SHOMER (December 26,1846-November 24, 1905)
The author of novels, plays, and stories, “Shomer” was the pen name of Nokhum-Meyer Shaykevitsh, a pen name drawn from the last letters of his birth name. He was born into a wealthy family in Nesvizh, Minsk district. His father was unfit to lead a practical life. Until about seventeen years of age, Shomer attended religious primary schools and yeshivas. In spare moments he covertly read: Josephus, Shaarit yisroel (The remnant of Israel), Kalman Schulman’s translation of Mistere pariz (The mysteries of Paris [original: Mystères de Paris]) [by Eugène Sue], and Avraham Mapu’s Ahavat tsiyon (Love of Zion) and Ashmat shomron (Shomron’s fault), which he received from a rabbi in Kapulye (Kopyl, Kapyl), where his father was working for several years. From Moses Mendelssohn’s translation of Tanakh, he mastered German, and he also began reading Russian books. At a young age he wrote a novel in four parts entitled Ahavat kedem and a volume of poems entitled Hare bashamayim (Mountains in the sky). At age twenty he married and lived with his father-in-law Mikhl Bertshinski in Pinsk, where he befriended the local followers of the Jewish Enlightenment: Moyshe-Arn Shatskes, A. D. Dubzevitsh, Tsvi Hacohen Shereshevski, Tsvi-Hirsh Maslyanski, and Avrom-Khayim Rozenberg. In the summer of 1869, he debuted in print in Hamelits (The advocate) with an article, “Okhele perot shukhane etsim” (Fruit eaters, tree dwellers). He also published there translations of popular science articles and correspondence pieces from Pinsk (1871-1872). After losing his dowry on a failed lumber business, he moved in 1876 to join his rich uncle Vigodski in Vilna. The publisher Shmuel-Yoysef Fin (Fuenn) had read his Hebrew novel Zevaḥe hainkvizitsiya (Sacrifices of the Inquisition), but he asked Shomer to write a chapbook in Yiddish. The very next morning he brought in the story A toyter beoylem-haze (A dead man in this world), 24 pp., which he signed Shomer for the first time. In nine days he completed nine chapbooks, which were all published, and S. Y. Fin paid him the high price for that period of three rubles per booklet. At the time he found work with his uncle—as a military contractor in Oran (Varėna), Lithuania, later in Yanove (Jonava), Lublin district, and at the time of the Russo-Turkish War as a provider of butter and dairy to the Russian army in Romania. In Bucharest he came to know Avrom Goldfaden in his only recently founded Yiddish theater, which made a huge impression on him.
Shomer’s first chapbooks were dispersed over the entire Pale of Settlement and Galicia, and their author became widely popular. Yiddish publishers quarreled over publishing his books. The great Vilna firm of the “Widow and Brothers Romm” concluded a contract for him to provided novels. He also wrote for the Vilna publisher “Mats” and for publishing houses in Warsaw, Berdichev, Odessa, and elsewhere. Literature had now become Shomer’s means of support.
For the sake of the Yiddish theater, he settled in Odessa, began writing plays, initially for the Yoysef-Yude Lerner’s troupe and later for his own organized troupe, and toured through a variety of cities in southern Russia and Bessarabia. In the summer of 1881, he launched a Yiddish theater in Kishinev, in 1882 again in Odessa in a theatrical partnership with Goldfaden and Lerner. From 1885 he spent several years in Warsaw, where a number of his plays were staged. In 1888 he returned to Pinsk and directed a Yiddish theater there. At the request of Yiddish stage actors in New York, he traveled there in 1889. The Yiddish press and Yiddish theatrical world received him triumphally, and the plays he directed enjoyed enormous success. Due to his impracticality in his own economic state of affairs, he at first suffered badly, though he was later restored materially, especially after he began writing novels in booklets for Sapirshteyn, the publisher of Morgn zhurnal (Morning journal).
Shomer wrote stories, novels, poems, essays, epigrams, humorous sketches, translations, and satirical verse. Aside from Hamelits, he placed work in: Avrom-Ber Gotlober’s Haboker or (Morning’s light), Hamodia laḥadashim (The monthly herald) (1900-1901), and other Hebrew newspapers; and Morgn zhurnal for which he was a regular contributor, Yidishes tageblat (Jewish daily newspaper), Di idishe bihne (The Yiddish stage), Minikes yohrbukh (Minike’s annual) (1904-1905), and Yudishes folksblat (Jewish people newspaper) in St. Petersburg, among others. He also wrote a great deal for the periodicals that he published himself, periodicals in which he often wrote the lion’s share of the text: Der litvak oder der talmed khokhem (The Litvak or the learned man) (Odessa, September 15-October 16, 1883) and Bilder fun’m leben (Scenes from life) (Odessa, 1883-1884); in New York, Der menshenfraynd, beletristishe vokhnshrifṭ fir nayes, literatur, kunst und unterhaltung (The philanthropist, fiction weekly for news, literature, art, and conversation) (1889-1891, 51 issues), Der nayer telefon (The new telephone) (1890-1891), Der vegvayzer in der amerikaner biznes velt (Guide to the American business world) (1892), Der land khokhem (The extraordinarily wise man) (1893-1894, 12 issues, with different titles for different issues: 1-5. General title; 6. Der shrayer [The yeller]; 7. Der afikomen [The afikomen]; 8. Der griner [The greenhorn]; 9. Der gan eydn [Paradise]; 10. Der kolboynik (The rascal); 11. Der shoyfer [The shofar]; 12. Der esreg [The citron]), Der yudisher pok (The Jewish Puck) with Moyshe Zayfert (1894-1896, 20 issues, in which he placed, aside from other items, a novel about a greenhorn scholar, Der geler gilgl [The yellow transformation]); and other holiday and monthly papers, such as Der homen-tash (The Purim pastry) (1897), Der nayer khad gadye (The new only kid) (1898), Di naye megile (The new scroll) (1898), Di kneydl (The dumpling), Der lulev (The lulav), Yontef blumen (Holiday flowers), Der seyder (The Passover seder), Der klaper (The rattle), Der shalakhmones (The presents exchanged on Purim), and Di natsyon (The nation) (August 1901-July 1902, entitled Di idishe natsyon [The Jewish nation] August 1902-January 1903) with Moshe Hakohen Goldman. His pen names include: Ben Yitskhok, Dr, Morison, Dr. Nathan, Dr. Pinski, Horeson, N. M., Shemen, and Shimen-Khayim Kritishov. His work appeared in: Nakhmen Mayzil, Amerike in yidishn vort (America in the Yiddish word) (New York, 1955); and Otto Best, Mameloschen (Mother tongue) (Frankfurt, 1973), pp. 171-72. He died in New York.
Dr. Eugene Orenstein
(According to Kalmen Marmor, Shomer published in Yiddish roughly 205 novels and stories and fifty plays, and in Hebrew some fifteen novels and numerous poems and stories. Zalmen Reyzen made a great beginning in his Leksikon, but he admitted that “the listing…is only a portion of the whole corpus.” The same may be said of our list [below]. Even the titles and their spelling are often impossible to check, all the more so for the noted editions. A fuller list of Shomer’s plays may be found in Zalmen Zilbertsvayg’s Leksikon fun yidishn teater [Handbook of the Yiddish theater], but altogether this is still far from a complete and precise Shomer bibliography.)
His works would include: Khosn damim, oder di blutiger liebe, a historisher roman (Bloody groom, or the bloody love, a historical novel) (Vilna: Sh. Y. Fin, 187?), later edition (Warsaw, 1889—in Hebrew, Mot yesharim o kayin [The death of the righteous or Cain], original title Zevaḥe hainkvizitsiya); Di printsesin in vald oder dos vald-kind (The princess of the forest, or the child of the woods) (Vilna: L. Mats, 1876), 28 pp., later editions, (1877, 1881, 1886, 1895, 1912, 1919 [New York]); Khatskil der bobes zon, zeyer asheyne geshikhte, vos iz givezin, zi iz zeyer gishmak tsum lezin, mi ken funir lustig verin, un oykh fergyesen taykhin trerin, asheyner muser iz in ir faran far dem vos iz nisht keyn bulvan (Khatskl, grandma’s son, a beautiful story which took place, it is tasteful to read, one may be made cheerful from it, and also forget deep tears, a lovely moral there is therein for one who is no cretin) (Vilna: Sh. Y. Fin, 1876), 30 pp., later editions (1893, 1913, 1927); Mekhutonim fun sonim, akurtser roman (In-laws of enemies, a short novel) (Vilna: Rozenkrants-Fin, 1876), 40 pp., later editions (1893, 1913, 1927); A mieser toes, a satirishe ertseylung (A disgusting error, satirical story) (Vilna: Fin, Rozenkrants un Shrifzetser, 1876), 24 pp., later editions (Warsaw, 1910; Vilna, 1913, 1927); Atoyter beoylem-haze (A dead man in this world) (Vilna: Fin, Rozenkrants un Shrifzetser, 1876), 24 pp., later editions (1892, 1913, 1927); Tsvey teg un tsvey nekht, tsvey sheyne ertseylungen (Two days and two nights, two lovely stories) (Vilna: L. Mats,1876), 36 pp.; An ungerikhter glik (An injudicious joy) (Vilna: Rozenkrants-Shrifzetser, 1877), 24 pp., later editions (1913, 1923, 1927); Di gan eydn feygele (The bird of paradise) (Vilna: Shventsaner, 1878, 1981, 1888, 1894), (Vilna: L. Mats, 1908, 1912, 1914, 1919), 32 pp., (New York, 1919); Der katorzhnik (The convict) (Vilna, 1878), later editions (Vilna: Funk, 1881; Vilna: Romm, 1888, 1889, 1910), 144 pp.; Der baron de agilar, roman (The Baron de Aguilar, a novel) (Warsaw: Heym un perets bletnitski, 1878), 74 pp., later editions (1884, 1890); Di dray kameyes (The three amulets) (Vilna: Y. L. Mats, 1878, 1879, 1898), 30 pp.; Der ferlorener zohn mit di zaydene hemdele (The bewildered son with the silken shirt) (Vilna: Shventsaner, 1878), 32 pp., (Vilna: Mats, 1912, 1913); Der blutiger “adye!” oder gift in gliksbekher (The bloody “good-bye!” or poison in a cup of happiness) (Vilna, 1879, 1911), 88 pp., later editions (Warsaw: Y. Breyzblat, n.d.); Der gliklikher pastukh, a vahre geshikhte (The happy shepherd, a true story) (Vilna, 1879), 40 pp., later editions (1887, 1888, 1893; Warsaw, 1894); Roshkele kozak oder aklap nokh aklap, akharakterisṭishes ertseylung fun yudishen lebin, ṿelkhes kon dinen als shpigel far shlekhte froyen (Roshkele the Cossack, or one blow after another, a characteristic story of Jewish life, which can serve as a mirror for bad women) (Vilna: Y. L. Mats, 1879), 32 pp., later editions (1887, 1912, 1913); Shoded yashar oder der frumer merder (Honest robbery, or a pious murderer) (Vilna: Y. L. Mats, 1879), 134 pp., later edition under the title Der frumer merder (The pious murderer) (Vilna: Romm, 1888, 1894); Der bal-tshuve oder der falsher khosn (The penitent, or the false bridegroom), a novel in two parts (Vilna: Widow and Brothers Romm, 1880), 170 pp., later edition (1890); Der kosherer yud oder tsvey kets in eyn zak, a roman (The kosher Jew, or two cats in one bag, a novel) (Vilna, 1880), 190 pp., later editions (1884, 1900, 1911); Der gemakhter yoyresh, a historisher roman (The contrived heir, a historical novel) (Warsaw: Yoysef Unterhendler, 1881), 111 pp.; Di hayntmodishe kale (The fashionable bride) (Vilna: Mats, 1881, 1887), 56 pp., (Warsaw, 1888/1889); Di ayzerne froy oder dos ferkoyfte kind (The iron woman, or the purchased child) (Vilna: Y. L. Mats, 1882), 156 pp., later edition (1903/1904); Di ungliklikhe liebe oder der kosherer mamzer (The unhappy love, or the kosher bastard), a novel in two parts (Warsaw, 1882, 1907/1908, 1908/1909); Di khalitse, roman (Release from levirate marriage obligation, a novel) (Warsaw: Borekh Kopelovitsh, 1883), later editions (1884, 1893); Der tiranisher bruder oder der apekun (The tyrannical brother, or the tutor) (Warsaw: Gins, 1883, later edition (Warsaw, 1888/1889); Fayner yungermantsik, ertseylung (Fine little young man, a story) (Lemberg, 1883); Der ungetrayer khosn oder der modner lehrer (The unfaithful husband, or the strange teacher), a novel in three parts (Vilna: Romm, 1884, 1888), 90 pp. + 86 pp. + 88 pp.; Der oytser oder der kalter gazlen (The treasure, or the cold thief) (Vilna: Romm, 1884, 1885), 84 pp., 78 pp.; Aget mit akhasene (A divorce with a wedding) (Vilna: Romm, 1884); Der gebildeter amorets, historisher roman (The educated ignoramus, a historical novel) (Vilna: Romm, 1884, 1890, 1893), 108 pp., also published by Borekh Kopelovitsh in Dvinsk (Daugavpils), Latvia; Der khokhem, roman (The wise man, a novel) (Vilna: Romm, 1884; Warsaw, 1890); Der podryatshik, roman (The entrepreneur, a novel) second printing (Warsaw, 1884, later edition (1888/1889); R’ danyel der bal nes, a vare gishikhte (Reb Daniel the miracle worker, a true story) (Vilna, 1884), 32 pp., later editions (1886, 1895, 1912, 1914, 1919); Der antlofener soldat (The fugitive soldier), a novel in two parts (Warsaw, 1884); Di yudishe kenigin (The Jewish queen) (Warsaw, 1884); Akhasene ohn akale (A wedding without a bride) (Vilna: Borekh Kopelovitsh, 1884), 56 pp., (Warsaw, 1892); Der dertrunkener in taykh vaysil, roman (The drowned man in the Vistula River, a novel) (Warsaw, 1885); Di gliklikhe inzl oder dos derkenen zikh (The happy island, or the one who revealed himself) (Warsaw, 1884/1885); Di tsitkonyes oder gut shabes yakhne, ertsehlung (The pious women, or good sabbath Yakhne, a story) (Vilna: Y. L. Mats, 1885, 1886), later edition (Warsaw: Y. Breyzblat, n.d.); Der shreklikher merder rikhard oder der ziegel (The frightening murderer Richard, or the seal) (Vilna: Y. L. Mats, 1885), later editions (1912, 1914); Di ferkoyfte kale, roman (The purchased bride, a novel) (1886, 1888/1889); Gvald vu iz mayn bord, roman (Help, where is my beard, a novel) (Vilna: Y. L. Mats, 1886), 79 pp., later editions (1895, 1911); Tayfel khapt dem melamed (The devil grabbed the teacher) (Vilna, 1886); Di raykhe yerushe oder amayse ohn asof (The rich inheritance, or a story without an ending) (Vilna, 1885/1886); Der spekulyant oder tsvey gehen tantsin (The speculator, or two went dancing) (Vilna, 1886), 43 pp.; Khatskele kotsin, aparodye oys dem daytshen (Khatskele, the regurgitator, a parody of the Germans) (Vilna, 1885/1886), 80 pp.; Dos redele dreyt zikh (The wheel rotates) (Vilna, 1886); Der shlimazldiger hoz (The luckless hare) (Vilna: Y. L. Mats, 1886), 68 pp., later edition (1908/1909); Di goldene kelber oder der katsef in salon, roman (The golden calves, or the butcher in the parlor, a novel) (Vilna: Romm, 1887), 2 vols., later edition (1890); Der gebentshter patsh, ertsehlung (The blessed smack, a story) (Vilna, 1887, 1888); Amensh als got (A man as God) (Vilna: Romm, 1887, 1888, 1892), 73 pp.; A patsh fun zayn liben nomen, roman (A smack from the good Lord, a novel), second printing (Warsaw: Gins, 1887), 33 pp., later edition (1894); Der puster meyukhes, ertsehlung (The idle aristocrat, a story) (Vilna: Romm, 1887), 58 pp.; Paltiel oks der antloffener kassir (Paltiel Ox the treasurer who ran off) (Vilna, 1887), 167 pp., later editions (1888/1889; Vilna: Brothers Bletnitski, 1909), 107 pp.; Tsvishn tsvey flamen oder der hefker-yung (Between two flames, or the wanton youth), a novel in two parts (Vilna: Romm, 1887), 128 pp. + 141 pp., later editions (1888, 1912); Asheyne mayse nor akurtse, ertsehlung (A lovely tale, though a short one, a story) (Vilna: Romm, 1887); Ashprung in himel oder oys gvir vayter shnayder, roman (A leap into the sky, or from a wealthy men a tailor once again, a novel) (Vilna: Y. L. Mats, 1886/1887, 1887/1888, 1888/1889); Der durkh geyogter khosn (The hunted bridegroom) (Vilna, 1886/1887), 32 pp.; Der yunger por (The young pair) (Vilna, 1886/1887), 32 pp.; Der khosn hit zayn vort, roman (The bridegroom watches his word, a novel) (Vilna, 1886/1887), 32 pp.; Akluge eytse (A wise piece of advice) (Vilna, 1886/1887), 31 pp.; Dos antikel oder di koshere metsie, roman (The antique, or the kosher bargain, a novel) (Vilna: Y. L. Mats, 1888); Der falsher prints, historishe ertsehlung (The fake prince, a historical story) (Vilna: Romm, 1888), 72 pp., later editions (1891, 1892); Halb mentsh halb affe, oder vu zukht man dem emes, ertsehlung (Half-man, half-ape, or where to look for the truth, a story) (Vilna: Romm, 1887/1888, 1888/1889), 66 pp.; Honig fun aleyb oder ordentlikh betsahlt, ertsehlung (Honey from a lion, or properly remunerated, a story) (Vilna, 1888), 32 pp., later editions (1889, 1896, 1914); Di khatsufe oder an iberkerenish (The impudent woman, or an upheaval) (Vilna, 1887/1888); Di mume toltse, roman (Aunt Toltse, a novel) (Vilna, 1888, 1888/1889; Warsaw: Y. Breyzblat, n.d.); Di tsvey gorendige liebe oder gefelt aykh mayn shviger (The two-storey love, or you like my mother-in-law) (Vilna: Romm, 1888), 78 pp.; Di shlimazldige knishiklekh (The luckless little knishes), a supplement to Yudishe folksblat (1888), 16 pp.; Der goldener foygel (The golden bird) (Warsaw, 1888), 48 pp.; Akale fun dray khasanim, historisher roman (A bride for three grooms, a historical novel) (Vilna, 1887/1888), 61 pp. (Vilna, 1891/1892); Der shlimazldiger mazl-tov oder adele (The luckless congratulations, or Adele) (Vilna, 1888), 46 pp.; Kalmen un zalmen (Kalmen and Zalmen) (Vilna, 1889), later editions (1895, 1912, 1913), 32 pp.; Fun gehenem in gan eydn oder der kholem (From hell to paradise, or a dream) (Vilna, 1889), later editions (1889/1890, 1912, 1913, 1914), 32 pp.; Oys kale vayter moyd, a vahre ertsehlung (From bride to unmarried woman, a true story) (Vilna: Y. L. Mats, 1888/1889, 1895, 1912), 32 pp.; Ongefayft (Cheated) (Vilna, 1889), 32 pp., later edition (1912); Akhosn af avayle, ertsehlung (A bridegroom for a while, a story), second printing (Vilna, 1888/1889), later editions (1899, 1912); Der khosn kumt, ertsehlung (The bridegroom comes, a story) (Vilna, 1888/1889, 1912); Atate fun yene velt (A father from the other world) (Vilna: Funk, 1888/1889, 1895); Der yeshive-bokher, humoristishe ertsehlung (The yeshiva lad, a humorous story), second printing (Vilna, 1888/1889, 1912); Akale af prokat, ertsehlung (A bride for rent, a story), second printing (Vilna: Mats, 1888/1889, 1912), under the title Di geborgte kale (The borrowed bride) (New York, 1919); Alung un leben oder di eyshes-ishnitse (A lung and a life, or the adulteress) (Vilna, 1889), 32 pp., later editions (1895, 1912); Gelt far petsh, ertsehlung (Money for smacks, a story) (Vilna: Y. L. Mats, 1889, 1912), 32 pp.; Di madam plotke, ertsehlung (Madame Plotke, a story) (Vilna, 1889, 1895, 1912), 32 pp., later editions (Warsaw: A. Kahana, n.d.); Der egiptisher homen oder di lange nez, historishe ertsehlung (The Egyptian Haman, or the long noses, a historical story) (Vilna: Romm, 1889), 52 pp.; Di posele heshayne oder akhasene mit gvald (The invalid hosanna, or a wedding by force) (Vilna: Mats, 1914), 32 pp., (Warsaw, n.d.); Dos fardreyenish (The bother) (Vilna, 1887/1888); Fon kleyn tsu der kreyn (From youth to the crown), a historical novel in two parts, second printing (Vilna, 1889), 134 pp. + 132 pp.; Arefue far der make (A remedy for the scourge), second printing (Vilna, 1887/1888); Ashpitsel fun ashadkhn, ertsehlung (A matchmaker’s prank, a story) (Vilna: Y. L. Mats, 1889, 1889/1890, 1912, 1913), 31 pp.; Yokl mops oder fun leyd in freyd, ertsehlung (Yokl Mops, or from suffering to joy, a story) (Vilna, 1889/1890), 32 pp., later editions (1896, 1912, 1913); Di shlang in gan eydn, roman (The snake in the Garden of Eden, a novel) (Vilna: Romm), 75 pp.; Der bal moyfes oder der gilgl (The miracle worker or metamorphosis) (Vilna, 1889/1890); A zohn fun tsvey mames (A son of two mothers) (Vilna, 1889/1890); Der mord oys liebe, historisher roman (Murder out of love, a historical novel) (Vilna, 1889.1890), 2 vols., “[it] can serve as the continuation to my novel Fon kleyn tsu der kreyn”; Bihnen arum honig oder di raykhe mume (Bees around honey, or the wealthy aunt), a novel in three parts (Vilna: Romm, 1890), 92 pp. + 96 pp. + 94 pp.; Homens mapole oder der psak, ertsehlung (Haman’s downfall, or the verdict, a story) (Vilna: Mats, 1889/1890), 32 pp.; Nisht geshtoygen un nisht gefloygen, ertsehlung (Completely untrue, a story) (Vilna, 1890); Kugel, ertseylung (Pudding, a story) (Vilna, 1890); Der shtrenger feter oder fun toyt lebedig (The stern uncle, or the living dead), a novel in two parts (Vilna: Rom, 1890), 128 pp. + 158 pp.; Anar fun bod aroys, ertsehlung (A fool from the bath, a story) (Vilna: Mats, 1889/1890, 1912), 32 pp., (Warsaw: A. Kahana, n.d.); Der kortenshpieler, roman (The card player, a novel) (Warsaw: Gins, 1892), 39 pp.; Geyrush portugal oder der falsher hertsog, historishe ertsehlung (The expulsion from Portugal, or the false duke, a historical story) (Warsaw: Brothers Blotnitski, 1892), 79 pp., (Warsaw, 1895; Odessa, 1902), 79 pp.; Der poymanik oder dos heldishe medkhen (The young Jewish draftee [compelled to serve for many years], or the heroic girl) (Vilna: Romm, 1892, 1897), 42 pp.; Der id un di grefin, oder yudele der velt berimter khudoznik, roman fun di rusishe emigranten in amerika (The Jew and the countess, or Yudele, the world-renowned artist, a novel of the Russian immigrants in America), in four parts (Vilna: M. Katsenelenboygen, 1892?); Der ormer millyoner (The poor millionaire)—according to Shomers mishpet (The judgment on Shomer), rehashings of Sue’s Mystères de Paris and Dumas’s Le Comte de Monte-Cristo—(Warsaw, 1893); Nit toyt nit lebedig, ertsehlung fun dem batlen yudke shmerkes (Neither dead nor alive, a story about the idle Yudke, son of Shmerke) (Vilna: Fin-Mats, 1893), 72 pp.; Der tiran, a roman fun der hayntiger tiranisher regierung fun rusland (The tyrant, a novel of the present tyrannical government of Russia) (New York: Yankev Sapirshteyn, 1893), perhaps the same as Nikolai der ershter (Nikolai I); Der treyfnyak (The miscreant), a novel in two parts (Vilna, 1893/1894), 88 pp. + 92 pp.; Yekhiel buf (Yekhiel the bouffant) (Vilna, 1894), 31 pp.; Di naye velt oder der idesher leben in amerika (The new world, or Jewish life in America), a novel in four parts (Vilna: M. Katsenelenbogen, 1893/1894), 62 pp. + 62 pp. + 66 pp. + 63 pp.; Di agune, roman (The deserted wife, a novel) (Vilna, 1894), 2 vols., later edition (Warsaw, 1902); Der ferflekter yikhes oder fun der khupe tsum toyt (The tarnished pedigree, or from the wedding canopy till death), a novel in two parts (Warsaw, 1894), 120 pp.; Der raykher betler (The wealthy beggar), a novel in two parts (Vilna: Romm, 1894); Rikhard tsvishen shpanishe royber (Richard among the Spanish thieves) (Vilna: Rozenkrants-Shriftzetser, 1894), 32 pp., later edition (1927); Der blutiger kenig, historisher roman (The bloody king, a historical novel) (New York, 1895); Di amerikanisher glikin, roman (American happiness, a novel) (Vilna: Romm, 1895), 5 vols., later edition (Vilna: M. Katsenelenboygen), 4 vols.; Fun vaser in fayer (From water to fire) (Vilna: L. Mats, 1895, 1912, 1913), 32 pp.; Brayndele oder shlekht spekulirt (Brayndele, or poorly speculated) (Vilna: L. Mats, 1896, 1912, 1914), 32 pp.; Ashnel in noz, ertsehlung (A flick on the nose, a story) (Vilna, 1896, 1912), 31 pp.; Goldhendler, roman (Gold merchants, a novel) (Vilna: Bletnitski, 1896, 1908/1909), 40 pp.; Der shtern-zeher, roman fun yudish-amerikanisher leben (The stargazer, a novel of Jewish American life) (New York, 1896); Ester (Esther) (Vilna, 1896/1897), 42 pp.; Di farkerte velt, roman fun yudishen leben in amerika (The world reversed, a novel of Jewish life in America), in four parts, a sequel to Di amerikanisher glikin (Vilna: M. Katsenelenbogen, 1897); A shreklikhe geshikhte (A terrifying story) (New York, 1897); Getraye muter, roman (Faithful mother, a novel) (Warsaw, 1897); Di sheyne malye, roman (The lovely Malye, a novel) (Warsaw, 1897), 44 pp.; Der prezident oder der idisher lebin in rumenyen (The president, or Jewish life in Romania) (Vilna: M. Katsenelenboygen, 1898), 4 vols.; Der zhentelman oder sof ganef letlie (The gentleman, or the end of the thief at the gallows), a novel in five parts, “of American…Romanian Jewish life” (Vilna: Romm-Katsenelenboygen, 1899, 1899/1900); A funk yudishkeyt oder der blut bilbl (A spark of Jewishness, or the blood libel), “a novel in four parts of American and Romanian Jewish life” (Vilna: Romm, 1899); Nikolai der ershter (keyzer fun russland) (Nikolai I, Czar of Russia) (New York: Hebrew Publishing Co., 19--), 96 pp.; Der peddler, roman (The peddler, a novel) (New York: Hebrew Publishing Co., 19--), 137 pp.; Di geheyme yuden, roman fun der yudisher geshikhte in shpanyen (The secret Jews, a novel of Jewish history in Spain) (New York: Hebrew Publishing Co., 1901), 116 pp.; Rothshild (Rothschild) (Brooklyn: Hebrew Publishing Co., 1902), 84 pp.; Der baron un di markize, roman (The baron and the marquess, a novel) (Odessa: Brother Bletnitski, 1902), 74 pp.; Der kheyrem, roman (The excommunication, a novel) (Warsaw, 1902), 144 pp.; Di naye hagode far amerikaner smoker (The new Haggadah for American smokers) (New York, 1902?), 12 pp.; Di blinde yesoyme oder tsvishen tigern, roman (The blind orphan [fem.], or among tigers, a novel) (Vilna, 1903/1904), 156 pp., later editions (1911, 1915); Der nayster prints mit zeks fersholtene damen oder der ring fun shloyme hameylekh (The newest prince with six accursed women, or the ring of King Solomon) (Warsaw, 1903/1904); Rebe shmuel mit zayn shene tokhter oder khosn kale trefen zikh in valdl (Rebbe Shmuel and his lovely daughter, or groom and bride meet in the woods) (Warsaw: Leyb Morgenshtern, 1903/1904), 14 pp.; Di briderlikhe liebe in di groyse stepes fun dem vilden afrika (Brotherly love on the great steppes of wild Africa) (Warsaw: Leyb Morgenshtern, 1903/1904), 8 pp.; Der kenig kazimir, historisher roman (King Casimir, a historical novel) (Warsaw: Ginz, 1905), 40 pp.; Der shreklikher merder krifan, roman (The terrifying murderer Krifan, a novel) (Warsaw, 1908); Gebliben bay di latkes (Left with the potato pancakes) (New York: Hebrew Publishing Co., 1909), 16 pp.; Der letster yudisher kenig, historisher roman (The last Jewish king, a historical novel) (Vilna: M. A. Katsenelenbogen, 1910/1911), 2 vols.; Di sheyne rokhele, a mayse fun der inkvizitsye-tsayt in portugal (The lovely Rachel, a tale from the era of the Inquisition in Portugal) (Vilna: Mats, 1912), 32 pp.; Itsikl oder dos yudish glied (Little Isaac, or the Jewish member) (Vilna: L. Mats, 1912, 1914), later editions (Warsaw: Y. Breyzblat, n.d.); Di shabesdige petsh, ertsehlung (The Sabbath smack, a story) (Vilna: L. Mats, 1913), 32 pp., later edition (Warsaw: A. Kahana, n.d.); Ashed in zak, ertsehlung (A demon in the bag, a story) (Vilna: L. Mats, 1914), 32 pp.; Der nayer noged oder di shlekhte shtifmuter (The nouveau-riche, or the evil stepmother) (Vilna: L. Mats, 1915), 37 pp., (New York: Hebrew Publishing Co., 1919); Yudke shmerkes fohrt keyn amerika (Yudke, son of Shmerke, travels to America) (New York: Hebrew Publishing Co., 1917), 65 pp.; Di shreklikhe geheymnis, roman (The frightening secret, a novel) (New York: Hebrew Publishing Co., 1925), 154 pp.; Goles moskva, roman (Exile in Moscow, a novel) (New York: Hebrew Publishing Co., 1928), 2 vols. (2440 pp.); A man mit dray vayber, roman (A man with three wives, a novel), reworked from the German (Warsaw: Y. Breyzblat, 1929/1930), 68 pp.
The following is a listing of novels and stories for which we do not have full bibliographic information: Di tsvey yesoymim (The two orphans) (Vilna); Di ungliklikhe rokhl (Unhappy Rachel), Di ungliklikhe sheyndele (Unhappy Sheyndele), Di blutige liebe (The bloody love)—Warsaw; Fun trohn tsu eshafot, roman (From the throne to the execution scaffold, a novel), 2 vols.; Der shteynerner mensh, roman (The stone man, a novel), 463 pp.; Yudke shmerkes gliken in amerika (The good fortune of Yudke, son of Shmerke), 71 pp.; Liebe un rakhe oder falsh beshuldigt (Love and revenge, or falsely accused), Der shreklikher shabes (The terrifying Sabbath), Der border in nets oder borg makht zorg (The boarder enmeshed, or credit leads to worry), Di ferkishefte tsieg (The enchanted goat), 8 pp.; A zohn a doktor, a siper hamayse in metrishe ferzen (A son, a doctor, a plotline in metrical verse) in Yidishes tageblat; Der antlofener fun sibir (The escapee from Siberia), three notebooks; Der guter tayfel (The good devil), twenty-two notebooks; Tsvishen liebe un rakhe (Between love and revenge), forty-five notebooks; Vide fun an arestant (Confession of a prisoner); Der toyter gast (The dead guest), initially in notebooks, later in seven volumes; Shreklikhe geshikhte (Terrifying story); and Grosfirsht konstantin (Grand Duke Constantine)—many of the above published by the Hebrew Publishing Company in New York.
Shomer was also the author of numerous plays and operettas, such as: Der neyder oder akive mit di 24 toyzend talmidim (The vow, or Akiva with his 24,000 students), Der shkontist (The discount banker), Der volf in shofen fel (The wolf in sheep’s clothing), Di nekome oder yudes (The revenge, or Judith), Tsilye oder geretet durkh a kind (Celia, or saved by a child), Esterke oder di yudishe polnishe kenigin (Esther, or the Polish Jewish queen), Himl (Heaven), Erd un shvindel (Land and fraud), Yude haleyvi (Judah Halevi) which Moyshe Zayfert plagiarized as his own play under the title Shoymer yisroel (Guardian of Israel), Shoshane di blum fun yerikhe (Shoshana, the flower of Jericho), Di getoyfte malke oder di yuden freser (The baptized queen, or the Jewish glutton), Kapitan drayfus (Captain Dreyfus), Dvoyre hanevie oder yoyel un sisro (The prophetess Deborah, or Jael and Sisera), Der yudisher graf oder dos ferbitene kind (The Jewish count, or the replaced child), Rivke oder a funk yudishkeyt (Rebecca, or a spark of Jewishness), Di merderin (The murderess), Di laykhtzinige oder froyenfarfirer (The frivolous man, or the seducer of women), Titus haroshe (The evil Titus), Der gelt kenig (The money king), Di iden-freser oder di getoyfte malke (The Jewish glutton, or the baptized queen), Di idishe emigranten oder der bigamist (The Jewish immigrants, or the bigamist), Amerikaner yudishkeyt (American Jewishness), Di lustige kavalyeren (The cheerful cavaliers), Shprintse di meklerin (Shprintse the [female] broker) which may be the same as Kokete damen (Flirtatious women), A idish kind (A Jewish child), Dem rebetsins tokhter (der yudishe graf) (The daughter of the rabbi’s wife, the Jewish count), Di grine oder der feter fun amerika (The greenhorns, or the uncle from America), Di goldene medine (The golden country), Dem kenigs shpiegel oder ani shloyme (The king’s mirror, or I am Solomon), Der muser (The moral), Der parazit (The parasite), Der pasha (The pasha), and Der plimenik (The nephew), among others. A number of Shomer’s plays were never performed. Some of them may be found in the YIVO archives in New York. Many of them were dramatizations of his novels with their titled frequently changed.
Published plays (almost all of them staged) include: Der revizor (The inspector-general), “a comedy freely reworked from the well-known Russian comedy Revizor” (Odessa: A. Shultse, 1883), 56 pp.; Der lebediger toyter (The living corpse), a comedy (Odessa, 1883); Der shreklikher blut bilbl fun tisa esler (in ungaren) oder di naye megiles ester (The terrifying blood libel in Tiszaeszlár, Hungary, or the new Scroll of Esther), a translation (Odessa, 1884), 90 pp.; Der idisher porets (The Jewish lord), “a drama in five acts and ten scenes” (Vilna, 1888, 1897, 1909), 72 pp.; Di shpanishe inkvizitsyon (The Spanish Inquisition), a tragedy (New York: B. Rabinovits, 1900), 72 pp., “culled from my own novel Khosn damim (Bloody groom),” a comedy, later edition (1913); Di kokete damen (The flirtatious women), a comedy (Odessa, 1882), 78 pp., (New York: B. Rabinovits, 1900; New York: Hebrew Publishing Co., 1910); Tsveyter homen, historishe operete (Second Haman, a historical operetta) (Warsaw: Warsaw Yiddish Theater, 1906/1907), 58 pp., later edition (Warsaw, 1908); Moyshe soldat (Moses, the soldier), a drama (Przemyśl: Amkroyt et fraynd, 1912/1913), 64 pp. One-act plays that appeared Der yudisher pok in New York: Redaktor und redaktorikhe (Editor and editorial) 5, 6, 8-11; Lebedige meysim (Living corpses) 19, 20 (1895); Der nihilist (The nihilist) 2. 2-10 (1895).
His whole life Shomer also wrote in Hebrew. Among his books in that language: Aḥarit tsadikim (End of the righteous), Taut goy (Gentile mistake), Keviya taḥat keviya (Burn below burn), and Mumar lehakhis (Convert to spite)—all Warsaw (1881); Hanidḥat (The rejected one) (Vilna-Warsaw, 1885/1886-1886/1887); Mot yesharim o kayin (Warsaw, 1886/1887); Pinkas patuaḥ (Records closed) (Vilna, 1901/1902); Raḥel hayafa (The beautiful Rachel), trans. Ḥ. Sh. Shpiro (Jerusalem, 1903/1904); Shire shomer vezikhronotav (The poems of Shomer and his memoirs) (Tel Aviv, 1951/1952). The Hebrew series of stories involving “Yudka, son of Shmerke” was translated by Sh. Mandelkern and published in Allgemeine Zeitung des Judenthums (General newspaper of Jewry).
Shomer also published several letter-writing manuals: Shomers briefenshteller (Shomer’s letter-writing manual) (Vilna: The Widow and Brothers Romm, 1898/1899); Shomers briefenshteller, alerhand brief fir kleyn un fir groys, fir orim un fir raykh (Shomer’s letter-writing manual, for young and old, for poor and rich) (Vilna: Yoysef Reznikovski in Slonim, part 1, 1900?, part 2 (including various stories, fables, epigrams, letters, and important matters concerning America), 1902, later editions (1912, 1913, 1914)—over fifty editions; Shaykevitsh’s nayer briefenshteler (Shaykevitsh’s new letter-writing manual) (New York: Hebrew Publishing Co., 1905), 189 pp., later editions (New York, 1927, 1928), 189 pp. + 31 pp., “with a supplement of selected letters for children’s writings”; Shomers briefenshteler (Berdichev, 1907/1908), 96 pp. He also published Di yudishe calendar (The Jewish calendar) (Vilna, 1886/1887).
Because of Shomer’s enormous popularity, a gang of imitator emerged, who through various twists of his name sought to delude purchasers of chapbooks and “highly interesting novels.” One such using the name Shomer [spelled slightly differently] brought out a series of storybooks. Another published a story entitled Malyater ganef (The malicious thief) (Vilna, 1885) under the name “Shaykevitsh son of Shomer.” Yet other writers racked their brains and published their names in small letters and added in large letters: “In place of Shomer.”
When Shomer was at the peak of his popularity among Yiddish readers, a fierce literary campaign was launched against him, saying that his books were trash. His critics were: Aleksander Tsederboym, Shiye-Khone Rabnitski, Shimen Dubnov (Kritikus), and Dovid Frishman, but the sharpest intervention against him was the work of Sholem-Aleichem. In his pamphlet Shomers mishpet (The trial of Shomer) (1888), Sholem-Aleichem laid out his accusations (in slightly different language): 1. Almost all of Shomer’s novels were drawn from foreign literature; 2. they were all of one form; 3. they were not a true picture of Jewish life; 4. they thus had no relationship to Jews; 5. they stoked the fantasies but offered no moral whatsoever; 6. there was in them obscenity and cynicism; 7. their construction was terrible; 8. the author was probably an ignoramus. Sholem-Aleichem’s recommended that Shomer’s novels not be given to boys and grown girls and “that it would be a great mitzvah if one were to be rid of him and all his wild and bizarre novels in Yiddish by means of a pure and upright critique.” Sholem-Aleichem’s “mishpet” (trial) proved a decisive blow to Shomer’s literary name, but it had scarcely any impact on the circulation of his books. Shomer sharply replied to his critics in the prefaces to his novels, and ten years after the “mishpet” he brought out a special pamphlet entitled Yehi or oder a literarisher kampf (Let there be light, or a literary struggle) (New York, 1898), second edition (New York, 1899, bearing the subtitle: Peysekhdige kneydlekh, far mayne kritiker [Passover dumplings, for my critics]).
In subsequent years Shomer’s work acquired more positive evaluations. The main point emerged in Avrom Vevyorke’s book Revizye (Revision) (1931). He emphasized that Shomer “wrote a…great number of short stories that bore no relationship at all either to trash or to the tabloid press…. [Some of them] were rich in imagery drawn from Jewish ways of life at the time,…drenched in…folklore and poignant folk humor.” Kalmen Marmor wrote: “His stories of Jewish ways of life were saturated with folklore. Their defects notwithstanding, his novels enriched the Yiddish language with new words and concepts. He was also…teaching the backward Jewish masses to read Yiddish and as such prepared the ground for modern Yiddish literature.”
Zalmen Reyzen argued that “Shomer was after [Ayzik-Meyer] Dik the first to begin to provide reading materials for the Jewish folk masses, and he was the first who not only supplied chapbooks for them but also created the thick volume, the novel…. He was one of the first in Yiddish literature to make use in his work of subjects drawn from Jewish history…. If it is actually difficult—from a purely literary standpoint—to find merit in Shomer’s novels, one must nonetheless acknowledge that, in the short stories that he mostly wrote in the first years of his writing, Shomer elevated them to a certain literary level, and some of them…contain full living depictions of old-fashioned Jewish ways of life, often imbued with a good-natured, folk humor. One cannot dismiss him with his profound knowledge of Lithuanian Yiddish, and with certain reservations his work is a treasury of Yiddish folk expression.”
“Yiddish literature,” noted Yankev Glatshteyn, “owes Shomer a great debt. He created the [male] Yiddish reader, but more than this—he created as well the female Yiddish reader…. Such a phenomenal literary manufacturer, who composed ‘best sellers’ in his time, cannot be completely kicked out of the literary palace…. Neither readers nor writers have a right to put on airs against Shomer. If Mendele is our great-grandfather, then Shomer is a great uncle, with a talent for storytelling and [more] storytelling…. He belonged to our vineyard during his lifetime, and he certainly belongs to our Yiddish vineyard after his death.”
Another view was expressed by Shmuel Niger: “Everyone admits that there were many men and women readers that Shomer’s novels had to teach them to read chapbooks…. The trouble was for every reader was that Shomer was only the first step, and after that there came a second—such that they were freed from Shomerism. Many of them have remained Shomer-readers, and this is both for their internal development of Yiddish literature and for the improvement of the Yiddish reading public’s taste a great obstacle…. With his popularity, Shomer could at best inscribe—and he did in fact inscribe—his name in the history of the Yiddish reading public and their taste, not in the history of literature—in particular, of the literature which earlier boasted such writers as Mendele Moykher-Sforim and which was already, as it were, ‘expectant’ with a Sholem-Aleichem, with a Perets, with a Frishman, with a Rabnitski…. It would be a distortion of historical facts to state that before Shomer in the mid-1870s arrived with his storybooks, there was no such thing as a great Yiddish reading public.” Such an entity did exist. Even before Shomer appeared in the book market, Yiddish publishers in Vilna, Warsaw, and elsewhere were eager to publish chapbooks or novels suitable to the tastes and spirit of the “great Yiddish reading masses” (letter from Ayzik-Meyer Dik to Yankev Dinezon).
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 4; Getzel Kressel, Leksikon hasifrut haivrit (Handbook of Hebrew literature), vol. 2 (Merḥavya, 1967); B. Gorin, Geshikhte fun yidishn teater (History of Yiddish theater), vol. 2 (New York, 1923), pp. 176-77 (with some plays unnoted in our text); Sholem-Aleichem, Yudishe biblyotek (Yiddish library) (Kiev, 1888/1889), with a listing of Shomer’s books in 1888, and his “Shomers mishpet” (Trial of Shomer) (Berdichev, 1888); Ben-Tsien Ayzenshtadt, Dor rabanav vesofrav (A generations of rabbis and authors) (New York, 1902/1903), pp. 104-6; A. Litvin, in Lebn un visnshaft 10 (1910); Kalmen Marmor, in Frayhayt (New York) (December 20, 1923); Marmor, in Morgn frayhayt (New York) (November 25, 1930); Leon Kobrin, Derinerungen fun a yidishn dramaturg (Remembrances of a Jewish dramatist) (New York, 1925), pp. 65-80; Yerukhem Riminik, in Teater-bukh (Theater book) (Kiev, 1927); Ber Orshanski, in Oktyabr (Minsk) (July 4, 1927); Y. Blum, in Tog (New York) (February 13, 1928); Z. R[eyzen], in Arkhiv far der geshikhte fun yidishn teater un drame (Archive for the history of Yiddish theater and drama) (Vilna-New York, 1930), pp. 459-60; Reyzen, in Morgn-zhurnal (New York) (May 24, 1930); Max Weinreich, in Forverts (New York) (November 4, 1930); Y. Y. Sigal, in Keneder odler (Montreal) (November 9, 1930); Avrom Vevyorke, Revizye (Revision) (Kharkov-Kiev, 1931); Farn leninishn etap in der literatur-kritik, barikht funem plenum fun der litsektsye 25-30 aprel, 1932 (Toward the Leninist stage in literary criticism, report from the plenum of the literary section, April 25-30, 1932) (Kharkov-Kiev, 1932), pp. 41-66; Shmuel Klitenik, in Emes (Moscow) (June 2, 1932); Meyer Viner and Aron Gurshteyn, Problemes fun kritik (Problems of criticism) (Moscow, 1933), pp. 132ff; Shoyel Ginzburg, in Tsukunft (New York) (January 1947; February 1947; April 1947); Roza Shomer-Batshelis, Unzer foter shomer (Our father Shomer) (New York: IKUF, 1950), Hebrew translation as Avinu shomer (New York, 1953); Yidishe kultur (new York) 9 (1950); Shire shomer vezikhronotav (The poems of Shomer and his memoirs) (Tel Aviv, 1951/1952); Menashe Halpern, Parmetn, zikhroynes un shilderungen (Parchments, memoirs and depictions) (São Paolo, 1952), pp. 14-66ff; Sholem Perlmuter, Idishe dramaturgn un teater kompozitors (Yiddish playwrights and composers) (New York, 1952); Yisroel Shtern, Lider un eseyen (Poems and essays), comp. H. Leivick (New York: L. M. Shteyn, 1955), pp. 168-81; Shmuel Niger, in Idisher kemfer (New York) (Passover, 1955/1956); Ben-Tsien Goldberg, in Tog-morgn-zhurnal (New York) (July 2, 1961); Dov Sadan, Avne miftan, masot al sofre yidish (Milestones, essays on Yiddish writers), vol. 1 (Tel Aviv: Perets Publ., 1961), pp. 22-25; L. Domenkevitsh, Verter un vertn (Words and values) (Tel Aviv, 1960), pp. 116-22; Borekh Shefner, in Forverts (May 28, 1966; June 4, 1966; June 11, 1966); Yankev Glatshteyn, Prost un poshet, literarishe eseyen (Plain and simple, literary essays) (New York, 1978), pp. 130-34; Y. Tsinberg, in Rusish-yidishe entsiklopedye (Russian Jewish encyclopedia), vol. 10 (St. Petersburg), p. 289; Perlmuter and Yeshurin archives, YIVO (New York); Leo Wiener, History of Yiddish Literature in the Nineteenth Century (New York, 1972); Miriam Shomer-Zunser, Yesterday (New York, 1939, 1978).
 This birth date according to Getzel Kressel. Other dates: Miriam Shimer-Tsunzer, December 18, 1946; Zalmen Zilbertsvayg, December 18, 1847; Sefer zikaron lesofre yisroel (Memorial volume for Jewish authors) (Warsaw, 1888/1889), December 28, 1848; Zalmen Reyzen, December 18, 1849; Shomer’s autobiography, December 7, 1850.