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Disraeli
July 3, 2006 10:30 PM   Subscribe

The heroic imagination. Benjamin Disraeli and the politics of performance.
posted by semmi (15 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
His objective, underlined and declared in every novel, was to keep effective power out of the hands of the middle classes by making a nationalist alliance between the lords and the landless.

...

Various efforts have been made to claim Disraeli as the godfather of modern Anglo-American conservatism, but this is a paternity more improbable than any Disraeli ever concocted for himself.

I dunno, sounds a lot like American conservatism to me.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:42 PM on July 3, 2006 [1 favorite]


Disraeli was absolutely brilliant, whatever one may think of his actual politics. Quoting from this page:

Once at a social gathering, Gladstone said to Disraeli, "I predict, Sir, that you will die either by hanging or of some vile disease". Disraeli replied, "That all depends, sir, upon whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."
posted by Malor at 10:47 PM on July 3, 2006


"You don't even know who I am"
posted by Smedleyman at 11:36 PM on July 3, 2006


There was a fantastic play on Radio 4 called Dizzy Spells about Disraeli's life before he entered politics and his relationship with his sister on Radio 4, last week or the week before. I'd never really had any interest in the man until hearing this, but the play painted him as a fascinating guy -- a womanizing dandy with manic energy, huge self confidence and a somewhat modern political sensibility.

Unfortunately, I can't find any trace of it on the Radio 4 website, but it was thoroughly enjoyable.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:56 AM on July 4, 2006


Disraeli's name is one of those words that seems to make people think they recognize it, and know more about the person/concept/history than they actually do. Once, on my way to Tel Aviv from New York, I got stuck for the last seat at the bar in an airport lounge in Rome, buttonholed by a pretty drunk guy who had Disraeli alcoholically confused with Menachem Begin. It was awful, for far too long...

And then Disraeli had his psychedelic phase, too, again through erroneous conflation:
"The title of the album, Disraeli Gears, was actually a bit of an inside joke. Eric had been thinking of getting a racing bike, and was discussing it with Ginger, when Mick Turner, one of the roadies, commented on the performance of "those Disraeli Gears" meaning to say "derailleur gears". The lads thought this was hilarious and decided that it should be the title of their next album. Had it not been for Mick, the album would simply have been entitled, Cream."
posted by paulsc at 4:06 AM on July 4, 2006


There’s a good on-line exhibition (‘Scenes from an Extraordinary Life’) about Disraeli here.
posted by misteraitch at 4:37 AM on July 4, 2006


Once at a social gathering, Gladstone said to Disraeli, "I predict, Sir, that you will die either by hanging or of some vile disease". Disraeli replied, "That all depends, sir, upon whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."

I always thought that was John Wilkes to the Earl of Sandwich.

I very much doubt that it was Gladstone. Not his style at all.
posted by GeorgeBickham at 5:16 AM on July 4, 2006


Thank you, I had never heard of this "New Yorker" magazine. It must be new. I hope they continue to publish for many years.

Now, back to the internets.
posted by Outlawyr at 5:39 AM on July 4, 2006


> Thank you, I had never heard of this "New Yorker" magazine. It must be new.

Heh. William Shawn is dead, long live William Shawn. And bugger off Tina Brown and everybody since.
posted by jfuller at 6:47 AM on July 4, 2006


Yes indeed. Newyorkerfilter.
posted by rhymer at 7:35 AM on July 4, 2006


smedleyman for the win.
posted by shmegegge at 8:58 AM on July 4, 2006


My favorite Disraeli story is of the aristocratic lady who remarked (something like): "Dine with Mr. Gladstone and you will come away thinking he is the most brilliant person in the world; dine with Mr. Disraeli, and you will think that you are."

How different would the US be right now if our most politically powerful closet case were Benjamin Disraeli instead of Karl Rove?
posted by jamjam at 9:26 AM on July 4, 2006


Ignore the NewYorkerFilter crap, semmi, this is a very good article and deserves to be shared. On this side of the pond the New Yorker is less readily available or read and I certainly appreciate the odd link now and then. A great read - I've often thought that there is more to be written about the theatre of mid-Victorian politics. It's interesting to compare Dizzy's eye for the theatrical gesture - the Suez purchase, or otherwise messing about on the international stage, the Romantic novels, Young England - with Gladstone's more solid nonconformist spectacle during the Midlothian campaign. Each a performance in its own way, but totally different and with completely different motivation.

Interesting, too, how various generations of Tories try to resurrect Disraeli as a prophet for the Right and generally fail - he was one of a kind. One Nation Toryism is far too glib a phrase to sum up his political style. Jon Parry's work on this is worth reading. (And then there's Gladstone as prophet for the Right and the Left, but that's another story...)
posted by greycap at 12:20 PM on July 4, 2006


Disraeli was the first Earl of Beaconsfield, where I was in fact born. I had never really looked him up, but this article was a very good introduction, so I appreciate its submission. I had never realised what an outsider he was - the first and only dandyish, presumably queer, jewish Prime Minister. Shame he was a tory, but at the time, the other options weren't that crash hot.

I, too, thought to keep effective power out of the hands of the middle classes by making a nationalist alliance between the lords and the landless sounded a lot like the modern US - but the means he by which he brought it about were entirely different. As the article says In America, the conservatism in power is rooted in three of the things he most despised: unquestioning faith in the free market, public displays of narrow religiosity (he called ritualism in church “high jinks”), and wars fought for the moral improvement of foreigners. Definitely an end/means dichotomy going on there.

Thanks Semmi.
posted by Sparx at 2:37 PM on July 4, 2006


Great article, however having spent the last week or so reading up on Speech Act Theory, I was hoping for them to delve a bit more into performance, the politics thereof, and the performing of politics.
posted by jrb223 at 8:20 PM on July 5, 2006


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