Benjamin Disraeli.

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'A favourite of mine,' said Sidonia.

'And why was she a favourite of yours?' rather eagerly inquired

'Because she thought deeply, talked finely, and moved gracefully.'

'And yet might be a very unfeeling dame at the same time,' said the

'I never thought of that,' said Sidonia.

'The heart, apparently, does not reckon in your philosophy.'

'What we call the heart,' said Sidonia, 'is a nervous sensation, like
shyness, which gradually disappears in society. It is fervent in the
nursery, strong in the domestic circle, tumultuous at school. The
affections are the children of ignorance; when the horizon of
our experience expands, and models multiply, love and admiration
imperceptibly vanish.'

'I fear the horizon of your experience has very greatly expanded. With
your opinions, what charm can there be in life?'

'The sense of existence.'

'So Sidonia is off to-morrow, Monmouth,' said Lord Eskdale.

'Hah!' said the Marquess. 'I must get him to breakfast with me before he

The party broke up. Coningsby, who had heard Lord Eskdale announce
Sidonia's departure, lingered to express his regret, and say farewell.

'I cannot sleep,' said Sidonia, 'and I never smoke in Europe. If you are
not stiff with your wounds, come to my rooms.'

This invitation was willingly accepted.

'I am going to Cambridge in a week,' said Coningsby. I was almost in
hopes you might have remained as long.'

'I also; but my letters of this morning demand me. If it had not been
for our chase, I should have quitted immediately. The minister
cannot pay the interest on the national debt; not an unprecedented
circumstance, and has applied to us. I never permit any business of
State to be transacted without my personal interposition; and so I must
go up to town immediately.'

'Suppose you don't pay it,' said Coningsby, smiling.

'If I followed my own impulse, I would remain here,' said Sidonia. 'Can
anything be more absurd than that a nation should apply to an individual
to maintain its credit, and, with its credit, its existence as an
empire, and its comfort as a people; and that individual one to whom its
laws deny the proudest rights of citizenship, the privilege of sitting
in its senate and of holding land? for though I have been rash enough
to buy several estates, my own opinion is, that, by the existing law of
England, an Englishman of Hebrew faith cannot possess the soil.'

'But surely it would be easy to repeal a law so illiberal - '

'Oh! as for illiberality, I have no objection to it if it be an element
of power. Eschew political sentimentalism. What I contend is, that if
you permit men to accumulate property, and they use that permission to a
great extent, power is inseparable from that property, and it is in the
last degree impolitic to make it the interest of any powerful class to
oppose the institutions under which they live. The Jews, for example,
independently of the capital qualities for citizenship which they
possess in their industry, temperance, and energy and vivacity of mind,
are a race essentially monarchical, deeply religious, and shrinking
themselves from converts as from a calamity, are ever anxious to see
the religious systems of the countries in which they live flourish;
yet, since your society has become agitated in England, and powerful
combinations menace your institutions, you find the once loyal
Hebrew invariably arrayed in the same ranks as the leveller, and the
latitudinarian, and prepared to support the policy which may even
endanger his life and property, rather than tamely continue under a
system which seeks to degrade him. The Tories lose an important election
at a critical moment; 'tis the Jews come forward to vote against them.
The Church is alarmed at the scheme of a latitudinarian university, and
learns with relief that funds are not forthcoming for its establishment;
a Jew immediately advances and endows it. Yet the Jews, Coningsby,
are essentially Tories. Toryism, indeed, is but copied from the mighty
prototype which has fashioned Europe. And every generation they must
become more powerful and more dangerous to the society which is hostile
to them. Do you think that the quiet humdrum persecution of a decorous
representative of an English university can crush those who have
successively baffled the Pharaohs, Nebuchadnezzar, Rome, and the Feudal
ages? The fact is, you cannot destroy a pure race of the Caucasian
organisation. It is a physiological fact; a simple law of nature, which
has baffled Egyptian and Assyrian Kings, Roman Emperors, and Christian
Inquisitors. No penal laws, no physical tortures, can effect that a
superior race should be absorbed in an inferior, or be destroyed by it.
The mixed persecuting races disappear; the pure persecuted race remains.
And at this moment, in spite of centuries, of tens of centuries, of
degradation, the Jewish mind exercises a vast influence on the affairs
of Europe. I speak not of their laws, which you still obey; of their
literature, with which your minds are saturated; but of the living
Hebrew intellect.

'You never observe a great intellectual movement in Europe in which
the Jews do not greatly participate. The first Jesuits were Jews; that
mysterious Russian Diplomacy which so alarms Western Europe is organised
and principally carried on by Jews; that mighty revolution which is at
this moment preparing in Germany, and which will be, in fact, a second
and greater Reformation, and of which so little is as yet known in
England, is entirely developing under the auspices of Jews, who almost
monopolise the professorial chairs of Germany. Neander, the founder of
Spiritual Christianity, and who is Regius Professor of Divinity in the
University of Berlin, is a Jew. Benary, equally famous, and in the same
University, is a Jew. Wehl, the Arabic Professor of Heidelberg, is a
Jew. Years ago, when I was In Palestine, I met a German student who was
accumulating materials for the History of Christianity, and studying
the genius of the place; a modest and learned man. It was Wehl; then
unknown, since become the first Arabic scholar of the day, and the
author of the life of Mahomet. But for the German professors of this
race, their name is Legion. I think there are more than ten at Berlin

'I told you just now that I was going up to town tomorrow, because I
always made it a rule to interpose when affairs of State were on
the carpet. Otherwise, I never interfere. I hear of peace and war in
newspapers, but I am never alarmed, except when I am informed that the
Sovereigns want treasure; then I know that monarchs are serious.

'A few years back we were applied, to by Russia. Now, there has been
no friendship between the Court of St. Petersburg and my family. It
has Dutch connections, which have generally supplied it; and our
representations in favour of the Polish Hebrews, a numerous race, but
the most suffering and degraded of all the tribes, have not been very
agreeable to the Czar. However, circumstances drew to an approximation
between the Romanoffs and the Sidonias. I resolved to go myself to St.
Petersburg. I had, on my arrival, an interview with the Russian Minister
of Finance, Count Cancrin; I beheld the son of a Lithuanian Jew. The
loan was connected with the affairs of Spain; I resolved on repairing to
Spain from Russia. I travelled without intermission. I had an audience
immediately on my arrival with the Spanish Minister, Senor Mendizabel; I
beheld one like myself, the son of a Nuevo Christiano, a Jew of Arragon.
In consequence of what transpired at Madrid, I went straight to Paris
to consult the President of the French Council; I beheld the son of a
French Jew, a hero, an imperial marshal, and very properly so, for who
should be military heroes if not those who worship the Lord of Hosts?'

'And is Soult a Hebrew?'

'Yes, and others of the French marshals, and the most famous; Massena,
for example; his real name was Manasseh: but to my anecdote. The
consequence of our consultations was, that some Northern power should
be applied to in a friendly and mediative capacity. We fixed on Prussia;
and the President of the Council made an application to the Prussian
Minister, who attended a few days after our conference. Count Arnim
entered the cabinet, and I beheld a Prussian Jew. So you see, my dear
Coningsby, that the world is governed by very different personages from
what is imagined by those who are not behind the scenes.'

'You startle, and deeply interest me.'

'You must study physiology, my dear child. Pure races of Caucasus may be
persecuted, but they cannot be despised, except by the brutal ignorance
of some mongrel breed, that brandishes fagots and howls extermination,
but is itself exterminated without persecution, by that irresistible law
of Nature which is fatal to curs.'

'But I come also from Caucasus,' said Coningsby.

'Verily; and thank your Creator for such a destiny: and your race is
sufficiently pure. You come from the shores of the Northern Sea, land
of the blue eye, and the golden hair, and the frank brow: 'tis a
famous breed, with whom we Arabs have contended long; from whom we have
suffered much: but these Goths, and Saxons, and Normans were doubtless
great men.'

'But so favoured by Nature, why has not your race produced great poets,
great orators, great writers?'

'Favoured by Nature and by Nature's God, we produced the lyre of David;
we gave you Isaiah and Ezekiel; they are our Olynthians, our Philippics.
Favoured by Nature we still remain: but in exact proportion as we have
been favoured by Nature we have been persecuted by Man. After a thousand
struggles; after acts of heroic courage that Rome has never equalled;
deeds of divine patriotism that Athens, and Sparta, and Carthage have
never excelled; we have endured fifteen hundred years of supernatural
slavery, during which, every device that can degrade or destroy man has
been the destiny that we have sustained and baffled. The Hebrew child
has entered adolescence only to learn that he was the Pariah of that
ungrateful Europe that owes to him the best part of its laws, a fine
portion of its literature, all its religion. Great poets require a
public; we have been content with the immortal melodies that we sung
more than two thousand years ago by the waters of Babylon and wept. They
record our triumphs; they solace our affliction. Great orators are the
creatures of popular assemblies; we were permitted only by stealth to
meet even in our temples. And as for great writers, the catalogue is not
blank. What are all the schoolmen, Aquinas himself, to Maimonides? And
as for modern philosophy, all springs from Spinoza.

'But the passionate and creative genius, that is the nearest link to
Divinity, and which no human tyranny can destroy, though it can divert
it; that should have stirred the hearts of nations by its inspired
sympathy, or governed senates by its burning eloquence; has found a
medium for its expression, to which, in spite of your prejudices and
your evil passions, you have been obliged to bow. The ear, the voice,
the fancy teeming with combinations, the imagination fervent with
picture and emotion, that came from Caucasus, and which we have
preserved unpolluted, have endowed us with almost the exclusive
privilege of Music; that science of harmonious sounds, which the
ancients recognised as most divine, and deified in the person of their
most beautiful creation. I speak not of the past; though, were I to
enter into the history of the lords of melody, you would find it the
annals of Hebrew genius. But at this moment even, musical Europe is
ours. There is not a company of singers, not an orchestra in a single
capital, that is not crowded with our children under the feigned names
which they adopt to conciliate the dark aversion which your posterity
will some day disclaim with shame and disgust. Almost every great
composer, skilled musician, almost every voice that ravishes you with
its transporting strains, springs from our tribes. The catalogue is too
vast to enumerate; too illustrious to dwell for a moment on secondary
names, however eminent. Enough for us that the three great creative
minds to whose exquisite inventions all nations at this moment yield,
Rossini, Meyerbeer, Mendelssohn, are of Hebrew race; and little do your
men of fashion, your muscadins of Paris, and your dandies of London, as
they thrill into raptures at the notes of a Pasta or a Grisi, little do
they suspect that they are offering their homage to "the sweet singers
of Israel!"'


It was the noon of the day on which Sidonia was to leave the Castle. The
wind was high; the vast white clouds scudded over the blue heaven; the
leaves yet green, and tender branches snapped like glass, were whirled
in eddies from the trees; the grassy sward undulated like the ocean with
a thousand tints and shadows. From the window of the music-room Lucretia
Colonna gazed on the turbulent sky.

The heaven of her heart, too, was disturbed.

She turned from the agitated external world to ponder over her inward
emotion. She uttered a deep sigh.

Slowly she moved towards her harp; wildly, almost unconsciously, she
touched with one hand its strings, while her eyes were fixed on the
ground. An imperfect melody resounded; yet plaintive and passionate. It
seemed to attract her soul. She raised her head, and then, touching
the strings with both her hands, she poured forth tones of deep, yet
thrilling power.

'I am a stranger in the halls of a stranger! Ah! whither shall I flee?
To the castle of my fathers in the green mountains; to the palace of my
fathers in the ancient city?
There is no flag on the castle of my fathers in the green mountains,
silent is the palace of my fathers in the ancient city.
Is there no home for the homeless? Can the unloved never find love?
Ah! thou fliest away, fleet cloud: he will leave us swifter than thee!
Alas! cutting wind, thy breath is not so cold as his heart!
I am a stranger in the halls of a stranger! Ah! whither shall I flee?'

The door of the music-room slowly opened. It was Sidonia. His hat was in
his hand; he was evidently on the point of departure.

'Those sounds assured me,' he said calmly but kindly, as he advanced,
'that I might find you here, on which I scarcely counted at so early an

'You are going then?' said the Princess.

'My carriage is at the door; the Marquess has delayed me; I must be in
London to-night. I conclude more abruptly than I could have wished one
of the most agreeable visits I ever made; and I hope you will permit
me to express to you how much I am indebted to you for a society which
those should deem themselves fortunate who can more frequently enjoy.'

He held forth his hand; she extended hers, cold as marble, which he bent
over, but did not press to his lips.

'Lord Monmouth talks of remaining here some time,' he observed; 'but I
suppose next year, if not this, we shall all meet in some city of the

Lucretia bowed; and Sidonia, with a graceful reverence, withdrew.

The Princess Lucretia stood for some moments motionless; a sound
attracted her to the window; she perceived the equipage of Sidonia
whirling along the winding roads of the park. She watched it till it
disappeared; then quitting the window, she threw herself into a chair,
and buried her face in her shawl.




An University life did not bring to Coningsby that feeling of
emancipation usually experienced by freshmen. The contrast between
school and college life is perhaps, under any circumstances, less
striking to the Etonian than to others: he has been prepared for
becoming his own master by the liberty wisely entrusted to him in his
boyhood, and which is, in general, discreetly exercised. But there were
also other reasons why Coningsby should have been less impressed with
the novelty of his life, and have encountered less temptations than
commonly are met with in the new existence which an University opens to
youth. In the interval which had elapsed between quitting Eton and going
to Cambridge, brief as the period may comparatively appear, Coningsby
had seen much of the world. Three or four months, indeed, may not seem,
at the first blush, a course of time which can very materially influence
the formation of character; but time must not be counted by calendars,
but by sensations, by thought. Coningsby had felt a good deal, reflected
more. He had encountered a great number of human beings, offering a vast
variety of character for his observation. It was not merely manners, but
even the intellectual and moral development of the human mind, which
in a great degree, unconsciously to himself, had been submitted to his
study and his scrutiny. New trains of ideas had been opened to him; his
mind was teeming with suggestions. The horizon of his intelligence had
insensibly expanded. He perceived that there were other opinions in the
world, besides those to which he had been habituated. The depths of his
intellect had been stirred. He was a wiser man.

He distinguished three individuals whose acquaintance had greatly
influenced his mind; Eustace Lyle, the elder Millbank, above all,
Sidonia. He curiously meditated over the fact, that three English
subjects, one of them a principal landed proprietor, another one of the
most eminent manufacturers, and the third the greatest capitalist in the
kingdom, all of them men of great intelligence, and doubtless of a
high probity and conscience, were in their hearts disaffected with the
political constitution of the country. Yet, unquestionably, these were
the men among whom we ought to seek for some of our first citizens.
What, then, was this repulsive quality in those institutions which we
persisted in calling national, and which once were so? Here was a great

There was another reason, also, why Coningsby should feel a little
fastidious among his new habits, and, without being aware of it, a
little depressed. For three or four months, and for the first time in
his life, he had passed his time in the continual society of refined and
charming women. It is an acquaintance which, when habitual, exercises a
great influence over the tone of the mind, even if it does not produce
any more violent effects. It refines the taste, quickens the perception,
and gives, as it were, a grace and flexibility to the intellect.
Coningsby in his solitary rooms arranging his books, sighed when he
recalled the Lady Everinghams and the Lady Theresas; the gracious
Duchess; the frank, good-natured Madame Colonna; that deeply interesting
enigma the Princess Lucretia; and the gentle Flora. He thought with
disgust of the impending dissipation of an University, which could only
be an exaggeration of their coarse frolics at school. It seemed rather
vapid this mighty Cambridge, over which they had so often talked in
the playing fields of Eton, with such anticipations of its vast and
absorbing interest. And those University honours that once were the
great object of his aspirations, they did not figure in that grandeur
with which they once haunted his imagination.

What Coningsby determined to conquer was knowledge. He had watched the
influence of Sidonia in society with an eye of unceasing vigilance.
Coningsby perceived that all yielded to him; that Lord Monmouth even,
who seemed to respect none, gave place to his intelligence; appealed
to him, listened to him, was guided by him. What was the secret of this
influence? Knowledge. On all subjects, his views were prompt and clear,
and this not more from his native sagacity and reach of view, than from
the aggregate of facts which rose to guide his judgment and illustrate
his meaning, from all countries and all ages, instantly at his command.

The friends of Coningsby were now hourly arriving. It seemed when he
met them again, that they had all suddenly become men since they had
separated; Buckhurst especially. He had been at Paris, and returned with
his mind very much opened, and trousers made quite in a new style. All
his thoughts were, how soon he could contrive to get back again; and
he told them endless stories of actresses, and dinners at fashionable
_cafés_. Vere enjoyed Cambridge most, because he had been staying
with his family since he quitted Eton. Henry Sydney was full of
church architecture, national sports, restoration of the order of the
Peasantry, and was to maintain a constant correspondence on these and
similar subjects with Eustace Lyle. Finally, however, they all fell into
a very fair, regular, routine life. They all read a little, but not
with the enthusiasm which they had once projected. Buckhurst drove
four-in-hand, and they all of them sometimes assisted him; but not
immoderately. Their suppers were sometimes gay, but never outrageous;
and, among all of them, the school friendship was maintained unbroken,
and even undisturbed.

The fame of Coningsby preceded him at Cambridge. No man ever went up
from whom more was expected in every way. The dons awaited a sucking
member for the University, the undergraduates were prepared to welcome
a new Alcibiades. He was neither: neither a prig nor a profligate; but
a quiet, gentlemanlike, yet spirited young man, gracious to all, but
intimate only with his old friends, and giving always an impression in
his general tone that his soul was not absorbed in his University.

And yet, perhaps, he might have been coddled into a prig, or flattered
into a profligate, had it not been for the intervening experience which
he had gained between his school and college life. That had visibly
impressed upon him, what before he had only faintly acquired from books,
that there was a greater and more real world awaiting him, than to be
found in those bowers of Academus to which youth is apt at first to
attribute an exaggerated importance. A world of action and passion,
of power and peril; a world for which a great preparation was indeed
necessary, severe and profound, but not altogether such an one as was
now offered to him. Yet this want must be supplied, and by himself.
Coningsby had already acquirements sufficiently considerable, with some
formal application, to ensure him at all times his degree. He was no
longer engrossed by the intention he once proudly entertained of trying
for honours, and he chalked out for himself that range of reading,
which, digested by his thought, should furnish him in some degree with
that various knowledge of the history of man to which he aspired. No, we
must not for a moment believe that accident could have long diverted
the course of a character so strong. The same desire that prevented the
Castle of his grandfather from proving a Castle of Indolence to
him, that saved him from a too early initiation into the seductive
distractions of a refined and luxurious society, would have preserved
Coningsby from the puerile profligacy of a college life, or from being
that idol of private tutors, a young pedant. It was that noble ambition,
the highest and the best, that must be born in the heart and organised
in the brain, which will not let a man be content, unless his
intellectual power is recognised by his race, and desires that it should
contribute to their welfare. It is the heroic feeling; the feeling that
in old days produced demigods; without which no State is safe; without
which political institutions are meat without salt; the Crown a
bauble, the Church an establishment, Parliaments debating-clubs, and
Civilisation itself but a fitful and transient dream.


Less than a year after the arrival of Coningsby at Cambridge, and which
he had only once quitted in the interval, and that to pass a short
time in Berkshire with his friend Buckhurst, occurred the death of
King William IV. This event necessarily induced a dissolution of the
Parliament, elected under the auspices of Sir Robert Peel in 1834, and
after the publication of the Tamworth Manifesto.

The death of the King was a great blow to what had now come to be
generally styled the 'Conservative Cause.' It was quite unexpected;
within a fortnight of his death, eminent persons still believed that
'it was only the hay-fever.' Had his Majesty lived until after the then
impending registration, the Whigs would have been again dismissed. Nor
is there any doubt that, under these circumstances, the Conservative
Cause would have secured for the new ministers a parliamentary majority.
What would have been the consequences to the country, if the four years
of Whig rule, from 1837 to 1841, had not occurred? It is easier to

Online LibraryBenjamin DisraeliConingsby → online text (page 21 of 39)