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Disraeli: or, The Two Lives

Disraeli: or, The Two Lives [Kindle Edition]

Douglas Hurd , Edward Young
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)

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Product Description


What distinguishes this volume is its accessibility and clear-sightedness. (Dominic Sandbrook SUNDAY TIMES 2014-03-09)

An engaging reassessment of the paradoxes at the heart of Disraeli's "two lives": a dandy and a gambler on the one had, a devoted servant and favourite of Queen Victoria on the other. (SUNDAY TELEGRAPH 2014-03-16)

Disraeli's faults and virtues are carefully examined in this hugely impressive biography (THE MAIL ON SUNDAY)

Were the hatchet a less brutal tool, this gripping, succinct and lethal book would deserve the name of hatchet job. The authors get right inside their subject and stay there; this is where their work is done; and, before the reader's eyes and wholly unassaulted, Benjamin Disraeli dies from the inside. Disraeli was not a "one-nation" politician. He neither used the phrase nor implied the idea. Hurd and Young bring to life his wishful dream of the order of things that he had himself mythologised, and wished to protect: nobility, breeding, monarchy, finery, feasting, good-looking young men and grand old ladies. (THE TIMES)

Book Description

A 'gripping, succinct and lethal' (Matthew Parris, THE TIMES) reappraisal of the life of Benjamin Disraeli, the most celebrated and colourful politician of the nineteenth century.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1279 KB
  • Print Length: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Orion (11 July 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00BY7B71O
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #35,946 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars New Conservatism Analysed 20 July 2013
By Dr Barry Clayton TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Kindle Edition
In 1966 Robert Blake wrote a very good biography of Disraeli in which he assessed the relation between Disraeli's politics and his literary writings, in particular his novel 'Sybil' published in 1845.
Other excellent accounts include books by T Jenkins and R Grinter.
This book by former Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd and Edward Young is a very useful companion to these books. It is, however, very different in that it is more of a psychological examination of Disraeli than a political biography. It can be described as the pathology of a myth.
There is very little that is new in the book. The authors have not revealed new documents or trawled through too many existing ones. Nevertheless, it is very well written, the prose is excellent, and the authors argue their case with anecdote, and judicious quotations. Only 320 pages, it can be read with ease in two sittings.

Disraeli was the son of a Jewish writer and scholar whose family had come to England from Venice in the middle of the 18th century. Disraeli did not go to university instead, after leaving school, he worked as a solicitor's clerk. He wrote many novels. At the fourth attempt he was elected as an MP for Maidstone (1837), having changed his allegiance from Whigs to the Tories. Peel refused him a place in his government because of Disreali's attack on him over the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846.
In 1852, 1858-9 and 1866-8 he became Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Conservative governments of those years. Apart from his role in the important 1867 Reform Act, he achieved very little of importance. In 1868 he became Prime Minister for the first time. As he put it he was able to 'climb to the top of the greasy pole'. He was after all the leader of a party dominated by very wealthy landowners.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dizzy - the Victorian Enigma 12 Sep 2013
A very readable biography of an enigmatic Victorian character. Driven by desire for glory, ambitious - yet a man who fell asleep during discussions of the minutiae of even important issues! Most of us can certainly identify with that. Well written by Douglas Hurd and Edward Young, who nevertheless occasionally let themselves down by partisan attacks on Gordon Brown, which the book would be better without. The style is engaging and interesting, and we end up knowing a great deal more about Disraeli than we did before. He doesn't always come across as a "nice" man, but he is certainly an interesting one. A good book and well worth a read.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A look at the man behind the myth 6 Aug 2013
By D P
Format:Kindle Edition
Disraeli is a complicated figure fully brought to life in this excellent book. The inherent contradictions within his personality and his self-diagnosed hunger for the limelight make for a stimulating read which successfully lifts the curtain on the myth of Disraeli. Without a rose tinted view, it is an extremely effective portrayal of a man at the vanguard of political campaigning for his time and someone for whom politics was about who was up and who was down rather than ideology.

The book is full of fascinating titbits, such as the discovery of Gladstone's markings on a contemporary biography of Disraeli which enable the authors to very effectively sort fact from fiction and Disraeli from the mythical figure who hangs of British politics today. As an example there is an excellent account of his grasp, or lack thereof, of foreign policy. Also, time and again we are reminded that Disraeli's goal was never to unite the two halves of Britain to create the "one nation" of which he is so famous, indeed he never actually said the words, rather his project, or so it seems, was doing justice to his own intellect.

I've seen the book described as an evisceration, but if it is one it is gentle and not without a lot of affection for a man who made parliament popular and was a supreme orator. It also looks in fascinating detail at his successes with the Reform Act including the audacious expansion of the franchise at the last moment.

The book rattles along at a great clip and would be a great read for both a scholar of the period or someone more or less new to it. The last section draws some parallels with the Disraeli of the modern era, Boris Johnson, and effectively argues for the role of such figures in politics to encourage the public to take an interest. Highly recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Douglas Hurd tackles the question of how much of the myth of Disraeli is founded in reality. He and his co-writer have an easy style and clearly have done a lot of research, providing some new insights.
Hurd's side references to incidents in recent political history give an extra interest.
The writers' conclusions about the Disraeli myth may not come as a great surprise, but like him or loathe him, Disraeli remains a fascinating character.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An admirable biography 27 Sep 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book is a first-rate analysis of Disraeli's character and politics. It lacks detail, but that makes it all the more readable.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Every Modern Politician Should Read it 25 Aug 2013
By C. E. Utley TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Throughout the ages politicians have claimed posthumous support from long-dead statesmen. But there is one dead man whose support is most often claimed. For a hundred years or so British Conservative politicians (with a few notable exceptions) have assured us that, were he alive, Disraeli would agree with them. It's getting worse. Now, even Ed Miliband, the leader of the Labour Party, is telling us that Disraeli would be on his side. Most of these admirers of Disraeli, not surprisingly, have only the vaguest notion of what he stood for. But they all know that he was desperately in favour of something called "One Nation" and of "Tory Democracy".

And how wrong they are.

If Hurd and Young have done nothing else with this book they have, surely, laid to rest the preposterous theory that Disraeli was keen on democracy and wanted to create one nation. But they have, actually, achieved more. This is an immensely readable (and not very long) book. It makes no claim to have unearthed much in the way of new material. But it succeeds in doing what it sets out to do. It tells us of the two Disraelis: the real one and the myth.

Modern politicians don't just latch onto "One Nation" and "Tory Democracy" (expressions never used by him) when they talk of Disraeli. Many of them also claim that he was a tremendous example to our present rulers in his determination to get power at any cost, to sacrifice principle to the ballot box. Why they should have got hold of that idea is something of a mystery. As Hurd and Young point out, Disraeli's performance in elections (he only won one) was disastrous. He was leader of the opposition for longer, far longer, than any 20th century leader of a major party.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars One Star
only received it yesterday so why not ask in one month?
Published 1 month ago by peter lyle
3.0 out of 5 stars Dizzy, dizzy in Past, Present & Future Politics
When the authors admit that little more need be added to facts which first appeared in abundance in earlier great biographies by Robert Blake Disraeli, and by Moneypenny & Buckle... Read more
Published 1 month ago by mangilli-climpson m
4.0 out of 5 stars Disraeli
Different approach but well written. Very readable. Some details of his private life.He never forgot his Jewish heritage even though he was baptised
Published 2 months ago by Dr. Leon Kaufman
3.0 out of 5 stars So look many minuses ....
The authors seemed to have made the deconstruction of Disraeli the mission of their book and any faint praise of the man and his achievements is dispensed very grudgingly. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Albert Perahia
4.0 out of 5 stars an Interesting read
Well written but one would expect that from this auhor. This certainly gives an excellent insight into an an unusual figure.
Published 4 months ago by HK
5.0 out of 5 stars well written and engaging
This is an interesting and enjoyable political biography which, although wriiten by two senior Conservatives, does not seek to lionise Disraeli or to hide his often unattractive... Read more
Published 6 months ago by markr
5.0 out of 5 stars Empty but entertaining!
This book is written in Hurds usual elegant and readable style.It does not replace Robert Blakes 1966 classic biography but complements it and gives a more modern perspective on... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Dalgety
4.0 out of 5 stars An Underrated Legacy For The Jewish Culture
Other than the fact that this is a political book written by Douglas Hurd and I liked his Peel and Choose Your Weapons Books, the thing that motivated me to buy this book was the... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Scruff
5.0 out of 5 stars Disraeli: or, The Two Canes
Disraeli: or, The Two Lives isn't just a biography, it's a pop-up book. The legendary politician and author rises from the pages, made more vivid with every insight, anecdote and... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Jessica C
5.0 out of 5 stars You will enjoy reading this book
You'd think you can't go wrong writing a biography about the obscure Jewish second class novelist who managed to get to lead the Conservative Party (a party still run by landed... Read more
Published 8 months ago by David Poyser
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