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Nearly the last act of the king was one of oppression against the Jewish community, to whom he had been indebted for the chief means of supporting his lavish expenses.
"And now (says Dr. Tovey) as if King Henry foresaw, that all worldly commerce between him and his Jews was soon to be broken off, and for ever cease, he call'd upon them to make up the whole accompt, and pay in the ballance. All arrears of talliage were to be clear'd in four months, and half of them paid in seventeen days. And, in the mean time, such as cou'dn't give security were to be imprison'd; and no otherwise bail'd than by body for body. And if any one of them, or their sureties, did not clear the whole upon the days prefix'd, any summs formerly paid in part were to be forfeited, and their persons, goods, and chatels, at the king's mercy. Pat. 56 H. 3. p. 2. m. 10.
"Numbers of them, upon this occasion, were imprison'd in the Tower of London, and other places. Nothing but weeping and wailing was to be seen in every corner. Even the friers, who had so lately taken possession of their synagogue, as it is said, pity'd them: nor were the Caursini and Caturcensian brokers (tho' their rivals in extortion) without compassion. For nothing cou'd be more rigorous and unmercyful than the king's proceedings at this time: but death, as inexorable as himself, quickly after seiz'd him, and gave the Jews some short respite from those afflictions which cou'dn't otherwise have been supported."
Edward I. in whose reign their perpetual banishment from England was to take place, began by dealing fiercely with this despised race. They were not only fined, taxed, imprisoned, and confined to live in particular districts as formerly, but any the slightest defalcation in the payment of the taillage, which was now levied on children as well as their parents, was punished by banishment. In such cases, the defaulter was compelled to appear at Dover, before the expiration of three days prepared for his migration.
"Did the forefathers (asks Dr. Tovey) of this miserable people, think you, meet with more rigorous taskmasters in iEgypt? They were only call'd upon to make brick: but nothing less than makeing gold seems to have been expected from the Jews in England! And, indeed, one wou'd almost think they were masters of the secret."
In the third year of this reign, the statute de Judaismo was passed, which, though it abolished usury, placed the Jews on a more comfortable and secure footing than they had been in the reigns of Edward's ancestors. It was not long, however, before the wrath of the king fell upon this devoted people, either through their own folly or the false accusations of their enemies. A general suspicion falling upon them, that they were guilty of adulterating and clipping the coin, every Jew was seized upon in one day.
"It was the seventeenth of November, 1279; and after full conviction, two hundred and eighty of them, both men and women, receiv'd sentence of death at London, and were executed without mercy: besides great numbers in other parts. Many more were continu'd in prison; and our records of this year abound with instances of the king's selling and granting their houses and lands, forfeited upon this occasion."
This was but a prelude to their final banishment—in the 18th year of his reign, the king seized upon all the real estates of the Jews in the kingdom, and banished the whole community for ever. There is a good deal of difficulty in coming at the motives of the king for this heavy punishment; as, contrary to the usual custom, they are not set forth in the records.
"' King Edward, (says Speed) anno 1290, banish'd the Jews out of his realm, on account of their haveing eaten his people to the bones; not neglecting therein his particular gain.' And Daniel, the historian, explains this matter still further, by telling us, that' King Edward eas'd his people of as great a grievance as corrupt judges, by the banishment of the Jews; for which the kingdom willingly granted him a fifteenth; haveing before, viz. in his ninth year, offer'd a fifth part of their goods to have them expell'd. But then the Jews gave more, and so stay'd till this time, which brought him a great benefit by confiscation of their immoveables, with their tallies and obligations, which amounted to an infinite value. But now hath he made his last commodity of this miserable people, which haveing never been under other cover but the will of the prince, had continually serv'd the turn in all the necessary occasions of his predecessors, but especialy of his father and himself.'"
The misery of the Jews, previous to their migration, from the insults and injuries of the people, it may easily be conceived were excessive.
"One grievous story (says Dr. Tovey) of this kind is given us by my Lord Coke. He says, that the richest of the Jewes having imbark'd themselves, with their treasure, in a tall ship of great burthen; when it was under sail, and gotten down the Thames, towards the mouth of the river, beyond Quinborough, the master of it, confederating with some of the mariners, invented a stratagem to destroy them. And to bring the same to pass, commanded to cast anchor, and rode at the same, till the ship, at low water, lay upon the sands: and then, pretending to walk on shore, for his health and diversion, invited the Jews to go along with him: which they, nothing suspecting, readily consented to; and continu'd there till the tide began to come in again; which as soon as the master perceiv'd, he privily stole away, and was again drawn up into the ship, as had been before concerted. But the Jews, not knowing the danger, continu'd to amuse themselves as before. Till at length, observing how fast the tide came in upon them, they crowded all to the ship side, and call'd out for help. When he, like a profane villain, instead of giving them assistance, scoffingly made answer that they ought rather call upon Moses, by whose conduct their fathers past thro' the Red Sea, and who was still able to deliver them out of those rageing floods which came in upon them: and so, without saying any more, leaving them to the mercy of the waves, they all miserably perish'd.
"But the fact coming, some how or other, to be known, the miscreants were afterwards try'd for it by the justices itenerant in Kent, convicted of murder, and hang'd. The same learned author tells us, that the number of Jews thus banish'd was fiveteen thousand and threescore. But Matthew Westminster says, it amounted to sixteen thousand five hundred and eleven."
From this period until the time of the Commonwealth, the history of the Jews, in England, is a complete blank. It was under Cromwell, however, that the Jews, on the Continent, thought they had found a favorable epoch for commencing a negociation for their return.
After various negociations and a regular council, at Whitehall, upon the matter, by Cromwell and his advisers, the Jewish agent, Rabbi Menasseh Ben-Israel, an able and learned Jew, who had been sent to England, to procure their return, was obliged to depart from the kingdom, without any decided revocation of their banishment. Though it must be stated, that the Jews themselves have averred that they received a private consent to their re-admission; and Bishop Burnet says, positively, that Cromwell brought a company of them over to England, and gave them leave to build a synagogue. Dr. Tovey, however, on consulting the Jewish registers, finds, that, by their own account, until the year 1663, the whole number of Jews did not exceed twelve: and he is justly of opinion, that the date of their introduction again into England must be referred to the reign of Charles II.—a time when the prejudices against the Jewish faith disappeared, not in the light of a tolerant spirit, but lost in that utter carelessness about all religions, which then pervaded the court and became fashionable in the nation. From this time, the history of the Jews ceases to be singularly distinguished from the history of any other religious sect, which was not tolerated by the laws; and, as we have extended this article much beyond the limits assigned to it, we will conclude it at the point where its interest is likely to cease.
Art. IV. Steps to the Temple, The Delights of the Muses, and Carmen Deo Nostro, by Richard Crashaw, sometime Fellow of Pembroke Hall, and late Fellow of St. Peter's Colledge in Cambridge; the Qnd Edition, 1670.
Richard Crashaw was a popular preacher of the time of Charles I. and was ejected from the university of Cambridge, where he was a fellow of Peterhouse, by the parliamentary army, in 1644. After his ejection he betook himself to France, where, soon after his arrival, he embraced the Roman Catholic faith. He was recommended into Italy by the queen of Charles I. and became a canon of Loretto, in which situation he died about the year 1650. He was the friend of Cowley and Herbert. In the pulpit he was admired for his energy and enthusiasm. He is represented as being master of the Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Italian, and Spanish languages; and was skilled in poetry, music, drawing, painting, and engraving, which last he considered, says the editor of this posthumous edition of his poems, as "subservient recreations for vacant hours, not the grand business of his soul." Crashaw belongs to that class of poets which has been absurdly enough entitled the metaphysical school—a phrase, however, by which its inventor probably meant nothing more than that these writers drew rather upon the stores of their intellect for poetical supplies, than obeyed the dictates of passion and feeling. The distinctive character of this class of poetry is the exuberance of its ingenuity, exerted on every possible subject in every possible form. A poem, with Crashaw's contemporaries, is a hunt or chase in which every bush is beaten, and every corner ransacked, for images, metaphors, and similes,—where nothing that is true is unpoetical,— where nothing is worthless which is far-fetched,—and where the greatest triumph is to give a value to what is familiar, low, or common, by the situation into which it is introduced. The highest beauty with them is the beauty of ingenuity, the exquisiteness of workmanship,—and the more recondite, unobvious, or intrinsically worthless the matter might be which was so inwrought, the greater the praise of the poetical mechanic. The taste of the times was, a passion for dwelling on the points of agreement or diiference in all objects presented to the mind; and this demand produced men who sought likenesses and unlikenesses in all things "in heaven above, in the earth below, and in the water under the earth." A book of poems, printed from about the year 1630 to 1670, with a few exceptions, would admit of a general title something like this; " an ingenious work, in which all things are compared with each other, and their similarities and distinctions curiously pointed out to the intelligent reader, by way of a poem, addressed by a lover to his supposed mistress;" and the motto should be, materiem superabat opus. Extensive learning, a lively fancy, and a facility of versification, were the stock qualities of a poet of those times: then let him procure or feign a mistress with all possible perfections of mind and body, and no other qualifications were wanting to be admitted of their crew—he was then qualified, at all points, for breaking a lance in the lists of poetry. The greater part of Crashaw's poems, it must be confessed, largely partake of the vice of the age; they are, it is true, full of conceits, but yet not cold conceits; and in this consists the superiority of this poet, to a great number of those who lived with or soon after him. He was animated by passion, and, had he not lived when he did, must have taken a high rank among the genuinely inspired writers of his country. He is never tame, never dull; and, in despite of the perverted taste which he had, in common with Cowley and others, there are many of his poems which contain passages of natural tenderness, and of great beauty of sentiment and imagery. His versification is nearly always melodious, and his expressions have frequently a delicate and luxurious fullness about them, which makes us lament the strained and unnatural images upon which they are lavished. The greater part of his poems are on religious subjects, which he treats with a warmth of devotion much more congenial with the church of his adoption, than the chaste and sober language of the reformed church. For this choice, much praise is given to the poet by the writer of the singular preface, prefixed to our edition of his poems, which is composed in a strain of great enthusiasm for his subject.
"Here's Herbert's second, but equal, who hath retriev'd poetry of late, and return'd it up to its primitive use; let it bound back to heaven gates, whence it came. Think ye St. Augustine would have steyned his graver learning with a book of poetry; had he fancied their dearest end to be the vanity of love-sonnets and epithalamiums? No, no, he thought with this our poet, that every foot in a high-born verse, might help to measure the soul into that better world: divine poetry, I dare hold it, in position against Suarez on the subject, to be the language of the angels; it is the quintessence of phantasie and discourse center'd in heaven; 'tis the very outgoings of the soul; 'tis what alone our author is able to tell you, and that in his own verse."
"Oh! when the general arraignment of poets shall be, to give an account of their higher souls; with what a triumphant brow shall our divine poet sit above, and look down upon poor Homer, Virgil, Horace, Claudian, &c. who had amongst them the ill luck to talk out a great part of their gallant genius upon bees, dung, frogs, and gnats, &c.;