pm

The Queen and Lord Beaconsfield

Benjamin Disraeli, Earl of Beaconsfield

On the wall of Hughenden Church may be seen a memorial tablet, recording the gratitude and affection of Queen Victoria for the services and for the memory of a man who without question was the most interesting and striking figure of her reign. The inscription which it bears was written by the Queen herself. "To the dear and honoured memory," so it runs, "of Benjamin, Earl of Beaconsfield, this memorial is placed by his grateful and affectionate Sovereign and friend, Victoria R.I. 'Kings love him that speaketh right.' — Prov. xvi. 13." This inscription is in many ways noteworthy. To find a memorial erected by a sovereign to a subject is in itself sufficiently remarkable, but so rare an act of condescension is unique coupled with public expressions of gratitude and friendship.

These qualities are not common in kings accustomed to accept devotion or service as their due, and even from Queen Victoria such strong words read strangely when it is remembered that they are from the hand of a Queen of England towards one whom her ancestors would have scorned as the son of a hated and despised race, whom to this day some of her relatives and regal cousins hound and persecute with all the unenlightened fervour of the middle ages. It was meet, however, that in a Christian church such a memorial, raised by the supreme head of that Church, to a Jew by blood and by every fibre of his nature, should be rounded off by a quotation from the proverbial philosophy of the most famous ruler of his race, and fitter still that there should be found affixed to it a signature, the novelty of which to English eyes recalls the fact that Lord Beaconsfield aspired to rank with Bismarck and Cavour as the consolidator of Imperial rule.

If in politics an opportunist, in character no man could have exhibited greater consistency throughout a long life; and that Lord Beaconsfield should lie, not in Westminster Abbey surrounded by the ashes of the " Venetian party," but among the villagers of a Buckinghamshire hamlet, under a memorial raised to him by the occupant of the Throne, was a fit climax to the creed he professed in youth, and carried with him to almost supreme power, and to the grave. If he began political life amid the contemptuous jeers of a Tory House of Commons, he lived to receive the profound adulation and enjoy the absolute confidence of the Conservative party. If the first thirty years of his political existence were passed in the cold shadow of royal disapprobation and dislike, he lived to become the darling of the Court and to earn the inscription which adorns his tomb. These variations of sentiment were in no way due to changes in Disraeli himself, but rather to the slow appreciation by others of his rare personality. His character never underwent any marked development, while the ideas which well-nigh choked his youth found expression in maturity and old age. In his political enthusiasms and hatreds he was alike consistent and persevering. No one ever suspected him of a weakness for the Whigs whom he hated, nor doubted his sympathy for the people whom he trusted, and his regard for the Throne which he upheld. As a Tory Democrat he appeared an abnormal growth to the "sublime mediocrity" of Peel and of his party, yet he lived to establish household suffrage and to convert the diadem of the English kings into an Imperial crown.

In youth Disraeli brooded over problems of statecraft, and these very problems he lived largely to solve as a Minister. To those who read his political tracts, cast by him into the original form of the political novel, and who were familiar with his foppish appearance and his florid style of speech, it appeared impossible that he should figure in any other character than that of the political charlatan and social buffoon. Yet over these prejudices, permanent in some minds, completely overcome in others.

Disraeli triumphed by sheer force of talent and energy. With the dawn of a new era in English politics, in 1832, his strenuous public life began; and when, half-a-century later, he had had his fill of life and honour, men began to appreciate how full the intervening years had been of indomitable strife, devoted to the gradual conquest of the ear of the House of Commons, of the confidence of the Conservative party, of the goodwill of the Sovereign, and of the support of the nation. All these were finally won, and this extraordinary child of Israel, whose ancestors were unhappy refugees hunted from Spain to Venice, whose immediate forebears were poor immigrants into a London suburb, sat himself down in the seat of the chief of the House of Stanley, dictated his will to the proudest aristocracy on earth, posed as the representative of the English race among the assembled Powers of Europe, took Great Britain into the hollow of his hand, clothed a nation boutiquère with Imperial purple, left behind him a cause identified with his name, and a party strong enough to defend it, and finally sank into a grave smothered with flowers by the hands of the people, and surmounted by a memorial inscribed by the hand of the Queen. The Napoleonic era of marvels furnishes no example more romantic of the triumph of individual capacity over hostile conditions.

Although much has been made by political adversaries of the flattery by which Lord Beaconsfield is supposed to have influenced the Queen, there is not a scrap of evidence to show that in his relations with the Sovereign he employed arts or adopted methods foreign to those used by Lord Aberdeen or by Sir Robert Peel. The secret of his success lay not in subservience to the will of the monarch, but in masculine appreciation of her sex. It is noteworthy that among all his personal triumphs that over the Queen was the longest deferred. In 1852, when he took office as Chancellor of the Exchequer, his position as leader of the House of Commons was assured. Yet it was with reluctance that the Conservative party, under severe pressure from its chief, yielded to his leadership, and even as late as 1867 powerflil Tory peers, like Lord Lonsdale, were known to doubt whether Disraeli would ever be loyally accepted by the party in succession to Lord Derby as their head. That the English people were far from placing trust in him was clear from the minority in which for twenty-two years they left his following in Parliament; and it was well known that in his office of Chancellor of the Exchequer he had been unwillingly approved by the Queen, so violent was her prejudice against him, mainly on the ground that the holder of that office was not brought into personal contact with the Sovereign. By 1874 the English people had been won over, and Mr. Disraeli was at last, after a prolonged and patient novitiate, entrusted with a large majority in the House of Commons. Thenceforth his task was easy, and the entire confidence of his party was his reward for the triumph they owed to his adroit leadership. Mr. Disraeli then stepped from the ranks of clever politicians, and took his place among European statesmen. It was at this time that the last barrier between the Prime Minister and the Queen fell to the ground. Dislike, dating from a time when Disraeli's bitter invective was goading to fury Sir Robert Peel's friends, and among them the Sovereign, had long since given way; but only half confidence had supervened, bred of mistrust in the alien and too nimble politician. Now this in turn was swept aside, and Lord Beaconsfield filled the place so long left vacant, and became the "friend" of the Queen as well as First Minister of the Crown.

Antipathies, to a far greater extent than is generally supposed, have a physical basis, and although Disraeli in youth possessed a certain weird beauty, it was of a kind unlikely to attract favourably either men or women of a northern race. When he first rose to address the House of Commons on the 7th of December 1837, he was very showily attired, being dressed in a bottle-green frock-coat and a waistcoat of white, of the Dick Swiveller pattern, the front of which exhibited a network of glittering chains; large fancy-pattern pantaloons, and a black tie, above which no shirt collar was visible, completed the outward man. A countenance lividly pale, set out by a pair of intensely black eyes and a broad but not very high forehead overhung by clustered ringlets of coal-black hair, which, combed away from the right temple, fell in bunches of well-oiled small ringlets over his left cheek.

Then, again, his manner of speaking was not that to which the House of Commons was accustomed. He is thus described by an eye-witness: — His gestures were abundant: he often appeared as if trying with what celerity he could move his body from one side to another, and throw his hands out and draw them in again. At other times he flourished one hand before his face, and then the other. His voice, too, is of a very unusual kind: it is powerful, and had every justice done to it in the way of exercise; but there is something peculiar in it which I am at a loss to characterise. His utterance is rapid, and he never seemed at a loss for words. On the whole, and notwithstanding the result of his first attempt, I am convinced he is a man who possesses many of the requisites of a good debater. That he is a man of great literary talent few will dispute.

To eyes by long usage inclined to gauge a man by the symmetry of his top boots and the stains on his hunting coat, or, as in the case of Castlereagh or Althorp, to trust an orator in inverse ratio to his intelligibility, Disraeli seemed untrustworthy and dangerous. Sober men, too, looked askance at this foreign-looking person who could fashion an epigram as readily as they could knock over a cock pheasant. Even so cosmopolitan a bishop as Wilberforce, though he was fascinated, could not recognise in him a countryman. "I enjoyed meeting Disraeli," he wrote as late as 1867. "He is a marvellous man. Not a bit a Briton, but all over an Eastern Jew; but very interesting to talk to." Yet this was thirty years later than that famous first appearance in Parliament, which had provoked alike uproarious mirth from an undiscriminating assembly, and the well-remembered threat from its victim that a day would come when they would be forced to give him a hearing. Certainly, when Bishop Wilberforce wrote, the time had long passed when Disraeli had need to crave a hearing from the House of Commons. In 1852 his "pre-eminence in opposition had given him an indisputable title" to the leadership of that assembly; but, strangely enough, popularity had not accrued to him with power. Four years later his titular leader, Lord Derby, writing to Lord Malmesbury, observed: "As to Disraeli's unpopularity, I see it and regret it, and especially regret that he does not see more of his party in private; but they could not do without him, even if there were any one ready and willing to take his place." Personal contact, according to this practised and shrewd observer, was the cure for the vehement prejudices of his party against their abnormal political chief. "Disraeli has no influence in the country," observed Greville, about this time, "and a very doubtful position in his own party." Yet personal contact rarely triumphs over prejudice, and proverbially seldom strengthens respect unless the latent qualities in a man are of the loftiest order. That this was the case with Mr. Disraeli seems not improbable, for certain it is that his foes were chiefly to be found among those to whom personally he was unknown, while few men have been so well served and so well liked by those with whom he desired and claimed intercourse.

In the early years of her reign the Queen can have heard but little of Disraeli. Although the chief of the Young England party, and the author of novels that had a certain vogue, he and his following were not at that time a serious factor in politics. To Disraeli, however, to his romantic fondness for women, and to his reverence for the stately aspect of the Throne, the Queen's personality already strongly appealed. Had he not felt strongly the charm before which Lord Melbourne and Peel succumbed, the celebrated passage in Sybil could not have been written: — Hark! it tolls! All is over. The great bell of the metropolitan cathedral announces the death of the last son of George the Third who probably will ever reign in England. He was a good man: with feelings and sympathies; deficient in culture rather than ability; with a sense of duty; and with something of the conception of what should be the character of an English monarch. Peace to his manes!

============================

We are summoned to a different scene.

In a palace in a garden, not in a haughty keep, proud with the fame but dark with the violence of ages; not in a regal pile, bright with the splendour, but soiled with the intrigues of courts and factions; in a palace in a garden, meet scene for youth, and innocence, and beauty, came a voice that told the maiden that she must ascend her throne!

The Council of England is summoned for the first time within her bowers. There are assembled the prelates and captains and chief men of her realm; the priests of the religion that consoles, the heroes of the sword that has conquered, the votaries of the craft that has decided the fate of empires; men grey with thought, and fame, and age; who are the stewards of divine mysteries, who have toiled in secret cabinets, who have encountered in battle the hosts of Europe, who have struggled in the less merciful strife of aspiring senates; men, too, some of them, lords of a thousand vassals and chief proprietors of provinces, yet not one of them whose heart does not at this moment tremble as he awaits the first presence of the maiden who must now ascend her throne.

A hum of half - suppressed conversation, which would attempt to conceal the excitement which some of the greatest of them have since acknowledged, fills that brilliant assemblage; the sea of plumes, and glittering stars, and gorgeous dresses. Hush! the portals open; she comes; the silence is as deep as that of a noontide forest. Attended for a moment by her royal mother and the ladies of her court, who bow and then retire, VICTORIA ascends her throne; a girl, alone, and for the first time, amid an assemblage of men.

In a sweet thrilling voice, and with a composed mien which indicates rather the absorbing sense of august duty than an absence of emotion, THE QUEEN announces her accession to the throne of her ancestors, and her humble hope that divine Providence will guard over the fulfilment of her lofty trust.

The prelates and captains and chief men of her realm then advance to the throne, and, kneehng before her, pledge their troth, and take the sacred oaths of allegiance and supremacy.

Allegiance to one who rules over the land that the great Macedonian could not conquer; and over a continent of which even Columbus never dreamed; to the Queen of every sea, and of nations in every zone.

It is not of these that I would speak; but of a nation nearer her footstool, and which at the moment looks to her with anxiety, with affection, perhaps with hope. Fair and serene, she has the blood and beauty of the Saxon. Will it be her proud destiny at length to bear relief to suffering millions, and, with that soft hand which might inspire troubadours and guerdon knights, break the last links in the chain of a Saxon thraldom?

-------------------------------------

It was in 1845 Sybil was published, a year fertile with events which for the first time brought Mr. Disraeli prominently to the notice of the Queen and of the Prince Consort, and to which may be traced a hostile prejudice lasting in the case of the Prince till his death, and in the mind of the Queen for the space of a generation.

His attacks on Sir Robert Peel, virulent and unrelenting, were looked upon by the Sovereign, not as the legitimate assault by one political opponent upon another, but as the stroke of an assassin at the heart of a friend. The whole nature of the Prince, his sanity and love of sober discussion, his loyalty and respect for character, his economic mind and hatred of claptrap, revolted against the Protectionist Ahithophel. To his Teutonic eyes Peel was the noble, broad-minded English gentleman, slowly beaten down by the arts of this Satanic Jew. It was a sentiment widely shared even by those glad to make use of any stick, effectually tempered, with which to beat one whom they feared as a despoiler and branded as a traitor. The Queen shared the Prince's views, and when, six years later, she was obliged to receive Mr. Disraeli as a Minister, her reluctance was well known and secretly condoned by her subjects. "Make them fear you, and they will kiss your feet," said some one to Vivian Grey; and Disraeli invariably took his own sermons to heart. He had made the House of Commons fear him, and the House of Commons accepted the "smile for a friend and the sneer for the world" with which he enforced his rule. That he, like his colleague George Smythe, could prove a splendid failure he was determined should not be; and the obstacles which hitherto had yielded to his untiring courage he was resolved should be surmounted to the last.

"The only power," said Coningsby, "that has no class sympathy is the Sovereign"; and this thesis he was bent on proving, in spite of the Sovereign herself It was a question of perseverance, high daring, and time. To him, a son of patriarchs whose span of life was counted by centuries, the flight of time appeared a small factor. He was never hurried. It seemed as if he, too, one of the chosen people, might expect to live beyond the ordinary term of man's life. After twenty years of strife for the lead of the House of Commons, he, an alien, was at length the first man in that proud assembly. He could well wait, if necessary, twenty more for the confidence of the English people and that of their Sovereign.

With marvellous endurance and patient tenacity — those heroic qualities of his race — he waited; and he had his reward. "The most wonderful thing," wrote Bishop Wilberforce, not a friendly witness, "is the rise of Disraeli. It is not the mere assertion of talent, as you hear so many say. It seems to me quite beside that. He has been able to teach the House of Commons almost to ignore Gladstone, and at present lords it over him."

It was to certain great qualities of character, as extraordinary as his intellectual powers, that Mr. Gladstone himself bore witness in asking the House of Commons to vote a public monument to Lord Beaconsfield. These were his strong will, his long-sighted persistency of purpose, his remarkable power of self-government, and last, not least, his great parliamentary courage. "I have known," said Mr. Gladstone, "some score of Ministers, but never any two who were his equal in these respects."

Had the Prince Consort lived, regard on his side must have followed the inevitable intimacy into which the two men were thrown. To Mr. Disraeli the Prince's qualities were apparent from the first. Although in 1854, when jealousy of the Prince's position near the Queen culminated in an attack upon him in Parliament, Disraeli remained silent, he had written only a few days before a strong expression of favourable opinion. "The opportunity," he says, "which office has afforded me of becoming acquainted with the Prince filled me with a sentiment towards him which I may describe, without exaggeration, as one of affection." That the feeling was far from reciprocal is well known. The Prince's was not a nature to be taken by storm. That he would have yielded, as the Queen yielded ultimately, to the firm pressure of a powerful character no one can reasonably doubt. Partisanship has invested Lord Beaconsfield in later days with the attributes of those artful men who, as it has been said, study the passions of princes and conceal their own, in order to acquire and retain influence. If Lord Beaconsfield, in his dealings with the Sovereign, stooped to the employment of arts, they were of the simplest kind. He once described his method to a friend. "I never contradict," he said; "I never deny; but I sometimes forget." To the bore or the Pharisee such maxims may seem degrading; but there is many a man, under the pressure of ministerial or domestic sufferings, who will envy the serene philosophy of Lord Beaconsfield. Chance is often the determining factor in our likes and dislikes; and it so happened that the year 1874, which gave Mr. Disraeli his majority, establishing him a second time Prime Minister, was psychologically favourable to his influence at Court. His first administration, seven years before, extending over a few months only, had given him inadequate opportunity. Now his personal magnetism could be employed under circumstances altogether favourable. The Queen had been engaged for some time in the heart-stirring task of reconstructing for the perusal of her people the Life of the Prince Consort. To contemplate old journals and letters, to permit the past to invade the present, to revive the memory of youth and friends long dead, is to open the heart and mind to new and kindling impressions. The Queen was enabled to realise afresh how much she had lost. Of the friends of her girlhood not one remained; and of those who had stood near the throne during her early married life. Lord Russell alone was left — already in the half-shadow of death. Almost the last link with the past snapped by the death in May 1874 of M. Van de Weyer, who had been the friend of her uncle King Leopold, and had received a large and intimate share of the confidence of the Queen. For reasons, some obvious and some obscure, Mr. Gladstone followed rather in the steps of Palmerston and Derby than those of Aberdeen and Peel, whom in character he far more closely resembled. Certain it is that his relation to the Queen, though it may have been that of a trusted Minister, was not that of a friend. Mr. Disraeli succeeded, however, in reinspiring sentiments which had for long lain dormant; and once more in the old place occupied by Lord Melbourne in her charming and helpless girlhood, before the days when she could look to her permanent Minister for guidance, there stood a Minister who was at once the Queen's constitutional adviser and her private friend.

Disraeli's chivalrous devotion to women is abundantly clear from his novels, but it has been made clearer still to those, Mr. Froude among them, who have had access to his unpublished letters to Mrs. Brydges Williams in the library at Tring Park, and who were cognisant of his almost daily correspondence with another lady of great powers of mind and personal charm, who, to the deep sorrow of all who knew her, has recently followed the leader whom she honoured with her friendship. His loyal devotion to Lady Beaconsfield and the adoration he inspired in her have for long been notorious. What wonder, then, that to Disraeli, a romanticist in statecraft, an idealist in politics, and a Provençal in sentiment, his chivalrous regard for the sex should have taken a deeper complexion when the personage was not only a woman but a queen? In trifles Disraeli never forgot the sex of the Sovereign. In great affairs he never appeared to remember it. To this extent the charge of flattery brought against him may be true. He approached the Queen with the supreme tact of a man of the world, than which no form of flattery can be more effective and more dangerous. So far the indictment against him may be upheld. The word "subservience" is the translation of this simple fact into the language of political malice. It has been freely used, and events of such vast import as the Imperial Title and the Congress of Berlin were put down by political adversaries to the flexibility of the courtier rather than to the supreme volition of the statesman. If it was true of Charles Earl Grey that he wrought in brave old age what youth had planned, it was equally true of Lord Beaconsfield. It was noticed that he had always a fantastic taste for the outward and visible side of a cause or of an idea, and the Imperial notion in Tancred readily took the shape of the Imperial Titles Bill.

There is a passage in this novel, written thirty years before the Queen assumed the title of Empress of India, before the first use outside India of Indian troops in Imperial interests, and before the hold of England upon Alexandria was obtained by the purchase for four millions of the Khedive's shares in the Suez Canal. It runs thus: — You must perform the Portuguese scheme on a great scale; quit a petty and exhausted position for a vast and prolific empire. Let the Queen of the English collect a great fleet, let her stow away all her treasure, bullion, gold plate, and precious arms; be accompanied by all her Court and chief people, and transfer the seat of her empire from London to Delhi. There she will find an immense empire ready made, a first-rate army, and a large revenue. I will take care of Syria and Asia Minor. The only way to manage the Afghans is by Persia and by the Arabs. We will acknowledge the Empress of India as our suzerain, and secure for her the Levantine coast. If she like, she shall have Alexandria as she now has Malta: it could be arranged. Your Queen is young; she has an avenir. Aberdeen and Sir Peel will never give her this advice; their habits are formed; they are too old, too rusés. But, you see! the greatest empire that ever existed; besides which she gets rid of the embarrassment of her Chambers! And quite practicable; for the only difficult part, the conquest of India, which baffled Alexander, is all done!

Looking at the dreams of Mr. Disraeli in 1847, and the achievements of Lord Beaconsfield in 1877, it is scarcely a matter of surprise that the Queen of England, who cannot fail to appreciate, in keen personal degree, the glorification of British authority over the world, should yield willingly her favour and support such a Minister. It was not difficult for the Queen, when she appeared to maintain her own will, to be found in reality carrying out that of her Imperial Chancellor. "I had to prepare the mind of the country," Mr. Disraeli once said, "to educate — if it be not too arrogant to use such a phrase — to educate our party." He did in truth educate, not only his party but his countrymen at large, and finally the Sovereign. His party he converted to that form of Tory Democracy which sanctioned the Reform Bill of 1867. His countrymen he converted from "a nation of shopkeepers" into Rhodesian Imperialists, and inflicted a mortal wound upon the Manchester School. The Queen he converted from a Whig Sovereign into the Empress of India. It was the spirit of the age, he would himself have said, which he did no more than interpret. A cool and friendly foreign critic said of England in the early seventies that she had "fallen into disrepute among nations," and that the fate of Holland was everywhere foretold for her. England with her teeming millions, requiring more than ever an outlet into fresh lands for her people, and new markets for her commerce, may have grown restive under this dangerous and unworthy suspicion. Lord Beaconsfield may have done no more than follow the example of Sir Robert Peel in 1846, and gauge accurately the poignant necessities of the epoch over which he was called upon to preside. It is impossible to deny to him the attribute of rare political insight. When in March 1873 refused to take office, but declared nevertheless that the Tory party then occupied the" most satisfactory position which it has held since the days of its greatest statesmen, Mr. Pitt and Lord Grenville"; that it had "divested itself of those excrescences which are not indigenous to its native growth, but which in a time of long prosperity were the consequence sometimes of negligence, and sometimes, perhaps, in a certain degree, of ignorance"; although his political adversaries laughed, within a year Mr. Disraeli had the laugh on his side, and what he called the "career of plundering and blundering " on the part of the Liberal party had come to a disastrous end. As the shadows gathered round him, the love of prophecy, deep-seated in his race, often gleamed out. In 1880 he said to a friend, "I give myself two years more of life." To the Queen he gave twenty. Not long before he had penned his famous letter to the Duke of Marlborough. No manifesto was ever more criticised, and even his warmest friends cavilled at the prophetic allusions to the adoption of Home Rule by his political adversaries. It was indeed early days to speak of the party then led by Lord Hartington as being "ready to challenge the imperial character of the realm"; as a party that, having "failed to enfeeble the colonies by their policy of decomposition, may perhaps now recognise in the disintegration of the United Kingdom a mode which will not only accomplish but precipitate their purpose." The phrases are those of a hostile parliamentary critic, but the prescience is that of a statesman or a prophet.

The Queen parted from her Minister with unfeigned sorrow. On this man who had complained that all existence was an ennui or an anxiety, but who nevertheless said of his dying wife, "for thirty-three years she has never given me a dull moment," this man who was accused by his friends of taciturnity, who was but twice seen to laugh, and who "kept all his fireworks for when women were present," the Queen had bestowed that strong regard which had not been given to any Prime Minister since Lord Aberdeen. Honours for himself, an earldom, the Garter, honours for his friends, all these things were nothing. They were the due of any Minister who chose to press for them. The "affection and friendship " of the Sovereign could not be claimed as a right. They had no necessary place in a Prime Minister's gazette. If the Queen chose to visit Hughenden, and walk on the south terrace among her Minister's peacocks, much as years before she had visited Drayton, her line of Ministers between Peel and Lord Beaconsfield had no legitimate cause of complaint. Like Mordecai, he was the man whom the Sovereign delighted to honour.

"Attended this week the opening of Parliament," writes Archbishop Tait in his Journal of 1877 — the Queen being present and wearing for the first time, some one says, her crown as Empress of India. Lord Beaconsfield was on her left side, holding aloft the sword of state. At five the House again crammed to see him take his seat; and Slingsby Bethell, equal to the occasion, read aloud the writ in very distinct tones. All seemed to be founded on the model, "What shall be done to the man whom the king delighteth to honour?"

It was exactly forty years, that mystic number of the Jewish race, from the day when the newly-elected member for Shrewsbury had taken his seat for the first time in the House of Commons. Then, despised as a clever, unscrupulous dandy, jeered at as a fop who had mistaken his vocation, hanging on to the skirts of Lord Lyndhurst with one hand and those of Lady Blessington with the other, he seemed destined to perpetual failure. Now, standing on the left side of the Queen, bearing aloft the sword of state, an Earl and First Minister of the Crown, the most conspicuous figure at that moment in Europe, he had achieved the wildest improbabilities of which his romantic youth had dreamed. A few years more, and he was back at Hughenden, a broken, dying man, whose web of life was woven at last, spending months in absolute solitude, with only the shadows of the past about him.

"'Dreams! dreams! dreams!' he murmured as he gazed into the fire," records a visitor to Hughenden, and they had been in truth the staple of his life. Mr. Disraeli as a novelist — a dreamer of dreams — had preceded Mr. Disraeli the politician. Lord Beaconsfield as a novelist survived Lord Beaconsfield the statesman. Vivian Grey and Endymion — they mark the beginning and the end. To the "dear and honoured memory" of this extraordinary man his Sovereign inscribed her gratitude and affection. Perhaps to such feelings as these, ever inspired in those nearest to him, may be attributed the secret of his triumph over conditions apparently so hostile.

That Lord Beaconsfield's character presented aspects repellent to the political purists cannot be questioned; and that politics were oftener than not to him a gafne or a fine piece of strategy rather than a conflict of principle must be unquestioned. It is perhaps not doubtful that he feigned some sentiments he was far from feeling, and masked others that he felt deeply. The dictum that far-reaching ambition and perfect scrupulousness can hardly coexist in the same mind he perhaps exemplified. By the Queen this incompatibility was noticed, when it was indeed painfully obvious, and she shrank from the spectacle. As years rolled on, the conflict grew less glaring, and the Queen's attention, together with that of her subjects, became fixed on the finer qualities of the man. His pertinacity and undaunted courage, his patience under obloquy, his untiring energy, his high conception of the honour and keen regard for the interests of England — all these characteristics were recognised and admired. There was one quaUty, however, which is rare in statesmen, and even if present is not always patent to the world. In a leader of men it is the key to success, and in an aspirant to fame the secret of power. Dizzy, as he was for so long affectionately called, possessed the inestimable quality of perfect loyalty to his friends. He was never known to forget a kindness or ignore a service. He was never suspected of having betrayed a follower or forgotten a partisan. However irritating the blunder, however black the catastrophe, Mr. Disraeli could be relied on in the hour of need. His personal hatreds were well under control — "I never trouble to be avenged," he once said to the writer; "when a man injures me I put his name on a slip of paper and lock it up in a drawer. It is marvellous how men I have thus labelled have the knack of disappearing! "In judging men, though not infallible, he seldom erred. Among his opponents, long before they had made a mark, he noticed Lord Rosebery and Sir William Harcourt. The former he took some pains to attract. Of the latter he said, "He is the only man in the House, except myself, who knows the history of his country." When Lord Hartington was making his first speech in Parliament, Mr. Disraeli turned to the colleague sitting next him and murmured, "This young man will do." Among his friends he showed equal discrimination. His reliance upon Lord Cairns, the most powerful and courageous intellect in the Cabinet of 1874, was absolute; and during his absence at the Congress of Berlin it was to the Chancellor that he very wisely looked to sustain the burden of Government at home. He appointed in superlatives, both in writing and in talk, and they were no exaggeration of the depth of his feeling for those he really liked. His profound and admiring regard for women, and his warm affection for his friends, are the salient points in the domestic character of Lord Beaconsfield. That the Queen should, with her sensitive appreciation of these qualities, have come under the charm of her minister's personality was in no way surprising.

Finally, from his proud loyalty to the Hebrew race he never for a moment swerved. For eighteen centuries that race has been slowly taking possession of the civilised world. Through the martyrdom of individual souls Jewish morality has changed the face of the globe. The conduct of the European peoples — modern civilisation as it is called — is their work; while in art, in music, and in letters they have more than held their own. Power, of an overt and conspicuous kind, has, however, for eighteen centuries been denied to men of their blood. Disraeli broke the spell. In July 1878, in the capital of the greatest military nation of our time, among the heroes and statesmen who had created Imperial Germany, among the representatives of the civilised nations of Europe, congregated there to check Russia in her victorious career, and maintain the equal balance of European authority, the most observed and conspicuous personage was not Bismarck, nor Moltke, nor Andrassy, nor any prince nor emperor of them all, but the slim and still youthful figure that with pale and haggard face and slow step, leaning on the arm of his private secretary, was seen day by day to cross the square from the Kaiserhof to the Congress, the representative of the Queen of Great Britain and Ireland and Empress of India - the figure of Lord Beaconsfield the Jew.

Source: The Yoke of Empire: Sketches of the Queen's Prime Ministers, By Reginald B. Brett, 1896
image1