Benjamin Disraeli, 1st Earl of Beaconsfield: Wikis

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The Right Honourable
 The Earl of Beaconsfield 

Disraeli in 1873

In office
20 February 1874 – 21 April 1880
Monarch Victoria
Preceded by William Ewart Gladstone
Succeeded by William Ewart Gladstone
In office
27 February 1868 – 1 December 1868
Monarch Victoria
Preceded by The Earl of Derby
Succeeded by William Ewart Gladstone

In office
6 July 1866 – 29 February 1868
Monarch Victoria
Preceded by William Ewart Gladstone
Succeeded by George Ward Hunt
In office
26 February 1858 – 11 June 1859
Monarch Victoria
Preceded by Sir George Cornewall Lewis, Bt.
Succeeded by William Ewart Gladstone
In office
27 February 1852 – 17 December 1852
Monarch Victoria
Preceded by Charles Wood
Succeeded by William Ewart Gladstone

Born 21 December 1804(1804-12-21)
London, England
Died 19 April 1881 (aged 76)
London, England
Political party Conservative
Spouse(s) Mary Anne Lewis
Religion Church of England (for most of his life)

Judaism (until age 13)


Benjamin Disraeli, 1st Earl of Beaconsfield, KG, PC, FRS, (21 December 1804 – 19 April 1881) was a British Prime Minister, parliamentarian, Conservative statesman and literary figure. He served in government for three decades, twice as Prime Minister. A teenage convert to Anglicanism, he was nonetheless the country's first and thus far only Prime Minister of Jewish heritage.[1] He played an instrumental role in the creation of the modern Conservative Party after the Corn Laws schism of 1846.

Although a major figure in the protectionist wing of the Conservative Party after 1844, Disraeli's relations with the other leading figures in the party, particularly Lord Derby, the overall leader, were often strained. Not until the 1860s would Derby and Disraeli be on easy terms, and the latter's succession of the former assured. From 1852 onwards, Disraeli's career would also be marked by his often intense rivalry with William Ewart Gladstone, who eventually rose to become leader of the Liberal Party. In this feud, Disraeli was aided by his warm friendship with Queen Victoria, who came to detest Gladstone during the latter's first premiership in the 1870s. In 1876 Disraeli was raised to the peerage as the Earl of Beaconsfield, capping nearly four decades in the House of Commons.

Before and during his political career, Disraeli was well-known as a literary and social figure, although his novels are not generally regarded as a part of the Victorian literary canon. He mainly wrote romances, of which Sybil and Vivian Grey are perhaps the best-known today. He is exceptional among British Prime Ministers for having gained equal social and political renown. He was twice successful as the Glasgow University Conservative Association's candidate for Rector of the University, holding the post for two full terms between 1871 and 1877.


Early life

Disraeli's biographers believe he was descended from Italian Sephardic Jews. He claimed Spanish ancestry, possibly referring to the ultimate origin of his family heritage in Spain prior to the expulsion of Jews in 1492, after which many Jews emigrated, in two waves: the bulk to the Ottoman Empire, but many more, first to northern Italy, then to the Netherlands, and finally England.[2] He was the second child and eldest son of Isaac D'Israeli, a literary critic and historian, and Maria Basevi. Benjamin changed the spelling in the 1820s by dropping the apostrophe.[3] His siblings included Sarah (1802–1859), Naphtali (1807), Ralph (1809–1898), and James (1813–1868).[4] Benjamin at first attended a small school, the Reverend John Potticary's school at Blackheath.[5] His father had Benjamin baptised in 1817 following a dispute with their synagogue. The elder D'Israeli was content to remain outside organized religion. From 1817, Benjamin attended a school at Higham Hill, in Walthamstow, under Eliezer Cogan.[6] His younger brothers, in contrast, attended the superior Winchester College.[7]

His father groomed him for a career in law, and Disraeli was articled to a solicitor in 1821. In 1824, Disraeli toured Belgium and the Rhine Valley with his father and later wrote that it was while travelling on the Rhine that he decided to abandon the law: "I determined when descending those magical waters that I would not be a lawyer."[8] On his return to England he speculated on the stock exchange on various South American mining companies. The recognition of the new South American republics on the recommendation of George Canning had led to a considerable boom, encouraged by various promoters. In this connection, Disraeli became involved with the financier J. D. Powles, one such booster. In the course of 1825, Disraeli wrote three anonymous pamphlets for Powles, promoting the companies.[9]

That same year Disraeli's financial activities brought him into contact with the publisher John Murray who was also involved in the South American mines. Accordingly, they attempted to bring out a newspaper, The Representative, to promote both the cause of the mines and those politicians who supported the mines, specifically George Canning. The paper was a failure, in part because the mining "bubble" burst in late 1825, which ruined Powles and Disraeli. Also, according to Disraeli's biographer, Lord Blake, the paper was "atrociously edited", and would have failed regardless. Disraeli's debts incurred from this debacle would haunt him for the rest of his life.[10]

Before his entrance into parliament, Disraeli was involved with several women, most notably Henrietta, Lady Sykes (the wife of Sir Francis Sykes, 3rd Bt), who served as the model for Henrietta Temple. It was Henrietta who introduced Disraeli to Lord Lyndhurst, with whom she later became romantically involved. As Lord Blake observed: "The true relationship between the three cannot be determined with certainty ... there can be no doubt that the affair [figurative usage] damaged Disraeli and that it made its contribution, along with many other episodes, to the understandable aura of distrust which hung around his name for so many years."[11]

In 1839 he settled his private life by marrying Mary Anne Lewis, the rich widow of Wyndham Lewis, Disraeli's erstwhile colleague at Maidstone. Mary Lewis was 12 years his senior, and their union was seen as being based on financial interests, but they came to cherish one another.[12]

Isaac D'Israeli
Father of Benjamin Disraeli

Literary career

Disraeli turned towards literature after his financial disaster, motivated in part by a desperate need for money, and brought out his first novel, Vivian Grey, in 1826. Disraeli's biographers agree that Vivian Grey was a thinly-veiled re-telling of the affair of The Representative, and it proved very popular on its release, although it also caused much offence within the Tory literary world when Disraeli's authorship was discovered. The book, initially anonymous, was purportedly written by a "man of fashion" – someone who moved in high society. Disraeli, then just twenty-three, did not move in high society, and the numerous solecisms present in Vivian Grey made this painfully obvious. Reviewers were sharply critical on these grounds of both the author and the book. Furthermore, John Murray believed that Disraeli had caricatured him and abused his confidence–an accusation denied at the time, and by the official biography, although subsequent biographers (notably Blake) have sided with Murray.[13]

A Young Disraeli
by Sir Francis Grant, 1852

After producing a Vindication of the English Constitution, and some political pamphlets, Disraeli followed up Vivian Grey with a series of novels, The Young Duke (1831), Contarini Fleming (1832), Alroy (1833), Venetia and Henrietta Temple (1837). During the same period he had also written The Revolutionary Epick and three burlesques, Ixion, The Infernal Marriage, and Popanilla. Of these only Henrietta Temple (based on his affair with Henrietta Sykes, wife of Sir Francis William Sykes, 3rd Bt) was a true success.[14]

During the 1840s Disraeli wrote three political novels collectively known as "the Trilogy"–Sybil, Coningsby, and Tancred.[15]

Disraeli's relationships with other male writers of his period were strained or non-existent. After the disaster of The Representative, John Gibson Lockhart became a bitter enemy and the two never reconciled.[16] Disraeli's preference for female company prevented the development of contact with those who were otherwise not alienated by his opinions, comportment or background. One contemporary who tried to bridge the gap, William Makepeace Thackeray, established a tentative cordial relationship in the late 1840s only to see everything collapse when Disraeli took offence at a burlesque of him which Thackeray penned for Punch. Disraeli took revenge in Endymion (published in 1880), when he caricatured Thackeray as "St. Barbe".[17]

Critic William Kuhn argued much of Disraeli's fiction can be read as "the memoirs he never wrote", revealing the inner life of a politician for whom the norms of Victorian public life appeared to represent a social straitjacket – particularly with regard to his allegedly "ambiguous sexuality."[18]


Sir Robert Peel, Bt.
Prime Minister 1834–35, 1841–46
Lord John Manners
Friend of Disraeli, and leading figure in the Young England movement

Disraeli had been considering a political career as early as 1830, before he departed England for the Mediterranean. His first real efforts, however, did not come until 1832, during the great crisis over the Reform Bill, when he contributed to an anti-Whig pamphlet edited by John Wilson Croker and published by Murray entitled England and France: or a cure for Ministerial Gallomania. The choice of a Tory publication was regarded as odd by Disraeli's friends and relatives, who thought him more of a Radical. Indeed, Disraeli had objected to Murray about Croker inserting "high Tory" sentiment, writing that "it is quite impossible that anything adverse to the general measure of Reform can issue from my pen." Further, at the time Gallomania was published, Disraeli was in fact electioneering in High Wycombe in the Radical interest.[19] Disraeli's politics at the time were influenced both by his rebellious streak and by his desire to make his mark. In the early 1830s the Tories and the interests they represented appeared to be a lost cause. The other great party, the Whigs, was anathema to Disraeli: "Toryism is worn out & I cannot condescend to be a Whig."[20]

Though he initially stood for election, unsuccessfully, as a Radical, Disraeli was a Tory by the time he won a seat in the House of Commons in 1837 representing the constituency of Maidstone.[21]

Although a Conservative, Disraeli was sympathetic to some of the demands of the Chartists and argued for an alliance between the landed aristocracy and the working class against the increasing power of the merchants and new industrialists in the middle class, helping to found the Young England group in 1842 to promote the view that the landed interests should use their power to protect the poor from exploitation by middle-class businessmen. During the twenty years between the Corn Laws and the Second Reform Bill Disraeli would seek a Tory-Radical alliance, to little avail. Prior to the 1867 Reform Bill the working class did not possess the vote and therefore had little tangible political power. Although Disraeli forged a personal friendship with John Bright, a Lancashire manufacturer and leading Radical, Disraeli was unable to convince Bright to sacrifice principle for political gain. After one such attempt, Bright noted in his diary that Disraeli "seems unable to comprehend the morality of our political course."[22]


Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel passed over Disraeli when putting together his government in 1841 and Disraeli, hurt, gradually became a sharp critic of Peel's government, often deliberately adopting positions contrary to those of his nominal chief.[23] The best known of these cases was the Maynooth grant in 1845 and the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846. The end of 1845 and the first months of 1846 were dominated by a battle in parliament between the free traders and the protectionists over the repeal of the Corn Laws, with the latter rallying around Disraeli and Lord George Bentinck. An alliance of pro free-trade Conservatives (the "Peelites"), Radicals, and Whigs carried repeal, and the Conservative Party split: the Peelites moved towards the Whigs, while a "new" Conservative Party formed around the protectionists, led by Disraeli, Bentinck, and Lord Stanley (later Lord Derby).[24]

This split had profound implications for Disraeli's political career: almost every Conservative politician with official experience followed Peel, leaving the rump bereft of leadership. As one biographer wrote, "[Disraeli] found himself almost the only figure on his side capable of putting up the oratorical display essential for a parliamentary leader."[25] Looking on from the House of Lords, the Duke of Argyll wrote that Disraeli "was like a subaltern in a great battle where every superior officer was killed or wounded."[26] If the remainder of the Conservative Party could muster the electoral support necessary to form a government, then Disraeli was now guaranteed high office. However, he would take office with a group of men who possessed little or no official experience, who had rarely felt moved to speak in the House of Commons before, and who, as a group, remained hostile to Disraeli on a personal level, his assault on the Corn Laws notwithstanding.[27]

Bentinck and the leadership

Lord George Bentinck
Conservative leader in the commons 1846–48

In 1847 a small political crisis occurred which removed Bentinck from the leadership and highlighted Disraeli's differences with his own party. In the preceding general election, Lionel de Rothschild had been returned for the City of London. Ever since Catholic Emancipation, members of parliament were required to swear the oath "on the true faith of a Christian." Rothschild, an unconverted Jew, could not do so and therefore could not take his seat. Lord John Russell, the Whig leader who had succeeded Peel as Prime Minister and like Rothschild a member for the City of London, introduced a Jewish Disabilities Bill to amend the oath and permit Jews to enter Parliament.[28]

Disraeli spoke in favour of the measure, arguing that Christianity was "completed Judaism," and asking of the House of Commons "Where is your Christianity if you do not believe in their Judaism?"[29] While Disraeli did not argue that the Jews did the Christians a favour by killing Christ, as he had in Tancred and would in Lord George Bentinck,[30] his speech was badly received by his own party,[31] which along with the Anglican establishment was hostile to the bill.[32] Samuel Wilberforce, Bishop of Oxford and a friend of Disraeli's, spoke strongly against the measure and implied that Russell was paying off the Jews for "helping" elect him.[33] Every member of the future protectionist cabinet then in parliament (except Disraeli) voted against the measure. One member who was not, Lord John Manners, stood against Rothschild when the latter re-submitted himself for election in 1849. Bentinck, then still Conservative leader in the Commons, joined Disraeli in speaking and voting for the bill, although his own speech was a standard one of toleration.[34]

In the aftermath of the debate Bentinck resigned the leadership and feuded with Stanley, leader in the Lords and overall leader, who had opposed the measure and directed the party whips—in the Commons—to oppose the measure as well. Bentinck was succeeded by Lord Granby; Disraeli's own speech, thought by many of his own party to be blasphemous, ruled him out for the time being.[35] Even as these intrigues played out, Disraeli was working with the Bentinck family to secure the necessary financing to purchase Hughenden Manor, in Buckinghamshire. This purchase allowed him to stand for the county, which was "essential" if one was to lead the Conservative Party at the time. He and Mary Anne alternated between Hughenden and several homes in London for the remainder of their marriage. These negotiations were complicated by the sudden death of Lord George on 21 September 1848, but Disraeli obtained a loan of £25,000 (equivalent to about £1.96 million as of 2010)[36] from Lord George's brothers Lord Henry Bentinck and Lord Titchfield.[37]

Within a month Granby resigned the leadership in the commons, feeling himself inadequate to the post, and the party functioned without an actual leader in the commons for the remainder of the parliamentary session. At the start of the next session, affairs were handled by a triumvirate of Granby, Disraeli, and John Charles Herries–indicative of the tension between Disraeli and the rest of the party, who needed his talents but mistrusted the man. This confused arrangement ended with Granby's resignation in 1851; Disraeli effectively ignored the two men regardless.[38]


First Derby government

The Earl of Derby
Prime Minister 1852, 1858–59, 1866–68

The first opportunity for the protectionist Tories under Disraeli and Stanley to take office came in 1851, when Lord John Russell's government was defeated in the House of Commons over the Ecclesiastical Titles Act 1851. Disraeli was to have been Home Secretary, with Stanley (becoming the Earl of Derby later that year) as Prime Minister. Other possible ministers included Sir Robert Inglis, Henry Goulburn, John Charles Herries, and Lord Ellenborough. The Peelites, however, refused to serve under Stanley or with Disraeli so long as the question of free trade remained unsettled, and attempts to form a purely protectionist government failed. Derby supposedly remarked at the time, "Pshaw! These are not names which I can put before the Queen!"[39]

Russell resumed office, but resigned again in early 1852 when a combination of the protectionists and Lord Palmerston defeated him on a Militia Bill.[40] This time Lord Derby (as he had become) took office, and to general surprise appointed Disraeli Chancellor of the Exchequer.[41] Disraeli had offered to stand aside as leader in the House of Commons in favour of Palmerston, but the latter declined.[42]

The primary responsibility of a mid-Victorian chancellor was to produce a Budget for the coming fiscal year. Disraeli proposed to reduce taxes on malt and tea (indirect taxation); additional revenue would come from an increase in the house tax. More controversially, Disraeli also proposed to alter the workings of the income tax (direct taxation) by "differentiating"–i.e., different rates would be levied on different types of income.[43] The establishment of the income tax on a permanent basis had been the subject of much inter-party discussion since the fall of Peel's ministry, but no consensus had been reached, and Disraeli was criticised for mixing up details over the different "schedules" of income. Disraeli's proposal to extend the tax to Ireland gained him further enemies, and he was also hampered by an unexpected increase in defence expenditure, which was forced on him by Derby and Sir John Pakington (Secretary of State for War and the Colonies) (leading to his celebrated remark to John Bright about the "damned defences").[44] This, combined with bad timing and perceived inexperience led to the failure of the Budget and consequently the fall of the government in December of that year.[45]

Gladstone's final speech on the failed Budget marked the beginning of over twenty years of mutual parliamentary hostility, as well as the end of Gladstone's formal association with the Conservative Party. No Conservative reconciliation remained possible so long as Disraeli remained leader in the House of Commons.[46]


With the fall of the government, Disraeli and the Conservatives returned to the opposition benches. Derby's successor as Prime Minister was the Peelite Lord Aberdeen, whose ministry was composed of both Peelites and Whigs. Disraeli himself was succeeded as chancellor by Gladstone.[47]

Second Derby government

The Viscount Palmerston
Prime Minister 1855–58, 1859–65

Lord Palmerston's government collapsed in 1858 amid public fallout over the Orsini affair and Derby took office at the head of a purely 'Conservative' administration. He again offered a place to Gladstone, who declined. Disraeli remained leader of the House of Commons and returned to the Exchequer. As in 1852 Derby's was a minority government, dependent on the division of its opponents for survival.[48] The principal measure of the 1858 session would be a bill to re-organise governance of India, the Indian Mutiny having exposed the inadequacy of dual control. The first attempt at legislation was drafted by the President of the Board of Control, Lord Ellenborough, who had previously served as Governor-General of India (1841–44). The bill, however, was riddled with complexities and had to be withdrawn. Soon after, Ellenborough was forced to resign over an entirely separate matter involving the current Governor-General, Lord Canning.[49]

Faced with a vacancy, Disraeli and Derby tried yet again to bring Gladstone into the government. Disraeli wrote a personal letter to Gladstone, asking him to place the good of the party above personal animosity: "Every man performs his office, and there is a Power, greater than ourselves, that disposes of all this…" In responding to Disraeli Gladstone denied that personal feelings played any role in his decision then and previously to accept office, while acknowledging that there were differences between him and Derby "broader than you may have supposed." Gladstone also hinted at the strength of his own faith, and the role it played in his public life, when he addressed Disraeli's most personal and private appeal:

I state these points fearlessly and without reserve, for you have yourself well reminded me that there is a Power beyond us that disposes of what we are and do, and I find the limits of choice in public life to be very narrow.—W. E. Gladstone to Disraeli, 1858[50]

With Gladstone's refusal Derby and Disraeli looked elsewhere and settled on Disraeli's old friend Edward Bulwer-Lytton, who became Secretary of State for the Colonies; Derby's son Lord Stanley, succeeded Ellenborough at the Board of Control. Stanley, with Disraeli's assistance, proposed and guided through the house the India Act, under which the subcontinent would be governed for sixty years. The East India Company and its Governor-General were replaced by a viceroy and the Indian Council, while at Westminster the Board of Control was abolished and its functions assumed by the newly created India Office, under the Secretary of State for India.[51]

The 1867 Reform Bill

William Ewart Gladstone
Four-time Prime Minister

After engineering the defeat of a Liberal Reform Bill introduced by Gladstone in 1866,[52] Disraeli and Derby introduced their own measure in 1867.[53] This was primarily a political strategy designed to give the Conservative party control of the reform process and the subsequent long-term benefits in the Commons, similar to those derived by the Whigs after their 1832 Reform Act. It was thought that if the Conservatives were able to secure this piece of legislation, then the newly enfranchised electorate may return their gratitude to the Tories in the form of a Conservative vote at the next general election. As a result, this would give the Conservatives a greater chance of forming a majority government. After so many years in the 'stagnant backwaters' of British politics, this seemed most appealing. The Reform Act 1867 extended the franchise by 938,427 – an increase of 88% – by giving the vote to male householders and male lodgers paying at least 10 pounds for rooms and eliminating rotten boroughs with fewer than 10,000 inhabitants, and granting constituencies to fifteen unrepresented towns, and extra representation in parliament to larger towns such as Liverpool and Manchester, which had previously been under-represented in Parliament.[54] This act was unpopular with the right wing of the Conservative Party, most notably Lord Cranborne (later the Marquess of Salisbury), who resigned from the government and spoke against the bill, accusing Disraeli of "a political betrayal which has no parallel in our Parliamentary annals."[55] Cranborne, however, was unable to lead a rebellion similar to that which Disraeli had led against Peel twenty years earlier.[56]

Prime Minister

First government

The Marquess of Salisbury
Three-time Prime Minister

Derby's health had been declining for some time and he finally resigned as Prime Minister in late February 1868; he would live for twenty months. Disraeli's efforts over the past two years had dispelled, for the time being, any doubts about him succeeding Derby as leader of the Conservative Party and therefore Prime Minister. As Disraeli remarked, "I have climbed to the top of the greasy pole."[57]

However, the Conservatives were still a minority in the House of Commons, and the passage of the Reform Bill required the calling of new election once the new voting register had been compiled. Disraeli's term as Prime Minister would therefore be fairly short, unless the Conservatives won the general election. He made only two major changes in the cabinet: he replaced Lord Chelmsford as Lord Chancellor with Lord Cairns, and brought in George Ward Hunt as Chancellor of the Exchequer. Disraeli and Chelmsford had never got along particularly well, and Cairns, in Disraeli's view, was a far stronger minister.[58]

Disraeli's first premiership was dominated by the heated debate over the established Church of Ireland. Although Ireland was overwhelmingly Roman Catholic, the Protestant Church remained the established church and was funded by direct taxation. An initial attempt by Disraeli to negotiate with Cardinal Manning the establishment of a Roman Catholic university in Dublin foundered in March when Gladstone moved resolutions to disestablish the Irish Church altogether. The proposal divided the Conservative Party while reuniting the Liberals under Gladstone's leadership. While Disraeli's government survived until the December general election, the initiative had passed to the Liberals, who were returned to power with a majority of 170.[59]

Second government

After six years in opposition, Disraeli and the Conservative Party won the election of 1874, giving the party its first absolute majority in the House of Commons since the 1840s. Under the stewardship of R. A. Cross, the Home Secretary, Disraeli's government introduced various reforms, including the Artisan's and Labourers' Dwellings Improvement Act 1875, the Public Health Act 1875, the Sale of Food and Drugs Act (1875), and the Education Act (1876). His government also introduced a new Factory Act meant to protect workers, the Conspiracy and Protection of Property Act 1875 to allow peaceful picketing, and the Employers and Workmen Act (1875) to enable workers to sue employers in the civil courts if they broke legal contracts. As a result of these social reforms the Liberal-Labour MP Alexander Macdonald told his constituents in 1879, "The Conservative party have done more for the working classes in five years than the Liberals have in fifty."[60]


Disraeli and Queen Victoria, during the latter's visit to Hughenden Manor at the height of the Eastern crisis.
New Crowns for Old depicts Disraeli as Abanazer from the pantomime version of Aladdin offering Victoria an imperial crown in exchange for a royal one.

Disraeli cultivated a public image of himself as an Imperialist with grand gestures such as conferring on Queen Victoria the title “Empress of India”.

Disraeli was, according to some interpretations, a supporter of the expansion and preservation of the British Empire in the Middle East and Central Asia. In spite of the objections of his own cabinet and without Parliament's consent, he obtained a short-term loan from Lionel de Rothschild in order to purchase 44% of the shares of the Suez Canal Company. Before this action, though, he had for the most part opted to continue the Whig policy of limited expansion, preferring to maintain the then-current borders as opposed to promoting expansion.[61]

Disraeli and Gladstone clashed over Britain's Balkan policy. Disraeli saw the situation as a matter of British imperial and strategic interests, keeping to Palmerston's policy of supporting the Ottoman Empire against Russian expansion. According to Blake, Disraeli believed in upholding Britain's greatness through a tough, "no nonsense" foreign policy that put Britain's interests above the "moral law" that advocated emancipation of small nations.[62] Gladstone, however, saw the issue in moral terms, for Bulgarian Christians had been massacred by the Turks and Gladstone therefore believed it was immoral to support the Ottoman Empire. Blake further argued that Disraeli's imperialism "decisively orientated the Conservative party for many years to come, and the tradition which he started was probably a bigger electoral asset in winning working-class support during the last quarter of the century than anything else".[62]

A leading proponent of the Great Game, Disraeli introduced the Royal Titles Act 1876, which created Queen Victoria Empress of India, putting her at the same level as the Russian Tsar. In his private correspondence with the Queen, he proposed "to clear Central Asia of Muscovites and drive them into the Caspian".[63] In order to contain Russia's influence, he launched an invasion of Afghanistan and signed the Cyprus Convention with Turkey, whereby this strategically placed island was handed over to Britain.

Disraeli scored another diplomatic success at the Congress of Berlin in 1878, in preventing Bulgaria from gaining full independence, limiting the growing influence of Russia in the Balkans and breaking up the League of the Three Emperors.[64] However, difficulties in South Africa (epitomised by the defeat of the British Army at the Battle of Isandlwana), as well as Afghanistan, weakened his government and led to his party's defeat in the 1880 election.[65]

Title and death

Disraeli was elevated to the House of Lords in 1876 when Queen Victoria made him Earl of Beaconsfield and Viscount Hughenden.[66]

In the general election of 1880 Disraeli's Conservatives were defeated by Gladstone's Liberals, in large part owing to the uneven course of the Second Anglo-Afghan War. The Irish Home Rule vote in England contributed to his party's defeat. Disraeli became ill soon after and died in April 1881.[67]

He is buried in a vault beneath St Michael's Church in the grounds of his home Hughenden Manor, accessed from the churchyard. Against the outside wall of the church is a memorial erected in his honour by Queen Victoria. His literary executor, and for all intents and purposes his heir, was his private secretary, Lord Rowton.[68]

Disraeli also has a memorial in Westminster Abbey.

Disraeli's Jewishness

Although born of Jewish parents, Disraeli was baptised in the Christian faith at the age of thirteen, and remained an observant Anglican for the rest of his life.[69] At the same time, he was ethnically Jewish and believed the two positions to be compatible, as well as seeing no conflict of interest in using British power to support Jewish interests (such as supporting the tolerant Ottoman Empire above the anti-semitic Tsarist Empire). Adam Kirsch, in his biography of Disraeli, states that his Jewishness was "both the greatest obstacle to his ambition and its greatest engine."[70] Much of the criticism of his policies was couched in anti-Semitic terms. He was depicted in some antisemitic political cartoons with a big nose and curly black hair, called "Shylock" and "abominable Jew," and portrayed in the act of ritually murdering the infant Britannia.[70] In response to an anti-Semitic comment in the British parliament, Disraeli memorably defended his Jewishness with the statement, "Yes, I am a Jew, and when the ancestors of the Right Honourable Gentleman were brutal savages in an unknown island, mine were priests in the Temple of Solomon."[71]

Disraeli's governments

Works by Disraeli

Line drawing of Disraeli
Statue in Parliament Square, London



  • An Inquiry into the Plans, Progress, and Policy of the American Mining Companies (1825)
  • Lawyers and Legislators: or, Notes, on the American Mining Companies (1825)
  • The present state of Mexico (1825)
  • England and France, or a Cure for the Ministerial Gallomania (1832)
  • What Is He? (1833)
  • The Vindication of the English Constitution (1835)
  • The Letters of Runnymede (1836)
  • Lord George Bentinck (1852)


  1. ^ "Benjamin Disraeli". Retrieved 2009-09-20. 
  2. ^ Blake 1966, p. 3. Norman Gash, reviewing Blake's work, argued that Benjamin's claim to Spanish ancestry could not be entirely dismissed. (Gash 1968)
  3. ^ Opponents, however, continued to include the apostrophe in correspondence. Lord Lincoln, writing to Sir Robert Peel in 1846, referred to "D'Israeli." (Conancher 1958, p. 435). Peel did so as well, see Gash 1972, p. 387. Even in the 1870s, towards the end of Disraeli's career, this practice continued. See Wohl 1995, p. 381, ff. 22.
  4. ^ Rhind 1993, p. I, 3
  5. ^ Rhind 1993, p. I, 157
  6. ^  "Cogan, Eliezer". Dictionary of National Biography, 1885–1900. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 
  7. ^ Blake 1966, pp. 11-12
  8. ^ Blake 1966, p. 22
  9. ^ Blake 1966, pp. 24–26; Veliz 1975, pp. 637–663
  10. ^ Blake 1966, pp. 33–34
  11. ^ Blake 1966, pp. 116–119
  12. ^ Blake 1966, p. 158
  13. ^ Graubard 1967, p. 139
  14. ^ For Blake's account of Henrietta Sykes, see Blake 1966, pp. 94-119.
  15. ^ Blake, pp. 190-191.
  16. ^ Cline 1941
  17. ^ Cline 1943. This view has been accepted by most historians. See Merritt 1968, who argues that St. Barbe was an attack on Thomas Carlyle.
  18. ^ Dugdale, John. "Review of 'The Politics of Pleasure: A Portrait of Benjamin Disraeli', by William Kuhn". The Guardian. London. 
  19. ^ Blake 1966, pp. 84–86
  20. ^ Blake 1966, p. 87
  21. ^ Blake, p. 85.
  22. ^ Trevelyan 1913, p. 207. The specific occasion was the 1852 Budget. Disraeli seems to have held out the possibility of Bright, Richard Cobden, and Thomas Milner Gibson eventually joining the cabinet in exchange for the support of the Radicals.
  23. ^ Peel's reasons for doing so are disputed. Some historians suggest Edward Stanley's well-known antipathy to Disraeli as the prime factor. Robert Blake dismisses these claims, arguing instead that Peel's need to balance the various factions of the Conservative Party, and the heavy preponderance of aristocrats within the cabinet, precluded Disraeli's inclusion. See Cline 1939, and Blake 1966, pp. 165–166.
  24. ^ For the bitterness over the Corn Laws, see Blake 1966, pp. 228-234. For the effect of the split, see Blake 1966, pp. 241-243.
  25. ^ Blake 1966, p. 247
  26. ^ Quoted in Blake 1966, pp. 247–248
  27. ^ Blake 1966, p. 260
  28. ^ Blake 1966, p. 258
  29. ^ Hansard, 3rd Series, xcv, 1321-1330, 16 December 1847.
  30. ^ Disraeli, Benjamin (1852). Lord George Bentinck: A Political Biography (2nd ed.). Colburn and Co.. pp. 488–489. doi:10.1007/b62130. ISBN 354063293X. 
  31. ^ On the other hand, both Russell and Gladstone thought it was brave for Disraeli to speak as he did. Morley, 715-716.
  32. ^ Of the 26 Anglican bishops and archbishops who sat in the House of Lords, 23 voted on the measure altogether, and 17 were opposed.
  33. ^ Hansard, 3rd Series, xcviii, 1374-1378, 25 May 1848.
  34. ^ Blake 1966, pp. 259–260
  35. ^ Blake 1966, pp. 261–262
  36. ^ UK CPI inflation numbers based on data available from Measuring Worth: UK CPI.
  37. ^ Blake 1966, pp. 251–254
  38. ^ Blake 1966, pp. 266–269
  39. ^ Blake 1966, pp. 301–305
  40. ^ Palmerston got his "tit for tat" with "Johnny Russell", who under pressure from the Crown had dismissed Palmerston from the Foreign Office the previous December.
  41. ^ The expectation had been that Disraeli would assume the Foreign or Home offices.
  42. ^ Blake, p. 311.
  43. ^ Ghosh 1984, pp. 269–273; Matthew 1986, p. 621.
  44. ^ Bright's diary quotes the conversation in full. See Trevelyan 1913, pp. 205–206
  45. ^ On the centrality of the income tax, see Matthew 1986, pp. 121–122.
  46. ^ Blake, pp. 346-347.
  47. ^ Blake, p. 350.
  48. ^ Hawkins 1984
  49. ^ Blake 1966, pp. 379–382
  50. ^ Blake 1966, pp. 382–384
  51. ^ Blake 1966, pp. 385–386
  52. ^ Blake, pp. 442-444.
  53. ^ Blake, pp. 456-457.
  54. ^ Conancher 1971, p. 177
  55. ^ Quoted in Blake 1966, p. 473
  56. ^ Blake, p. 461..
  57. ^ Blake 1966, pp. 485–487
  58. ^ Blake 1966, pp. 487–489
  59. ^ Blake 1966, pp. 496–502
  60. ^ Monypenny & Buckle 1929, p. 709
  61. ^ For the Suez deal, see Blake 1966, pp. 581–587.
  62. ^ a b Blake 1966, p. 760
  63. ^ Quoted from Disraeli's letter to the Queen in Mahajan, 53.
  64. ^ Blake 1966, pp. 649-654
  65. ^ Blake 1966, pp. 660-679
  66. ^ Blake 1966, p. 566
  67. ^ Blake 1966, p. 749
  68. ^ Blake 1966, pp. 751–756
  69. ^ Blake 1966, p. 11. See also Endelman 1985, p. 115.
  70. ^ a b Julius, Anthony (23 January 2009), "Judaism's Redefiner", The New York Times,, retrieved 18 September 2009 
  71. ^,9171,463071,00.html


Benjamin Disraeli, 1st Earl of Beaconsfield
  • Blake, Robert (1966). Disraeli. New York: St. Martin's Press. 
  • Carter, Nick (June 1997). "Hudson, Malmesbury and Cavour: British Diplomacy and the Italian Question, February 1858 to June 1859". The Historical journal 40 (2): 389–413. doi:10.1017/S0018246X97007218. 
  • Cline, C.L. (February 1941). "Disraeli and John Gibson Lockhart". Modern Language Notes 56 (2): 134–137. doi:10.2307/2911518. 
  • Cline, C.L. (December 1939). "Disraeli and Peel's 1841 Cabinet". The Journal of Modern History 11 (4): 509–512. doi:10.1086/236397. 
  • Cline, C.L. (October 1943). "Disraeli and Thackeray". The Review of English Studies 19 (76): 404–408. doi:10.1093/res/os-XIX.76.404. 
  • Conancher, J.B. (1971). The Emergence of British Parliamentary Democracy in the Nineteenth Century. New York: John Wiley and Sons. 
  • Conancher, J.B. (July 1958). "Peel and the Peelites, 1846–1850". The English Historical Review 73 (288): 431–452. doi:10.1093/ehr/LXXIII.288.431. 
  • Endelman, Todd M. (May 1985). "Disraeli's Jewishness Reconsidered". Modern Judaism 5 (2): 109–123. doi:10.1093/mj/5.2.109. 
  • Gash, Norman (April 1968). "Review of Disraeli, by Robert Blake". The English Historical Review 83 (327): 360–364. doi:10.1093/ehr/LXXXIII.CCCXXVII.360. 
  • Gash, Norman (1972). Sir Robert Peel: The Life of Sir Robert Peel after 1830. Totowa, New Jersey: Rowman and Littlefield. ISBN 0-87471-132-0. 
  • Ghosh, P.R. (April 1984). "Disraelian Conservatism: A Financial Approach". The English Historical Review 99 (391): 268–296. doi:10.1093/ehr/XCIX.CCCXCI.268. 
  • Graubard, Stephen R. (October 1967). "Review of Disraeli, by Robert Blake". The American Historical Review 73 (1): 139. doi:10.2307/1849087. 
  • Hawkins, Angus (Spring 1984). "British Parliamentary Party Alignment and the Indian Issue, 1857–1858". The Journal of British Studies 23 (2): 79–105. doi:10.1086/385819. 
  • Jerman, B.R.. The Young Disraeli. Princeton: Princeton University Press. 
  • Kidd, Joseph (1889). "The Last Illness of Lord Beaconsfield". The Nineteenth Century: A Monthly Review 26. 
  • Kirsch, Adam. Benjamin Disraeli. New York: Schocken. 
  • Mahajan, Sneh (2002). British Foreign Policy, 1874-1914. Routledge. ISBN 0415260108. 
  • Matthew, H.C.G. (September 1979). "Disraeli, Gladstone, and the Politics of Mid-Victorian Budgets". The Historical journal 22 (3): 615–643. 
  • Matthew, H.C.G. (1986). Gladstone, 1809-1874. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0198229097. 
  • Merritt, James D. (June 1968). "The Novelist St. Barbe in Disraeli's Endymion: Revenge on Whom?". Nineteenth-Century Fiction 23 (1): 85–88. doi:10.1525/ncl.1968.23.1.99p0201m. 
  • Monypenny, William Flavelle; Buckle, George Earle (1929). The Life of Benjamin Disraeli, Earl of Beaconsfield. Volume II. 1860–1881. London: John Murray. 
  • Morley, John (1922). The life of William Ewart Gladstone, volume 2. London: Macmillan. 
  • Parry, J.P. (September 2000). "Disraeli and England". The Historical journal 43 (3): 699–728. doi:10.1017/S0018246X99001326. 
  • Rhind, Neil (1993). Blackheath village and environs. London: Bookshop Blackheath. ISBN 0950513652. 
  • Seton-Watson, R.W. (1972). Disraeli, Gladstone, and the Eastern Question. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. 
  • Trevelyan, G.M. (1913). The Life of John Bright. London: Constable. 
  • Veliz, Claudio (November 1975). "Egana, Lambert, and the Chilean Mining Associations of 1825". The Hispanic American Historical Review 55 (4): 637–663. doi:10.2307/2511948. 
  • Winter, James (January 1966). "The Cave of Adullam and Parliamentary Reform". The English Historical Review 81 (318): 38–55. doi:10.1093/ehr/LXXXI.CCCXVIII.38. 
  • Wohl, Anthony S. (July 1995). ""Dizzi-Ben-Dizzi": Disraeli as Alien". The Journal of British Studies 34 (3): 375–411. doi:10.1086/386083. 

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Lord Privy Seal
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Academic offices
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Peerage of the United Kingdom
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Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to Benjamin Disraeli article)

From Wikiquote

I am prepared for the worst, but hope the best.

Benjamin Disraeli, 1st Earl of Beaconsfield (1804-12-211881-04-19) was a British politician, novelist, and essayist, serving twice as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. The anniversary of his death on 19 April is known as Primrose Day.


See also


  • To govern men, you must either excel them in their accomplishments, or despise them.
  • I am a Conservative to preserve all that is good in our constitution, a Radical to remove all that is bad. I seek to preserve property and to respect order, and I equally decry the appeal to the passions of the many or the prejudices of the few.
    • Campaign speech at High Wycombe, England (1832-11-27).
  • Yes, I am a Jew, and when the ancestors of the right honorable gentleman were brutal savages in an unknown island, mine were priests in the temple of Solomon.
  • I will sit down now, but the time will come when you will hear me.
    • The end of Disraeli's badly-received maiden speech in the House of Commons in 1837. Disraeli was being shouted down by other MPs. Compare: "I will be heard", William Lloyd Garrison, Salutatory of the Liberator (January 1, 1831).
  • Free trade is not a principle; it is an expedient.
    • On Import Duties (1843-04-25); compare: "It is a condition which confronts us, not a theory", Grover Cleveland, Annual Message, 1887, in reference to the tariff. See also "Protection is not a principle but an expedient" below.
  • Consider Ireland. You have a starving population, an absentee aristocracy, and an alien Church, and in addition the weakest executive in the world. That is the Irish Question.
  • The noble lord is the Prince Rupert of parliamentary discussion: his charge is resistless, but when he returns from the pursuit he always finds his camp in the possession of the enemy.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (1844-04-24), referring to Lord Stanley; compare: "The brilliant chief, irregularly great, / Frank, haughty, rash,—the Rupert of debate!", Edward Bulwer-Lytton, The New Timon (1846), Part i.
  • It is knowledge that influences and equalises the social condition of man; that gives to all, however different their political position, passions which are in common, and enjoyments which are universal.
    • Speech at the Manchester Athenaeum (1844-10-23).
  • The right honorable gentleman caught the Whigs bathing and walked away with their clothes. He has left them in the full enjoyment of their liberal positions, and he is himself a strict conservative of their garments.
  • A Conservative government is an organized hypocrisy.
    • Speech on Agricultural Interests (1845-03-17)
  • Protection is not a principle, but an expedient.
    • ibid.
  • It is well-known what a middleman is: he is a man who bamboozles one party and plunders the other.
  • The right honourable gentleman [Sir Robert Peel] tells us to go back to precedents; with him a great measure is always founded on a small precedent. He traces the steam-engine always back to the tea-kettle. His precedents are generally tea-kettle precedents.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (1845-04-11).
  • Things must be done by parties, not by persons using parties as tools.
    • Letter referring to the tactics of Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel (1846-12-17).
  • A precedent embalms a principle.
    • Speech on the Expenditures of the Country (1848-02-22).
  • My objection to Liberalism is this—that it is the introduction into the practical business of life of the highest kind—namely, politics—of philosophical ideas instead of political principles.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (1848-06-05).
  • Nationality is the miracle of political independence; race is the principle of physical analogy.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (1848-08-09).
  • You cannot choose between party government and Parliamentary government. I say you can have no Parliamentary government if you have no party government; and therefore when gentlemen denounce party government, they strike at the scheme of government which, in my opinion, has made this country great, and which, I hope, will keep it great.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (1848-08-30).
  • The difference of race is one of the reasons why I fear war may always exist; because race implies difference, difference implies superiority, and superiority leads to predominance.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (1849-02-01).
  • The legacy of heroes — the memory of a great name and the inheritance of a great example.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (1849-02-01).
  • Sir, I say that justice is truth in action.
    • Agricultural Distress, speech in the House of Commons (1851-02-11).
  • Coalitions though successful have always found this, that their triumph has been brief.
  • This is the third time that, in the course of six years, during which I have had the lead of the Opposition in the House of Commons, I have stormed the Treasury Benches: twice, fruitlessly, the third time with a tin kettle to my tail which rendered the race hopeless. You cannot, therefore, be surprised, that I am a little wearied of these barren victories, which like Alma, Inkerman, and Balaclava, may be glorious but are certainly nothing more.
  • Finality is not the language of politics.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (1859-02-28).
  • How much easier it is to be critical than to be correct.
    • Variant: It is much easier to be critical than to be correct.
    • Speech of 1860-01-24.
  • Posterity is a most limited assembly. Those gentlemen who reach posterity are not much more numerous than the planets.
  • He seems to think that posterity is a pack-horse, always ready to be loaded.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (1862-06-03).
  • Colonies do not cease to be colonies because they are independent.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (1863-02-05).
  • At present the peace of the world has been preserved, not by statesmen, but by capitalists.
    • Letter to Mrs. Sarah Brydges Willyams (1863-10-17).
  • Never take anything for granted.
  • The characteristic of the present age is craving credulity.
    • Speech at Oxford Diocesan Conference (1864-11-25).
  • What is the question now placed before society with the glib assurance which to me is most astonishing? That question is this: Is man an ape or an angel? I, my lord, I am on the side of the angels. I repudiate with indignation and abhorrence those new fangled theories.
    • Variant: The question is this— Is man an ape or an angel? My Lord, I am on the side of the angels. I repudiate with indignation and abhorrence these new fanged theories.
    • Variant: Is man an ape or an angel? Now, I am on the side of the angels!
    • Speech at Oxford Diocesan Conference (1864-11-25).
  • Assassination has never changed the history of the world.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (1865-05-01)
  • In the character of the victim [Lincoln], and even in the accessories of his last moments, there is something so homely and innocent that it takes the question, as it were, out of all the pomp of history and the ceremonial of diplomacy—it touches the heart of nations and appeals to the domestic sentiment of mankind.
    • ibid.
  • Ignorance never settles a question.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (1866-05-14).
  • Individualities may form communities, but it is institutions alone that can create a nation.
    • Speech at Manchester (1866).
  • For what is the Tory party unless it represents national feeling? If it does not represent national feeling, Toryism is nothing. It does depend upon hereditary coteries of exclusive nobles. It does not attempt power by attracting to itself the spurious force which may accidentally arise from advocating cosmopolitan principles or talking cosmopolitan jargon. The Tory party is nothing unless it represent and uphold the institutions of the country.
    • Speech at Mansion House (7 August, 1867).
    • William Flavelle Monypenny and George Earle Buckle, The Life of Benjamin Disraeli, Earl of Beaconsfield. Volume II. 1860–1881 (London: John Murray, 1929), p. 287.
  • In a progressive country change is constant;… change … is inevitable.
    • Speech on Reform Bill of 1867, Edinburgh, Scotland (1867-10-29).
  • I see before me the statue of a celebrated minister, who said that confidence was a plant of slow growth. But I believe, however gradual may be the growth of confidence, that of credit requires still more time to arrive at maturity.
  • In a progressive country change is constant; and the great question is not whether you should resist change which is inevitable, but whether that change should be carried out in deference to the manners, the customs, the laws and the traditions of a people, or whether it should be carried out in deference to abstract principles, and arbitrary and general doctrines.
    • Speech in Edinburgh (1867).
  • Yes, I have climbed to the top of the greasy pole.
    • To friends, on being made Prime Minister (1868).
  • What is earnest is not always true; on the contrary, error is often more earnest than truth.
  • The author who speaks about his own books is almost as bad as a mother who talks about her own children.
  • Apologies only account for that which they do not alter.
  • Increased means and increased leisure are the two civilizers of man.
    • Speech to the Conservatives of Manchester (1872-04-03).
  • You behold a range of exhausted volcanoes. Not a flame flickers on a single pallid crest.
    • ibid.
  • Gentlemen, I am a party man. I believe that, without party, Parliamentary government is impossible. I look upon Parliamentary government as the noblest government in the world, and certainly the one most suited to England.
    • ibid.
  • Gentlemen, the Tory party, unless it is a national party, is nothing.
    • Speech to the National Union of Conservative and Constitutional Associations at the Crystal Palace (24 June, 1872).
    • 'Mr. Disraeli At Sydenham', The Times, (25 June, 1872), p. 7.
  • The most distinguishing feature, or, at least, one of the most distinguishing features, of the great change effected in 1832 was that those who effected it at once abolished all the franchises as ancient as those of the Baronage of England; and, while they abolished them, they offered and proposed no substitute. The discontent upon the subject of representation which afterwards more or less pervaded our society dates from that period, and that discontent, all will admit, has ceased. It was terminated by the Act of Parliamentary Reform of 1867-8. That act was founded on a confidence that the great body of the people of this country were "Conservative". I use the word in its purest and loftiest sense. I mean that the people of England, and especially the working classes of England, are proud of belonging to a great country, and wish to maintain its greatness—that they are proud of belonging to an Imperial country, and are resolved to maintain, if they can, the empire of England—that they believe, on the whole, that the greatness and the empire of England are to be attributed to the ancient institutions of this country...There are people who may be, or who at least affect to be, working men, and who, no doubt, have a certain influence with a certain portion of the metropolitan working class, who talk Jacobinism...I say with confidence that the great body of the working class of England utterly repudiate such sentiments. They have no sympathy with them. They are English to the core. They repudiate cosmopolitan principles. They adhere to national principles. They are for maintaining the greatness of the kingdom and the empire, and they are proud of being subjects of our Sovereign and members of such an Empire. Well, then, as regards the political institutions of this country, the maintenance of which is one of the chief tenets of the Tory party, so far as I can read public opinion, the feeling of the nation is in accordance with the Tory party.
    • Speech to the National Union of Conservative and Constitutional Associations at the Crystal Palace (24 June, 1872).
    • 'Mr. Disraeli At Sydenham', The Times, (25 June, 1872), p. 8.
  • The secret of success is constancy to purpose.
    • Speech at banquet of National Union of Conservative and Constitutional Associations, Crystal Palace, London (1872-06-24)
  • A university should be a place of light, of liberty, and of learning.
  • You have despoiled churches. You have threatened every corporation and endowment in the country. You have examined into everybody’s affairs. You have criticised every profession and vexed every trade. No one is certain of his property, and nobody knows what duties he may have to perform to-morrow. This is the policy of confiscation as compared with that of concurrent endowment.
  • For nearly five years the present Ministers have harassed every trade, worried every profession, and assailed or menaced every class, institution, and species of property in the country. Occasionally they have varied this state of civil warfare by perpetrating some job which outraged public opinion, or by stumbling into mistakes which have been always discreditable, and sometimes ruinous. All this they call a policy, and seem quite proud of it; but the country has, I think, made up its mind to close this career of plundering and blundering.
    • Letter to Lord Grey de Wilton (1873-10-03)
    • In W. F. Monypenny and George Earl Buckle, The Life of Benjamin Disraeli (1920), vol. 5, chapter 7, p. 262
  • An author who speaks about his own books is almost as bad as a mother who talks about her own children.
  • King Louis Philippe once said to me that he attributed the great success of the British nation in political life to their talking politics after dinner.
    • ibid.
  • Upon the education of the people of this country the fate of this country depends.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (1874-06-15)
  • It has been discovered that the best way to insure implicit obedience is to commence tyranny in the nursery.
    • ibid.
  • The danger at such a moment is that designing politicians may take advantage of such sublime sentiments and may apply them for the furtherance of their sinister ends. I do not think there is any language which can denounce too strongly conduct of this description. He who at such a moment would avail himself of such a commanding sentiment in order to obtain his own individual ends, suggesting a course which he may know to be injurious to the interests of the country, and not favourable to the welfare of mankind, is a man whose conduct no language can too strongly condemn. He outrages the principle of patriotism, which is the soul of free communities. He does more—he influences in the most injurious manner the common welfare of humanity. Such conduct, if it be pursued by any man at this moment, ought to be indignantly reprobated by the people of England; for, in the general havoc and ruin which it may bring about, it may, I think, be fairly described as worse than any of those Bulgarian atrocities which now occupy attention.
    • Speech to the annual meeting of the Royal and Central Bucks Agricultural Association in Aylesbury (20 September, 1876).
    • 'Lord Beaconsfield At Aylesbury', The Times (21 September, 1876), p. 6.
  • What I see in the amendment is not an assertion of great principles, which no man honours more than myself. What is at the bottom of it is rather that principle of peace at any price which a certain party in this country upholds. It is that dangerous dogma which I believe animates the ranks before me at this moment, although many of them may be unconscious of it. That deleterious doctrine haunts the people of this country in every form. Sometimes it is a committee; sometimes it is a letter; sometimes it is an amendment to the Address; sometimes it is a proposition to stop the supplies. That doctrine has done more mischief than any I can well recall that have been afloat this century. It has occasioned more wars than the most ruthless conquerors. It has disturbed and nearly destroyed that political equilibrium so necessary to the liberties of nations and the welfare of the world. It has dimmed occasionally for a moment even the majesty of England. And, my lords, to-night you have an opportunity, which I trust you will not lose, of branding these opinions, these deleterious dogmas, with the reprobation of the Peers of England.
    • Speech in the House of Lords (10 December, 1876).
    • William Flavelle Monypenny and George Earle Buckle, The Life of Benjamin Disraeli, Earl of Beaconsfield. Volume II. 1860–1881 (London: John Murray, 1929), p. 1273.
  • It has been said that the people of this country are deeply interested in the humanitarian and philanthropic considerations involved in [the Eastern Question]. All must appreciate such feelings. But I am mistaken if there be not a yet deeper sentiment on the part of the people of this country, one with which I cannot doubt your lordships will ever sympathise, and that is—the determination to maintain the Empire of England.
    • Speech in the House of Lords (20 February, 1877).
    • William Flavelle Monypenny and George Earle Buckle, The Life of Benjamin Disraeli, Earl of Beaconsfield. Volume II. 1860–1881 (London: John Murray, 1929), p. 994.
  • The health of the people is really the foundation upon which all their happiness and all their powers as a state depend.
  • What, then, was that policy? It was a policy of conditional neutrality. Under the circumstances of the case we did not believe that it was for the honour or interest of England or Turkey that we should take any part in the impending contest; but while we enforced the neutrality which we prepared to observe, we declared at the same time that that neutrality must cease if British interests were assailed or menaced. Cosmopolitan critics, men who are the friends of every country save their own, have denounced this policy as a selfish policy. My Lord Mayor, it is as selfish as patriotism.
    • Speech at the Guildhall, London (9 November, 1877).
    • 'Lord Mayor's Day.', The Times (10 November, 1877), p. 10.
  • We have brought a peace, and we trust we have brought a peace with honour, and I trust that that will now be followed by the prosperity of the country.
    • Speech at Dover, England after arriving from the Congress of Berlin (16 July, 1878). 'Return Of Lord Beaconsfield And Lord Salisbury', The Times (17 July, 1878), p. 5.
  • Lord Salisbury and myself have brought you back peace, but a peace, I hope, with honour which may satisfy our Sovereign, and tend to the welfare of the country.
    • From the window of 10 Downing Street, after arriving from Dover (16 July, 1878). 'Return Of Lord Beaconsfield And Lord Salisbury', The Times (17 July, 1878), p. 5.
  • Which do you believe most likely to enter an insane convention, a body of English gentlemen honoured by the favour of their Sovereign and the confidence of their fellow-subjects, managing your affairs for five years, I hope with prudence, and not altogether without success, or a sophistical rhetorician, inebriated with the exuberance of his own verbosity, and gifted with an egotistical imagination that can at all times command an interminable and inconsistent series of arguments to malign an opponent and to glorify himself?
    • Speech to a banquet given to him in Knightsbridge, attacking William Gladstone for calling the Cyprus Convention an "insane covenant" (27 July, 1878). Reported in William Flavelle Monypenny and George Earle Buckle, The Life of Benjamin Disraeli, Earl of Beaconsfield. Volume II. 1860–1881 (London: John Murray, 1929), pp. 1228-9.
  • A series of congratulatory regrets.
    • Lord Hartington's Resolutions on the Berlin Treaty (July 30, 1878).
  • The harebrained chatter of irresponsible frivolity.
  • No one, I think, can deny that the depression of the agricultural interest is excessive. Though I can recall periods of suffering, none of them have ever equalled the present in its instances. Let us consider the principle causes of this distress. My noble friend who has addressed you has very properly touched upon the subject and upon the effect of the continuous bad harvests in this country...It is, however, true that at that time the loss and suffering were not recognized as they were in the old days, when the system of protection existed, because the price of the food of the people was not immediately affected by a bad harvest, and it was not till the repetition of the misfortune on two occasions that the diminution of the wealth of the country began to be severely felt by the people generally. The remarkable feature of the present agricultural depression is this—that the agricultural interest is suffering from a succession of bad harvest, accompanied, for the first time, by extremely low prices. That is a remarkable circumstance that has never before occurred—a combination that has never before been encountered. In old days, when we had a bad harvest we had also the somewhat dismal compensation of higher prices; but now, when the harvests are bad the prices are lower rather than higher...nor is it open to doubt that foreign competition has exercised a most injurious influence on the agricultural interests of the country. The country, however, was perfectly warned that if we made a great revolution in our industrial system, that was one of the consequences that would accrue. I may mention that the great result of the returns we possess is this, that the immense importations of foreign agricultural produce have been vastly in excess of what the increased demands of our population actually require, and that is why the low prices are maintained...That is to a great degree the cause of this depression.
    • Speech in the House of Lords on the state of agriculture (28 March, 1879).
    • 'House Of Lords, Friday, March 28', The Times (29 March, 1879), p. 8.
  • It cannot be denied that a state of great national prosperity is quite consistent and compatible with legislation in favour of the protection of native industry. That proposition, years ago, was denied; but with the experience we have had of France and the United States of America—the two most flourishing communities probably in existence—it is now incontestable. Well, my lords, many years ago—nearly 40—this country, which no one can say for a moment did not flourish with the old system of protection, deemed it necessary to revise the principles upon which its commerce was conducted...The scheme that was adopted was this—that we were to fight hostile tariffs with free imports. I was among those who looked upon that policy with fear. I believed it to be one very perilous. ...reciprocity is barter. I always understood that barter was the last effort of civilization that it was exactly that state of human exchange that separated civilization from savagery; and if reciprocity is only barter, I fear that would hardly help us out of our difficulty. My noble friend read some extracts from the speeches of those who had the misfortune to be in Parliament at that time, and he honoured me by reading an extract from the speech I then made in the other House of Parliament. That was a speech in favour of reciprocity, and indicated the means by which reciprocity could be obtained. That is to say—I do not want to enter into the discussion whether the principle was right or wrong, but it was acknowledged in public life, favoured and pursued by many statesmen who conceived that by the negotiation of a treaty of commerce, by reciprocal exchange and the lowering of duties, the products of the two negotiating countries would find a freer access and consumption in the two countries than they formerly possessed. But when he taunts me with his quotation of some musty phrases of mine 40 years ago, I must remind him that we had elements then on which treaties of reciprocity could be negotiated. At that time, although the great changes of Sir Robert Peel had taken place, there were 168 articles in the tariff which were materials by which you could have negotiated, if that was a wise and desirable policy, commercial treaties of reciprocity. What is the number you now have in the tariff? Twenty-two. Those who talk of negotiating treaties of reciprocity...have they the materials for negotiating treaties of reciprocity? You have lost the opportunity. I do not want to enter into the argument at the present moment; but England cannot pursue that policy.
    • Speech in the House of Lords (29 April, 1879).
    • 'House Of Lords, Tuesday, April 29', The Times (30 April, 1879), p. 8.
  • In assuming that peace will be maintained, I assume also that no Great Power would shrink from its responsibilities. If there be a country, for example, one of the most extensive and wealthiest of empires in the world—if that country, from a perverse interpretation of its insular geographical position, turns an indifferent ear to the feelings and the fortunes of Continental Europe, such a course would, I believe, only end in its becoming an object of general plunder. So long as the power and advice of England are felt in the councils of Europe, peace, I believe, will be maintained, and maintained for a long period. Without their presence, war, as has happened before, and too frequently of late, seems to me to be inevitable. I speak on this subject with confidence to the citizens of London, because I know that they are men who are not ashamed of the Empire which their ancestors created; because I know that they are not ashamed of the noblest of human sentiments, now decried by philosophers—the sentiment of patriotism; because I know they will not be beguiled into believing that in maintaining their Empire they may forfeit their liberties. One of the greatest of Romans, when asked what were his politics, replied, Imperium et Libertas. That would not make a bad programme for a British Ministry. It is one from which Her Majesty's advisers do not shrink.
    • Speech at the Guildhall, London (9 November, 1879).
    • William Flavelle Monypenny and George Earle Buckle, The Life of Benjamin Disraeli, Earl of Beaconsfield. Volume II. 1860–1881 (London: John Murray, 1929), pp. 1366-7.
  • We are the children of the gods, and are never more the slaves of circumstance than when we deem ourselves their masters. What may next happen in the dazzling farce of life, the Fates only know.
    • Letter to Rosina Bulwer Lytton
    • Andre Maurois, Disraeli: A Picture of the Victorian Age (London: D. Appleton & Co., 1927), p 114


  • I suppose, to use our national motto, something will turn up.
    • Popanilla (1827) Ch. 7 referring to the Motto of "Vraibleusia".
  • "What is care?" asked the Princess, with a smile.
    "It is a god", replied the Physician, "invisible, but omnipotent. It steals the bloom from the cheek and lightness from the pulse — it takes away the appetite, and turns the hair grey".
    • The Wondrous Tale of Alroy, pt. 5, ch. 5 (1833).
  • I am prepared for the worst, but hope the best.
    • The Wondrous Tale of Alroy, pt. 10, ch. 3.
  • Despair is the conclusion of fools.
    • The Wondrous Tale of Alroy pt. 10, ch. 17.
  • Success is the child of audacity.
    • The Rise of Iskander ch. 4 (1833).
  • Though lions to their enemies they were lambs to their friends.
    • The infernal Marriage, part 2, Chapter 4 (1834).
  • Next to knowing when to seize an opportunity, the most important thing in life is to know when to forego an advantage.
    • The Infernal Marriage, part 3 (1834).
  • Courage is fire, and bullying is smoke.
    • Count Alarcos: A Tragedy Act IV, sc. i (1839).
  • The fool wonders, the wise man asks.
    • Count Alarcos: A Tragedy Act IV, sc. i.

Vivian Grey (1826)

  • The microcosm of a public school.
    • Book I, Chap. 2.
  • The Services in war time are fit only for desperadoes but, in peace, are fit only for fools.
    • Book I, Chap. 9.
  • Beware of endeavouring to become a great man in a hurry. One such attempt in ten thousand may succeed: these are fearful odds.
    • Book I, Chap. 10.
  • I hate definitions.
    • Book II, Chap. 6.
  • Fear makes us feel our humanity.
    • Book III, Chap. 6.
  • There is no act of treachery or meanness of which a political party is not capable; for in politics there is no honour.
    • Book III, Chap. 9.
  • Experience is the child of Thought, and Thought is the child of Action. We can not learn men from books.
    • Book V, Chap. 1.
  • Variety is the mother of Enjoyment.
    • Book V, Chap. 4.
  • There is moderation even in excess.
    • Book VI, Chap. 1.
  • In politics, nothing is contemptible.
    • Book VI, Chap. 4.
  • Man is not the creature of circumstances, circumstances are the creatures of men. We are free agents, and man is more powerful than matter.
    • Book VI, ch. 7.
  • I repeat that all power is a trust; that we are accountable for its exercise; that from the people, and for the people all springs, and all must exist.
    • Book VI, Ch. 7.
  • Grief is the agony of an instant; the indulgence of Grief the blunder of a life.
    • Book VI, Ch. 7.
  • A man's fate is his own temper.
    • Book VI, Ch. 7.
  • Like all great travellers I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen.
    • Book VIII, Ch. 4.
  • The disappointment of manhood succeeds to the delusion of youth: let us hope that the heritage of old age is not despair.
    • Book VIII, Ch. 4.

The Young Duke (1831)

  • Every man has a right to be conceited until he is successful.
    • The 'Advertisement' to the 1853 edition.
  • A dark horse, which had never been thought of, and which the careless St. James had never even observed in the list, rushed past the grandstand in sweeping triumph.
    • Bk. I, Ch. 5. The phrase "dark horse" was then a political phrase common in the United States.
  • Then there was a maiden speech, so inaudible, that it was doubted whether, after all, the young orator really did lose his virginity.
    • Bk. I, Ch. 6.
  • We are indeed a nation of shopkeepers.
    • Bk. I, Ch. 11.
  • The age of chivalry is past. Bores have succeeded to dragons.
    • Bk. II, Ch. 5
  • It destroys one's nerves to be amiable every day to the same human being.
    • Bk. III, Ch. 2
  • A man may speak very well in the House of Commons, and fail very completely in the House of Lords. There are two distinct styles requisite: I intend, in the course of my career, if I have time, to give a specimen of both.
    • Bk. V, Ch. 6

Contarini Fleming (1832)

  • Nature is more powerful than education; time will develop everything.
    • Part 1, Chapter 8. Compare: "La Nature a été en eux forte que l'éducation" (translated: "Nature was a stronger force in them than education"), Voltaire, Vie de Molière.
  • Never apologize for showing feeling. When you do so, you apologize for truth.
    • Part 1, Chapter 13.
  • With words we govern men.
    • Part 1, Chapter 21 .
  • Read no history: nothing but biography, for that is life without theory.
    • Part 1, Chapter 23 .
  • Amusement to an observing mind is study.
    • Part 1, Chapter 23.
  • The sense of existence is the greatest happiness.
    • Part 3, Chapter 1.
  • Patience is a necessary ingredient of genius.
    • Part 4, Chapter 5.
  • The practice of politics in the East may be defined by one word: dissimulation.
    • Part 5, Chapter 10.
  • All is mystery; but he is a slave who will not struggle to penetrate the dark veil.
    • Part 5, Chapter 18.
  • When men are pure, laws are useless; when men are corrupt, laws are broken.
    • Part 6, Chapter 3.

Henrietta Temple (1837)

  • Debt is the prolific mother of folly and of crime.
    • Book 2, chapter 1.
  • What we anticipate seldom occurs; what we least expected generally happens.
    • Book 2, chapter 4. Compare: "I say the very things that make the greatest Stir / An' the most interestin' things, are things that did n't occur", Sam Walter Foss, Things that did n't occur.
  • The magic of first love is our ignorance that it can ever end.
    • Book 4, chapter 1. Often misquoted as "The magic of first love is our ignorance that it can never end".
  • Nature has given us two ears but only one mouth.
    • Book 4, chapter 24.
  • Time is the great physician.
    • Book 6, chapter 9.
  • Man is not a rational animal. He is only truly good or great when he acts from passion.
    • Book 6, chapter 12.
  • Nature has given us two ears but only one mouth.
    • Book 6, chapter 24.

Sybil (1845)

  • "I rather like bad wine," said Mr. Mountchesney; "one gets so bored with good wine."
    • Book 1, chapter 1.

Tancred (1847)

  • Duty cannot exist without faith.
    • Bk. II, Ch. 1
  • A majority is always the best repartee.
    • Bk. II, Ch. 1
  • There is no index of character so sure as the voice.
    • Bk. II, Ch. 1
  • Duty cannot exist without faith.
    • Bk. II, Ch. 11
  • That fatal drollery called a representative government.
    • Bk. II, Ch. 13
  • The view of Jerusalem is the history of the world; it is more, it is the history of earth and of heaven.
    • Bk. III, Ch. 4
  • He was fresh and full of faith that "something would turn up."
    • Bk. III, Ch. 6
  • When little is done, little is said; silence is the mother of truth.
    • Bk. IV, Ch. 4
  • Everything comes if a man will only wait.
    • Bk. IV, Ch. 8
  • We moralise among ruins.
    • Bk. V, Ch. 5
  • London is a modern Babylon.
    • Bk. V, Ch. 5

Lothair (1870)

  • London is a roost for every bird.
    • Ch. 11.
  • The world is weary of statesmen whom democracy has degraded into politicians.
    • Ch. 17.
  • The pursuit of science leads only to the insoluble.
    • Ch. 17.
  • When a man fell into his anecdotage, it was a sign for him to retire.
    • Ch. 28.
  • Books are fatal: they are the curse of the human race. Nine- tenths of existing books are nonsense, and the clever books are the refutation of that nonsense. The greatest misfortune that ever befell man was the invention of printing.
    • Ch. 29.
  • I have always thought that every woman should marry, and no man.
    • Ch. 30.
  • You know who critics are?— the men who have failed in literature and art.
    • Ch. 35. Compare: "Reviewers are usually people who would have been poets, historians, biographers, if they could; they have tried their talents at one or the other, and have failed; therefore they turn critics", Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Lectures on Shakespeare and Milton, p. 36. Delivered 1811–1812; "Reviewers, with some rare exceptions, are a most stupid and malignant race. As a bankrupt thief turns thief-taker in despair, so an unsuccessful author turns critic", Percy Bysshe Shelley, Fragments of Adonais.
  • "My idea of an agreeable person," said Hugo Bohun, "is a person who agrees with me."
    • Ch. 35.
  • Had it not been for you, I should have remained what I was when we first met, a prejudiced, narrow-minded being, with contracted sympathies and false knowledge, wasting my life on obsolete trifles, and utterly insensible to the privilege of living in this wondrous age of change and progress.
    • Ch. 49.
  • Action may not always bring happiness but there is no happiness without action.

Endymion (1880)

  • Nothing is going on, but everybody is afraid of something.
    • Ch. 2.
  • Desperation is sometimes as powerful an inspirer as genius.
    • Ch. 8.
  • His Christianity was muscular.
    • Ch. 14.
  • I have brought myself, by long meditation, to the conviction that a human being with a settled purpose must accomplish it, and that nothing can resist a will that will stake even existence for its fulfilment.
    • Ch. 26.
  • The more you are talked about the less powerful you are.
    • Ch. 36.
  • As a general rule the most successful man in life is the man who has the best information.
    • Ch. 36.
  • An insular country, subject to fogs, and with a powerful middle class, requires grave statesmen.
    • Ch. 37.
  • The Athanasian Creed is the most splendid ecclesiastical lyric ever poured forth by the genius of man.
    • Ch. 52.
  • There is no education like adversity.
    • Ch. 61.
  • Without tact you can learn nothing.
    • Ch. 61.
  • As for our majority... one is enough.
    • Ch. 64.
  • The world is a wheel, and it will all come round right.
    • Ch. 70.
  • Real politics are the possession and distribution of power.
    • Ch. 71 .
  • "As for that," said Waldenshare, "sensible men are all of the same religion."
    "Pray, what is that?" inquired the Prince.
    "Sensible men never tell."
    • Ch. 81. An anecdote is related of Sir Anthony Ashley Cooper (1621–1683), who, in speaking of religion, said, "People differ in their discourse and profession about these matters, but men of sense are really but of one religion." To the inquiry of "What religion?" the Earl said, "Men of sense never tell it", reported in Burnet, History of my own Times, vol. i. p. 175, note (edition 1833).
  • There is no gambling like politics.
    • Ch. 82.
  • If you are not very clever, you should be conciliatory.
    • Ch. 85.
  • The sweet simplicity of the three per cents.
    • Ch. 96. Compare: "The elegant simplicity of the three per cents", Lord Stowell, in Lives of the Lord Chancellors (Campbell), Vol. x, Chap. 212.


  • "Diplomacy is the art of telling someone to go to hell and making them anticipate the trip."
  • A consistent soul believes in destiny, a capricious one in chance.
  • A sophistical rhetorician, inebriated with the exuberance of his own verbosity who can at all times command an interminable and inconsistent series of arguments to malign an opponent and glorify himself.
    • Said of W E Gladstone at a banquet in Riding School, Knightsbridge, 17 July 1878
  • A very remarkable people the Zulus: they defeat our generals, they convert our bishops, they have settled the fate of a great European dynasties.
    • Attributed in J A Froude Lord Beaconsfield (1890), chapter 14.
    • This quotation is current in many variant forms, but is cited here from the earliest source we have been able to find.
  • Be amusing: never tell unkind stories; above all, never tell long ones.
  • Characters do not change. Opinions alter, but characters are only developed.
  • Charles Greville was the most conceited person with whom I have ever been brought in contact, though I have read Cicero and known Bulwer-Lytton.
    • Attributed by George William Erskine Russell in his Portraits of the Seventies (1916), pp. 38–39. In Russell's earlier Collections and Recollections (1898) this appeared as "I knew the author, and he was the most conceited person with whom I have ever been brought in contact, although I have read Cicero and known Bulwer Lytton" (p. 177).
  • Cleanliness and order are not matters of instinct; they are matters of education, and like most great things, you must cultivate a taste for them.
  • Demagogues and agitators are very unpleasant, they are incidental to a free and constitutional country, and you must put up with these inconveniences or do without many important advantages.
  • Great countries are those that produce great people.
  • Great services are not cancelled by one act or by one single error.
  • His shortcoming is his long staying.
    • Also attributed to Lewis L Lewisohn.
  • I am dead: dead, but in the Elysian fields.
    • On being welcomed to the House of Lords
  • I feel a very unusual sensation— if it is not indigestion, I think it must be gratitude.
  • I never deny. I never contradict. I sometimes forget.
    • According to Henry W Lucy's Memories of Eight Parliaments (1908), p. 66, Disraeli said this was his rule when talking with the Queen.
  • I will not go down to posterity talking bad grammar.
  • If a man be gloomy let him keep to himself. No one has the right to go croaking about society, or what is worse, looking as if he stifled grief.
  • If Gladstone fell into the Thames, that would be a misfortune; and if anybody pulled him out, that, I suppose, would be a calamity.
    • A joke reported in Wilfrid Meynell's Benjamin Disraeli (1903), p. 146.
  • It would have been a good dinner, if
    The soup had been as warm as the champagne or
    The beef had been as rare as the service or
    The brandy had been as old as the woman on his left or
    The woman on his right had been as Hansom as the cab he took home.
  • Life is too short to be small.
  • Many thanks: I shall lose no time in reading it.
    • Reputedly Disraeli's reply to an author who had sent him an unsolicited manuscript. Wilfrid Meynell, in his The Man Disraeli (1903) p. 119, goes no further than to say "it might very well be his". It has also been fathered on Heinrich Heine and, needless to say, on George Bernard Shaw and Winston Churchill.
  • Moderation is the centre wherein all philosophies, both human and divine, meet.
  • Most people die with their music still locked up inside them.
  • News is that which comes from the North, East, West and South, and if it comes from only one point on the compass, then it is a class publication and not news.
  • No man is regular in his attendance at the House of Commons until he is married.
  • No success in public life can compensate for failure in the home.
  • Nobody is forgotten when it is convenient to remember him.
  • Nowadays, manners are easy and life is hard.
  • On the education of the people of this country the fate of the country depends.
  • One secret of success in life is for a man to be ready for his opportunity when it comes.
    • Variant: The secret of success in life is for a man to be ready for his opportunity when it comes.
    • Variant: The secret of success is to be ready when your opportunity comes.
  • Something unpleasant is coming when men are anxious to tell the truth.
  • Teach us that wealth is not elegance, that profusion is not magnificence, that splendor is not beauty.
  • The best security for civilization is the dwelling, and upon properly appointed and becoming dwellings depends, more than anything else, the improvement of mankind.
  • The best way to become acquainted with a subject is to write a book about it.
  • The governments of the present day have to deal not merely with other governments, with emperors, kings and ministers, but also with the secret societies which have everywhere their unscrupulous agents, and can at the last moment upset all the governments' plans.
  • The greatest good you can do for another is not just share your riches, but to reveal to him his own.
  • The more extensive a man's knowledge of what has been done, the greater will be his power of knowing what to do.
  • The most dangerous strategy is to jump a chasm in two leaps.
    • This has been attributed to Benjamin Disraeli, David Lloyd George, Winston Churchill, Vaclav Havel, Jeffrey Sachs, Rashi Fein, Walter Bagehot and Philip Noel-Baker. It has been described as a Greek, African, Chinese, Russian and American proverb, and as "an old Chassidic injunction". The earliest citation found so far is from Frederick Lewis Schuman Design for Power: The Struggle for the World (1942), p. 200: "A comment Lloyd George, 'There is nothing more dangerous than to leap a chasm in two jumps'".
  • The palace is not safe when the cottage is not happy.
    • Said at a Wynyard Horticultural Show in 1848, according to Monypenny & Buckle The Life of Benjamin Disraeli (1913) p. 368.
  • The press is not only free, it is powerful. That power is ours. It is the proudest that man can enjoy.
  • The right honourable gentleman is reminiscent of a poker. The only difference is that a poker gives off the occasional signs of warmth. (On Robert Peel)
  • The very phrase 'foreign affairs' makes an Englishman convinced that I am about to treat of subjects with which he has no concern.
  • The worst atrocity in Bulgaria is Gladstone's pamphlet on the subject.
  • There can be economy only where there is efficiency.
  • Through perseverance many people win success out of what seemed destined to be certain failure.
  • To tax the community for the advantage of a class is not protection: it is plunder.
  • We should never lose an occasion. Opportunity is more powerful even than conquerors and prophets.
  • What is crime amongst the multitude, is only vice among the few.
  • What usually comes first is the contract.
  • When I want to read a novel, I write one.
    • According to Wilfrid Meynell (Benjamin Disraeli (1903) p. 124) this was Disraeli's reply on being asked whether he had read George Eliot's Daniel Deronda.
  • Where knowledge ends, religion begins.
  • Time is precious, but truth is more precious than time.
  • William Gladstone has not a single redeeming defect.
  • Without publicity there can be no public support, and without public support every nation must decay.
  • You have heard me accused me of being a flatterer. It is true. I am a flatterer. I have found it useful. Everyone likes flattery; and when you come to Royalty you should lay it on with a trowel.
    • Supposedly said in conversation with Matthew Arnold c. 1880; quoted in G. W. E. Russell, Collections and Recollections (1898) p. 224.
  • You will find as you grow older that courage is the rarest of all qualities to be found in public life.
  • Supposedly Gladstone to Disraeli, actually between Sandwich and Foote:

John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich: "Foote, I have often wondered what catastrophe would bring you to your end; but I think, that you must either die of the p-x, or the halter." Samuel Foote: "My lord, that will depend upon one of two contingencies; -- whether I embrace your lordship's mistress, or your lordship's principles.”

  • I am the blank page between the Old Testament and the New. [2]


  • There are three kinds of lies: Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics.
    • Attributed to Disraeli by Mark Twain in "Chapters from My Autobiography — XX", North American Review No. DCXVIII (JULY 5, 1907) [3]. His attribution is considered unreliable, and the actual origin is uncertain, with one of the earliest known publications of such a phrase being that of Leonard H. Courtney: see Lies, damned lies, and statistics.
  • Candour is the brightest gem of criticism.
    • Though ascribed to Benjamin Disraeli, it comes from the article "Literary Journals" in his father Isaac D'Israeli's The Curiosities of Literature.
  • Every production of genius must be the production of enthusiasm.
    • Here the father is confused with the son again. It comes from the article on "Solitude" in Isaac D'Israeli's The Curiosities of Literature.
  • Let the fear of a danger be a spur to prevent it: he that fears otherwise, gives advantage to the danger.
  • Mediocrity can talk; but it is for genius to observe.
    • Actually from Isaac D'Israeli's The Curiosities of Literature, "Men of Genius Deficient in Conversation".
  • Moderation has been called a virtue to limit the ambition of great men, and to console undistinguished people for their want of fortune and their lack of merit.
  • Plagiarists, at least, have the merit of preservation.
    • One more misattribution to Disraeli of one of his father Isaac D'Isaeli's observations (Curiosities of Literature, "Of Suppressors and Dilapidators of Manuscripts")
  • Seeing much, suffering much, and studying much, are the three pillars of learning.
    • A Welsh triad cited in A Vindication of the Genuineness of the Ancient British Poems of Aneurin, Taliesin, Llywarch Hen, and Merdin (1803), by Sharon Turner, reads, "The three pillars of learning; seeing much, suffering much, and studying much". This was quoted from Turner by Isaac D'Israeli in his The Amenities of Literature (1841) and, through the confusion of father with son, has come to be falsely attributed to Benjamin Disraeli.
  • The art of governing mankind by deceiving them.
    • Isaac D'Israeli's Curiosities of Literature has, "Between solid lying and disguised truth there is a difference known to writers skilled in 'the art of governing mankind by deceiving them'; as politics, ill understood, have been defined". The source of D'Israeli's quotation has not been found, but at any rate it was certainly not Benjamin Disraeli.
  • The choicest pleasures of life lie within the ring of moderation.
  • The wisdom of the wise, and the experience of ages, may be preserved by quotation.
    • One more example of Isaac D'Israeli's words being misattributed to his son. It is to be found in the article "Quotation" in his Curiosities of Literature.
  • Whenever we would prepare the mind by a forcible appeal, an opening quotation is a symphony preluding on the chords those tones we are about to harmonize.
    • Like "The wisdom of the wise", above, this actually comes from Isaac D'Israeli's Curiosities of Literature, "Quotation".
  • Supposedly Gladstone to Disraeli, actually Wilkes to Sandwich:
    • "Sir, you will either die on the gallows or of some unspeakable disease."
    • "That depends, sir", replied Disraeli, "On whether I embrace your policies or your mistress".

About Benjamin Disraeli

  • ...a man who is never beaten. Every reverse, every defeat is to him only an admonition to wait and catch his opportunity of retrieving his position.
  • He was quite remarkable enough to fill a volume of Éloge. Someone wrote to me yesterday that no Jew for 1800 years has played so great a part in the world. That would be no Jew since St. Paul; and it is very startling.
    • Lord Acton, letter to Mrs. Drew (1881-04-24)
  • Here's to the man who rode the race, who took the time, who kept the time, and who did the trick.
    • Sir Mathew Ridley, toast to Disraeli at the Carlton Club (1867-04-13)
  • In death he remains as he was in life. All show with no substance.
    • William Gladstone on discovering, after Disraeli's death, that he had refused a state funeral to be buried alongside his wife.
  • In whatever he has written he has affected something which has been intended to strike his readers as uncommon and therefore grand. Because he has been bright and a man of genius, he has carried his object as regards the young. He has struck them with astonishment and aroused in their imagination ideas of a world more glorious, more rich, more witty, more enterprising, than their own. But the glory has been the glory of pasteboard, and the wealth has been a wealth of tinsel. The wit has been the wit of hairdressers, and the enterprise has been the enterprise of mountebanks.
  • The downfall of Beaconfieldism is like the vanishing of some vast magnificent castle in an Italian romance.
  • The present man will do well, and will be particularly loyal and anxious to please me in every way. He is vy. peculiar, but vy. clever and sensible and vy. conciliatory.
  • What strikes me most singular in you is, that you are fonder of Power than of Fame.
  • Der alte Jude, das ist der Mann!
    • The old Jew, that is the man!
    • Otto von Bismarck of Disraeli's performance at the Congress of Berlin. [4]

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Simple English

The Rt Hon Benjamin Disraeli
File:Benjamin Disraeli, 1st Earl of Beaconsfield - Project Gutenberg eText

In office
27 February 1868 – 1 December 1868
Preceded by The Earl of Derby
Succeeded by William Ewart Gladstone
In office
20 February 1874 – 21 April 1880
Preceded by William Ewart Gladstone
Succeeded by William Ewart Gladstone

In office
February 27, 1852 – December 17, 1852
Preceded by Charles Wood
Succeeded by William Ewart Gladstone
In office
February 26, 1858 – June 11, 1859
Preceded by George Cornewall Lewis
Succeeded by William Ewart Gladstone
In office
July 6, 1866 – February 29, 1868
Preceded by William Ewart Gladstone
Succeeded by George Ward Hunt

Born 21 December 1804
London, England
Died 19 April 1881
London, England
Political party Conservative

Benjamin Disraeli, 1st Earl of Beaconsfield (21 December, 180419 April, 1881), born Benjamin D'Israeli, was a former prime minister of the United Kingdom. He was a famous rival of William Ewart Gladstone.

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