"There remained in Leinster a king,
who was remarkably fond of hearing stories"

Joseph Jacobs was born on 29 August 1854 in Australia. He was educated at Sydney Grammar School and at the University of Sydney, where he won a scholarship for classics, mathematics and chemistry. He did not complete his studies in Sydney, but left for England at the age of 18 and entered St John's College, Cambridge. He graduated a B.A. in 1876, and in 1877 went to at the University of Berlin.

He was secretary of the Society of Hebrew Literature from 1878 to 1884, and in 1882, came into prominence as the writer of a series of articles in The Times on the persecution of Jews in Russia. This led to the formation of the Mansion House Fund and Committee, of which Jacobs was secretary from 1882 to 1900.

In 1888, in conjunction with Lucien Wolf, he compiled the Bibliotheca Anglo-Judaica: A Bibliographical Guide to Anglo-Jewish History and in 1890, he edited English Fairy Tales, the first of his series of books of fairy tales published during the next 10 years. He wrote many literary articles for the Athenaeum, a collection of which, George Eliot, Matthew Arnold, Browning, Newman, Essays and Reviews from the Athenaeum was published in 1891. As Others Saw Him, a historical novel dealing with the life of Christ, was published anonymously in 1895, and in the following year his Jewish Ideals and other Essays came out. In this year he was invited to the United States of America to give a course of lectures on the Philosophy of Jewish History.

From 1899-1900 he edited the journal Folklore, and from 1890 to 1912 he edited five collections of fairy tales: English Fairy Tales, More English Fairy Tales, Celtic Fairy Tales, More Celtic Fairy Tales, and European Folk and Fairy Tales, which were published with distinguished illustrations by John Dickson Batten. A selection of this particular genre of stories has been published by Wordsworth Editions in Irish Fairy Tales. Jacobs settled permanently in the United States. He wrote many articles for the Jewish Encyclopaedia, and was generally responsible for the style of the whole publication. It was completed in 1906, and he then became registrar and professor of English at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America at New York. He died on 30 January 1916.


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