• Sheila A. Spector


Judging from the most comprehensive works produced by the most respected scholars and published by the most prestigious presses of our time, one could hardly escape the conclusion that there was minimal contact between the British and Jewish cultures in the interim between the Enlightenment and the Victorian era. In the most extensive coverage, Iain McCalman’s outstanding compilation, An Oxford Companion to The Romantic Age: British Culture 1776–1832, includes a scant four references to the Jews in the discursive essays of Part One, while in the encyclopedic Part Two, McCalman’s one-page entry, “Jews,” refers only briefly to earlier misconceptions, citing a few of the more notable British Jews of the period.1 This is not to suggest that McCalman, or others— like Duncan Wu, whose Companion to Romanticism indexes but a single reference to “Jewish history”—are deliberately misrepresenting or minimizing a relationship that, in fact, did exist between the two cultures.2 Rather, the distortions found in these texts arise from the dearth of information available. While during the past few decades, scholars have unearthed masses of heretofore ignored materials regarding various issues of race, class, and gender, for the most part they have overlooked the significance of the Jews to the overall development of what might loosely be defined as British Romanticism.3


Seventeenth Century Jewish Community Romantic Period Jewish History Jewish Culture 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Iain McCalman, An Oxford Companion to the Romantic Age: British Culture 1776–1832 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 563–4. Specifically, the index refers to: the existence of a Jewish community dating from readmission in the mid-seventeenth century, in R. K. Webb’s essay, “Religion” (94); the exclusion of the Jews from the universities, in Ian Britain’s “Education” (164); the significance of a Jewish national history, in Marilyn Butler’s “Anti-quarianism (Popular)” (336); and William Jones’s attitude toward Jewish mythology, in Nigel Leask’s “Mythology” (341). Among those Jews given their own entries are Isaac D’Israeli, Jonathan King and David Ricardo.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Duncan Wu, Companion to Romanticism (Oxford: Blackwell, 1998). The reference to the Jews occurs in relation to a discussion of Freud in Douglas B. Wilson’s essay on “Psychological Approaches” (424).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    There are some significant exceptions, notably David B. Ruderman’s Jewish Enlightenment in an English Key: Anglo-Jewry’s Construction of Modern Jewish Thought (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000);Google Scholar
  4. Michael Ragussis’s Figures of Conversion: “The Jewish Question” and English National Identity (Durham: Duke University Press, 1995);Google Scholar
  5. Frank Felsenstein’s Anti-Semitic Stereotypes: A Paradigm of Otherness in English Popular Culture, 1660–1830 (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995);Google Scholar
  6. and Brian Cheyette’s Constructions of “the Jew” in English Literature and Society: Racial Representations, 1875–1945 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993). While all of these books explore particular aspects of the intersection between Romanticism and Judaica, none considers its full impact on the development of each culture as a distinct entity or on the direction taken by the more encompassing British Empire as it developed later in the nineteenth century, and on into the twentieth.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 4.
    Of the most significant recent histories, Linda Colley’s Britons: Forging the Nation 1707–1837 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992), has little to say about the British-Jewish community, while conversely, Todd Endeleman’s work, notably The Jews of Georgian England: Tradition and Change in a Liberal Society (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1979; reprint, with a new preface, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1999), and Radical Assimilation in English Jewish History, 1656–1945 (Bloomington: University of Illinois Press, 1990), focus more on internally Jewish matters. David S. Katz does explore the intersection between the two cultures, though he concentratesGoogle Scholar
  8. 11.
    There is a long history of Christian Hebraism in England. On the Renaissance, see G. Lloyd Jones, The Discovery of Hebrew in Tudor England: A Third Language (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1983); on the seventeenth century, see David S. Katz’s “Babel Revers’d: The Search for a Universal Language and the Glorification of Hebrew,” the second chapter of Philo-Semitism and the Readmission of the Jews to England, 1603–1655 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1982), 43–88; and on the eighteenth century, my essay, “Blake as an Eighteenth-Century Hebraist,” in Blake and His Bibles, ed. David V. Erdman, Locust Hill Literary Studies No. 1 (West Cornwall, CT: Locust Hill Press, 1990), 179–229. On the importance of sectarianism in the eighteenth century, see Katz’s “The Hutchinsonians and Hebraic Fundamentalism in Eighteenth-Century England,” in Sceptics, Millenarians and Jews, ed. Katz and Jonathan I. Israel, Brill’s Studies in Intellectual History, vol. 17 (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1990), 237–55. Finally, the first two chapters of Ruderman’s Jewish Enlightenment in an English Key—“‘The Scripture Correcting Maniae’: Benjamin Kennicott and His Hutchinsonian and Anglo-Jewish Detractors” (23–56), and “The New and ‘Metrical’ English Bible: Robert Lowth and His Jewish Critic, David Levi” (57–88)—explore the relationship between Christian Hebraism and the English Haskalah. Google Scholar
  9. 12.
    See Ian Green, “Anglicanism in Stuart and Hanoverian England,” in A History of Religion in Britain: Practice and Belief from Pre-Roman Times to the Present, ed. Sheridan Gilley and W. J. Sheils (Oxford: Blackwell, 1994), 168–87. On various uses of the Bible,Google Scholar
  10. see Christopher Hill, The English Bible and the Seventeenth-Century Revolution (1993; New York: Penguin, 1994).Google Scholar
  11. 14.
    For a bibliography of Hebrew grammars and dictionaries, see Cecil Roth’s Magna Bibliotheca Anglo-Judaica: A Bibliographical Guide to Anglo-Jewish History, new ed. (London: Jewish Historical Society of England, 1937), 361–71.Google Scholar
  12. 15.
    For a general overview, see Michael Mullett, “Radical Sects and Dissenting Churches, 1600–1750,” in A History of Religion in Britain: Practice and Belief from Pre-Roman Times to the Present, ed. Sheridan Gilley and W. J. Sheils (Oxford: Blackwell, 1994), 189–210.Google Scholar
  13. 16.
    See Robert M. Ryan, The Romantic Reformation: Religious Politics in English Literature 1789–1824, Cambridge Studies in Romanticism 24, gen. ed. Marilyn Butler and James Chandler (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997).Google Scholar
  14. 17.
    The most recent comprehensive history of European Jewry during this period is David Vital, A People Apart: The Jews in Europe 1789–1939, Oxford History of Modern Europe, gen. ed. Lord Bullock and Sir William Deakin (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999).Google Scholar
  15. 18.
    On the history of Reform Judaism, see Michael A. Meyer, Response to Modernity: A History of the Reform Movement in Judaism (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988), especially the first two chapters, “Adapting Judaism to the Modern World” (10–60), and “Ideological Ferment” (62–99).Google Scholar
  16. 20.
    Todd M. Endelman is currently working on a British-Jewish history to supercede Cecil Roth’s older A History of the Jews in England, 3rd ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1964). Also useful is David S. Katz’s The Jews in the History of England, 1485–1850; and on the Romantic Period in particular, see Endelman’s The Jews of Georgian England: Tradition and Change in a Liberal Society. The earliest British-Jewish history is D’Blossiers Tovey’s Anglia Judaica or A History of the Jews in England (Oxford, 1738).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Sheila A. Spector 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sheila A. Spector

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations