Obrazy na stronie

From the Edinburgh Review. contradictory opinions still prevail concerning 1. The Right Honorable Benjamin Disraeli, him. There are persons, we hear, who con

M. P. A Critical Biography. By ceive him to he the most profound of modern

GEORGE HENRY FRANCIS. London : 1852. statesmen; there are others, we know, who 2. Lord George Bentinck. A Political Biog- contemptuously deny him a title to rank

raphy. By B. DISRAELI, Member of amongst statesmen at all. Some of his adParliament for the County of Bucking- mirers declare him to be an orator in the ham. Fifth edition - revised. Lon; highest sense of the terın; whilst his oppodon : 1852.

nents stoutly maintain that he is at best no 3. Venetia. By B. DISRAELI. A new edition. better than a showy and shallow rhetorician. London : 1853.

Favorable critics dwell upon the alleged wit,

spirit, cleverness, graphic power, and frequent About twenty years since a prize was brilliance of his writings ; whilst those of proposed, in an Italian university, for the the severer order profess to be more struck by best essay on the following subject : “ What their meretricious glitter, overwhelming preindividual since the beginning of the world sumption, open disregard of principle, innate has most occupied the thoughts of mankind ?” vulgarity of conception, and utter absence The palm was awarded to the essayist who of earnestness and truth. The very section maintained the superior claims of Napoleon to of the aristocracy which has always been the this world-wide description of notoriety ; but last to recognize the claims of genius, points, the decision was far from commanding uni- or very recently did point, to his elevation as versal assent. If, however, a prize were an irrefragable proof of the excellence of our offered at Oxford or Cambridge for a disserta- institutions ; yet the majority of the cultition on the analogous but more limited ques- vated classes, whose liberal appreciation of tion - "What individual from February, merit for its own sake has been time imme1852, to January, 1853, has most occupied the morial exhibited in a thousand ways, were pens, tongues, and ears of Englishmen?" — contemporaneously giving vent to a sentiment the answer would be given by acclamation. not much unlike that embodied in the wellThe Right Honorable Benjamin Disraeli, late known couplet Chancellor of the Exchequer, is indisputably

The thing we know is neither rich nor rare, the man. His appointment to this post was But wonder how the devil it got there. one of the nost startling domestic events that has occurred in our time. People seemed That, indeed, is the essential question and never tired of-talking and speculating, on it. real problem. How did he get where we with its recondite causes and its problemati- recently gazed upon him with almost as much cal results. He at once became an inex-wonder, though with not exactly the same haustible topic of animated discussion in vague feeling of apprehension, as that with society. His portrait was painted by one which we contemplated the astounding rise fashionable artist ; his bust" was taken in of the new Emperor of the French? How marble, ære perennius, by another; what were did a gentleman of Jewish extraction, whose called likenesses of him appeared in illustrated previous career was inextricably associated newspapers by the dozen ; and, above all, he with reminiscences very little calculated to was placed in Madame Tussaud's repository inspire esteem or confidence, manage to be

- that British Valhalla in which it is diffi- come finance-minister of the greatest commercult for a civilian to gain a niche without cial country, and official leader of the gravest, being hanged. He glittered in the political wisest, and most important representative horizon as a phenomenon of the first magni- assembly, in the world? Did he succeed by tude ; and every glass was turned upon him addressing himself to the good or to the bad the more eagerly, because it was impossible feelings of his countrymen ?— to their pasto discover, and hazardous to predicate, sions and prejudices, or to their reason and whether he would turn out a planet, a fixed good sense? In other words, did he win his star, a comet, or a mere vapory exhalation, position by the fair exercise of talent and or will-o'-the-wisp, raised by an overheated industry, or did he steal a march on his comatmosphere from a rank and unwholesome soil. petitors, and climb to temporary power upon

To lay aside metaphor – Mr. Disraeli was the shoulders of a well-dressed and wealthy, pretty generally regarded as an intellectual, but turbulent, ill-informed, and irritated, set inoral, social, and parliamentary anomaly: of agitators, who were marked by many of His career has been altogether an exceptional the most objectionable characteristics of a one. None but himself can be his parallel ; mob? and as all traditional, prescriptive, and We shall endeavor to answer these quesa familiar tests of character are obviously out tions by an impartial review and analysis of of place when applied to that of the “ suc- the Right Honorable Gentleman's career; as cessor of Hampden,” we are by no means illustrated by his writings and speeches.surprised to find that the most varying and taking Mr. George Henry Francis as our

assistant and occasional guide ; for his wish for a better recommendation than an

Critical Biography," although frequently honored name. In point of hereditary, forbetraying an undue partiality for his hero, tune, he was better off than Burke, Sheridan, presents a tolerably correct outline of those or Canning; and, with regard to his appaevents of Mr. Disraeli's life with which we rently, most serious stumbling-stock, his have now to deal. It will speedily be seen, Jewish extraction, we are by no means sure as we proceed, that we are actuated by no that, under his adroit and spirited manageparty views or motives, but that our inain ment, it was not, at one period, actually object is to rectify the scale by which our transformed into a stepping-stone. public men are to be judged. Granting that When “ Pelham" is asked whether illegitno widespread or lasting injury may result imate birth will prevent a person from being from an insulated example of unmerited pro- a perfect gentleman, he makes answer, that motion to the highest honors of the State - it will not, if the individual feels no consciousthe case assumes a much more serious aspect ness of the stain, for then it will in no respect when the essential rules of political morality impair that freedom and independence of are systematically tampered with, in the hope bearing which are essential to the character. of making them square with conduct which, To apply this refined remark to the case so long as their authority remains unim- before us — we conceive that if an Englishnan paired, must be held emphatically wrong. of the Jewish race puts a bold and honest We are well aware of the delicacy and difti- face on the matter, his contemporaries will culty of the task ; but we have at least one soon cease to think about it, and that it will advantage - that, so long as we confine our speedily become stingless and inoperative as selves to what bears on his public career, we a taunt. So long as Mr. Disraeli was the need not be overscrupulous in discussing the fearless and uncompromising champion of antecedents of a man who has dealt more his oppressed brethren, he carried with him largely and profitably in personality than any the cordial sympathy of every generous heart writer or speaker of our day.

and the eager concurrence of every enlightened According to the “Critical Biography,” mind. He participated in the new dignity “the future orator and statesman was born which he conferred on their cause. Never in the year 1806," and according to Dodd 's was there a more striking confirmation of the Parliamentary Companion, in 1805. He was maxim that " honesty is the best policy;" for the first-born of Isaac Disraeli, the eminent it was not until he lowered his tone, and began author of “ Curiosities of Literature ;" a to capitulate on his own account, that his book which, despite of the inaccuracies de vulnerable side was laid bare. From the time tected by Mr. Corney and others, has been when he assumed the lead of a party whose translated into every modern language that watchword is bigotry, and who stand pledged boasts a literature, and must be deemed an to retain the Jews in their present state of indispensable

part of every good library. civic inferiority, his Caucasian descent became Disraeli the Elder, as he was affectedly desig- again the bar sinister of his political shield; nated by the son, in the hope of benefiting but it is his own fault if he selects for his by the reflected lustre of the paternal fame, constant associates the hereditary oppressors was an excellent specimen of the old-fashioned of his race, and does all that in him lies to man of letters — amiable, kind-hearted, de- fan the smouldering embers of intolerance voted to his books, and little conversant with into a flame. Did he really suppose that he the habits or topics of the gay and bustling would be allowed to revire the No Popery ery, circles of the metropolis. His claim to an or to call for fresh penal enactments in favor honorable post in the Republic of Letters was of our “ Protestant Constitution," without unimpeached and is certainly unimpeachable. proroking a telling retort? If so, he reckoned What, then, do the admirers and followers without his host; and the mode in which one of Mr. B. Disraeli mean by asserting that, of his late colleagues alluded to the topic under far from being aided by birth and connexion discussion, might have served as a warning to in his social and political aspirations, he had Mr. Disraeli to get out of their company as extraordinary disadvantages in this respect to fast as possible. Sir John Trollope told his surmount? 'We know perfectly well that a constituents, at his reëlection for South .strong prejudice was entertained against him Lincolnshire, in March last, that the finanwhen he first entered the House of Commons;cial concerns of the country were safe in the but this was the natural result of those pas- guardianship of a gentleman, undoubtedly sages in his life which he now finds it con- of ancient blood but eastern origin." Begin venient to term his "wild oats.” If he could ning with a compliment, the Right Honorable have dissociated himself from these, and have Baronet unconsciously ended with a sneer. moderated his pretensions for an interval, he It is fortunate, therefore, that the bane is would have had no reason to complain of his coupled with the antidote ; " for sufferance reception; and, to the best of our observa- is the badge of all our tribe.”' Centuries of tion, no debutant, in any walk of life, need oppression have endowed the Jewish race

with corresponding habits of endurance. Mr. of books, under this lax apprenticeship, may Disraeli hás frequently been subjected to not have qualified him better for working mortifications and disappointments which out his peculiar destiny than the same numwould have driven a more sensitive man to ber of years spent, and haply trifled away, on the very verge of self-destruction. Yet neither the banks of the Isis or the Cam. “ Every insult ‘nor annoyance seemed to make the man,” says Gibbon, " who rises above the smallest impression on that imperturbable common level has received two educations, temper and impassive brow. So long as he the first from his teachers — the second, more could gain anything by being cool, he was personal and important, from himself.” That cool ; and it was only on rare occasions, the second was not omitted in Mr. Disraeli's when the game was up or played out, that he case, he gave ample and speedy evidence. was ever hurried into the display of ill-temper He could hardly have arrived at legal years or irritability. That extraordinary faculty of of discretion, when he set on foot the earliest mastering his emotions and biding his time, of his ambitious projects ; for although we by dint of which he has so often grasped For- are not prepared to specify the precise share tune by the forelock, may be clearly traced he had in getting up or editing the “Repreto his eastern origin,' and can hardly be sentative” newspaper, in January, 1826, we computed as the worst or most profitless part have the strongest direct proof that he was of that "damnosa hereditas” which' de- one of the responsible parents of the scheme. scended to him with his blood.

The late John Murray, of Albemarle Street
It is rather strange, considering the cir- the most enterprising and liberal-minded of
cunstances and literary position of his father, bibliopoles – who lost more than 20,0001, by
that Mr. Disraeli did not receive what is the undertaking, was wont to declare to his
called a regular education. He was brought dying day that he was led into hazarding this
up at a private school, or academy, in the large sum by the gorgeous pictures of antici-
classic shades of Hampstead or Highgate ; pated profit and influence drawn by the imag-
and at the age when young men commonly inative genius of the precocious ex-clerk.
commence residence at a University, he was The paper never recovered from the effects of
articled to a highly respectable firm of solici- an article beginning — “ As we were sitting
tors in the city. “In his adolescence,” says in our opera box” - and it was given up
Mr. Francis," he was subjected to the severe after six inonths' trial, during which half i
corrective of a city life. The future Chancel-dozen or more editors were successively em-
lor of the Exchequer spent in the hard service ployed.*
of a lawyer's office much of the time he would in the course of the same year, 1826, Mr.
rather have devoted to the Muses. We do Disraeli, who has a knack of turning failures
not consider ourselves called upon to enter to account, electrified the novel-reading public
into mere gossiping details, however interest- by “ Vivian Grey," the plot of which was
ing, of this period of Mr. Disraeli's career. understood to be founded on the getting up
His native genius soon broke through these of the “* Representative" and on the inciden-
trammels." The plain matter of fact is, that tal intrigues — literary, social, and political,
these trammels were neither severe nor degrad- We remember seeing a Key, in which the
"ing, although Mr. Francis' language would Marquess of Carabas was declared to be neith-
justify an inference that they were both. An er more nor less than John Murray - Cleve-
articled clerk's ordinary mode of passing his land, an eminent author and editor, still living
time is thus described by Cowper in a letter -- and Mrs. Felix Lorraine, a now forgotten
to Lady Hesketh :-"I did actually live blue-stocking; The suggested analogies are
three years with Mr. Chapinan, a solicitor, faint, and the points of similarity mostly
- that is to say, I slept three years in his fanciful, but the novel itself will always re-
house ; but I lived, that is to say, I spent my main an object of interest to the metaphysi-
days, in Southampton Row, as you very well cal inquirer as containing the germ, rude
reineinber. There was I and the future Lord outline, and incomplete conception of the
Chancellor (Thurlow) constantly employed career which the author was even then medi-
from morning to night, in giggling and mak- tating, and in great measure has since con-
ing giggle, instead of studying the law. 0 trived to run. We request particular atten-
fie, cousin ! how could you do so ?"

tion to the following passages : -
Mr. Disraeli was not the first by hundreds,
and very far indeed from being the most dis-

“ At this moment, how many a powerful noble tinguished, of the many notable personages

wants only wit to be a minister ; and what wants who have verified the portrait of —

* The first number appeared on the 26th JanSome youth his father's wishes doomed to cross, uary, and the last on the 28th July, 1826. After Who pens a stanza when he should engross. making every allowance for the subsequent im

provement and raised standard of newspaper Nor is it clear to our minds that his sojourn writing, we are obliged to own that the “ Reprein the metropolis, with leisure and command 'sentative" richly merited its fate.

[ocr errors]

Vivian Grey to attain the same end ? . That no- | fected and flippant cynicism which clever youngble's influence. When two persons can so ma- sters mistake for philosophy, whilst the manterially assist. each other, why are they not ner in which they are illustrated and carried brought together? Shall I, because my birth out by the dramatis persona of the romance is balks my fancy - shall I pass my life a moping very far indeed from redeeming them from the in contact with this magnifico, am I prepared ? imputation of comninon-place. Vivian Grey, Now, let me probe my very soul. Does my cheek as portrayed, could not by any possibility have blanch? I have the mind for the conception ;

made his way in good company, or have inand I can perform right skilfully upon the most spired a man like Cleveland with any feeling splendid of musical instruments - the human but distrust. Yet it has been by acting up to, voice — to make those conceptions beloved by and improving on, the creed of " Vivian Grey" others. There wants but one thing more - cours that the author, after a thousand abortive esage, pure, perfect courage ; - and does Vivian periments in the art of rising, has realized the Grey know fear?" He lauglied an answer of dream of his boyhood. Although he was bitterest derision. (Vol. i., p. 43.)

speedily precipitated from the dizzy height he It was a rule with Vivian Grey, never to ad- had internally vowed to obtain, he has stood vance any opinion as his own. He had been too

upon it long enough for a puzzled nation to deep a student of human nature, not to be aware look up, and wonder, and possibly to blush. He that the opinions of a boy of twenty, however has found his Marquis of Carabas, his Lord sound, and however correct, stand but a poor Courtown, and his Sir Beardmore Scrope ; and chance of being adopted by his elder, though he has revenged himself on the baughty pobles feebler, fellow-creatures. In attaining any end, it was therefore his system always to advance his and squires who spat upon his Jewish gab opinion as that of some eminent and considered erdine,” by making tools and fools of them. personage ; and when, under the sanction of this As it was wittily observed when he compelled name, the opinion or advice was entertained and his followers to forswear “ Protection," the listened to, Vivian Grey had no fear that he country gentlemen used to amuse themselves could prove its correctness and its expediency. by drawing the teeth of the Caucasians, but He possessed also the singular faculty of being it was now the turn of the Caucasians to draw able to improvise quotations ; that is, he could the teeth of the country gentlemen. Whether unpremeditatedly clothe his conceptions in lan- this be the kind of a triumph which a good guage characteristic of the style of any particular or great man would wish to have recorded in author ; and Vivian Grey was reputed in the his memoirs or commemorated on his tombworld as having the most astonishing memory that ever existed ; for there was scarcely a sub- stone, is quite another matter -- all we venture ject of discussion in which he did not gain the to assert in this place is, that it was obtained victory, by the great names he enlisted on his and, we believe, fully enjoyed by “Disraeli side of the argument. His father was aware of the Younger," when he donned the blue and the existence of this dangerous faculty, and had gold uniform of a cabinet minister. often remonstrated with his son on the use of it.

We noticed the best of his novels at the (Vol. i., p. 58.)

time of their appearance, and feel no inclinaI will speak to you (Cleveland) with the frank- tion to revert to them. The best was “ Conness which you have merited, and to which I feel tarini Fleming," and the worst the “Wonyou are entitled.

I am not the dupe of the Mar- drous Tale of Alroy,” in which extravagance quess of Carabas ; I am not, I trust, the dupe, and absurdity had reached the culminating or tool, of any one whatever. Believe me, sir, point. Results have no longer the smallest there is that at work in England, which, taken connexion with causes, and performance bids at the tide, may lead on to fortune. I see this, audacious defiance to possibility. This work sir - I, a young man, uncommitted in political met with precisely the same reception from principles, unconnected in public life, feeling the literary public which was subsequently some confidence, I confess, in my own abilities, but desirous of availing myself, at the same time, accorded to his maiden speech by the House of the powers of others. Thus situated, I find of Commons. It was received with load myself working for the same end as my Lord laughter, and the versatile writer forth with Carabas, and twenty other men of similar cali- betook himself to what he mistook for poetry. bre, mental and moral ;•and, sir, am I to play His “ Revolutionary Epic" appeared in 1832, the hermit in the drama of life, because, per- and was destined, as we learn from the Prechance, my fellow-actors may be sometimes fools, face, to place him in the same category with and occasionally knaves ? Oh! Mr. Cleveland, Homer, Virgil, Dante, and Milton. But he if the Marquess of Carabas has done you the ill fortunately added, “ that if the decision of the service which Fame says he has, your sweetest public should be in the negative, then will he, revenge will be to make him your tool ; your without a pang, hurl his lyre to Limbo." He most perfect triumph, to rise to power by his inAuence. (Vol. i., p. 217.)

was as good as his word, so far as the contin

uation of the Epic was concerned. It fell None of the maxims or reflections in this still-born, and henceforth we find himn playing book are remarkable for refinement or depth. a conspicuous, if not always a creditable or They lie on the surface, and read like the af- commendable, part on the political stage.


As the “ Representative” was a high tory We need hardly suggest, that a pledge or organ, we presume that Mr. Disraeli was profession must be interpreted in the sense in professedly a high tory in 1826. Be this as which the maker knew and meant it to be it may, he started for High Wycombe in 1832 accepted. Yet it is deemed a sufficient answer as a radical, under the auspices of the late to the charge of tergiversation brought against Mr. O'Connell and Mr. Hume, with whose Mr. Disraeli, on the strength of his Wycombe letters of recommendation he placarded the and Marylebone candidature, to say that he was borough walls. The. sponsor for his fidelity a tory-radical or radical-tory, and that he was to their known principles was the author of consequently at full liberty to solicit the support “Pelham,” who thus explains his share in the of the Ultras of either side. Our own solution transaction :

of his many Protean transformations is, that

he had never any political principles or fixed London, 24th July, 1835. convictions whatever. The world was all Sir - In answer to your letter, I beg to say before him where to choose, and he chose what that Mr. Disraeli first referred me to a printed best suited his purpose at the moment. Ile handbill of his own, espousing short parliaments, alternately presented the black side of his vote by ballot, and untaxed knowledge. I con- shield to the Neri, and the white side to the ceived these principles to be the polestar of the Bianchi; or he was the prototype of the Frenchsincere Reformers, and to be the reverse of tory man who was seized in Paris, on the 24th

I showed that handbill to Mr. Hume; February, 1848, with three cockades - white, hence the letters of that gentleman and of others. Mr. Disraeli does not deny that he professed red, and tricolor — in his pocket; his avowed those opinions at that time, but he has explained object being to assume from hour to hour the that he meant them for adoption, not against the badge of the faction which seemed to be get

At the same time we tories, but whigs. With his explanation I have ting the upper hand. nothing to do. I question his philosophy, but I are well aware that there may be such a creed, do not doubt his honor. When any man tells me

or mixture of creeds, as that which has been that he votes for ballot, short parliaments, and attributed to the Right Honorable Gentleman, the abolition of the taxes on knowledge, I can in the hope of extricating him from his dilemonly suppose him to be a reformer ; such being ma. Les extrêmes se touchent ; and he is not my principles I would always give him my sup- the first who has speculated on governing port; and I should never dream of asking whether mankind despotically, or in a high tory sense, he called himself a radical or a tory.

by appealing to the numerical majority. It I am, sir, E. Cox, Esq.


is what Napoleon the Third has done and is doing. It was what the Jacobites, or original

“ Country Party,” hoped to do at, and for One of Mr. Hume's recommendatory letters many years after, the accession of the House contained the following expressions : – of Brunswick. The hypothesis on which I hope all reformers will rally round you, who class was not to be shaken in its attachment

their hopes rested was that, since the middle entertain liberal opinions in every branch of government, and are prepared to pledge yourself to to civil and religious liberty, the fit instrusupport reform and economy in every depart- ments for revolutionizing society must be

sought at its bottom and its top. The Extreme

Right and the Extreme Left must be persuaded If the Financial Reform Association had to coalesce against the Right and Left Centres. then existed, Mr. Disraeli would undoubtedly The reason why Shippen, Bromley, Sir Wilhave been a member of it, and he did become liam Windham, and other partisans of the a member of the Westminster Reform Club. Stuarts, wished to repeal the Septennial Act, About the same time he was introduced, at his is therefore obvious enough. They sought to own request, to the late Earl of Durham as a restore an exiled race of sovereigns by popular Durhamite, and; in 1833, he was a candidate suffrage. But what fallen dynasty did Mr. for the representation of Marylebone on the Disraeli seek to restore, when he advocated a ultra liberal side.*

return to triennial, annual, or “oftener if need

be” parliaments ? * The whole of the documentary and other evidence bearing on this part of Mr. Disraeli's career Mr. Disraeli magniloquently demanded in the was collected and published in 1836, by Mr. E. course of the resulting controversy : “ How could Cox, now a barrister on the Western Circuit and he be gratified by an ignoble controversy with an late Derbyite candidate for Tewkesbury, in a obscure animal like the editor of the Globe,' when pamphlet, with his name. This pamphlet formed his own works had been translated at least into the the basis of a series of articles in the “ Globe" language of polished Europe, and circulated by (for January, 1836), notoriously and avowedly thousands in the New World ?” – a test of merit, written by an amiable and accomplished member which, in many other instances within our memof the House of Commons, whose untimely death ory, would have placed the authors of ephemeral was regretted as a national loss. He, with his works of fiction at the head of contemporary lit. genial love of fun, was especially delighted when Ierature.



« PoprzedniaDalej »