Grace Aguilar : A Centenary Tribute

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It is indeed fitting that the centenary of Grace Aguilar's death should at the same time commemorate Lady Magnus. The lives of these two Anglo-Jewish writers overlap, Lady Magnus being but a child of three when Grace Aguilar died. If one regards their periods of activity historically, it is possible to see their work almost as a continuity both in time and tendency. Taken as a whole, the work of Grace Aguilar, Lady Magnus, and others of the last century certainly had a bearing on the period following political emancipation, if only because of the great non-Jewish reading public which voraciously devoured their writings, particularly so in the case of Grace Aguilar. But this is a subject which might with advantage be left to a separate paper.

Grace Aguilar's achievement is marked principally by the phenomenal popu? larity of her productions, the immense circulation and the amazing volume of literary labour she achieved in a span of life extending to no more than thirty-one years. Since 1835, when her first work appeared?a slender book of verse entitled the " Magic Wreath ", published anonymously?many hundreds of English writers wrote, published, and passed into oblivion. Certainly a fair number of these were more gifted than Grace Aguilar, and had considerable followings in their day. But only the truly great and the monumental writers have escaped evanescence. One cannot call to mind an average writer of the early Victorian period whose popularity has outlived his own day in the same measure as the work of the subject of this paper. Within the twelve years that cover her period of publication during life, there appeared from her pen five published works, while seven found publication after her death ; apart from a multitude of articles, studies, and poems scattered throughout British and American journals. This great accumulation of literary production gained for Grace Aguilar within a brief period an immense reading public. Some of her books went into edition after edition. Nor, as has been observed, did this popu? larity wane. It was sustained long after her death, and even in our own day publishers have found it worth while reproducing some of the works of Grace Aguilar, assured as they seem to be of a ready market.

Of outstanding interest is the fact that although Grace Aguilar's work is per? meated with the spirit of Judaism, and very frequently treats of Jewish history and Jewish subjects, her public was in the main non-Jewish. British and American Jewry did indeed welcome and acclaim her, but it will be obvious that to her popularity, strong and widely spread as it was, the comparatively small Jewish community in Britain and the still smaller American Jewry could contribute only in small measure.

Grace Aguilar was a child of the formative period of British Jewry. She sprang from a Sephardi family that still retained the oral traditions of Spain and Portugal, the expulsion, the Inquisition, and even the still living Marranoism of the Iberian Peninsula. She was born on 2nd

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