Brighton & Hove
Marcus Roberts


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Brighton was also host to one of the great medical reformers and journalists of his time. Earnest Abraham Hart (1835-1898) worked on the Lancet and went on to edit the British Medical Journal until his death. He greatly extended the journals membership and scope. He was a champion of sanitary reform of every kind - an effort greatly aided by the fact that he was the chairman of the Parliamentary Bills committee of the BMA, from 1872-97. He exposed the wicked practice of 'baby farming' in 1872, he campaigned against the grossly insanitary conditions of 'barrack schools' for pauper children; he advocated vaccination by the state. He supported the causes of coffee taverns, smoke abatement, proper training for plumbers and the National Health Society. He also worked to improve the social conditions of the medical profession, among many other matters. Hart died in Brighton in 1898.

The Brighton and Hove community is also significant as it attracted a number of significant middle and upper class Jewish women, who were well known writers, artists, performers and political agitators, as well as society charity workers and less well know teachers and educators. Jewish women of the upper strata of society women had relatively few career paths open to them, mostly in the areas noted above, though it is a matter of observation that Jewish women seem to have had more levity in pursuing a career, or having some degree of independence than their Christian peers.

Grace Aguilar, who was one of the most celebrated Anglo-Jewish writers was a regular visitor to Brighton. She wrote part of her noted work, 'The Spirit of Judaism', while in Brighton in 1837.

The notable portrait artist, Julia Goodman lived and worked in Brighton and Hove. She was born in London in 1812 and married in 1836 and for 60 years worked as a portrait artist in oil and pastels. She exhibited at the Royal Academy, the Royal Society of British Artists, and the Society of Lady Artists and at the Brighton Exhibition.

Amy Levy (1861 - 1889) was born in Clapham and sent in 1876, aged 15, to be educated in Brighton, at Brighton High School. She then went up to Cambridge and was the first Jewish student to be admitted to Newnham College in 1879. It was here her talent for poetry became evident, as in 1880 her first book of poetry, 'Xantippe and Other Verse', which was published and well regarded. In 1881 Amy left Cambridge and went to London and her poem Xantippe was republished in an anthology and continued to work on her poetry and writing ('The Plane Tree' was published in 1889). She mixed with a literary and socialist radical set in London and became the confidant of Eleanor Marx, who translated her book, Reuben Sachs into German. This novel was critical of Jewish life and was not well received by the community. However, as was unnervingly common among some of the independent women of her time she suffered severe depression and committed suicide at 27 years through inhaling charcoal fumes.

Perhaps the best known Victorian Jewish woman to be associated with Brighton was Eleanor Marx (1855-1898), the daughter of Karl Marx, who was well known as a writer and social and political agitator, Socialist and union supporter.

Marx was brought up in London and was taken on holiday to Brighton as a young girl. After her education at South Hampstead School for Girls, she went to France and Ireland getting involved with radical political causes in both countries. In France she met and became engaged to Hyppolite-Prosper-Olivier Lissagaray, an ex-Communard, of whom her parents disapproved. Her father took her to Brighton, where she decided to stay on and live and where she worked as an actress and teaching French; as both a private tutor and in as school ran by the Misses Hall. Her sojourn in Brighton was broken off, after a visit by the unsuitable Lissagaray, which led to her mother sending her to Germany.

Thereafter, on return to England, she kept up her social circle in Brighton, but gained her reputation by organizing workers in the East End of London and supporting the early Socialist movement and working as a writer. Tragically, she decided to live out-side of marriage with the cold and unfaithful Edward Aveling, a fellow Socialist, in 1882, who remained married to his first wife and after he entered a bigamous marriage in 1898 she killed herself on 31 March 1898, by drinking prussic acid at her house in Jew's Walk, Sydenham, due to her husband's infidelity, bigamy, as well as financial difficulties and sense of personal failure in her political work.

Eleanor Marx was aware of her Jewish heritage and she once stated, 'I am Jewishly proud of my house in Jew's Walk'.

By the 1890s the Jewish community in Brighton was well established. In the religious census of 1851, it is recorded that there were 75 seats in the synagogue and that 40 Jews attended service in the morning, 16 in the afternoon and 40 in the evening. The community had already been sending a representative to the Board of Deputies since 1879 and in 1896 the Jewish Year Book stated there were about 60 Jewish families in the town, though David Spector asserts that by 1900 there were nearly 100 families. Members of the community ran a wide range of businesses, covering many of the general Jewish occupations of the time and a good many shop keepers as well as lodging house keepers.

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