Daniel Deronda

By George Eliot; Graham Handley | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER XXXIII.

"No man," says a Rabbi, by way of indisputable instance, "may turn the bones of his father and mother into spoons"--sure that his hearers felt the checks against that form of economy. The market for spoons has never expanded enough for anyone to say, "Why not.?" and to argue that human progress lies in such an application of material. The only check to be alleged is a sentiment which will coerce none who do not hold that sentiments are the better pan of the world's wealth.

DERONDA meanwhile took to a less fashionable form of exercise than riding in Rotten Row. He went often rambling in those parts of London which are most inhabited by common Jews: he walked to the synagogues at times of service, he looked into shops, he observed faces:--a process not very promising of particular discovery. Why did he not address himself to an influential Rabbi or other member of a Jewish community, to consult on the chances of finding a mother named Cohen, with a son named Ezra, and a lost daughter named Mirah? He thought of doing so--after Christmas. The fact was, notwithstanding all his sense of poetry in common things, Deronda, where a keen personal interest was aroused, could not, more than the rest of us, continuously escape suffering from the pressure of that hard unaccommodating Actual, which has never consulted our taste and is entirely unselect. Enthusiasm, we know, dwells at ease among ideas, tolerates garlic breathed in the middle ages, and sees no shabbiness in the official trappings of classic processions: it gets squeamish when ideals press upon it as something warmly incarnate, and can hardly face them without fainting. Lying dreamily in a boat, imagining oneself in quest of a beautiful maiden's relatives in Cordova elbowed by Jews in the time of Ibn-Gebirol,* all the physical incidents can be borne without shock. Or if the scenery of St Mary Axe and Whitechapel were imaginatively transported to the borders of the Rhine at the end of the eleventh century, when in the ears listening for the signals of the Messiah, the Hep! Hep! Hep! of the Crusaders came like the bay of bloodhounds; and in the presence of those devilish missionaries with sword and firebrand the crouching figure of the reviled Jew turned round erect, heroic, flashing with sublime constancy in the face of torture and death--what would the dingy shops and unbeautiful faces signify to the thrill of contemplative, emotion? But the fervour of sympathy with which we contemplate a grandiose martyrdom is feeble compared with the enthusiasm that

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