Academic journal article Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies

THE "LUSTFUL BUGGERING JEW": Anti-Semitism, Gender, and Sodomy in Restoration Political Satire

Academic journal article Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies

THE "LUSTFUL BUGGERING JEW": Anti-Semitism, Gender, and Sodomy in Restoration Political Satire

Article excerpt

In "Sometimes a Scepter is Only a Scepter: Pornography and Politics in Restoration England," Rachel Weil analyzes the implications of the fact that the "manuscript books into which Restoration men and women copied items of current interest usually contained a mixture of sexual and 'purely' political material, with no effort being made to create a distinction between them" (141). According to Weil, this lack of distinction "suggests that stories about royal or court sexuality were a legitimate part of political discourse, not cordoned off into a separate category" ( 142). Weil focuses her study of Restoration poetic satire on the ways in which these works use pornographic imagery to comment on Charles II's policies. As she writes, "Narratives about the king's body, its powers and vulnerabilities, its healthy and unhealthy states, and its relationship to the body politic, provided writers with a way of dramatizing their deepest political concerns" ( 142). The king's body, however, is not the only one that provided Restoration satirists with this opportunity. In this essay, I analyze another site of pornographic and political satire, the male Jew's body, in two Restoration poems that circulated in manuscript in 1680 and were quickly included in some of the poetic miscellanies that were compiled following the death of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, in July of that year: "Tho' Wean'd from all Those Scandalous Delights" and "The Queen Street Ballad."1 These poems depict a dinner party that turns into a sexual orgy when a Jewish character introduces the other guests to the joys of anal sex. My purpose here is to examine these satires' representational practices in associating Jews with sodomy. Borrowing Cameron McFarlane's strategy of analyzing "the nexus of ideas, relations, behaviors, discursive practices, and meanings that could be set in motion under [the) signs" "sodomy" and "sodomite" (20), I am interested in examining the cultural work the representation of the "Lustful Buggering Jew" ("Tho' Wean'd" 32) performed in Restoration political satire.2 I argue that the "Lustful Buggering Jew" is a stereotype that uniquely expresses anxieties about the stability of English national identity during the Exclusion Crisis.

Harold Love notes that Restoration manuscript books and miscellanies "have usually been treated simply as quarries for texts of individual writers and as providers of dating evidence" (177). He argues, however, that these works are also important for the social functions they served. Scribal publication, writes Love, "was one of several means of acquiring and transmitting information" (177). Manuscript books helped bond together "like-minded individuals into a community, sect, or political faction, with the exchange of texts in manuscript serving to nourish a shared set of values and to enrich personal allegiances" (177). And finally, scribal publication was "a means by which ideologically charged texts could be distributed through the governing class, or various interest groups within that class, without their coming to the knowledge of the governed" (177). The Gyldenstolpe Miscellany, a manuscript collection belonging to Count Nils Gyldenstolpe, Sweden's ambassador at The Hague from 1679 to 1687, was typical in its transmission of ideologically charged information about court intrigue and political factions. As David Vieth and Bror Daniellson, who published a facsimile edition of the collection in 1967, argue, "With the marriage between . . . Mary and William of Orange in 1677, it became very important for the Swedish ambassador . . . to familiarize himself with the doings at the court of Charles II, including gossip and the latest scandals" (xxi). Because of their political and satiric content, Vieth and Danielsson say, the poems in the collection "would render it valuable to a foreign diplomat trying to follow the changing situation in England in order to determine where and how strings should be pulled in the interests of his country" (xxi). …

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