Isaac Harby of Charleston, 1788-1828: Jewish Reformer and Intellectual

Synopsis

"Between the years 1795 and 1815, Charleston, South Carolina, experienced prodigious economic growth resulting in a remarkable period of cultural efflorescence. After 1815, however, the city entered a period of economic decline, the effects of which were perceived in every aspect of Charleston's communal infrastructure. This revealing new biography of Isaac Harby (1788-1828) sheds much light on the rise and fall of Charleston during this period. As a newspaper editor and publisher, a playwright of some distinction, a highly regarded drama critic, an essayist, and a political and social commentator, Harby earned a position of respect and prominence within the thriving cultural milieu of antebellum Charleston. Harby, together with a small group of contemporary litterateurs, spent considerable energy trying to establish and legitimate letters as a profession. Unfortunately their desire to make a living in the world of the literary arts - the leitmotiv of a generation of literati - was a dream that went largely unfulfilled. Nevertheless, these individuals struggled to stimulate the growth and development of a native literary tradition in this country. By studying Harby, one of the few Jews in his city's literary circle, we add significantly to our understanding of Jewish life in the South during the early national period. Harby's active role in the establishment and advancement of the Reformed Society of Israelites (incorporated in 1825), the first formalized effort to reform Judaism in North America, has attracted considerable scholarly attention. Zola demonstrates that Harby's particular interest in the reformation of Judaism was very much related to his lifelong desire to improve society through the cause of intellectual enrichment. Drawing from local newspapers, government documents, and other contemporary sources, together with the newly discovered contents of Harby's personal library and papers, this book constitutes an entirely new analysis of Harby's life." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved