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May 13, 1977 - Image 2

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1977-05-13

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2 Friday, May 13, 1977


Purely Commentary

Centennial of 'Daniel Deronda' Retraces Role of
Christian Zionist George ' Eliot Who Penetrated
the Soul of the Jew in Quest for National Redemption

By Philip


Eliot's Historic Call for 'A National Hearth and a National Opinion'

(copyright 1977, JTA Inc.)

Zionism as, the great
libertarian movement of
the Jewish people, mark-
ing fulfillment of
Prophecy, had many
noted Christian suppor-
ters. It is today one of the
great ideals of devout
people among all faiths.
Pioneering for the re-
birth of Israel counted
adherents who had
gained fame in Christian
ranks and as leaders in
humanitarian move::
ments. Jean Henri Dun-
ant, the founder of the
Red Cross, was an advO-
cate of national Jewish
redemption. Laurence
Oliphant, a most fascin-
ating author, world
traveler and adventurous
Britisher, was among the
early Christian Zionists.
Americans in all walks of
life supported and urged
fulfillment of a dream
that has become reality
for JEWish -national re-
A truly pioneering
spirit for the Zionist ideal
emanated from the writ-
ings of George Eliot and
her "Daniel Deronda"
remains to this day a
major literary achieve-
ment in behalf of redemp-
tionof Jewish statehood.


One hundred years have

elapsed since the publica-
tion of "Daniel Deronda"
and its appeal for "a na-
tional hearth and a tri-
bunal of national opinion"
by the Jewish people. And
in 100 years not a plea for
"another choosing of Is-
rael to be a nationality"
has had as great an effect
on Jewry everywhere. In
the opinion of Israel
Zangwill, "George Eliot,
the great seer, pierced
into the Heart of the ques-
tion with keener vision
than any Jew."

Briefly told, the story
deals with the Jewess,
Mirah, who runs away
from her father • in
America and comes to
London to seek her
mother and brother.
.Upon arriving, however,
she learns that the street
to which she was directed
has disappeared. She had
come by steamer .and,
brokenhearted and" pen-
niless, she is on the point
of ending her life when
she is saved by Daniel De-
The two are attracted
to one another, but
Daniel realizes that she
will never marry one not
of her faith.
The story reveals that
the epithet "Jewess"
__hurled at Mirah
strengthened her resolve
to remain Jewish. De-
ronda is determined to
help her. He wanders
through the streets of
Londqn to learn the
whereabouts of Mirah's
mother and brother, and
in a pawnshop meets a
dreamer who sees the vis-
ion of the regeneration of
a New Judea in the East.
It develops that this man,
Mordecai, is the brother

having died many years
Soon thereafter De-
ronda learns of his paren-
tage, and is overjoyed to
know that he is Jewish. It
was through the machina-
tions of his mother who de-
sired that he should never
know his nationality that
the knowledge of his
Jewishness was kept from
Deronda, now an
acknowledged Jew, re-
turns to Mirah to claim
her as his bride. Mor-
decai, a dying man, seeing
that Deronda will carry
on his dreams of a rebuilt
Zion, gives Daniel his
"Daniel Deronda" is fil-
led from cover to cover
with interesting discus-
sions between Mordecai
and Daniel of the tenets
ofJudaism and Christian-
ity. It is during ane of
these discussions that
George Eliot puts into the
mouth of Mordecai — one
of the finest characters
she has created — the
great plea for "the reason
of Israel to disclose itself
in a great outward deed."
Mordecai refuses to be-
lieve that Israel's part in
history is accomplished,
and maintains that the
future policy of the
Jewish people should be
to join the nations as soon
as possible.
In explaining the
characteristics, habits
and traditions of the
Jews, George Eliot
throws into relief the
Jewish problem. She
paints the picture of
something passing away
that once possessed a life
and value of its own; the
labor of thousands of
years is lost; a flame has
burnt in vain; a fire is ex-
tinguished without hay-
itig fostered life.
Mordecai therefore
cries out to have his own
self restored to him. He
wants to live entirely at
home. His idea is to be
wholly what he is partly —
his own seT:.
He cries out with a pro-
found contempt for imita-
tion, for he wants crea-
tive orginality. Only in a
commonwealth which
. should focus and embody
the whole Jewish life as it
should be does he find this
Writing_his comments


its chart and plan of human them, and when the
life, served as a pioneering danger of intermarriage
element in a mission of the arose they confessed for
Jewish people for "a re- the sake of the race.
Taking their Judaism
turn" to itself. The faith
that George Eliot gained seriously, the two young
in the possibility of re- lovers proceeded to have
deeming the Jewish home themselves taught Heb-
for the Jewish people is rew, Jewish traditions
gathered 6om the follow-. and the history~ of their
mg quotation from Aristo- people, and their honey-
tle with which she heads moon was spent in Pales-
her most interesting chap- tine.
It was therefore a dou-
ter of the book, t'he section
which she has labeled ble love affair, because
their visit to Palestine in-
"This, too, is probable, tensified their Jewishness
according to the saying of and caused them to fall
Agathon: 'It is a part of deeply in love with the
probability that many Land of Israel. Their
improbable things will daughters, Rachel and
Carmel, were both born
The romantic career of there. The colonel re-
the late Colonel Albert E. turned from Palestine an
W. Goldsmid is presumed ardent nationalist and a
to have given George preacher for the cause of
Eliot the idea of Jewish the restoration of the
Jewish people to Pales-
restoration in Palestine.
Col. Goldsmid — war- tine; and of Palestine to
rior, traveler, explorer the Jewish people.
To him is attributed the
and piOneer in Jewish
colonization movements following beautiful
125 years ago — was the phrase about dual
scion of an old and distin- .nationalism: "I do not
guished Anglo-Jewish love my father less bc.-
family from whose fine cause I love my mother
character George Eliot more."
The fine idealism of Col.
built up her hero Daniel
Deronda. Here is the Goldsmid was responsible
story that is told about more than • anything else
for the creation of the
His parents deemed it character of Daniel De-
wise, in the interests of ronda. But George Eliot's
their son's military interest in the Jewish
career, to conceal their people wa's not without
on the book in the Jtine, Jewishness. The fate of a foundation long before
1877, issue of Macmillan's love affair, however, she had an opportunity to
Magazine, the late Dr. brought the Colonel to his draw upon the character
of Goldsmid.
Joseph Jacobs expressed. people.
As early as August
He fell in love with a
the general Jewish reac-
tion to the book upon its pretty non-Jew and his pa- 1838, on her first visit to
appearance, declaring in rents, their Jewish conci- London, the chief thing
part: .!`Unless some such ousness suddenly stirred, she wanted to buy was
project as Mordecai has confessed to Albert that he Josephus' "History of the
Jews. - From her earliest
in view be carried out in and they were Jews.
the next three genera-
He rather liked the idea childhood she took an in-
tions, it is much to be and let his fellow-soldiers terest in the people of the
feared that both the na- know how proud he was of Bible and was a student
tional life of the Jews and his newly-discovered of early Jewish history.
On Ma) 21,18,10, — she
the religious life of Jewishness. In the same
Judaism will perish ut- spirit he approached his was 20 years old then — in
terly from the face of the sweetheart and found a letter to Miss Lewis,
her in tears. Her parents governess at a school she
Jacobs took a diffe- had forbidden her mar- attended at Nuneaton, she
rent view in later years, riage to Goldsmid be- compared musical opera-
tions of carpenters, pain-
but his first opinion is cause she was a Jewess.
What a concidence!'l he ters and masons on her
nevertheless very sig-
parents of both had kept own home, and wrote:

gradual rise of Solomon's
Temple have been! each
prepared mass of virgin
marble laid in reverential
It is as the, authoress
herself wrote on Oct. 29,
1876, in acknowledge-
ment of a letter from Mrs.
H. Beecher Stowe on
"Daniel Deronda": "To-
wards the Hebrews we
Western people, who have
been reared in Christian-
ity, have a peculiar debt,
and, whether we acknow-
ledge it or not, a peculiar
thoroughness of fellow-
ship in religious and
moral sentiment."
George Eliot is the nom'
de plume of Mary Ann
Evans, who was born on
Nov. 22, 1819, at Arbury
Farm. The noted novelist
fixed on this nom de
plume because George
was the Christian name
of her first husband, Mr.
Lewes, and Eliot was a
good, mouth-filling, eas-'
ily pronounced word.
Mr. Lewes was the
well-known biographer of
Goethe. The manuscript
of "Daniel Deronda-"--
bears the inscription de-
dicating the book to her
"dear husband, George
Henry Lewes," and con-
cludes with the lines:
"For thy sweet love
remember'd such wealth
• That then I scorn' to
change my state with
Lewes. lived to see the
work of "Daniel Deronda"
completed and heralded
as one of the best pro-
ducts from his wife's pen.
On Sept. 2,1876, George
Eliot wrote to her pub-
lisher, John Blackwood:
"Mr. Levies . has just
brought up to me a letter
which has certainly
gratified me more than
anything else of the sort I
ever received. It is from
Dr. Hermann Adler, the
Chief Rabbi (of the British
Empire at the turn of the
century), expressing his
warm appreciation of the
fidelity with which some of
the best traits of the
Jewish character have
been depicted by etc., etc:1
think this will gratify you."
To the second husband
of George Eliot, John
Walter Cross, we are in-
debted. for the biographi-
cal sketch of the great
English novelist, as
drawn by Cross in three
volumes, forming a life
story of the author of
"Daniel Deronda." It is
from Cross' "Life of
George Eliot - that we
quote the following in-
teresting letter, written
by George Eliot to Mrs. H.
B. Stowe in 1876, and re-
vealing the author's sen-
timents on the Jewish
elements in "Deronda - :
"As to the Jewish ele-
ment in `Deronda,' I ex-
pected from first to last,
in writing it, that it would
create much stronger re-
sistance, and even repul-
sion, than it has actually
met with.
"But precisely because
I felt that the usual at-


wards Jews is — I hardly
knew whether to say
more impious or more
stupid when viewed in the
light of their professed
principles, I therefore felt
urged to treat Jews with
such sympathy and un-
derstanding as my nature
and knowledge could at-
tain to.

"Moreover, not on

wards the Jews, buf to-
wards'all Oriental peoples
with whom we English
come in contact,-a feeling
of-arrogance and contemp-
tuous dictatorialness is
observable which has be-
come a national disgrace
to us. There is nothing I
should care more to do, if it
were possible, than to
rouse the imagination of
men and women to a vision
of human claims in those
races of their fellow-men
who most differ from them
in customs and beliefs.
"But towards the Heb-
rews we Western people,
who have been reared in
Christianity, have a
peculiar debt, and,
whether we acknowledge
it or not a peculiar
thoroughness of fellow-
ship in religious- and
moral sentiment:
'Tan anything be more
disgusting than to hear
people called 'educated'
making small jokes about
eating ham, and showing
themselves empty of any
real knowledge as to the
relation of their own so-
cial and religious life to
the history of the people
they think themselves
witty in insulting? They
hardly know that Christ
was a Jew.
"And I find men, edu-
cated, supposing that
Christ spoke Greek. To
my feeling, this deadness
to the history which has
prepared half our world
to us, this inability to find
interest in any form of life
that is not clad in the
same coat-tails and
flounces as our own, lies
very close to the worst
kind of irreligion.
"The best that can be
said of it is that it is a sign
of the intellctual narrow-
ness — in plain English,
the stupidity — which is
still the average mark of
our culture.
"Yes, I expected more
aversion than I have
found. But I was hapn' 1,-
independent in mat
things, and felt no te—p-
tation to accommodate
my writing to any stan-
dard except that of trying
to do my best in what
seemed to me most need-
ful to be done, and I sum
up with the writer of the
Book of Maccabees — 'If I
have done well and as be-
fits the subject, it is what
I desired; and if I have
done ill, it is what I could
attain to.'
In her journal, under
the date of Dec.
1, 1876,
George Eliot records the
fact that "both in
America and in England
the sale of `Deronda' has
been an unmistakable
guarantee that the public

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