Coda
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248 Coda A central aim of this book has been demonstrating how antisemitic texts merit our critical attention for what they tell us about the utility of the imagined Jew in producing English capitalist space. By taking seriously their geographic dimensions, I have shown how such texts respond to historical change in a contradictory manner that at times challenges received ideas of Christian identity. Not only straightforward statements about Jew-hatred, these texts contain offensive fantasies about a supposed “Jewish”menace that stand in tension with counternarratives about an English Christian reliance on, desire for, and similitude to the “Jewish” materialisms Christianity claims to reject. Geography highlights that fraught multiplicity. Careful attention to space shores up both an English obsession over the Jew’s house as a cover for malevolence and the urban-based flows and mixings that undermine that imagined domestic Jewish threat. Representations of the accommodated Jew thus reveal both an offensive politics of rejection and an ideological embrace of the Jew as a tool for accommodating the English to their messy urban materialisms. I close by considering the implications my study has for later English images of the Jew as they appear in the work of Charles Dickens (1812–70). Writing some 150 years after Milton, Dickens returns to the question of Jewish accommodation in Oliver Twist (1837–39). By the time Dickens published the novel, about twenty thousand Jews were living in London and CODA 249 about half that number resided elsewhere in the realm.1 Some members of the Jewish community thrived. Since the late eighteenth century or earlier , families such as the Cohens, Mocattas, and Rothschilds had achieved wealth and prominence through financial occupations such as stockbroking, trade,and banking.2 In 1837,the prominent banker Moses Haim Montefiore (1784–1885) became sheriff of London and was knighted by Queen Victoria the following year.3 A growing group of Jewish professions gained still more civil privileges. In 1830, Jews could become freemen and run retail businesses in the City; in 1833, Francis Henry Goldsmid (1808–78) was admitted to Lincoln’s Inn as a barrister.4 Alongside such advances,however,were sociopolitical problems and challenges . Jews were barred officially from many professions and political positions , including membership in Parliament. The official debates over Jewish political rights that began in 1830 led to no ready resolution but instead the presentation and rejection of multiple bills in Parliament, followed by a protracted period of incremental gains such as the Reform Act of 1865 and the Universities Tests Act of 1871.5 Arguments for and against “emancipation ,” which hinged primarily on ideas about religious freedom and the separation of church and state,at times drew on long-standing spatial tropes.6 In his famous 1830 inaugural speech before Parliament, a young Thomas Macaulay (1800–59) advocated abolishing Jews’ civil disabilities by evoking the privileged architecture of the Hebrew Bible. Contrasting early English barbarity with ancient Jewish society, he reminded opponents that “in the infancy of civilisation, when our island was as savage as New Guinea, . . . when scarcely a thatched hut stood on what was afterwards the site of Rome, this contemned people had their fenced cities and cedar palaces, their splendid Temple.”7 When we push back in time far enough, Macaulay asserted, we find that the only sophisticated and exalted space on earth belonged to Jews. If Macaulay supported Jewish emancipation by recalling the divine house of Solomon’s Temple,Matthew Arnold’s father,Thomas (1795–1842), would take the reverse spatial tack. Offering an analogy that connoted the geographic impermanence of diaspora, Arnold stated in 1834 that the “Jews are strangers in England, and have no more claim to legislate for it than a lodger has to share with the landlord in the management of his house . . . For England is the land of Englishmen, not of Jews.”8 For Arnold, only Christians—not the wandering, exiled, and always-foreign Jews—can truly occupy and possess English territory in any meaningful way. Tangible evidence against Arnold’s argument existed throughout Victorian London in the ample properties held by Jews. As Macaulay facetiously commented, “The Jew must not sit in Parliament: but he may be the 250 CODA proprietor of all the ten pound houses in a borough.”9 Both Anglo-Jewish property ownership and the presence of grand Jewish dwellings in fashionable areas such as Finsbury Square belied Arnold’s characterization of Jews as mere boarders.10 However, most Jews in Dickens’s London were far...



Subject Headings

  • Jews in literature.
  • Antisemitism in literature.
  • English literature -- Old English, ca. 450-1100 -- History and criticism.
  • English literature -- Middle English, 1100-1500 -- History and criticism.
  • English literature -- Early modern, 1500-1700 -- History and criticism.
  • Antisemitism -- England -- History.
  • Jews -- England -- History.
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