted, the year of the appointment being given in brackets :</page><page sequence="10">20 PORTRAIT OF ANGLO-JEWRY (1656-1836) By the beginning of the 19th century there were a number of established Jewish busines