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on 23 July 2008
Coningsby was published in 1844 and was the first in Disraeli's trilogy of 'political' novels (the others being Sybil and Tancred).

The story revolves around the ealy life of Harry Coningsby. Harry is the orphaned grandson of the Marquess of Monmouth, but Harry's parents incurred the wrath of Monmouth by their marriage. Harry is restored to his granfather's favour and sent to school at Eton. The story follows Harry's career at Eton and Cambridge. While at Eton, Harry saves the life of Oswald Millbank - the son of a northern industrialist. This commences a friendship between Oswald and Harry and leads Harry to fall in love with Oswald's sister, Edith.

In recent years, some historians have dismissed Disrael's political novels as a source for Disrael's creed. This notion can hardly be supported. The story of Harry Coningsby's early life as readable, but it is Disraeli's political critique which makes 'Coningsby' a fascinating read for those interested in Victorian politics.

'Coningsby' is firmly set against the political backround of the years between the passing of the Reform Bill of 1832 (which widened the voting franchise) and the fall of Lord Melbourne's Whig ministry in 1841. Disraeli comments and expounds political views throughout the novel, although generally placing his views in the mouths of one or other of the novel's characters.

In 'Coningsby', we find a critigue of the Toryism of Peel (which Disraeli perceived to be unprincipled), utilitarianism and the Whigs. In the end, Disraeli seems to suggest that there can be a unity of interest between traditional landed elites and the new 'millocracy' through some form of Tory Paternalism.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 5 September 2002
Coningsby is an interesting political-romantic novel set in early nineteenth century England. In much of the first part of the book, Disreali introduces the main characters and the political and social background against which the action in the later parts of the book will be played. In this book Disraeli covers several topics. He explains the state of parliamentary politics of the day and the changing social and political situations of the nobility and the rising manufacturing class. As the title character, Coningsby, develops his political philosophy, Disraeli gives an insight into his own core political beliefs. Through Sidonia, one of his main characters, Disreali makes a pitch for the rights of Jews, a group to which Disraeli is linked by consangunity, though not be religion. To make it all entertaining, Disraeli takes Coningsby and his lover through a long and chaste romantic quest, in which they finally overcome the obstacles placed in their way by their families. The book, ultimately, provides a triumph of love over hatred and pettiness. The strong points of this book are its pleasant story line and the ability to tell a romantic and political tale without including the moral failings, without which so many modern authors seem incapable of expressing themselves. The weak points are found in its age and storybook ending. The repeated references to so many details of political life of his day and the simililarities of characters to prominent people, which may have been amusing to the readers of his day, are lost on most contemporary readers. The ending, in which all the injustices inflicted on Coningsby by petty people around him are reversed through acts of self-sacrifice which set the world right, introduces a sense of fantasy which makes the book seem just a bit too much to believe. Overall this book is a worthwhile read
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on 20 May 2015
Politics in the 1830s after the Great Reform Act produced a majority of 300 for the Whigs! It feels quite contemporary.
Also life at Eton, which may not have changed much.
Dizzy does assume you know all the background however, and don't you get lost occasionally.
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on 20 August 2012
This is a novel set in the early Victorian period and the period immediately before it, and written not long after. Personally I found it rather dull. You have to get over half way through before any signs of a plot begin to appear. The characters are only vaguely delineated, except for the supernaturally able Sidonia, who specialises in eliptical remarks about humanity, and who, in a period of 5 years touring the world in his early manhood, "had exhausted all the sources of human knowledge; he was the master of the learning of every nation, of all tongues dead or living, of every literature, Western or Oriental. He had pursued the speculations of science to their last term, and had himself illustrated them by observation and experiment. He had lived in all orders of society, had viewed every combination of Nature and Art and had observed man under every phasis or civilisation. He had even studied him in the wilderness. The influence of creeds and laws, manners, customs, traditions, in all their diversities, had been subjected to his personal scrutiny" -if that doesn't make you hate him at first sight nothing will. The problem is that it is clear we are supposed to admire him. The characters are also not very gripping, the women especially completely unrealistic, and I didn't really care very much what happened to any of them. Coningsby is supposed to be our hero but comes over as a prig. Sidonia's views on race, including his own Jewish race, and his presentation of Jews as the dominating force in the world and in all areas of life from music and literature to politics and business, strikes a post WW2 reader as very strange and rather dangerous, but it probably represents widespread opinion at the time. There is also a marked insistence on the innate superiority of some races over others, and guess who's on top?
The political excursions are full of rather obscure references (for example the system of government of Britain is referred to as being Venetian, with kings being like the Doge, an idea which will baffle most readers) - do get an edition with extensive notes if you want to follow them at all - but they save the book from being irretrievably unreadable. This is a Roman a Clef, with a list provided of who in real life each character is based on, but most of these people are unknown or virtually unknown to a modern reader, so the list is not really very helpful. Which member of the Rothschild family Sidonia represents or whether Coningsby is based on George Smythe or Lord Littleton will not get many modern pulses racing!
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on 28 July 2009
Book in good conditon (2n Hand) and delivered promptly. Inferior I thought to "Sybil" but still interesting particularly for the political comments which tended rather to hinder the development of the story itself (which is rather sketchy ) but give depth to what otherwise would be just another tugid Victorian novel.
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on 3 December 2015
Very Good!
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