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Editorial Correspondence.

The Records of Israel.

Rev. Sir,—Having been in friendly correspondence with you some little time, and received from you many expressions of appreciation and good-will, I cannot believe that you would wilfully be the means of seriously injuring me; and, in consequence, I am led to address you thus publicly, believing that when once you have seen the injustice of hasty adoption of the false charges contained in the “Voice of Jacob” against my “Records of Israel,” you will at once retract them, by allowing me sufficient space in your magazine for the insertion of this letter, containing, as it will, the vindication of my work.

Defects in my little book I have no doubt there are—for where is there a perfect work? but those for which you have used the injurious language of the “Voice of Jacob” to bring forward, I utterly and entirely disclaim. Instead of being allowed to escape without a trial, Castello is summoned before the whole conclave of Jewish elders, and by his own father condemned to perpetual banishment, on pain of death if he return, not only on himself, but on all who saw him, and did not give him up to justice. Can you in justice call this escaping without a trial? The sentence may be anti-Mosaic, because Moses awards death to the murderer; but anti-Jewish it is not, as the Jews have never had it in their power since their dispersion to execute capital punishment. There are communities now existing in Gibraltar and Barbary, who, following the law of Moses, traditions, &c. in exact accordance with all that can be termed orthodoxy, in contradistinction to anti-Jewish, yet cannot execute capital punishment, and in consequence they banish the criminal from the pale of their societies, under penalty of death if he returns, by giving him up to the Moorish or Spanish authorities. This is a state of things existing at this very day,—yet our brethren of these communities would not like to be termed anti-Jewish, only because in their captivity they cannot condemn a murderer to death. And, why then, dear sir, so hastily burthen me with the grave charge of promulgating anti-Jewish opinions, because, in this instance, as also in the simulation of Catholicism; I do but portray strictly historical truth?

Acquainted as you no doubt are with the history of the Jews in Spain and Portugal, I cannot but feel surprised that you should allow the mistaken views of the “Voice of Jacob” regarding simulation of Catholicism so to actuate you, as to give them forth as your own opinions. I could not reprehend this simulation as hypocrisy, because I do not consider it as such. The miraculous preservation of God’s chosen people, and of their holy Faith, in a land where revealed Judaism was death, is to me so startling a fulfilment of the prophecy of Moses contained in the 28th chapter of Deuteronomy, that I can only feel awed at the mighty power of the Eternal, and admiration of that constancy which preserved us true and faithful to every ordinance of our religion in an atmosphere of death. Simulation of Catholicism would now indeed be the vilest hypocrisy. At the time of which I write, it was the startling fulfilment of a prophecy written thousands and thousands of centuries before. And so true a picture is the “Escape” of the history of our people, that I have been told there are now living in Portugal five or six families, who, were the tale read to them, would exclaim that they were listening to the histories of their own families,—that from the first scene, the marriage in a Catholic church, the lavish lifts to priests and shrines, to the last, it is but a perfect picture of an age but very lately passed,—the concealed Jews, or Nuevos Christianos, as they were called, being compelled to observe still greater strictness in outward semblance of Catholicism then the Catholics themselves. How then can so true a picture of modern Jewish history be condemned as anti-Jewish? and how may it be condemned as hypocrisy, when at that period, and in those kingdoms, even suspicion of Judaism was death?

Surely, my dear sir, a more mature consideration of these facts will convince you that you were over hasty in the adoption of charges which have no foundation; and that with the candour and liberality which, except in this one instance, have marked your magazine, you will retract your first judgment, and remove the heavy charge, which, were it a just one, must render the little work entirely unfit for the perusal of Jewish youth, to whom, notwithstanding, you recommend it. I repeat, that I do not believe you would wilfully publish any thing likely to injure my reputation as a writer, or my sentiments as a Jewess, and that therefore yon adopted the words of the “Voice of Jacob,” without sufficiently considering their very injurious import. My work has been reviewed by eight or ten different English papers in a manner not only gratifying and encouraging to me as an author, but as a Jewess, by the remarks which the tales have called forth on my nation. Is it not then both strange and somewhat anti-Jewish, that the press of my own nation, instead of encouraging, should depress, and instead of gladly hailing a fellow-labourer in the literary path, burden her with such unjust charges as must tempt her, in weariness and sadness, to cease working for those, whom, with heart and soul, were she but encouraged, she would serve?

Trusting that this letter will prove a sufficient vindication of my little work, and that by its speedy appearance in your magazine, you will prove to me and to my friends that my inference is correct, and that you would shrink from doing me any wilful injury,

I remain yours very truly,

The Author of the Records of Israel.

Hackney, 16th August, 1844—1st Elul.

NOTE by the Editor.—We regret exceedingly that the gifted author of the Spirit of Judaism should so misconceive our views. We certainly did not understand the words of our contemporary to mean by “anti-Jewish” any else than not entirely in accordance with the received opinions of Jews, not as opposed in a serious manner to the Jewish religion; for if we had judged the “Records” in this light, we certainly should not have recommended them as earnestly as we did, nor have written an extensive notice of the first tale in our August number. When an editor discovers what he thinks a defect in a work, he does his friend but little service by passing it over with silence; for the public is just as likely to discover it as himself, and over praise and concealment of blemishes are but too apt to destroy the popularity of a book after the first excitement of the publication is over. If the thing is a defect, it can be altered in a new edition; for good books, though of slow sale, will generally live more than the first period of their appearance; and if the author is right and the critic wrong, he may continue in his views despite of the false judgment. Miss Aguilar insists on the correctness of her views with regard to the murder of Castello; but she will probably pardon us one remark—that if the Jews could not punish with death in the first instance, they could not do it upon the return of the criminal. However, we will not dispute about the point, and at once cry our “peccavi.” Upon the whole, criticism is an ungracious task, especially if the subject is a dear friend, and the work so good a one as the “Records of Israel.” With all our fault-finding, however, we hope that Miss Aguilar will not think too hard of us; and sure we are that she has few persons who admire her genius more, or have a higher opinion of the services she has rendered to Israel than the

Ed. Oc.