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93 ISRAEL ZANGWlII, -S CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO : A LITERARY HISTORY OF THE FIRST ANGLO-JEWISH BEST-SELLER By Bernard Winehouse (Tel-Aviv University) In a postcard to Zangwill of 22 June I907, Bernard Shaw shrewdly if somewhat flatteringly peints to the dramatic change that came over Zanrwill's literary productions in the early eighteenninetios : Ir Jo^r) ]ra in" as anv threevolume ι djtior. he had published. He also pointed out that Zan--v.'ll had "not yet secured library suecos;-;. " 22 TVp result was a rocs eo"+i'sot for th format; whether this was for reasons of personal friendship, or simply because his businesssense told him that this was going to be a best-seller, is not clear. He was certainly very enthusiastic about the- novel and 102 throughout Zangwill's life he always insisted that the mode of Children of the Ghetto should not be abandoned. If the first two editions got off to a poor start, it seems that the highly favourable review of the novel in the Times23 was an important turning-point towards success. Heinemann had given publicity to the more favourable sections of the Athoneaum2^ review of the novel; and this, together with the eulogies of the Times had, reported the publisher, "made it move as τ have never seen a book move except by the old three-volume hand."25 Ey this Heinemann meant that the book was selling well. In I9OI, Heinemann published a six-penny edition of the novel of which 50,000 copies were subscribed before publication. These cheap editions were not very popular with authors, or so one gathers from the tone of Heinemann's letter to Zangwill in connection with a proposed six-penny edition: "of course one could never do another book, but just one as an advertisement; and one would limit oneself to say 100,000 copies."2" In fact all 100,000 copies of this edition were sold. The Jewish Chronicle , five years after the publication of Children of the Ghetto, wrote of the novel as one of the few modern examples of that old class of "stock" literature, the decay of which the booksellers have lately been lamenting. It has penetrated either in its original form or in its various translations to every important centre of not only Europe, but of the whole civilized world.27 By I900 there were eight reprints of the Heinemann one-volume edition, and the publication of a "Colonial" edition. This excludes , of course, the two- and one-volume editions of the J. P. S. A. and various Macmillan editions which were published in the U. S. A. In one form or another the one-volume edition remained in print until the Second World War. In 19^3, Edith Zangwill wrote: "Does it not seem incredible that for the first time in fifty years there were no copies sold of Children of the Ghetto?. , , I thought [itJ safe, as in England, though the sale has been small, it has been persistent."2" The book had continued to enjoy a small sale until the nineteenforties when the firm of Heinemann was obliged to melt down the printing plates of all of Zangwill's publications as a contribution to the war effort. No edition of Children is in print today other than that contained in the recent American Manuscript Society reprint of the fourteen-volume Collected VJorks of 1926. One supposes that most of the buyers of the novel over the later years were Jewish. Its perennial appeal is probably due to the fact that it is Janus-faced; it looks back with a certain nostalgia to the East-End ghetto and forward to the complete social and cultural emancipation of the Anglo-Jew. 103 A study of the contemporary critical reception of Children of the Ghetto reveals a fascinating chapter of social history. English people knew as little of Jewish life in the East End of London as they know today of the habits and mores of the "coloured " immigrants of Paddington or Birmingham. There was one positive achievement about which all the critics of Children were in accord: the book was, as one reviewer put it, "a revelation of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 93-117
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Archived
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