Monday, February 15, 2010

A rabbi's son dancing with the finest Duchess in all of England in 1711?

Every now and then one comes across something fairly obscure and amusing.

Below is a letter sent to the London Examiner which appeared in is January 24, 1712 issue:

Not a bad question.

I think my normal MO would be to identify "Rabbi Solomen de Med_" who is "happily versed in the art of explaining Mysteries," and under what circumstances "the finest Dutchess in England" danced with his son, apparently causing quite a stir in the summer of 1711. Having not done that, in other words, normally this would not be ready for posting. But instead I'll leave it to readers to speculate (won't that be more fun?) or enlighten us all.


  1. There is a Sir Solomon De Medina who was contractor for the duke of marlboro around this time but i can't see anythin about mysteries?

  2. That's probably him. I would gather his knowledge of "mysteries" is oral Torah, and something only someone in High Society of the time would know; there's probably no literary remains of it to speak of. Still, I will look.

  3. Well, there are some frowzy Jews out there, no?

    I like the word; frowzy.

  4. A prudish answer:
    The duchess only condescended to dance with the rabbi's son, but of course he declined.

    (Any clue as to whom the letter was addressed? And to what "discovery" is the answer referring?)


  5. I believe it was addressed to Jonathan Swift, who was the editor of the Examiner; it's also included in his collected works. However, it's also possible that it was Delarivier Manley who co-edited the Examiner with him. Indeed, this book takes it for granted that it was her, although I'm not sure how.

    "Discovery" in 1710 meant what the literal word implies, ie, uncovering, revelation. In other words, here it means "the discloser of this gossip." (Johnson defines "discover" as "to disclose.") So Swift or Manley is saying that Sir Solomon Medina informed them of the news that "the finest Dutchess in England," whomever she was, danced with his son at a party he, Medina, had thrown. Presumably Medina was proud of this manly achievement of his son.

  6. Perhaps this letter exchange is a far more clever affair. A cursory reading of the history will find that Sir Solomon De Medina fell out of favor with the Royals after Queen Anne dismissed the Duke of Marlborough. Perhaps the Examiner understood the question to pertain to precisely this affair. Sir Solomon was given the contract for 'Bread' and wagons, to supply the army. Thus he is alluded to as Chief Baker. However, he was never reinstated and died in poverty. The Duke however was returned to favor with the Queen. The writer questions the justice of this, and the Examiner is showing the readers the identity of the writer, as Sir Solomon was known for providing valuable intelligence, uncovering secrets, and that affair is what ended up ruining him. Read it again carefully, you might agree.

  7. Sounds very plausible, especially being that this is Swift. As I said, I really didn't look into it at all, to the point where I didn't even realize the identity of "Rabbi Solomen de Med-." (The "Rabbi" threw me off.) I am inclined to agree with you.

    However, it also seems that Sir Solomon threw a literal party and there was a literal dance; see the page linked above, referring as it does, to the Whigs "aiming to strengthen their Routed Party by a Reinforcement from the Circumcised," i.e., Medina, and the party and dance shown as an example of it.



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