Disraeli: The Victorian Dandy Who Became Prime Minister

( 2 )

Overview

"To Queen Victoria, Benjamin Disraeli was "the kindest Minister"; to many of his peers, he was decadent and frivolous. Today, he is remembered as the man who changed politics forever. In this masterful biography, Christopher Hibbert uncovers the personal life of this fascinating man." A superb speaker, writer, and wit, Disraeli did not intend to be a politician. Born into a family of Jewish merchants, Disraeli was a conspicuous dandy, constantly in debt, enjoying many scandalous affairs until he married an eccentric widow twelve years his senior. ...
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Overview

"To Queen Victoria, Benjamin Disraeli was "the kindest Minister"; to many of his peers, he was decadent and frivolous. Today, he is remembered as the man who changed politics forever. In this masterful biography, Christopher Hibbert uncovers the personal life of this fascinating man." A superb speaker, writer, and wit, Disraeli did not intend to be a politician. Born into a family of Jewish merchants, Disraeli was a conspicuous dandy, constantly in debt, enjoying many scandalous affairs until he married an eccentric widow twelve years his senior. In spite of his idiosyncratic lifestyle, he rose to power as prime minister, breathing new life into the world of politics with his sharp tongue and cunning sense of humor. As an antidote to his grief at his wife's death in 1872, he threw himself back into politics, becoming Prime Minister for the second time in 1874, much to the Queen's delight.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Hibbert's lively and engaging portrait of Benjamin Disraeli joins the author's numerous other well-received, popular biographies...A supremely readable and enjoyable study of a colorful, often astonishing and modern character."

"An adroitly written evocation of a compelling but enigmatic personality, a man whose ambition, idealism and opportunism would not seem out of place on the political scene today."—Publishers Weekly

"Christopher Hibbert is one of the great British historians of our era. His elegant and lyrical writing has inspired a generation of authors to imitate him. Yet, he remains unsurpassed. Disraeli is a timely reminder of why Hibbert is still loved and admired all over the world."—Amanda Foreman, bestselling author of Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire

"Christopher Hibbert has done it again and produced a skillfully written narrative of one of the titans of British politics, Benjamin Disraeli. In Disraeli Hibbert has created a vivid human portrait of the statesman. Hibbert is especially adept at bringing alive Disraeli's close relationship with his eccentric but beloved wife. All in all, a masterful account of an intriguing figure from an accomplished historian."—

Julia P. Gelardi, bestselling author of Born to Rule

"Christopher Hibbert's books have long been an inspiration to writers: they are witty, urbane and—most importantly—joyfully readable. In Disraeli, the author is perfectly matched to his subject, to create a biography that fizzes with energy and intelligence."—Judith Flanders, author of Inside the Victorian Home

"[An] engaging new biography."—The Guardian

"[A] thoroughly enjoyable read...a well-written narrative. [Hibbert] is a superbly skillful historical writer."—The Spectator

"[Hibbert] is a polished practitioner of the biographer's art...a smoothly readable book."—Christopher Kent, Journal of Historical Biography

Publishers Weekly
Veteran historian Hibbert summons up the ghost of Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881), who along with Gladstone dominated English politics in the Victorian era. Hibbert finds Disraeli's character and personal history intriguing, and the reader will agree. Disraeli was the consummate outsider to the English ruling caste: he was from the wrong class, the wrong schools, the wrong ancestry (the scalding remarks of Disraeli's enemies reminded him all his life of his Jewish origins). Yet Disraeli's ambition and brilliance made him prime minister and a favorite of Queen Victoria. The author has chosen hundreds of quotations from contemporary sources; written by, to or about Disraeli, these excerpts bring the era to life. All who wrote about Disraeli's powers of oratory stressed how spellbinding he was in the House of Commons. Disraeli himself joined in this chorus, characterizing each of his oratorical triumphs as his greatest achievement to date. Hibbert (The English: A Social History) plainly appreciates Disraeli's many abilities (self-assurance, eloquence, gregariousness) as well as his deficits (cynicism, vanity). This is an adroitly written evocation of a compelling but enigmatic personality, a man whose ambition, idealism and opportunism would not seem out of place on the political scene today. (May 30) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Hibbert's lively and engaging portrait of Benjamin Disraeli (1804-81) joins the author's numerous other well-received, popular biographies (Queen Victoria: A Personal History). Disraeli remains an intriguing and enigmatic figure: a Jew who was baptized; a dandy; an arriviste; a novelist; a one-time radical, Tory politician, eventually prime minister; and, famously, flatterer of Queen Victoria and promoter of the British Empire. Readers will not find portentous political analysis, literary criticism, or up-to-date social commentary here (students of political history would do better to rely on Robert Blake's magisterial Disraeli). Instead, Hibbert presents a truly personal history, lingering over details of clothes, "Balls and Banquets" (to quote one chapter heading), and personal relationships with family, friends, lovers, colleagues, and royals. A supremely readable and enjoyable study of a colorful, often astonishing and modern character, this is recommended for all libraries.-Matt Todd, Northern Virginia Community Coll. Lib., Alexandria Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
The Guardian

[An] engaging new biography.
The Spectator

[A] thoroughly enjoyable read...a well-written narrative. [Hibbert] is a superbly skillful historical writer.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781403978967
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 6/28/2007
  • Edition description: Second Edition
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 432
  • Sales rank: 694,776
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.94 (d)

Meet the Author

Christopher Hibbert was born in 1924 and educated at Radley and Oxford. He is the author of many highly acclaimed books, including The Rise and Fall of the House of Medici; The English: A Social History; and Cavaliers and Roundheads. He has also written 'biographies' of London, Rome, and Venice, and the lives of Samuel Johnson, Elizabeth I, and Napoleon and his women.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgements
Part One: 1804-46 * Boyhood
• A Young Man of High Fashion
• A Continental Holiday
• Mental Breakdown
• Travels and Adventures
• 'The Jew d'Esprit'
• The Candidate
• Affairs
• The Reforming Tory
• Debts and Duns
• The Member for Maidstone
• 'Most Brilliant and Triumphant Speeches'
• 'A Pretty Little Woman, a Flirt and a Rattle'
• A Troubled Courtship
• A Happy Marriage
• The Brilliant Orator
• Young England
Coningsby and Sybil * Damning Attacks
Tancred * Part Two: 1846-81 * The Jockey and the Jew
• The Country Gentleman
• The Chancellor
• Marital Difficulties
• Balls and Banquets
• Visits and Visitors
• Fetes and Follies
• Distinguished Persons and Private Secretaries
• The 'Potent Wizard'
• A Guest as Balmoral and Osborne
• Ministed in Attendance
• The Widower
• Female Friends
• Prime Minister Again
• Troubles at Court
• Earl of Beaconsfield and Viscount Hughenden of Hughenden
• Berlin
• The 'Guardian Angel'
• The Last Act
• 'A Wise and Worldly Man'
• References
• Index

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 4, 2007

    Perhaps a little too focused...

    The name Benjamin Disraeli, for me, was one that existed in metaphor or vague reference. Seeking to rectify this, I made an effort to locate what, I hoped, would be the defining biography on the man many of my more knowledgable friends regarded as utterly fascinating. And while this particular biography embarks on the ambitious trail of piecing together the man behind the publicity, it overachieves its goals, focusing a little too stringently on the dandy, the self-indulgent orator, the consumate rascal, that it tosses in the more globally important issues like scraps. The Crimea, the Indian Mutiny, and other matters whose scope extends beyond Benjamin writing or being written to about the glory and splendor of his last speech are left to the history-minded reader to piece together for themselves from other sources. The gargantuan cast that presents itself throughout the book provide charm and more than a little bit of confusion you might want to keep a notebook of who is who and why. I think the author had a very clear idea of what he wanted and he handily accomplished it. But, despite some very interesting moments and insights into the titular historical figure, you're not likely to learn anything useful in political discussion or as gain a reference for Victoria politics. Then again, that might not have been the point of the book. A good read, but do not look to it for all the information.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    good bio

    If anyone should never have made it to the elite of Victorian England¿s political power that person was Benjamin Disraeli. That is the premise of Christopher Hibbert¿s superb biography of the late nineteenth century prime minister. Everything about Disraeli marked him as an outsider who should have remained in the ooze below the political food chain. He was from a Jewish middle class ancestry yet somehow he became Queen Victoria¿s favorite politician as his ability to spellbind the House of Commons with his oratory skills and his overall strategic brilliance made him a force though also a cynical idealist.--------------------- This is a fantastic biography of an individual that brings to life one of key figures of the latter half of the nineteenth century as well as a feel for the period. Though born in 18804 (died in 1881), the emphasis is on his political career, which brings out the traits of a complicated person in vivid detail. This is must reading for biography fans as Mr. Hibbert brings Disraeli and late Victorian England to life.------------ Harriet Klausner

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