The Jews of South-West England
Thesis by Rabbi Bernard Susser
Jewish Inventors, Writers and Artists in the South-East of England
For its size the Jewish community settled in Devon and Cornwall in the late eighteenth century and the first half of the nineteenth century produced a remarkable number of inventors, writers and artists. The late Cecil Roth has expressed the view that in no other area in England did the Jews produce such a flowering of cultural talent at this period. [In a letter to the author, 14 February 1964.]
The inventors generally gave an account of their 'improvements' in their own literary productions. One leading figure was Lazarus Cohen (1763-1834), [He kept a shoe and patten warehouse in Exeter from 1796 until his death in 1834 (Exeter Pocket Journal, 1796-1834; EHC tom. 28).] a member of the Exeter Congregation, who invented an improved reaping machine and exhibited it at the Agricultural Society of Leeds in 1790. [Roth, Provincial Jewry, p. 61.] Like many an inventor both before and after him, he poured his own money into it and tried to finance its development with
subscriptions from the opulent of our people [i.e. Jews]. Some said it was more like charity than promoting the Arts and Sciences, others told me they were no farmers. Another wanted me to satisfy him who I was known to, as if any person applying his mind to improvements were likely to be of bad character. So I dropped it! [L. Cohen, Sacred Truths (Exeter, 1808), postscript.]
Cohen's solution to inventors' difficulties was that an Institution with a Fund should be founded which would 'enable inventors to carry out their projects, which would redound to the honour of the Jewish nation'. [Ibid.] In 1808, he published in Exeter an appeal to his brethren for religious loyalty entitled Sacred Truths, and in 1825, A New System of Astronomy. [L. Cohen, A New System of Astronomy (1825).] This book deals with gravity and its influence on the planetary system and the tides, and the laws governing the winds. In the sixth part he gives interesting and sometimes novel translations of some of the key words used in the first chapter of Genesis. [L. Cohen, A New System of Astronomy (London, 1825), p. 129.] He quotes medieval Jewish commentators such as Ibn Ezra and Yarchi and mentions Buxtorf and David Levy in support of his arguments. [Ibid. p. 142.]
Another Exeter Jew with inventive and scientific interests was Alexander Alexander. [See Illustration 6.] He was born in Sheerness in 1805 and came to Exeter in 1826, where he married the daughter of Moses Johnson, whose house and shop he occupied until his death in 1887. [Trewman's Flying Post, 23 February 1887.] In 1833, he was appointed optician to King William IV after dedicating to him his first publication. This he called:
According to his preface he was optician-in-ordinary to their Royal Highnesses the Duchess of Kent and the Princess Victoria. There were some 200 subscribers to the book including some 70 surgeons in Devon and Cornwall, the local Members of Parliament, clergy, local Society, and two Jews. Alexander invented a ventilating eye-shade for the Earl of Carnarvon who was one of his patients. He mentions it in a further treatise: Observations on the Preservation of Sight and Hints to Spectacle Wearers. [Published in Exeter, 1837.]
Another inventor was Israel Joseph Solomon, born in Falmouth about 1800. He invented and patented an improved magnesium flash to economize consumption of magnesium ribbon by interlacing it with a ribbon of zinc or tin, or by electro-deposition. [24 June 1865, no. 1695 at the Patent Office, London.]
Perhaps rather more academic were the literary and scientific brothers Henry and Solomon Joseph from Plymouth. After some fossil remains had been found at Oreston near Plymouth in 1859, Henry Joseph (1831-1888) wrote an account of them [H. Joseph, An account of the extraordinary discovery of fossil animal remains at Oreston (1859).] which attracted favourable notice. [JC, 18 March 1859; 13 May 1859.] His brother Solomon (1834-1900) wrote a shipboard diary of his journey to Australia in 1859 which gives much information about the Jewish middle-class emigrant in the second half of the eighteenth century. [Original in possession of the late Wilfred Jessop, Chicago. See also B. Susser 'Voyages to Australia', Plymouth Western Morning News, 15 August 1965.]
But perhaps the most distinguished scholar of Jewish background to come out of the South-West was Orlando Haydon Bridgman Hyman. He was the son of Simon Hyman, a German Jew from Devonport, who married Mary Corse (or Cawrse) [Mary and Ann Cawrse, daughters of Henry and Anne Cawrse were baptized at St. Neot on 2 June 1793 (information from H. L. Douch, Royal Institution of Cornwall, 19 February 1966).] of Nut Street, Plymouth, in St. Andrew's Church, Plymouth on 7 January 1813. [Trewman's Flying Post, 14 January 1813.] They had two sons. The elder was called after his father, Simon Hyman, entered the Navy as a midshipman in December 1829. He distinguished himself putting down a minor mutiny in 'a prompt and determined manner', but was killed by a snake bite in Madras Roads. [Autobiography and Journal of B. R. Haydon, ed. M. Elwin (1950), pp. 457, 554, 555. Eric George, The Life and Death of B. R. Haydon (1948), p. 196.] The younger was Orlando, born 14 April 1814. B. R. Haydon, who accepted responsibility for the two when he married their widowed mother, managed to get the boy through school though he was 'imprisoned twice and arrested once' for unpaid school bills. [Autobiography and Journal of B. R. Haydon, ed. M. Elwin, p. 469.] Orlando won a scholarship to Wadham College, Oxford, when he was 16, and there suffered great privations 'living on bread and water when not invited out'. [Ibid. p. 483.] He subsequently became Ireland Scholar, Fellow of Wadham from 1835-1878, and he was later eulogized as 'offering in his task a type of scholarship which I had never been in contact with before'. [MJHSE, IV, p. 110.]
Isaac Gompertz (1773-1836), one of the fifteen children of Barent and Miriam Gompertz all of whom either converted to Christianity or married out of the Jewish faith, was a minor poet. His poem Devon was published in Teignmouth in 1825 and an extract from it was carved on his tombstone. [See infra, p. 238.]
Two Jewish women writers who had lived part of their lives in Devon apparently were influenced by their residence there in both their lives and writings. One was Grace Aguilar who came to the county in 1828 when she was 12 years old with her father, on account of his bad health. She wrote popular expositions of Judaism for Jews, and also defended her faith against external attacks. Beth Zion Abrahams writes of Grace's 'early Devonshire period' and continues:
This change of scene had the most marked influence on Grace, bringing her into intimate association with scenes and people [She moved in poetic circles. The second Mrs Robert Southey met her in Teignmouth in 1833 (TJHSE, XVI (1945), p. 140).] that left an indelible impression on her thought and work ... Deeply religious she was in Devonshire drawn to compare the teachings and spiritual content of her own faith with that of her neighbours. [JC, September 1947.]
The other woman was Amy Levy (1861-1889). She was a Londoner but went to Devon and Cornwall in 1886 for the sake of her health. In a sense this was a return to her family's English birthplace, as she was a descendant of Alexander Moses, founder of the Falmouth Congregation. Whilst in the South-West she wrote sketches, poetry, and articles. Oscar Wilde called her 'that girl of genius' and she contributed to Woman's World when he was Editor. [TJHSE, XI (1927), p. 178; letters to the author 26 January 1965, 25 December 1965 from the late Mrs Beth-Zion Abrahams author of (as yet) unpublished biography of Amy Levy.] She eventually committed suicide in 1889.
Even a Jew in a comparatively humble trade could display surprising erudition and put up a spirited defence of his faith. Solomon Ezekiel, [His was one of the three lives on which the lease of the Exeter Congregation's cemetery was secured in 1803 when he was 17 years old (Book of Maps and Lands belonging to the Chamber of Exon. Map 5, no. 10).] born in Exeter in 1786, was in Falmouth about 1812-15, [His house was assessed at 5s. and stock at 1/6d. for poor rate, 1812-1815, in Falmouth.] and later moved to Penzance where he was a plumber until his death in 1867. [Jewish Encyclopaedia, V, p. 318.] In the early part of the nineteenth century he dissuaded Sir Rose Price from establishing in Penzance a branch of the London Society for Promoting Christianity among the Jews. [Ibid.] He was the initiator of the Penzance Hebrew Society for the Promotion of Religious Knowledge [Roth MSS 276.] and as the main lecturer was responsible for publishing tracts on the lives of Abraham and Isaac, and on the Jewish Festivals. [Jewish Encyclopaedia, V, p. 318.]
The compiler of the first bibliography of Africana acquired his love of books from the secondhand bookshops of Exeter and Bristol. He was Sidney Mendelssohn, born on 31 December 1860, [The following account is taken from F. R. Bradlow, 'Sidney Mendelssohn Collection', Jewish Affairs (Johannesburg), May 1965, pp. 12-17.] in Exeter, where his father was minister, and who moved to Kimberley with the rest of his family in 1878. He took an intense interest in Africana and built up a magnificent collection which he bequeathed to the Union Parliament together with substantial sums for its maintenance and improvement. He wrote The Jews of Africa and The Jews of Asia, both published posthumously. His major work, South African Bibliography [2 vols. London, 1910.] has been described as a monumental work which reveals an historical and critical analysis that is not approached in any other Colonial bibliography .... and is the foundation of a South African culture. [I. D. Colvin, 'In Memoriam; Sidney Mendlessohn', The African World, LX (778), 294, 6 October 1917.]
To complete this account of Jewish literary figures associated with the South-West it may be added that the parents of Israel Zangwill, the best-known Anglo-Jewish writer of the nineteenth century, settled in Plymouth where his mother had relatives. Israel happened to be born in London (21 January 1864) whilst his parents were on a visit there but his elder sister and next youngest brother were all born in Plymouth. Eventually the family moved to Bristol, where Israel was educated, and then to London. [J. Leftwich, Israel Zangwill (1957), p. 77.]
There was a strong artistic tradition in Devon, and to a lesser extent in Cornwall, during the latter part of the eighteenth century, perhaps influenced by the success of Sir Joshua Reynolds. Like Sir Joshua, most of the better known artists made their way to London to seek fame and fortune. The Jews of the South-West played a notable part in this tradition, making a distinct contribution to the local and national artistic heritage.
The earliest-known Jewish artists in the West Country were the three sons of Nechaniah Daniel of Bridgwater, Somerset. They were Abraham, who worked as a miniature painter in Plymouth; Joseph, a miniature painter at Bath; and Phineas, miniature painter mainly at Bristol. All of them received instruction from their mother 'a very ingenious woman'. [A. Rubens 'The Daniel Family', Jewish Encyclopaedia, XVIII (1953) (afterwards quoted as Rubens, 'The Daniel Family'), p. 105.] A major problem in discussing the affairs of this family is that the three brothers all had establishments in both Bath and Exeter at various times, and frequently advertised themselves and signed their works simply as Daniel - apparently with a deliberate desire to cash in on one another's clients. [Rubens, 'The Daniel Family', p. 106.]
Joseph made Bath his main centre, though his widow Mary, daughter of Alexander Wright, [He married her on 20 November 1798 (Catalogue of Permanent Collection of Paintings in the possession of the Bath Corporation, s.v. DANIEL, (JOSEPH) (afterwards quoted as Cat. Paintings, Bath).] and one son John were in Exeter in 1806, and three 'natural lawful and only other children', Courtney, Joseph, and Alexander were in Bristol in that year. [P.C.C. Pitt 919, his sister's declaration; contra Rubens, 'The Daniel Family', p. 106, who credits Joseph with illegitimate children in Bristol.]
Abraham practised principally at Plymouth, as a miniature painter, engraver, and jeweller. He first appeared in the Plymouth Congregation's books in 1779 when he promised one guinea (not paid according to a note at the side of the list of donors) to the War Levy. [PHC Min. Bk. I, p. 23.] It was in this year, 1779, that Abraham took Samuel Hart as a fourteen-year-old apprentice, [Rubens, 'The Daniel Family', p. 106. Hart died in December 1838 aged 73 (Gent. Mag., 1839, p. 105).] at which time he must have been in his middle or late twenties. [Cat. Paintings, Bath according to which Joseph was born at Bath and christened at St. Michael's Church, 21 May 1758. (According to Felix Farley's Bristol Journal, 3 September 1803, he died aged 43 in 1803, so must have been born in 1760 - a slight, but not necessarily fatal discrepancy).] In 1788, Abraham paid £8.16s.6d. to the Plymouth Congregation, it is not clear for what purpose. [PHC Min. Bk. I, p. 47. It appears to be for a þ , which probably means 'a dispute'.] Abraham is listed in the Universal British Directory, 1798, [Under the heading of 'Plymouth'.] as a miniature painter, as is Samuel Hart.
The only known signed work of Abraham Daniel is a portrait of Rabbi Moses Ephraim of Plymouth. [For portrait see Roth, Provincial Jewry, opp. p. 92; and Rubens 'The Daniel Family', plate 11, after p. 108. For Ephraim, see supra.] Alfred Rubens quotes the opinion of Graham Reynolds, a leading authority on miniatures, about miniatures which have hitherto been attributed to Abraham Daniel or Daniel of Bath:
The miniatures which at present are attributed to Daniel of Bath have many clearly marked characteristics, though, as is usually the case, these are easier to recognize than describe. Both the high lights and the shadows on the face of his sitters are rendered with unusual breadth. In particular, the light on the bridge of the nose is broad, and the shadowed parts of the nostrils and the lips are emphatic and given sharp edges. The eyes are large and more open, and the shadow under the top eyelid again is well marked and prominent. The miniaturist draws the hair softly, in large masses and without much detail. There is not usually much work on the background. The miniatures have, compared with others of their time, an unusually glossy appearance, almost as if they were painted in thin oil, which of course they are not. I think this effect is to be attributed partly to the breadth of lighting and partly to the gum in the pigments.
In a few of the miniatures so attributed (e.g. one in Mr. Alan Evans' collection) [See Rubens, 'The Daniel Family', plate 15, after p. 108.] there are signs of a slightly different technique: more stippling on the face, touches of opaque white on the costume and a more heavily painted background. It might be possible to apply these criteria to a hypothetical distinction between the styles of two men otherwise closely similar, and one might go on to attribute one style to Joseph and the other to Abraham Daniel. But this would be highly speculative in the present state of our knowledge; and the differences are not wider than may be seen at times in the work of the same miniaturist. [Rubens, 'The Daniel Family', p. 107.]
Brian and other art dictionaries credit the Daniel miniatures to Abraham Daniel following S. Redgrave's Dictionary of Artists (1878). Redgrave probably heard of Abraham from S. A. Hart and attached to him some biographical data relating to Joseph. Hart had by then forgotten Joseph but it does seem from what he had written about him years before and from the obituary notices which appeared after Joseph's death that it was Joseph who was originally regarded as the more eminent of the brothers. The matter is not free from doubt and Basil Lond in his British Miniaturists (1929) mentions a miniature of Dr Harrington by Daniel signed 'A.D.' at the back but unfortunately this picture cannot be traced, although Major R. M. O. de la Hey, the then owner of the collection to which it belonged, made a careful search for it in the 1950's. Examples of the Daniel miniatures are not uncommon but until a signed work appears their authorship cannot be settled conclusively nor can one rule out the possibility that the work of the two brothers is indistinguishable. [Rubens, 'The Daniel Family', pp. 107, 108.]
Abraham made his will on 10 March 1806, [P.C.C. Pitt 919.] and died the following day. He left £50 to Elizabeth Codbury, his mistress, the same sum to one of his 'natural' sons, Edward Elliot Thomas Daniel, £100 to his other 'natural' son, William Daniel, and £20 to the charity of the Jewish Synagogue, Plymouth. The estate was valued at £1,500 and the residue went to his sisters, Rachel who married Solomon Nathan of Plymouth (the mother of Jacob Nathan, the Plymouth Congregation's largest single benefactor), and Rebecca, wife of Isaac Alman of Bristol. He appointed Joseph Joseph and Samuel Hart to be his executors, and John Sweet, Gent., Thomas Williams, surgeon, Samuel Hart, Solomon Isaac, and Manley Hart, silversmiths, all testified that he was on the point of death on the tenth of March and unable to sign the codicil appointing the executors.
The Samuel Hart mentioned above was also an artist. His father, Henry Hart, had arrived in England as a young man of 21 from Bruck, Anspach and settled in Plymouth. [Lipman 'Aliens List', no. 49, according to which he settled in Plymouth in 1760. Samuel Hart, however, is said to have been born in Plymouth in 1755 (Gent. Mag., 1839, p. 105).] Henry was a well-established merchant figuring in the Plymouth Town Rental books from 1777 until 1806, i.e. until shortly before his death in 1808. [PHC Min. Bk. II, p. 49, 23 October 1808. He left £10 to the Synagogue to be remembered after his death at Matnat Yad.]
Henry apprenticed his son to Abraham Daniel in 1779, [See supra.] but Samuel was an unsuccessful character. He is said to have been frustrated as an artist and, having failed to qualify for a studentship at the Royal Academy, he returned to Plymouth. [Alfred Rubens, 'Early Anglo-Jewish Artists', TJHSE, XIV (1937), p. 120 (afterwards referred to as Ruben's, 'Early Anglo-Jewish Artists').] There he became an unsuccessful merchant, always short of money but just managing to hold his head above water. In 1812, for example, he had not yet paid over the £10 legacy which his father had left the Congregation in 1808, nor £50 which his bachelor brother Menahem had left in 1809, [PHC A/c. 1759, p. 49. He died 3 November 1809.] and he owed £25. 13s. on his own account for unpaid seat rentals and offerings. So he deposited a £100 bond on the Plymouth Market which produced £5 per annum which was taken by the Congregation until all debts were paid. [PHC Min. Bk. II, p. 81.] When it became difficult for him to earn a living in Plymouth he moved to London about 1820 where his son Solomon Alexander was beginning to make a name for himself. [Ibid. p. 150.] In London he joined a coterie of artists, of whom the most distinguished, though perhaps least able to cope with life, was B. R. Haydon. For Haydon to paint a good likeness he had to feel an interest in the character of his sitter. [Autobiography and Journals of B. R. Haydon, ed. Malcolm Elwin, p. xx.] In 1827, Haydon was painting 'The Mock Election' [See Illustration 16.] and needed
a model for the official who swears in the member. He bethought him of Hart Senior, a man of peculiar ugliness, and wrote to his son, Solomon, [Then aged 21.] who was a friend of his to ask if his father would sit. Solomon who was devoted to his father and very sensitive about his appearance refused indignantly. Haydon wrote a long repentant letter and asked old Hart [Then aged 62, a hard life had aged him.] to come to breakfast as a proof of forgiveness. The old man went with heart overflowing. But no sooner had he started than the son felt an uneasy suspicion. He argued that such a betrayal was impossible, yet his uneasiness could not be allayed, and he set out for the prison, [Haydon was then in the Fleet Prison for debt.] where he discovered Haydon just finishing a wonderful likeness of his father swearing in a dandy on a piece of burnt sugar stick. [Eric George, Life and Death of B. R. Haydon, p. 186.]
It has been said that Haydon was married to a Jewess, Mary Hyman, [Autobiography and Journals of B. R. Haydon, ed. Malcolm Elwin, p. 283.] but she was no Jewess, having been baptized at St. Neot where she was born on 2 June 1793. [Information from Mr H. L. Douch, Royal Institution of Cornwall. See also supra, p. 299.] The error appears to have emanated from Mary Russel Mitford, who wrote: 'Poor Haydon's wife was a most beautiful woman, just like the Rebecca of "Ivanhoe", a Jewess born and by her first marriage'. [Memoirs and Letters of Charles Boner with Letters of Mary Russell Mitford (1871), p. 99, letter dated July 1846.] Miss Mitford was much taken with the Jews. To one correspondent she wrote: 'Do you know much of the Jews? I have always been interested in the whole race, and my friend, Miss Goldsmith ...' [Ibid. p. 69, 10 September 1849.] To some extent the Jew, Simon Hyman, financed Haydon, as he left £52. 10s. per annum, the interest of £1,000, to Mary. [The Diary of B. R. Haydon, ed. W. B. Pope (Harvard, 1963), II, p. 351, no. 6.] Samuel Hart had the satisfaction of seeing his son become a fashionable society painter and when he died at the end of 1838, he was probably aware that his devoted son was soon to be elected an R.A. For an unsuccessful man, Samuel Hart had perhaps done not so badly, after all.
Before turning to the career of Solomon Hart, which flourished in the second quarter of the nineteenth century, it is as well to look at the Jewish artists of Exeter and to a lesser extent Cornwall, who helped, together with the Daniel brothers and Samuel Hart, to lay the foundation of his success.
One of the first Jews to settle in Exeter was Abraham Ezekiel, who arrived there some time about 1745 and became a successful and respected figure in the town. [See his obituary in the Hampshire Repository, II, 20 November 1790, quoted by C. Roth in TJHSE, XIII (1936), p. 177.] He was a goldsmith but no work of his is known. He and his wife Sarah [She died in Exeter in June 1806, aged 70. (See his obituary, Exeter Flying Post, 17 June 1806, quoted in Rubens, 'Early Anglo-Jewish Artists', p. 104, no. 52 b).] had six children, including two sons, Henry Ezekiel [Cf. infra, pp. 318, 328.] and Ezekiel Abraham Ezekiel. The last named was an outstanding man. He was a versatile artist, and not only engraved portraits and ex-libris but was a successful miniature painter, which he took up at the age of 40, [Devonshire Freeholder 12 July 1822.] carrying on at the same time the trade of engraving in addition to the business of a silversmith and scientific optician. [Rubens, 'Early Anglo-Jewish Artists', p. 104 quoting G. Pycroft, Art in Devonshire (Exeter, 1883), p. 45. For his trade card, see Rubens 'Further Notes on early Anglo-Jewish Artists', TJHSE, XVIII (1953), plate 19, after p. 108.] An advertisement in the Exeter Flying Post in 1784 gives a good indication of the wide range of his artistic activities and commercial ability. [Quoted supra, p. 156.] He took the opportunity to remind the public:
N.B. The large Perspective view of Bideford, engraved by him from a Drawing by Mr. Jewell, to be had, Price Five Shillings ... [Trewman's Flying Post, 5 February 1784.]
The following account of his artistic output is given by Alfred Rubens: [Rubens, 'Early Anglo-Jewish Artists', p. 104.]
Britten records a watch by him dated 1794. [Ibid. p. 127.] While apprenticed to a Jeweller, he produced, self-taught, an etching "View of Bideford" from a drawing by Jewell. [Notes and Queries, Series II, vol. viii, p. 494.] The British Museum has four examples of his work - a portrait of Micaijah Towgood (1700-92), dissenting minister of Exeter, engraved in line after Opie, [Opie as a lad in Cornwall, painted 'An Old Jew' which he showed to George III, and which helped to establish his reputation (Catalogue, John Opie (1761-1807), Exhibition (1962), p. 5).] and published in 1787; a stipple engraving of the same portrait published in 1794; a portrait of John Patch, surgeon at Exeter, engraved in line and stipple after Opie, and published in 1789, and a stipple engraving of the portrait of General Stringer Lawrence (1697-1775) by Sir Joshua Reynolds, published in 1795. [Catalogue of Engraved British Portraits in the British Museum.] The Exeter City Library possesses copies of his engravings of a portrait of Thomas Glass, physician at Exeter, published 1788; a portrait of William Holwell and another of Rev. John Marshall, schoolmaster at Exeter, after Keenan, published in 1798 on which he is described as 'engraver, optician and goldsmith. Another engraving by him is entitled 'The Breastplate of the 3rd Exeter Volunteer Corps embodied in 1800'. Fincham records fourteen ex-libris signed by Ezekiel. A miniature painting attributed to Ezekiel by the late Basil Long is in the Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter.
When Ezekiel died of dropsy after a long illness on 13 December 1806, the Exeter Flying Post printed the following obituary:
On Saturday last died aged 48, Mr. E. A. Ezekiel, of this city engraver and jeweller. He had long lingered under the complaint of dropsy, and contemplated dissolution with a most religious resignation. He was followed to the grave by many respectable persons, who have for several years past enjoyed the pleasure of his agreeable conversation and the attachment of his unshaken friendship. In the profession of an engraver he possessed a correct taste, and happy facility in making designs to meet the ideas of his employers, and as a workman, he was certainly unequalled out of London. His portraits of several distinguished characters in this City and neighbourhood will always be admired for their faithful execution; they never fail to excite the reward due to his merit, while they renew the presence of the person whose likeness he represented with great correctness. In a word there are few men whose loss will be more felt, not only by his immediate friends and connections but by the public at large. A discourse was delivered at the grave, previous to interment, by the chief Priest of the synagogue; who truly and affectingly held up the deceased as a pattern for imitation, both as a good son and brother, a good man and a citizen of the world. [Exeter Flying Post, 18 December 1806. The Dictionary of National Biography, s.v. EZEKIEL, SOLOMON makes Solomon Ezekiel of Penzance the son of this Ezekiel Abraham Ezekiel, but the last sentence of the obituary taken from the discourse indicates that E. A. Ezekiel died a bachelor (Cf. too, Rubens, 'Early Anglo-Jewish Artists', top p. 106).]
E. A. Ezekiel was regarded as a respectable scholar and linguist. Even as late as 1830, the Exeter Journal included his name among 'Persons of Eminence, Genius and Public Notoriety, Natives of Exeter'. A miniature portrait of him was in the Anglo-Jewish Historical Exhibition, 1887, but it has apparently disappeared. [Rubens, 'Early Anglo-Jewish Artists', p. 105, no. 58.] His sisters carried on the business for some years but without Ezekiel's flair it faded away and Catherine had to be assisted to emigrate to her relatives in Cincinnati. [Cf. supra, p. 289.]
Another Exeter Jew, though one also with Portsmouth connections, who engaged in artistic work was Moses Mordecai. He has no less than twenty ex-libris to his credit besides two in which I. Levi of Portsmouth collaborated. [This account of Mordecai is mainly derived from Rubens, 'Early Anglo-Jewish Artists', p. 103.] He worked about the middle of the eighteenth century, and for part of the time at least, he was in London. His trade card, a charming little plate which calls special attention to his skill as an heraldic engraver, reads:
in Seals, Stamps, Plate, Copper Plates
and Pewter by M. MordecaiNo. 55 Houndsditch near
Bishopsgate Street Arms
neatly painted on Vellum Mordecai also worked as a goldsmith in Exeter and entered his mark at the Exeter Assay Office in 1788. [Rubens, 'Early Anglo-Jewish Artists', p. 125.] He is recorded in the Exeter Directory, 1792, as one of the 'Principal Traders' of that city, [Together with Abraham Ezekiel and his son Ezekiel, and Samuel Jonas.] his jeweller's shop being in Fore Street. In 1803, acting on behalf of the small local community, he took up the lease of the Jewish cemetery in Magdalen Street renewing it in 1807. [See Report of Charity Commissioners on the Endowed Charities of Exeter (Exeter, 1904), p. 250.] A family pedigree dated 1799, illustrated with signs of the Zodiac written and painted by him, was exhibited at the Anglo-Jewish Historical Exhibition. [Anglo-Jewish Historical Exhibition Catalogue (1888), item 761.] Moses Mordecai died in 1809 and left a most interesting will which was referred to earlier. [P.C.C. Loveday, 298. See also supra, pp. 130, 131.]
There was a minor Jewish artist in Falmouth in the first quarter of the eighteenth century, Simon Solomon, son of Bella and Israel Solomon, an uncle of Joseph Israel Solomon. In Joseph Solomon's Records of my Family he describes his uncle as
by trade a painter, who possessed artistic qualities which could not expand at that time in the town of Falmouth. His lifelike panel paintings of fish, and also a painting for a large round table, the subject of which was from the History of Joseph and his brethren, and his transparencies when national illuminations took place, were the admiration of the inhabitants of Falmouth. [Solomon, Records of my Family, p. 13.]
He was married to Kitty Solomon, a granddaughter of the founder of the Falmouth Congregation. He was a sickly man and died in 1825 'much respected and lamented'. [Royal Cornwall Gazette, 18 December 1825; FHC tomb. 18.]
The most distinguished Jewish painter to come out of the South-West was Solomon Alexander Hart, who worked chiefly during the Victorian era. [<21P09]See Illustration 5.] He was born in Plymouth in 1806, sent to a school in Exeter for a year when he was seven years old, but returned home to a school run by a Unitarian minister. [See infra, p. 362 for details of his education.]
Solomon Hart wanted to be apprenticed to an engraver, but his impoverished father could not afford the apprentice fee. Another engraver offered to take him on these hard terms: seven years service from seven in the morning to seven in the evening without any premium. This being a case of cruelty to animals [Hart here translates the Hebrew expression tsa'ar leba'alei hayyim, the injunction against cruelty to animals, which in Yiddish and popular Jewish speech has the wider connotation of suffering imposed on the defenseless.] ... I went to the British Museum to study in 1821. [Hart, Reminiscences, p. 8.]
Alfred Rubens gives the following account of his artistic career: [Rubens, 'Early Anglo-Jewish Artists', pp. 120, 121.]
At the age of fifteen he was studying at the British Museum, and was admitted as a student at the Royal Academy in 1823. He was only able to pursue his studies in the evenings, as during the day he earned his livelihood by colouring old prints and making copies of Old Masters in miniature on ivory. At this period he also painted some miniature portraits. In 1826, at the early age of twenty, he exhibited at the Royal Academy a portrait of his father, "Mr. Samuel Hart, Professor of the Hebrew Language", and thereafter he exhibited frequently, including "Study of the late Samuel Hart" (1839); "Israelites" (1840); "Scene in a Polish Synagogue" (1841); "Duke of Sussex" (1841); "Barroe Helbert Ellis, Esq. of the Hon. East India Co's. Civil Service" (1844); "Simchat Torah, Leghorn Synagogue" (1850); "Alderman Salomons, M.P." (1852); "Sir Anthony de Rothschild for the Committee Room of the Jews' Hospital"; "The Rt. Hon. David Salomons, Lord Mayor of London" (1856); "The Rev. Dr. Adler, Chief Rabbi, painted for the Vestry Room of the Great Synagogue" (1857); "Rev. A. L. Green" (1858), "The Eve of the Sabbath" (1868); "Sir Moses Montefiore, to be placed in Town Hall of Ramsgate" (1869); "Proposal of the Jews to Ferdinand and Isabella" (1870); "Menassah ben Israel before Oliver Cromwell" (1872).
Hart also did some work as an engraver, and with his father's assistance, was able to instruct his brother, Marx, in the rudiments of wood engraving. In 1830 he exhibited at the Society of British Artists (Suffolk Street) his "Polish Synagogue; Elevation of the Law", which was bought by Robert Vernon for £70, and subsequently bequeathed to the National Gallery. Success now was rapid; Lady Montefiore paid 150 guineas for one of his pictures, and in 1839 he was elected a full member of the Royal Academy.
At this stage in his career Hart, like many another, lost the friendship of B. R. Haydon. Hart generously acknowledged his debt to Haydon having 'received much good advice from him' but it was virtually impossible for any successful man to remain on friendly terms with Haydon. [Hart, Reminiscences, p. 15.] Rubens continues the story of Hart's career after his election as a full member of the Royal Academy:
About 1840, the Duke of Sussex selected Hart to paint his portrait for the Jews' Hospital. Hart attended on the Duke at Kensington Palace, and was surprised to find that the Duke knew all about him. 'You forget', said the Duke, 'the peculiarity which distinguishes my family. We collect a quantity of information and facts concerning persons and their affairs which we never forget. I know when you lived in Newcastle Street, Strand, over the milk shop where you struggled all day to get bread for certain members of your family whom you supported, and when you could only afford time in the evenings to pursue your studies at the R.A.' The sittings were protracted, as there were continual interruptions. The Duchess would call the Duke away for a game of billiards; the Duke of Cambridge would call to examine the picture, and remark, "Very like, very like", and the sitter made matters difficult by smoking continuously. Hart was impressed by his enormous stock of tobacco, cigars and pipes. However, the picture was eventually finished, and the Duchess congratulated Hart on it and commissioned him to paint a copy of the head. She said that she thought he had a difficult subject in a corpulent man, but had avoided coarseness and had made him look like a gentleman. Hart subsequently painted a portrait of Rabbi Isaac Levi, which was presented to the Rabbi by the Duke of Sussex. Between 1854 and 1863 Hart was professor of painting at the Royal Academy, and, in 1864, he was appointed librarian.
He died a bachelor at 36, Fitzroy Square, London, on 11 June 1881, and left the bulk of his fortune to his sister-in-law, Mrs Margaret Hart of Baltimore and then to his nephews and nieces who all lived in America. [JC, 17 June 1881.] But he did not forget the synagogue in the town from which he had departed 66 years earlier to seek his fortune &emdash; he left the interest on £1,000 to the Plymouth Congregation. [See Declaration of Trust, dated 17 November 1881, in the archives of the Plymouth Congregation.]
As might have been expected in the light of the intense artistic tradition in the Jewish communities of the South-West in the latter part of the eighteenth and the early nineteenth centuries the Plymouth and Exeter Congregations possess some beautiful ritual silver. [Some of the ritual silver of the Falmouth Congregation is deposited at the Jewish Museum, London.]
The Exeter synagogue possesses four silver pointers, two of which are very elegant. One was given to the Congregation in 1812 by Simcha Isaac ben Zvi SGL and has the London silver mark of 1810-1811, whilst the other is hallmarked with a crown over a 'V' and with five castles. Of the other two, one has an Exeter hallmark with the maker's initials 'G.F.' and the second has no marks at all. It also owns a small but aesthetically designed breastplate with a London silver mark of 1869-1870, which was given by Solomon Elsner in memory of his first wife, Rosina, who died in 1861. [EHC tomb. 55.] The crowning glory of the silver used to decorate a Scroll of the Torah is the pair of bells which often surmount it. The Exeter Congregation has two sets of such bells, both most beautiful. One pair was given by seventeen ladies of the Congregation in 1821, [It has an Exeter silver mark with maker's initials 'S.L.' (= Simon Levy).] the other was acquired in 1813. [Exeter silver mark, maker's initials 'S.H.' (= ?Samuel Hart). See Illustration 17.] It may also be mentioned that an Exeter silversmith, probably Jewish, was responsible for a fine pointer inscribed 'Israel ben Naftali Hirsch, Truro, 1836', which came from Falmouth and is now in the Jewish Museum, London.
The Plymouth Congregation also has a fine collection of ritual silver. It has a number of pointers including:
1) A solid piece, ten inches long, with the London Assay mark of 1745. It belonged to Joseph Sherrenbeck. [Cf. supra, p. 51.] The ring at the top is a watch bow, hallmarked Exeter 1803 with maker's initials 'S.L.' [= Simon Levy.]
2) A silver pointer, 9<171]" long and very elegant. It belonged to Abraham Joseph in 1765 and is not hallmarked.
3) A pointer, 11<171]" long with a ball at the top and middle. No hallmarks. Some simple shapes, stars, circles, commas, trefoils, are cut out of it, giving it an oriental appearance. The inscription implies that it was made by Judah the son of Abraham Ralph of Barnstaple, in 1782.
4) A pointer with the same names which are inscribed on the silver shield of 1784. [Cf. supra, p. 234, n. 5.]
5) A very fine pointer 11" long with the London Assay mark of 1813-1814, with the maker's initials 'S.A.' There is a well written inscription which, translated, reads, 'The gift of Samuel Hart, the pericope of "Get thee out", 1814'. [Lech L'cha, Genesis, xii.]
A fine pair of eighteenth-century bells are currently in use in the Plymouth synagogue. They have a London hallmark of 1783-1784 with the maker's initials 'I.R.' There are no inscriptions on them. The Congregation has no breastplates earlier than the late nineteenth century, though one of these is an interesting piece, apparently cut out from masonic regalia. Amongst its other pieces of ritual silver are a kiddush cup [= cup used to hold wine whilst reciting a prayer of sanctification at the onset of Sabbaths and Festivals over a cup of wine.] given by Joseph Joseph in 1775 when he was only nine years old, and hallmarked London 1755-1756; a beautiful spice box in trefoil shape with exceptionally fine filigree work, given by Mrs B. Moss to the Dock Minyan Room about 1825 (the date has been obliterated) and when that closed down, handed over to the Plymouth Synagogue in 1844; and a magnificent ewer and basin for the priests to wash their hands before the ceremony of duchaning (blessing the congregation at Festival day services). These were given by Mrs Levi Barent Cohen and her sons (who were priests) in 1807 to the Congregation in appreciation to it for burying her son and their brother who died in Madeira and whose body was brought back to Plymouth. In such circumstances, corpses were preserved in a cask of brandy. In this case, the body could have been shipped on to London but that would have entailed further delay in the burial, and Jewish law requires burial as speedily as possible.
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