In describing these events Disraeli sets out his own beliefs including his opposition to Robert Peel , his dislikes of both the British Whig Party and the ideals of Utilitarianism , and the need for social justice in a newly industrialized society. He portrays the self-serving politician in the character of Rigby based on John Wilson Croker and the malicious party insiders in the characters of Taper and Tadpole. In Coningsby Disraeli articulates a "Tory interpretation" of history to combat the "accepted [Whig] orthodoxy of the day". At Eton Coningsby meets and befriends Oswald Millbank, the son of a rich cotton manufacturer who is a bitter enemy of Lord Monmouth. The two older men represent old and new wealth in society. When Lord Monmouth discovers these developments he is furious and secretly disinherits his grandson.
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Shelves: out-of-copyright , serious-literature This is an odd book. Nominally a novel, the plot and setting are pretty much just padding and framing for character sketches and analysis on the politics of the era. Its purpose is not so much to entertain as to explain the views of the author, B. Disraeli, MP.
Conigsby would be forgettable if not for two things -- 1 The author was a well-connected MP and does a great deal of telling and showing about political practice of the s and 40s.
Two secretaryships at the least. Do you happen to know any gentleman of your acquaintance, Mr. Taper, who refuses Secretaryships of State so easily, that you can for an instant doubt of the present arrangement?
Taper, with a grim smile. Nobody knows exactly what it means. All we have to do is to get into Parliament, work well together, and keep other men down. We must make it inevitable. I tell you what, Taper, the lists must prove a dissolution inevitable. You understand me?
If the present Parliament goes on, where shall we be? We shall have new men cropping up every session. We have reason to be very thankful. Eight years after publication, he would be Chancellor of the Exchequer and Leader of the House of Commons; a few years later he would be Prime Minster.
Moreover, he was one of the leading theorists about what a 19th century conservative party should be. Those views are But in alternative he casts up a romantic vision of aristocracy, ludicrously out of date, and a general sentiment in favor of vigorous government. For somebody carrying on about English tradition, Disraeli is shockingly bold about praising Jews and Judaism.
Here is is talking about a Jewish character: In his comprehensive travels, Sidonia had visited and examined the Hebrew communities of the world. He had found, in general, the lower orders debased; the superior immersed in sordid pursuits; but he perceived that the intellectual development was not impaired. This gave him hope. He was persuaded that organisation would outlive persecution. When he reflected on what they had endured, it was only marvellous that the race had not disappeared.
They had defied exile, massacre, spoliation, the degrading influence of the constant pursuit of gain; they had defied Time. For nearly three thousand years, according to Archbishop Usher, they have been dispersed over the globe. To the unpolluted current of their Caucasian structure, and to the segregating genius of their great Law-giver, Sidonia ascribed the fact that they had not been long ago absorbed among those mixed races, who presume to persecute them, but who periodically wear away and disappear, while their victims still flourish in all the primeval vigour of the pure Asian breed.
That is, the Jews are great because racially pure -- unlike the English, who are a mix of Saxon and Norman. This is taking contemporary prejudices and standing them on their heads. One adjective that leaps to mind is "Trumpy. Disraeli put himself at the head of the pro-Corn Law faction of the Tory party -- that is, the faction that was prepared to starve Ireland and squeeze the English working class to prop up grain prices and sustain the rural gentry.
In Conigsby, he goes on and on about how the Tory leaders are sellouts without principles -- but has no definite principles of his own. His movement was called "Young England" -- a charmingly vague name. Trump has an authoritarian streak -- Disraeli wants to speak up for the power and authority of hereditary lords and royal prerogative.
Trump is personally insulting. Disraeli is too. The Arch-Mediocrity had himself some glimmering traditions of political science. In the conduct of public affairs his disposition was exactly the reverse of that which is the characteristic of great men. He was peremptory in little questions, and great ones he left open. One learns a great deal from this book.
At one point, he has several characters arguing about the Bedchamber Crisis -- the last moment when a British monarch asserted personal prerogatives against the will of the prime minister. Disraeli highlights something I had never noticed before, which is the party dynamics and the brazen hypocrisy of it all. The crisis happened when a Tory Prime Minster -- Peel -- wanted to remove the ladies of the bedchamber that his Whig predecessor had put in, and whom Victoria wished to keep.
That is, the Tory party -- those stalwart defenders of the traditional constitution -- were trying to tell the monarch what to do about a purely personal matter. Meanwhile the Whigs, who had spent a century emasculating and controlling the monarchs, were crying crocodile tears about how hard it was on the young queen to have the favorites of her youth taken away.
More broadly, the fun of the book is that it is a spirited and erudite rebuttal to many of the tenants of "Whig history" that have now become almost the only conventional view. The great object of the Whig leaders in England from the first movement under Hampden to the last most successful one in , was to establish in England a high aristocratic republic on the model of the Venetian, then the study and admiration of all speculative politicians.
Read Harrington; turn over Algernon Sydney; then you will see how the minds of the English leaders in the seventeenth century were saturated with the Venetian type.
And they at length succeeded. William III. The reign of Anne was a struggle between the Venetian and the English systems. Two great Whig nobles, Argyle and Somerset, worthy of seats in the Council of Ten, forced their Sovereign on her deathbed to change the ministry. They accomplished their object. They brought in a new family on their own terms.
George I. George III. He might get rid of the Whig magnificoes, but he could not rid himself of the Venetian constitution. And a Venetian constitution did govern England from the accession of the House of Hanover until Now I do not ask you, Vere, to relinquish the political tenets which in ordinary times would have been your inheritance. All I say is, the constitution introduced by your ancestors having been subverted by their descendants your contemporaries, beware of still holding Venetian principles of government when you have not a Venetian constitution to govern with.
Do what I am doing, what Henry Sydney and Buckhurst are doing, what other men that I could mention are doing, hold yourself aloof from political parties which, from the necessity of things, have ceased to have distinctive principles, and are therefore practically only factions; and wait and see, whether with patience, energy, honour, and Christian faith, and a desire to look to the national welfare and not to sectional and limited interests; whether, I say, we may not discover some great principles to guide us, to which we may adhere, and which then, if true, will ultimately guide and control others.
Coningsby, or, The New Generation
It was a bright May morning some twelve years ago, when a youth of still tender age, for he had certainly not entered his teens by more than two years, was ushered into the waiting-room of a house in the vicinity of St. The house-door was constantly open, and frequent guests even at this early hour crossed the threshold. The hall-table was covered with sealed letters; and the hall-porter inscribed in a book the name of every individual who entered. The young gentleman we have mentioned found himself in a room which offered few resources for his amusement. A large table amply covered with writing materials, and a few chairs, were its sole furniture, except the grey drugget that covered the floor, and a muddy mezzotinto of the Duke of Wellington that adorned its cold walls. There was not even a newspaper; and the only books were the Court Guide and the London Directory.
Maurisar Coningsby, who had lost the key of his carpet-bag, which he finally cut open with a penknife that he found on his writing-table, and the blade of which he broke in coningeby operation, only reached the drawing-room as the figure of his grandfather, leaning on his ivory cane, and following his guests, was just visible bt the distance. The truth is, the peers were in a fright. Vansittart with his currency resolutions; Lord Castlereagh with his plans for the employment of labour; and Lord Sidmouth with his plots for ensnaring disraelu laborious; we are tempted to imagine that the present epoch has been one of peculiar advances in political ability, and marvel how England could have attained her present pitch under a series of such governors. He traversed saloon after saloon hung with rare tapestry and the gorgeous products of foreign looms; filled with choice pictures and creations of curious art; cabinets that sovereigns might envy, and colossal vases of malachite presented by emperors. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. And what a series of equivocal transactions and mortifying adventures did the withdrawal of this salutary restraint entail on the party which then so loudly congratulated themselves and the country that they were at length relieved from its odious repression! The closing paragraph disrafli the novel contains a rhetorical question.