Grace Aguilar: Contribution as British Novelist

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      Grace Aguilar (1816-1847) a British novelist. Aguilar was the first woman to write in English about Judaism. Enormously popular, many of her works were translated into foreign languages. Educated at home by her Spanish immigrant parents, Aguilar was ill and, by some accounts, dominated by her mother for most of her short life. Seven of Aguilar's novels were published posthumously by Sarah Dias Fernandes Aguilar. By looking at composition rather than publication dates, Aguilar's writing career can be divided into three phases. The first one is of Historical Romance.

      This includes Vale of Cedars, a romance set during the Inquisition. The central characters are practicing Jews who must hide their faith behind both a metaphorical veil and a literal value (a valley of cedars). Her second phase is translation, theology and biography. It is this phase that has garnered the most critical attention. These works include Israel Defended (1838), a translation from the French on the emancipation question; The Spirit of Judaism (1842) which explores the humanistic spirit anchoring Jewish rituals; and Women of Israel (1844), a collective biography of women who appear in the Bible and the Talmud. This last work was still being given as a Sunday School prize as late as the 1950s. Her final phase is one of moral and domestic fiction. Her two most popular works come from this time: Home Influence (1847) and A Mother's Recompense (1851). In these works, Aguilar seems to be advocating both the Victorian ideal of motherhood and the restricted freedom of women.

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