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Cumberland's Benevolent Hebrew in eighteenth-century Britain and America.


This essay uses the different contemporary reactions of British critics and Jews to uncover the different facets of Richard Cumberland's understudied play The Jew (1794), which help to explain its enormous popularity among gentiles and the lack of enthusiasm among Jews, then moves across the Atlantic to examine the very different reception the play received from reviewers and audiences in America.


Richard Cumberland's play The Jew was the first English play to have an admirable and virtuous Jew for its hero, an innovation that Irish and American editions immediately underlined by renaming it The Jew; or the Benevolent Hebrew. The play was exceptionally popular. From the first, it was repeatedly performed in London, Dublin, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Boston as well as in Providence, Rhode Island, Norfolk, Virginia, and Charleston, South Carolina. Within four years of its first printing in 1794, The Jew sold six London editions, three Irish editions, and three American editions (not to mention the German and Dutch translations) and it continued to be reprinted in Britain and America throughout the nineteenth century. (1)

As Michael Ragussis observes, The Jew "represented a revolution in the representation of Jewish identity on the English stage." (2) Imitated by playwrights and novelists alike, Cumberland's benevolent ffebrew, Sheva, became the ancestor of Rebecca in Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe, of Daniel in George Eliot's Daniel Deronda, and of the Monteverdos, father and daughter, in Maria Edgeworth's Harrington, characters deployed, like Sheva, to counter anti-Semitic prejudice. On the other side of the Atlantic too, as Louis Harap confirms, The Jew was "one of the most important ... plays of Jewish interest" that was produced on the American stage during the early period, one that "was familiar to practically the entire theater audience" in "Philadelphia, New York, Charleston, Providence and Charleston." It was among the relatively few plays selected from the extensive English repertoire for repeated performance in America.

Yet the popularity and influence of the play seems to have had little to do with the Jews themselves, either in England or America. The relatively sizeable community of Jews in late eighteenth-century England was evidently not enthusiastic about the play, since Cumberland, who had expected some token of Jewish appreciation, complained: "I received not a word from the lips, not a line ... from the pen of any Jew, though I found myself in the Company of many of that nation." (3) Jews in England preserved a polite, discrete, and stubborn wall of silence about The Jew, a fact also noted and queried in contemporary periodicals. (4) In America, the success of the play was more remarkable still, since the Jews there formed a minuscule, and mostly scattered, proportion of the population. (5)

What, then, fueled the success of Cumberland's Jew? No one answer can speak to the very distinct situations of England and America. There were major differences in the reception of Cumberland's play in the two countries, which reminds us that, in practice, in the living (as opposed to the academic) tradition, texts have lived on at different cultural moments and in different geographical locations because they proved capable of reinterpretation, re-appropriation, and topical re-application by, or for, different audiences/readerships. This makes re-production of British materials in America, whether as performance or reprint, fruitful ground for the study of specific American difference, not embarrassing evidence of cultural subjection and servile imitation, as has often been assumed. As we will see, an imported English play such as The Jew was not necessarily the "same" play in America, or indeed in different states of America, as it had been in London; it served different purposes in America, entered into different arguments, was reinterpreted and reused. (6)

In what follows, in addition to subjecting the play to close reading, I use rewriting and contemporary British and American paratextual materials (title, prologue, advertisements, and comments and reviews) as what Genette calls "guides to interpretation" of the play. (7) This can enable us to understand better how differently the same play was interpreted and used on different sides of the Atlantic, and why a text that we are inclined to dismiss or ignore mattered in its own time and might be of interest again. The goal is not to build a single reading, or describe how a single reader read, but to discern the various discursive constellations in which a range of extant contemporary judgments and interpretations of the play made sense. (8)

The Jew spoke to a moment in England when, as The Monthly Review put it, "Whenever the character of a Jew has been exhibited for the entertainment of the public, it has not been thought sufficient to expose his national peculiarities to ridicule, but he must be also holden up to infamy as a bloodthirsty villain, a hard-hearted usurer, or a fly and pitiful knave." (9) During the first half of the eighteenth century, the Jew had often been ridiculed on the stage, along with other negatively stereotyped comedic butts--which included the French, the Dutch, West Indians, East Indian nabobs, the Scots, the Irish, the Welsh, inept English provincials, ambitious merchants' wives, the nouveau riche, and servants and the lower orders. But by the time Cumberland was writing, Jews were no longer just being mocked for their national peculiarities like the French, Irish, or Scots; they were being demonized and defamed. Scholars have traced this change in public representations of Jews to the Jew's Naturalization Bill or "Jew Bill" of 1753, repealed later that year, which relaunched all the old medieval and Renaissance and-Jewish stereotypes and invented more. This media blitz of anti-Jewish propaganda through pamphlets, newspapers, prints, and caricatures was launched by the Tories in an election year, in order to turn voters against the Whigs who were in power. (10) Between the Jew Bill and Cumberland's comedy in 1794, there had been a host of rabidly anti-Jewish plays, including Richard Brinsley Sheridan's now forgotten ballad-opera The Duenna. Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice was also revived and regularly performed at Drury Lane, where actor Charles Macklin famously represented Shylock year after year as a figure of "fiend-like malice, outrageous cruelty" and "diabolical joy in human misery." (11) As a result, The Monthly Review pointed out in 1795 that "few people perhaps now hear a Jew mentioned, without thinking of the cruel Shylock or the cunning little Isaac," (12) the latter being the Jew in Sheridan's Duenna. When Cumberland wrote his play to show that Jews were "the Victim of unjust disgrace" ("Prologue"), English Jews were also facing renewed hostility in the wake of the French Revolution. During the paranoid and repressive 1790s, fear that the French Revolution's leveling principles would be re-imported into England had created a Tory backlash, and prompted passage of the Alien Act of 1793, which made Jews one of the "alien" groups with foreign connections that government "watched" and led to the deportation of a few of them. As Geoffrey Alderman has pointed out, the Jewish community in England visibly "maintained its foreign character" throughout the century because it was "continually augmented by Jews from abroad." (13)

When Cumberland wrote The Jew against these negative representations of Jews, he was already a "dramatic veteran" who was widely known "for having often employed his talents in doing away national prejudices." (14) As audiences were reminded in the prologue to the play, it was the hallmark of Cumberland's "stage" to "strip that creeper [Prejudice] from the British Oak." Since he had already attacked negative stereotypes of Scotsmen, Irishmen, and West Indians in previous plays, The Jew was just "one species in the wide extent/Of Prejudice against which our shaft is sent." (15) In other words, the prologue directed spectators and readers to view the "English prism"--the health of the "British Oak"--as the principal focus of his work. What is remarkable about the play, nevertheless, as we will see, is the extensive knowledge of Jewish values, practices, and historical circumstances it displays, and the fact that Cumberland managed to sketch in Sheva a composite but recognizable eighteenth-century Jew. At the same time, where the British Oak was concerned, Cumberland was considered a "writer who thinks and acts like a gentleman for the stage," as Bishop Hoadley delicately put it. (16) "Richard Cumberland Esq.," who made it known that he wrote for fame, not bread, was numbered among the literary and social elite. A staunch supporter of King and Church, "elegant Cumberland" had served for fifteen years as private secretary to Lord Halifax and Lord Hillsborough when each was president of the Board of Trade and had been entrusted with a secret diplomatic mission to Spain. He viewed trade and relations between nations accordingly, from the vantage point of administration and government. In London, Cumberland "enjoyed the intimacy of Johnson, Goldsmith, Burke, Reynolds and other celebrated characters" of a Tory disposition. (17) He wrote as the beneficiary of a gentleman's classical education just as he had been taught to write--by imitating, altering, and varying models; he also wrote as one who prided himself on having been trained at Cambridge to develop an argument "step by step" in order to publicly "demonstrate the truth" against the "fallacies" of an opponent. (18) In all respects, then, Cumberland could be trusted to think and write for the stage just as a gentleman ought to do. What was remarkable here was that, while writing a Tory, even Jacobite, play that harkened back to a Burkean idyll of Old England, Cumberland managed to fashion a reassuringly Tory response to prejudices disseminated by Tory propaganda both against the "corrupt" financial system that kept the British government afloat and against the corrupt and corrupting Jews.

Cumberland spoke to his present by writing The Jew as a comprehensive revision and clever topical update of Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice, the play that had become a byword for anti-Jewish sentiment. Cumberland varied and altered his model by replacing Shakespeare's romantic plot, involving the three caskets folk-story motif, with a standard eighteenth-century stage plot: the wealthy father banishes and disinherits his heir for marrying the poor girl he loves, rather than the girl whom he, the father, has selected for the sake of her fortune; the romantic plot then turns on how the young couple gets reinstated into Papa's favor and into all the privileges and pleasures of wealth and social standing. This enabled Cumberland to make Eliza, the Portia character, a modest English miss and to exclude her decorously from all the financial dealings among the men. Martin Yaffe, has pointed out that The Merchant of Venice is an unusually ambiguous title for Shakespeare, because (unlike those of Othello, King Lear, Macbeth, the Henry plays, or the Richard plays) it does not tell us who the main character, the merchant, is (19)--a point reinforced in the play by Portia's question of Shylock and Antonio at the beginning of the trial scene: "Which is the merchant here, and which the Jew?" This conflict and overlap between merchant and Jew was still relevant in the eighteenth century, because London merchants, who feared competition from Jewish merchants and financiers, were among the most vociferous, vicious, and consistent opponents of Jewish readmission, naturalization and free participation in English trade. But Cumberland saw that beyond confronting merchant and Jew, Shakespeare had attached all his principal characters to the mercantile world in one way or another--and that is what Cumberland did too. Sir Stephen Bertram, the father who disowns his son for marrying the poor girl, Eliza, is a prosperous London merchant still actively engaged in commerce, his baronetcy a mark of his exceptional success. Frederic, his son, is the Bassanio figure, the kinsman and "impoverished spendthrift" (20) who uses borrowed money to pursue his love and his own good pleasure. Sheva, the Jew, comes on the scene as Bertram's broker at "Change Alley," the eighteenth-century stock exchange; he soon becomes a moneylender too, when, after being banished and disowned by his father for secretly marrying Eliza, Frederic asks Sheva for a loan of three hundred pounds to enable him to support her. Ratcliffe, the poor clerk and Eliza's brother, is the bearer of the old aristocratic cult of honor (given to Antonio in Shakespeare's play), for though now obliged to work in the countinghouse as Bertram's "slave" to support his mother and sister, Ratcliffe is the descendant of a noble Jacobite family, which has "bled for [its] opinions" and been ruined by "the axe and the sword."

Cumberland read the Shylock and mercantile parts of Shakespeare's drama as a study of how usurious mercantile practices conflicted with such traditional chivalric and Christian principles as honor and liberality, charity, and mercy toward the helpless, weak, and poor. (21) Usury was easy to update, since all the financial instruments introduced in England by the late seventeenth-century Financial Revolution--the Bank of England, joint-stock companies such as the South Sea Company or the East India Company, government securities and funds that sustained the ever-growing national debt--still qualified as usury. Usury was paying money for the use of money, or if one looked at it the other way around, lending money at interest for the use of others, as these financial instruments did. When Adam Smith spoke of "the laws of usury" in The Wealth of Nations (1776), he was talking about setting the interest rate; and in 1787, Jeremy Bentham answered him in Defence of Usury: Shewing the Impolicy of the Present Legal Restraints on the Terms of Pecuniary Bargains. (22) "The quality of Mercy, which ... droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven" had also taken on more modern forms in the fashionable cult of sensibility. This focused on arousing feelings of pity for the suffering of others, which were supposed to produce mercifully "humane" conduct and find their outlet in acts of benevolence and Christian philanthropy.

Cumberland read The Merchant of Venice as a conservative play in which mercy dropped as the gentle rain of heaven only on the courtly merchant Antonio and the courtly society of which he formed part. In this reading, Shakespeare had (unjustly) used Shylock, and ancient prejudice against Jews, to mark the usurious practices that mercantilism was then introducing on the continent as villainous, un-Christian, un-English, and potentially fatal to ancient families like Antonio's. This was still broadly the position of eighteenth-century Tories, who attributed England's corruption and moral decline to government borrowing and "speculation" in stocks, and who denigrated English (Christian) champions of the new financial instruments by labeling them "Jews." Cumberland therefore manipulated Sheva's appearance to make his difference from the English characters visible on the stage. Sheva had key traits of England's most prominent Sephardi or "Portuguese" Jews--he came to England from Spain and was a wealthy broker and stockjobber. But Sheva was made to look and sound like a poor Ashkenazi peddler: an old man with a long beard, "poorly dressed" in a long threadbare coat, who says "fader" for father and "goot" for good. Assimilated Sephardi brokers and financiers who were "rolling in riches" like Sheva had adopted English clothing and genteel English ways. They were mistakable for Englishmen; Ashekenazi peddlers were not.

Cumberland repeatedly highlighted Sheva's difference and foreignness in the play for two good dramatic reasons that, as contemporary critics pointed out, made him its most complex and interesting character. The first was to enable the Jew to function as the play's moral compass. When Sheva tells Frederic and Charles, "I am only a poor Jew, a stranger to your country, and have not yet been taught to reverence all your customs" (66), he is positioning himself, like Montesquieu's Persian, D'Argens's Turkish spy, or Oliver Goldsmith's Chinaman in Citizen of the World, as the stranger who can view the customs and conduct of the English (or French) with an outsider's critical eye, measure them against his own different mores and beliefs, and show the natives how they look to foreigners. Showing Englishmen how their conduct looks and feels to Jews is part of Sheva's role. The second dramatic reason for highlighting Sheva's difference was to address prejudices against Jews that were founded on that difference. The traits of the Ashkenazi peddler described above were also those of the conventional Stage Jew who had been the butt of comedy and was now the vehicle of anti-Jewish sentiment. Cumberland's argument about prejudice in the prologue was that Christians only "judge the man by his exterior part," making up "absurd myths about secret Jewish practices" (23) on the basis of ignorance. As Sheva says, beyond the fact that he is "rolling in riches," "the world knows no great deal of me" (6). Cumberland's innovation was to reproduce the stereotypical exterior parts and then to show what real historical or cultural "secrets" lay behind them. On one level, therefore, going through the play is a process of discovering along with Frederick Bertram and Charles Ratcliffe what Sheva is really like behind his stereotypical appearances.

Cumberland laid bare his device by constantly highlighting the presence and penetration of secrets. But the work is not always done for the audience. For instance, when Sheva says, "I am a solitary being, a waif on the world's wide common" (12) who "has been driven mad with sorrow," he is invoking the stereotype of the wandering Jew. But where the stereotype equated the wandering Jew with Cain or with criminal vagabondage, the spectator who asks why Sheva wandered or what has driven him mad with sorrow will discover in the course of the play that the Inquisition in Spain took his mother and family, forced him to flee for his life, and left him brokenhearted and alone--all of which was actually happening during this period and causing Sephardi Jews to come to England. (24) Why was Sheva still sorrowful in Enlightened England, where everyone enjoyed their liberty? Because he was still "a poor, defenceless Jew" (39) in a country where "everybody rails at us, everybody flouts us, everybody points us out to be their may-day game" (7) and where there is nothing that "a poor Jew [can] say in return, if a Christian chuses to abuse him" (6). Again: everyone calls Sheva a miser, including his servant, Jabal, who complains that hunger has reduced him to longing for a sausage hanging in a butcher's shop. Dorcas, Sheva's housekeeper, who informs Jabal smartly that his stomach is "like the Dead Sea, fathomless" (18), eventually explains why he hungers for meat: Jabal cannot eat sausage because it is made of an "unclean beast" and "our people have never tasted bacon since they came out of the land of Ham" (27). This pun enlivens a well-known stereotype, Jews' abhorrence of pig. But it does not explain why Dorcas offers Jabal an egg to still his appetite. This makes sense only if an egg is the closest thing to meat in Sheva's house--Sheva, in other words, not only avoids bacon and ham but keeps the dietary laws. Upon examination, therefore, it appears that Sheva is too "miserly" to feed his servants with meat because this is a kosher household in which Sheva and his servants are all Jews.

This was therefore not merely a sentimental comedy, or what the French called a comedie larmoyante, in which audiences are made to laugh and cry. It was also sentimental in the other eighteenth-century sense of sentiment, which was idea or opinion. The Jew was what Cumberland considered "legitimate Comedy." Legitimate comedy was necessarily sentimental in the sense that "the writer for the stage is a writer to the passions," because "in the galleries of our theatres the Graces have no seats, and he that writes to the populace must not borrow the pen of the author of Philodamus." But legitimate comedy was also moral, reasoned, classical, and correct. While observing unity of action, it conformed to the classical, supposedly Aristotelian definition of comedy as a drama with a beginning, middle, and end, which shows up ordinary human frailties and corrects them to restore harmony and social order in the denouement. At the same time, it was "a composition of a more independent and a higher character" than mere crowd pleasers because it was written (as the ancients had supposedly written) for "posterity." (25) Cumberland's play had a higher character because it was a dramatized argument based on two Enlightenment propositions: that all men are naturally good (or as the prologue has it, that "Virtue's strong root in every soil will grow/Rich ore lies buried under piles of snow") and that enlightened people use reason and experience to test old superstitions and demolish unfounded prejudices. That is also why audiences and readers are required to do some of the reasoning on their own. The play's dramatic argument proceeds step by step by showing how the four principal male characters, who represent different social groups and different sets of values, deal with issues of usury, honor, pity, and charity.

Cumberland addressed questions of usury, defined as "money paid for the use of money," (26) by demonstrating what each character or social type used his money for. Sir Stephen Bertram, the merchant, uses money to make more money, not only on the stock exchange but by using his riches to bring even more money into the family through his son's marriage to a fortune of 10,000 [pounds sterling]. Sir Stephen is too polite to speak of money, as Shylock does: "Oh my ducats." But it evidently matters to him more than anything else, including his son. Before he realizes that Frederic has already secretly married Eliza, he fires Ratcliffe out of hand, to make him go away and take his sister with him--never mind what the Ratclifffe family was going to live on or that Ratcliffe had served him well. And having disowned Frederic for marrying a poor girl, he is willing to pay for an advertisement in the newspapers stating that he is no longer to be held responsible for his son's debts, as husbands did when their wives deserted them. Sir Stephen's heartlessness and disregard for others are related both to his pride and to his patriarchal values: "I am your father, sir," he tells Frederic, "and in this house sole master; I have no partners to account to" (1). Sir Stephen's wishes are all that count; he is accountable to no one and takes no one else's needs or happiness into account. Charles Ratcliffe has dealt with his family's ruin honorably, by working like a "slave" to support his sister and widowed mother as a humble clerk in Sir Stephen's countinghouse. But Frederic is no sooner disowned by his father than he goes to Sheva for a loan. He has no plans to work like Ratcliffe, and does not pause to consider how he will repay the loan. Sheva is not too polite to lament, like Shylock, the amount of interest he will lose on the three hundred pounds he has given Frederic. But here this serves to draw attention to the fact that three hundred pouds was an enormous sum that Frederic will use to live in luxury--in eighteenth-century London, an entire middle-class family could live quite comfortably for a year on sixty pounds. Frederic is thus very much the prodigal son of a wealthy father, using money, as his father does, only to pursue his own selfish self-interest.

Sheva, by contrast, secretly uses his wealth to help others; "though he starves himself, he is secretly very charitable to others" (37). Sheva skimps on himself to the point of making himself appear miserly, in order to give money to the needy and the poor with what Charles calls "the generosity of a Prince." Sheva rescued his widowed neighbor from ruin when her husband died by lending her the money to start a lodging house; he gives Charles Bertram the three hundred pounds knowing he will never get it back; and he goes on to dower the bride, the orphaned Eliza, with [pounds sterling]10,000 to reconcile Sir Stephen to his son's marriage. The fact that, like Shylock, he "laments over his money in the language of a miser" (21) at parting with it only underlines the sincerity of his pity for others and the strength of his feeling heart: "I love my monies, I do love them dearly; but I love my fellow creatures a little better" (21). At the same time, Sheva's attachment to his money is explained by reference to his experience as a Jew at the hands of "merciless men" who had persecuted Jews down the centuries and left them "no abiding place on earth, no country and no home" (6). All Sheva's dependence is on his money. What should a Jew rely upon, what use to flee persecutions or the Inquisition, if not the money he has "got little by little, working hard and pinching my own bowels?" (12) Sheva's money also remains crucially important in England, where it is his passport into the presence of Englishmen such as Sir Stephen. As Sheva points out: "Money is welcome everywhere" (5).

In Sheva, Cumberland was not merely substituting a philanthropic Jew for the evil Shylock, as modern critics have supposed. He was using Sheva to strip another "species of prejudice" from the "British oak": Tory prejudice against, and Whig prejudice in favor of, the new financial instruments on which Britain's wealth, incessant eighteenth-century wars, and commercial empire had come to depend. On the one hand, Cumberland answered the contemporary Utilitarian, Benthamite argument that each person's pursuit of his own selfish self-interest would produce the happiness of the greatest number in society as a whole, by pointing to the Bertrams. Sir Stephen's usurious and self-interested pursuit of gain with heartless disregard for the happiness of others destroys his family. By contrast, accompanying his pursuit of gain with the proper "humanity," "pity," and charitable giving enables Sheva to restore the family unit, reconcile Sir Stephen to his son, and bring everyone back together in harmony and peace. This had broader implications at a time when the family was considered the fundamental unit of society and the microcosm of the state, and when the family was conventionally presented in literature as an analogue for the nation. On the other hand, Cumberland used Sheva's charitable giving to answer longstanding Tory attacks on finance as a principal cause of Britain's vice and corruption. As Sheva explains to Sir Stephen: "I do uphold the son, but not against the fader; it is not natural to suppose the oppressor and the fader one and the same person. I did see your son struck to the ground with sorrow.... I did not stop to ask whose hand laid him low; I gave him mine, and rais'd him up" (40). Sir Stephen's single-minded pursuit of gain and disregard for the happiness of others was "unnatural," un-patriarchal, and oppressive to his son, his clerk, and the Ratcliffes, mother and daughter. But it was not necessary to overturn the proper traditional hierarchy of father and son (as the French and American Revolutions had done) to correct this. It was only necessary to use one's money wisely. As Sheva showed, the wise and charitable use of money secured and even strengthened the stability of the status quo. Charitably providing his widowed neighbor Mrs. Goodison with funds to start a boardinghouse kept her grateful, loyal, and orderly. Providing Eliza with the 10,000 [pounds sterling] she needed to be acceptable to Sir Stephen--and not coincidentally in the form of a 10,000 [pounds sterling] government bond "invested in the 3 per cents"--made Sheva the champion and preserver of the traditional, patriarchal English family, and by extension, of the traditional, hierarchical British state.

Cumberland also used Sheva to make a point about charity itself. Benevolence was the great Enlightenment virtue in eighteenth-century England, and public philanthropy the expression of it. Eighteenth-century Britons founded "hospitals" for orphans, poor women lying in, magdalens, old soldiers, and the mad; and philanthropists such as Josiah Hanway, Lady Spence, or Lady Huntington, who set up charities or gave lavishly of their personal fortunes, were famous for it. Philanthropic beneficence was therefore valued and approved by English critics, audiences, and readers; making Sheva benevolent and charitable was an excellent way to vindicate Jews. But Sheva's notion of philanthropy was not exactly "Christian" and ran against the way things were being done. (27) Dorcas draws attention to the difference: Sheva "do not give [his] money like other persons" who, "if ever [they] do a good turn ... take care the person [they] favor should know from whence it comes" (50). And Sheva points out himself that he does not "waste" his fortune "upon vanity or public works," or "bury it in a synagogue or any other costly pile" (75). Instead, Sheva is "the benefactor of all mankind" and a "universal philanthropist" because he gives charity in ways that echo Old Testament injunctions and traditional Jewish practices. He gives as "the widow's friend, the orphan's father, [and] the poor man's protector"(71)--the widow in this play being Mrs. Goodison, the orphan Eliza, and the poor man, Charles Ratcliffe. In rabbinic Judaism, giving in such a way as to set up a person in business is particularly meritorious because it spares them the humiliation of requiring charity from others in the future; and giving money in secret, so that no one knows who gave, is particularly meritorious because it is giving 'for the sake of heaven' rather than for thanks, personal aggrandizement or praise. Sheva does both: he sets Mrs. Goodison up in business, and gives to "consumers of hogs flesh" (27) in secret: "I did relieve their wants, but did not court their thanks; they did eat my bread, and hooted at me for a miser" (22). And at the end of the play, when the secret has come out, Sheva is both embarrassed and "oppressed" by "hearing ... the voice of praise" (74).

Honor is Sheva's other motive for his extensive charity to Christians, but again his notion of honor differs from what English custom deemed honorable. Charles Ratcliffe, the scion of an ancient Jacobite family, is the bearer of more traditional forms of honor in this play. Before the action begins, Charles has rescued Sheva from a London mob that descended upon him and threatened his life, in an updated version of knightly noblesse oblige to the weak and helpless; and a grateful Sheva describes Charles as his "Protector." Charles proves so again by preventing Frederic from "making a bait [of Sheva] for sport," and demanding that Frederic treat Sheva with the same "courtesy" that Sheva used toward him. Charles is as appalled as Sir Stephen when he discovers that Frederic and his sister Eliza have secretly married, but for different reasons: Eliza has "made a wreck of her own honor" and "dishonored the name of RatclifFe" by secretly seducing into marriage "a fond, weak youth" whose entire dependence is on his father, and by setting father against son. She has thereby compromised his honor too. His reproaches lead to a duel with Frederic--dueling being the traditional way for a gentleman to defend his honor when insulted. Walking in on the duel, Sheva acts as the play's moral compass again by reproaching Frederic and Charles for following this English "custom": "Are you not friends? Are you not brothers? ... And if you differ, must you fight? ... You call that an affair of honor, I suppose; under your favor, I do not think it a very honorable affair; 'tis only giving a fine name to a foul deed" (65-66). Sheva has a very different sense of honor: "That is my sense of an affair of honor to pay the debt that I do owe" (66). In a world where merchants often had to extend credit for a year or more, and were sometimes never paid, especially by the great, this was a home hit. Sheva was arguing that honor was not merely a question of "words," of insults to be avenged. There was an honorable way of dealing with money too; honor must be introduced into mercantile transactions through the conscientious repayment of debts. Sheva extends this mercantile notion of honor to repaying debts for kindnesses received. Charles saved his life by rescuing him from the mob, so he repays Charles by dowering his sister; when Sheva discovers that Charles's deceased father was the Christian who helped him escape from the Inquisition in Spain, he makes a will leaving the RatclifFe family the rest of his vast fortune upon his death. That is how his sense of honor operates: "To pay the debt that I do owe to you and to your fader, who preserved my life in Spain, that is my point of honor" (66). (28)

This too served a Tory purpose. For in willing his fortune to the Ratcliffes and "reviving the fortunes of [their] house," Sheva was restoring an ancient family to its proper place in the traditional social hierarchy. With the fortune to sustain his position, Charles would no longer be Sir Stephen's clerk and inferior; he would once again be the social superior of the newly created baronet who had acquired his money in trade. As Sheva's money reconciles the Bertrams, so it now places the Ratcliffes back where they belong at the top of England's idealized ancien regime. That is as it should be, as Frederic points out, because "the treasure that integrity collected, cannot be better lodg'd than in the hands of honor" (74). The ancient families are the proper rulers and managers of Britain's wealth, because gentlemen like Charles have the honor, integrity, and pity for others that Sir Stephen lacks, and because--like Charles, who has acted as Sheva's "protector"--ancient families will protect the Jews in England and treat them with gentlemanly courtesy. Charles is fit to rule (29) because he understands, as Sir Stephen does not, that rich Jews contribute to the public good: "Misers are not unuseful members of the community," for "they act like dams to rivers, hold up the stream that else would run to waste, and make deep water where there were shallows" (5). Charles knows that saving and the accumulation of wealth are as necessary to the new economic order as spending and conspicuous consumption. At the same time, the ancien regime was a "face-to-face society" that ran on giving favors and gratefully returning favors received. The "mutual good offices" that resulted were still, in Enlightenment political theory, the "glue" or "cement" of society--hence the importance of Shevas exemplary gratitude to Charles and his father, and of his exemplary one-on-one Old Testament style of charitable giving. Not institutions but highly personalized relationships, such as the protection of the strong and the gratitude of the weak, or the benevolent hand extended to another and the obligation thus produced and repaid, were what would preserve, cement, and unite English society, defend it against the ravages of revolution, and make the economy work for the happiness of the greatest number.

Having served his exemplary function, and having used his money to restore England's ancien regime, Sheva disappears. The Ratcliffes and Bertrams praise him profusely; Bertram senior repents; and Charles vows to live up to Shevas example, and not to forget his benefactions. But they do not invite him into their homes, into their families, or into their lives. They make no mention, even, of seeing him again. "Money" as Sheva says is "welcome everywhere"; without money, Sheva, the Jew, is not welcome anywhere. Consequently, as Sheva predicts, in time even the memory of his existence will fade: "My family is all gone, it is extinct, my very name will vanish out of memory when I am dead" (25). Though Cumberland did not forcibly convert Sheva, as Shakespeare did Shylock, he followed his model here too by ensuring that all the Jews' money went to Christians to strengthen and support the traditional Christian social order, and by eliminating the Jew qua Jew.

This enabled Cumberland to answer one final prejudice against Jews that had been launched by Tory scare propaganda: the idea that Jews would "swamp" England and take it over by buying up all the country estates, turning St. Paul's into a synagogue, forcing all good Englishmen to circumcise themselves, and influencing Christians to adopt Jewish ways. Cumberland was dramatically demonstrating that there was no danger to English culture from the Jews. On the contrary, inasmuch as Hebrews were a charitable, benevolent nation with "feeling hearts" who acted as "the widow's friend, the orphan's father, [and] the poor man's protector"(71), their influence on the English, and on extant mercantile practices, would be all for the good. Everyone knew that wealthy Jewish parnassim provided (quite handsomely) for their own Jewish poor, rather than let them become a burden to the parish; but if they were treated with proper "courtesy" by the English, rich Jews' charitable practices would benefit poor Christians too. Above all, if English grandees "protected" the Jews and showed them kindness, as Charles did to Sheva, Jews would demonstrate their gratitude honorably, by adding their wealth and support to the ancient Christian families of "Old England" and propping up Britain's ancien regime. Jews would perform these useful roles, and trouble England no further. As the Critical Review observed, "The moral sentiments of the piece are a considerable addition to its value" (154).

With the exception of "Carlos" in the Monthly Visitor, who insisted that Shylock was "more consistent with the character of an Israelite" than "Cumberland's Sheva," (30) eighteenth-century English critics praised Cumberland to the skies for his "benevolent design" in thus "rescuing] an injured and persecuted race of men from the general reproach which has fallen upon them." (31) One critic observed that "the favourable reception of the character of Sheva on the stage" was "an indication that the public hatred of them [Jews] is considerably abated." (32) English critics could congratulate Cumberland on his benevolence and themselves on their liberality, because Cumberland was only advocating a salutary change in English attitudes towards Jews--and one designed, like ameliorism for plantation slaves, to benefit the masters. As Dissenter John Aikin sardonically pointed out in connection with the "service" among the "polished" that Cumberland's Jew had rendered Jews, what was missing from the play was any mention of "repeal [ing] every law which incroaches upon the political equality of this and other sects." If indeed the English "no longer view them with rancor, or mistrust, or unbrotherly emotions," why, Aikin asked, was "the legal condition of Jews in England ... not altered?" (33) Cumberland's play did not call for any change in Jews' actual situation. As Isaac Disraeli pointed out in 1797, "the parliament of England ha[d] never abrogated their decree of expulsion:" the decree of 1290 which deprived Jews of all right to live in England still stood. (34) Like women, Jews were therefore, in principle, nonpersons in law. Like Roman Catholics and Dissenters, Jews could not go to Universities, hold official posts, or participate in guilds, crafts or professions. Like aliens, the foreign-born among them were disbarred from holding property or land, and subject to additional taxation. Sheva, the Jew, had no identity at the end of Cumberland's play because he had no recognized place or legally protected identity in English society, especially without the wealth to produce a modicum of "commercial toleration." (35) Sheva disappeared in the comedy's happy ending which restored ideal order and harmony to English society because a Jew had no place in a confessional Christian state that defined and partly governed itself through an established Church. Here too, Cumberland was only confirming and underwriting the old established order.

It is not hard to see why Jews in England met this with silence, especially after the French Revolution had emancipated French Jewry. For one thing, the wealthier, more prominent and better connected Sephardim at London's Bevis Marks Synagogue never liked to be associated in the public mind with Ashkenazi Jews, and did all they could to avoid it. Cumberland had blurred the difference between wealthy assimilated Sephardim, poor Ashkenazi peddlers and the more prosperous, traditionalist Ashkenazim at London's Duke Street and Hambra Synagogues who often looked and behaved like "foreigners," by melding them all together into the Jew. For another thing, by urging English grandees to "protect" the Jews, Cumberland was drawing unwelcome attention to the fact that Jews were in England only under the protection of the King and his ministers, and thus as a matter of grace and favor--which also meant that they were in England only as long as these grandees pleased. This was not an ideal situation from the Jewish point of view. Jews had been buying "protection" from the great across Europe since the late sixteenth century, by franking the wars and expeditions of emperors, popes, archdukes and Landgraeber, by provisioning their Christian armies, and by bringing their skills and international trading connections to help Christian rulers develop their economies. When William III and George I came to England from Holland and Hanover respectively, each had brought their customary Jewish bankers and Jewish army provisioners with them; and from Isaac Pereira, Solomon de Medina and Gideon Samson through Joseph Salvador to the Franks and the Goldsmid brothers, Jewish financiers had been quietly funding British governments, supplying British armies and helping to build Britain's international trade throughout the eighteenth century. But Jews had discovered the hard way throughout seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Europe how rapidly the "protection" of the great was withdrawn when their convenience changed, when the political winds shifted, or when a princely protector died. Protection turned into persecution and expulsion on a whim, often within a few decades. What was the point of trying to explain to Cumberland, who obviously meant well, that to rely on the protection of the great for "toleration" was to lean on an easily-broken reed, rather than on a sturdy and enduring British oak? (36)

More remarkably still, for those who "read double," (37) in this rewrite of The Merchant of Venice, Sheva had no daughter, as Shylock had, to mark out a path to incorporation of the Jew within the Christian's world by converting and intermarrying with a Christian. In Cumberland's Jew, there is no invitation to incorporation. At a time when both poor and wealthy Jews in England were intermarrying with English Christians, when some Jews were mixing with Englishmen in literary, scientific, and sporting (i.e., boxing) circles, and when Cumberland himself was meeting "many" Jews "in Company," Cumberland's play portrayed each "nation" as perpetually different, domestically separate and socially distinct. By excluding the liberal center where assimilation was occurring or where accommodations were being made, Cumberland was dramatizing the hard line taken by opponents of Jewish naturalization: "the rites of the Jews will for ever resist their incorporation with other nations." As Tory MP Sir Edmund Isham explained: "The Jews are not like French refugees, or German Protestants: these in a generation or two become so incorporated with us, that there is no distinguishing them from the rest of the people.... But the unconverted Jews can never be incorporated with us: they must for ever remain Jews." (38) If, as a number scholars have argued, the solution to diversity in England's commercial empire was to impose uniformity on all internal and external "Others," and to incorporate them by making them more like polite, Anglican, English men and women, (39) unconverted Jews like Sheva were where the rock of English custom met the hard place of Jewish tradition, and the rock of Jewish practices met the hard place of English determination to be surrounded with people like themselves. This was nowhere more evident than at the "Tory" extremes, where English conservatives anxious to conserve customary English ways met Jewish conservatives anxious to preserve customary Jewish practices. This is why Charles Lamb observed at the turn of the nineteenth century that "the Synagogue is essentially separative" and Levi Alexander bemoaned "the separate state we seem doomed by Heaven for ever to live in." (40) The situation in England for Jews who remained Jewish, in other words, was also a "truth" that Cumberland's ending portrayed.


Except in New York City where the play was published but apparently not performed, American reprints of The Jew lacked the interpretative prologue published in the British edition. This may have been missing because Boston and Philadelphia printers were using as their copy text one of the Dublin editions--these had pirated the Dillys' first or second London edition, where the play was initially presented without the prologue. The prologue may also have been omitted because The Jew's Boston and Philadelphia reprinters decided that prejudice against Jews was no more relevant to early republican America than the health of the British oak. Certainly, early republican critics who commented on American performances of Cumberland's play were vocal about consigning prejudice against Jews to the old world that Americans had blessedly left behind them. Philadelphia's Aurora General Advertiser observed, for instance, that "in England, where the prejudice against that unfortunate people is strong, the comedy met with considerable success, but in the hearts of an American audience unfettered by prejudice, the sentiments it holds out found a soil perfectly congenial, and the piece was received with distinguished applause." (41) Similarly, eight years later, The Charleston Courier praised Cumberland for seeking to "extinguish animosities, to correct erroneous and uncharitable judgements, and to encounter unjust and unfeeling prejudices" in England, by insisting that "no biped that ever existed, stood so much in need of correction and amendment in that way, as that same sturdy gentleman called JOHN BULL," who "despised other nations for the inferiority which he himself occasioned." (42) Setting aside the irony of making this statement in South Carolina, where the majority of inhabitants were despised African slaves, this does suggest that Cumberland's treatment of the Jewish question was not perceived as a primary source of the play's appeal, even in super-genteel Charleston, where Jews had recently built a synagogue.

The situation of Jews in North America was certainly markedly different from their situation in England during the same years. Jews had been able to obtain naturalization after seven years of residence in Britain's American colonies since the 1740s; after Independence, they were American citizens and entitled (after some debate) to vote. Even where there were coherent Jewish communities, these were tiny, (43) and there was no established church in the new republic. The American colonies had been settled by different homogeneous religious communities and by different European groups, which had initially managed to live together peaceably by using the vast expanse of British America to separate themselves physically from one another and, when that proved impossible, by coexisting semiautonomously side by side. Cumberland's separatist happy ending could be perceived in white America as a normal and natural response to religious difference, rather than as an exclusionary move, and as one that did not necessarily preclude social and political as well as commercial integration. Indeed, by the 1790s, the wealthiest and most established Jews in America (such as the Levys, the Franks, or the Gratzes) were participating in civil society much as the wealthiest and most established Christians did (such as the Delaneys, the Schuylers, or the Carters)--as individuals backed by notable families that were closely interlinked by marriages. Jews had overwhelming "fought for the cause" at the Revolution by helping with funds and enlisting in the Continental army, and once president, George Washington acknowledged them for it. (44) Though anti-Semitic volleys were occasionally fired by individuals or interested groups, there was no state-sponsored persecution in America; and by the 1790s, even Jews like the Franks or the Levys who rigorously observed the Jewish Sabbath and the dietary laws, were part of American life. (45)

But this only makes American enthusiasm for Cumberland's play more curious. It does not explain why, upon viewing its first performance, a Boston critic said that he did "not recollect a Boston audience give so many applauses to any one piece; nor, if we except the concerts of Mrs Pownall, so loud and universal," (46) or why the play likewise "went off with great eclat" in Philadelphia and met "distinguished applause" in Charleston--despite performances marred by the inadequacies of one or more of the local actors. In Philadelphia and Boston, where the play was staged with particular frequency, The Jew was characterized in theater billings as a "celebrated" and later as a "much admired" or "favourite" play. (47) Indeed, by 1803, the critic in Charleston was assuming that "it would be superfluous to enter into a detailed account of the play" because everyone "must long since have been sufficiently acquainted with its plan and its merits." (48) But what were the "merits" that American audiences, who were "unfettered by prejudice" against Jews, were applauding so warmly? What were the "sentiments" that found "soil perfectly congenial" in America and made the play a favorite with American audiences, if not its positive representation of Jews?

I would suggest that reasons for the play's widespread popularity might be sought in what was obvious and therefore left unsaid. In the capital city, Philadelphia, in 1794 and 1795, for instance, polemics about "speculation" were flying back and forth as Jeffersonian Republicans broke away from Hamilton and the Federalist government. Federalist policies favored banks, speculation, financiers and great merchants, and sought to harness individuals' financial self-interest to the public good, while Jeffersonian Republicans, who envisioned the republic as a nation of small, independent farmers, attacked the speculators and argued that virtue, sympathy, and mutual aid would more effectively attach individuals to each other and to the state. Republicans held that there was virtue as well as cementing power in the pity that reached out to succor anyone who had fallen into poverty or distress, "without stopping to ask whose hand had laid him low"; while Federalists insisted that charity only promoted idleness by undermining any interest the poor had in working, and that philanthropy should be distributed (as unpleasantly as possible) only to the most deserving of the deserving poor. But in the wake of the French Revolution, while Americans were wrestling domestically with spates of bankruptcies, a shift to wage labor, disturbing increases in the numbers of the unemployed and of the "strolling poor," and a large and growing gap between rich and poor--to say nothing of recurrent yellow fever epidemics and local insurrections--it was obvious on some level to both parties that some admixture of charity was needed to ensure the stability of a free, commercial society where (as Federalists pointed out) inequality and poverty were "natural," and intrinsic to the relation of "the many and the few." (49) Public "hospitals" for the poor, the sick, and the (female) fallen, accordingly, began to be built. Charity was also still a prized Christian virtue. Personal charity was democratic--preachers taught even poorer Christians that they could and should perform acts of charity for their needier neighbors. And universal charity would ease the worst hardships of "the many," and mitigate the inequalities that were being produced.

Read through this early republican "prism," The Jew was a congenial, even a comforting, play. Whether or not one wished to criticize Sheva for extending his charity beyond the deserving Mrs. Goodison and Charles Ratcliffe to undeserving Frederic, who was responsible for his own financial ruin, the play was reassuring in its insistence that the self-interested pursuit of wealth through speculation, "miserly" accumulation, and questionable mercantile ventures did not have to be incompatible with pity, charity, and a feeling heart. For those who dreaded the effects of a divided polity, the play could be seen as reconciling opposing sides; for those impatient of politicians, it could be seen as empowering individuals to take matters into their own hands by helping their needy neighbors for the common good. And if Republicans applauded The Benevolent Hebrew's valorization of pity and "humanity," while Federalists admired its insistence on honorably paying one's debts, both could approve Sheva's active and effective charity, and greet with relief its demonstrable ability to dissipate quarrels, disunity, and violence and restore order, peace, and unity in the end. While enjoying the sentimental idiom which the play shared with much contemporary American writing, everyone could feel that they had been morally invigorated and "improved."

Jeffrey Richards has argued that identification was complex for American spectators watching mostly British plays set in a variety of geographical locations and containing a variety of ethnic characters--French, Spanish, Africans, Indians, Muslims, Turks, and Jews. He observes, very astutely, that when ethnic characters spoke as "registers of different kinds of anxieties from those represented by race alone," the Anglo-American spectator who sympathized with the Stage African complaining of hardship, or with the Stage Jew who "chose humanity over lucre," would insensibly find that "part of himself" was with, and like, the African or the Jew. (50) The spectator's identification and sympathies crossed ethnic lines. This is clearly applicable to Anglo-American spectators of Cumberland's play-and increasingly so as attacks on immigrants and foreigners multiplied in preparation for passage of the Federalists' Alien and Sedition Act of 1798. Characterizing immigrants as "vicious and disorganizing characters who cannot live peaceably at home," and as "dangerous to the peace and safety of the United States," while suspecting "plots and conspiracies" everywhere, Federalists insisted that only "birth-citizens" were safely American. (51) The many immigrants who were landing on American shores at this time, fleeing the French and Haitian revolutions or escaping British repression of radical sentiment in England and Ireland, were not the only victims of such attacks. Republican senators, many of whom protested that they were immigrants themselves, felt targeted too, as indeed many Americans might. For the Federalist-sponsored surge of "nativism" and "anti-foreign-ness" filling newspapers and public discourse made anyone suspect, un-American, or not American enough who, not having been born in America, did not yet look or sound quite like a native. For American spectators who felt that they or their neighbors were being made "Victims of unjust Disgrace," Sheva offered the spectacle of a character who had been treated as an outsider, and misjudged, only on the basis of his foreign "external part." The play gratifyingly demonstrated that this apparent foreigner displayed more beneficence, shared more of the real values, and contributed more to the real peace and safety of the country he inhabited than the native-born characters did. As a "a poor Jew, a stranger to your country," Sheva answered the demonization and alienation through public discourse of those who had come to Anglo-America as immigrants fleeing "merciless men" who had persecuted them for their brand of religion, their political beliefs or the cut of their gib; it vindicated first-generation immigrants who were seeking only to mend their fortunes and contribute peaceably to their newfound home. The prejudice that misjudged them and marked them as "alien" on the basis of appearances alone was a "creeper" that Sheva, "the Benevolent Hebrew," was stripping from the American oak.

Cumberland's Jew was no doubt also interpreted and used in other ways elsewhere, and during the nineteenth century. (52) But there is one thing that I hope we can take away from Cumberland's use of the Jew in all his physical and cultural difference to address core issues of non-Jewish society--finance and speculation, philanthropy, nation and immigration. It is that, during this period, when they lived as what Francesca Trivellato calls "insider-outsiders," (53) the Jew was "jew-not-jew"--both for others, and for him/herself. How else describe wealthy Sephardi financiers such as Gideon Samson, who broke with the synagogue to live like the English gentry, marry a Christian wife, and have his children baptized, yet continued to support the synagogue handsomely in secret and asked to be buried in the Jewish cemetery when they died? Or those like Isaac Disraeli, who broke with the synagogue, had his Jewish son, Benjamin, baptized, and became famous as a much-reprinted English man of letters, only to write, in his old age, The Genius of Judaism (1833)? Or Rachel Mordecai-Lazarus, who corresponded from Warrenton, North Carolina, with celebrated Anglo-Irish novelist Maria Edgeworth for more than twenty years, in what Edgeworth called "a spirit of Christian charity and kindness," without mentioning that her father was a learned, traditional Jew who was widely consulted in America on matters of bible and religion? Or Jacob Mordecai himself, an erudite Hebrew scholar who ran a highly successful secular, English school in North Carolina? Or the Marranos who spread out all over Europe, North Africa, and the new world from Portugal and Spain? Clearly each filled their "external part" differently--for some, the "external part" was the non-Jewish facade, the secret core Jewish; for others, core non-Jewish interests and beliefs accompanied the externals of a marked Jewish body; for others, the proportions and positions of insider/outsider and Jew/not-Jew altered at different times in their lives or in different circumstances, situations or relationships; for others still, there was mixture, confusion or overlap. Cumberland put his finger on this reality. In his way, he understood as well as Derrida (that postmodern Sephardi Jew-non-Jew) that writing "the Jew" produced a text that was necessarily "re-marked" inside and outside the dominant Western culture, for here par excellence identity was never simple, pure, "proper," and "identical with itself."


I am grateful to Norman Stillman and Michael Kramer for their extremely helpful comments on an earlier version of this article.

(1.) In 1878, the play was even translated into Hebrew and published in Vilna as Ish Yehudi: Machazeh Shdashu'im.

(2.) Michael Ragussis, Theatrical Nation: Jews and other Outlandish Englishmen in Georgian Britain (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010), 79.

(3.) Memoirs of Richard Cumberland (New York, 1806), 305.

(4.) Unfortunately, this contemporary Jewish reaction is not addressed by the few recent critics who have worked on the play from a Jewish point of view. Although vocal in their own disapproval, their criticisms derive more from "identity politics" in present-day multicultural societies than from the situation facing Jews in eighteenth-century England. Michael Scrivener complains that this "philosemitic" play has a Benevolent Jew who cares nothing about other Jews but everything about the "human"-"Christian"-heart." Michael Scrivener, Jewish Representations in British Literature 1780-1840 (Houndsmills: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), 91; Judith Bage criticizes Cumberland for not being able to "imagine his Jewish character in a specific culturally Jewish way" and for showing that "Sheva cannot escape the fact that he is an unbeliever, a foreigner, an Other, no matter how nice he is or how much money he gives away." Judith W. Bage, Imperfect Sympathies: Jews and Judaism in British Romantic Literature and Culture (Houndsmills: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004), 36, 39; And Michael Ragussis, who reads the play "primarily through the lens of ethnic representation" and through his thesis that representations of ethnic "others" represented "a crisis in national identity," objects that once "christened the universal philantliropist, the Jew Sheva seems to disappear.... The Jew is unknown not simply to others, but even to himself, in the larger theater of public life without the conventional taunts and stereotypes that construct and represent him." Theatrical Nation, 109-10.

(5.) Louis Harap, The Image of the Jew in American Literature (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1974), 203.

(6.) See Jeffrey H. Richards, "Theatre, Drama, Performance," in Transatlantic Literary Studies 1660-1830, ed. EveTavor Bannet and Susan Manning (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), for ways in which English plays were adapted by actors for American audiences, and for a brief and compelling account of transatlantic drama.

(7.) Gerard Genette, Paratexts: Thresholds of Interpretation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997).

(8.) For a fuller account of this approach, see Eve Tavor Bannet, Transatlantic Stories and the History of Reading: Migrant Fictions, 1720-1810 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011).

(9.) The Monthly Review 16 (Feb. 1795): 153.

(10.) Frank Felsenstein, Anti-Semitic Stereotypes: A Paradigm of Otherness in English Popular Culture 1660-1830 (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995); Thomas W. Perry, Public Opinion, Propaganda and Politics in Eighteenth-Century England: A Study of the Jew Bill of 1773 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1962).

(11.) Inchbald, "Introduction," The British Theatre (1808), qtd. in Frank Felsenstein, Anti-Semitic Stereotypes: A Paradigm of Otherness in English Popular Culture 1660-1830 (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995), 177.

(12.) The Monthly Review 16 (Feb. 1795): 154.

(13.) Geoffrey Alderman, The Jewish Community in British Politics (Oxford: Clarendon, 1983), 9.

(14.) Analytical Review 20, no. 4 (Dec. 1794): 436; Critical Review 14 (June 1795): 192.

(15.) Richard Cumberland, The Jew: A Comedy. Performed at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, 3rd ed. (London, 1795), "Prologue." The prologue appears for the first time in this third London edition. Hereafter cited by page number.

(16.) Qtd. in Memoirs of Richard Cumberland, 306.

(17.) "Biographical Account of the Late Richard Cumberland," Scots Magazine and Edinburgh Literary Miscellany (Sept. 1811): 671.

(18.) Memoirs of Richard Cumberland, 45(r)

(19.) Martin D. Jaffe, Shylock and the Jewish Question (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997), 47ff.

(20.) Hermann Sinsheimer, Shylock: The History of a Character (New York: Benjamin Blom, 1968), 90

(21.) As Derek Cohen put it: "It is quite possible that Shakespeare didn't give a damn about Jews." See "Shylock and the Idea of the Jew," in Jewish Presences in English Literature, ed. Derek Cohen and Deborah Keller (Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1990), 26.

(22.) For the debate between Smith and Bentham, see Joseph Persky, "From Usury to Interest," Journal of Economic Perspectives 21, no. 1 (Winter 2007): 227-36; and Samuel Hollander, "Jeremy Bentham and Adam Smith on the Usury Laws," European Journal of the History of Economic Thought 6, no. 4 (Winter 1999): 523-51. For the earlier history, see Conrad Henry Moehlman, "The Christianization of Interest," Church History 3, no. 1 (Mar. 1934) 3-15; "Usury" and "Banking and Bankers," in Encyclopedia Judaica, ed. Michael Berenbaum and Fred Skolnik, 2nd ed. (Detroit: Macmillan Reference, 2007); and Norman Jones, God and the Moneylenders: Usury and Law in Early Modem England (Oxford: Blackwell, 1989). Jones points out that Shakespeare's father was prosecuted for usury.

(23.) "Prologue," James Shapiro, Shakespeare and the Jews (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996), 2.

(24.) The Inquisition now went after conversos (Marranos or "crypto-Jews") with particular virulence, especially in Portugal. They had no doubt noticed how many of the "New Christians" from the Iberian Peninsula who flocked to Amsterdam openly reverted to Judaism there. There was a steady influx of (often poor) Sephardi or "Portuguese" Jews to England as a result, though Todd M. Endelman says that the most concentrated influx of Sephardim came to England between 1720 and 1735 (The Jews of Georgian England, 1/14-1830 [Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1979]).

(25.) Memoirs of Richard Cumberland, 114, 115, 93, 107, 113.

(26.) William Perry, The Royal Standard English Dictionary (London, 1798); also Caleb Alexander, The Columbian Dictionary of the English Language (Boston, 1800).

(27.) Sheva's charity is carefully marked as non-Christian. For instance, when Charles contrasts Sheva's charitable treatment of Frederic with Sir Stephen's conduct toward his son--"I'll call you Christian, and this proud merchant, Jew"--Sheva replies with horror: "I shall not thank you for that compliment" (12).

(28.) Ragussis argues that by dowering Eliza, Sheva acts as her substitute father. While this reading is certainly possible, given other contemporary plays, Cumberland seems to have gone out of his way to preclude it here by having Eliza insist that she has never met a Jew, much less Sheva, and by keeping them apart. His point about honor and gratitude is a point about homosociality, or relations among men.

(29.) There may have been some coded Jacobitism in this play, since Charles is the quintessential Smart name, and Frederic was the name of the (now deceased) Hanoverian Prince of Wales, whom Whigs had hoped would become the ideal Patriot King.

(30.) "Observations and Strictures on the Characters of Shylock and Sheva," The Monthly Visitor and Entertaining Pocket Companion 1 (Jan. 1797): 50.

(31.) Analytical Review 20, no. 4 (Dec. 1794): 437.

(32.) "Review of An Appeal to the Popular Prejudice, in Favour of the Jews" The Monthly Review 22 (Feb. 1797): 232.

(33.) John Aikin, "History of the Jews in England," Monthly Magazine and British Register 1, no. 3 (Apr. 1796): 200.

(34.) Isaac Disraeli, Vaurien (London, 1797), 2:240.

(35.) Alderman, The Jewish Community in British Politics, 4.

(36.) Jonathan Israel, European Jewry in the Age of Mecantilism, 1550-1750 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1985); David S. Katz, the Jews in the History of England, 1485-1850 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1994): chaps. 7 and 8; Alderman, the Jewish Community in British Politics', Harold Pollins, Economic History of the Jews in England (Teaneck: Fairleigh-Dickinson University Press, 1982).

(37.) For eighteenth-century techniques of imitation and reading practices associated with them, see Eve Tavor Bannet, "Quixotes, Imitations and Transatlantic Genres," Eighteenth-Century Studies 40, no. 4 (Summer 2007): 553-69.

(38.) Cobbett's Parliamentary History of England, 14: 1380; qtd. in Felsenstein, Anti-Semitic Stereotypes, 192.

(39.) Kathleen Wilson, The Sense of the People: Politics, Culture and Imperialism in England, 1715-1785 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995); and The Island Race (New York: Routledge, 2003); Linda Colley, Britons: Forging the NationQAew Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1992); Pocock, "England," in National Consciousness, History and Political Culture in Early Modem Europe, ed. Orest Ranum (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Press, 1975); Colin Kidd, British Identities before Nationalism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999); David Worrall, the Politics of Romantic Theatricality, 1787-1852 (Houndsmills: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007); Daniel O'Quinn, Staging Governance: Theatrical Imperialism in London 1770-1800 (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005).

(40.) Qtd. in Endelman, The Jews of Georgian England, 109, 319.

(41.) Aurora General advertiser 1308 (Feb. 16, 1795): 3.

(42.) Charleston Courier 1, no. 8 (Apr. 23, 1803): 2.

(43.) By one account, in New York, Charleston, and Philadelphia during the 1790s, only 188 people, 242 people, and 25 families, respectively were affiliated with synagogues, which in Philadelphia and Charleston had been built as late as 1771 and 1794; and there were no more than perhaps 3,000 Jews scattered all over the States. See William Pencak, Jews and Gentiles in Early America 1654-1800 (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2005), 3, 260.

(44.) Fritz Hirshfield, George Washington and the Jews (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2005).

(45.) On anti-Semitism, see Pencak, Jews and Gentiles', and Frederic Cople Jaher, A Scapegoat in the Wilderness (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1994). For Jews in America during this period, Jacob Rader Marcus, United States Jewry 1776-1985, 4 vols. (Detroit, MI: Wayne State University Press, 1989); and Morris W. Schappes, ed., A Documentary History of Jews in the United States, 1654-1875 (New York: Schocken, 1971).

(46.) The Federal Orrery 1, no. 19 (Dec. 22, 1794): 75.

(47.) For "celebrated" see The Massachusetts Mercury 13, no. n (Feb. 4, 1799): 3; and The Columbian Sentinel 30, no. 45 (Feb. 5, 1799): 3; for "much admired," Boston Gazette 15, no. 37 (July 5, 1804): 3 and The Repertory 1, no. 102 (July 6, 1804): 3; for "favourite," The Repertory 3, no. 96 (Dec. 1806): 3.

(48.) Aurora General Advertiser, 3; Charleston Courier, 2.

(49.) There is a massive literature on all these topics both in history and literary studies. See in particular, Gordon Wood, The Radicalism of the American Revolution (New York: Knopf, 1992); Paul Goodman, The Federalists versus the Jeffersonian Republicans (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1967); Carla Gardine Pestano and Sharon V. Salinger, eds., Inequality in America (Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 1999); Paul Gilje, ed., Wages of Independence: Capitalism in Early America (Madison, WI: Madison House, 1997); Lawrence J. Friedman and Mark D. McGarvie, eds., Charity, Philanthropy and Civility in American History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003); Oliver Zunz, Philanthropy in America: A History (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 20x2); Kathleen D. Macarthy, American Creed: Philanthropy and the Rise of Civil Society, 1700-1865 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003); Andrew Burnstein, Sentimental Democracy (New York: Hill & Wang, 1999); Julie Ellison, Cato's Tears (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999); and Kristine Boudreau, Sympathy in American Literature (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2002).

(50.) Jeffrey H. Richards, Drama, Theatre and Identity in the American New Republic (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 10, 268-69.

(51.) James Morton Smith, Freedom's Fetters: the Alien and Sedition Laws and American Civil Liberties (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1966), 24, 50, 12; see also N. Pickus, True Faith and Allegiance: Immigration and American Civic Nationalism (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005).

(52.) Elsewhere, there were also other dynamics at work. Richards suggests that in Norfolk, Virginia, where there was only one Jewish family, West, the theatre manager, may have put on Cumberland's Benevolent Jew and Dibdins imitation of that play, in compliment to Moses Myers, who had given West a sizeable sum to build his theatre. Myers's reaction to these plays is not recorded, but Richards does not think that he can have been entirely delighted to see the old stereotypes paraded along with their correction. See Richards, Drama, Theatre and Identity, 269.

(53.) Francesca Trivellato, The Familiarity of Strangers: The Sephardi Diaspora, Livorno and Cross-Cultural Trading in the Early Modern Period (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2009), 2.
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Title Annotation:Richard Cumberland
Author:Bannet, Eve Tavor
Publication:Studies in American Jewish Literature
Article Type:Critical essay
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 22, 2014
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