From Byron's Don Juan:

Sweet is a legacy, and passing sweet
The unexpected death of some old lady
Or gentleman of seventy years complete,
Who've made "us youth" wait too—too long already
For an estate, or cash, or country seat,
Still breaking, but with stamina so steady
That all the Israelites are fit to mob its
Next owner for their double-damn'd post-obits.

Why does he use the word Israelites? The poem is about English persons. He is probably alluding to something, but I don't know to what exactly.

1 Answer 1


I think it's a reference to money lenders, who were (or were perceived to be) Jewish. Heirs of rich people would borrow money to support their life styles, money to be paid back (under the terms of a post-obit bond) when they inherited the family fortune. (Or so it works out in novels by Georgette Hayer, Bulwer-Lytton, Disraeli, etc.) The OED has a bunch of citations, including a different Byron one. So on the death of the wealthy ancestor, the once-poor heir would be pestered by the money lenders.

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