WALTER SCOTT AND THE CONVERSIONISTS
Why did Victorian Jewish women in the 1830s and 1840s pick up the pen? And what resources did they bring to the task? This chapter begins to answer the first of these questions by exploring the pressures acting on Anglo-Jewish women from the dominant culture in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Specifically, it argues that non-Jewish writers depicted Jewish women using the representational techniques of “orientalism”: they depicted their heroines as dark, sensuous, malleable, and amenable to persuasion. And they saw these heroines as emblems for the Jewish community as a whole.1 It was these charges—of Jewish women’s impressionability, of their capacity for conversion—to which Jewish women writers came to feel they had to respond.
These charges were given a forcible new life when Walter Scott published his historical romance Ivanhoe (1819), depicting a spiritual Jewish woman, in thrall to her materialistic father but attracted to a charismatic Christian suitor. A series of conversionist romances followed, revealing that dominant English culture was undergoing a shift in perspective toward Jews. Rather than using premodern coercive means such as torture, extortion, or threats of expulsion to force Jews into radical assimilation, Victorians such as M. G. Lewis in Jewish Maiden (1830), Amelia Bristow in Rosette and Miriam (1837), Edward Bulwer Lytton in Leila (1837), and William Makepeace Thackeray in Rebecca and Rowena (1843) were attempting to use persuasive means—that is, fiction—to achieve the same end. Believing that Jews who felt invited into Victorian culture would choose to join it fully through conversion, these novelists came to see a particular kind of romance novel as a persuasive political instrument. To see why and how is the work of this chapter.
SPEAKING THE JEW
Aside from the readmission of Jews in 1656, and the Jew Bill controversy of 1753, the first thirty years of the nineteenth century saw more attempts by Christians to rethink the role of the Jew in British society than during any time in English history. By 1815, for the first time since the Expulsion, an Anglo-Jewish community was developing that was large enough to be visible, to have its own identity, and to have an impact on non-Jewish society. The passing of Acts of Parliament enabling Dissenters and Catholics to hold office and vote in the 1820s served as a catalyst for Jews seeking the removal of Jewish disabilities. Beginning in 1830 and continuing for the next thirty years, Jews stirred up a pamphlet and press flurry on the issue that at one point was so controversial it nearly brought down the government.2 As Jews saw it, the fate of their bid for full citizenship was connected to the fate of other marginalized religious and racial groups in the Victorian period. As a result, they advocated for both Catholic Emancipation and the end of the slave trade. Emancipationist Jews were thus natural allies of Christian liberals, and at least some Christian liberals, such as Thomas Babington Macaulay and Robert Grant, acknowledged the alliance.3 It was no accident that the first Reform Bill was passed just two years after the Jews began to agitate for removal of disabilities. Removal of Jewish disabilities and liberal reform were part of the same cultural movement toward increasing the number of marginalized groups who could exercise influence over the direction of Victorian society. Thus as the nineteenth century continued, it became increasingly necessary for non-Jewish Victorians to rethink the role of the Jew in England, if only because it was necessary to think through the role of liberalism in England. As Thomas Carlyle put it in his anonymous antiemancipationist pamphlet “The Jew Our Lawgiver,” allowing Jews into Parliament would be a disastrous result of “Infidel liberalism,” and would lead eventually to the total franchise of all men in England.4 The figure of the Jew was one of the tropes by which the English would understand themselves as a nation.5
While Victorian Jews allied themselves with Christian liberals, most of them understood too well that liberalism did not necessarily offer them full coexistence. Rather, Christian liberals frequently believed that Jews ought to convert. This sort of conversionist liberalism could and often did fuel an enormous energy on behalf of Jews’ “betterment.” Out of such love philo-Semitic activists founded Hebrew Christian Free Schools for poor Jews. There, Jews were given food and shelter, were taught sewing and basket weaving, and by the bye, were introduced to the Gospel. It was likewise no accident that many of the liberal MPs attempting to extend the franchise to Jewish men, open the city of London to Jewish commerce, and remove obstacles from Jews’ holding political office were also members of conversion societies. Liberals were convinced that by taking pity on Jews’ suffering and removing their legal and economic disabilities, Parliament would demonstrate the superiority of the English Christian character, being exposed to which Jews would naturally desire to convert. “Toleration” translated into a specific set of political practices. These liberal reforms enacted out of philo-Semitic motives were the political ground in which the non-Jewish “novel of Jewish identity” developed.
When Jews in philo-Semitic writings were not being pitied, persuaded, and converted, they were being made into metaphors—for the virtues as well as the excesses of the modern Christian nation. In nineteenth-century English literary history it is virtually always true to say that when non-Jews write about Jews, they are really writing about themselves. Quite flexibly, Jews were made to represent selfish materialism (Carlyle), romantic wandering (Coleridge, Wordsworth, Byron), legalism and the market (Blake), Jacobinism (Burke), capitalism (Scott), criminality (Dickens), pauperism (Mayhew), and philanthropy (Cumberland, Edgeworth, and Dickens). For these writers the Jew served as a projection of their fears and hopes for those ideologies and institutions that defined their own secularized Christian existence.6
Of all the various strands of non-Jewish thought about Jews that appeared during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, a single genre elicited more fictional and polemical responses by Jewish writers than any other: the romance novel that took as its starting point the plot of Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice.7 Victorian novelists casting about for a plot to examine “the Jew” most frequently looked to Shylock and his daughter Jessica. The romance genre basing itself on Shakespeare’s plot portrayed the Jewish community in some complexity, addressed it explicitly, and introduced a Jewish female character. There were two basic novelistic uses of Merchant, one of which elicited polemical responses from Jews, the other of which elicited fictional responses.
First, there was the attempt, made by Richard Cumberland in The Jew (1794), Maria Edgeworth in Harrington (1817), and Charles Dickens in Our Mutual Friend (1871) to rehabilitate the image of the Jewish man by replacing the stereotype of the dirty moneylender Shylock with that of the benevolent philanthropist. It is difficult to tell what kind of impact the earliest of these representations had on Jews, since the Jews had no public press until 1834, and no press committed to relations with the non-Jewish world until 1841. But Jews looking back on these representations from later in the century seemed to dismiss their impact on the Anglo-Jewish community’s vision of itself.8 The revision of the moneylender as benevolent philanthropist was welcomed by Jews as a relief, but the shrewder among them saw that it was simply replacing one stereotype with another equally unreal, or as the Anglo-Jewish poet and novelist Amy Levy was to put it in discussing the Fagin/Riah pairing in Dickens, the novelist “tries to compensate for his having affixed the label ‘Jew’ to one of his bad fairies by creating the good fairy Riah.”9
Still, these novels could not be dismissed out of hand, since they did tend to introduce a female character to whom Jewish women novelists would feel it necessary to respond. Drawing on the sketchy existence of Jessica in Merchant, these novelists tended to endow their moneylender-turned-philanthropist with a daughter, one who could be seen as a role model by the Anglo-Jewish writers who were looking to the dominant culture to provide models. But these revised Jessicas—who, unlike their source, did not steal their father’s money and marry out without his permission, but were rather spiritual and beautiful—disappointed the Jews. When a Jewish woman did appear, like Berenice in Harrington, she usually turned out to have been Christian all along. All in all, when one cast one’s eyes over the whole field, as Amy Levy did in 1886, there did not seem much to which Jews could relate. Taking even Daniel Deronda (1876) into account, Levy argued, “There has been no serious attempt at serious treatment of the subject; at grappling in its entirety with the complex problem of Jewish life and Jewish character. The Jew, as we know him to-day, with his curious mingling of diametrically opposed qualities; his surprising virtues and no less surprising vices; leading his eager, intricate life; living, moving, and having his being both within and without the tribal limits; this deeply interesting product of civilization has been found worthy of none but the most superficial observation.”10 Perhaps because of this feeling that non-Jewish novelists of Jewish identity failed to grapple with the complexity of Jewish life, few of these novels elicited a fictional response from Jewish writers. Those that depicted negative stereotypes of Jews did, however, elicit multiple polemical responses. Famously, both Edgeworth and Dickens were persuaded to write novels in atonement for their negative portraits of Jews when called to account by Jewish women readers.11 In addition, there is at least one recorded instance of Dickens having changed his plan of giving a public reading of Oliver Twist in response to appeals from the Jewish Chronicle.12
There was, however, a strand of representation of Jewish identity by a non-Jew, a revision of Merchant of Venice, which exercised Jewish women repeatedly in the 1830s and 1840s to give a fictional response. This was the representation of the relationship between father and daughter in Walter Scott’s historical romance Ivanhoe, and in the numerous revisions of that text, which followed in the 1830s.13 There was something in Scott’s romance that felt “real” or significant to Jewish women writers. As chapter 3 will show, Jewish women assimilated the father/daughter plot and the genre of Ivanhoe and its successors, only to transform it so as to represent their view of Jewish reform. So how did Scott’s historical romance speak to them?
Victorian romance emerged from centuries of Christian European engagement with the genre in a variety of forms—the medieval chivalric poem, the eighteenth-century criminal romance, the gothic novel, the romantic poem, and the historical romance. According to Gillian Beer, each of these subcategories is related to the others by giving “repetitive form to the particular desires of a community, and especially to those desires which cannot find controlled expression within a society.”14 Romances tend to have the feeling and function of dreams—improbable coincidences fulfill otherwise unspeakable fantasies. In the Victorian period, the romance provides a fantasy fulfillment of one dream in particular—the legitimation of a forbidden love affair between the hero and the heroine to which social expectations and the heroine’s father are generally represented as the main obstacles. The hero and heroine generally hail from different classes, races, countries, or religions, and their coming together represents a fantasy of breaking through the barriers of prejudice that separate them. The hero generally belongs to the dominant group, the heroine to the marginalized group.15
Perhaps the Victorian romance can best be described in contrast to the realist novel that increasingly superseded it. Though the romance may deal with issues similar to those explored in the realist novel (i.e., the recognition, negotiation, and legitimation of heterosexual love), romance differs from realism in several ways. It exhibits a greater tolerance for types (e.g., the Outcast Hero, the Oppressed Daughter, the Tyrannical Father) over well-rounded characterizations. It prefers melodrama and simplicity over ambivalent moral, political, and emotional plotlines. It conventionally includes improbable coincidences and character choices rather than strictly plausible actions, feelings, and events. Finally, it legitimates individual desire and conscience over the norms and the laws of the communities in which the characters live. This last aspect aside, for Victorians, the romance was politically and religiously a reactionary form, while the realist novel was understood to be a progressive, liberal form. Romance’s “tendency to simplify and allegorize character” (69), to suppose that characters were not socially constructed and could transcend social regulation, especially identified the genre with premodern Christian literature.
The realist novel, by contrast, was the form of modern secularized Protestantism, and was often thought by Christian liberals to be progressive. It assumed that characters’ subjectivities were formed through negotiation with social discourses seeking to regulate them. As Beer says, “Until after Spencer the romance was still very much the dominant form of fiction. … With the gradual rise of the realist novel, however, it tended to be … in reaction” (7).16 One of the ironies of Anglo-Jewish women’s writing is that the Jews attempted to use the romance form for politically and religiously progressive aims. They assimilated a form that already wore the code of the Christian past for Christian readers, in order to argue for far-reaching communal and social reforms among both Christian and Jewish liberals.
The particular subcategory of the romance genre that Anglo-Jewish women writers were most drawn to adopt was the historical romance—a romance set in the context of a historical event, such as the Inquisition or the destruction of the Second Temple, and generally including historical personages as characters in the action, such as Queen Isabella or Titus. It was just this type of historical romance Walter Scott made available with the publication of Ivanhoe. His plot was inordinately popular among non-Jews, inspiring eleven operas and five stage productions, as well as numerous fictional imitations.17 It was in Ivanhoe that for the first time the Jessica figure became the center of concern.
Scott sees the drama of the Shakespeare plot for modern readers not in the reversal of the Jewish male stereotype, not in the plot twist of making the daughter a Christian all along, but in the conflict within Merchant between the Jewish father and his wayward Jewish daughter. He takes this conflict and alters it in ways that turn out to be tremendously significant for Jewish self-representation. Isaac is a typical materialistic, dirty, moneylending, worldly Shylock. He is a hypocritical Jew who invokes his God only when he can secure some business by doing so. He uses Jewish ritual to forward materialistic aims; his representation is in line with a typically intolerant Christian view of Jewish ritual as in itself too material, too concerned with the formalistic letter and not concerned enough with the spirit of the law. But there are some differences between Scott’s Isaac and Shakespeare’s Shylock. For one thing, in himself, Isaac is much less sympathetic than Shylock, his motives those of a stock character without a “hath not a Jew eyes” speech to complicate them. On the other hand, unlike his literary progenitor, Isaac is not a tyrannical father to Rebecca, for “out of reverence for her talents … [he] permitted the maiden a greater liberty than was usually indulged to those of her sex by the habits of her people” (276). Most Jewish women are oppressed by their fathers, according to Scott, but not Rebecca. Perhaps this leniency is why Rebecca, unlike Jessica, bears her father such intense loyalty.
That she does so is indisputable. Not only does she remain with Isaac to the end, she defends him from his critics. In responding to Bois-Guilbert’s description of Jews as money-grubbers, she says, “Thou hast spoken the Jew as the persecution of such as thou art hast made him.”18 Her defense of Isaac is a curious one in that, like Bois-Guilbert, she assumes that Isaac is indeed degraded, merely apologizing for his degradation by blaming it historically on Christian persecution. The Jewish man’s degradation appears a foregone conclusion. Scott assumes that his moneylending, the economic basis for capitalism, is an inherently unspiritual occupation.
But Rebecca’s defense of Isaac can only raise the question: If “the Jew” is degraded by persecution and by the taint of money, how is it that Rebecca is not degraded? If Bois-Guilbert has “spoken the Jew,” he does not at all seem to have “spoken” Rebecca. How is it that she has evaded history? When she says that Bois-Guilbert has “spoken the Jew,” she seems to have erased herself. For Rebecca is emphatically not your typical Jessica, running from her father, taking his money, and marrying out. Scott is rewriting the daughter’s role in Shakespeare’s father/daughter plot. Besides sticking with her degraded father to the end, Rebecca is “endowed with knowledge as with beauty” and is “universally revered and admired by her own tribe, who almost regarded her as one of those gifted women mentioned in the sacred history” (276). Her knowledge is of medicine and Jewish lore, her beauty is “Eastern” and “exquisitely symmetrical”19 and “might have been compared with the proudest beauties of England” (93). Given Scott’s emphasis on the importance of “race” to character formation in this novel, this last detail seems particularly important; he seems to be struggling to come to grips with the possibility that a Jewish woman could be English. In fact, the whole romance between her and Ivanhoe is set up to foreground this possibility. This Anglo-Jewish daughter seems infinitely more sympathetic than her father, who is simply unredeemable. In Merchant, Shylock has moments of great sympathy, but his daughter barely appears. In Ivanhoe, Scott has altered the focus of the Shakespeare plot from the materialistic older man to the spiritual younger woman.
What makes Rebecca so spiritually superior and how did she get to be that way? To begin with, she runs behind her father undoing his usurious acts with her generous acts of benevolence. For example, when Isaac cheats Gurth of ten zecchins, Rebecca repays that and gives Gurth an extra ninety (125–27). Here and elsewhere she goes to great lengths to show that not all Jews are materialists. Along with her benevolence, Scott describes other aspects of her moral goodness, such as the “gentleness and candour of her nature” (280) that are revealed when Ivanhoe becomes ill and she nurses him to health even though she knows he despises her as a Jew. Further, she manages to convince him of the truth of ethical monotheism, “that a Jew may do good service to a Christian, without desiring other guerdon than the blessing of the Great Father who made both Jew and Gentile” (281). It appears that she has such self-possession and such spirituality, because this spirituality is her “nature,” her inborn gift, impervious apparently to the same history of persecution that degrades Isaac. His ontology is historical, hers essential. It is in her nature to understand that monetary transactions taint one with worldliness and bring about anti-Semitism, and that what makes one spiritual is the belief in the universalistic Great Father rather than any particularistic ritual acts or creed. Her ethical monotheism is a stance that was not available to any Jewish woman of the period in which Rebecca is supposed to have lived, given that it was an innovation of reform Judaism and the secularized Protestantism known as liberal humanism of Scott’s own period. According to legend, Rebecca was in any case modelled, not on a medieval Jew, but on a modern Jewish woman—on Washington Irving’s description of the American Portuguese Jew, Rebecca Gratz, who in the 1820s and 1830s founded both the Female Hebrew Benevolent Society and the first Jewish Sunday School in the United States.20 Her modern spiritual superiority consisted in the knowledge that the letter killeth and the spirit giveth life. The distinction between spirituality and a materialism that encompasses both money-mindedness and legalism was itself a traditionally Christian one that Scott had secularized so as to make it appear modern, unproblematic, and universal. In fact, during the medieval period in which the novel’s action is supposed to take place, the spirit/matter binary was of very little significance to Jews. It was only when, as the Anglo-Jewish novelist Benjamin Farjeon was to put it in Grif, “home became earth’s heaven,” when reformist Jews had begun to separate out the spiritual from the worldly, the religious from the secular, the domestic from the public, that the distinction between spirituality and materiality came alive for Jews. This was not yet the case in England when Scott first published his novel. His depiction is drawn, then, not from Jewish self-representation, but from a projection of his Protestant categories onto them. He bequeathes Rebecca a secularized Protestant morality that is embarrassed by what it deems worldliness (Isaac) and drawn to what it deems the universal morality of ethical monotheism.
Although from a contemporary Jewish perspective Rebecca would have been seen to be a reformer like her American namesake, Scott does not seem to have had much knowledge of modern-day or even medieval Jews, representing their rituals in ridiculous ways. He has them engage in monetary transactions in Hebrew, for instance, which, since Hebrew was not a spoken language at the time, would not have occurred.21 Given this, it does not seem likely that he is promoting a Jewish reform movement in his romance novel. Rather, he is promoting a move toward a secularized Protestant morality, in which the individual derives a moral code for himself or herself by consulting Scripture individually. But even were a Jew to accomplish such a self-formation, it does not appear that Scott would accept her as fully English, for he seems to understand Rebecca as a member of the Jewish race with a Protestant nature. And when forced to choose between race and nature, race is the more important for Scott. For although he flirts with the notion that a Jew could be an English-woman, ultimately, what counts is that she is born a Jew. Although he draws her with enormous sympathy, even bringing his Englishman to fall in love with her, in the end, he sees her as the test case for how far liberalism will go—will it go so far as to tolerate non-Christians? The conservative Scott is certainly no supporter of a monarchy divested of its Christian ties. Once one admits Jews—even those Jews whom, unlike the materialistic Isaac, one finds spiritual or romantic, even Jewish Protestants like Rebecca—one threatens to undermine the Christian foundations of the country. Because Scott equates Rebecca with liberal reform, he ultimately cannot commit himself to seeing the romance between Rebecca and Ivanhoe fulfilled, for the bottom line is that the Christian character of the nation must be preserved, and Rebecca is of the Jewish race. When he sends Rebecca and Isaac into exile at the end of the novel, he implies that Rebecca’s liberal position—that the Great Father recognizes the ethical acts of both the Jew and the Gentile—is attractive but finally incorrect.
He makes this decision even at the expense of his novel’s closure, for the romance form, which highlights individual desire over the prevailing social conventions, seems to have a tendency within itself toward individualism. It is a tendency Scott can only overcome by writing Rebecca out of the country. In the end, the Normans and Saxons have “formed intermarriages with each other” (464) “as a pledge of the future peace and harmony betwixt two races, which, since that period, have been so completely mingled that the distinction has become wholly invisible” (463). These “intermarriages” have required a kind of conversion, for “the Normans abated their scorn, and the Saxons were refined from their rusticity” (464). But the Jewish “race,” as Rebecca calls it, remains distinct, unintermarried, and unconverted at the end of the novel. Rebecca and Isaac go to Granada. Apparently, not only may Jews not intermarry, but they must leave the country rather than stay and be treated on equal terms. Why is this? When Rebecca questions Ivanhoe’s chivalric code, his love of battle and glory, he tells her, “Thou wouldst quench the pure light of chivalry, which alone distinguishes the noble from the base. … Thou art no Christian, Rebecca” (295). Although she is humanistic, ultimately for Ivanhoe as for Scott, to be a Jew means to “quench … chivalry.” Rebecca the romance heroine subverts romance.22 But while many contemporary readers may have been able to follow the logic, the whole telos of the novel suggests another ending, for which Wilfred’s marriage to Rowena can only seem a poor substitute.
As popular as Scott’s rewriting of the Shakespearean father/daughter plot was, the ending was unsatisfying to many members of the non-Jewish Victorian audience, precisely because it did not fulfill the merging of the Jewess and the knight promised by the rest of the novel. For example, Thackeray wrote: “Of all the Scottish novels, … that of which the conclusion gives me the greatest dissatisfaction is the dear old Ivanhoe. … I feel sure the story can’t end where it does. I have quite too great a love for the Disinherited Knight, whose blood has been fired by the suns of Palestine, and whose heart has been warmed in the company of … Rebecca, to suppose that he could sit down contented for life by the side of such a frigid piece of propriety as that icy, faultless, prim, niminy-piminy Rowena.”23 Through his military conquests, Ivanhoe has undergone a change: he has lost some of his English frigidness in the suns of Palestine. What makes the “Eastern” Jewess so attractive is the warmth of Palestine in her body, her sensuality. The imagined sensuality of the Eastern woman goes hand in hand with an attempt to colonize her land. The exotic land is a woman who beckons the frozen soldier—this orientalizing myth of the Jewish woman is the basis for Ivanhoe’s attraction to Rebecca, and he can no longer return to his frozen state.24 Thus, according to Thackeray, his marriage to Rowena must fail. Scott himself recognized the dissatisfaction with his ending. As he explains in his retrospective introduction of 1830: “The character of the fair Jewess found so much favour in the eyes of some fair readers, that the writer was censured because when arranging the fates of the characters of the drama, he had not assigned the hand of Wilfred to Rebecca, rather than the less interesting Rowena. … [T]he prejudices of the age rendered such a union almost impossible” (xiii–xiv). Given that earlier in this introduction he has eschewed historical realism, however, his defense that the “prejudices of the age rendered such a union almost impossible” must have seemed forced at best. A slew of revisions by Christian writers followed, setting the father/daughter plot of Ivanhoe in the modern world, and exposing some of its more hidden anachronisms, especially the anachronism that such a daughter as Rebecca could have lived in the Middle Ages.
FORMING THE HEROINE OF ROMANCE
No, Jewish Protestants did not live in the Middle Ages, according to those of Scott’s followers who were conversionists. Jews were then both too “bigotted” and too persecuted by Christians to think of converting. Jewish Protestants lived in Scott’s own time, they were the men and women who called themselves reformers—and they were more likely to be women than men. This was the message conversionists promulgated between 1809 and 1880. These millenarian evangelicals of the London Society for the Promotion of Christianity Amongst the Jews and allied organizations believed that tolerant policies and persuasive speech that recognized the greatness of Israel’s ancient past, while pitying the unfortunate decline of its postcrucifixion past, present, and future, would succeed better in bringing about Jews’ conversion than intolerant policies, persecution, and hate speech.25 The London Society was no fringe organization. Founded by the convert Joseph Frey who under the auspices of the London Missionary Society had already been proselytizing for some years, the society “enjoyed the support and patronage of both evangelical churchmen and Nonconformists.”26 An end paper to Rev. John Harding, “Mercy for Israel, a sermon preached on behalf of the London Society for the Promotion of Christianity Amongst the Jews” in 1866, claimed the following statistics: the society’s income for 1866 was £34,992. It employed 134 agents, 60 of whom were Hebrew Christians (converts from Judaism). It occupied thirty-three stations, two in England, the rest in Europe, Asia, and Africa. It circulated 449,595 portions of Scriptures in Hebrew, and two million copies of other books and tracts. Since its establishment in 1807, 1,087 converts were baptized in the society’s chapel in London; 1,500 Jewish children were educated in its schools; and “upwards of 20,000 Israelites have embraced Christianity, during the present century, as the result of the labors of this and other societies.”27 These statistics are inflated, but the society did spend over £850,000 on its work between 1810 and 1858, and did enroll between three to four hundred Jewish and Christian children in its Free School, and did provide adult education to converts, instructing them in candlewick making, basket making, and other trades. The conversionists targeted the poor, often appealing to their economic need to persuade them to convert.28
But if the conversionists felt they were more likely to net the poor than the rich, they also felt that they were more likely to net women than men. Conversionists targeted Jewish women because they perceived them to be oppressed by Jewish men, and therefore more likely to be reformers. In “Jewish Women,” an article in the 1877 edition of Israel’s Watchman; A Hebrew Christian Magazine, the editor sees conversion as an attempt “to remedy some of the grievous disadvantages under which Jewish women are placed by … the rabbis” who teach “that woman is not be regarded as man’s companion, but as his inferior.”29 The editor goes on to castigate “the shackles of Rabbinism,” pointing out the facts that Jewish women are trained differently from Jewish men; there is no ceremony in the life of Jewish girls commensurate with Bar Mitzvah; Jewish women are exempt from minyan and from worshipping with their fathers or husbands; and most Jewish women, never having been taught Hebrew, could not follow their own prayers. The result of their lack of education is that Jewish women are “superstitious.” Amelia Bristow’s Jewish female character, biblically named Eliphalette, is “spiritual” precisely to the extent that “she devoted much of her time to studies of a description hitherto unknown to Jewish females.”30 Immediately upon perusing a New Testament, she converts, for she has “a mind that had so long and eagerly sought a more excellent and more spiritual worship than the heartless ceremonies Judaism presented!”31 The perception that Jewish women were both oppressed by Jewish tradition and by nature more “spiritual” and heartful than Jewish formalism could bear led the London Society to found a Hebrew Christian Girls’ Free School, to which conversionists would attempt to persuade poor Jewish girls to come for instruction, arguing that they were being provided little in the way of religious education by their Jewish community. In addition, conversionist presses opened their pages to Jewish women writers, in some cases when the writers could not be published in Jewish presses or only with extensive editorial emendations. The conversionists reviewed Jewish women’s work, taking it seriously even when they critiqued it. When Rabbi Isaac Leeser made extensive editorial arguments against Grace Aguilar’s Spirit of Judaism in his footnotes to her text (which he published), conversionists castigated this procedure as an example of Jewish men’s oppression of Jewish women. Marion Moss also published in the conversionist press—the Jewish Herald and Record of Christian Effort For the Spiritual Good of God’s Ancient People ran a poem she wrote criticizing conversionists, and in the next issue, a Hebrew Christian wrote a poem in response.32
The conversionists hoped to see their reward in the spiritual enlightenment of the Jewish women, and often speculated as to their success. In Aguilar’s work, “We cannot help thinking that we see the influence of Christianity. … It shows the silent and unseen influence of the gospel.” This Christian influence, the reviewer goes on to speculate, shows that “she belongs to the more spiritual, the more religious section of the Hebrews. … She manifests a deep concern for the purity of her religion and inveighs against tradition.”33 Conversionists saw reform as the “spiritual” side of Judaism, the Judaism in which God, purified of his [sic] materialistic and legalistic Talmudic dross, was finally recognized for what he was: Love. Reform was the modern Jew’s step toward Christianity. They saw Jewish women as spiritual, as at the forefront of reform, and as one step away from conversion. Jewish men, by contrast, were rooted in the letter of the law, and were the “leaders of unbelief, and even of the most godless Materialism.”34
With this ideology actively promoted, it ought not to seem surprising that Scott’s romance, which foregrounds the Jewish daughter in a way Shakespeare did not, was latched onto by many novelists, though they had to adapt it to their own ends. For if Scott’s romance left the reader dissatisfied because the love between the Jewish woman and the Christian man could not be fulfilled, conversionists could easily rewrite it so as to effect the desired conclusion. The solution, the daughter becoming a Christian, had already been available in the examples of Götthold Lessing’s internationally popular Nathan der Weise (1779) and Maria Edgeworth’s Harrington (1817); in both of these texts it is revealed at the last moment that the spiritual Jewish woman was really Christian-born.35 The revelation of the daughter’s birth enables the consummation of the romance deferred in Scott’s novel. After Scott, however, the Jewish woman tended to need to undergo a conversion ceremony before she could be acceptable, as in M. G. Lewis’s Jewish Maiden (1830) or Bulwer Lytton’s Leila (1837).36 In Rebecca and Rowena (1843), Thackeray’s “Romance upon Romance,” Ivanhoe, off at the wars again after Rowena’s death, rampages through Eastern and Western Europe cutting off the heads of Saracens and other infidels. Along the way, remembering Rebecca, he ransoms numerous Jews being mistreated by intolerant Christians and Moors, like a good Victorian philo-Semite. Through this activity, he finds Rebecca, who meanwhile has been imprisoned by Isaac for declaring herself a Christian out of love for Ivanhoe. Ivanhoe rescues her, and they are married—according to Thackeray, not altogether happily. Many such revisions of Scott’s triangle of materialistic-Jewish-father/spiritual-Jewish-daughter/chivalric-Christian appeared in the 1830s and 1840s. The conversionists take the traditional father/daughter plot of Scott’s Isaac and Rebecca—which looks back to Shakespeare’s Shylock and Jessica—and refocus it on the daughter.
M. G. Lewis’s Jewish Maiden (1830) is a revision of Ivanhoe, which alters it to better fit the philo-Semitic conversionism available during the period.37 Glanville the Christian hero gets himself into debt in trying to support a wife who is devoted to fashion. He must borrow money from one Solomon Schreiber, a “stock-jobber and moneylender,” a “dingy” and “shrewd” fifty-year-old German Jew with a large nose, an olive complexion, curly hair, a “monstrous dialect” of English (“Ah, mishter Geddin, I am sho habby yo have honoured my poor housh vid your gombany”), and an attitude of “extreme servility.” Schreiber’s offices are dirty beyond description, “the floor was covered with impressions of dirty shoes” (1:160–67), and his house and dress are gaudy. His business practices, which he does not scruple to perform after returning from services on the Sabbath, are “acts of chicanery and overreaching covetousness” (1:179). He is stingy, clannish, “the proud Jew at heart” (1:180). Like Scott’s Isaac, Schreiber is a Shylock, divested of Shylock’s sympathetic moments. Unlike Isaac, Schreiber is not redeemed by his leniency toward his daughters.
When Schreiber invites Glanville to dinner at his house, the Christian man finds that the broker has a dandified son trying to be a fashionable Englishman to the hilt (he eventually dies of malaria), and two daughters, Miriam and Rosetta, whom Schreiber announces “carelessly … without bestowing on them further observation” (1:173). Their mother is dead. The daughters are simultaneously neglected and suppressed, for they are “shut up like nuns” (1:187), allowed no contact with anyone and no converse with the world, except when their father brings clients over, at which time they are trotted out for display like show ponies. The only time they feel truly autonomous is when they “escape to the uncontrolled freedom of their own apartment” (1:189), and read romance novels, which are a “freehold of imagination,” and in which they find men unlike their father and brother who do not “view them as objects calculated to be useful and ornamental in their homes” (1:192). If they feel ugly in comparison to the heroines they find in the romances, those with “the fair cheek, blue eyes, and golden tresses of some Christian girl” (1:190), still this self-hatred is better than being chained to their father’s house with no education and no means of attaining it. When Glanville finds Miriam home alone one Sabbath, he thinks, “how very wrong and how unfortunate … to bring up children like wild beasts, in cages, without affording them any opportunity of studying that world on which they must one day embark” (1:221). Miriam is much more naturally spiritual sitting at home on the Sabbath than her father who is at the synagogue hypocritically praying for gold.
When he finds Miriam alone, Glanville strikes up a conversation with her on Byron and gives her a list of “secular” books to read, discovering in her a “mind that required only a little forming and cultivating” (1:232). Unlike Christian anti-Semites, who attempt to persecute Jews into converting, this tolerant man uses, not coercion, but persuasion, to achieve his ends. In short, he introduces her to the “world.” But it is not the great world with which his wife Honoria is too much enamored; it is not the world of fashion. It is rather that world refracted through a spiritualizing medium—it is the world of romance. “Her romantic heart panted to be one of that graceful world, where rare beauty, splendid genius, fascinating accomplishments, unmeasured generosity, sterling honour, and stainless virtue” exist in novels (3:21). Still, there is no danger that Miriam’s taste will be as lavish and worldly as Honoria’s; having grown accustomed to so little, the extravagance of the romantic world cannot harm her. But to join this world, she will have to find a way to leave her father’s house. She will have to apostasize.
This narrative of the dominant masculine figure persuading the minority, figured as a powerless woman, to undergo “radical assimilation,” is a standard narrative of orientalist discourse, as both Said and Bitton-Jackson have suggested.38 The responsibility for the oppression of Miriam is displaced from the dominant society onto another Jew, her tyrannical father. A hegemonic narrative is thus mapped onto a romantic marriage plot, in which standard Christian oppositions between spirituality and materialism are played out in the antagonism between daughter and father—with the Christian suitor leading the daughter to true spirituality. Little by little, Glanville wins Miriam’s heart without either of them knowing it. He “flung the first ray of knowledge over her prisoned intellect” (2:200), and she treats him as an “oracle …, his slightest wish executed the moment it was expressed” (2:201). For her, he is a window on the world from which she is debarred by her tyrannical father. She reads all the books he suggests (including Shakespeare, Homer, Virgil, geography, French, and Italian—and especially Byron), and he teaches her how to draw. She is, in short, becoming a drawing-room lady, to whom he is attracted because she is tractable to his advice, unlike his wife. She is his fantasy of a younger subservient daughterish woman. One evening, at sunset, he apostrophizes her: “You were formed to be the heroine of romance … so young, so solitary, so inexperienced; living in this dark and gloomy edifice, without one congenial mind, with your bright imagination, and your guitar, and your diamond pencil, to write love-verses on every window: now, you only want a silken ladder, and a lover, and a moonlight night to render you the heroine you appear” (2:180). In Glanville’s imagination, Miriam becomes an imprisoned damsel of chivalric romance, a Rebecca who writes “love-verses” with her “diamond pencil” as an escape from the horrible situation in which she finds herself. This is not how she describes herself—this is how the Christian hero describes her. He has made her into a fictional character, a “heroine” of his own imagination. And what he imagines her, she willingly becomes. His imagination creates reality. His charisma persuades and transforms. He is the inspiration for the love verses she writes. Perhaps this myth of the Jewish woman inspired by a philo-Semite to write and convert is the conversionist myth of the origin of the Anglo-Jewish woman writer.
But if Miriam emerges from an oppressed and materialistic upbringing to become a writer and heroine of romance, Glanville himself emerges from a lowly upbringing, from monetary distress, and from a bad marriage, to become a romantic hero. He is spiritualized by relieving himself of the taint of worldliness. When he complains to his friend Gethin about his wife’s dissoluteness, Gethin replies, “Ah, my dear friend, you were formed to live in the golden age, when every woman was an angel, and every man a hero” (2:186). The parallel form of address (“you were formed”) emphasizes his innate bond to Miriam. Again, the act of uttering the romance myth transforms reality: Glanville becomes the myth. He becomes a knight in order to save his damsel from distress locked up in her father’s dirty tower. With its nostalgia for lost social forms, the chivalric romance merges with the romance novel. As in Ivanhoe, the chivalric romance is implicit in the romance novel, informing and directing its plot.39
It takes some time for these two romantic characters to find their way toward one another, for Miriam, though “imperfectly acquainted with her own imperfect creed,” is “reared in all the bigotry of her sect” (3:32). Deprived of education by the oppressive Jewish patriarchy represented by her father, she asks Glanville to explain the tenets of Christianity to her—and he does, “in very simple terms, suited to her comprehension” (3:34). He speaks of the glory of ancient Israel and the “degradation into which … he described them now fallen” (3:35). By this mixture of courting, condescension, pity, and rational exposition of the errors of Judaism, so characteristic of philo-Semitism,40 Miriam is converted in heart. Before they can marry, there is still the little matter of Glanville’s wife, who in her worldliness has neglected their sick child. The child’s convenient death provides the occasion for their separation; and Honoria’s subsequent death leaves Glanville free. But it is only after Solomon’s death has given occasion to his auditors, and his monetary crookedness has been confirmed, that Miriam can think of leaving the house. And it is only after Glanville has told Miriam that “the truly religious heart knows nothing of the prejudice of sect” (4:189), that the way is opened for the two of them to acknowledge their love.
But if Glanville’s “truly religious heart” sounds similar to Rebecca’s expression of ethical monotheism, in which the particular creed is less important than the individual’s moral goodness, it appears that Protestantism is still of some importance. Miriam is still brought to convert at the end before the two of them solemnize their vows. Protestantism is not understood to be a particular creed but the expression of the universal truth. Just as Scott finally rejects the radical implications of ethical monotheism for his characters, and therefore exiles Rebecca, so Lewis finally rejects the idea that “good” people need not regard particular religious upbringing, and reasserts the importance of that upbringing. Again, the imperatives of the romance novel—that individual choice ought to be more important than the “bigotry” of social convention or religious prejudice—are compromised in the conclusion, because Protestantism is not understood to be a religious prejudice, but the ground of truth. In Scott’s case, the compromise of exile at least does not require the Jews’ apostasy; on the other hand, Lewis’s apostasy at least does not require the Jews to uproot themselves. Apostasy or exile—the choices in themselves constitute a rejection of the universal toleration one might imagine would be advocated by a truly “tolerant” humanism.
Lewis’s novel was less popular than Scott’s but her conclusion—conversion—provoked a greater response from Jews. Indeed, there is evidence that while Jews deprecated Scott’s portrait of Isaac, they welcomed Ivanhoe as a revision of other troubling aspects of Shakespeare’s version of the father/daughter plot, in which the Jewish family is torn asunder by an ungrateful daughter’s apostasy; in other words, they welcomed Scott’s revision of Jessica as the devoted Rebecca.41 The Jews reacted to novels like Jewish Maiden, on the other hand, with anger and fear. It may be said that the form of this novel was understood by Jews, both men and women, to be the most important strand of non-Jewish thought about Jews to have emerged in the first third of the nineteenth century. The most typological way of phrasing this plot would be: Male Jewish Materialism struggles against Suppressed Female Spirituality and the result is the Death of Materialism and the Birth of the Spirit through Conversion. Ivanhoe, the novel that introduced the plot that made these novels possible, is actually a significant variation because it leaves Rebecca unconverted at the end.
These Victorian Christian novelists of Jewish identity are participating in a large and ongoing cultural shift in perspective toward Jews from a relation of coercion to a relation of persuasion. The shift had been taking place since Puritan philo-Semites engineered the official readmission of Jews to the country during the seventeenth century, and certainly since Richard Cumberland’s benevolent philanthropist Sheva made the scene in the 1790s. In a relation of coercion, it makes ideological sense to depict one’s adversary as an evil figure, one powerful enough to call out the use of force. Since cultural power resided primarily in men during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, it made sense to portray the primary Jewish adversary as male. Thus, as in Merchant of Venice, the father figure was played up, the mother written out, and the daughter nearly absent. There would be no son to carry on the tradition. In a relation of persuasion, however, it makes sense to depict the Other as a figure not evil but merely misguided, and willing to learn. Since cultural power still resided, in the Victorian period, primarily with men, it seemed to make ideological sense to “feminize” the Other, in other words to depict the Other in a position of relative weakness. Jews would no longer be forced to convert or be killed; they would be “tolerated,” pitied and badgered. The fathers would not be subjected to beatings—but they would be written out of the plot, either through “voluntary” exile or a timely and convenient death. The daughter, meanwhile, would figure in a narrative in which she converts as part of a typical romantic marriage plot. Jewish women who were already married were clearly excluded from the possibility of conversion through marriage, so they still had to be written out.42 In addition, it was still difficult to write in a son who might possibly carry on the tradition. As in M. G. Lewis’s Jewish Maiden, the son tended to attempt “radical assimilation” and either convert offstage or die.
This family romance is, then, the major plot and the ideological perspective that early Victorian Jewish women confronted in the dominant cultural context. But the shape and content of their response will not be fully comprehensible unless the forces impinging on them from within their subculture are also taken into account. The next chapter attempts to discover how Anglo-Jewish men were “speaking” the Jewish woman.
. For a comparison to other similar orientalist fantasies, see in particular Edward Said’s discussion of the novels of Flaubert and Kipling in Orientalism (New York: Vintage Books, 1978). Flaubert’s heroines are not women, but entire worlds, emblems of oriental landscapes that are sensual yet barren, willing, and mute (187, 207); Kipling’s White Men sanitize and “conquer” these sensual orientals (228).
. The story of their parliamentary struggle is told in M. C. N. Salbstein, Emancipation of the Jews in Britain: The Question of the Admission of the Jews to Parliament, 1828–1860 (Rutherford, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson Press, 1981). Also see David Feldman, Englishmen and Jews: Social Relations and Political Culture, 1840–1914 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994), chap. 1. Important pamphlets and letters from the 1830s wave are Francis Henry Goldsmid, The Arguments Advanced against the Enfranchisement of the Jews. Considered in a Series of Letters (London: Colburn and Bentley, 1831); John E. Blunt, A History of the Establishment and Residence of the Jews in England; with an Enquiry into their Civil Disabilities (London: Saunders and Benning, 1830); Arthur Lumley Davids, “On the Emancipation of the Jews” (Times, May 6, 1831); Thomas Babington Macaulay, Essay and Speech on Jewish Disabilities, ed. Israel Abrahams (Edinburgh: Jewish Historical Society of England, 1909); Apsley Pellat, Brief Memoir of the Jews in Relation to Their Civil and Municipal Disabilities (London: Hatchard and Son, 1829).
. Robert Grant brought most of the motions for Jewish emancipation to the House floor. Macaulay, Essay and Speech, 44, responds to a “friend” in the House who asks “where are we to stop, if once you admit into the House of Commons people who deny the authority of the Gospels? Will you let in a Mussulman? Will you let in a Parsee? Will you let in a Hindoo, who worships a lump of stone with seven heads? I will answer my honourable friend’s question by another. Where does he mean to stop? Is he ready to roast unbelievers at slow fires? … When once you enter upon a course of persecution, I defy you to find any reason for making a halt till you have reached the extreme point.” He also compares Jewish emancipation to Catholic emancipation (54).
. See Michael Ragussis, “Writing Nationalist History: England, the Conversion of the Jews, and Ivanhoe,” ELH 60, no. 1 (spring 1993): 181–215. Much of the following reading of Ivanhoe concurs with Ragussis, but while Ragussis focuses on the meaning of Scott for English national identity, this chapter focuses on its meaning for Anglo-Jewish identity, particularly for the identity of women.
. For a discussion of the Romantic wandering motif, see my “Blake’s ‘firm perswasions’: the Judaic and the Jew,” a paper given at the 1990 Modern Language Association convention. Important sources include: William Blake, The Complete Poetry and Prose, ed. David Erdman and Harold Bloom (New York: Doubleday, 1988); Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France in Two Classics of the French Revolution (New York: Doubleday, 1989); George Gordon Byron, Byron, ed. Jerome J. McGann (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986) and Hebrew Melodies (London: J. Murray, 1815); Maria Edgeworth, Harrington: Tales and Novels, vol. 9 (London: G. Routledge, 1893); Walter Scott, Ivanhoe (New York: New American Library, 1983); Thomas Carlyle, Sartor Resartus, ed. Charles Frederick Harrold (New York: Odyssey Press, 1937) and “The Jew Our Lawgiver”; Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” in English Romantic Writers, ed. David Perkins (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1967), 404–13; Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist (New York: New American Library, 1980) and Our Mutual Friend (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989); Henry Mayhew, London Labour and the London Poor, 4 vols. (1861–62; reprint, New York: Dover, 1968).
. The character of Shylock was undergoing a transformation on the stage at this time to make him seem more sympathetic. Professor Judith Rosen at UCLA pointed out to me that as late as 1891 this was still the case. The actress Lady Helena Faucit Martin, in her essays On Some of Shakespeare’s Female Characters (London: Blackwood and Sons, 1891), rewrote Merchant so that Portia nurses Shylock at the end and persuades him to convert.
. For critical discussions of the stereotypes see Bryan Cheyette, Constructions of “the Jew” in English Literature and Society: Racial Representations, 1875–1945 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993); Edgar Rosenberg, From Shylock to Svengali: Jewish Stereotypes in English Fiction (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1960); Harold Fisch, The Dual Image (London: Lincolns-Prager, 1959); Lauriat Lane, Jr., “Dickens’ Archetypal Jew,” PMLA 73 (Mar. 1958): 95–101; Montagu Frank Modder, The Jew in the Literature of England: To the End of the Nineteenth Century (New York: Meridian Books, 1960); Joseph Gaer, The Legend of the Wandering Jew (New York: Mentor, 1961). See Anita Norich, “Jewish Family Images in the English Novel,” in The Jewish Family: Myths and Reality, ed. Steven M. Cohen and Paula E. Hyman (New York: Holmes and Meier, 1986), 99–109. For a critique of the critical method of cataloguing stereotypes, see Michael Ragussis, Figures of Conversion: “the Jewish Question” and English National Identity (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1995). Also, see David Biale, Eros and the Jews (New York: BasicBooks, 1992), esp. 149–75.
. Amy Levy, “The Jew in Fiction,” JC, June 4, 1886. Also see the Jewish Chronicle’s obituary of Dickens, June 17, 1870, in which the editor refers to Fagin as “the unreal character” and Riah as “the beautiful, even if equally unreal, character.”
.In the 1880s, Scott’s novel still loomed to Jews as the most influential representation of the century. See Levy, “Jew in Fiction”: “Rebecca of York, with her hopeless love for the Gentile knight, and Isaac of York, divided, like Shylock, between his ducats and his daughter, remain to day the typical Hebrews of fiction.”
.Jane Eyre (1847), and in a slightly different way, Wuthering Heights (1847) and Great Expectations (1861), though in these, it is the man who hales from the marginalized group (gypsies or the working class, respectively). Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles (1891) plays on the pattern in order to undermine it. In late-twentieth-century American culture, the pattern is still prevalent in Harlequin romance novels, such as Karen Percy’s In Too Deep (Toronto: Harlequin Books, 1991), in which the wealthy Joanne Stephenson falls desperately in love with Mike Balthazar, the burly working-class man who comes to build her swimming pool.
.The Origins of the English Novel, 1600–1740 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987), 318–37, who argues that the first “Protestant narratives,” such as Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, leave behind the more obviously Christian romance narrative, with its allegorized types. But though Victorians may indeed have understood realism to be “progressive” in contrast to romance, the “progressive narrative” of the novel was not necessarily any more politically progressive for Jews than the romance. In the movement from romance to realism, the fantasy of erasing prejudicial barriers between different groups—one dominant, one marginal—through intermarriage yields to the fantasy of regulating the barriers that actually existed between members of different groups. As Beer in Romance puts it, the opposition between romance and realism was seen “in terms of a contrast … between the individualism of romance and the inexorable processes of society” (74). In terms of the non-Jewish fiction of Jewish identity, the romance fantasy of a Christian man falling in love with a Jewish woman—the plot of Ivanhoe, which cannot be consummated and ends in exile—is eventually brought to consummation through the woman’s conversion in the philo-Semitic romances of M. G. Lewis, Thackeray, Bulwer Lytton, and others. But when romance gives way to realism, this conversionist plot of love between Jew and Christian gives way, in Daniel Deronda, to the denial of love between Jew and Christian, the denial of the romance of the title character and Gwendolyn Harleth. The intermarriage fantasy of romance gives way to a “realist” fantasy that the Jew will choose exile with his aesthetic Jewess (Mirah is compared to a picture by Titian) to some unspoken place in the East. The Jew and Jewess are reorientalized. In this way the Christian novel of Jewish identity in the early and mid-Victorian periods begins and ends with Eastern exile, with the romance fantasy of consummation and conversion intervening. The century moves from an unattainable desire for eradication of barriers in Scott (and exile to Granada) to a self-chosen maintenance of barriers in Eliot. In the movement from romance to realism, Jews’ options, apostasy or exile, remain limited.
.Scott, Chaucer, and Medieval Romance (Kentucky: Kentucky University Press, 1987), 514; Cecil Roth, Magna Bibliotheca Anglo-Judaica: A Bibliographical Guide to Anglo-Jewish History (London: Jewish Historical Society of England, 1937).
.History in Scott’s Novels (1907). Patricia Christine Hodgell, “The Nonsense of Ancient Days: Sources of Scott’s ‘Ivanhoe’ ” (Ph.D. diss., University of Minnesota, 1987), says Scott has “a very cavalier attitude toward historical facts.” But the trend in most recent Ivanhoe criticism has been not to speak of the Jewish aspect of it at all, and sometimes to indicate a belief in Scott’s realistic portrayal of Rebecca. See Mitchell, Scott, Chaucer, 133, who says that “Rebecca is Scott’s most memorable dark-lady type,” and that her “love for Ivanhoe must go unrequited” because “she could never have given up her religion.” A more positive reading of Scott’s historical fiction can be found in James Kerr, Fiction against History: Scott as Storyteller (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989): “the mixed genre of historical romance becomes a field in which perceived contradictions in history can be recreated and resolved. It is a zone of freedom …, the limits of which are prescribed by the taleteller’s imagination, where the ugly facts history throws in the way of the writer can be made into appealing, or at least consoling, stories about the past” (1–2).
.Scott and His Influence, ed. J. H. Alexander (Aberdeen: Association for Scottish Literature Studies, 1983), 81, who says of Rebecca’s relating the battle at Torquilstone to Ivanhoe, that Rebecca is “an outsider, who can set in perspective the chivalric code which Ivanhoe takes for granted.”
.Sir Walter Scott and History (Edinburgh: Edina Press, 1981) essentially agrees with this when he says that “The immense superiority of the Jewess Rebecca may be traced” to the fact that “she is really the representative in England of Mohammedan civilization” with “her Eastern unguent” (97). The sensual “noble savage” as described in European and American romances about American Indians is also relevant here.
.JHer 1, no. 1 (1846): 1 states the Society’s aims: “to show the claims which the ancient people of God have on the sympathy and prayers of the Church, to diffuse information with regard to their present circumstances, both in England and elsewhere, and to record the progress of the different efforts which are made for their conversion to Christianity.” Features in this and other similar periodicals included “Intelligence” reports on the conversion meetings held and missionary work, population statistics to gauge the extent of work to be done, strategies for conversion (“Aim at the parish church in every such community, and propose a special service for the evangelising of Jews. The time, the language in which to make your appeal must be wisely and carefully settled. Raise a special fund”) HCW 1, no. 6 (1872): 83, anthropological descriptions of Jews’ festivals and customs, reports of developments in the Jewish press and within the Jewish community (particularly the advent of Reform, hailed “as an indication of coming light”) JHer 1, no. 4 (1846): 83, narratives of conversions as role models for conversionists in the field, poems by and to Jewish women, reviews of writing by Jewish women, criticism of the Jewish press for putting down Hebrew Christians, and “Historical Notices of the Wandering Jew.”
.Radical Assimilation, 147–49. Endelman notes that the London Society was unlikely to appeal to wealthy would-be converts, given its reputation for working with the poor. Charlotte Montefiore provides a scathing contemporary satire of the society, questioning its motivations and methods, in Caleb Asher (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1845).
.Rosette and Miriam: or the Twin Sisters: A Jewish Narrative of the Eighteenth Century (London: Charles Tilt, 1837), 30. Eliphalette is the name of one of David’s daughters among the children he had after he had established Jerusalem as his capital city (2 Sam. 5:16). The name does not appear to have been in use among Victorian Jews. Bristow’s choice of an obscure biblical name for the Jewish woman suggests the conversionist myth that biblical Jews, not having rejected Christ, were still regenerate. For a more famous example of this idea from an ostensibly different perspective, see Eliot’s depiction of Mordecai’s biblical speech patterns in Daniel Deronda—the logic seems to be, the more easily a Jew can be identified with the prerabbinic Judaism of the Bible, the more redeemable the Jew is.
.Spirit of Judaism by Grace Aguilar, JHer 2, no. 13 (1847): 28–41. Also see Marion Moss, “Lines Written by Marion Moss, A Jewess, after attending service in a Christian Chapel, Mar. 1845,” JHer 1, no. 2 (1845): 48.
.Spirit of Judaism, 39. Also see the review of Jewish Faith, by Grace Aguilar, HJ 1 (Feb. 6, 1847): 84, “We see in it how the grand, simple faith of the ancient people of God is unfolding itself in the light of advancing intelligence; how all that was understood by them in their first ages as temporal, is becoming spiritual; all that was exclusive, widening out into universality; how they are reading their Law and their Prophets in the spirit of Him who ‘revealed the Father’ to us; and who in emphatic words declared that He came ‘not to destroy the law, but to fulfil it.’ While enlightened Judaism thus advances, we see in the progress of events the spirit of Christianity purifying the doctrines adopted by its professors, exterminating the dark errors of the times of persecution and hatred.” It is significant that such a philo-Semitic statement appears in a nonmissionary journal; it suggests that philo-Semitism was mainstream.
.Nathan the Wise, trans. Bayard Quincy Morgan (New York: Continuum, 1988); Edgeworth, Harrington, vol. 9. For post-Scott conversionist novels, see William Makepeace Thackeray, “Rebecca and Rowena,” in Burlesques (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1895), 305–66; Edward Bulwer Lytton, Leila, or the Siege of Granada (London: George Routledge and Sons, 1875); M. G. Lewis, The Jewish Maiden, 4 vols. (London: A. K. Newman, 1830); Bristow, Rosette and Miriam.
.Orientalism, 207: “The Oriental was linked … to elements in Western society (delinquents, the insane, women, the poor) having in common an identity best described as lamentably alien. Orientals … were seen through, analyzed not as citizens, or even people, but as problems to be solved or confined. … Since the Oriental was a member of a subject race, he had to be subjected. … [W]omen are usually the creatures of a male power-fantasy. They express unlimited sensuality, they are more or less stupid, and above all they are willing.” See also Bitton-Jackson, Madonna or Courtesan? For a wide-ranging set of essays on minority discourse, also see Cultural Critique, ed. David Lloyd and Abdul JanMohammed, (spring-fall): 1987.
.Rosette and Miriam, where the condescension reaches unbearable heights: “It will be seen … how deep is the darkness which envelopes Israel. … Oh that every Christian bosom may be touched with pity … to remove that awful darkness!—Gentile Christians! … pity your exiled, dispersed, and despised elder brethren!” (76).
.See Grace Aguilar, dedication to “Adah, A Simple Story,” 1838, Grace Aguilar MSS, where she argues that Scott’s Rebecca is the most positive role model she has ever read about in non-Jewish writings.
.Bearing the Word: Language and Female Experience in Nineteenth-Century Women’s Writing (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986). Deborah Hertz, in Jewish High Society in Old Regime Berlin (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988), 204–50, and “Emancipation through Intermarriage in Old Berlin,” in Jewish Women in Historical Perspective, ed. Judith Baskin (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1991), 182–201, shows that for a tiny proportion of wealthy young Jewish women in Berlin at the end of the eighteenth century, intermarriage and social integration via conversion were possible, but women with less wealth could not use conversion as an end. By contrast, English conversionism was directed toward the poor and the middle classes. Another point of contrast between English and German conversionism: most converts among the salonières had already been married to Jewish men through an arranged marriage and had divorced them before converting to marry gentile men in what appear to be companionate marriages (Jewish High Society, 156–203). English conversionists, on the other hand, depict Jewish women abandoning their families (particularly their fathers) for a companionate marriage with a gentile the first time around.