Page 121 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 35

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KLEIN / JEWISH CHARACTERS IN EARLY AMERICAN FICTION
111
Patriarchs of Jordan and Amsterdam as an imposter. His edi­
torial weapons were wit and humor, his columns were seldom
degraded by low scurility or vulgar abuse, i t being sufficient for
the Major to raise a laugh upon his opponents. His comic vein,
too, afforded him the advantage, when detected in a misstatement
of fact, which notwithstanding his habitual caution and candor
did sometimes happen, of beating a retreat by laughing at the
whole matter.” (p. 7)
P e l a y o : A S t o r y o f t h e G o t h , b y
William G. Simms.
N e w Y o rk ,
1838.
T he setting is 15th century Toledo, Spain. The leader of the
Jews, known as Melchior of the Desert, comes to Pelayo, chief
of the insurgent army, and offers him the help of an army of
3,000 Jews to fight against Roderick, an enemy and persecutor
of the Jews. Though giving the outward appearance of a poor
man, Melchior has great wealth and a home furnished in dazzling
luxury.
T he religious leaders of the insurgents are opposed to accepting
aid from the Jews unless Melchior and his followers convert to
Christianity. But Melchior is steadfast in loyalty to his faith.
In the end the Jews are permitted to join with the insurgent
forces.
Melchior has a beautiful daughter, Thyrza, who is in love
with Pelayo. This brings grief to the father who realizes that
because of Pelayo’s high position and because he is a Christian,
her love is hopeless. Amri, loose-living and opportunistic son of
Melchior’s kinsman, is also in love with Thyrza. Amri gets hold
of the secret plans of the insurgents and threatens to reveal them
to the enemy unless Melchior gives him Thyrza in marriage.
Melchior refuses and Amri carries out his threat, resulting in
great losses to Paleyo’s insurgent forces, though in the end they
are victorious because of the help of the Jews.
Thyrza, who had insisted on remaining close to her father, is
mortally wounded by an arrow. Having become infatuated with
Christianity, she argues with her father as she lays dying that
the condition of the Jews would be more hopeful if they ac­
cepted the Christian faith. Thyrza dies as a Christian, with a
cross clutched in her hand.