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The Hope of Israel: A Brefie Epistle and Silex Scintillans

John Sparrow

<plain_text><page sequence="1">J A Breife % lEPISTLEi 1 to the Learned g I Manaffeb Ben Ifrael g I I lln Anfwer to his,| ?a ?a Dedicated to the Iparliament. ?8 btptembtr. 6. Imprimatur t| John Down a me. ?a ?a * Printed at London^ \6^o. |? Plate 37 Title-page of ^4 Briefe Epistle to the Learned Manasseh Ben Israel. (By permission of Bodley's Librarian) 232</page><page sequence="2">The Hope of Israel, A Breife Epistle, and Silex Scintillans By John Sparrow, M.A. (Warden of All Souls College, Oxford) I THE British Museum and the Bodleian Libraries contain, each of them, a copy of a rare little volume entitled A Breife Epistle to the Learned Manasseh Ben Israel.1 The Epistle is a contribution to the controversy that arose under the Protectorate concerning the re-admission of the Jews to England, in which a prominent part was played by Menasseh ben Israel, the learned Jew of Amsterdam, to whose The Hope of Israel the Epistle was an answer.2 The title-page is illustrated opposite. Besides the English text, the book contains a Latin translation of the "Breife Epistle"; and sandwiched between the text and the translation are a Latin epistle addressed to the author by the translator, who signs himself "N.B.", and an address by the author to the reader, accompanied, like the Epistle itself, by a Latin translation. The following summary will make plain the contents and collation3 of the book (the pages are unnumbered save where the contrary is indicated): [A iyecto: title-page. [A l]verso: blank. A 2-[3]rect0: "To my ancient friend William Lenthall Esquier, Mr of the Rolles," subscribed "Your humble servant E.S. Middlesex"; the running title is "The Epistle Dedicatory." [A 3]verso: blank. A 4-[ll], B 1-5?*? (pp. [1], 2-25): the text of the "Breife Episde," headed "To my deare brother Manasseh Ben Israel the Hebrew Philosopher/9 with no signature or indication of authorship. B 5verso: blank. [B 6]-[7]: a Latin epistle headed "Praenobili Domino Edvardo Spencero Militi, 'Evyevecrrdra) kqlo) 'iJvSo^oraro); l^uxaipctv,"4 and signed "Humilimus [sic] tuus in Christo Jesu servus &amp; Jesu Christi con servus N.B" [B 8]-[9]rec*?: a Latin address headed "Lectori" and ending "Ita precatur pusillus Author." [B 9]verso: blank. 1 It is not included in Wing's Short Title Catalogue. The shelf-mark of the Bodleian copy is 8? A64 Art. Seid., that of the B.M. copy (which lacks the title-page) 701.a.40. 2 The English text of The Hope of Israel was reprinted (from the second edition, 1652) in Menasseh Ben Israel's Mission to Oliver Cromwell by Lucien Wolf (London: Macmillan, 1901). The part played by Menasseh ben Israel in the movement for the re-admission of the Jews, and the circumstances in which The Hope of Israel was written and the controversy it gave rise to, are fully and learnedly dealt with in Dr. Cecil Roth's Life of Menasseh (Philadelphia, 1934). 3 The first leaf present in the B.M. copy is that signed A 2; the first leaf present in the Bodleian copy is the title. In both copies the last leaf in gathering A is [A 11]; the Bodleian copy is sewn between [A 5] and [A 6], not, as would be usual, between A 6 and A 7, so that A 2 is the third leaf of the gathering; the title is the second leaf, conjugate with [A 10]; and the last leaf [All] was originally conjugate with a leaf preceding the title, but now missing. 4 Accents and breathings as in the original. 233</page><page sequence="3">234 THE HOPE OF ISRAEL, A BREIF EPISTLE [B 10]-[ll]rec*?: the English original of the foregoing address, headed "To the Reader" and ending "the hearty desire of the small Author E.S." [B ll]verso: blank. [B 12]-[C I2]rect? (pp. 1-25 [mis-numbered 24]): a Latin translation of the "Breife Epistle," followed by a short list of Errata. [C I2]vers0: blank. The heading of the translator's Latin epistle makes it clear that the author of A Breife Epistle was Sir Edward Spencer, M.P.1 II What was the date of the composition of Spencer's little book? The text itself indicates that it was written in the course of the year 1650: "You know how long the world hath lasted hitherto;" says the author on p. 18 of the English text, "some say two thousand years before the law, two thousand years under the law, and 1650 since the lawe"; that it was completed before 6th September in that year is proved by the date of the Imprimatur on the title-page. There is no entry relating to A Breife Epistle in the Stationers' Register; the first English edition of The Hope of Israel, to which the Epistle was an answer, was entered in the Register under the date 1st July, 1650,2 and Thomason inscribed the date "July 4th" on the title-page of his copy of the book (B.M. E.1350 (3)).3 Since the body of this article was written, Mr. Graham Pollard has drawn my attention to the fact that No. 41 of Sever all Proceedings in Parliament, printed for Robert Ibbitson, which covered the week 4th to 11th July, 1650, and was licensed on 10th July, carries the following advertisement: "There is Extant a Sermon Preached in the Chappel at Summerset house on Thursday 27 June 1650 ... by H. Walker. . . . Also The Hope of Israel, written by Menasseh Ben Israel an Hebrew Divine and Philosopher. Trans? lated into English to be sold by Han. Allen at the Crown in Popeshead Alley."4 In spite of this seemingly conclusive evidence that the first London edition of The Hope of Israel was published in July, there is a passage in Spencer's answer to it that clearly indicates that the text of Menasseh's pamphlet was available to him at least some 1 Particulars of Spencer's career will be found in Foster's Alumni Oxonienses. He went to Corpus Christi College, matriculating at the age of fourteen on 13th November, 1609, and taking his degree in February, 1612; he was called to the Bar by Lincoln's Inn in 1618 and Knighted in 1625. He represented Brackley and Middlesex in Parliament in the 1620's and Middlesex again in 1648. He died on 11th February, 1655. 2 See the Transcript of the Registers, 1640-1708, printed for the Roxburghe Club, 1913-14, Vol. I, p. 346: "Mrs. Allen Entred... under the hands of Master CARILL and Master FLETCHER warden a booke called The hope of Israeli, written by Manasseh Ben Isreall an Ebrew divine &amp; philosophet [sic], translated into English . . . vjd." 3 The B.M. has another copy, shelf-mark 701.a.34. 4 Further evidence concerning the date of the publication of the first edition of the English translation of The Hope of Israel is to be found at the end of the Considerations upon the point of the Conversion of the Jewes which Moses Wall (the translator) added to the second edition (1652). "After that I had published in English, about last Autumne, the Booke of Menasseh Ben Israel, called. The Hope of Israel," says Wall, writing evidently in 1651, "I received a letter from an Honourable Person, concerning the Booke, to which I wrote an Answer, and both contain some further Discourse about the Jewes, and their Conversion." Wall subjoins three letters that passed between him and Spencer, dated in October and November 1650 (see Lucien Wolf's reprint of the second edition of Wall's translation, referred to above). The evidence given in the text makes it clear, I think, that in spite of Wall's "last autumne," the translation was in fact published in July 1650.</page><page sequence="4">THE HOPE OF ISRAEL, A BREIF EPISTLE 235 weeks before the beginning of that month. On p. 3 of the English text of A Breife Epistle, the author says: "hence wee collect two persons in the Trinity, which one God, Trinity in Unity, we worship, and upon this very day, which we call Trinity Sunday, the Sunday after the comming of the Holy Ghost." These words apparentiy refer to the day on which they were actually written, and they were so taken by the translator "N.B.," who renders them (p. 4) as follows: "quern Trin-Unum Deum nos etiam hodie veneramur; Hodie (inquam) Dominica est Sanctae Trinitatis', Dominica proxime imme diata a Pentecoste, seu Dominica Adventus S.S. Spiritus" And at the end of the text of the Epistle appears, both in the English and in the Latin versions, the Gloria appropriate to Trinity Sunday: "Sanctae et individuae Trinitati Gloria. Gloria Deo in excelsis, et in Terra Pax, &amp;c." Trinity Sunday fell upon 12th June in the year 1650, and we may assume that the Epistle was begun and completed within a few days of that date, for the author refers to it in his Epistle Dedicatory as "this carelesse dash of my pen" and calls it "this little worke of mine of a few dayes production." If that is so, the work to which Spencer was replying (on 12th June) must have been available to him at least some weeks before the date (1st July) on which the English edition of it was entered in the Stationers' Register. If one accepts the evidence afforded by the Stationers' Register, by Thomason's dating, and by the advertisement in Severall Proceedings, as establishing that the first English edition of The Hope of Israel was published early in July, one is tempted to account for the fact that Spencer was able to answer it on 12th June by supposing that, as a Member of the British Parliament, to which Menasseh's tract was dedicated, he received an advance copy of the book or had access to it in proof. The true explanation, however, is that he used the Amsterdam edition of the original Latin text. This can be demon? strated from the page- and chapter-references to The Hope of Israel given in A Breife Epistle (at pp. 5, 9 and 12), which correspond with the page- and chapter-numbers in the Latin, but not with those in the English (or the Spanish), version.1 1 The first London edition of The Hope of Israel does not itself carry any indication of date other than the "1650" on its title-page, which, if (as was probably the case) the publisher was using the Old Style, means that it was not published before the end of March. It was preceded by two Amsterdam editions, both of them dated 1650; one (B.M. 701.a.35; Bodl. 8?M 32 Th. Seid) contains the original Latin text, the other (B.M. 701.a.36; Bodl. 101.1.173, which appears to be identical, is an eighteenth-century reprint) a Spanish translation. In the latter the author substi? tutes for the (undated) dedication to the British Parliament contained in the Latin version a dedica? tion to the Wardens of the Talmud Tora in Amsterdam which is dated "a 13 de Sebat: An. 5410," i.e. 15th January, 1650. Writing to John Dury, with whom he was in correspondence about the authenticity of the narrative of "Antonie Montesinos" which was the occasion of his composing The Hope of Israel, Menasseh ben Israel declared that he had written "a Treatise, which hee shortly would publish, and whereof I [Dury] should receive so many copies as I should desire." Menasseh's letters were dated 25th November and 23rd December, 1649. Dury records this in an "Epistolicall Discourse," prefixed to Thomas Thorowgood's Iewes in America (London, 1650), which he dates "this 27 Ian. 1649/50." and in which he assures Thorowgood that "when his [Menasseh's] booke comes to my hand, you shall have it God willing." The text, therefore, had not reached Dury by the end of January and can hardly have been available to a translator in London before February, 1650. Besides the copy or copies of the Latin version that Menasseh sent to Dury, he may also have sent a copy to Seiden, for (as Dr. Cecil Roth has pointed out to me) the author's name is written on the title-page of the Bodleian copy noted above (8?M 32 Th. Seid) in what may be Menasseh's own hand. Dr. Roth also points out that Bodley MS. Seiden, supra 10g, contains (f. 378) an un? dated list in Selden's hand of Hebrew books, headed "In libris venabilibus apud Menasseh Ben Israel, Amstelodami, iuxta catalogum impressum"?the earliest reference, apparently, to a Jewish antiquarian bookseller's catalogue. "It would not have been remarkable," says Dr. Roth, "if Menasseh had sent a copy of his new book to his distinguished client." Q</page><page sequence="5">236 THE HOPE OF ISRAEL, A BREIF EPISTLE III The date of the composition of Spencer's "little work" is of some interest for a curious reason. "N.B.'s" English version of the Epistle ends (pp. 22-5) with the following1 (succeeded only by the Gloria referred to above): What would you have more? See Sylex Scintillans, 97, pag. To see the humblest maid with light dyvine, in poorest dresse so brightly shine, In darkest wombe to hide the light, till that his starre did shew this sight. 5 All this and more we wondring see disclosed by faith &amp; hope in thee. All this and more were but to see our God take flesh and borne of thee. The shepheards sweet harmlesse lives! (on whose holy leasure, 10 waites innocence and pleasure) Whose leaders to those pastures and cleare Springs, were Patriarchs, Saints and Kings. How happened it that in the dead of night, you only saw true light. 15 While Palestine was fast a sleepe &amp; lay without one thought of day? Was it because those first and blessed swaines were pilgrims, on those plaines When they received the promise, for which now 20 twos there first showne to you. Perhaps some harmelesse cares for the next day did in their bosomes play. As where to leade their sheepe, what silent nooke what Springs or shades to looke. 25 But that was all; and now with gladsome care, they for the towne prepare. They leave their flock, &amp; in a busie talke all towards Bethlem walke, To see their soules great Shepheard who was come 30 to bring all straglers home. Where now they find him out, and taught before, that lambe of God to 9adore. That lambe whose dayes great Kings &amp; Prophets wish'd and long'd to see, but miss'd. 35 The first light they beheld was bright and gay, and turned their night to day. But to this later light they saw in him, their day was darke and dim. 1 This conclusion is omitted from the Latin version; perhaps "N.B." did not feel equal to translating the verses.</page><page sequence="6">THE HOPE OF ISRAEL, A BREIF EPISTLE 237 Of these thirty-eight lines, 11. 9-38 consist of the first twelve, followed by the last eighteen,1 lines of The Shepheards, a poem to be found on p. 97 of the first edition of Vaughan's Silex Scintillans, which was published in 1650. Apart from a few trifling variants in punctuation and spelling, and the substitution of "to 'adore" for "adore" in 1.7 from the end, the quotation follows faithfully the text of Silex Scintillans, repro? ducing the misprint "lives" for "livers" in the first fine of Vaughan's poem. The first eight, doggerel, lines, are presumably from Spencer's own pen?the "carelesse dash" of which has at 1. 9 confounded his own work with that of Vaughan and incorporated the tide of Vaughan's poem in the first line of its text. The Errata attempts to set this confusion right: "p. 23. 1.1. dele See Sylex &amp; c. &amp; adde 1.12"?which apparentiy means that the reference should be transferred to the twelfth line of the page, where the quotation from Silex Scintillans in fact commences. Spencer's Breife Epistle, then, provides not only what must surely be the earliest example of a quotation from Silex Scintillans, but also a proof that its text was in the hands of a reader before 12th June, 1650. So far as I know, the only evidence hitherto recognized for the date of publication of Silex Scintillans is the entry in the Stationers' Register for 28th March, 1650,2 which suggests, if it does not prove, that the book was published after that date. IV Since the above was written, Mr. Graham Pollard has drawn my attention to a further source of evidence?advertisements in contemporary newspapers. Number 33 of Severall Proceedings in Parliament, printed for Robert Ibbitson, which covered the week 9th to 16th May, 1650, and was licensed on 15th May, carries on its last page an advertisement which is headed "Some excellent and long desired Books are lately printed" and which contains the titles of seven books by various pub? lishers. These include ". . . the threefold life of man, written by that famous German Authour Jac. Bemen. Also Mr. Hen. Vaughan's Sacred Poems, and private ejaculations, both sold at the Castle in Cornhill." Thomason's copy of this Number of Severall Proceedings is bound up in the volume whose B.M. shelf-mark is E 777; immediately before it in that volume is his copy of Number 22 of A Perfect Diurnall of some Passages and Proceedings of, and in relation to, the Armies in England and Ireland, printed for Francis Leach and Edw Griffin. Number 22 of A Perfect Diurnall covered the week 6th to 13th May, 1650, and was licensed on 11th May; it carries on its last page an advertisement of four books by various publishers, which opens as follows: "The long expected book of the Threefold Life of Man (written by that famous German Author, Iacob Bemen) is now published, and sold at the Castle in Corn-hill." This list, however, does not include Silex Scintillans. The Numbers of Severall Proceedings and A Perfect Diurnall for 2nd to 9th May contain, each of them, a similar list of current publications, neither of which mentions 1 Twenty-four intermediate lines of Vaughan's are omitted by Spencer. 2 See the Roxburghe Club Transcript, Vol. I, p. 341: "Hum. Blunden. Entred . . . under the hand of Master DOWNHAM a booke called Silex Scintillans or sacred poems, by Wm. Vaughan .., vjd." The Bodleian copy of the first edition (Don. f. 208) bears on its title-page the inscription, in a contemporary hand, "&lt;?Hindon&gt; &lt;...?...&gt; 12 August 165 ... pret. I8"; the last figure in the date has been cut away by the binder.</page><page sequence="7">238 THE HOPE OF ISRAEL, A BREIF EPISTLE Silex Scintillans. A fortnight later, however, Number 24 of A Perfect Diurnall (20th to 27th May; licensed 25th May) announced on its last page: "Silex Scintillans, or Mr. Henry Vaughans sacred Poems, are now also published, which (for Charity SubHmity, and Piety) deserves esteem, as any that ever yet spake English. Sold at the Castie in Corn-hill" The presence of Silex Scintillans in the advertisement contained in Number 33 of Severall Proceedings would seem to prove that it was published before 16th May; its absence from Number 22 of A Perfect Diurnall suggests that it had not been published when that Number was issued on 13th May, and this negative inference is strengthened by the fact that Number 22 of A Perfect Diurnall does advertise The Threefold Life of Man, which came from the same pubhshing house. The final conclusion to be drawn from the several pieces of evidence collected in this paper would seem to be that Silex Scintillans, entered in the Stationers' Register on 28th March, 1650, was undoubtedly in the hands of at least one reader on 12th June of that year and had very probably by that date been in general circulation for something like a month.</page></plain_text>