L Aaronson

L. Aaronson (1895-1966). Courtesy Jewish Quarterly.

Lazarus Leonard Aaronson MBE (18 February 1895 - 9 December 1966), often published as L. Aaronson, was an English poet and a lecturer in economics.



As a young man, Aaronson belonged to a group of Jewish friends who are today known as the Whitechapel Boys, many of whom who later achieved fame as writers and artists.

In his 20s, Aaronson converted to Christianity. In total, he published 3 collections of poetry: Christ in the Synagogue (1930), Poems (1933), and The Homeward Journey, and other poems (1946). Although he never achieved widespread recognition, Aaronson gained a cult following of dedicated readers.

Aaronson lived most of his life in London and spent much of his working life as a lecturer in economics at the City of London College. Upon retiring, he moved to Harpenden, Hertfordshire, where he died from heart failure and coronary heart disease on 9 December 1966. His poetry was not widely publicised, and he left many unpublished poems at his death.

Youth and educationEdit

Aaronson was born on 18 February 1895Template:Refn at 34 Great Pearl Street, Spitalfields in the East End of London, to impoverished Orthodox Jewish parents who had immigrated from Vilna in the Pale of Settlement in Eastern Europe.[1][2] His father was Louis Aaronson, a master bootmaker, and his mother was Sarah (Kowalski0.

The young Aaronson attended Whitechapel City Boys' School and later received a scholarship to attend Hackney Downs grammar school.[1]

His father emigrated to New York in 1905, and in 1912, the rest of his family followed except for 17-year old Lazarus who remained in London. From then on, he lived with the family of Joseph Posener at 292 Commercial Road in the East End of London. At the time, the area was a hub of the Jewish diaspora and at the turn of the 20th century, a quarter of its population were Jews from Central and Eastern Europe.

Growing up in the East End, Aaronson was part of a group of friends who are today referred to as the Whitechapel Boys, all of whom were children of Jewish immigrants and shared literary and artistic ambitions.[3] Others in the group who, like Aaronson, later achieved distinction included John Rodker, Isaac Rosenberg, Joseph Leftwich, Samuel Winsten, Clara Birnberg, David Bomberg, and the brothers Abraham and Joseph Fineberg.[4] Aaronson was also involved in the Young Socialist League, where he and other Whitechapel Boys helped organise educational meetings on modern art and radical politics.[5] Aaronson remained a committed socialist throughout adulthood.[6]

Having been diagnosed with tuberculosis and diabetes, Aaronson did not serve in the military during the First World War. Between 1913 and 1915, and again between 1926 and 1928, he studied economics at the London School of Economics, but never completed his degree.


Aaronson had literary ambitions from an early age and by 1914, he was a contributing writer for the influential left-leaning weekly The New Age.[1] He was often published under the name L. Aaronson.[7] In the 1920s, he converted to Christianity. His debut collection of poems, Christ in the Synagogue, was published by V. Gollancz in 1930. Christ in the Synagogue reached only a small audience and received less than a dozen reviews, but the Manchester Guardian, Nation and Athenaeum, Times Literary Supplement, and New Age wrote favorably of it.[8] Notwithstanding Aaronson's small readership, V. Gollancz published a 2nd verse collection in 1933, titled Poems. Despite being little known to the general public, Aaronson gained a cult following of dedicated readers.[9] His 3rd collection, The Homeward Journey, and other poems, was published by Christophers in 1946.[10] Some of his works also appeared in journals and anthologies such as the 1953 Faber Book of Twentieth Century Verse.[1]

Around 1934, he began working as a lecturer in economics at the City of London College, where he remained until his retirement in 1959..

Private life Edit

Aaronson was married 3 times. His 1st wife was actress Lydia Sherwood, (1906-1989), with whom he was married between 1924 and 1931.[9] He filed for divorce on grounds of her adultery with theatre producer Theodore Komisarjevsky, and the suit was undefended.[11] His 2nd marriage, which took place on 9 July 1938, to Dorothy Beatrice Lewer (1915-2005), also ended in divorce. On 14 January 1950, Aaronson married Margaret Olive Ireson (1920–1981), with whom he had a son, David (born 1953).[1]

To friends and family, Aaronson was known as Laz.[1] He was friends with novelist Stephen Hudson, sculptor Jacob Epstein, media mogul Sidney Bernstein, artists Mark Gertler and Matthew Smith and poets Harold Monro and Samuel Beckett.[1][12]

Upon his retirement from the university in 1958, he moved with his family from London to Harpenden, Hertfordshire. He died from heart failure and coronary heart disease at the age of 71. He was buried in the Westfield Road Cemetery in Harpenden.[1]


The Stake

All that I am is staked on words.
Bless their meaning, Lord, or I become
Slave to the heavy, hollow, mindless drum.

Make me the maker of my words.
Let me renew myself in my own speech,
Till I become at last the thing I teach.

And let a taste be in my words,
That men may savour what is man in me,
And know how much I fail, how little see.

Let not my pleasure in my words
Forget the silence whence all speech has sprung,
The cell and meditation of the tongue.

And at the end, the Word of words,
Lord! make my dedication. Let me live
Towards Your patient love that can forgive

The blasphemy and pride of words
Since once You spoke. Your praise is there.
I mean it thus, even in my despair.

The Homeward Journey and Other Poems, 1946

Aaronson's debut collection of poems, Christ in the Synagogue, (1930) dealt to a large extent with his conversion and spiritual identity as both a Jew and an Englishman. This subject would become a recurring theme in his numerous mystical poems.[9][10]

Though less radical in his use of language, he has been compared to his more renowned Whitechapel friend, Isaac Rosenberg, in terms of diction and verbal energy. Reviewers have traced influences from both English poet John Keats, and Hebrew poets such as Shaul Tchernichovsky and Zalman Shneur, in his writings.

Since Aaronson's poetry does not display formal innovation, literature professor William Baker, characterises him as "A post-Georgian rather than a modernist [poet]".[1] Baker further notes that Aaronson's poetry deals with several issues of his time, such as the rise of fascism and the Second World War, but points out that Aaronson did not directly write about the Holocaust.[1]

Upon Aaronson's death, poet Arthur Chaim Jacobs compared him with Isaac Rosenberg, the more celebrated poet of the same Anglo-Jewish generation. According to Jacobs, Aaronson was "clearly influenced by him in terms of diction, and in a kind of verbal energy which runs through a lot of his poetry. But he was less radical than Rosenberg in his use of language, and tended towards Keatsian luxuriance and sweetness."[13]

Although much of Aaronson's writings centred on his conversion to Christianity, Jacobs traces a continuing Hebraic mood in his poetry, writing that "His Christianity was hardly familiarly Anglican, and there is in his work an avowed sensuality which could in some ways be compared to that of modern Hebrew poets like Tchernikowsky or Shneur, or later, Avraham Shlonsky."[13]

Critical reputation Edit

Aaronson's poetry was not widely publicised, and he left many unpublished poems at his death.[1] Little scholarly attention has been paid to his life and poetry. In 1967, Jacobs stated that "Further assessment of his work awaits more substantial publication"[13] and about 40 years later Baker, who has written most extensively on Aaronson, named him among the Whitechapel intellectual writers and artists "today consigned to oblivion".[14]


Aaronson was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire in the 1959 New Year honours, in recognition of his more than 25 years of academic service.[1][15]


  • Christ in the Synagogue. London: Gollancz, 1930.
  • Poems London: Gollancz, 1933.
  • The Homeward Journey, and other poems. London: Christophers, 1946.

Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy WorldCat.[16]


  • Baker, William; Roberts Shumaker, Jeanette (forthcoming). "Pioneers: E.O. Deutsch, B.L. Farjeon, Israel Gollancz, Leonard Merrick, and Lazarus Aaronson". The Literature of the Fox: A Reference and Critical Guide to Jewish Writing in the UK. AMS Studies in Modern Literature. AMS Press. ISBN 978-0-404-65531-0.


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 Baker, William (May 2015). "Aaronson, Lazarus (1895–1966)" (Template:ODNBsub). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/105000. Retrieved 4 June 2015. 
  2. Robson, Jeremy (1966). "A Survey of Anglo-Jewish Poetry". Jewish Quarterly (Routledge) 14 (3): 7. doi:10.1080/0449010X.1966.10706502. 
  3. Dickson, Rachel; MacDougall, Sarah (2004). "The Whitechapel Boys". Jewish Quarterly (Routledge) 51 (3): 29–34. doi:10.1080/0449010X.2004.10706848. 
  4. Patterson, Ian (2013). "John Rodker, Julius Ratner and Wyndham Lewis: The Split-Man Writes Back". Wyndham Lewis and the Cultures of Modernity. Ashgate. p. 97. ISBN 978-1-4094-7901-7. 
  5. Patterson, Ian (2013). "The Translation of Soviet Literature". Russia in Britain, 1880-1940: From Melodrama to Modernism. Oxford University Press. p. 189. ISBN 978-0-19-966086-5. 
  6. Zilboorg, Caroline (2001). The Masks of Mary Renault: A Literary Biography. University of Missouri Press. pp. 67–70, 87. ISBN 0-8262-1322-7. 
  7. Sutton, David (January 2015). "The Names of Modern British and Irish Literature" (PDF). Name Authority List of the Location Register of English Literary Manuscripts and Letters. University of Reading. pp. 1. Retrieved 26 January 2015. 
  8. Extracts of the reviews are reprinted in Aaronson, L. (1933). Poems. V. Gollancz. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Rubinstein, William D., ed (2011). "Aaronson, Lazarus Leonard". The Palgrave Dictionary of Anglo-Jewish History. Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 2. ISBN 978-1-4039-3910-4. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 Skolnik, Fred, ed (2007). "Aaronson, Lazarus Leonard". Encyclopaedia Judaica. Volume 1 (second ed.). Gale Thomson. pp. 224. ISBN 978-0-02-865928-2. 
  11. "[In the Divorce Court, London, yesterday..."]. The Glasgow Herald: p. 11. 30 October 1931. 
  12. Knowlson, James (1993). "Letter: Friends of Beckett". Jewish Quarterly (Routledge) 40 (1): 72. doi:10.1080/0449010X.1993.10705916. 
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 Jacobs, Arthur Chaim (1967). "Lazarus Aaronson: Two Unpublished Poems". Jewish Quarterly 15 (1-2): 13. doi:10.1080/0449010X.1967.10703091. 
  14. Baker, William (July 2010). "Reviewed Work: Whitechapel at War: Isaac Rosenberg and his Circle by Sarah MacDougall, Rachel Dickinson". The Modern Language Review 105 (3): 854. 
  15. Template:London Gazette
  16. Search results = au:L Aaronson, WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. Web, July 2, 2016.

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