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‘A Different Mode of Civility’:Lancelot Addison on the Jews of Barbary*

  • Elliott Horowitz (a1)


In 1675 there appeared in London a rather interesting, if somewhat neglected, work entitled The Present State of the Jews: (More particularly relating to those in Barbary.) Wherein is contained an exact Account of their Customs, Secular and Religious. One of its more enigmatic features (to which we shall return) was its frontispiece, which featured an illustration not of a Barbary Jew, but of a muscular American Indian holding a spear, to which was attached a banner proclaiming the book’s short title. Its author, Lancelot Addison, was described on the title-page as ‘one of his Majesties Chaplains in Ordinary’, having received that designation in 1671, shortly after returning from eight years in the western part of what was then called Barbary, as chaplain to the British garrison in Tangier. It was largely, although, as we shall see, not exclusively, on the basis of his experiences there between 1662 and 1670 that Addison later wrote his book on The Present State of the Jews, with which we will here be primarily concerned.



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This essay is dedicated to the memory of Jamie Lehmann (1950–82). An earlier version, which he had read, was written as a seminar paper under the guidance of Professor Ismar Schorsch, who first encouraged its publication. Further research on Lancelot Addison and his contemporaries was pursued as a visiting fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, during the summer of 1987. I wish to thank the College for its generosity, and especially Dr Jeremy Maule, Fellow in English, for many acts of kindness.



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1 For further biographical information on Lancelot Addison see A. à Wood, Athenae Oxonienses, ed. P. Bliss, 4 (London, 1820), pp. 517-19; Watt, in Biographica Britannica …, 1 (London, 1747), pp. 28–30; F. Espinasse in DNB 1, pp. 131–3, and the sources cited there. Note also the useful entries on both Joseph and Lancelot Addison by M.J. Kohler in the Jewish Encyclopedia [hereafter JE] (New York, 1901-6), 1, pp. 188-9. Although the later German Encyclopaedia Judaica (Berlin, 1928), 1, p. 813, included a brief entry on Lancelot Addison, there is regrettably none to be found on either father or son in the recent 16-volume English work of that title [EJ]. Moreover, the single reference there to Lancelot, in the comprehensive list of Christian Hebraists (ibid., 8, pp. 21-2), is, as we shall see below, rather inappropriate.

2 Watt, Biographica Britannica, p. 29. The full title of the work was West Barbary, or a short narrative on the revolutions of the kingdoms of Fez and Morocco, with an account of their present customs, sacred, civil, and domestick. It was dedicated to Addison’s patron Joseph Williamson, to whom The Present State of the Jews [hereafter PSJ] would be dedicated five years later.

3 Addison, L., West Barbary (Oxford, 1671), preface (spelling partially modernized).

4 Ibid. The significance of this passage was recently noted by Alasdair Hamilton in his review of Thomson’s, Ann Barbary and Enlightenment; European Attitudes towards the Maghreb in the Eighteenth Century (Leiden, 1987), in which Addison himself is not discussed. See TLS, 23–9 Oct. 1987, p. 1161.

5 See, for example, Elliott, J. H., The Old World and the New 1492-1650 (Cambridge, 1972), pp. 4453, esp. p. 47 : ‘In changing and refining Europe’s conception of barbarism and civility … the discovery of America was important, less because it gave birth to totally new ideas, than because it forced Europeans to come to face with ideas and problems which were already to be found within their own cultural traditions.’ See on this topic now the essays collected in the special issue of Representations, 33 (1991), on the The New World, which appeared too late to be utilized here in any depth.

6 ‘Chacun appelle barbarie ce qui n’est pas son usage.’ See Montaigne, Michel, Essays, tr. Cohen, J. M. (New York, 1984), pp. 1089 ; Burke, P., Montaigne (Oxford, 1981), ch. 7, and esp. p. 48. Las Casas had observed (in the 1550s) concerning the language of the American Indians that ‘We are just as barbarous to them as they to us’: see Elliott, The Old World and the New, p. 49. His general project, as Anthony Pagden has recently observed, ‘was to establish the Amer indians as peoples who could be made fully familiar to the European gaze. If not yet entirely civil… they were no more “barbarous” than some of the remote cultural ancestors … of the modern Europeans had been …’: see ‘lus et Factum: text and experience in the writings of Bartolomé de Las Casas’, Representations, 33 (1991), p. 157.

7 On Barlowe see Montrose, Louis, ‘The Work of Gender in the Discourse of Discovery’, Representations, 33 (1991), p. 7. His report, as Montrose there notes, was first published in the 1589 edition of Hakluyt’s Principall navigations…. On Dryden see Pagden, Anthony, ‘The savage critic: some European images of the primitive’, Yearbook of English Studies, 13 (1983), p. 135. On the re-evaluation of savagery and barbarism see also Pagden, The Fall of Natural Man: the American Indian and the Origins of Comparative Ethnology, rev. edn (Cambridge, 1986) and M. T. Hogden’s classic study, Early Anthropology in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (Philadelphia, 1964).

8 Quoted by Frantz, R. W., The English Traveller and the Movement of Ideas 1660-1732 (1934, repr. New York, 1968), pp. 34, 37. Frantz cites Addison’s West Barbary (but not PSJ) on several occasions (pp. 8, 80, 82–3), but makes no connection between his views on barbarism and those of Addison.

9 On the ‘overlapping stereotypes of savages and contemporary Jews in the European imagination’ of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and the similar uses to which such stereotypes were put, see the brief but perceptive comments of Howard Eilberg-Schwartz, The Savage in Judaism: an Anthropology of Israelite Religion and Ancient Judaism (Bloomington and Indianapolis, 1990), pp. 37-9.

10 Ellis, Henry, Original Letters Illustrative of English History, 11 vols (1827, repr. London, 1969), ser. 2, 4, pp. 1012, 14, 17. Greenhalgh’s letter was reprinted, with notes, by Samuel, W. S., ‘The First London Synagogue of the Resettlement’, TJHSE, 10 (1924), pp. 4957. For the relevant passages see there pp. 51–5. Much of the letter is also quoted by Hyamson, A. M., The Sephardim of England: a History of the Spanish and Portuguese Community, 1402-1951 (London, 1951), PP. 1520. See also Eilberg-Schwartz, The Savage in Judaism, p. 38.

11 Bartow, Isaac,The Works, 2 (London, 1683), sermon no. 15. The sermon is quoted by Pailin, D. A., Attitudes to Other Religions: Comparative Religion in Seventeenth and Eighteenth-Century Britain (Manchester, 1984), p. 184.

12 These angered at least one of his Muslim acquaintances. See Addison, West Barbary, p. 178. Yet, as Macaulay later remarked, Addison ‘enjoyed an excellent opportunity, as chaplain of Tangier, of studying the history and manners of Jews and Mohammedans, and of his opportunity he appears to have made excellent use.’ See M. F. Modder, The Jew in the Literature of England (Philadelphia, 1939), p. 371.

13 Addison, PSJ, p. 13. [All references, unless otherwise noted, are to the 1675 first edition of the work.] This passage, as might be expected, found favour with a number of Jewish scholars and was widely quoted. See, for example, Abrahams, Israel, Jewish Life in the Middle Ages (Philadelphia, 1896), p. 112 , n. 2; ‘Lancelot Addison on the Barbary Jews’ in Abraham, , By-Paths in Hebraic Bookland (Philadelphia, 1920), p. 156 ; Kohler.JE, 1, p. 189; Epstein, Isidore, The Responsa of Rabbi Simon Duran as a Source of the History of the Jews in North Africa (London, 1930), p. 90. The latter used the passage in order to buttress his claim that ‘On the whole the morals of the Jews in Northern Africa [in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries!] were of a high level.’ Addison also applauded the conscientious approach of the Barbary Jews to the religious upbringing of their children, remarking that ‘There is no youth under heaven can at thirteen years old give so exact an account of the rites of their religion as the Jewish’ (ibid., p. 86). Addison’s observations on Jewish education were later quoted extensively (in Hebrew translation) by Assaf, Simha, Mekorot le-Toledot ha-Hinnukh be-Yisrael, 4 vols (Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, 1925-42), 3, pp. 636.

14 Abrahams, ‘Lancelot Addison on the Barbary Jews’, p. 154;James Parkes, Jewish-Christian relations in England’, in Lipman, V. D., ed., Three Centuries of Anglo-Jewish History (London, 1961), pp. 1623. Abrahams had commented that he had seen the frontispiece only on a copy of the second (1676) edition of PSJ. Although the frontispiece here reproduced is, for technical reasons, from the second edition, I have examined at least one first edition with the Indian picture.

15 See, among recent studies, Katz, D. S., Philo-Semitism and the Readmission of the Jews to England (Oxford, 1982), ch. 4; Popkin, R. H., ‘The Rise and Fall of the Jewish Indian Theory’, in Kaplan, Y., Méchoulan, H., and Popkin, R. H., eds, Menasseh ben Israel and His World (Leiden, 1989), pp. 6382.

16 On the later implications of the noble savage tradition for the perception of Jews and Judaism see Eilberg-Schwartz, The Savage in Judaism, pp. 68-75.

17 Addison, PSJ, p. 9. Cf.Philips, George, The Present State of Tangier … (London, 1676), pp. 889 , and especially (for purposes of contrast) the later comments of Joseph Addison in the Spectator quoted by Kohler, ‘Addison, Joseph’, JE, 1, pp. 188-9.

18 Addison, PSJ, p. 14. Note also with regard’to the Jews’ Sabbath, to which he devotes nearly three chapters, he remarks that ‘Their Offices for the Sabbath contain excellent things according to their way of worship’, but adds in the same breath that They have therein many things apparently trivial and ridiculous’, criticizing, in the traditional Christian manner, their overly carnal and ceremonious observance of the Seventh Day.

19 Addison, PSJ, p. 8. On the Jews’ lack of heroism, note also Addison’s assertion that they would not be able to conquer Palestine from the Turks since they were ‘enclined to a grear averseness to everything that is Military; being as destitute of true Courage as of good Nature’. On this basis, Addison has recently been described as a racist by Matar, N. I., ‘The idea of the restoration of the Jews in English Protestant thought: from 1661–1701’, HThR, 78 (1985), p. 138.

20 Abrahams, ‘Lancelot Addison on the Barbary Jews’, pp. 155, 159. Closer to the mark would appear to be the evaluation offered by Kohler, , JE, 1, pp. 1889 , at the beginning of our century: ‘While Addison naturally manifests a strong bias in his view of a different creed, it must be conceded that his work exhibited a liberality of view and keenness of perception not often encountered at that time.’ See also Calisch, E., The Jew in the Literature of England (Richmond, 1909), p. 96.

21 Singer, Charles, ‘The Jewish Factor in Medieval Thought’, in Bevan, E. R. and Singer, C., eds, The Legacy of Israel (Oxford, 1928), p. 245. For the view that Addison’s Present State is ‘the best account of the Moroccan Jews at that time’, see Rubens, A., A History of Jewish Costume (New York, 1967), p. 76.

22 Praeceptiones Grammaticae Hebraicae (1605). The work ran into sixteen editions, and, ironically, appeared in English translation in 1656, the same year in which Ross’s ‘translation’ of Buxtorf’s Synagoga Judaica appeared: see Avneri, Z., ‘Buxtorf, Johannes (1)’, EJ,4, p. 1543.

23 There are also instances in which Ross translates passages written by Buxtorf in the first person which are clearly inappropriate to a work written in England, e.g. p. 57, concerning a Hebrew edition of Ben-Sira: ‘And truly my copy of it was printed at Constantinople and is the same which Sebastian Münster mentions at the end of his Latine Cosmography … and this I bought from a Jew my neighbor who had it from the Library of Munster, who was Professor of the Hebrew Language at Basel….’ On Mnüster, who himself was quite a scholarly plagiarist ‘at a time when plagiarism was respectable’, see Hodgen, M. T., ‘Sebastian Muenster (1489-1552): a sixteenth century ethnographer’, Osiris, 2 (1954), pp. 50429 , and Early Anthropology, ch. 7.

24 See Cohen, M. R., ‘Leon Modena’s Riti: a seventeenth-century plea for social toleration of Jews’, Jewish Social Studies, 34 (1972), pp. 287321.

25 Although Buxtorf’s name did not appear on the title-page of A View of the Jewish Religion, neither was credit given to any other author. Rather, it was presented as ‘faithfully collected by A. R.’ Ross’s View has recently been discussed in Matar, ‘The idea of the restoration’, pp. 121-2, where it is described, somewhat unjustly to my mind, as ‘one of the most devastating attacks on the Jews’, which treats the Jewish way of life as ‘highly ritualized and foreign’ in an attempt to prove that ‘contemporary Jewish practices had strayed from the Mosaic code and followed rabbinical teachings.’ The latter was indeed Buxtorf’s intention in the work upon which Ross’s View was based, but that is hardly the same as a ‘devastating attack on the Jews’. Matar was on the right track, however, in noting that it was evident that most of Ross’s treatise was derived, not from personal experience, but ‘from his library’. My claim is that it was based almost exclusively upon a single book in his library, and it is that book’s critique of contemporary Jewish practice, not Ross’s own, which is expressed in A View of the Jewish Religion.

26 On the readmission and some of the literature which it engendered see Roth, Cecil, History of the Jews in England (Oxford, 1941), ch. 7; Wilensky, M., ‘The literary controversy in 1656 concerning the return of the Jews to England’, Proceedings of the American Academy of Jewish Research, 20 (1951), pp. 35793.

27 Note Watt, Biog. Britannica, 1, pp. 29-30, who observed that ‘without question he revised it in England, since the disposition of it is perfectly regular, the stile natural and easy, and the whole interspersed with many learned remarks, and moral reflections.’ See also Wood, , Athenae, 4, p. 518.

28 Addison, PSJ, p. 192.

29 In his view: ‘It is evident from the reports of Buxtorf and Addison that in the popular belief the ceremony of Tashlikh served the same purpose which the ceremony of the goal to Azazel served in Temple times.’ See Lauterbach, J. Z., ‘Tashlikh: A Study in Jewish ceremonies’, Hebrew Union College Annual, 11 (1936), pp. 30571 [Rabbinic Essays (Cincinnati, 1951), pp. 399-400].

30 I follow here the ‘translation’ in Ross’s View, p. 305. The German original is quoted by Lauterbach, ‘Tashlikh’, pp. 304–5 [— Rabbinic Essays, p. 398].

31 Thus, for example, Frisch, Ephraim, in his Historical Survey of Jewish Philanthropy (New York, 1924), p. 129 cites the testimony of Addison, based, he believed, ‘on personal observation’ that the Jews of Barbary ‘have their Kibbuz, or Letters of Collection, by which the indigent has liberty to go from Synagogue to Synagogue’, and by which means also ‘the necessitous Father raiseth Portions for his Daughters’ without realizing that the testimony was lifted from Buxtorf. (In the Jewish Synagogue translation of 1657 the Hebrew word Kibbuz appears as Ribbuz [!].) For other scholars who have, sometimes uncritically, utilized Addison’s testimonies regarding poverty and philanthropy see Abrahams, Jewish Life, pp. 307, 318; Cronbach, Abraham, ‘Jewish Philanthropic Institutions in the Middle Ages’, in Cronbach, , Religion and its Social Setting (Cincinnati, 1933), pp. 1356, 142, 148, 151 ; Baron, S. W., The Jewish Community, 3 vols (Philadelphia, 1942), 2, p. 347.

32 Addison, PSJ, p. 90. Note his explanation linking this difference to ‘the uncertain tenure of the Houses which they hire for Synagogues’.

33 Ross, View, p. 289.

34 Addison, PSJ, pp. 47-8.

35 See Ross, View, p. 389.

36 Addison, PSJ, p. 51. Note the use of this section by Ben-Ami, Issachar, ‘Le mariage traditionnel chez les Juifs marocains’, inBen-Ami, I. and Noy, D., eds, Studies in Marriage Customs: Folklore Research Studies, IV (Jerusalem, 1974), pp. 656,6970. For other citations of Addison there see pp. 14, 21, 30, 50.

37 Ibid., p. 55; Ross, View, ch. 2, pp. 54-5.

38 Addison, PSJ, p. 60. Note also ibid., p. 59, his valuable testimony concerning the vigil on the night before the circumcision, at which ‘the Women visit their Gossip, with whom they usually pass the whole night in mirth and freedom’, discussed in Elliott Horowitz, The Eve of the Circumcision: a chapter in the history of Jewish nightlife’, Journal of Social History, 23 (1989), p. 57.

39 Ross, View, p. 61; Addison, PSJ, p. 61.

40 Chilmead, Edmund tr., The History of the Rites…(London, 1650), p. 203.

41 Ross, View, p. 66; Shulkhan Arukh, Yoreh De’ah 264: 3; Frame, D. M. tr. The Complete Works of Montaigne … (Stanford, 1967), pp. 9456 ; Kahn, S., ‘Thomas Platter et les juifs d’Avignon’, REJ, 25 (1892), p. 85. Whereas Montaigne mentions the practice as taking place ‘up to three times’ Platter refers to its performance ‘at least three times’.

42 Addison, PSJ, pp. 61, 64.

43 On this topic see the recent work of Hsia, R. Po-chia, The Myth of Ritual Murder:Jew and Magic in Reformation Germany (New Haven, 1988), and my review in the Journal of Social History, 23 (1900), pp. 600–4.

44 A third edition appeared in London in 1682. See Wing, Donald, Short-title Catalogue of Books printed in England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, and British America … 1641-1700,2nd edn, 1 (New York, 1972), p. 17 , no. 528. The 1684 edition listed there (no. 529) on the basis of a copy supposedly in the library of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, is based on an error, as I was able to determine by examining the (1682) copy there.

45 Asiatischen und Africanischen Denckwurdigkeiten dieser Zeiten (Nuremberg, 1676), pp. 577–728. See also Wolf, J. C., Bibliotheca Hebrea, 4 vols (Hamburg, 1715-33), 2, p. 1074.

* This essay is dedicated to the memory of Jamie Lehmann (1950–82). An earlier version, which he had read, was written as a seminar paper under the guidance of Professor Ismar Schorsch, who first encouraged its publication. Further research on Lancelot Addison and his contemporaries was pursued as a visiting fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, during the summer of 1987. I wish to thank the College for its generosity, and especially Dr Jeremy Maule, Fellow in English, for many acts of kindness.

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‘A Different Mode of Civility’:Lancelot Addison on the Jews of Barbary*

  • Elliott Horowitz (a1)


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