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itself Tory. But, although thus arrogating | to itself an illustrious historical name, he maintains, or at least he maintained in "Coningsby" ten years ago, that, from almost the commencement of the present century, it has pursued a policy which is either founded on | no principle whatever, or on principles exactly contrary to those which had always guided the conduct of the great Tory leaders of bygone times-the Bolingbrokes and Harleys, the Shelburnes and the Pitts. These pseudo-Tories made exclusion the principle of their political constitution, and restriction the genius of their commercial code; thus lifting the very banners of the Whigs themselves; for the Whigs, he says, in another part of the same work, "introduced sectarian religion, sectarian religion led to political exclusion, and political exclusion was soon accompanied by commercial restraint." When, therefore, in one of his speeches, he described the policy of Sir Robert Peel, by saying that the right honorable gentleman caught the Whigs bathing, and ran away with their clothes, he only described what, in his view, has been the Conservative policy generally; and these views he has never yet retracted. We believe, also, that he never once relinquished them, not even when most gallantly pleading the cause of the august female whose image adorns the copper coinage of the realm. Look at the Hughenden Manor manifesto. The phrase in which that celebrated state-paper announced that the genius of the epoch is favorable to unrestricted competition, which flew like a watchword all over the country, and which ultimately became the squire's formula of renouncing protection, and accepting free-trade, what was it but a resurrection of the very phrase, above quoted, which had long been buried and forgotten in "Coningsby," although not forgotten by him? And be assured that in this, and in his other novels, there are matters of weightier import than a mere turn of expression which he has not forgotten. Perhaps it is only the fond dream of those who are willing to think well of Mr. Disraeli; yet, whether right or wrong, it is said by not a few, and apparently with some truth, that he has shown a bias to those political views which he at first propounded in certain pamphlets, and afterwards in certain novels, as the standards of Toryism proper, although it is Toryism of a more enlightened hue than that of Lord Eldon, and laying claim to a birthright elder by far-the true, the aboriginal, the antediluvian Toryism. At all events, he is now reissuing these novels: most of them have a political meaning; and,
whatever their significance, they demand our attention, as coming from one of the most remarkable statesmen of the day.
Is there any vital connection between politics and a novel? A most vital one, even when the novel is quite silent as to affairs of state; for the novel, after its kind, is a chart of human life, and the statesman is a navigator who steers according to his map. Some politicians, no doubt-as the economists in the British Parliament-are not statesmen in this sense, and, however good their financial schemes, can only be regarded as the pursers and supercargoes of the vessel; but the true commanders have a scheme of politics that is ever more or less consciously evolved from a study of the history, the philosophy, and the destiny of humanity. And this, truly, is the secret of that extraordinary eagerness with which the public devour every scrap of information regarding the private life of their princes and governors, more than of other men; the excuse for it also, as in like manner a lenient judge will find a noble element of gold in the sandiest follies of mankind. In the present case, the public are not actuated by a mere love of tattle; they desire to connect, what they so often see dissevered, the statesman and the man, and to trace the roots of his politics in the soil of human life.
Now there are, perhaps, no two men whose political opinions spring so directly from first principles, and from their idea of human life, as those of Benjamin Disraeli and Thomas Carlyle; and starting with the same assumption, their conclusions are ractically the same. For a long time, Mr. Carlyle was considered a rank democrat, until, developing his doctrine of hero-worship, it appeared that he is nothing of the kind, but really an aristocrat-the aristocracy which he favors, however, being one of intellect, not of mere birth. In like manner, Mr. Disraeli at first seemed to wear the colors of a flaming Radical, until at length, developing the doctrines of young England, it appeared that he is nothing of the kind, but heart, head, and hand, a Tory, who sees the ideal of government in the principle of an aristocracy. And this principle naturally follows from the views which both maintain regarding the influence of individual character, and which may be summed up in the aphorism, that history is but the biography of great men. With the truth of that statement we have nothing, at present, to do; it has been impugned; it has been said that a nation is not created by its individual geniuses, but that these individuals bubble up from the heart of the nation; and
perhaps it is not more impossible for mortal | Scriptures which Mr. Disraeli is so justly man to create an individual Frankenstein, proud of, it receives no countenance. If there than to create such a Leviathan as figures in is one idea which they urge more forcibly the title-page of the celebrated political than another, it is this: that the race is not work so named, in which a nation is pictured to the swift, nor the battle to the strong; and as a monster-a giant whose huge frame is that is for man to wait, and God to work. made up of an infinite number of manikins. And is not this also the grand moral taught Without going into that question, however, in the nursery literature of all countries ?let us mark how the answers which they it is little Jack that kills the giant; the ogre give to it bear on the political dogmas of is destroyed by a puny boy; Cinderella Disraeli and Carlyle, and how naturally the is the happy bride; the palace is built, and idea of an aristocratic government, in the the princess won, by the half-starved Aladhighest sense-government of the best din. flows from the vivid apprehension of individual influence. Carlyle's idea of the heroic -the grand idea of his philosophy-everybody knows, but it is not generally understood that no other man has harped so long, so earnestly, and so variously as Mr. Disraeli upon the same note, albeit in a lower pitch. How the young man, by force of will and dint of brain, rises to power; how Joseph, almost the youngest of twelve, becomes ruler over his brethren; how the youthful David mounts a throne; what is greatness, and how to achieve it: such has ever been the theme of his novels, as witness the very earliest, "Vivian Grey" and "Contarini Fleming." In the interval between the publication of these and of "Coningsby," he seems to have studied the writings of Mr. Carlyle; or at least in the latter novel, the points of resemblance between the brilliant Jew and the perfervid, Scot are more numerous and marked, although, perhaps, neither of them would like to be thus classed together. It is impossible, however, not to discern the likeness, which may be traced yet further in the contempt entertained by both of them for persons wanting in such force of character as they severally admire. Whether the weak-man? ness be in the intellect or in the will, they have no compassion for it: the man is a blockhead, an idiot, respectable, perhaps, in appearance, but all the more despicable in reality. They have none of that profound feeling for the infirmities of human life and lowliness of every type, which is so characteristic of Christianity, and which made Wordsworth discover a mysterious attraction even in an idiot, and feel that to such a being the words of the apostle peculiarly apply, when he speaks of a life hid with Christ in God. In short, if we may invent a seeming paradox, they have no idea of microscopic greatness; they have no idea that any thing great can be accomplished except by a great man. It is a great mistake; and let it be observed, by the way, that in those Hebrew
But if, in "Coningsby," Mr. Disraeli gave a definite expression to ideas which, although really his own (for they float through all his compositions), Carlyle, in his lectures on Hero-worship, was the first to develop distinctly; on the other hand, he in the same work anticipated, and in some measure forestalled, the "Latter-day Pamphlets." "Coningsby" was an attempt to explain the true principles of the Tories, therefore an attempt to explode mere Conservatism as the caricature of Toryism, and little better than twaddle. Conservatism, according to this view, is the endeavor to carry on affairs by substituting the fulfilment of the duties of office for the performance of the functions of government; so that ministers are the slaves of routine, not masters of their sphere. And against such a system of universal_red tape Mr. Disraeli directed his satire, to show that mere administrative ability can never supply the place of good government-the very war-cry raised by Mr. Carlyle in his pamphlet on the New Downing Street: Give us a strong government, the government of strong man. And who shall be the man or men for the hour? who the coming they both asked, and answered, each after his own fashion, wistfully gazing into the future. Carlyle, of course, took a rather gloomy view of matters. He is like another John the Baptist, so wild, so shaggy, so melancholy, preaching to another generation of vipers, but with this enormous difference, that, whereas the Baptist cried, Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand, Carlyle cries, "Repent, for lo! the kingdom of hell." Disraeli, on the contrary, is too shrewd, raven-locked as he is, to be, like the raven, a prophet only of evil; and so his warning voice was raised in more equivocal tones-Look out, for there's something looming in the future: and the saviours of the country to whom he pointed his finger were those whom no one could scorn, because they were utterly unknown, although for the
same reason, also, their pretensions might be scouted--the new, the rising generation.
And here we are reminded of a further development which Mr. Disraeli has given to his views of individual character. "The influence of the individual is nowhere so sensible as at school," he remarks. "There the personal qualities strike, without any intervening and counteracting causes. A gracious pres ence, noble sentiments, or a happy talent, make their way there at once, without preliminary inquiries as to what set they are in, or what family they are of, how much they have a year, or where they live." Accordingly, in pursuing his grand theme, his hero is always a youth; and, while maintaining that history is but the biography of great men, he adds, by the mouth of Sidonia: "Almost every thing that is great has been done by youth. The history of heroes is the history of youth." It is a doctrine that flatters young men, and which may partly account for his extraordinary influence over the adolescent mind of Great Britain, remarkably displayed at it was in the enthusiasm which gave him the lion's share of popularity at the late Oxford installation. It was also displayed at the Edinburgh University, where the students, in proposing a president for their associated societies, first thought of Mr. Disraeli, and, had he accepted the honor, would probably have elected him unanimously. That is not, however, the only cause of his popularity. There is more food for thought in his writings than in those of any other novelist, and such thought as young men most admire. What a young man chiefly pants for is experience; he wishes to know and to try life, at whatever hazard; and Mr. Disraeli, besides dilating with poetic ardor on those experiences which are ever most fascinating to youth, dissects them with a show of philosophic accuracy which makes a young fellow fancy that he already understands the whole secret of life and art of living. His writings exhibit a profound and varied acquaintance with all the manifestations of life, that is, perhaps, the result of nearly as much imagination as real experience; for it is wonderful how far a bright invention will go to supply the want of actual knowledge. And that our novelist is largely indebted to imagination for his apparently intimate acquaintance with human nature in all its phases, may be gathered from the very form into which he has thrown his observations. He seldom gives mere facts: almost every fact is capped with a theory. Now, that is not like a man who |
| purchases experience with only his penny of observation; such a man contents himself, for the most part, with a bare recital of the facts. Theory, on the contrary, is the offshoot of inexperience, insufficient knowledge. It is when our experience is partial, or rather (since it is always more or less so, let us say) when we are conscious of its partiality, that we attempt to complete and solidify it in a theory. Partly, then, we believe, on this account, but partly, also, through the vivacity of an intellect that must have exercise, Mr. Disraeli hardly ever states a fact without linking it to a theory, and sometimes, it must be added, in a very reckless manner, as if he merely wished to give play to his ingenuity, no matter what the resultno matter whether it be true or false, if only it be plausible. And thus as Samson caught the three hundred foxes, tied them tail to tail with firebrands between, let them loose amongst the fields of the Philistines, and so burned up their standing corn and the shocks, the vineyards and the oliveshe, by the glowing theories which, in his novels, as well as in his speeches, he is fond of attaching to uninteresting facts and dreary statistics, throws terrible confusion into the established customs and received opinions of the day. And very much to his own hurt, since the prosaic man who cannot understand that kind of play, the political opponent who ought to know better but pretends not, and the rigid moralist who disapproves of every thing in the shape of fiction, all conspire to hoot him down as a hairbrained dreamer, who foolishly assumes the tone of an oracle while divulging mere speculations that are not only false, wild, and impracticable in themselves, but utterly discordant with each other. It is either very weak vision or very poor candor, however, that can thus confound the pyrotechnics of an excited intellect with the sober conclusions and honest convictions of a lifetime, which are not only consistent with themselves, but which he has also maintained, through good and bad report, from the very commencement of his career, never swerving from, although gradually developing them. For our own part, we confess that these fireworks give an extraordinary charm to his writings. If they do not always enlighten, they at least dazzle; if they do not always express truth, they are at least eminently suggestive. And it is not difficult to understand how such broad and sweeping, it may be sometimes hasty, generalizations should possess peculiar attraction for youthful minds. Young people have an
astonishing craze for every thing that can bear the name of multum in parvo: a knife with a dozen blades of different design; a stick that is at once a staff, a whistle, a telescope, a toasting-fork, an eel-spear, and a yard measure; a pencil-case that has as many contrivances in it as there are colors in a pencil of light-a penholder, a toothpick, a seal, a sovereign-gauge, and a letter-weight; last, not least, a theory of universal appliance. The world is all before them; they have much to learn; and they entertain a vast admiration for the man who can supply them with quintessences.
But we have digressed into remarks on young men's opinion of Mr. Disraeli, whereas we were talking of Mr. Disraeli's opinion of young men. The following extract from a dialogue between Conings by and Sidonia, will give a good idea of the direction his views of heroism have taken with reference to youth. Observe how pregnant with meaning is every sentence, every syllable:-"I perceive,' said Coningsby, pursuing a train of thought which the other had indicated, that you have great confidence in the influence of individual character. I also have some confused persuasions of that kind; but it is not the spirit of the age.' The age does not believe in great men, because it does not possess any,' replied the stranger. The spirit of the age is the very thing that a great man changes.' 'But does he not rather avail himself of it?' inquired Coningsby. Parvenus do," rejoined his companion, but not prophets, great legislators, great conquerors. They destroy, and they create.' these times for great legislators and great conquerors?" urged Coningsby. • When were they more wanted?' asked the stranger. From the throne to the hovel, all call for a guide. You give monarchs constitutions to teach them sovereignty; and nations Sunday-schools, to inspire them with faith.' 'But what is an individual,' exclaimed Coningsby, against a vast public opinion?' 'Divine,' said the stranger: God made man in his own image; but the public is made by newspapers, members of parliament, excise officers, poor-law guardians. Would Philip have succeeded, if Epaminondas had not been slain? And if Philip had not succeeded? Would Prussia have existed, had Frederick not been born? And if Frederick had not been born? What would have been the fate of the Stuarts if Prince Henry had not died, and Charles I., as was intended, had been Archbishop of Canterbury?' But when men are young they want experience,' said
Coningsby; and when they have gained experience they want energy.' Great men never want experience,' said the stranger. But every body says that experience- 'Is the best thing in the world--a treasure for you, for me, for millions. But for a creative mind, less than nothing. Almost every thing that is great has been done by youth.' 'It is at least a creed flattering to our years,' said Coningsby, with a smile. Nay,' said the stranger, for life in general there is but one decree. Youth is a blunder; manhood a struggle; old age a regret. Do not suppose, he added, smiling, that I hold that youth is genius; all that I say is, that genius, when young, is divine. Why, the greatest captains of ancient and modern times both conquered Italy at five-and-twenty!" Such is the text of all Mr. Disraeli's novels. He displays an extraordinary interest in youth; and is in this respect the most remarkable type of the present age. Never at any former period of our history has the child-life been magnified into such importance in the pages of literature, and in the eyes of all thinking men. Look at the last novel: the first volume is a minute analysis of childish experience. Look at the innumerable schemes of education; think of the esteem in which the teacher of youth is now held; consider the host of books composed expressly for children, sermons for schools, manuals of devotion; the man who overthrew ancient history writing Greek legends for his grandson, the most popular author of the day penning a "Child's History of England," a veritable archbishop inditing" Easy Lessons on Reasoning," and "Easy Lessons on Money Matters.' It is the mark of a missionary epoch-dissatisfied with the past, doubtful of the present, but living in hope, and better than hope, expectation. And no one, certainly no statesman, represents this tendency of the times more strikingly than Mr. Disraeli. His mind is singularly well balanced in the regard which it bestows alike on the past, the present, and the future. Of all the members of parliament he comes nearest to Macaulay in his fondness for historical illustrations; he is almost equal to Palmerston in understanding the nick of present time; but he is absolutely unrivalled for the intensity of his gaze, and the depth of his insight into the secrets of the future. Prophecy, fortune-telling, astrology, soothsaying-call it what you will-this fascinated gazing into the future as into the eye of a basilisk, is a part of his oriental heritage; as in like manner, also, and as the natural
effect of it, is the warmth of his interest in the possibilities of youth. Where do we find such biographies of youth as in the Hebrew Scriptures? It is because youth is the season of promise, and because of the many senses in which the child is the father of the man, none is more often true than this, that the achievements of the man are but the schemes of the stripling.
And, in passing, let us dwell for a moment on the exceeding beauty of Mr. Disraeli's pictures of boyhood, so vivid and so minute, so natural and so ideal, so full of the boy and so reflective of the man. No novelist seems to have understood boy-nature so well; no one has entered into the spirit of a boy's pleasure so entirely; not even Dickens has spread such a pure azure light on those halcyon days when our hearts were yet unsullied by the world. In fact, Mr. Disraeli very seldom touches the string that Dickens oftenest plays upon in the description of childhood-it is a string very easy to play upon -the sorrows of a child. If one has the gift of pathos at all, he has a very juicy theme in describing the wretchedness and the wrongs, the perplexities and the fears, of a little helpless innocent, that bears all the contradiction of the world so meekly, feeling the pain, but not able to question the justice, of its suffering; and with such a theme Mr. Dickens certainly has done wonders. Mr. Disraeli, on the other hand, seldom touches it. Not that he is deficient in pathos, as it has been said. Latterly, indeed, and we might say from the date of his entrance into Parliament, he seems to have studiously veiled the tenderer feelings of his nature; never in his speeches, and but rarely in his writings, appearing in any character save that of an utter stoic-a man without a tear. But, even in these writings, turn to the last chapter of his last work, the Political Biography of Lord George Bentinck, and we find a very beautiful pathos, although its effects are somewhat marred by the pedantry of certain quotations from the Greek tragedians. When the grief is only strong, it is expressed in a quotation, beginning with &, &; when it becomes doubly strong, it is expressed, if we remember rightly, in a quotation, beginning with another interjection, al, al; until at length when the force is trebled and absolutely overpowering, it bursts forth in the cry of peu. peu. But the best examples of his mastery over the pathetic are to be found in his earlier novels: we may refer to the death of Violet Fane in "Vivian Grey," to the death of Alcesté in "Contarini Fleming," to the latter
part of "Venetia," and to the closing scene of the "Tragedy of Count Alarcos," where, | however, he has mixed up the pathetic with the terrible, so that the effect is by no means equal to that of the Spanish ballad of the same name. And yet, with all this power of excitting the tenderest emotion, Mr. Disraeli has shown very little inclination to shed tears over the calamities of boyhood; and he has thus displayed a truer appreciation of the life of children than Mr. Dickens, as indeed his portraiture of youth generally is of the most accurate description, and exhibits a most minute study of the little ways of children. Here is "Venetia ;" we open it at random-page 34; Lord Cadurcis, a mere boy, has presented a jewel to Venetia: "Venetia went up to her mother, who was talking to Mrs. Cadurcis. She had not courage to speak before that lady and Dr. Masham, so she called her mother aside. 'Mamma,' she said, 'something has happened.' What, my dear?' said Lady Annabel, somewhat surprised at the seriousness of her tone. Look at this, mamma!" said Venetia, giving her the brooch." Something has happened, says the little creature, as if it were an earthquake. The volume is full of those minute touches. Here is another novel; we open it at random, and find the following letter from one schoolboy to another, who has saved him from drowning:
"Dear Coningsby,-I very much fear that you must think me a very ungrateful fellow, because you have not heard from me before; but I was in hopes that I might get out and say to you what I feel; but whether I speak or write, it is quite impossible for me to make you understand the feelings of my heart to you. Now, I will say at once, that I have always liked you better than any fellow in the school, and always thought you the cleverest; indeed, I always thought that there was no one like you; but I never would say this, or show this, because you never seemed to care for me, and because I was afraid you would think I merely wanted to con with you, as they used say of some other fellows, whose names I will not mention, because they always tried to do so with Henry Sydney and you. I do not want this at all; but I want, though we may not speak to each other more than before, that we may be friends.; and that you will always know that there is nothing I will not do for you, and that I like you better than any fellow at Eton. And I do not mean that this shall be only at Eton, but afterwards, wherever we may be, that you will always remember that there is