Biography (Critical Survey of Drama, Second Revised Edition)
The child of immigrants from Latvia and Poland, Israel Zangwill grew up in the Whitechapel area of London. He was educated at the Jews’ Free School, becoming a pupil-teacher there. Zangwill studied at night at London University, earning a B.A. with honors in 1884. In 1888, he resigned from the Free School because he opposed corporal punishment and began a career as a journalist, editing magazines and contributing regular columns, humorous stories, and essays to various publications. Zangwill soon became known as an outstanding writer of comic sketches. Collected in The Bachelors’ Club (1891) and The Old Maids’ Club (1892), they won him critical praise.
An 1889 essay on “English Judaism, a Criticism and a Classification” brought Zangwill to the attention of Judge Mayer Sulzberger, chairman of the publication committee of the newly founded Jewish Publication Society of America. In September, 1890, Sulzberger offered to have the society publish a novel on Jewish themes. Zangwill had already started thinking along those lines and, in seven months, produced a draft manuscript of Children of the Ghetto. The 1892 publication of the book established Zangwill as a major Jewish writer. Short stories collected in Ghetto Tragedies (1893), The King of Schnorrers (1894), and Ghetto Comedies (1907) helped establish Zangwill’s reputation in England and in the United States as the leading English-language Jewish storyteller of his generation.
In the 1890’s, several of Zangwill’s plays had modest runs in London. The success of his 1899 adaptation of Children of the Ghetto in New York encouraged Zangwill to devote most of his later creative literary activity to the stage. He wrote fifteen plays between 1900 and his death in 1926. His greatest success came with Merely Mary Ann, adapted from an 1893 short story, which...
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Biography (Critical Survey of Mystery & Detective Fiction, Revised Edition)
Israel Zangwill was born in the ghetto of London’s East End. His father, an itinerant peddler, was an immigrant from Latvia; his mother, a refugee from Poland. Part of Zangwill’s childhood was spent in Bristol, but by the time he was twelve, the family had returned to London, where young Israel attended the Jews’ Free School in Whitechapel, becoming at the age of fourteen a “pupil-teacher” there.
By the time he was eighteen, Zangwill had manifested extraordinary talent for writing, winning first prize for a humorous tale brought out serially in Society and publishing a comic ballad. He showed, too, an early interest in social realism by collaborating on a pamphlet describing market days in the East End Jewish ghetto. In 1884, Zangwill was graduated from London University with honors in three areas: English, French, and mental and moral sciences. He continued teaching at the Jews’ Free School until 1888, when he resigned to devote all of his considerable energy to a career in letters.
Subsequently, the writings of Zangwill were indeed prolific: In addition to twenty-five collected volumes of drama and fiction, Zangwill wrote hundreds of essays for popular and esoteric journals and gave as many speeches. He worked efficiently and rapidly, and editors quickly recognized and rewarded his talent. Zangwill once observed that he had never written a line that had not been purchased before it was written. His plays were produced in...
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Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Israel Zangwill, born in London on February 14, 1864, was one of the outstanding Jewish authors and leaders of his time. His family, Russian Jews, had fled Russia and settled in England before his birth. A graduate of the Jews’ Free School in London, he remained at the school as a teacher in order to finance his studies at London University, which he attended at the same time he was teaching. Despite the rigor of this dual program, Zangwill graduated from the university with highest honors. After graduation he left teaching for a career in journalism. He founded and edited Ariel, the London Puck, and he wrote for various other London periodicals.
His critical fame began with the publication of Children of the Ghetto, the first of his novels of Jewish life. At the time the novel attracted considerable attention largely because of its subject matter, and Zangwill has been credited with the prevention of anti-Jewish legislation by Parliament through its publication. Other novels about Jewish people followed, including The Master and The Mantle of Elijah. Dreamers of the Ghetto is a series of essays on such notable Jewish thinkers and leaders as Baruch Spinoza, Heinrich Heine, and Benjamin Disraeli.
Although he won fame as—and will probably be remembered as—a novelist interpreting Jews and Jewish life, Zangwill wished to excel as a dramatist rather than as a writer of fiction. Some of his most...
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