Decorative Initial Trollope's presentation of anti-semitism in The Way We Live Nowis confirmed by articles in Punch, the major satiric journal of the time. In Trollope's novel pandemonium breaks out when Georgiana announces her engagement to Mr. Brehgert, a Jew. Her appalled parents, who forbid her to marry him, have a hard time believing that their daughter would ever consider marrying someone society considers inferior:

"I'm sure your papa won't allow it. If he's fixed about anything, it's about the Jews. An accursed race; — think of that, Georgiana; — expelled from Paradise...I'm sure that Mr. Whitstable, who is to be your brother-in-law, will never condescend to speak to him" (263).

People, like Lady Monogram, would never permit a Jew to dine with them, even though he appears noble and respectable. They avoid Jews as much as possible for fear of damaging their reputation by associating with them:

"I go pretty well everywhere, as you are aware; and I shouldn't know Mr. Brehgert if I were to see him . . . I don't feel inclined to risk my own reputation on the appearance of new people [Jews] at my table" (89-91). Lady Monogram and numerous others refuse to associate themselves with Brehgert simply because of his religion, even though, ironically, he remains one of the few honest as well as wealthy characters in the novel.

In 1875, the year The Way We Live Now appeared in print, Punch confirmed the prvalence of fashionable anti-semitism by publishing an article mocking Jews. Punch, the magazine's fictional representative or voice, describes the Jews he encountered at a furniture sale, who he believes tried to swindle him. Filling his article with harsh stereotypes of Jews, he depicts them as greedy, money-hungry, filthy individuals who all possess hooked noses: "I am aware that many eyes are on me, that noses are tending towards me, that beaks will swoop down upon me, as a hawk on a lamb, without waiting for the mint sauce. They are one and all of the Hebrew persuasion. Shall I escape without being inveigled into laying out money on a lot of things I don't want?" ("On View at a Furniture Sale") Punch even implies that all Jews have poor educations and as a result speak broken English. He succeeds in illustrating this by mimicking the speech of a Jewish broker he encounters: "Bootiful thing that! Bootiful! Couldn't find a pair of 'em anywhere. Bootiful! Quite a little gem" ("On View at a Furniture Sale - All among the Noses - An Escape," Punch, June 5, 1875).

In mockingly stereotyping Jews, Punch describes how one broker, Morris Abrahams, refused to stop haranguing him despite his efforts to convince him that he did not need a bookcase. According to Punch, the man was so money-hungry that not even a tangle of furniture could free him from the broker's annoying appeals to purchase the bookcase:

Perhaps I can shake him off by making for a distant Rosewood Cabinet, through a sort of North-west Passage of chairs and tables, through which Nose Number One is too stout to pass. I leave him...I look round to see how I shall now tack for the door, when I hear, behind my right shoulder, "Bootiful thing thith cabinet." ["On View at a Furniture Sale"]

In response, a Jewish broker responded to Punch's article two weeks later. Claiming that Punch debases his race without just reasons, the man cries out against such injustice:

Most indignantly do I deny every assertion contained in your article...as to the broken English you so glibly put into the mouths of the Jews who addressed you, it is like the rest a bold assertion. . . I am only a Broker, and have been unable to study since the age of sixteen, yet I am quite willing to read or speak in English, French, German, or Italian, side by side with yourself. . . It is a presumption to call us Jews unclean: it must be on the "lucus a non lucendo" principle. . . It is quite time that men of education, like yourself, should try to remove prejudices, instead of increasing them. ["The Other View of the Picture"]

His defense speaks for itself, and clearly displays the stupidity and senselessness in Punch 's prejudice, indicative of the Victorian era.

Trollope, too, presents the stupidity and senselessness in the prejudice against Brehgert. Brehgert's character and behavior deserve nothing but respect and acceptance, unlike the characters of other individuals: "She was apt to suspect deceit in other people; — but it did not occur to her that Mr. Brehgert had written a single word with an attempt to deceive her" (273). Yet, many characters refuse to see past his religion. They would rather associate themselves with crooked and immoral individuals like Melmotte, who nevertheless belong to the Christian faith. Trollope adds this completely senseless prejudice to the list of flaws in Victorian society that he addresses in his novel.

References

""On View at a Furniture Sale — All among the Noses — An Escape." Punch (June 5, 1875).

"The Other View of the Picture." Punch (June 19, 1875).


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Last modified 25 October 2000.