Nearly five years ago, I offered some scattered remarks about the great Dis vs. D'Is controversy--namely, did Victorian writers who spelled Benjamin Disraeli's name as "D'Israeli" (i.e., did not pay attention to the normalized spelling) do so for anti-Semitic reasons? At that time, I suggested that it could not, in fact, be concluded that anti-Semitism was necessarily the reason: everything from his father's ongoing fame (and, therefore, the D'Israeli spelling) to ignorance might be in play. It recently occurred to me that this is one of those questions that could be addressed, albeit not settled, by a trawl through GoogleBooks.
The search parameters: full-view results (so I could check context), using only the English-language results; US results considered separately from those of the UK & Ireland. Obviously, mentions of "Benjamin D'Israeli," the grandfather, had to be separated from "Benjamin D'Israeli," the PM.
Excluding duplicates, irrelevant results, & foreign language references, here are approximately the first twenty examples. I started at the end of the search results:
From the UK & Ireland, D'Israeli spelling with no obvious reference to Judaism or anti-Semitism:
An 1852 letter from Douglas Jerrold, reprinted by Mary Cowden Clarke, which praises the ascension of a "man with ink in his veins" to the position of Chancellor of the Exchequer.
From the UK & Ireland, laying heavy emphasis on the Judaism, with or without anti-Semitic overtones:
The Churchman 39 (May 3, 1879): 489. Reprints a tidbit about the likelihood that D and John Henry Newman were out playing in the same place as little kids, and notes the incongruity of the "handsome little Jew boy" and the "Puritan" having the careers they did.
From the USA, D'Israeli spelling with no obvious reference to Judaism or anti-Semitism:
S. P. Linn, Golden Gleams of Thought..., 10th ed. (A. C. McClurg, 1909). Hey, it's the twentieth century, and we still can't get the spelling right?
From the USA, references laying heavy emphasis on the Judaism, with or without anti-Semitic overtones:
"The Jew and the Turk," The Guardian 29.9 (Sept. 1878): 264 ff. Rather ambivalent article in a Reformed Church magazine about the Jews in the modern world; argues that "[a]lthough a professed Christian, he is still a Jew at heart." Praises D's abilities, however.
"Benjamin D'Israeli--The Jew,"The Southern Review 24.48 (Oct. 1878): 373-84. Um, no ambiguity there. Insists on D's essential Jewishness; throws "oriental" stereotypes around with gleeful abandon. Admires his accomplishments.
"The Miracle of Hebrew History," The Gospel in All Lands 10 (Aug. 1881): 91. Missionary article. Praise for D in passing, but noticeable grumpiness about Jewish "selfish interests."
(I observed that in the 1870s, at least one Jewish author went out of his way to note that D had altered the spelling of his name. One wonders if he thought people were in need of a reminder.)
Twenty is not, of course, a statistically useful sampling. As a beginning, though, the trends are interesting: most of the D'Israeli spellings occur in contexts where Judaism never comes up; some come accompanied by highly admiring comments; and the error still kicks in even after D's death. Right now, the Dis vs. D'Is issue looks like a bit of a damp squib. Some writers apparently use the D'Is spelling as a slur, but others just seem to think that that's how you spell his name (including people, like Gower, who actually knew the man!). At some point, I'll run a decade-by-decade search to cover the earlier phases of his career, and see if that affects the results. Someone who wanted to pursue a real research project on the topic would have to search nineteenth-century newspapers (and break out the statistics).
Kate Atkinson, Started Early, Took My Dog (Doubleday, 2010). Most recent entry in Atkinson's series of novels featuring detective Jackson Brodie. (Amazon UK)
Linda Gertner Zatlin, The Nineteenth-Century Anglo-Jewish Novel (Twayne, 1981). Important survey of key figures such as Grace Aguilar, Amy Levy, and Israel Zangwill, as well as more problematic authors like Julia Frankau ("Frank Danby"). (eBay)
Beverley Southgate, History Meets Fiction (Longman, 2009). Return to the age-old question: what's the relationship between historical writing and fiction? (Amazon [secondhand])
Er...remember that neo-Victorian graduate seminar I was going to teach in the Spring? Not teaching it. I put on my Director of Graduate Studies hat and realized that there were no graduate courses in 19th c. British Lit currently slated for this year, which struck me as a bit of a problem. (Whereas someone is teaching another contemporary British lit seminar this semester.) Ergo, back to the Victorians. Specifically, I'm going to break out the big loose baggy monster course I've been thinking about for a few years: Vanity Fair, Bleak House, Middlemarch, and The Way We Live Now.
For someone like myself, who works on non-canonical texts and interdisciplinary prospects, open peer review potentially sounds very interesting: it would greatly increase the chances that somebody would actually have read some of the novels or poems I write about, and might bring in comments from more scholars outside literature proper (the occasional religious studies person or theologian might be awfully nice, for example). I wonder, though, if this approach will have vitriolic infighting as one of its downsides. (Presumably, the comments section wouldn't be wiki-ish enough to generate peer review edit wars ["Professor X needs to quit deleting my comment about Professor Burstein's use of "Indeed!"].) Granted, blind peer review generates its own vitriol, but public attacks register very differently from private ones--especially, I would think, on junior faculty. Commenter #4 at the CoHE similarly points out the potential dangers for those who write on heavily-politicized hot topics.
The Tenured Radical's suggestion that "Journals should not accept articles they are not ready to put into production in the next year"reminded me of the close of my tenure at Modern Philology, when we were in the position of accepting articles that we were going to publish almost immediately. That was a cause for panic, not jubilation: having no backfile was not, as I recall, a particularly reassuring feeling. The journal was never swamped with submissions when I was there, although things may have changed in the meantime.
While part of me wishes to sympathize with the guy hanging out in the sand, the rest of me notes that a) s/he has a two-two teaching load and b) the proper way to protest the situation is, as some commenters pointed out, to make the case for additional pay to the administration while taking his or her "turn." It would be one thing if the department was inequitably dumping this mysterious service commitment on only the unpopular folks, or if they suddenly decided to quit compensating for it when they got to the sandy professor. But refusing to take on a rotating service commitment, no matter how unwelcome, just burdens the rest of the department (and, quite possibly, is forcing someone else to do more than their fair share of the work).
Fellow travelers in offbeat paths may be interested in the Cambridge Library Collection, which features books scanned from, yes, the Cambridge University Library. It started publishing in 2009, but doesn't appear to have received the same attention as the British Library's initiative. (Again, I have to ask the British Library: what happened to the Kindle platform? Amazon claims such books don't exist.) In any event, there are all sorts of interesting things in there, ranging from a complete Lives of the Queens of England... to Charlotte Montefiore's A Few Words to the Jews.
Literary annuals like the Forget-Me-Not have traditionally enjoyed--or not enjoyed--an equivocal position in studies of Anglo-American literary history. Elegantly bound and copiously illustrated, the annuals were profitably marketed as gifts for well-off consumers, especially female consumers; as one might expect, Victorian observers quickly typed such annuals as havens for the worst sort of literary frivolity. When, in Middlemarch, Ned Plymdale tries to use the Keepsake to court Rosamond Vincy, we know exactly what to make of him. In fact, the annuals were also havens for many of the leading authors of the period, like William Wordsworth (featured in the Keepsake link above), given that they were one of the more reliable venues for such hard-to-sell genres as poetry.
Nevertheless, readers might well be startled to open Friendship's Offering and find a short story about the blood libel, innocently sandwiched between light verse by the historical novelist W. Harrison Ainsworth and the forgotten Mrs. Abdy. Celia Moss Levetus (1819-73), who frequently co-authored fiction with her sister Marion Moss Hartog (1821-1907), published "Neela: A Tale of the Jews in England" in the 1842 edition of Friendship's Offering; the tale was picked up across the pond in the Jewish periodical The Occident and American Jewish Advocate (1844) and the annual Leaflets of Memory (1847), before being finally reprinted in a collection of Levetus' fiction, The King's Physician, and Other Tales (1865). Although Moss sets "Neela" in the thirteenth century, during the persecutions of Henry III's reign, her choice of subject is extremely topical: the "Damascus Affair" of 1840 had reignited the blood libel's popularity, much to the horror of leading Jews in Britain and on the Continent. As Montagu Frank Modder points out, we are meant to see that Neela and her mother "are the victims of the same spirit that was driving the mobs to violence against the Jews of Damascus in 1840."1 In fact, a popular literary annual was exactly the sort of venue in which to publish a plea for pro-Jewish tolerance. Moss recasts the Jewish predicament in terms designed to energize--her Christian audience's sensibilities.
Michael Galchinsky argues that Moss, like other Anglo-Jewish novelists of the period, found herself engaging at length with Scott's Ivanhoe, and this struggle makes itself felt in "Neela."2 The title character's signs of "Eastern origin," including her "glossy jet" locks and clothes of "oriental style" (223), mark her out as a descendant of Scott's similarly exotic Rebecca. Significantly, however, Moss erases Rebecca's difference from her more stereotypical father, Isaac: Rabbi Ephraim, far from being a grasping moneylender, is known as "the good Jew of Chesterton" (218), a benevolent figure beloved by even the local anti-Semites. In fact, Rabbi Ephraim is, like Rebecca, a "skilful physician" (218). By rewriting Scott's Isaac as a model member of the local community, Moss rejects Scott's opposition between the "male Jew as narrowed by his 'obstinacy and avarice'" and the "beautiful, self-sacrificing Jewess [who] makes possible a new view of Jews that accords them a place in the tolerant nation."3 But having rejected Scott's gendered model of, in effect, "good" and "bad" Judaism, Moss proceeds to make Judaism feminine in a very different fashion. For Rabbi Ephraim, it turns out, is dead, and when Neela's Italian fiance makes an appearance, he is an "unarmed youth" in imminent danger of dying by the villain's hand (237). Moss' Jewish men are either dead or helpless; the two Jewish women, Neela and her dying mother Naomi, must look to the Gentiles if they hope to survive. All of the story's Jewish bodies, then, are terribly vulnerable, whether to disease or physical violence. And their cultural position proves to be as vulnerable as their fragile bodies. Despite Rabbi Ephraim's reputation, after all, the villain, Leslie Gower, has no problem whatsoever in rustling up an anti-Semitic mob to attack his house.
Here is where Scott's gender division makes its reappearance: not to distinguish Jews and Jews, but to distinguish Jews and Christians. Unlike many of Moss' other stories, which insist that Jewish men must
"undergo a gender reformation that can only take place through their
marginalization, suffering, and physical deformation--through a gradual
recognition of their own feminization vis-a-vis traditional Judaism's
standards and the dominant culture's coercive power," "Neela" further marginalizes its male characters and focuses instead on the possibility, or not, of reforming Christian masculinity.4
The novel's chief Christian characters, Leslie and Sir Richard Falkner, are men--but what constitutes righteous Christian masculinity? Leslie, it turns out, attempted to orchestrate the death of his brother's son and heir, and had previously tried and failed to get Ephraim to murder "father and son" (229). Moreover, he was "dazzled by the beauty" of young Naomi (229), and attempted to seduce her--with, needless to say, negative results. Leslie's hue-and-cry about ritual murder, then, turns out to be a cover for avarice and predatory sexuality, fitting nicely with Henry III's ruinous financial demands.5 As it turns out, Leslie turns out to be ineffective even at putting Neela on trial for witchcraft, no matter how lovingly he dwells on the prospect--yet another dismantling of Ivanhoe. Leslie is not a good man, but he's also not a good Christian, and by linking anti-Semitism to the depths of personal depravity, Moss quietly dissociates it from "real" Christianity.
The split between Isaac and Rebecca thus comes back to life in the story's distinction between good and bad Christians. Leslie is the latter; Sir Richard Falkner is the former. Sir Richard enters the story expressing "contempt" for Henry III's orders, and despite his dislike of Jews in general, he nevertheless "pitied them as victims" (217). Hearing of Ephraim's death, Sir Richard instinctively utters a prayer for him (219), then does his best to protect Neela and Naomi from Leslie Gower's bloody-minded mob (221, 226). He receives timely assistance from Leslie's brother, the Baron, who is just as disgusted by Leslie as Sir Richard is (230). And, last but not least, Sir Richard rescues Neela and her fiance from death at Leslie's hands (237). It's worth noting here that Moss completely undoes Ivanhoe's interfaith romantic complications: Neela is engaged and Sir Richard rather elderly. Sir Richard's behavior is disinterested, as it were, a matter of true Christian virtue untainted by erotic desire. For all intents and purposes, Sir Richard acts as the Jew's Gentile father, in a twist on one of Moss' frequent themes.6 This, then, is real Christian manliness, acting entirely out of compassion instead of a yen for personal gain. Yet it is also a temporary solution, for neither Sir Richard nor the Baron can substitute for the Rabbi, which leaves Neela no option but to depart England with her future husband. An interfaith surrogate family is outside the terms of the story's brief.
By now, my reader will have noticed that Moss argues against anti-Semitism by harping on Christian empowerment. Christians are responsible for anti-Semitism; Christians are responsible for combating anti-Semitism; and Jews can only await the results. Jewish agency doesn't make a dent in the situation, one way or the other. Ephraim is a terrific neighbor, but the locals turn on him at the first sound of a dog-whistle. Neela resists Leslie's threats, but winds up fainting at his feet (235). If a figure like Scott's Isaac makes anti-Semitism understandable, then Moss' Jews demonstrate that it is utterly irrational7--but, at the same time, anti-Semitism's irrationality leaves Jews utterly helpless before Christian whims. Moreover, the mob's susceptibility to anti-Semitic tub-thumping means that Jews must rest their hopes not on the people at large, but on their appropriately reformed leaders. Where, the story seems to ask, is the Christian hero of modern Jews? Is there one? Nadia Valman notes that "Moss seems to hold little faith in the capacity of British democracy to liberate the Jews" (126), and the context of "Neela"'s publication suggests that Moss is somewhat skeptical about relying on Christian goodwill for protection...even as her story also suggests that that's all Jews in England can do.
1 Montagu Frank Modder, The Jew in the Literature of England to the End of the Nineteenth Century (1939; Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1944), 190. Moss and her sister had already taken on the Damascus Affair with The Romance of Jewish History (1840); see Nadia Valman, The Jewess in Nineteenth-Century British Literature and Culture (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2007), 116.
2 Michael Galchinsky, The Origin of the Modern Jewish Woman Writer: Romance and Reform in Victorian England (Detroit: Wayne State UP, 1996), 106. Modder also points out that Ivanhoe obviously influenced "Neela," although he does not go into specifics (190).
3 Valman, 33.
4 Galchinsky, 129.
5 Valman notes that the Moss sisters frequently returned to the danger of "violation," a theme they acquired from Ivanhoe (120).
6 According to Galchinsky, Moss' heroines are "in search of a new father--one whom she can choose, because he is not bound to her by an accident of birth" (118).
7 Galchinsky comments that unlike Continental Jews, the Moss sisters "share the tendency of Anglo-Jewish men to see anti-Semitism as the fault of the anti-Semites" (110).
Elizabeth Einberg, ed., Manners and Morals: Hogarth and British Painting, 1700-1760 (Tate, 1987). Exhibition catalog, examining Hogarth's influence on portraiture, satire, and so forth. (eBay)
Hilary Morgan and Peter Nahum, eds., Burne-Jones, the Pre-Raphaelites and Their Century, 2 vols. in 1 (Leicester, 1989). Catalog and plates, obviously emphasizing the work of Edward Burne-Jones. (eBay)
John Fletcher, The Difficulties of Protestantism (Keating and Brooke, 1829). Catholic controversial work; more on Fletcher here. Signed "Catherine Throckmorton," quite possibly Lady Catherine Throckmorton. (eBay)
The Bulwark, or Reformation Journal, vols. 3 and 4 (1853-54). Two volumes in one of this Scottish anti-Catholic periodical. (eBay)
If this were LJ, my mood would be "frazzled." A neighbor and I spent an hour moving all the furniture out of the living room and upstairs bedroom, making locomotion somewhat more difficult than absolutely necessary. Because the floors are being refinished tomorrow, I'll have to decamp to a friend's house; the cats, meanwhile, will have to spend about a day locked in with the biographies, lest they get refinished along with the floors. In the meantime, I have no desk copies, including no desk copies for the book that I'll start using the first week of class.
Somewhere in here, I need to write a conference paper and finish revising the little Bronte article.
THE PLAN: Depart Orange County at 8:05 AM; arrive in NYC around 4:30 PM; arrive in Rochester at 7:40 PM.
4:40 AM: I awake, twenty minutes earlier than necessary, from a rather bizarre nightmare involving a survival horror video game. I devoutly hope that this will not turn out to be a prophetic dream about today's flight.
6:50 AM: My parents drop me off at Long Beach Airport, where I see very long lines for Jet Blue.
7:10 AM: I survive long lines for Jet Blue, then arrive at the gate, where I stock up on a non-gourmet sandwich.
c. 7:20 AM: Our 8:05 AM flight has magically turned into a 9:05 AM flight, thanks to a window malfunction.
c. 8:00 AM: And now our 9:05 AM flight is at 9:30. Sounds resembling GRAR can be heard.
c. 8:30 AM: We have a new plane! We're still going to be late! I ask my mother to relay a message to the colleague (whose phone # I have forgotten) who was going to pick me up at the airport, suggesting that maybe that won't be such a great idea.
c. 9:00 AM: ...And now we're going to depart at 10:00 AM.
c. 9:10 AM: The oh-so-chipper gate agent is reassuring us that we're going to get in around 5:45 PM. 5:30, even! No need to worry about our connecting flights!
c. 10 AM: Well, we're on the plane. Too bad it's not in the air.
10:40 AM: Now that we're off the ground, the pilot tells us that we'll be in NYC around 6:15 PM or so. I hear an odd sound, as of a connection being busted.
(We now switch to Eastern time.)
4:00 PM: I finish reading Bengtsson's The Long Ships. I usually don't like adventure novels, but this one is engagingly wry: there's no overt commentary from the narrator on the bloodthirstiness of his characters, but the effect is one of extreme dark comedy. Nevertheless, all this head-cracking has tired me out, so I doze off.
6:00 PM: Finally, we're in New York State! Now, if only we were not entering a holding pattern!
And hold we do, for another hour. So much for a 6:15 PM arrival.
c. 7:30 PM: I'm off the plane. A gate agent tells me to run to gate 9, in the company of a lot of other people. At gate 9, there is...no plane. I sigh. Another agent books me onto the 10:45 flight, which will get me into Rochester after midnight. This assumes that nothing else goes wrong, of course...
My sojourn in California has come to an end, so it's off to the sunny (?) skies of Rochester, NY. Whereupon I shall suddenly be faced with administrative stuff, floor refinishing, and (oh, dear) syllabi. All of these things herald the coming of...a new semester!