'Bismarck and Beaconsfield are types of black magicians.'
Name: Benjamin Disraeli
Variant Name: Beaconsfield,
1st Earl of
Birth Date: December 21, 1804
Death Date: April 19, 1881
Place of Birth: London, England
Occupations: politician, prime minister
The English statesman Benjamin Disraeli, 1st Earl of
Beaconsfield (1804-1881), supported imperialism while opposing free trade. The leader of the Conservative party, he served
as prime minister in 1868 and from 1874 to 1880.
Benjamin Disraeli was born on Dec. 21, 1804, in London,
the second child and first son of Isaac D'Israeli, a Sephardic Jew whose father, Benjamin, had come from Cento near Ferrara,
Italy. (The family had originally gone to Italy from the Levant.) Disraeli's mother, whom he appears to have disliked, was
a Basevi, from a Jewish family that fled Spain after 1492, settling first in Italy and at the end of the 17th century in England.
Disraeli's maternal grandfather was president of the Jewish Board of Deputies in London.
Isaac D'Israeli, when elected warden of the Bevis Marks
Synagogue, resigned from the congregation rather than pay the fee of £40 entailed upon refusal of office. He had his four
children baptized in the Church of England in 1817. Benjamin went first to a Nonconformist, later to a Unitarian school. At
18 he left school and studied for a year at home in his father's excellent library of 25,000 books. His father was a literary
man who had published The Curiosities of Literature (1791), a collection of anecdotes and character sketches about writers,
with notes and commentary in excellent English. Though the book was published anonymously, its authorship soon became known,
and Isaac achieved fame.
In November 1821 Benjamin was articled for 400 guineas
by his father for 2 years to a firm of solicitors. He later held this against his father, who, he declared, had "never understood
him, neither in early life, when he failed to see his utter unfitness to be a solicitor, nor in latter days when he had got
into Parliament." However, Benjamin did not consider he had wasted his time, since working in the solicitor's office "gave
me great facility with my pen and no inconsiderable knowledge of human nature."
In 1824, encouraged by John Murray, Disraeli wrote
his first novel, the crude and jejune political satire Aylmer Papillon. The same year he started reading for the bar. He also
speculated wildly on the stock exchange and lost heavily. He next became involved in a project sponsored by John Murray to
publish a daily paper. Its failure was complete. His next novel, Vivian Grey, published anonymously, gave great offense to
Murray, who was pilloried in it. Fifty years later this novel was still quoted against Disraeli; although he declared that
it described his "active and real ambition," it was full of blunders that clearly showed he did not move in the social circles
to which he pretended. It was attacked by the powerful Blackwood's Magazine, and in a later novel, Contarini Fleming (1832),
Disraeli wrote, "I was ridiculous. It was time to die." But instead of dying, he had a nervous breakdown and traveled for
3 years (1828-1831).
On his return to England in 1832, Disraeli twice contested
and lost High Wycombe in parliamentary elections. He also continued writing: The Young Duke (1831), The Present Crisis Examined
(1831), and What Is He? (1833). He sent a copy of his Vindication of the British Constitution (1835) to Sir Robert Peel and
received an acknowledgment. In 1835 he again ran unsuccessfully for Parliament; that year, however, he told Lord Melbourne
that his ambition was to be prime minister.
Disraeli at this time was a thin, dark-complexioned
young man with long black ringlets; he dressed extravagantly, in black velvet suits with ruffles and black silk stockings
with red clocks. His eccentric speeches were received with shouts of derision.
After failing in five elections in 5 years, Disraeli
was elected to Parliament in 1837 for Maidstone in Kent, sharing a double seat with Wyndham Lewis. His maiden speech occasioned
much laughter in Parliament, but he sat down shouting, "The time will come when you will hear me." In 1837 he published the
novels Venetia and Henrietta Temple. In 1839 he spoke on the Chartist petition and declared "the rights of labour" to be "as
sacred as the rights of property." The same year he married Mrs. Wyndham Lewis, 12 years his senior, his parliamentary colleague's
widow. He often declared jokingly that he had married for money; however, when his wife said he would do it again for love,
he agreed. She made him an admirable wife. (Once, when he was on his way to make an important speech and had shut the carriage
door on her hand, she never uttered a word until he got out, then she fainted.)
Disraeli was always financially incompetent. In 1840
he bought the estate of Hughenden; a year later he was £40,000 in debt, although his father had paid his debts on three occasions.
In 1841 he won Shrewsbury and in 1842 wrote his wife that he found himself "without effort the leader of a party chiefly of
youth." This party was called Young England and consisted basically of Disraeli and three of his friends, who openly revolted
In 1842 more than 70 Tories voted with Disraeli against
Peel, and the government was defeated by 73 votes. Peel resigned 4 days later, and Queen Victoria sent for Lord John Russell.
In bringing down Peel, Disraeli nearly wrecked his party and his own career. He was in power for only 6 years out of a parliamentary
life of more than 40 and spent longer in opposition than any other great British statesman.
In Coningsby (1844) and Sybil (1845), his two great
political and social novels, Disraeli attacked Peel. In Tancred (1845), his last novel for 25 years, Disraeli wrote that the
Anglican Church was one of the "few great things left in England." These three novels "have a gaiety, a sparkle, a cheerful
vivacity" which carry the reader over their "improbabilities and occasional absurdities."
In 1848 Disraeli became leader of the Tories (Conservatives)
in the House of Commons. In 1851, on Lord John Russell's resignation, the Queen sent for Lord Derby, who dissolved Parliament
and gained 30 seats. In February 1851 Derby offered Disraeli the chancellorship of the Exchequer. Disraeli demurred, stating
that the Exchequer was a "branch of which I had not knowledge"; Derby replied, "They give you the figures." Disraeli then
accepted. The Cabinet was known as the "Who? Who?" from the deaf old Duke of Wellington's repeated questions to Lord Derby.
Disraeli lowered the tax on tea in his 1852 budget and changed the income tax. In December 1852 the government was beaten,
and Derby and his Cabinet resigned.
Disraeli commented that the Crimean War (1854-1856)
was "a just but unnecessary war." During the outcry over the Indian mutiny (1857) he protested "against meeting atrocities
by atrocities" and said, "You can only act upon the opinion of Eastern nations through their imaginations." In February 1858
he voted against the second reading of the Conspiracy to Murder Bill, when Lord Palmerston was defeated and resigned. Disraeli
became chancellor of the Exchequer once more, and on March 26 brought in his India Bill, which "laid down the principles on
which the great subcontinent was to be governed for 60 years." The following year his Reform Bill, redolent of what John Bright
called "fancy franchises," was defeated. Palmerston then came in again for 6 years. In June 1865, however, Lord Derby came
back as prime minister, and Disraeli once more became chancellor. When his Reform Bill passed in 1867, he went home to his
wife, ate half a pie, and drank a bottle of champagne, paying his wife the compliment, "My dear, you are more like a mistress
than a wife."
In 1868 Lord Derby resigned, and on February 16 the
Queen wrote, "Mr. Disraeli is Prime Minister. A proud thing for a man risen from the people." A minority premier, he passed
the Corrupt Practices Bill, abolished public executions, and had his wife, who was dying of cancer, made a peeress. But in
autumn 1868 the Liberals under William Gladstone came to power, and Disraeli became leader of the opposition. In 1870 he published
Lothair. In 1872 his wife died.
In 1874 the Liberals and Home Rulers were defeated
by the Conservatives, and "that Jew," as Mrs. Gladstone called him, became prime minister. "Power! It has come to me too late,"
Disraeli was heard to say. He was patient and formal with his colleagues, did not talk much, was a debater rather than an
orator, but seldom relinquished his purpose. He was an intimate of the Queen and called her "the Faery." He became her favorite
politician, although she began their association with reservations about his exotic appearance, dress, and style.
Although devoted to Disraeli, Victoria threatened to
abdicate over the Eastern question, as she was violently pro-Turk. Constantinople was "the key to India," and Disraeli was
determined not to let Russia get there. In 1875 he purchased the Egyptian khedive's interest in the Suez Canal Company and
in 1876 made Victoria the empress of India. Disraeli and Salisbury represented England at the Congress of Berlin (1878), from
which they returned bringing "peace with honour." (His phrase was used by Neville Chamberlain in another context in 1938.)
Among the acts passed during Disraeli's premiership were the 1874 and 1878 Factory Acts and the Poor Law Amendment Act of
1878. In 1876 Disraeli became a member of the House of Lords as the 1st (and only) Earl of Beaconsfield.
In 1880 Gladstone and the Liberals returned to power.
Disraeli retired to Hughenden, where he wrote Endymion and began another novel, Falconet. He died of bronchitis on April 19,
1881, and was buried next to his wife. His last recorded words were, "I had rather lived but am not afraid to die."
Benjamin Disraeli, 1st Earl of Beaconsfield (December
21, 1804 - April 19, 1881), the son of Isaac D'Israeli, was a British politician and author who entered Parliament in 1837
as Tory MP for Maidstone, after four unsuccessful campaigns for a seat in the House of Commons, the first time as a Radical.
In 1842 Disraeli was amongst the founders of the Young England group.
He was Britain's first, and thus far only, Jewish
Prime Minister. He was born to a Jewish family and baptized a Christian, but nevertheless continued to think of himself a
Jew. A political opponent once attacked him for being Jewish (anti-Semitism was rife in Britain at the time) and Disraeli
"Yes, I am a Jew and when the ancestors of the right
honourable gentleman were brutal savages in an unknown island, mine were priests in the temple of Solomon."
Having been lionized as a writer of romantic fiction
long before he entered politics, Disraeli continued for a time to dress as extravagantly in the House of Commons as he had
before. In Parliament, Disraeli became known for his defense of the Corn Laws, in opposition to fellow Tory Sir Robert Peel's
advocacy to repeal the laws, which Disraeli denounced as "laissez-faire capitalism".
Disraeli would lose the fight -- the repeal of the
Corn Laws, came at great political cost to the split Tory party. But Peel's betrayal of conservative ideology would cost him
the ministry, and Disraeli would rise to fill the leadership void Peel's fall left in the Tory party.
In 1852 Edward Geoffrey Smith Stanley, 14th Earl of
Derby appointed Disraeli Chancellor of the Exchequer in the (in)famous Who? Who? Ministry. Disraeli's duel with William Gladstone
over the Budget marked the beginning of thirty years of parliamentary hostility. Disraeli served as Chancellor of the Exchequer
in the 1858 and 1867-68 Tory governments. He supported the Reform Act of 1867, which enfranchised every adult male householder;
before this legislation, a tiny proportion of the population was entitled to vote. In 1868 he became Prime Minister, but only
briefly; he became Prime Minister again in 1874. In 1876 he was made Earl of Beaconsfield by Queen Victoria.
Although he had had several notorious affairs, in his
youth, he was ostentatiously faithful and attentive to his wife: Disraeli married, in 1839, the widow of his political colleague.
Mary Anne Lewis was some twelve years older than he and a self-proclaimed flibbertigibbet.
Known to his friends as Dizzy, Disraeli himself had
a fine, if wry, sense of humor and enjoyed the ambiguities of the English language. When an aspiring writer would send Disraeli
an uninteresting manuscript to review, he liked to reply, "Dear Sir: I thank you for sending me a copy of your book, which
I shall waste no time in reading."
THE RIGHT HONORABLE BENJAMIN DISRAELI was born in London,
England, December 21, 1804, and he died in London, April 19, 1881, at the age of seventy-six.
His father was Mr. Isaac D'Israeli, a man of great
ability. The father belonged to a Jewish family that had been driven from Spain by the Inquisition. The family settled in
Venice about the close of the fifteenth century, and assumed the now famous name of D'Israeli.
Benjamin Disraeli was most fortunate in his parentage.
The son of a literary genius, he had all the opportunities for culture that books and teachers and paternal encouragement
could give. Having secured an excellent education privately, he was placed in a solicitor's office that he might acquire a
knowledge of business. As in the case of his father, Benjamins inclinations were for literature, not business. Encouraged
in his inclinations, he appeared as an author in 1826, in a novel entitled "Vivian Grey." The two volumes which appeared at
first were increased by a second part the next year. "Vivian Grey" became at once the book of the season and the talk of the
town. Referring so directly to public men, society and character in high life, it was read with eagerness by nearly all classes.
In 1828 his vein of sarcasm was continued in "The Voyage
of Captain Popanilla," an adaptation of Swift's "Gulliver" to modern times and circumstances. He next traveled through Italy,
Greece, visited Constantinople, and explored Syria, Egypt and Nubia. Upon his return to England he commenced to take part
in politics; but we will give an outline of his literary and political work separately. From 1830 to 1833 he produced "The
Young Duke," "Contarini Fleming," "The Wondrous Tale of Alroy," "The Rise of Iskander," "Ikion in Heaven," etc. In 1834 appeared
in quarto "The Revolutionary Epick," a poem which is considered about the poorest of his writings. "Henrietta Temple," "A
Love Story," and "Venetia" were published in 1836-37; "Alcaros," a tragedy, in 1839; 1844-45 two successful semi-political
novels, "Coningsby, or the New Generation," and "Sybil, or the Two Nations;" 1847, "Tancred, or the New Crusade." This work
closed Disraeli's career as a novelist for twenty-four years. His next work was a volume entitled "Lord George Bentinck, a
Political Biography," published in 1851. In 1870 he again came forward with the novel "Lothair." His literary life closed
It remains now for us to tell the story of his political
life. Upon his return from the tour which we have already described, he commenced to mingle in politics. Desiring a seat in
parliament, he made two unsuccessful attempts as an extreme Reformer, and one as a Conservative. Three times defeated, he
finally became the leader of the party known as "Young England." This party proposed to look to the young men of England for
national reform and prosperity. About 1837 Disraeli was sent to parliament from the borough of Maidstone, along with Mr. Wyndham
Lewis, who died in 1838. In the following year, Disraeli married the widow of his late colleague, who, in 1868, was elevated
to the peerage with the title of Viscountess Beaconsfield.
His first speech was looked for with much interest.
Having become famous as a writer, and having made numerous threats against leaders of the opposition, which gave them to understand
that they might expect a warm contest if ever he reached parliament, the members of that body expected he could make them
considerable amusement, if he did not gain a complete triumph. At the appointed time he commenced his speech, which in style
and delivery so resembled Disraeli's oriental magnificence as to excite shouts of derisive laughter. Fairly broken down, he
took his seat with the prophetic statement: " I have begun several times many things, and have often succeeded at last. I
shall sit down now, but the time will come when you will near me." He profited by the failure, and, determined to avenge the
wrongs done him, he commenced a thorough discipline which finally enabled him to become the leader in that trying arena where
he first failed. It was Jeffrey's assault on Byron which first woke to activity the powers of that great genius; so the derisive
laughter that greeted Disraeli's first speech was the birth-pang of his statesmanship. "He came furious to life, ready-armed
like Minerva, blazing in sudden light and deadly power, with a quiver full of poisoned arrows, an unsheathed sword which cut
wherever it touched." He soon became conspicuous as a debater. His opponents were handled with great severity. Sir Robert
Peel, because of his views on the question of handling the trade interests of England, "was assaulted night after night by
Disraeli in speeches memorable for their bitterness, their concentrated sarcasm, and studied invective." In 1851 he was made
Chancellor of the Exchequer, but retired with his party in less than a year. Upon Lord Derby's return to power in 1858, he
also returned to his old position. At the close of a year the administration was overthrown, and Disraeli retired. In 1868,
he was appointed first Lord of the Treasury, or Premier, a position he held till the administration was changed to that of
Mr. Gladstone. In 1874 he was again restored to the high office of First Minister of the Crown, and in 1876 he was called
to the House of Lords as Earl of Beaconsfield, a title conferred upon him after the death of his wife, the Vicountess of Beaconsfield.