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The Changed Face of English Jewry at the End of the 18th Century

Gerald R. Reitlinger

<plain_text><page sequence="1">The Changed Face of English Jewry at the end of the Eighteenth Century* GERALD REITLINGER Dickens, it will be recalled, made ample literary amends for his creation of the villainous character of the Jew Fagin in Oliver Twist. Yet he made his choice of a Jew for the part of a forger, receiver, and trainer of pickpockets in the year 1837, nearly seven years after the publication of Macaulay's essay on the civil disabilities of the Jews, and at a moment when philosemitism was becoming fashionable and the disabilities themselves fast disappearing. Fagin's intrusion into Dickens's picture of the underworld owed nothing to direct observa? tion. He was a type-figure, part of a literary tradition which was then rather more than half a century old. Dickens used this type figure in the same way that others used Scots? men and Irishmen, portraying alleged national vices which were not a subject of deep reflec? tion. But there had been a time when the legend of a Jewish underworld of crime had done far more harm to the community than could be attributed to Dickens's knockabout villain of music-hall melodramas, whom one expects at any moment to break into a comic song. Essentially the Fagin legend belonged to the late eighteenth century, and the prejudice in it was the prejudice of an age which somehow failed to include racial and religious tolerance in its own peculiar brand of political radical? ism. The same mob that rioted for Wilkes and liberty plundered the Catholics during the Gordon riots, and set upon the Irish labourers. Tolerance, one may even conclude, flourished more when the course of politics meant least to the man in the street, when the politician had no need to embrace any popular causes beyond the bribing of a few freeholder voters. If we turn very briefly to the age preceding the one with which we are concerned, the reign of George II appears singularly deficient in popular democratic causes. In those days the game of Parliament was a struggle for interest and privilege between groups of country gentry. Yet the least privileged of religious minorities was probably less in need of protection under this reign than at any time before the great Reform movements of the 1830s. THE AGE OF GEORGE II To call it a golden age would, however, be a little bizarre. Unable to subscribe to the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England, the Jew shared the restrictions of the Roman Catholics and Dissenters. Offices under the Crown, in Parliament, the armed forces, the law, and the universities were debarred him. There was a doubt whether he was even entitled to buy land. Yet Sampson Abudiente or Gideon (1699-1762), the son of an immi? grant Jew, obtained an influence over govern? ment far beyond the reach of any of the Roman Catholic landowning families. The comparison is fair because there is no evidence that Samp? son Gideon was received in the Church of England, though, late in life, he abandoned the Sephardic synagogue. Of course, the Jew whose command of liquid capital made him indispensable to kings was very much a special case and common to most sovereign States at this time. But the English climate was particu? larly favourable to him, because the Jews owed their presence in the country to the Puritan conscience, which respected the Jewish forms of worship, and the Puritan conscience was still alive. There was even a brief period in 1753 when the stringent oaths of allegiance to Crown and Church were lifted by statute in a specifically Jewish instance. Foreigners who sought natura? lisation could only be relieved of those oaths by a special Act of Parliament. Pelham's Bill, which became law for a few months, exempted * The Lucien Wolf Memorial Lecture, delivered to the Jewish Historical Society of England on 18 June 1969. 34</page><page sequence="2">English Jewry at the End of the Eighteenth Century 35 foreign Jews, who could apply for naturalisation after three years. Although only a few wealthy foreigners were expected to benefit from the Act, there was a sharp public reaction to what appeared to be an odious form of privilege. In the next Parliament the High Church interest secured the Act's repeal. It had been argued that these wealthy unassimilated foreigners would acquire the right to buy landed estates and with them the power to ap? point incumbents to livings within their gift. Of course there were riots. It was never difficult to persuade a London mob that the Church was in peril. But had the privilege been exten? ded to foreign-born Catholics, one suspects that the riots would have been of a far more serious character. SYNAGOGUE MUSIC'S POPULARITY I have recalled an episode which must be very familiar to members of this Society in order to emphasise the fact that the best part of three generations was to pass before so favourable a political climate repeated itself for English Jewry. Yet the reign of George III, which began seven years after the failure of Pelham's Act, at first produced better relation? ships between the community and the outside world. Listening to synagogue music had been popular already in Samuel Pepys's day. It now became a fashionable craze. Myer Lyon, the uncle and teacher of the better-known John Braham, was a chorister at the Duke's Place Ashkenazi synagogue and was known in 1760 as the boy Leoni. In that year, according to Benjamin Victor, a chronicler of the stage, writing ten years later, David Garrick produced a masque, The Enchanter, 'in order to show to advantage the fine voice of Leoni, a Jew boy. He is now much admired and followed on parti? cular days in the synagogue'. These expeditions are also referred to by Pierre Jean Grosley in 1765 and by the Scottish divine, Thomas Somer ville, who recollected them from the year 1769. Another visit to Myer Lyon in 1770 is said to have caused the inclusion of a Hebrew Melody in a Wesleyan hymn-book.1 A taste for foreign music was not in itself sufficient to overcome the prejudice of many centuries. Even so, the Jew as depicted on the stage and in popular satire at this time is a comic figure rather than a monster. The Jewish pedlar, who must have been a godsend in remote places, is portrayed quite sympathetic? ally in Bow and Chelsea porcelain figures, cast at a time when Colquhoun's indictment had not yet made him suspect. The attitude of the working classes, for whom porcelain figures were not intended, may have been more com? plicated, because in the 1760s the English working man was frankly xenophobic. Nearly half the past eighty years had been occupied with wars. While these had done nothing to relieve the disgusting conditions in which they lived, the poorest of the poor had learnt that they were better men than the French. It was sufficient for an English dandy to return from Paris with a little round hat or chapeau nivernois to be pitilessly mobbed. M. Grosley declared that he was called a French bugger at every street corner. Charles de la Condamine, who had measured an arc of the meridian on the plains of Quito, was so unwise as to carry a folding street map of London, besides an infernal machine which turned out to be an ear trumpet, for which he was most perilously hemmed in and with difficulty rescued.2 An immigrant Jew from Germany or Eastern Europe, a begger or pedlar with his dangling locks and beard, broad-brimmed hat, and long garment, should have been an even more prominent target for the uninhibited expres? sions of taste of fish-porters and watermen. But with him they had been familiar since the seventeenth century and even in a sort of way identified. The first Jewish immigrants from Holland in Cromwell's day had been encour? aged for their wealth, but they had also brought their poor, whom subsequent immi? grations had increased in a much greater pro? portion. A pauper class without skills drifted by Thomas Nugent, LL.D., 1772. Vol. I, p. 366. Thomas Somerville, My Own Life and Times (written 1813-14), Edinburgh, 1861, p. 156. Jewish Encyclopedia, article, 'Myer Lyon'. Benjamin Victor, The History of the Theatres of London from 1760 to the Present Time, 1771, p. 11. i A Tour to London by M. Grosley, F.R.S., translated 2 Grosley, op. cit., I, pp. 84-8.</page><page sequence="3">36 Gerald Reitlinger into an underdog existence despite the well meaning but limited efforts of the synagogue vestries. But underdog spoke to underdog. Here were no Irish labourers nor French Spitalfields weavers to bring down the level of wages. Nor could the terrible taint of usury, which alienated the Jew from the desperately struggling small tradesman class, touch those who had nothing to lend and who were accounted rich in the possession of a dozen shagreen spectacle cases. A CRIMINAL UNDERWORLD That fellow-feeling, however, contained the seeds of its own destruction. Neither successive Governments which accorded unrestricted asylum to fugitive Jews nor the synagogue vestrymen who aided their immigration as a matter of duty reckoned with the formation of a criminal underworld. If the public was shocked when this happened, it followed inevitably that the most shocked was the section that had least cause to be. A foreign minority, living among them, might be permitted to share their complacency towards petty pilfering. The taking of human life, whatever the cir? cumstances, was a different matter. All the experience of the past showed that this must cast a blood-guilt on the whole community. In November 1771, three Jews took part in a burglary in Chelsea, where a manservant who tried to give the alarm was killed. For this the Jews were hanged. The chance survival of a letter from James Northcote to Sir Joshua Reynolds reveals that the body of one of the executed men served as a demonstration subject for the first anatomy lecture at the newly founded Royal Academy life-class. They took their art seriously then.3 More than fifty years later, Francis Place, the radical tailor, considered that this murder had caused severe tribulation to the entire London Jewish com? munity. During the next two decades, he declared, Jews were liable to be set upon in the streets and, when this happened, neither the public nor the police were likely to interfere.4 The baiting ended only when the younger Jews took to boxing lessons, of which more in due course. The immediate consequence of the murder was an inquiry by the Ministry through the famous blind police-magistrate, Sir John Fielding. The Jewish Board of Deputies told Fielding that they themselves deported their black sheep at the community's expense when this was possible, but the indis? criminate charity of vestrymen made it easy for them to return. The Deputies themselves were anxious that those who came to England in this indigent state should be compelled to show a visa or travel permit, issued by a British consul at the port of embarkation. Some pres? sure was put on the immigrants to make them obtain such documents, but with insufficient authority. A little bribery served them as well.5 Governments of those laissez-faire days were reluctant to refuse a common right of asylum to all mankind. It was only in 1792 that entry permits and repatriation became legally en? forceable. In the meantime the Ashkenazic community had grown enormously. Most of Poland passed under Russian military control in 1764 but there had been pogroms by Cossacks already in 1762, causing a new dia? spora to spread over Europe. The murder of 1771 was only part of this larger cause of the deterioration of the position of English Jewry in the 1770s and 1780s. At the end of the cen? tury the more settled Sephardic community was outnumbered in London by the Ashkena zim by at least five to one, and of the latter the majority had arrived destitute, had acquired no substance, and could not be settled at all. FOREIGNERS' VIEWS A glimpse at the changed face of English Jewry can sometimes be found in the descrip? tions of London by foreigners. Those who look with unaccustomed eyes notice most. Early in 1782 Carl Philipp Moritz, Protestant pastor, friend of Goethe, and author of a psychologischer Roman, came to England. Listen? ing to the indignant comments of some coach passengers because a Jew would not accept an 3 William T. Whitley, Artists and their Friends in England, 1928, II, p. 285. 4 Mrs. Eric George, London Life in the 18th Century, 1927, p. 128. * Ibid., p. 132.</page><page sequence="4">English Jewry at the End of the Eighteenth Century 37 outside seat, he remarked that 'the prejudice against Jews is far more common here than with us'?and this from a man who must have known of the Frankfort ghetto.6 The testimony of another German pastor, the Rev. Frederick Wendeborn, who served a congregation on Ludgate Hill, is particularly valuable because the German edition of his book is dated as early as 1779, though the English version was not published till 1791. Here already are to be found two of the charges levelled by Colquhoun at the end of the century. Many of the German Jews were, he believed, thieves' associates, and it was said that gold and silver were melted in the neighbourhood of the main synagogue in Duke's Place.7 Colquhoun's evidence was more specific, but before assessing its value one must know his point of view. In 1795, when his Treatise on the Police of the Metropolis was first published, Patrick Colquhoun, LL.D., had presided for some years as police magistrate at Queen's Square, Westminster. In one respect his ideas were in advance of more typical eighteenth century magistrates. He believed that punish? ment was not enough and that the true function of police was to forestall crime before it was committed. Experience had convinced him that the poor were all potential criminals, whose propensities could only be controlled by putting them to continuous and arduous labour. No trade or station was spared, so that in 1810 M. Louis Simond found it generally believed that the book was a libel on the work? ing classes.8 None the less, having gone into five editions, it had been revised and enlarged in 1800. In fact Colquhoun's peculiar philan? thropy suited the new moral tone, the following being a fair specimen: A corporal punishment, accompanied with the circumstances of obloquy and disgrace, is certainly not too severe where a delin? quent plunges a Female (whether married or single) into a situation in most instances worse than death itself.9 It cannot be said that Colquhoun treated the Jews of London worse than any other group. He found that the Sephardic community numbered not more than 3,000. 'There is not one pedlar or beggar of this persuasion'. The Ashkenazic Jews he put at 12,000 to 15,000. 'With the exception of three or four very wealthy men and as many families connected with the Royal Exchange, they are indigent'. For this indigence he blamed 'the respectable part of both synagogues', who had failed to find a remedy. He thought that the small weekly loans made to pedlars were pernicious. About 1,500 who had been set up in this way were thieves' associates and fast becoming receivers. The trade of the pedlar-receiver was varied and lively. Some bought metal from workers in the naval dockyards, removed the Govern? ment's broad arrow mark, and then sold it back to the Government. Receiving false coin? age from the forgers was another of their activities, but, though Colquhoun mentioned Jews who melted stolen gold and silver, he did not apparently accuse them of actual counterfeiting, a crime which was then treated as treason and for which the death penalty was seldom commuted. Obtaining and passing on false coinage was only a misdemeanour carrying a penalty light by the standards of the period. The pedlars paid threepence for counterfeit shillings, but generally managed to pay for them in equally counterfeit copper. If pursued by the Bow Street officers, they would pass the bag to a boy accomplice. The boys made a penny on each counterfeit shilling, and were capable of spending 5s. to 7s. in an evening. The Artful Dodger had already arrived. DEFECTS OF THE LAW Great assistance to a life of ingenuity was afforded by the odd defects of the law. Uttering false coinage was not a crime at all unless the coin of the realm was involved. The star 6 Travels of Carl Philipp Moritz in England in 1782, Berlin, 1783, and London, 1795. 7 A View of England towards the end of the 18th Century, London, 1791, II, p. 471. 8 Louis Simond, Voyage en Angleterre pendant les armies 1810 et 1811, 2nd edition, Paris, 1817, I, p. 50. D 9 Patrick Colquhoun, Treatise on the Police of the Metropolis, 6th edition, 1800, p. 626.</page><page sequence="5">38 Gerald Reitlinger Pagods of the Nawab of Arcot could be copied in gilded base metal at the cost of threepence. The pedlars bought them at 5s. a dozen and sold them at 2s. 3d. to 5s. each. Eventually the coins found their way to India, where they had a face value of 8s. 6d.10 Considering the desperate state of the Jewish poor and the stern standards of the author, the indictment might have been very much worse. Colquhoun believed that they were redeemable. Much of the corruption of the young, he thought, sprang from the fact that Jewish orthodox observances made apprenticeship or domestic service impossible in Gentile house? holds. He ended with a very vague hope that Jewish labour could be made productive. This challenge was taken up by a member of the Ashkenazic community, the surgeon Joshua Van Oven (1766-1838), whose corres? pondence with Colquhoun was summed up in a work published in 1802, Letters on the Present State of the Jewish Poor in the Metropolis. Here Van Oven revived the project that the Jewish community, which paid its parochial rates to Gentile vestries, should be allowed to allot part of them to its own poor. With this money there could be established a sort of Jewish Bicetre, combining infant school, workhouse, hospital, and old-age home on the lines of that horrible institution. Colquhoun helped to get the necessary Bill presented before Parlia? ment. In this he was supported by Abraham Goldsmid, himself an Ashkenazic immigrant and the wealthiest Jew in England since Sampson Gideon. Farington, the diarist, believed that Goldsmid could 'command five millions'. In fact in 1810 he tried to command 14 millions, when he underwrote a Govern? ment loan which broke him and drove him to suicide.11 The Bill was never introduced. Not only the London vestrymen opposed it, but also the leaders of the Sephardic community. Only a pocket edition of the proposed institution emerged, situated in the Mile End Road. But Jew and Gentile had co-operated in a Jewish welfare plan and that showed how great must have been the change since 1771. CUMBERLAND'S THE JEW The position of certain Jews in the musical and theatrical world may have made some contribution to this change, but one should be cautious in drawing too many inferences. George Coleman the Younger mentions Jewish comic parts, played by Jews as early as 1777. There was one Wewitzer at Foote's Little Theatre in the Haymarket, 'the best represen? tative of comic Jews and foreigners that perhaps ever was or ever will be.'12 Wewitzer may have been among the first of a long and illustrious line, but at this period such enter? tainments had to appeal to the sense of superi? ority of the audience. The Jew as a stage hero was an innovation which arrived only in the last years of the century?and a half-hearted innovation at that. Richard Cumberland's comedy, The Jew, was first played in May 1794, a good fifteen years after the publication of Lessing's far more influential drama, Nathan der Weise. The part of Sheva, Cumberland's benevolent Jew, was played by Bannister. The script makes it abundantly plain that it was intended to be played grotesquely. Having depicted Sheva as a squalid self-abasing miser who lived on potato skins, Cumberland then made him perform an act of charity so Quixotic as to appear incredible. The typical devices of a late eighteenth-century comedie larmoyante may well have sent Cumberland's audience home dewy-eyed over the triumph of innocent young love, but they could not have gone home convinced about Sheva. It is not sur? prising?though Cumberland himself found it so?that no tributes whatever came from the English Jewish community. It has sometimes been claimed that Cumber? land's play was so successful as to influence public opinion, but the facts scarcely confirm this. The play ran for twelve nights, which was not long for an author as popular as Cumberland. The printed play did, however, "Ibid., pp. 76, 18. 11 Albert M. Hyamson, A History of the Jews in England, 1928, p. 249. The Farington Diary, ed. James Greig, 1935, VI, p. 94. 12 George Goleman the Younger, Random Records, 1830, I, p. 317.</page><page sequence="6">English Jewry at the End of the Eighteenth Century 39 go into six editions in the course of five years.13 This too meant very little. Editions of plays were normally of no more than a thousand copies at this time. Louis Zangwill, who read a paper on Cumberland to this Society in 1911, was happy to trace several stage revivals of The Jew, but the first of them was no earlier than 1815, when the climate of tolerance had improved so much that the true message of the play might now be appreciated. Cumberland had half-buried it in the least noticed part of the evening's entertainment, the verse pro? logue : If to your candour we appeal this night for a poor client, for a luckless wight, whom Bard ne'er favoured, whose sad fate has been never to share in one applauding scene, in souls like yours there should be found a place for every victim of unjust disgrace. A very different prologue, spoken at Drury Lane Theatre eight years later, in November 1802, showed how little Cumberland's play had achieved against the tradition of the gro? tesque stage Jew. An unusually large Jewish audience had arrived for the first night of Thomas Dibdin's comic opera, Family Quarrels. Not only was John Braham, the former chorister of Duke's Place, singing, but he had also set some of the lyrics to music. Yet the first thing they heard was a prologue recited in the garment and accent of a Jewish pedlar by a character, supposed to represent Proteus, the sea god who could assume every shape. Some of the Jews protested, whereupon Proteus apologized most civilly. Demanding apologies was a well-established industry among eigh? teenth-century audiences. Shoemakers, tailors, footmen, and Irishmen had received satisfac? tion in their day, but Jews?that was some? thing new. Later in the performance a scurri? lous song about Jews was cut out, but a pirated edition of the songs in the play had already circulated among the audience. The gallery demanded that the offensive ballad be restored ?as indeed it was throughout the entire run of the opera.14 So much for the Jew as a stage hero. But five years before the performance of Cumber? land's well-intentioned play, a Jew had become a real-life popular hero for the first time in English history. This humble man probably contributed more to the return of the excep? tionally tolerant climate enjoyed by the Jews of England than any other single individual. In fact, it was to him, Daniel Mendoza, that Francis Place attributed the end of the street baitings and assaults.* To a man with a broad back and sledge? hammer fists and no other assets in the world, a street paviour or a chair-man, a dock porter, a wagoner, or a London coal-whipper, there beckoned at the bottom of his quart-mug a sweet will-o'-the-wisp, who told him that in order to become rich and famous he must first knock down someone of his own kind. Then, one day, a sporting gentleman would notice him and back him with 500 guineas to fight a champion. Most of them got no further than that first step, lucky to keep their minds at peace with nothing worse than a broken jaw. Those who achieved the second step might be backed for a few guineas to fight on a stage no more splendid than a gravel pit or a hollow on a common. The elect who surmounted the third step might enjoy three or four years of flash suits, jingling guineas, and hackney coaches. A few, a very select few, advanced altogether beyonds the ranks of the labouring poor and were permitted, after a gamble with death and a marriage with pain, to live out their lives as peaceable and even respected citizens. No country but England offered such oppor? tunities and rewards for strength and courage, irrespective of race. And no surprise was felt that so many Jews should be attracted to the Ring. While Daniel Mendoza was considered the founder of tactical or scientific boxing, there were Jewish boxers before him in the days of the out-and-out millers and flailers. The earliest occurrence of a Jewish name in the clas 13 Allardyce Nicoll, A History of late 18th-century Drama, Cambridge, 1927, p. 128. 14 James Boaden, Memoirs of the Life of John Philip Kemble, 1825, II, 33. * See also Plate XXII, Fig. 28, in this volume.</page><page sequence="7">40 Gerald Reitlinger sical work of Pierce Egan is in 1768, when one Tomjuchau, a paviour, was defeated by Bill Darts the dyer.15 In the 1770s Egan records the name of Abraham da Costa and Isaac Mousha. Mendoza's contemporaries nearer the end of the century included Youssup, Solly Solicky, Bernard Levy, Isaac Bitton or Bittoon, Jockl or Yokel, and Isaac Crabb?the last not a very Jewish name but Egan considered him a Jewish fighter, who retired to keep a public house among the Duke's Place colony. Many fought under fancy-names such as Elias Samuel or Dutch Sam, Henry Abrahams or Little Puss, and Gadzee or Cat's Meat, who was under five feet tall and combined boxing with clowning. Strangest of all was a man who fought under the name of Ikey Pig and no other, but this was a low world in spite of the patronage of the highest in the land.16 BOXING IN FASHION If Mendoza introduced a new style into boxing, it was a sudden revival of fashion which made the moment propitious. William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, who died in 1765, had been a passionate patron of the Ring in its earliest days, but his nephew, George III, in all his long reign gave it no approval. Without Royal protection it was impossible to open permanent academies or exhibitions under the eyes of the magistrates. Well into the era of railways the biggest fights were conducted with an air of mystery in remote places. There was therefore no induce? ment for great champions to come forward between the accession of George III and the majority of the Prince of Wales, later George IV. Pierce Egan thought the decline lasted from 1761 to 1783, but the first really fashion? able boxing event was in 1786, when Martin and Humphries fought at Newmarket. The Prince of Wales brought the Duke of Orleans and his suite and there was an extremely select Ring with an entrance fee of a guinea. Dick Humphries, an apprentice coal-merchant, possessed good looks and social graces. He emerged from the fight not only a national champion but a fashionable lion. A boxer who could be invited to dinner was a novelty, though Pierce Egan's unbiased narrative shows Humphries to have been a bully, a liar, and a dirty fighter.17 The man who was to dethrone this paragon was already his rival. Daniel Mendoza had been born in 1765, 'of parents in the middle ranks of society, by no means in affluent cir? cumstances', according to the thin volume of memoirs which he had printed for subscribers in 1816. He tells us that he was taught at a Jewish school. He is hardly eloquent on this subject. The instruction included 'English grammar, writing, arithmetic, and those branches of education which are usually taught in schools'. One would like to know a little more of those branches of education, which could not have extended very far, since young Mendoza left school at the age of twelve. He was probably literate, though the colour? less style of the memoirs seems to point to a professional ghost-hand. The letters against Humphries which Mendoza published in The World in 1788 are fastidiously composed in a quite different vocabulary, but since Humphries' letters are in the same style, it must be supposed that the editor rewrote the whole correspondence.18 Mendoza worked for several shopkeepers between the age of 12 and 17, but was never indentured as an apprentice to learn a trade. He was attracted to the Ring after he had collected ?14 from spectators who saw him defend himself from two street attacks. His first professional fights with Tyne and Matthews were backed for no more than five and six guineas a side. For his next two matches he was able to raise a 20-guinea stake himself. In 1785 he preceded Humphries in defeating Martin the Butcher, having been backed by 'a great personage'. Egan implies that this was the Prince of Wales himself. If so, it must have been one of very few occasions, since this prince, whose humanity went so long unrecognised, 15 Pierce Egan, Boxiana, Sketches of Ancient and Modern Pugilism, Vol. I, 1818, p. 75. "Ibid., p. 391. "Ibid., I., p. 103. "Ibid., pp. 255-261. Memoirs of the Life of Daniel Mendoza, 1816, edited by Paul Magriel, 1951, pp. 14-16, 40.</page><page sequence="8">English Jewry at the End of the Eighteenth Century 41 solemnly renounced the Ring three years later when he saw a man killed.19 The 'great personage' presented young Mendoza with ?550. As much again was contributed by grateful punters, while in the course of the year he collected ?200 for a sparring display and 150 guineas from the underwriters at Lloyd's to express their indignation against a gentleman who had cheated him. Financially this may have been the most successful year of Mendoza's life and he was only twenty years old. The money enabled him to open an academy at Capel Court and to marry. Eventually this most improvident man pro? duced eleven children. MENDOZA NATIONAL CHAMPION It is to the Francis Place manuscript of 1824 that we owe the statement that young Jews began to resort to Capel Court in 1787 to acquire the art of self-defence, and that this put an end to the street baiting.20 Mendoza does not mention this in his memoirs. Possibly he (or his literary ghost) thought that the implications might be offensive to his sub? scribers. The academy was by no means such a resort of fashion as Gentleman Jackson's establishment became in the early 1800s. It was abandoned in 1790. Mendoza combined teaching with exhibitions of sparring or shadow boxing with gloves. Unfortunately Capel Court was in the jurisdiction of the severe City magistrates, who banned the exhibitions in 1789 at the height of Mendoza's fame. For a few months more Mendoza kept the place going by an ingenious device. He employed a freeman of the City, who could not legally be inhibited from selling engravings of his master's portrait at half a crown,21 'the purchaser being invited to see a free entertainment'. It has been truthfully observed that there'll always be an England. During these years, 1788-90, Mendoza emerged from his three fights with Humphries as the national champion, though he never proclaimed himself such. In 1788 they fought at Odiham, in Hampshire, for 400 guineas. Mendoza was heavily backed by the Jewish community, who came from London in large numbers. It seems that the fashionable idolis? ing of Humphries procured Mendoza the support of the mob as well, a very significant point. Although Mendoza lost the fight through falling through the ropes and spraining an ankle, Egan considered that he had fought in model style. 'He might be termed the complete artist.'22 There was no difficulty in backing him again in the following year, when he fought Humphries in a private park at Stilton, off the Great North Road, and won after two fouls had been recorded against his opponent. Humphries could still find backers for a third fight, at Doncaster in 1790, but his many batterings had ruined his form. It was thought that Mendoza spared him. Humphries never recovered. He died five years later, a completely forgotten man, though barely in his thirties. The combatants made no fortunes out of these three epic fights. At Odiham and Don caster the crowd rushed the barriers and cheated them of half the gate-money. At Stilton, too, much had been spent on a wooden amphi? theatre. Within three years Mendoza was in a debtor's prison. Yet the survival of so many transfer-printed pottery beer-mugs depicting his victories suggests that for a year or two he must have been the most popular man in England. He is shown as short and stocky with a swarthy face and abundant frizzled hair, Humphries being much the same size. It is amusing that Egan found them 'fine upstanding men' at five foot eight and five foot seven. But the best tribute to Mendoza, which he may well be forgiven for reprinting in his memoirs, was that daintily tripping broadside ballad:23 So very polite, so genteel, such a soft com? plaisant face, What a damnable shame to be spoil'd by a cursed little Jew from Duke's Place. Elate with false pride and conceit, supercili? ously prone to his ruin, He haughtily stalked to the spot, which was turfed for his utter undoing; 19 Pierce Egan, op. cit., I, p. 220. 20 Mrs. Eric George, op. cit., p. 128. 21 Mendoza, op. cit., p. 55. 22 Pierce Egan, op. cit., I, pp. 253-255. 23 Mendoza, op. cit., p. 63.</page><page sequence="9">42 Gerald Reitlinger While the Jew's humble bow seem'd to please, my Dicky's eyes flashed liquid fire; He contemptuously viewed his opponent, as David was viewed by Golia. DEFEAT AND DECLINE The academy at Capel Court had been given up before the last of the three fights. Mendoza had held some sparring exhibitions on the stage at Covent Garden in 1788. This was followed in 1790 by an apparently success? ful tour of the theatres of Edinburgh, Dublin, and the Midlands. In 1791 he embarked on a more risky venture, the leasing of the Lyceum Theatre in the Strand for regular exhibitions which could be attended by both sexes. 'The ladies are respectfully informed that there is neither violence nor indecency in this spectacle that can offend the most delicate of their sex'. So ran the advertisement, but there wasn't much that could offend the kind of ladies who frequented the smaller theatres in 1791. Mendoza could never keep any business going for long. He quarrelled with William Ward,* his sparring partner, with whom he fought two contests after the theatre had been given up. These confirmed his position as British champion, but brought him little financial advantage. The year 1793 saw him confined to the rules of the King's Bench debtors' prison. His creditors would not accept a com? position till 1795, when the country was at war with France. Mendoza then found em? ployment as a recruiting sergeant for the Fife shire Fencibles and shortly afterwards as a sergeant-major in the Aberdeenshire Fen? cibles.24 Mendoza had not added the career of a professional soldier to his many roles. The Scottish Fencible regiments were a sort of Home Guard, with amateur officers, doing weekly drills, and only to be called out in the event of invasion or civil disturbance. One could also quit at will?which Mendoza did in the course of the year, when he accepted the challenge of John Jackson, a builder's appren? tice, six years younger than himself, who had already made enough money from fights to run an inn in Surrey. Mendoza was badly defeated. His supporters protested that Jackson had dragged him round the ring by his con? spicuous hair which he refused to shave. But the umpires judged that this was perfectly consistent with the rules of fighting. In fact, under the 'Jack Broughton rules' of 1743, by which fights were then conducted, nothing was barred at all, except hitting a man when on the ground or grabbing his one article of clothing. 'Gentleman Jackson' not only succeeded Mendoza as champion, but contrived to keep a West End establishment going for a whole generation where young men of fashion learnt to box, something Mendoza only began to achieve. In 1814, when the Tsar of Russia, the King of Prussia, and Marshal Bl?cher were invited to witness the British art of self-defence, the champions included Jackson and Crib but not Mendoza.25 The remainder of Mendoza's memoirs is a dreary recital of insolvencies and incarcera? tions, of fights with obscure opponents, of fights beyond the strength of a man past his prime, of varying employments as sheriff's officer, strolling player, and, when freed from writs, of publican in the humbler suburbs. Some sport? ing men tried to organise a benefit display in 1819, after the period of the memoirs, to relieve England's former champion. Few paid to attend and Mendoza declared that the boxing fraternity had treated him very ill. He had not fought with bare fists for 13 years, yet he was so desperate as to accept a challenge in the following year at the age of 55. At this point Pierce Egan's chronicle ends.26 All that is known of the next 16 years is that on 3 Septem? ber 1836 BeWs Life recorded Mendoza's past glories in an obituary which made no mention of his circumstances at the time of his death.27 Mendoza's decline seems to have been due to his own deficiencies of character rather than to the circumstance of his being a Jew. As late as 1814 Elias Samuel or Dutch Sam was such a strong favourite that his defeat was like the failure of a banking house. His backers through ? Ibid., p. 86. * See also Plate XXII, Fig. 28 in this volume. 25 Egan, I, p. 416. 26 Ibid., III, p. 60. 27 Quoted by Hyamson in The Sephardim of England, 1951, p. 216.</page><page sequence="10">English Jewry at the End of the Eighteenth Century 43 out the country were believed to have lost over ?100,000. But Dutch Sam was no national figure, for boxing itself was losing its glamour. The revival of Royal patronage in the 1780s had been too shortlived to improve the status of boxers, while in 1809 something occurred which made their name positively odious. COVENT GARDEN RIOTS In all the disreputable annals of eighteenth century theatre audiences, there had been nothing like the riots at Covent Garden Theatre, which continued between September and November 1809. The old building, burnt down twelve months previously, had been rebuilt on an extravagant scale despite a very low insur? ance. The proprietors were ?300,000 in debt, and they dared to raise the price of the pit seats from 3s. to 4s. and the box seats from 5s. to 7s. After six weeks of continuous barracking by members of the audience who called them? selves the 'old price committee', Kemble, who was manager, part owner, and leading actor at the same time, was reduced to the expedient of recruiting a private police force of prize? fighters, and inevitably a fair proportion of them were Jews.* When finally Kemble con? ceded most of the demands of the 'old price committee', he was forced to make the most abject apology from the stage for employing these Jewish boxers.2* But why such a special furore? The two great monopoly theatres were protected from the interference of the magistracy by their Royal Charter. In revenge the magistracy refuted any obligation to keep public order within their walls. The Ring, which was not only denied police protection but was in itself illegal, dealt with the almost incessant public commotions to which the fights gave rise, by creating its own police. Two years later M. Louis Simond saw them at work at a famous fight at East Molesey and was amazed at the degree of passivity with which the gentry sub? mitted to the same treatment as the mob.29 These prize-fighters, who had acquired the habit of keeping order with whips and cudgels, were an accepted institution but not in the theatre. The decision to employ them was doubly disastrous because the old prices at Govent Garden had become a political issue before the theatre had even opened. The true grievance was not the rise in prices but the withdrawal of 26 boxes from the public use for the benefit of noble subscribers. This was court privilege against the rights of the citizen, and the boxers were employed on the wrong side. In Egan's words, 'Pugilism, we are sorry to observe, never lost its importance so much in the esteem of the nation.'30 A dispersed people undoubtedly earns more approbation from its neighbours when it reveals long-hidden belligerent qualities than when it produces a crop of economists, musicians, and philosophers. But that, as we are beginning to know, is a welcome that can be overstayed, and so it was in 1809. Gradually boxing ceased to be a sure road to popularity. In his third volume, published in 1821, Pierce Egan in? cluded only one Jewish boxer?namely, Abraham Belasco. The Jews, he declared, had 'produced no milling hero to support their once high pretensions in the sporting world'.31 But perhaps they no longer needed one. 28 James Boaden, op. cit., II, pp. 511-516. * See also Plate XXIII, Fig. 29, in this volume. 29 Simond, op. cit., II, pp. 261-266, 296. 30 Egan, op. cit., I, p. 333. 31 Ibid., III, p. 512.</page></plain_text>