Benjamin Disraeli.

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arose which preserved for Europe arts and letters when Christendom was
plunged in darkness. The children of Ishmael rewarded the children of
Israel with equal rights and privileges with themselves. During these
halcyon centuries, it is difficult to distinguish the follower of Moses
from the votary of Mahomet. Both alike built palaces, gardens, and
fountains; filled equally the highest offices of the state, competed
in an extensive and enlightened commerce, and rivalled each other in
renowned universities.

Even after the fall of the principal Moorish kingdoms, the Jews of
Spain were still treated by the conquering Goths with tenderness and
consideration. Their numbers, their wealth, the fact that, in Arragon
especially, they were the proprietors of the soil, and surrounded by
warlike and devoted followers, secured for them an usage which, for
a considerable period, made them little sensible of the change of
dynasties and religions. But the tempest gradually gathered. As the
Goths grew stronger, persecution became more bold. Where the Jewish
population was scanty they were deprived of their privileges, or obliged
to conform under the title of 'Nuevos Christianos.' At length the union
of the two crowns under Ferdinand and Isabella, and the fall of the
last Moorish kingdom, brought the crisis of their fate both to the New
Christian and the nonconforming Hebrew. The Inquisition appeared, the
Institution that had exterminated the Albigenses and had desolated
Languedoc, and which, it should ever be remembered, was established in
the Spanish kingdoms against the protests of the Cortes and amid the
terror of the populace. The Dominicans opened their first tribunal at
Seville, and it is curious that the first individuals they summoned
before them were the Duke of Medina Sidonia, the Marquess of Cadiz, and
the Count of Arcos; three of the most considerable personages in Spain.
How many were burned alive at Seville during the first year, how many
imprisoned for life, what countless thousands were visited with severe
though lighter punishments, need not be recorded here. In nothing was
the Holy Office more happy than in multiform and subtle means by which
they tested the sincerity of the New Christians.

At length the Inquisition was to be extended to Arragon. The
high-spirited nobles of that kingdom knew that its institution was for
them a matter of life or death. The Cortes of Arragon appealed to the
King and to the Pope; they organised an extensive conspiracy; the chief
Inquisitor was assassinated in the cathedral of Saragossa. Alas! it
was fated that in this, one of the many, and continual, and continuing
struggles between the rival organisations of the North and the South,
the children of the sun should fall. The fagot and the San Benito were
the doom of the nobles of Arragon. Those who were convicted of secret
Judaism, and this scarcely three centuries ago, were dragged to the
stake; the sons of the noblest houses, in whose veins the Hebrew taint
could be traced, had to walk in solemn procession, singing psalms, and
confessing their faith in the religion of the fell Torquemada.

This triumph in Arragon, the almost simultaneous fall of the last
Moorish kingdom, raised the hopes of the pure Christians to the
highest pitch. Having purged the new Christians, they next turned their
attention to the old Hebrews. Ferdinand was resolved that the delicious
air of Spain should be breathed no longer by any one who did not profess
the Catholic faith. Baptism or exile was the alternative. More than
six hundred thousand individuals, some authorities greatly increase
the amount, the most industrious, the most intelligent, and the most
enlightened of Spanish subjects, would not desert the religion of their
fathers. For this they gave up the delightful land wherein they
had lived for centuries, the beautiful cities they had raised, the
universities from which Christendom drew for ages its most precious
lore, the tombs of their ancestors, the temples where they had
worshipped the God for whom they had made this sacrifice. They had but
four months to prepare for eternal exile, after a residence of as many
centuries; during which brief period forced sales and glutted markets
virtually confiscated their property. It is a calamity that the
scattered nation still ranks with the desolations of Nebuchadnezzar
and of Titus. Who after this should say the Jews are by nature a sordid
people? But the Spanish Goth, then so cruel and so haughty, where is
he? A despised suppliant to the very race which he banished, for some
miserable portion of the treasure which their habits of industry have
again accumulated. Where is that tribunal that summoned Medina Sidonia
and Cadiz to its dark inquisition? Where is Spain? Its fall, its
unparalleled and its irremediable fall, is mainly to be attributed
to the expulsion of that large portion of its subjects, the most
industrious and intelligent, who traced their origin to the Mosaic and
Mohammedan Arabs.

The Sidonias of Arragon were Nuevos Christianos. Some of them, no doubt,
were burned alive at the end of the fifteenth century, under the system
of Torquemada; many of them, doubtless, wore the San Benito; but they
kept their titles and estates, and in time reached those great offices
to which we have referred.

During the long disorders of the Peninsular war, when so many openings
were offered to talent, and so many opportunities seized by the
adventurous, a cadet of a younger branch of this family made a large
fortune by military contracts, and supplying the commissariat of the
different armies. At the peace, prescient of the great financial future
of Europe, confident in the fertility of his own genius, in his original
views of fiscal subjects, and his knowledge of national resources, this
Sidonia, feeling that Madrid, or even Cadiz, could never be a base
on which the monetary transactions of the world could be regulated,
resolved to emigrate to England, with which he had, in the course of
years, formed considerable commercial connections. He arrived here after
the peace of Paris, with his large capital. He staked all he was
worth on the Waterloo loan; and the event made him one of the greatest
capitalists in Europe.

No sooner was Sidonia established in England than he professed Judaism;
which Torquemada flattered himself, with the fagot and the San Benito,
he had drained out of the veins of his family more than three centuries
ago. He sent over, also, for several of his brothers, who were as
good Catholics in Spain as Ferdinand and Isabella could have possibly
desired, but who made an offering in the synagogue, in gratitude for
their safe voyage, on their arrival in England.

Sidonia had foreseen in Spain that, after the exhaustion of a war of
twenty-five years, Europe must require capital to carry on peace. He
reaped the due reward of his sagacity. Europe did require money, and
Sidonia was ready to lend it to Europe. France wanted some; Austria
more; Prussia a little; Russia a few millions. Sidonia could furnish
them all. The only country which he avoided was Spain; he was too well
acquainted with its resources. Nothing, too, would ever tempt him to
lend anything to the revolted colonies of Spain. Prudence saved him from
being a creditor of the mother-country; his Spanish pride recoiled from
the rebellion of her children.

It is not difficult to conceive that, after having pursued the career we
have intimated for about ten years, Sidonia had become one of the most
considerable personages in Europe. He had established a brother, or
a near relative, in whom he could confide, in most of the principal
capitals. He was lord and master of the money-market of the world, and
of course virtually lord and master of everything else. He literally
held the revenues of Southern Italy in pawn; and monarchs and ministers
of all countries courted his advice and were guided by his suggestions.
He was still in the vigour of life, and was not a mere money-making
machine. He had a general intelligence equal to his position, and looked
forward to the period when some relaxation from his vast enterprises and
exertions might enable him to direct his energies to great objects of
public benefit. But in the height of his vast prosperity he suddenly
died, leaving only one child, a youth still of tender years, and heir to
the greatest fortune in Europe, so great, indeed, that it could only be
calculated by millions.

Shut out from universities and schools, those universities and schools
which were indebted for their first knowledge of ancient philosophy
to the learning and enterprise of his ancestors, the young Sidonia was
fortunate in the tutor whom his father had procured for him, and who
devoted to his charge all the resources of his trained intellect and
vast and varied erudition. A Jesuit before the revolution; since then an
exiled Liberal leader; now a member of the Spanish Cortes; Rebello
was always a Jew. He found in his pupil that precocity of intellectual
development which is characteristic of the Arabian organisation. The
young Sidonia penetrated the highest mysteries of mathematics with
a facility almost instinctive; while a memory, which never had any
twilight hours, but always reflected a noontide clearness, seemed to
magnify his acquisitions of ancient learning by the promptness with
which they could be reproduced and applied.

The circumstances of his position, too, had early contributed to give
him an unusual command over the modern languages. An Englishman, and
taught from his cradle to be proud of being an Englishman, he first
evinced in speaking his native language those remarkable powers of
expression, and that clear and happy elocution, which ever afterwards
distinguished him. But the son of a Spaniard, the sonorous syllables
of that noble tongue constantly resounded in his ear; while the foreign
guests who thronged his father's mansion habituated him from an early
period of life to the tones of languages that were not long strange to
him. When he was nineteen, Sidonia, who had then resided some time
with his uncle at Naples, and had made a long visit to another of his
father's relatives at Frankfort, possessed a complete mastery over the
principal European languages.

At seventeen he had parted with Rebello, who returned to Spain, and
Sidonia, under the control of his guardians, commenced his travels. He
resided, as we have mentioned, some time in Germany, and then, having
visited Italy, settled at Naples, at which city it may be said he
made his entrance into life. With an interesting person, and highly
accomplished, he availed himself of the gracious attentions of a
court of which he was principal creditor; and which, treating him as a
distinguished English traveller, were enabled perhaps to show him some
favours that the manners of the country might not have permitted them
to accord to his Neapolitan relatives. Sidonia thus obtained at an
early age that experience of refined and luxurious society, which is a
necessary part of a finished education. It gives the last polish to the
manners; it teaches us something of the power of the passions, early
developed in the hot-bed of self-indulgence; it instils into us that
indefinable tact seldom obtained in later life, which prevents us from
saying the wrong thing, and often impels us to do the right.

Between Paris and Naples Sidonia passed two years, spent apparently in
the dissipation which was perhaps inseparable from his time of life. He
was admired by women, to whom he was magnificent, idolised by artists
whom he patronised, received in all circles with great distinction, and
appreciated for his intellect by the very few to whom he at all
opened himself. For, though affable and gracious, it was impossible
to penetrate him. Though unreserved in his manner, his frankness was
strictly limited to the surface. He observed everything, thought ever,
but avoided serious discussion. If you pressed him for an opinion, he
took refuge in raillery, or threw out some grave paradox with which it
was not easy to cope.

The moment he came of age, Sidonia having previously, at a great family
congress held at Naples, made arrangements with the heads of the houses
that bore his name respecting the disposition and management of his vast
fortune, quitted Europe.

Sidonia was absent from his connections for five years, during which
period he never communicated with them. They were aware of his existence
only by the orders which he drew on them for payment, and which arrived
from all quarters of the globe. It would appear from these documents
that he had dwelt a considerable time in the Mediterranean regions;
penetrated Nilotic Africa to Sennaar and Abyssinia; traversed the
Asiatic continent to Tartary, whence he had visited Hindostan, and the
isles of that Indian Sea which are so little known. Afterwards he was
heard of at Valparaiso, the Brazils, and Lima. He evidently remained
some time at Mexico, which he quitted for the United States. One
morning, without notice, he arrived in London.

Sidonia had exhausted all the sources of human knowledge; he was master
of the learning of every nation, of all tongues dead or living, of every
literature, Western and Oriental. He had pursued the speculations
of science to their last term, and had himself illustrated them by
observation and experiment. He had lived in all orders of society, had
viewed every combination of Nature and of Art, and had observed man
under every phasis of civilisation. He had even studied him in the
wilderness. The influence of creeds and laws, manners, customs,
traditions, in all their diversities, had been subjected to his personal
scrutiny.

He brought to the study of this vast aggregate of knowledge a
penetrative intellect that, matured by long meditation, and assisted
by that absolute freedom from prejudice, which, was the compensatory
possession of a man without a country, permitted Sidonia to fathom,
as it were by intuition, the depth of questions apparently the most
difficult and profound. He possessed the rare faculty of communicating
with precision ideas the most abstruse, and in general a power of
expression which arrests and satisfies attention.

With all this knowledge, which no one knew more to prize, with boundless
wealth, and with an athletic frame, which sickness had never tried, and
which had avoided excess, Sidonia nevertheless looked upon life with
a glance rather of curiosity than content. His religion walled him
out from the pursuits of a citizen; his riches deprived him of the
stimulating anxieties of a man. He perceived himself a lone being, alike
without cares and without duties.

To a man in his position there might yet seem one unfailing source
of felicity and joy; independent of creed, independent of country,
independent even of character. He might have discovered that perpetual
spring of happiness in the sensibility of the heart. But this was a
sealed fountain to Sidonia. In his organisation there was a peculiarity,
perhaps a great deficiency. He was a man without affections. It would be
harsh to say he had no heart, for he was susceptible of deep emotions,
but not for individuals. He was capable of rebuilding a town that was
burned down; of restoring a colony that had been destroyed by some awful
visitation of Nature; of redeeming to liberty a horde of captives; and
of doing these great acts in secret; for, void of all self-love, public
approbation was worthless to him; but the individual never touched him.
Woman was to him a toy, man a machine.

The lot the most precious to man, and which a beneficent Providence
has made not the least common; to find in another heart a perfect and
profound sympathy; to unite his existence with one who could share all
his joys, soften all his sorrows, aid him in all his projects, respond
to all his fancies, counsel him in his cares, and support him in
his perils; make life charming by her charms, interesting by her
intelligence, and sweet by the vigilant variety of her tenderness;
to find your life blessed by such an influence, and to feel that your
influence can bless such a life: this lot, the most divine of divine
gifts, that power and even fame can never rival in its delights, all
this Nature had denied to Sidonia.

With an imagination as fiery as his native Desert, and an intellect as
luminous as his native sky, he wanted, like that land, those softening
dews without which the soil is barren, and the sunbeam as often a
messenger of pestilence as an angel of regenerative grace.

Such a temperament, though rare, is peculiar to the East. It inspired
the founders of the great monarchies of antiquity, the prophets that the
Desert has sent forth, the Tartar chiefs who have overrun the world;
it might be observed in the great Corsican, who, like most of the
inhabitants of the Mediterranean isles, had probably Arab blood in his
veins. It is a temperament that befits conquerors and legislators, but,
in ordinary times and ordinary situations, entails on its possessor only
eccentric aberrations or profound melancholy.

The only human quality that interested Sidonia was Intellect. He cared
not whence it came; where it was to be found: creed, country, class,
character, in this respect, were alike indifferent to him. The author,
the artist, the man of science, never appealed to him in vain. Often he
anticipated their wants and wishes. He encouraged their society; was as
frank in his conversation as he was generous in his contributions; but
the instant they ceased to be authors, artists, or philosophers, and
their communications arose from anything but the intellectual quality
which had originally interested him, the moment they were rash enough
to approach intimacy and appealed to the sympathising man instead of
the congenial intelligence, he saw them no more. It was not however
intellect merely in these unquestionable shapes that commanded his
notice. There was not an adventurer in Europe with whom he was not
familiar. No Minister of State had such communication with secret agents
and political spies as Sidonia. He held relations with all the clever
outcasts of the world. The catalogue of his acquaintance in the shape of
Greeks, Armenians, Moors, secret Jews, Tartars, Gipsies, wandering
Poles and Carbonari, would throw a curious light on those subterranean
agencies of which the world in general knows so little, but which
exercise so great an influence on public events. His extensive travels,
his knowledge of languages, his daring and adventurous disposition, and
his unlimited means, had given him opportunities of becoming acquainted
with these characters, in general so difficult to trace, and of gaining
their devotion. To these sources he owed that knowledge of strange and
hidden things which often startled those who listened to him. Nor was it
easy, scarcely possible, to deceive him. Information reached him from
so many, and such contrary quarters, that with his discrimination and
experience, he could almost instantly distinguish the truth. The secret
history of the world was his pastime. His great pleasure was to contrast
the hidden motive, with the public pretext, of transactions.

One source of interest Sidonia found in his descent and in the
fortunes of his race. As firm in his adherence to the code of the great
Legislator as if the trumpet still sounded on Sinai, he might have
received in the conviction of divine favour an adequate compensation
for human persecution. But there were other and more terrestrial
considerations that made Sidonia proud of his origin, and confident
in the future of his kind. Sidonia was a great philosopher, who took
comprehensive views of human affairs, and surveyed every fact in its
relative position to other facts, the only mode of obtaining truth.

Sidonia was well aware that in the five great varieties into which
Physiology has divided the human species; to wit, the Caucasian, the
Mongolian, the Malayan, the American, the Ethiopian; the Arabian tribes
rank in the first and superior class, together, among others, with the
Saxon and the Greek. This fact alone is a source of great pride and
satisfaction to the animal Man. But Sidonia and his brethren could
claim a distinction which the Saxon and the Greek, and the rest of
the Caucasian nations, have forfeited. The Hebrew is an unmixed race.
Doubtless, among the tribes who inhabit the bosom of the Desert,
progenitors alike of the Mosaic and the Mohammedan Arabs, blood may be
found as pure as that of the descendants of the Scheik Abraham. But the
Mosaic Arabs are the most ancient, if not the only, unmixed blood that
dwells in cities.

An unmixed race of a firstrate organisation are the aristocracy of
Nature. Such excellence is a positive fact; not an imagination, a
ceremony, coined by poets, blazoned by cozening heralds, but perceptible
in its physical advantages, and in the vigour of its unsullied
idiosyncrasy.

In his comprehensive travels, Sidonia had visited and examined the
Hebrew communities of the world. He had found, in general, the lower
orders debased; the superior immersed in sordid pursuits; but he
perceived that the intellectual development was not impaired. This gave
him hope. He was persuaded that organisation would outlive persecution.
When he reflected on what they had endured, it was only marvellous
that the race had not disappeared. They had defied exile, massacre,
spoliation, the degrading influence of the constant pursuit of gain;
they had defied Time. For nearly three thousand years, according to
Archbishop Usher, they have been dispersed over the globe. To the
unpolluted current of their Caucasian structure, and to the segregating
genius of their great Law-giver, Sidonia ascribed the fact that they
had not been long ago absorbed among those mixed races, who presume
to persecute them, but who periodically wear away and disappear, while
their victims still flourish in all the primeval vigour of the pure
Asian breed.

Shortly after his arrival in England, Sidonia repaired to the principal
Courts of Europe, that he might become personally acquainted with
the monarchs and ministers of whom he had heard so much. His position
insured him a distinguished reception; his personal qualities
immediately made him cherished. He could please; he could do more, he
could astonish. He could throw out a careless observation which would
make the oldest diplomatist start; a winged word that gained him the
consideration, sometimes the confidence, of Sovereigns. When he had
fathomed the intelligence which governs Europe, and which can only be
done by personal acquaintance, he returned to this country.

The somewhat hard and literal character of English life suited one who
shrank from sensibility, and often took refuge in sarcasm. Its masculine
vigour and active intelligence occupied and interested his mind.
Sidonia, indeed, was exactly the character who would be welcomed in our
circles. His immense wealth, his unrivalled social knowledge, his clear
vigorous intellect, the severe simplicity of his manners, frank, but
neither claiming nor brooking familiarity, and his devotion to field
sports, which was the safety-valve of his energy, were all circumstances
and qualities which the English appreciate and admire; and it may be
fairly said of Sidonia that few men were more popular, and none less
understood.




CHAPTER XI.


At dinner, Coningsby was seated on the same side as Sidonia, and distant
from him. There had been, therefore, no mutual recognition. Another
guest had also arrived, Mr. Ormsby. He came straight from London,
full of rumours, had seen Tadpole, who, hearing he was on the wing for
Coningsby Castle, had taken him into a dark corner of a club, and
shown him his book, a safe piece of confidence, as Mr. Ormsby was very
near-sighted. It was, however, to be received as an undoubted fact, that
all was right, and somehow or other, before very long, there would be
national demonstration of the same. This arrival of Mr. Ormsby, and the
news that he bore, gave a political turn to the conversation after the
ladies had left the room.

'Tadpole wants me to stand for Birmingham,' said Mr. Ormsby, gravely.

'You!' exclaimed Lord Monmouth, and throwing himself back in his chair,
he broke into a real, hearty laugh.

'Yes; the Conservatives mean to start two candidates; a manufacturer
they have got, and they have written up to Tadpole for a "West-end
man."'

'A what?'

'A West-end man, who will make the ladies patronise their fancy
articles.'

'The result of the Reform Bill, then,' said Lucian Gay, 'will be to give



Online LibraryBenjamin DisraeliConingsby → online text (page 18 of 39)