Luzzatto, Ephraim

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LUZZATTO, EPHRAIM (Angelo ; 1729–1792), Italian Hebrew poet and physician. Ephraim was born in San Daniele del Friuli, son of Raffael Luzzatto, scion of one of the earliest Jewish families who settled in San Daniele. Already his grandfather, Isacco, embraced the profession of physician. Ephraim studied medicine in Padua between 1742 and 1751. It seems that afterwards Ephraim practiced at Padua, Trieste, and Leghorn. Luzzatto's earliest record at the Bevis Marks Synagogue in London is for the year 1764, although it seems that he had arrived in England already in 1755. In 1779 Ephraim was appointed physician in London's Portuguese community hospital, Beth Holim. Luzzatto was well known in the medical world of 18th-century England. He appears in a very positive light in the memoirs of John Taylor, the oculist to George iii. Like many of his contemporaries, Ephraim was known for his loose way of life. He frequented the gaming table as well as the theaters of Drury Lane. He had a quarrel with the actor Baddeley, whom, it seems, he cuckolded. In 1792 he left for a visit in Italy with his companion and lover Ann Davis. He died at Lausanne, and he was buried in the local burial ground.

Ephraim was also a poet. He collected his 55 poems, some of them written in Italy and some in England, Elleh Benei ha-Ne'urim ("These Are the Children of My Youth") in 1768 in London. The book was often republished, and influenced the poetry of M.J. *Lebensohn and J.L. *Gordon. The collection includes occasional poems, moralistic poetry, and some erotica. Most important, however, are his love sonnets which have, for the period, a remarkable lyrical quality. These displays a variety of moods: indulgent, satirical, and passionate. His poems reflect individual experience, and are thus an innovation and a precursor of the Hebrew lyric poetry of the Haskalah.


Klausner, Sifrut, 1 (19522), 295–306; J. Fich mann, in: Shirei Ephraim Luzzatto (1942), v–xx (introd.); H. Schirmann, ibid., 2 (1942/43); R.N. Salomon, in: jhset, 9 (1922), 85–102; C. Roth, in: Sefer Ḥayyim Schirmann (1970), 367–70. add. bibliography: L. Bonifacio, "Varieta' di motivo nei sonetti di Ephraim Luzzatto," in: afo, 28 (1989), 5–34; L. Bonifacio, "I sonetti di Ephraim Luzzatto nella poesia ebraico-italiana del settecento," in: Italia, 9 (1996), 97–113; S.G. Cusin and P.C. Ioly Zorattini, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Itinerari ebraici, I luoghi, la storia, l'arte (1998), 98; D. Mirsky, The Life and Work of Ephraim Luzzatto (1987); E. Morpurgo, "Samuel David Luzzatto e la sua famiglia," in: rmi, 39 (1973), 624–25.

[Elieser Kagan /

Samuele Rocca (2nd ed.)]