Authors: Benjamin Disraeli

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

English politician, novelist, and historian

Identity: Jewish

Author Works

Long Fiction:

Vivian Grey, 1826-1827

The Voyage of Captain Popanilla, 1828 (burlesque)

The Young Duke, 1831

Contarini Fleming, 1832

Ixion in Heaven, 1832-1833 (burlesque)

The Wondrous Tale of Alroy, 1833

The Infernal Marriage, 1834 (burlesque)

Henrietta Temple: A Love Story, 1837

Venetia, 1837

Coningsby: Or, The New Generation, 1844

Sybil: Or, The Two Nations, 1845

Tancred, 1847

Lothair, 1870

Endymion, 1880

Nonfiction:

England and France, 1832 (history)

Vindication of the English Constitution, 1835 (history)

The Spirit of Whiggism, 1836 (history)

Lord George Bentinck: A Political Biography, 1852

Biography

Benjamin Disraeli (dihz-RAY-lee), born in London on December 21, 1804, was the son of Isaac D’Israeli, a well-known literary commentator and biographer. Like the title character of his sensational first novel, Vivian Grey, he was privately educated–chiefly in his father’s library–and took the Grand Tour of Europe as a young man. He chafed at his law studies and with a powerful self-assurance wrote a quick succession of shallowly brilliant novels: The Young Duke, Contarini Fleming, and The Wondrous Tale of Alroy, as well as a number of political pamphlets and a trio of burlesque extravaganzas, The Voyage of Captain Popanilla, Ixion in Heaven, and The Infernal Marriage. Then, despite the handicaps of his Jewish heritage and his foppish manners, he brazenly experimented with politics. Failing as a radical, he was elected to Parliament as a Tory, as part of a group of young radical conservative ministers dubbed “Young England.” Out of this experience he wrote his three best-known novels, Coningsby, Sybil, and Tancred. They deal specifically with the “two nations” debate, a phrase Disraeli himself coined to describe what he saw as a divided country. He gave up his writing temporarily, married in 1839 the widow of his colleague Wyndham Lewis, then gradually rose to be three times Chancellor of the Exchequer, and, finally, prime minister from 1867 to 1868 and again from 1874 to 1880, alternating with his great political rival, the Liberal William Gladstone.{$I[AN]9810000173}{$I[A]Disraeli, Benjamin}{$I[geo]ENGLAND;Disraeli, Benjamin}{$I[geo]JEWISH;Disraeli, Benjamin}{$I[tim]1804;Disraeli, Benjamin}

Benjamin Disraeli

(Library of Congress)

During his second term of office, when he was knighted, Disraeli took a name from his first novel and became the first earl of Beaconsfield. In his later years, he resumed his writing; he also became an intimate friend of Queen Victoria. Disraeli died in London on April 19, 1881.

BibliographyBlake, Robert. Disraeli. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1966. Accepted as the most useful one-volume biography available, this work skillfully incorporates the scholarship of Monypenny and Buckle (below), adds several matters which they omitted, and makes good use of letters which came to light between 1920 and 1967. In the area of politics, the book is comprehensive; Lord Blake’s account is readable and enjoyable as well as scholarly.Bradford, Sarah. Disraeli. New York: Stein and Day, 1983. An important supplement to Monypenny and Buckle and to Blake. Easily the best account and analysis so far of Disraeli’s personal life. The author draws on previously unpublished letters which show Disraeli and Mary Anne in several “storms” in the first decade of their generally happy marriage; on the whole, the book gives a good sense of the emotional side of Disraeli’s character. The best source on his private life.Disraeli, Benjamin. Benjamin Disraeli: Letters. Edited by J. A. Gunn et al. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1982. A major and ongoing international enterprise, the Disraeli Project aims at a virtually complete edition of Disraeli’s letters. Earlier collections of Disraeli’s letters have been well mined by Monypenny and Buckle and by Blake.Eldridge, C. C. England’s Mission. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, Press, 1973. The author reviews several historians’ arguments about nineteenth century British imperialism and offers his own analysis of “the Empire of Disraeli’s Dreams.” Well documented.Feuchtwanger, E. J. Disraeli. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.Feuchtwanger, E. J. Disraeli, Democracy, and the Tory Party. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1968. Only election and party organization buffs will fully appreciate this detailed and scholarly work. The appendices include a useful “glossary” of the secondary figures involved in Tory Party organization from 1867 to 1885.Jerman, B. R. The Young Disraeli. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1960. Brief, general, scholarly, and readable. Covers the period to 1837.Levine, Richard A. Benjamin Disraeli. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1968. A useful and appreciative evaluation of Disraeli’s place in literature.Machin, Ian. Disraeli. New York: Longman, 1995.Monypenny, William Flavelle, and George Earl Buckle. The Life of Benjamin Disraeli, Earl of Beaconsfield. 6 vols. London: Macmillan, 1910-1920. Rev. ed. 2 vols. London: Macmillan, 1929. Reprint. 4 vols. New York: Russell and Russell, 1968. Volumes 1 and 2 were written by Monypenny, and after his death the work was completed by Buckle. This work, although dated in some respects, remains the definitive and indispensable biography for scholars or serious readers, or for reference purposes. Much of the work consists of extensive quotations from Disraeli’s writings, letters, and speeches. The authors let their subject speak for himself, and Disraeli’s rhetoric has a personality which communicates the man to the reader with a force for which ordinary biography is no substitute.Richmond, Charles, and Paul Smith, eds. The Self-Fashioning of Disraeli: 1818-1851. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998.Ridley, Jane. Young Disraeli, 1804-1846. New York: Crown, 1995.Schwarz, Daniel R. Disraeli’s Fiction. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1979.Smith, Paul. Disraeli: A Brief Life. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996.Weintraub, Stanley. Disraeli: A Biography. London: Hamish Hamilton, 1993.
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