The following is cross-posted from the VICTORIA list. (PJM)
From: Marion Diamond <[log in to unmask]>
I thought some Dickensian types would be interested in the following
item, from p. 11 of "The Australian" newspaper, 27 May 1995:
...The celebration by Hobart's small Jewish community of the 150th
anniversary of its synagogue in Argyle St., has brought to light its most
famous worshipper, Isaac "Ikey" Solomons, the notorious London "fence",
whom Charles Dickens immortalised as Fagin in Oliver Twist.
Ikey Solomons was one of the most infamous figures of the London
underworld of the 1820s. Brought to justice before the eyes of Dickens,
then a court reporter at the Old Bailey, Solomons was transported to Van
Diemen's Land in 1830 and died in Hobart in September 1850, five years
after the synagogue in Argyle St. was consecrated.
According to J.S.Levy and Prof. G.F.J. Bergman's book, "Australian
Genesis: Jewish Convicts and Settlers 1788-1850", it appears more than
likely Solomons died still owing the four pounds 11 shillings the records
show he owed the Hebrew congregation in Hobart in 1844. They also say
that Solomons was much better looking than Dickens' Fagin, but the
aquiline nose is authentic.
...One of the pamphlets written about Solomons at the time is entitled
"The Life and Exploits of Ikey Solomon (the spelling of his surname
varied) Swindler, Forgwer, Fence and Brother Keeper with account of Flesh
and Dress Houses, Flash Girls and Coves of the Hutch ...
Ikey was arrested in London 1827 on a charge of possessing stolen goods
but escaped from custody and fled to New York and then to Brazil. Ann
(his wife) was also charged with possession, was given 14 years
transportation to VDL, and arrived with her children in 1828.
Ikey followed her via Rio de Janeiro as a paying passenger on a ship. In
the absence of an extradition treaty with England and in full sight of
the authorities who knew his identity, Ikey walked at large in Hobart
until an order was issued for his extradition; he was repatriated to
London for trial in 1830, tried at the Old Bailey, sentenced to 14 years
as well, and transported back to VDL.
He arrived in chains to serve his sentence, including a spell at Port
Arthur before being released into the custody of Judah Solomon, a convict
made good who donated the land on which the synagogue was built.
Dickens , a reporter at the Old Bailey, had seen Ikey at the height of
his infamy in London and had followed his trial in 1830. In his initial
program notes of a stage version of Oliver Twist in 1837, he refers to
The president of the Hobart synagogue, Mr Tom Schlesinger, says few
realise that Jews arrived in Australia with the First Fleet, most as free
settlers. However, he says the Hobart synagogue is believed to be the
only one int he world with seaats set aside for convicts to worship. The
numbered pews are still at the back of the shul or temple."
Marion Diamond, History Department
University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia, 4072
Ph: 61 7 365 6334; Fax:61 7 365 6266; [log in to unmask]