Montreal Dickens Fellowship
for the best of times

Images of the Jew in English Literature

Goldie Morgentaler

From Chapter 5 of Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott, published 1819:

[The Jew's] features, keen and regular with an aquiline nose, and piercing black eyes, his high and wrinkled forehead, and long grey hair and beard, would have been considered as handsome had they not been the marks of a physiognomy peculiar to a race, which, during those card ages, was alike detested by the credulous and prejudiced vulgar, and persecuted by the greedy and rapacious nobility, and who, perhaps, owing to that very hatred and persecution, had adopted a national character, in which there was much, to say the least, mean and unamiable.

[The Jew] wore a high square yellow cap of a peculiar fashion, assigned to his nation to distinguish them from Christians, and which he doffed with great humility at the door of the hall.

From Chapter 19 of Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, published 1837

It was a chill, damp, windy night, when the Jew, buttoning his great-coat tight round his shrivelled body, and pulling the collar up over his ears so as to completely obscure the lower part of his face, emerged from his den.

The Jew stopped for an instant at the corner of the street, and glancing suspiciously around, crossed the road, and struck off in the direction of Spitalfields.

The mud lay thick upon the stones, and a black mist hung over the streets; the rain fell sluggishly down, and everything felt cold and clammy to the touch. It seemed just the night when it befitted such a being as the Jew to be abroad. As he glided stealthily along, creeping beneath the shelter of the walls and doorways, the hideous old man seemed like some loathsome reptile, engendered in the slime and darkness, through which he moved, crawling forth by night in search of some rich offal for a meal.

From Act III, scene I of Shakespeare's, The Merchant of Venice, published 1600

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, heal'd by the same means, warm'd and cool'd by the same winter and summer as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that. If a Jew wrong a Christian, what is his humility? Revenge. If a Christian wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by Christian example? Why, revenge. The villainy you teach me, I will execute, and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction.

Some illustrations presented by Goldie in her presentation:
Stacks Image 1053
A Jew Broker
by Thomas Rowlandson
1789
Stacks Image 1270
Fagin in the condemned cell.
illustration by: George Cruikshank 1837/38
Stacks Image 1242
The Jew and Morris both begin to understand each other.
illustration by: George Cruikshank 1837/38
Stacks Image 1326
Himmel! The roof of your mouth!
George du Maurier
1894
Trilby as serialised in Harper's New Monthly Magazine, 88 (February 1894): 335
Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham
Source: VictorianWeb
Stacks Image 1330
Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree as Svengali in Trilby

1895
Stacks Image 1338
"Et maintenant dors, ma mignonne!"
George du Maurier
1894
Trilby as serialised in Harper's New Monthly Magazine 89 (July 1894): 280
Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham.
Source: victorianweb.org
Stacks Image 1328
An incubus
George du Maurier
1894
Trilby as serialised in Harper's New Monthly Magazine, 88 (March 1894): 576
Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham.
Source: VictorianWeb