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June 10, 2010



However good the book may be, I daresay your post seems to have given me most of what I might have gotten from actually reading it. Saved me time and cost Julius money.


This is going to be a very ignorant question, but if Svengali is supposed to be a Polish Jew, why doesn't he have a stereotypical Ashkenazi-Germanic name? I always thought his name ending with a vowel was coined on the pattern of Sephardic names (you know, Disraeli, Montefiore etc.)


Svengali's name is actually Adler.

R Lapides

I don't know if Carlyle and Chesterton qualify as "top-of-the-line intellectuals," but they were close enough. Both, as you know, identified Jews with capital and thus with the loss of old non-commercial values. Though of course Jews composed only a small fraction of British capitalism, they were conveniently symbolic, especially as they played annoying roles as money-lenders, pawnbrokers, and fences.

What interests me is how differently Jews in our own time experience themselves in England and in the U.S.

R Lapides

Also, I'm curious what "Philosemitus" meant by his name. In the 18C I believe "Semitic" referred to the linguistic group, not specifically the Jews.

R Lapides

In further response to Tatiana's question: Sephardic names tend to be Hebrew, which means they don't usually end in a vowel. The Disraeli and Montefiore families were Italian, and therefore neither Askenazic nor Sephardic, as the Italian Jewish community, originating in ancient Rome, pre-dated the other two groups -- and though Mediterranean are not Sephardic because they never lived under Muslim rule.


Philosemite/Philosemitus was specifically writing about Jewish civil disabilities (and arguing for the relief of same), so he appears to have had the religion in mind.

R Lapides

I'm glad to know about Philosemitus, as has these entries:

'Semite 1847, "Jew, Arab, Assyrian, Aramæan," from Mod.L. Semita, from L.L. Sem "Shem," one of the three sons of Noah ....

'Semitic (1813 of languages, 1826 of persons) is probably from Ger. semitisch (first used by Ger. historian August Schlözer, 1781), denoting the language group that includes Hebrew, Arabic, Aramaic, Assyrian, etc. In recent use often with the specific sense "Jewish," but not historically so limited.'

Also, a real-life parallel with Svengali/Adler was, not much later, Harry Houdini/Erich Weiss.

EX Pedagogue

Didn't Mary Ward start a group that excited the Vatican to (nearly?) issue a condemnation of Jesuitesses.


Interesting to follow writers like Trollope, too, who seem to be able to grow in what their prose embodies on this issue. Always nice when we writers don't get "stuck."


Well, Shelley, Dickens made a valiant effort to reform . . .

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