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Joseph Jacobs

Joseph Jacobs Joseph Jacobs[1†]

Joseph Jacobs, an Australian-born British folklorist and writer, popularized English fairy tales like "Jack and the Beanstalk" and "The Three Little Pigs", “Jack the Giant Killer” and "The History of Tom Thumb". He published influential collections including "English Fairy Tales" (1890) and "More English Fairy Tales" (1893). Jacobs also edited works such as "The Thousand and One Nights" and contributed significantly to folklore studies, becoming a leading authority on English folklore[1†].

Early Years and Education

Joseph Jacobs was born in Sydney, Australia on August 29, 1854[1†][3†][4†]. He was the sixth son of John Jacobs, a customs officer who emigrated from London around 1837, and his wife Sarah Myers[1†][3†][4†]. Jacobs was educated at Sydney Grammar School and at the University of Sydney, where he received a scholarship to Classics, Mathematics and Chemistry[1†][3†][4†].

He did not complete his studies in Sydney but went to England at the age of 18[1†][3†]. He moved to England to study at St. John’s College at the University of Cambridge, where he graduated in 1876[1†][3†]. At the university, he showed a special interest in mathematics, philosophy, literature, history and anthropology[1†][3†].

While in Britain, Jacobs became aware of widespread anti-Semitism; to counteract this, he wrote an essay Mordecai which was published in the June 1877 issue of Macmillan’s magazine[1†][3†]. In 1877 he moved to Berlin to study Jewish literature and bibliography under Moritz Steinschneider and Jewish philosophy and ethnology under Moritz Lazarus[1†][3†]. After that, Jacobs returned to England, where he studied anthropology under Francis Galton[1†][3†]. At this point, he began to further develop his interest in folklore[1†][3†].

Career Development and Achievements

Joseph Jacobs’ career was marked by his significant contributions to folklore, literature, and Jewish history[2†][4†]. After graduating from the University of Cambridge in 1876, Jacobs became secretary of the Russo-Jewish Committee in London from 1882 to 1900[2†]. This committee was formed to improve the social and political conditions of Jews in Russia[2†].

Jacobs gained prominence as a writer when he published a series of articles in The Times on the persecution of Jews in Russia[2†][4†]. This led to the formation of the Mansion House Fund and Committee, of which Jacobs was secretary from 1882 to 1900[2†][4†].

In 1888, Jacobs prepared with Lucien Wolf the "Bibliotheca Anglo-Judaica: A Bibliographical Guide to Anglo-Jewish History"[2†][4†]. He also edited the journal Folk-Lore from 1889 to 1900[2†].

Jacobs is best known for his scholarly and popular works on folklore. His collections of fairy tales were met with critical acclaim[2†][4†]. These collections include “English Fairy Tales” (1890), “Celtic Fairy Tales” (1892), “Indian Fairy Tales” (1892), “The Book of Wonder Voyages” (1896), and “Europa’s Fairy Book” (1916)[2†]. His work popularized some of the world’s best-known versions of English fairy tales including “Jack and the Beanstalk”, “Goldilocks and the Three Bears”, “The Three Little Pigs”, “Jack the Giant Killer”, and "The History of Tom Thumb"[2†][4†].

In 1900, Jacobs moved with his family to the United States, where he worked as a revising editor of the Jewish Encyclopedia[2†]. He later taught literature at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America and edited the magazine American Hebrew from 1906 to 1916[2†].

First Publication of His Main Works

Joseph Jacobs was a prolific author, best known for his scholarly and popular works on folklore[1†][2†]. His work went on to popularize some of the world’s best-known versions of English fairy tales[1†][4†][5†]. Here are some of his main works:

Some of the best-known English fairy tales worldwide:

Jacobs’ work in folklore extended beyond these publications. He also edited editions of “The Thousand and One Nights” and contributed to "The Jewish Encyclopedia"[1†]. His work on the migration of Jewish folklore and his editing of the Fables of Bidpai and the Fables of Aesop further demonstrate his extensive contributions to the field[1†].

Analysis and Evaluation

Joseph Jacobs’ work has had a significant impact on the field of folklore and literature. His collections of fairy tales from different cultures have not only preserved these stories for future generations but also made them accessible to a wider audience[1†][2†].

Jacobs’ methodology in collecting and presenting these tales has been praised for its rigor and comprehensiveness[1†][2†].

Jacobs’ work in folklore and literature has left a lasting legacy. His collections of fairy tales are still widely read and enjoyed today[1†][2†].

Personal Life

Joseph Jacobs was married to Georgina Horne[4†][3†]. Together, they had two sons and a daughter[4†][3†]. Jacobs was born in Sydney to a Jewish family[4†][1†]. He was the sixth surviving son of John Jacobs, a publican who had emigrated from London around 1837, and his wife Sarah, née Myers[4†][1†].

In 1900, he accepted an invitation to become the revising editor of the Jewish Encyclopedia, which was then being prepared in New York, and settled permanently in the United States[4†][3†]. This move marked a significant transition in his personal life, as he shifted his base from the United Kingdom to the United States[4†][3†].

Conclusion and Legacy

Joseph Jacobs left a profound legacy in the field of folklore, literature, and Jewish history. His work in collecting and publishing English folklore, including some of the world’s best-known versions of English fairy tales, has had a lasting impact[1†]. His collections of European, Jewish, Celtic, and Indian fairy tales made him one of the most popular English-language fairy tale writers[1†]. His contributions to The Jewish Encyclopedia further solidified his reputation as a leading expert in English folklore during his lifetime[1†].

Jacobs’ work in preserving the original forms and intonations of stories from across the world when translating them to English helped retain the oral tradition from which fairy tales came[1†][6†]. He kept cultural references and some vulgarities in the stories so they wouldn’t lose the feeling of being told by older members of the community[1†][6†].

His influence extended beyond his death on January 30, 1916, in Yonkers, New York[1†][6†]. His work continues to be celebrated and studied, and his collections of fairy tales continue to be read and enjoyed by children and adults alike[1†][6†].

Key Information

References and Citations:

  1. Wikipedia (English) - Joseph Jacobs [website] - link
  2. Britannica - Joseph Jacobs: English scholar [website] - link
  3. Book Summary - Joseph Jacobs [website] - link
  4. Pook Press - Joseph Jacobs Biography [website] - link
  5. Goodreads - Author: Joseph Jacobs (Author of English Fairy Tales) [website] - link
  6. Study.com - Joseph Jacobs | Biography, Fairy Tales & Legacy [website] - link
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