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Disraeli: A Personal History Paperback – 5 Sep 2005
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‘One of England’s greatest living historical writers. Reading anything by him is pure pleasure.’ Amanda Foreman
‘Engaging new biography'.’ Guardian
‘A fine new biography…an acute and insightful personal biography.’ Andrew Roberts, Daily Telegraph
‘In this shouty world, Hibbert’s account of the private life of Benjamin Disraeli comes as an immensely dependable relief…Innumerable younger historians owe Hibbert an immense debt, although he is probably too unassuming to allow them to pay it.’ Sunday Times
'…the book is thoroughly enjoyable…What Hibbert does extremely well is to construct a readable, well written narrative…a superbly skilful historical writer.’ Spectator
Disraeli is one of the most fascinating men of the nineteenth century. This masterly biography, written by an outstanding popular historian, concentrates on his intriguing private life. Superb politician, orator, writer and wit, Benjamin Disraeli was - according to Queen Victoria - 'the kindest Minister' she had ever had, who 'reached the top of the greasy pole' [in his own words] despite considerable antisemitism. He enjoyed many scandalous affairs before marrying a widow twelve years older than himself - an extremely eccentric woman to whom he remained deeply and touchingly devoted for the rest of his life. Disraeli had never intended to be a politician. He had begun his astonishing career by working unenthusiastically in a lawyer's office; he had tried unsuccessfully to found a newspaper; he had written a novel which lay unproductively in the publisher's office. A conspicuous dandy, sprightly, attentive and witty, he was attractive to women, enjoying many liaisons until he contracted a venereal disease in a St James's Street brothel. He married in 1839. 'Dizzy married me for my money,' Mary Anne used to say. 'But, if he had the chance again, he would marry me for love.'They lived in a large country house, Hughenden Manor, near High Wycombe, which he bought with mostly borrowed money, and soon became one of the most gifted of parliamentarians and as celebrated as any politician in England. As an antidote to his grief at his wife's death in 1872 he threw himself back into the political life, becoming Prime Minister for the second time in 1874, displacing Gladstone much to the Queen's delight. See all Product description
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Another two aspects that did not at all exercise the author’s mind were, first, Disraeli’s speeches and, second, what was happening around Disraeli in England at the time. I would have to say that, unless other evidence could be produced to me, the author is no sort of historian, more of a more of an industrious scribbler.
The author makes it clear in multifarious places how the touchstone of Disraeli’s greatness was his oratory. I would’ve thought he might have allowed us a few examples of it! As far as I recall, we get absolutely zero on that score. On the second point, I have already said that Gladstone is given scant attention, but so is the whole unfolding of history, political and otherwise, around this extraordinary man. One begins to wonder if he existed in a vacuum -- we are told more than once, and no doubt rightly, that, although he was brilliant, he would often seem to be quite distant, almost on another planet.
I will however credit the author with this, namely that he gives a very good account of Disraeli’s relationship with Queen Victoria – I don’t feel that I need anyone else to flesh that out for me, but clearly I’m going to have to turn to another book to feel that I have really made contact with Disraeli and his times – I emphasise the last three words.
enlightening and entertaining. He was particularly
at home in the 19th century as his books on Disraeli
and Queen Victoria demonstrate.
Disraeli’s life was undoubtedly enigmatic, with the likes of many historians disagreeing over how exactly to interpret his distinguished life. However, Hibbert does an excellent job at breaking through the brush and delivering an account of Disraeli’s life largely unclouded with opinions.
I definitely recommend this book to others; as someone deeply interested in the Victorian era, a time dominated by individual personalities, I revelled at being able to read about the great gentleman’s personal life.
Of course, do take heed that the subtitle “a personal history” Cannot be stressed more; Hibbert does not cover great political events of this time concerning Disraeli anymore than looking at the personal impact of these events on the man himself, not his actions.
All in all: a fantastic read.
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