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Grace Aguilar


As we have hitherto said so little of Miss Aguilar, for lack of materials, we applied to her mother for a sketch of her life, and she has sent us preliminarily, the following written for the Art-Union, by Mrs. Hall; and as everything is so interesting with reference to one who will be more appreciated hereafter, we give it an insertion in the Occident.

“Our readers have doubtless become familiar in other pages, besides those of the Art-Union Journal, with the name of this lady—a name not to be forgotten by any who value what is worthiest and highest in women. Miss Aguilar’s last work—‘Home Influence’—deserves a place in every house, whether Jew or Christian dwell therein. We noticed her ‘Women of Israel’ when it appeared. We still consider it her best work; it is so chivalrous in spirit, and so eloquent in style, that the Hebrew ladies did honour to themselves when they presented this noble-hearted daughter of their race with a testimony of esteem.

“She was one of whom they might well be proud; it will be long before we shall forget the kindly, generous nature, the tender sympathy, and perfect truthfulness of the dark-eyed, full-hearted ‘Jewess,’ fore<<203>>most in all good and righteous deeds.

In person, Grace Aguilar was tall and slight; her manner gentle and persuasive; but when she spoke, she was remarkably earnest; and when she became excited, her full dark eyes were dazzling in their brightness. She was deeply read in the history of her people; perfectly heroic in their defence, but without a single taint of bitterness towards the ‘Christian.’ Her family found refuge in England from the persecutions in Portugal, and to England she was fervently attached.

“She manifested a talent for literary composition at an early age, and devoted herself to it with a faithful desire to discover and propagate truth. A little anecdote speaks volumes for the generosity of her nature. At one time her circumstances obliged her to require the ‘hire’ which literary labourers are frequently supposed to be able to do without, as if the thinking faculties were the most worthless, as regarded this world, of any of God’s good gifts; but some addition being made to her income, she wrote to the editor of a periodical to which she was a regular contributor, saying, that she knew she did not now need remuneration as some others, and requesting that what she had been accustomed to receive might be added to their mite!

“Grace was by no means rich when she so acted; many would call her poor; but she had always something to bestow, and the manner of the gift doubled the charity. Her voice was a welcome sound in many a poor dwelling; and she never inquired whether the alms-asker was Jew or gentile.

“From her youth, she was considered fragile; but nothing restrained the energy of her mind and actions. She would continue to write; and she paid the penalty of over-exertion sooner than most persons do. In the early part of this year (1847), it was thought that perfect change would restore the tone of her enfeebled frame, and accompanied by her tender and beloved mother, she resolved to visit a brother in Germany, one who is winning his way to high musical honours.

“Her sensitive and educated mind was alive to everything beautiful in nature and art. She wrote us her impression of Lessing’s famous picture in the gallery of Frankfort, of ‘Huss before a Private Council of Cardinals;’ and her description of one or two other pictures was so enthusiastic, that we felt the bow was still too tightly strung. Towards the conclusion of this letter, she says: ‘And yet I have suffered so much from exhaustion, bodily and mental, since I have been here, even more than before I left England, that I cannot realize the pleasure which so many new objects of interest would have given me in health; and, therefore, I have thought of the friends I have left behind me much more often, and wished I could be again with them, far more painfully <<204>>than had this trip been made in health.’ She was doomed to see those friends no more. She became weaker and weaker; but still the lamp of life burned clearly and brightly to the last. There was no flickering before it was extinguished, and her intense sufferings seemed to ripen her for eternity. Her last words were: ‘Though he rend me, yet will I trust in Him!’ We mourn her as a dear friend; but what is the sorrow of friends to that of her widowed mother, whom she had accompanied since her birth, and who joyed in the treasure found amid the remnant of her long-persecuted people—a treasure that was above all price to the Hebrew people!

“Her name may appear forced into this Journal; for, although the friend of many artists and a true lover of art, she was not in the ordinary sense, an artist; but it is a high privilege to be enabled to write even a brief record of a truly good woman, and to aid in preserving a virtuous example from passing unnoted down the stream of time.”

A. M. H.

November 1, 1847.