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Levy, Lewis Wolfe (1815–1885)

We mentioned briefly in our last issue the fact that death had removed from the midst of men, an old and worthy member of the community, in the person of the Hon. Lewis Wolfe Levy. Like many men in all countries, who have gained wealth and position, Mr. Levy began life in Australia in a small way, and got on by dint of unceasing industry and perseverance. In conversation Mr. Levy delighted to refer to that period of his life. When this journal was started in 1843, Mr. Levy was a resident of West Maitland. Indeed he sought to influence to some extent—only by advice of course—the conduct of the paper. For he was among a number of gentlemen who thought that in comment on matters of local public interest, Mr. Richard Jones (the editor) was somewhat too free spoken. It is pleasant to say that Mr. Levy was converted by conversation with Mr. Jones to the latter's view, and he was all his life a friend and supporter of the Mercury.

If we can depend on our memory, Mr. Levy went about this time to Tamworth, where he established a large business and carried on a family hotel. He afterwards joined the great firm of David Cohen and Co in Maitland and contributed very much to its progress and stability. The firm has always indeed numbered among its members several very energetic business men, and Mr. Levy was one of the ablest and most vigorous of this order of commercial managers. His share in building up what is now one of the largest and soundest mercantile establishments in New South Wales was very conspicuous.

Mr. Levy did not take a prominent part in public life but no benevolent or charitable object ever lacked his help and countenance. When flood relief was a sad necessity in the district, Mr. Levy was one of its most active friends, and in many practical ways aided in lessening the distress resulting from repeated inundations. He was frequently besought by friends who appreciated his large views and solid good sense to enter Parliament, but he resisted all solicitations till in 1874 he was elected for West Maitland on the retirement of Mr. B. Lee. In the Assembly Mr. Levy was usually a silent voter, but in discussions on matters bearing on commerce his business knowledge was very signally manifested, and he exhibited an aptitude for dealing with commercial questions which would have made him a very useful legislator. But he was not enamoured of long sittings, or of wordy harangues in which speakers utter an infinite deal of nothing; and he was too thoroughly a domestic man to care for losing the pleasures of his home at the only time of the day when he could enjoy them. Therefore when a general election occurred, he refrained from seeking to re-enter Parliament, and remained in private seclusion till he was chosen, by a discrimination honoring to the Ministers who exercised it, a member of the Legislative Council, a position he still held at the time of his death.

In business, Mr. Levy displayed, as has been hinted, both shrewdness and energy. He was not a rash man but on the other hand he was not excessively timid in commercial matters. His natural intelligence was very great. As a husband and father, his character stood very high, and he was one of the warmest of friends. Many a man owes a position of competence and comfort to a start generously given him by Mr. Levy. And we rejoice to write—for we have had the assurance from Mr. Levy's own lips,—that one of the joys of his life was to contemplate the success of persons who had thus been helped by him in the battle of the world. Few will be disposed to begrudge him such a joy— the delight of meditating, in his hours of leisure, upon the good deeds he had done in the world upon the benefits he had conferred on the deserving. And those who enjoyed his intimate friendship could not fail to realise how sincerely religious a man Mr. Levy was. He was a zealous follower of the God of his fathers but he possessed broad sympathies, and made no distinction of creed in his charities or in his relations with his fellow townsmen. It was his pleasing task, not many years ago, to lay the foundation stone of the West Maitland Synagogue, and the noble words which he then took occasion to speak were characteristic alike of his devoutness and of his tolerant spirit.

As our telegraphic news mentions, Mr. Levy's funeral took place in Sydney, on Tuesday, and was largely attended. His age we believe was about seventy-one years.

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'Levy, Lewis Wolfe (1815–1885)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 28 October 2016.

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