Vol. V, No. 8
Heshvan 5608, November 1847
We know that our simple announcement that Grace Aguilar is dead, will send a thrill of pain through the hearts of nearly all our readers, who, with us, have had cause to admire the sweet thoughts of devotional piety which breathe through her many writings, and not the least in the many contributions which she sent from time to time to enrich our piles. Miss Aguilar, as we learned from the last letter we received from her, was to leave England in the beginning of June for Germany for the benefit of her health, and she expected to return to her native land in September; but she returned not; and in the Jewish sepulchre at Frankfort-on-the-Maine, reposes what was mortal of our valued friend. We have ourself received no letters from England by the last arrival; but we learn from a reliable source that though in the land of strangers, she was surrounded by those dear and near to her; her dying couch was watched by her mother, brother, and her friend Miss Samuda. But even if all these had been absent, Grace Aguilar would not have been among strangers; for the fame of her works had gone before her to the classical land of the rivers of Germany, and both the enlightened sons and daughters of Israel would have cheerfully smoothed the pillow of one who had done so much to illustrate their noble faith, and to vindicate their holy religion. Her death took place on the 16th of September, a few days before the Day of Atonement, and near the festival of the gathering in of the harvest, at a period when, though young in years, she was ripe for heaven; and we trust that her soul has been received in the storehouse of the Owner of all the spirits, to enjoy there that felicity of which she so ardently thought in her hours of suffering. She had been for years, as we learn, threatened with consumption, and, probably over-exertion in the pursuit of literature hastened the fatal consummation of the disease. Gladly would we enlarge on her character and life, were the materials in our possession; but we hope that at some future day we shall be better prepared to do justice to her memory. The works she wrote in behalf of Judaism, are “Israel Vindicated,” from the Spanish of Don Isaac <<420>>Orobio, after a French Translation; “The Spirit of Judaism,” which appeared under our superintendence at Philadelphia; “The Records of Israel,” “The Women of Israel,” “The Jewish Faith,” and “The Perez Family,” which latter work was written for the Cheap Jewish Library, and was reprinted in the Jewish Miscellany, and has thus been rendered perhaps more generally familiar to our readers than any of her other productions. But her activity was not confined to the Jewish religion only, as she produced several other books on general literature; but we forbear speaking of them, as we are not sufficiently acquainted with their contents.
Probably during her lifetime, Miss Aguilar was not sufficiently appreciated; it is the fate of intellect to be often misapprehended, whilst it mingles in familiar intercourse with the world; there is a clashing of interests even among friends, which often leads to misunderstanding and estrangement; perhaps her genius was too ardent and too independent to submit to rebuke or control. But even so was she enabled to accomplish so much more than one could have expected from her youth and bodily infirmity, and by this standard only must her works be judged. We will not now enter upon a criticism of her contributions to our literature, for this is neither the time nor the place; but we say only the simple truth in maintaining that there has not arisen a single Jewish female in modern times who has done so much for the illustration and adornment of her faith as Grace Aguilar. So, then, if she was early called to appear in the assembly of saints above, she has been permitted long enough on earth to be enrolled amidst the noble Women of Israel, who have shed a lustre around their ancient race. And her bereaved mother will have this consolation to know that her heart does not alone mourn for the child that was taken from her; but that thousands grieve for the sweet sister who now sleeps undisturbed by worldly cares and free from bodily pains in the embrace of her heavenly Father.
We close our hasty notice, much too brief for our regard to the deceased, with the following tribute from a non-Israelite, it being from the editor of the London Athenaeum: “We see with great regret, by the daily papers, that Miss Grace Aguilar—whom so short a time since, the women of Israel honoured by a testimonial recording her literary services to her nation—has died at Frankfort, after a long and painful illness, at the early age of thirty-two. Graceful as were her works, they were yet more full of promise than of performance, and there is something very touching in an event which connects the honours that were meant to cheer her on her literary path, into a garland hung upon her tomb.”