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CONINGSBY

OR THE NEW GENERATION

By Benjamin Disraeli

Earl Of Beaconsfield




PUBLISHERS' NOTE


As a novelist, Benjamin Disraeli belongs to the early part of the
nineteenth century. "Vivian Grey" (1826-27) and "Sybil" (1845) mark
the beginning and the end of his truly creative period; for the two
productions of his latest years, "Lothair" (1870) and "Endymion" (1880),
add nothing to the characteristics of his earlier volumes except the
changes of feeling and power which accompany old age. His period, thus,
is that of Bulwer, Dickens, and Thackeray, and of the later years of Sir
Walter Scott - a fact which his prominence as a statesman during the last
decade of his life, as well as the vogue of "Lothair" and "Endymion,"
has tended to obscure. His style, his material, and his views of English
character and life all date from that earlier time. He was born in 1804
and died in 1881.

"Coningsby; or, The New Generation," published in 1844, is the best
of his novels, not as a story, but as a study of men, manners, and
principles. The plot is slight - little better than a device for
stringing together sketches of character and statements of political and
economic opinions; but these are always interesting and often brilliant.
The motive which underlies the book is political. It is, in brief, an
attempt to show that the political salvation of England was to be sought
in its aristocracy, but that this aristocracy was morally weak and
socially ineffective, and that it must mend its ways before its duty to
the state could be fulfilled. Interest in this aspect of the book has,
of course, to a large extent passed away with the political conditions
which it reflected. As a picture of aristocratic life in England in
the first part of the nineteenth century it has, however, enduring
significance and charm. Disraeli does not rank with the great writers
of English realistic fiction, but in this special field none of them
has surpassed him. From this point of view, accordingly, "Coningsby" is
appropriately included in this series.




TO HENRY HOPE


It is not because this work was conceived and partly executed amid the
glades and galleries of the DEEPDENE that I have inscribed it with your
name. Nor merely because I was desirous to avail myself of the most
graceful privilege of an author, and dedicate my work to the friend
whose talents I have always appreciated, and whose virtues I have ever
admired.

But because in these pages I have endeavoured to picture something of
that development of the new and, as I believe, better mind of England,
that has often been the subject of our converse and speculation.

In this volume you will find many a thought illustrated and many a
principle attempted to be established that we have often together
partially discussed and canvassed.

Doubtless you may encounter some opinions with which you may not
agree, and some conclusions the accuracy of which you may find cause
to question. But if I have generally succeeded in my object, to scatter
some suggestions that may tend to elevate the tone of public life,
ascertain the true character of political parties, and induce us for
the future more carefully to distinguish between facts and phrases,
realities and phantoms, I believe that I shall gain your sympathy, for
I shall find a reflex to their efforts in your own generous spirit and
enlightened mind.

GROSVENOR GATE: May Day 1844.




PREFACE


'CONINGSBY' was published in the year 1844. The main purpose of its
writer was to vindicate the just claims of the Tory party to be the
popular political confederation of the country; a purpose which he had,
more or less, pursued from a very early period of life. The occasion
was favourable to the attempt. The youthful mind of England had just
recovered from the inebriation of the great Conservative triumph of
1841, and was beginning to inquire what, after all, they had conquered
to preserve. It was opportune, therefore, to show that Toryism was not
a phrase, but a fact; and that our political institutions were the
embodiment of our popular necessities. This the writer endeavoured to do
without prejudice, and to treat of events and characters of which he had
some personal experience, not altogether without the impartiality of the
future.

It was not originally the intention of the writer to adopt the form
of fiction as the instrument to scatter his suggestions, but, after
reflection, he resolved to avail himself of a method which, in the
temper of the times, offered the best chance of influencing opinion.

In considering the Tory scheme, the author recognised in the CHURCH the
most powerful agent in the previous development of England, and the most
efficient means of that renovation of the national spirit at which
he aimed. The Church is a sacred corporation for the promulgation and
maintenance in Europe of certain Asian principles, which, although
local in their birth, are of divine origin, and of universal and eternal
application.

In asserting the paramount character of the ecclesiastical polity and
the majesty of the theocratic principle, it became necessary to ascend
to the origin of the Christian Church, and to meet in a spirit worthy
of a critical and comparatively enlightened age, the position of the
descendants of that race who were the founders of Christianity. The
modern Jews had long laboured under the odium and stigma of mediaeval
malevolence. In the dark ages, when history was unknown, the passions
of societies, undisturbed by traditionary experience, were strong, and
their convictions, unmitigated by criticism, were necessarily fanatical.
The Jews were looked upon in the middle ages as an accursed race, the
enemies of God and man, the especial foes of Christianity. No one in
those days paused to reflect that Christianity was founded by the Jews;
that its Divine Author, in his human capacity, was a descendant of King
David; that his doctrines avowedly were the completion, not the change,
of Judaism; that the Apostles and the Evangelists, whose names men daily
invoked, and whose volumes they embraced with reverence, were all Jews;
that the infallible throne of Rome itself was established by a Jew; and
that a Jew was the founder of the Christian Churches of Asia.

The European nations, relatively speaking, were then only recently
converted to a belief in Moses and in Christ; and, as it were, still
ashamed of the wild deities whom they had deserted, they thought they
atoned for their past idolatry by wreaking their vengeance on a race to
whom, and to whom alone, they were indebted for the Gospel they adored.

In vindicating the sovereign right of the Church of Christ to be the
perpetual regenerator of man, the writer thought the time had arrived
when some attempt should be made to do justice to the race which had
founded Christianity.

The writer has developed in another work ('Tancred') the views
respecting the great house of Israel which he first intimated in
'Coningsby.' No one has attempted to refute them, nor is refutation
possible; since all he has done is to examine certain facts in the truth
of which all agree, and to draw from them irresistible conclusions which
prejudice for a moment may shrink from, but which reason cannot refuse
to admit.

D.

GROSVENOR GATE: May 1894.




CONINGSBY




BOOK I.



CHAPTER I.


It was a bright May morning some twelve years ago, when a youth of still
tender age, for he had certainly not entered his teens by more than two
years, was ushered into the waiting-room of a house in the vicinity
of St. James's Square, which, though with the general appearance of
a private residence, and that too of no very ambitious character,
exhibited at this period symptoms of being occupied for some public
purpose.

The house-door was constantly open, and frequent guests even at this
early hour crossed the threshold. The hall-table was covered with sealed
letters; and the hall-porter inscribed in a book the name of every
individual who entered.

The young gentleman we have mentioned found himself in a room which
offered few resources for his amusement. A large table amply covered
with writing materials, and a few chairs, were its sole furniture,
except the grey drugget that covered the floor, and a muddy mezzotinto
of the Duke of Wellington that adorned its cold walls. There was not
even a newspaper; and the only books were the Court Guide and the London
Directory. For some time he remained with patient endurance planted
against the wall, with his feet resting on the rail of his chair; but
at length in his shifting posture he gave evidence of his restlessness,
rose from his seat, looked out of the window into a small side court of
the house surrounded with dead walls, paced the room, took up the Court
Guide, changed it for the London Directory, then wrote his name over
several sheets of foolscap paper, drew various landscapes and faces of
his friends; and then, splitting up a pen or two, delivered himself of a
yawn which seemed the climax of his weariness.

And yet the youth's appearance did not betoken a character that, if
the opportunity had offered, could not have found amusement and even
instruction. His countenance, radiant with health and the lustre of
innocence, was at the same time thoughtful and resolute. The expression
of his deep blue eyes was serious. Without extreme regularity of
features, the face was one that would never have passed unobserved. His
short upper lip indicated a good breed; and his chestnut curls clustered
over his open brow, while his shirt-collar thrown over his shoulders
was unrestrained by handkerchief or ribbon. Add to this, a limber and
graceful figure, which the jacket of his boyish dress exhibited to great
advantage.

Just as the youth, mounted on a chair, was adjusting the portrait of the
Duke, which he had observed to be awry, the gentleman for whom he had
been all this time waiting entered the room.

'Floreat Etona!' hastily exclaimed the gentleman, in a sharp voice; 'you
are setting the Duke to rights. I have left you a long time a prisoner;
but I found them so busy here, that I made my escape with some
difficulty.'

He who uttered these words was a man of middle size and age, originally
in all probability of a spare habit, but now a little inclined to
corpulency. Baldness, perhaps, contributed to the spiritual expression
of a brow, which was, however, essentially intellectual, and gave some
character of openness to a countenance which, though not ill-favoured,
was unhappily stamped by a sinister cast that was not to be mistaken.
His manner was easy, but rather audacious than well-bred. Indeed, while
a visage which might otherwise be described as handsome was spoilt by
a dishonest glance, so a demeanour that was by no means deficient in
self-possession and facility, was tainted by an innate vulgarity, which
in the long run, though seldom, yet surely developed itself.

The youth had jumped off his chair on the entrance of the gentleman, and
then taking up his hat, said:

'Shall we go to grandpapa now, sir?'

'By all means, my dear boy,' said the gentleman, putting his arm within
that of the youth; and they were just on the point of leaving
the waiting-room, when the door was suddenly thrown open, and two
individuals, in a state of great excitement, rushed into the apartment.

'Rigby! Rigby!' they both exclaimed at the same moment. 'By G - -
they're out!'

'Who told you?'

'The best authority; one of themselves.'

'Who? who?'

'Paul Evelyn; I met him as I passed Brookes', and he told me that Lord
Grey had resigned, and the King had accepted his resignation.'

But Mr. Rigby, who, though very fond of news, and much interested in the
present, was extremely jealous of any one giving him information, was
sceptical. He declared that Paul Evelyn was always wrong; that it was
morally impossible that Paul Evelyn ever could be right; that he knew,
from the highest authority, that Lord Grey had been twice yesterday with
the King; that on the last visit nothing was settled; that if he had
been at the palace again to-day, he could not have been there before
twelve o'clock; that it was only now a quarter to one; that Lord Grey
would have called his colleagues together on his return; that at
least an hour must have elapsed before anything could possibly have
transpired. Then he compared and criticised the dates of every rumoured
incident of the last twenty-four hours, and nobody was stronger in dates
than Mr. Rigby; counted even the number of stairs which the minister
had to ascend and descend in his visit to the palace, and the time their
mountings and dismountings must have consumed, detail was Mr. Rigby's
forte; and finally, what with his dates, his private information, his
knowledge of palace localities, his contempt for Paul Evelyn, and his
confidence in himself, he succeeded in persuading his downcast and
disheartened friends that their comfortable intelligence had not the
slightest foundation.

They all left the room together; they were in the hall; the gentlemen
who brought the news looked somewhat depressed, but Mr. Rigby gay, even
amid the prostration of his party, from the consciousness that he had
most critically demolished a piece of political gossip and conveyed a
certain degree of mortification to a couple of his companions; when a
travelling carriage and four with a ducal coronet drove up to the house.
The door was thrown open, the steps dashed down, and a youthful noble
sprang from his chariot into the hall.

'Good morning, Rigby,' said the Duke.

'I see your Grace well, I am sure,' said Mr. Rigby, with a softened
manner.

'You have heard the news, gentlemen?' the Duke continued.

'What news? Yes; no; that is to say, Mr. Rigby thinks - '

'You know, of course, that Lord Lyndhurst is with the King?'

'It is impossible,' said Mr. Rigby.

'I don't think I can be mistaken,' said the Duke, smiling.

'I will show your Grace that it is impossible,' said Mr. Rigby, 'Lord
Lyndhurst slept at Wimbledon. Lord Grey could not have seen the King
until twelve o'clock; it is now five minutes to one. It is impossible,
therefore, that any message from the King could have reached Lord
Lyndhurst in time for his Lordship to be at the palace at this moment.'

'But my authority is a high one,' said the Duke.

'Authority is a phrase,' said Mr. Rigby; 'we must look to time and
place, dates and localities, to discover the truth.'

'Your Grace was saying that your authority - ' ventured to observe Mr.
Tadpole, emboldened by the presence of a duke, his patron, to struggle
against the despotism of a Rigby, his tyrant.

'Was the highest,' rejoined the Duke, smiling, 'for it was Lord
Lyndhurst himself. I came up from Nuneham this morning, passed his
Lordship's house in Hyde Park Place as he was getting into his carriage
in full dress, stopped my own, and learned in a breath that the Whigs
were out, and that the King had sent for the Chief Baron. So I came on
here at once.'

'I always thought the country was sound at bottom,' exclaimed Mr. Taper,
who, under the old system, had sneaked into the Treasury Board.

Tadpole and Taper were great friends. Neither of them ever despaired
of the Commonwealth. Even if the Reform Bill were passed, Taper was
convinced that the Whigs would never prove men of business; and when his
friends confessed among themselves that a Tory Government was for the
future impossible, Taper would remark, in a confidential whisper, that
for his part he believed before the year was over the Whigs would be
turned out by the clerks.

'There is no doubt that there is considerable reaction,' said Mr.
Tadpole. The infamous conduct of the Whigs in the Amersham case has
opened the public mind more than anything.'

'Aldborough was worse,' said Mr. Taper.

'Terrible,' said Tadpole. 'They said there was no use discussing the
Reform Bill in our House. I believe Rigby's great speech on Aldborough
has done more towards the reaction than all the violence of the
Political Unions put together.'

'Let us hope for the best,' said the Duke, mildly. ''Tis a bold step on
the part of the Sovereign, and I am free to say I could have wished it
postponed; but we must support the King like men. What say you, Rigby?
You are silent.'

'I am thinking how very unfortunate it was that I did not breakfast with
Lyndhurst this morning, as I was nearly doing, instead of going down to
Eton.'

'To Eton! and why to Eton?'

'For the sake of my young friend here, Lord Monmouth's grandson. By the
bye, you are kinsmen. Let me present to your Grace, MR. CONINGSBY.'




CHAPTER II.


The political agitation which for a year and a half had shaken England
to its centre, received, if possible, an increase to its intensity and
virulence, when it was known, in the early part of the month of May,
1832, that the Prime Minister had tendered his resignation to the King,
which resignation had been graciously accepted.

The amendment carried by the Opposition in the House of Lords on the
evening of the 7th of May, that the enfranchising clauses of the
Reform Bill should be considered before entering into the question of
disfranchisement, was the immediate cause of this startling event. The
Lords had previously consented to the second reading of the Bill with
the view of preventing that large increase of their numbers with which
they had been long menaced; rather, indeed, by mysterious rumours than
by any official declaration; but, nevertheless, in a manner which had
carried conviction to no inconsiderable portion of the Opposition that
the threat was not without foundation.

During the progress of the Bill through the Lower House, the journals
which were looked upon as the organs of the ministry had announced with
unhesitating confidence, that Lord Grey was armed with what was then
called a 'carte blanche' to create any number of peers necessary to
insure its success. But public journalists who were under the control of
the ministry, and whose statements were never contradicted, were not
the sole authorities for this prevailing belief. Members of the House of
Commons, who were strong supporters of the cabinet, though not connected
with it by any official tie, had unequivocally stated in their places
that the Sovereign had not resisted the advice of his counsellors to
create peers, if such creation were required to carry into effect what
was then styled 'the great national measure.' In more than one instance,
ministers had been warned, that if they did not exercise that power with
prompt energy, they might deserve impeachment. And these intimations and
announcements had been made in the presence of leading members of the
Government, and had received from them, at least, the sanction of their
silence.

It did not subsequently appear that the Reform ministers had been
invested with any such power; but a conviction of the reverse, fostered
by these circumstances, had successfully acted upon the nervous
temperament, or the statesman-like prudence, of a certain section of the
peers, who consequently hesitated in their course; were known as being
no longer inclined to pursue their policy of the preceding session; had
thus obtained a title at that moment in everybody's mouth, the title of
'THE WAVERERS.'

Notwithstanding, therefore, the opposition of the Duke of Wellington and
of Lord Lyndhurst, the Waverers carried the second reading of the Reform
Bill; and then, scared at the consequences of their own headstrong
timidity, they went in a fright to the Duke and his able adviser to
extricate them from the inevitable result of their own conduct.
The ultimate device of these distracted counsels, where daring and
poltroonery, principle and expediency, public spirit and private
intrigue, each threw an ingredient into the turbulent spell, was the
celebrated and successful amendment to which we have referred.

But the Whig ministers, who, whatever may have been their faults, were
at least men of intellect and courage, were not to be beaten by 'the
Waverers.' They might have made terms with an audacious foe; they
trampled on a hesitating opponent. Lord Grey hastened to the palace.

Before the result of this appeal to the Sovereign was known, for its
effects were not immediate, on the second morning after the vote in the
House of Lords, Mr. Rigby had made that visit to Eton which had summoned
very unexpectedly the youthful Coningsby to London. He was the orphan
child of the youngest of the two sons of the Marquess of Monmouth. It
was a family famous for its hatreds. The eldest son hated his father;
and, it was said, in spite had married a lady to whom that father was
attached, and with whom Lord Monmouth then meditated a second alliance.
This eldest son lived at Naples, and had several children, but
maintained no connection either with his parent or his native country.
On the other hand, Lord Monmouth hated his younger son, who had married,
against his consent, a woman to whom that son was devoted. A system of
domestic persecution, sustained by the hand of a master, had eventually
broken up the health of its victim, who died of a fever in a foreign
country, where he had sought some refuge from his creditors.

His widow returned to England with her child; and, not having a
relation, and scarcely an acquaintance in the world, made an appeal to
her husband's father, the wealthiest noble in England and a man who was
often prodigal, and occasionally generous. After some time, and
more trouble, after urgent and repeated, and what would have seemed
heart-rending, solicitations, the attorney of Lord Monmouth called
upon the widow of his client's son, and informed her of his Lordship's
decision. Provided she gave up her child, and permanently resided in
one of the remotest counties, he was authorised to make her, in four
quarterly payments, the yearly allowance of three hundred pounds, that
being the income that Lord Monmouth, who was the shrewdest accountant in
the country, had calculated a lone woman might very decently exist upon
in a small market town in the county of Westmoreland.

Desperate necessity, the sense of her own forlornness, the utter
impossibility to struggle with an omnipotent foe, who, her husband had
taught her, was above all scruples, prejudices, and fears, and who,
though he respected law, despised opinion, made the victim yield. But
her sufferings were not long; the separation from her child, the bleak
clime, the strange faces around her, sharp memory, and the dull routine
of an unimpassioned life, all combined to wear out a constitution
originally frail, and since shattered by many sorrows. Mrs. Coningsby
died the same day that her father-in-law was made a Marquess. He
deserved his honours. The four votes he had inherited in the House of
Commons had been increased, by his intense volition and unsparing means,
to ten; and the very day he was raised to his Marquisate, he commenced
sapping fresh corporations, and was working for the strawberry leaf. His
honours were proclaimed in the London Gazette, and her decease was not
even noticed in the County Chronicle; but the altars of Nemesis are
beneath every outraged roof, and the death of this unhappy lady,
apparently without an earthly friend or an earthly hope, desolate and
deserted, and dying in obscure poverty, was not forgotten.

Coningsby was not more than nine years of age when he lost his last
parent; and he had then been separated from her for nearly three years.
But he remembered the sweetness of his nursery days. His mother,
too, had written to him frequently since he quitted her, and her fond
expressions had cherished the tenderness of his heart. He wept bitterly
when his schoolmaster broke to him the news of his mother's death. True
it was they had been long parted, and their prospect of again meeting
was vague and dim; but his mother seemed to him his only link to human
society. It was something to have a mother, even if he never saw her.
Other boys went to see their mothers! he, at least, could talk of his.
Now he was alone. His grandfather was to him only a name. Lord Monmouth
resided almost constantly abroad, and during his rare visits to England
had found no time or inclination to see the orphan, with whom he felt
no sympathy. Even the death of the boy's mother, and the consequent
arrangements, were notified to his master by a stranger. The letter
which brought the sad intelligence was from Mr. Rigby. It was the first
time that name had been known to Coningsby.



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