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Reviews179 The exclusive role of the frontier spirit in inspiring the ordinary boy who so eagerly joined the Scouts in its Edwardian heyday is open to debate. Surely, other roles performed by Baden-Powell, such as spy, author, entertainer, imperialist, and soldier, were equally as dominant symbols in the imaginative Ufe of Scouting as was the frontiersman? MacDonald also exaggerates Baden-Powell's Establishment respectabiUty, did he really incarnate 'the spirit his class and caste most admired' (102)? The Chief Scout's most recent biographer, Tim Jeal, portrays less a typical EngUsh officer than a self-advertising maverick who should never have allowed himself to become besieged in Mafeking in the first place. JOHN SPRINGHALL University of Ulster at Coleraine S.S. Prawer. Israel at Vanity Fair: Jews and Judaism in the Writings of WM. Thackeray. Leiden and New York: E.J. Brill, 1992. 439. $122.86 U.S. I recall expressing bemusement to a colleague about Trollope's sympathetic treatment of the Jewish character, Brehgert, in The Way We Live Now despite Trollope's employment of rather nasty anti-semitic cUchés and stereotypes elsewhere. His response, "Oh, surely not antiSemitic ," further bemused me — perhaps he was making the distinction S.S. Prawer makes in his detailed, learned, and charitable study of Jews and Judaism in Thackeray's works: "for all his acceptance of a number of unfriendly stereotypes he was not a programmatic anti-Semite." Prawer examines Jewish characters, references to Jews, and allusions to the Old Testament in Thackeray's essays, lectures, poems, comic squibs and parodies, his novels, and his privately expressed views as weU as in the graphic sketches that accompanied them. The treatment is exhaustive, following Thackeray from early crude invective to much more tolerant, thoughtful, and sympathetic views in his major and later works, though, if he was irritated, as by Samuel Phillips's review of Henry Esmond, latent prejudice could re-emerge. In his study, Prawer puts Thackeray's attitudes into several contexts: biographical, historical, dissociated (that is, noting distinctions between his literature and his personal or political doings), and developmental (following the development of his attitudes over the extent of his career). 1 80Victorian Review John Sutherland (Essays and Reviews, 1970) saw 'Victorian racialism' in Thackeray's views. It appears most distressingly in his Uterary treatment of blacks, and especially in intermarriage of white and black. These feelings may stem from his being an Anglo-Indian with a dark-skinned half-sister of whom he was ashamed. His occasional representation of Jews as vulturish money-lenders may also have a personal note. As a young man he tried to buttress his income by joining a firm of bill-discounters in Birchin Lane. For historical reasons the activity was one in which many Jews were involved. He hated to be reminded of this episode in his career, but he put his familarity with "scrips, options, shares and consols" to use in his fiction. His hostility to the Old Testament — "nothing but exclusiveness and pride curses and arrogance" — has a similarly personal root in opposition to his mother's rigid Evangelicalism. To her annoyance, he insists on treating the Bible as "a book." Whatever Thackeray's personal hangups, Prawer is astute in showing how and to what extent his attitudes connect with Victorian culture. He sees Thackeray's preoccupation with Jewish financial behavior as part of his encompassing indictment of Victorian Mammonism. "It is, indeed," says Prawer, "essential for a proper understanding of the Jewish characters introduced into Thackeray's fiction to see them in the context of the less than admirable Gentiledominated society in which they live and work." And he notes as well how much Thackeray's presentation of Jews owes to literary tradition as weU as to personal observation. He was not a scholar of Jewish life and institutions: "But it is precisely this which makes Thackeray's depictions, presentations, and discussions so interesting: for he was a sharp observer of whatever swam into his ken; he had a feel for the middle-class sentiment of his time; he was steeped in the Uterary and cultural traditions of the educated Englishman of the day; and with his novels, his essays...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1923-3280
Print ISSN
0848-1512
Pages
pp. 179-182
Launched on MUSE
2015-10-07
Open Access
No
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