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Solomon Bennett: Artist, Hebraist and Controversialist (1761-1838)

Rev. Arthur Barnett

<plain_text><page sequence="1">Solomon Bennett, 1761-1838 Artist, Hebraist and Controversialist1 By The Rev. Arthur Barnett, B.A., H.C.F. OLOMON BENNETT was a vivid and vigorous personality of \he eighteenth (and nineteenth centuries, who, in my view, has so far not received the attention *^due to him from Anglo-Jewish historians. Of the scanty notices recorded of him many are quite incorrect in their facts, most are only indirect in their interest, and nearly all are chiefly concerned with his polemics against the Chief Rabbi, Solomon Hirschell. I hope to show from my investigations that he is quite worthy of an identity of his own among the notable figures of Anglo-Jewry in a period not particularly con? spicuous for Jewish literary or cultural productivity in this country. Whether as artist, scholar or controversialist, he is sufficiently outstanding to warrant a personal and a permanent place in the Anglo-Jewish story. Until recently this colourful, caustic and sometimes choleric character has been passed over as inconsiderable; and, even where referred to, dismissed somewhat contemptuously as little more than a scribbling, communal squabbler who was inspired merely by personal grievance and whose pen flowed with venomous spite. I have come to the conclusion that this general estimate is quite inadequate and ill-balanced. As an artist, he enjoyed a high European repute; as a scholar, he was equipped with a Hebrew, rabbinic, and general culture quite rare to his environment; and as a polemicist he has, at any rate, the signal merit of having furnished us with a more faithful picture, than did any of his contemporaries, of the social and religious conditions of English Jewry of his time. I believe that the real explanation for his remaining in comparative obscurity is his scathing denunciations of the sad shortcomings of the Community. What he has to say is often extremely un? pleasant, but never far from the truth. This, in my view, is why the historians have neglected him. On consulting the Jewish Encyclopedia I find a notice on Bennett by Joseph Jacobs, of a dozen or so lines. Now Jacobs was a historian; yet he is quite hazy about the year of Bennett's birth, quite incomplete about the extent of his writings, has barely a word about his art, and is quite incorrect about both the place and date of his death. Obviously Jacobs did not think him worth-while; for he could not even have taken the trouble to discover Bennett's most valuable contribution to the Anglo-Jewish story,?"The Present Reign of the Synagogue at Duke's Place." Admittedly this is a rather rare booklet?not to be found even in the British Museum; nevertheless it is somewhat surprising that Jacobs has no mention of it in his Bibliotheca Anglo-Judaica. And Jacobs seems to have set the pattern for most of his successors in regarding Bennett as of no account. In Matthias Levy's "The Western Synagogue" (London 1897) there are a few scattered references to him and his family, who were active members of that congregation. But it was not until 1921 when Charles Duschinsky published his "Rabbinate of the Great Synagogue" that there was revealed for the first time even a hint of the value of Bennett's writings as a mirror of Anglo-Jewish life at the opening of the nineteenth century. A further account of him was included in a paper read before 1 Paper read before the Jewish Historical Society of England, 27th June, 1949. K 91</page><page sequence="2">92 SOLOMON BENNETT : ARTIST, HEBRIAST AND CONTROVERSIALIST (1761-1838) our Society in 1940 by Mr. Alfred Rubens on "Early Anglo-Jewish Artists.1 But I shall rely mainly upon Bennett's own works for my assessment of his rightful place among Anglo-Jewish literati of his time. Let me begin with an outline of his biography, gathered for the most part from contemporary records. He was born in 1761 in Polotzk, in White Russia. His Hebrew name was Yom-tob ben M. Ha-Rav Shelomoh. His father therefore must have been something of an orthodox Jewish scholar and certainly of some especial merit, to have received even the honorary title of Rabbi. The son seems to have inherited the father's Jewish learning, though he was apparently not so keen about the legacy of his orthodoxy. He claims to have been reared and educated in a milieu of rabbis and always to have held in honour all learning, both religious and secular. Nevertheless he admits that strict religious conformity was not his forte. "Love, Unity and Justice," he declares, "are the chief points of the universe. The rest, I look upon merely as ceremonial affectations, which can make no difference with mankind at large and still less to a Supreme Power." "In this principle I live, and in this principle I will continue." ("Constancy of Israel"). This liberal outlook was to bring him much trouble, as we shall later see. In talking of his native Poland, he says in 1809 "The memory of my infancy is still struck with horror at the oppressions and cruelties inflicted on the Jews in that kingdom." He personally suffered confiscation of his business, which was that of an innkeeper or a distillery. At the age of 25 (i.e. in 1786) he set out on a tour a"etudes in pursuit of literature and the arts. In 1792 he left Polotzk for good, and after visiting Riga went to Copenhagen where he stayed for three years while studying at the Danish Academy of Arts. In August 1793, there was issued to him by the Director of the Royal Academy of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture of Denmark a letter of recommendation stating that he had attended that institution for the past year and during that time he had applied himself with success not only in engraving 'pierres fines' but also in copper-plate; and that if he could find means of maintenance he would become a very skilful engraver. (Jews' College Library). In 1795 a great fire in that city impelled him to Berlin, where he continued his art studies and was awarded the patent of R.A. of the Berlin Academy for an engraving of a life-size portrait of Frederick the Great of Prussia. Some of Bennett's hostile critics have suggested that this claim to have been elected an Academician of Berlin is spurious. But in Kauffmann's "Gedenkbuch" (Breslau 1900, p. 629) there appears a statement that among three Jewish artists who were honoured "as extraordinary members of the Royal Academy of Berlin" was "the Painter, Engraver and Hebraist, Solomon Bennett." Since this paper was read before our Society I have myself seen the original certificate duly signed and sealed and dated 14th October 1797. It was presented to the Jews' College Library in 1952 by the Misses Tickell of Rye, Sussex?descendants of Bennett. Certainly he must have been regarded as an artist of outstanding merit to have received such an official recognition in Germany at a time when Jewish honours were rare indeed in that country. He also received complimentary letters from both the King and Queen (i.e. Frederick William III and Louisa Augusta) and (to use his own delicate phrase) "a decent pecuniary present." In spite of these honours he found the oppressed conditions of the Jews in Germany too abhorrent to his freedom-loving mind and after visiting Dresden, Leipzig and Hamburg he decided, in 1795, to move either to Paris or London. France being then in a convulsed state, he chose London as the goal of his wanderlust and here he arrived about the end of 1799. i Trans. Jew. Hist. Soc. Eng. Vol. XIV.</page><page sequence="3">SOLOMON BENNETT : ARTIST, HEBRAIST AND CONTROVERSIALIST (1761-1838) 93 The character of the English nation, he says, came up to his expectations; but not so "respecting my own nation." Notwithstanding the recommendations he had brought with him from his continental Jewish brethren, he has to complain of coldness and aloofness towards him. "Their doors became barred against me with answers :? c Master is not at home, Master cannot see you.'" "It is a theme in their religious senti? ments [that] if a Jew be not orthodox in the extreme they proclaim him to be an infidel. On the other hand a man may commit all [kinds of] depredations and immoralities [but] if he contributed to and attended the Synagogue, he is then, they say, *a "good Idde Kiend'." But as Bennett was not particularly orthodox he was ostracized as a heretic. "Would I have been qualified to be a good companion, to associate in their convivialities, to give an Italian, French or German song, would I possess that gallant politeness as to caress their ladies and domestics, undoubtedly I might obtain their friendship. But, alas, I was not educated to such fineries" ! English gentiles helped him, by recommendations of his art, to earn a livelihood; but his fellow-Jews, he complained, totally ignored him as an artist. The only encourage? ment he got for his literary efforts in defence of Judaism came from non-Jews. In London he found liberty and toleration everywhere except from his own people, with whom he declares it "impossible to co-operate either spiritually or materially." Of London Jewry he says that they are proud of their descent and antiquity, but they have little regard for their ancient literature, or any literature, or even for their Jewish doctrines in general; nor do they understand how to make a proper use of their liberties in England. Now this description of his reception in London I do not regard as highly coloured. There is plenty of evidence that both morally and culturally the state of the Ashkenazi Community at this time was deplorably low. Morally there must have been a definite tide of degeneration. This is borne out by the well-known sociologist, Patrick Colquhoun (writing in 1801), by contemporary records of London rabbis and Ben-Din proceedings, no less than by some synagogue Takkanoth (Rules) and Laws of Institutions. It seems to have become necessary in quite a number of instances to introduce special regulations penalizing members who openly led a dissolute life. Culturally it was not only an unproductive period, it was a contemptuous one. The standard of Jewish education was at a dismal ebb. In the middle of the eighteenth century Chief Rabbi Hart Lyon was bitterly lamenting London Jewry's utter ^difference to all learning. He could not find a solitary pupil or colleague with whom to pursue his own studies. In 1762 Lyon wrote "God Almighty, alone, knows how weary I am of my life here. I cannot bear any longer to behold all that you do in public and in your private life." Two years later, after less than seven years in London, this Chief Rabbi returned home to Germany in sorrow and disgust. Forty years later his son, Chief Rabbi Solomon Hirschell, was presiding over a London community that seems to have changed very little; certainly not for the better. What Solomon Bennett has to say concerning London Jewry is sometimes very bitter, but it could not have been very remote from the facts. Notwithstanding his cool reception, Bennett remained in London for good. Accord? ing to Joseph Jacobs he spent the latter part of his life in Bristol; but his authority for this assertion I cannot discover. (Possibly it was due to the fact that one of his works received the patronage and financial assistance of a Christian lady living in Bath).1 There is little doubt that he never left London,?except perhaps temporarily?for he was continually pubhshing his works here till within a year of his death in London in 1838. Until 1828 he continued to practise "in different branches of the art of 1 See page 98.</page><page sequence="4">94 SOLOMON BENNETT : ARTIST, HEBRAIST AND CONTROVERSIALIST (1761-1838) engraving/' but by then failing eyesight threw him out of business. He seems to have lived at various addresses in the West of London,1 at one time in Panton St., at another in Burr St., then at Orange Court (both in Leicester Square), at No. 63 Charing Cross, and finally in Villiers St., Strand. He could not have prospered at his art (probably due to his progressively failing sight) for he was always finding his financial stringency a handicap to his literary pursuits and the publication of his writings. He engraved not only pictures but also seals and is, in fact, described as a "Seal-engraver" in an entry in the Marriage Registers of the Western Synagogue of 1850. In the controversial pamphlet between Hananiah Bolaffy, (a teacher in the Sephardi Congregational School) and Rachel Fanny Antonina Lee (Baroness Despenser) Bennett appears to have engraved seals for that curious lady. I am of the opinion that the early congregational seal of the Western Syangogue was executed by him; for I find in it,?apropos of nothing at all,?an isolated letter (Beth) which I have suggested to be the initial of the signature "Bennett" (?SJia). It can be readily understood that life must have been none too easy for him; for he had to support a wife and at least seven children in London and had already left behind in Polotzk a former wife, and also children, for whose maintenance he would have been responsible. What happened to his Polish wife and family he does not tell us. His enemies accused him of desertion. But he strenuously maintains that he left Polotzk with the full consent of his family and that to obtain an exit permit this consent was a legal pre-requisite, unless bail be given to the Government by his relatives for the security of his person. There is a certain amount of mystery attached to this matter. When Bennett writes about his arrival in London he refers to himself as "a single man." Yet I find that in 1817 one of his enemies states definitely that Bennett had abandoned the wife of his youth for the past tiiirty-five years and had left her unprovided for until she died in 1815; adding that when Bennett heard the news of her death "marvellous to relate, he wept ! " The mystery deepens when one examines his Ketubah. Here I find that wherever his status, bachelor, widower, or divorcee, should be mentioned there has been an erasure on the document, which now leaves a blank space. My theory is that, although he was still a married man until 1815, his wife had forfeited her Ketubah-rights of alimony through refusal to join him in his English domicile. In any case he remarried in London on the 28th Tishri 5579-1818, in the Western Synagogue. Of this union to a London lady called "Pascha, daughter of Asher Angel" (her English name was Elizabeth), I have discovered at least seven children. One, a daughter, Eve, died as a child. Of the six sons five were well-known as short-hand writers (a somewhat new and diffcult profession in those days) and the eldest, Angelo, (obviously named after his maternal grandfather) had a reputation as a masterly exponent of the "Samuel Taylor" short-hand system. Angelo did law-reporting and was so engaged in at least one famous murder trial in 1856. This was of Palmer, the poisoner; and during the fourteen days which it lasted Matthias Levy, one of Angelo's articled pupils, transcribed his master's reports at the end of each day's proceedings. Another of the famous "short-hand" brothers was2 Moses, (1825-1892); he reported all the principal trials of the latter half of the nineteenth century?and notably the Tichborne Case. He was highly respected by both Bench and Bar and was President of the Institute of Shorthand Writers at the time of his death. It is curious to note that of Angelo's brothers one bore the personal names Isaac Newton and another Charles Newton. A grandson of Solomon Bennett was Sergt. Henry Bennett, born in 1863, who served in Egypt in the Dorset Regiment, 1 See Western Synagogue Circumcision Register. 2 See Jewish Chronicle 1 April 1892.</page><page sequence="5">SOLOMON BENNETT : ARTIST, HEBRAIST AND CONTROVERSIALIST (1761-1838) 95 where his knowledge of Arabic was highly valued by the Army authorities for his training of black troops. He was killed in action in India in the 1897 Afridi campaign. A great-grandson, Mr. Hugh Meredith, whose father was a founder and the first Treasurer of the Hampstead Synagogue, is the present possessor of a painting of his ancestor which I am promised will one day find its way into the Society's museum. This picture portrays a man of fine breeding with an aesthetic and keenly intellectual appearance, though of somewhat sad aspect. It certainly confirms the character which his own writings reveal. I should also mention that there is a great-great-grand-daughter who, inheriting her ancestor's literary and artistic talents, is to-day a writer on painters and painting. She is Lilian Browse, the editress of a number of books on that art. Con? cerning the family history I will only add that both Solomon and his widow, Elizabeth, who survived him by twenty-six years, lie in the old Western Synagogue Cemetery in the Fulham Road. He died in 1838, aged 77, and she in 1864, aged 84. He was 57 when he married her and was still adding to his progeny in his 69th year, and possibly later. His vision, it would seem, was his only failing faculty. I turn now to Bennett as artist. In this sphere, no less than in his scholarly achieve? ment, I think that he was under-rated in England. I have spoken of his early work on the Continent where he certainly enjoyed a high reputation. According to Nagler's K?nstler-Lexikon he was well-known as a capable portrait-painter in Berlin and in St. Petersburgh. There is, however, no doubt about his engraving work being of a high order. While in Copenhagen and Berlin he executed several notable works. At that time his signatures to his pictures varied from "B. Salomon" to "Benet Salomon," "Benet Salomo"?and "Benoit Salomon". In this he was merely following the common practice of adopting the Hebrew name of his father as his own surname. His own Hebrew name, "Yom-tob," he seems to have translated into "Bennett." He did not sign as "Solomon Bennett" till he was in London. Kirschstein in his J?dische Graphiker (Berlin 1918) has quite a lot to say about Bennett's artistic powers and it is significant that Kirschstein uses Bennett's self-engraving as the frontispiece for his own book (which deals with Jewish engravings between 1625 and 1825). In it he reproduces many Bennett items with lengthy and flattering comments. And while I have no competence whatever as an art critic, they certainly appear to me to be very impressive and beautifully executed;?at any rate until his failing eyesight affected the finesse of his work. Kirschstein suggests that his father may have been a Sopher (a writer of Torah scrolls, etc.) and that the son may have got his first introduction into art from his father's illumination of the Megillah and the Haggadah. This seems to be confirmed by the fact that among the MSS etc. presented by the Misses Tickell to Jews' College (see p. 92 &amp; 100) was a beautifully indited Scroll of Esther?probably the work of his father. One of his earliest engravings is that of Lorenz Werskoss,?an alchemist of the seventeenth century. This was done in Copenhagen probably in 1795 and in it Kirschstein detects something of Bennett's own mystical nature. Of the picture of Frederick the Great, Kirschstein says that Bennett has reproduced, in a moment of creative genius, the portrayal not of "Frederick, the war-mongering Field-Marshal," but of "der alte Fritz," ?"Frederick, the thinker, the philosopher on the throne, Frederick the friend of Voltaire.' It is worth noting Bennett's dedication of this engraving:?"Dedie tres respecteuseument ? Sa Majeste, Paul I, Empereur de toutes les Russies, par son tres homble et tres soumis sujet et serviteur?Bennett Salomon." Now this was in 1797?five years after he had left Russia. It shows that he must still have regarded himself as a Russian subject while in Berlin and must still have contemplated returning home at some time or</page><page sequence="6">96 SOLOMON BENNETT : ARTIST, HEBRAIST AND CONTROVERSIALIST (1761-1838) another. Herein is further proof that he had no intention of deserting his first wife. Of the picture of Louisa Augusta, the twenty-two year old Queen of Frederick William III, (done in 1797), Kirschstein writes that Bennett has caught, through the simplicity of his technique, all the youthful earnestness which the troubles of the French Revolution had impressed upon the visage of this newly-wed princess. In Bennett's self-engraving Kirschstein sees the whole history of the man. In the eyes are a penetrating spirituality and a quiet pensive melancholy. You can read from his face all his wanderings and strivings, all his intellectual and artistic powers, and all his lone battle with life, far from home and kinsfolk. There is another excellent picture (1796) of Field-Marshal Moellendorf, Governor of Berlin, and one in 1797 of Chodowiecki, Director of the Berlin Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences. Of his established reputation as an artist, not only does his work give proof but, even more so, the distinguished character of his subjects. Kirschstein says that there must be many more works?paintings and engravings?still undiscovered by him in 1918. In my view it is as absurd to dismiss him as a cheap seal or picture engraver as it is to regard his literary work as mere common-place polemic screed? as so many Anglo-Jewish writers have done till now. Of his engravings published in London I will mention only three. First, there is an excellent picture of Napoleon I, done in 1808 and published by Bennett at 63 Charing Cross. (A copy of this is in the Jews' College Library). Then there is the magnificent reproduction of the "Temple of Ezekiel," based upon the biblical text of the Prophet's vision {Ezekiel Chs. 40 to 42). This work, measuring some 24in. x 17in. was conceived, designed and executed entirely out of his own interpretation of the scriptural record and the rabbinic commentaries. It is a masterpiece both of imagination and of technique and it is accompanied by a ground-plan which implies a sound knowledge of architectural draftsmanship. Its wealth of detail, its bold presentation and its general elegance of delineation give it almost a three-dimensional aspect. It is a notable achievement. The third picture is that of Chief Rabbi Solomon Hirschell; and thereby hangs a tale. It was the cause of an unholy war between the artist and his subject, and was doubtless the origin of all the polemics for which Bennett is famous, or, should I say, notorious. As a result of it Bennett declares that he suffered the loss of more than ?100 and also imprisonment. What exactly happened is difficult to discover. I would conjecture that there must have been a law-suit over it in which judgement went against Bennett, who, not being able to pay, found himself in a debtor prison for a while. An explanation offered by Mr. Alfred Rubens in his paper on "Early Anglo-Jewish Artists," reads as follows :? Bennett was responsible for a portrait of Hirschell which appears in a pamphlet entitled cThe Axe laid to the Root; or Ignorance and Superstition evident in the Character of the Rev. S. Hirschell/ published in 1808 by Levi Alexander . . . The Portrait carries the caption 'Thou shalt not bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself (Lev. XIX, 18) and would no doubt have been held to be extremely libellous. Bennett, having already quarrelled with the Rabbi, would have had no scruples in assisting in the production of the pamphlet.1 Now this would be quite a plausible suggestion except for the following facts, viz. (1) that the portrait does not bear Bennett's signature; (2) that it is a crude and course 1 Trans. Jew. Hist. Soc. Vol. XIV.</page><page sequence="7">SOLOMON BENNETT : ARTIST, HEBRAIST AND CONTROVERSIALIST (1761-1838) 97 picture, the quality of which is so inferior to any known work of Bennett's hand as to render it almost impossible to be of his authorship; (3) that although Alexander had recently engaged in a violent public quarrel with Hirschell, Bennett's controversy with the Chief Rabbi did not begin till nine years later. I can find no trace of Bennett's differences with Hirschell before 1817. Even what might be construed as an oblique reference by Bennett to Hirschell is only a general statement about the deficiency of modern rabbis in the scientific knowledge of the Hebrew language; and this was not made till 1809. There had been, however, strained relations between Bennett and Hirschell's father while in Berlin and possibly the family feud had been carried across the channel with Bennett's arrival in London. But it certainly did not boil up till the years 1817 and 1818. I am therefore unable to agree with Mr. Rubens and would suggest that the offending engraving of Hirschell must have been done between the years 1816 and 1818. Whatever be the facts, the consequences become clear enough, as we shall later see. I would mention that I have searched the "Commitments Registers" of the Fleet Prison and Queen's Bench for the period but can find no trace of Bennett among the many (and sometimes well-known) Jewish names occurring therein. It is also worth recording that in a copy of the "Present Reign of the Synagogue in Duke's Place displayed" (Seep. 104 ff), now in the possession of Mr. Cecil Roth, and bearing the book-plate of Lord Chief Justice Ellenborough, runs the following inscription in Bennett's hand :?"To the Rt. Hon. Lord Ellenborough?Presented by the author; requesting the honour of the reading and of taking the contents thereof into consideration." Might this not point to the case having been tried by Ellenborough shortly before his death in December 1818 ? So far, I have not found the answer. Let me turn now to Bennett's literary activities. His first work published in London was in 1809: ^mw nsa "The Constancy of Israel." It bears the sub-title?"An unprejudiced illustration of the most important texts of the Bible : or a polemical, critical, and theological reply to a public letter by Lord Crawford addressed to the Hebrew Nation." Part I contains Crawford's groundless arguments and Bennett's complete refutation of them. It demonstrates the falsity of the translations of Christological passages in the Bible and also of their dogmatic interpretation. Bennett claims to have "an unbounded veneration for our present Nazarenes" ; but that will not prevent him from taking up his pen against the roaring of the many proselytes who, with arrogance and pride, abuse the pure doctrines of the Hebrew faith. He chastises the missioners, those "Fishers of men," who with insidious bribes, entice poor ignorant Jews, like those of Pettycoat Lane and Frying-pan Alley, into their nets ; and, equally, he reproaches his own people who never attempt any answer in defence of Jewish principles. He warns his readers not to rely on many of our Hebrew Rabbis, "who though in holy surplice and though Talmudists, yet are very little Orthographists and Etymologists." (Is this perhaps a reference to Hirschell ?) He states that though English Jews do not read their Bible but prefer novels and romances, and scarcely understand their common Hebrew prayers, this is not the case with their brethren throughout the Diaspora. An Appendix to Part I constitutes a reply to an address to the Jews by one John Xeres (1710) a Jewish convert, who gives his reasons for embracing Christianity. Bennett here refutes the Trinitarian Doctrine based upon the Hebrew idiom of the "Pluralis Majestatis" of the Divine Name. Part II is an essay on Israel's Dispersion, which Bennett conceives as the agency of Israel's mission to the nations. It is a history of the Jews from Adam to 1809 C.E.?an heroic effort, set out in 120 pages, to prove that the Galuth (exile), far from being a divine punishment for Israel's</page><page sequence="8">98 SOLOMON BENNETT : ARTIST, HEBRAIST AND CONTROVERSIALIST (1761-1838) rejection of the Christian Messiah, was the divine plan for the world-dissemination of Jewish teaching. This book includes a certain amount of autobiography and also the self-engraving to which I have already alluded. Though it was ignored by the Anglo Jewish community, it must have been considered of some importance on the Continent; for twenty-one years later it was translated into German by the Rev. Dr. L. Wilhelm Wagner and published in Darmstadt in 1835, under the title "Israel's Best?ndigkeit." In the introduction Prof. Dr. Hartman is quoted (Dec. 1833) as an admirer of "The Jewish Scholar in London, Solomon Bennett and of his many biblical writings." In 1815 appeared a "Discourse on Sacrifices," showing that the sacrificial system was only a temporary stage in Israel's religious progress, that it was not essential to human salvation, and that, therefore, the Christian doctrine of the "Lamb of God" finds no support in Jewish theology. In 1817 and 1818 came his two main internal polemics with which I will deal separately. There followed in 1824 "The Temple of Ezekiel" ?"An Elucidation of the 40th to 42nd Chapter of the Book of Ezekiel; and a minute description of the Edifice on scientific principles; with an appendix on the authenticity of the Book of Daniel." This work is dedicated to a Mrs. Housman of Sidney Place, Bath, a patroness who had helped him financially with its publication. Among the patrons are three bishops, Earl Spencer and the Rev. Dr. Solomon Hirschell. It seems that by this time the author and the rabbi had composed their differences, despite the fact that in the preface Bennett complains, rather pathetically, that the public will favour any author with a title or rank, or even bearing the ambiguous designation of "Rabbi" or "Rev." ; but an untitled Jewish layman, who fives by the products of his industry, is not so happily placed. "Of this I may speak confidently" ... he says, "having suffered from it" ! (One of the three publishers of this book was Myer Solomon of Pall Mall; Art-dealer, Lay-Reader, Lay-Mohel, Scroll-writer and Parnass of the Western Synagogue.) In 1834 came "Critical Remarks on the Revised Version of the Old Testament." This was inspired by some satirical tracts of Tom Paine (published in 1812) attacking the Bible, and is also mainly concerned with the mistranslations of the Christian versions of the Hebrew Bible. He mentions here his friendship with Thomas Burgess (1756 1837), Bishop of Salisbury, who was no mean scholar and theologian. In 1835 he published "A Theological and Critical Treatise on the Primogeniture and Integrity of the Holy language." Its Hebrew title is tnpn ]Wb ni?Vt&amp;l m?lp *?S7 nplWl ?mn Win and it is dedicated to Moses Mocatta "who rendered assistance and support in bringing the same to light." Moses Mocatta was at that time the President of the Jewish Board of Deputies, one of the rare patrons of Jewish scholarship and, himself, a translator of a number of Hebrew works. He later became one of the founders of the West London or Reform Synagogue.1 In this volume Bennett attempts an independent enquiry into the antiquity and systematization of the Hebrew language. He claims that the Holy tongue goes back to Creation itself and that its grammatical system has suffered no change. He rejects the view that Hebrew evolved out of Egyptian hieroglyphics. In one passage he complains of Christian prejudices in the attitude to the Hebrew language and to rabbinical writings. He states :?"I must not, however, be too censorious towards the literati of our Christian brethren, considering that most of my Israelitish brethren in this kingdom are also indifferent towards the Holy Language and the extensive literature 1 Among the subscribers were :?The Duke of Sussex, Earl Spencer, Viscount Kingsborough, The Bishop of Chichester, The Bishop of Salisbury, Mrs. Housman (Bath), Moses Mocatta, Asher Samson, Lyon Moses, Morris Emanuel, Aaron Goldsmid, Myer Solomon, S. A. Hart, Abraham Hertz, L. Durlacher, J. Davis, and Mrs, J. Alexander.</page><page sequence="9">SOLOMON BENNETT : ARTIST, HEBRAIST AND CONTROVERSIALIST (1761-1838) 99 of the Rabbies," (p. 48). He refers also in this volume to a work of his still in manuscript entitled: " The Pre-eminence and Stability of the Hebre