صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

casion, the father takes him into the inmost chamber of his house, fastens all the doors, surveys every avenue with the most mysterious attention, and drawing his sword with great solemnity, throws himself on his knees at his foot, and laying open his breast, invites him to thrust the point to his heart' For know, my son,' he cries, “I am a Jew, as all my fathers were: kill me therefore on the spot, or conform to the religion of your ancestors, for you are damned as a Catholic, if, knowing what you know, you neglect to betray me!--This, as I have reason to believe is no feigned anecdote, but a true account of those secret measures, which many

Jewish families to this hour pursue for continuing the practice of their religion and securing themselves from discovery, where the consequences would be so fatal.

Having thus, by way of prelude, briefly informed my readers what these miserable people are suffering in some countries, where they are secretly settled, I shall now proceed to lay before them a letter, which I have lately received from one of that persuasion, complaining of certain indignities and vexations from the humours of our common people, which, although they are but trifles compared to what I have been describing, are nevertheless unbecoming the character of so illuminated and benevolent a nation as we have the honour to belong to.

SIR,

* I am a man, who stick close to my business, and am married to a sober industrious woman, whom I should be glad now and then to treat with a play, which is the only public amusement she has ever expressed a wish to be indulged in: but I am really under such difficulties, that I dare not carry her thither, and at the same time do not like to discover

my reasons for it, as I should be sorry to give her a dislike to the country she is in.

• You must, know, Sir, I am a Jew, and probably have that national cast of countenance, which a people so separate and unmixt may well be supposed to have: the consequence of this is, that I no sooner enter a playhouse, than I find all eyes turned upon me; if this were the worst, I would strive to put as good a face upon it as I could; but this is sure to he followed up with a thousand scurrilities, which I should blush to repeat, and which I cannot think of subjecting my wife to hear.

· As I should really take great pleasure in a good play, if I might be permitted to sit it out in peace, I have tried every part of the house, but the front boxes, where I observe such a line of bullies in the back, that even if I were a Christian I would not venture amongst them; but I no sooner put my head into an obscure corner of the gallery, than some fellow roars out to his comrades—Smoke the Jew!

-Smoke the cunning little Isaac !—Throw him over, says another, hand over the smoutch !-Out with Shylock, cries a third, out with the pound of man's flesh Buckles and buttons ! Spectacles! bawls out a fourth -and so on through the whole gallery, till I am forced to retire out of the theatre, amongst hootings and hissings, with a shower of rotten apples and chewed oranges vollied at my head, when all the offence I have given is an humble offer to be a peaceable spectator, jointly with them of the same common amusement.

• I hope I shall not incur your displeasure, if I venture to say this is not very manly treatment in a great and generous people, which I always took the English to be; I have lodged my property, which is not inconsiderable, in this country, and having no abiding place on this earth, which I could call my

own, I have made England my choice, thinking it the safest asylum that a wanderer and an alien could fly to; I hope I have not been mistaken in my opinion of it: it has frequently fallen in my way to shew some kindnesses to your countrymen in foreign parts, and some are yet living, who, if they would speak the truth, must confess that their best friend in life is a Jew: but of these things I scorn to boast; however, Sir, I must own it gave me some pain the other night to find myself very roughly handled by a seafaring fellow, whom I remembered well enough in a most piteous condition at Algiers, were I had the good will to relieve him and set him at liberty with my own money; I hope he did not recollect me; I

say

I hope not for the honour of human nature, but I am much afraid he did : this I am sure would be called ingratitude even in a heathen.

• I observe with much concern that your great writers of plays take delight in hanging us out to public ridicule and contempt on all occasions; if ever they are in search of a rogue, a usurer, or a buffoon, they are sure to make a Jew serve the turn: I verily believe the odious character of Shylock has brought little less persecution upon us poor scattered sons of Abraham, than the Inquisition itself. As I am interested to know if this blood-thirsty villain really existed in nature, and have no means to satisfy my curiosity but your favour, I take the liberty humbly to request that you will tell me how the case truly stands, and whether we must of necessity own this Shylock; also I should be glad to know of which tribe this fellow was, for if such a monster did exist, I have strong suspicion he will turn out a Samaritan. As I cannot doubt but a gentleman of your great learning knows all these things correctly, I shall wait your answer with the most anxious impatience : and pray be particular as to the tribe of

Judah, for if nothing less than half my fortune could oust him there, I would pay it down to be rid of such a rascal.

Your compliance with the above will be the greatest obligation you can confer upon, Sir, your most devoted humble servant,

ABRAHAM ABRAHAMS. P.S. I hope I shall not give offence by adding a postscript, to say, that if you could persuade one of the gentlemen or ladies who writes plays (with all of whom I conclude you have great interest), to give us poor Jews a kind of lift in a* new comedy, I am bold to promise we should not prove ungrateful on a third night.

A. A.' If I had really that interest with my ingenious contemporaries, which Mr. Abrahams gives me credit for, I would not hesitate to exert it in his service; but as I am afraid this is not the case, I have taken the only method in my power of being useful to him, and have published his letter.

As for Shylock, who is so obnoxious to my correspondent, I wish I could prove him the son of a Samaritan as clearly as Simon Magus; but I flatter myself the next best thing for his purpose is to prove him the son of a poet, and that I will endeavour to do in my very next paper, with this farther satisfaction to Mr. Abrahams, that I do not despair of taking him down a step in his pedigree, which for a poetical one is, as it now stands, of the very first family in the kingdom.

As for the vulgar fun of smoking a Jew, which so prevails amongst us, I am persuaded that my countrymen are much too generous and good-natured to

* The comedy has been written and acted : Mr. Abrahams has had his wish: in the matter of the promise he seems to have reckoned without his host.

sport with the feelings of a fellow-creature, if they were once fairly convinced that a Jew is their fellowcreature, and really has fellow-feelings with their own: satisfy them on this point, and their humanity will do the rest: I will therefore hope that nothing more is wanting in behalf of my correspondent (who seems a very worthy man), than to put the following short questions to his persecutors — Hath not a Jew eyes ? hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? Fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same summer and winter, as a Christian is? If you prick them, do they not bleed? If you tickle them, do they not laugh? If you poison them, do they not die?'—The man who can give a serious answer to these questions, and yet persist in persecuting an unoffending being, because he is a Jew, whatever country he may claim, or whatever religion he may profess, has the soul of an inquisitor, and is fit for nothing else but to feed the fires of an Auto da .

When I turn my thoughts to the past and present situation of this peculiar people, I do not see how any Christian nation, according to the spirit of their religion, can refuse admission to the Jews, who, in completion of those very prophecies on which Christianity rests, are to be scattered and disseminated amongst all people and nations over the face of the earth. It seems therefore a thing as inconsistent with the spirit of those prophecies for any one nation to attempt to expel them, as it would be to incorporate them.

The sin and obduracy of their forefathers are amongst the undoubted records of our gospel, but I doubt if this can be a sufficient reason, why we should hold them in such general odium through so many

« السابقةمتابعة »