Benjamin Disraeli.

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Vivian Grey, Coningsby, Sybil, Tancred

by Benjamin Disraeli

in 4 Vols.




Benjamin Disraeli


















IT is not because these volumes were conceived and
partly executed amid the glades and galleries of the
DEEPDENE, that I have inscribed them 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

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 specula-

In these volumes you will find many a thought
illustrated and many a principle attempted to be estab-
lished 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

Grosvenor Gate,

May-Day, 1844.






Book I., - i

II., 76

HI, - 133

IV, - - 185

V., 311

VI., - 370

VII.,- 4M

VIII., - 469

IX., - - 529

NOTES, - - 576


The History of Heroes is the History of Youth

(p. 145), Frontispiece

The Daughter of the Star, - Page 298


THE aim of this edition is to present the Young
England movement, the judgments and ideals of the
Young Tory party, as conceived by its leading states-
man in the enthusiasm of youth. The historical
and political significance of the four novels justifies
at once their isolation from Disraeli's other work
and their publication as a series complete in itself.
Gottingsby, Sybil, and Tancred were actually con-
templated in sequence by their author. Vivian Grey
foreshadows what they expound.

Disraeli wrote many novels with no didactic
purpose : others were certainly inspired, if not
in every detail, by certain fundamental ideas in
politics and philosophy. It is these latter with
which we are concerned, and which we desire to

Vivian Grey has been hitherto accepted as a mere
boyish freak of clever literary bravado an auto-
biography and a portrait gallery. It is neither, but
contains, in fact, a broader study of human life,
particularly illustrated by the fall and regeneration
of too presumptuous youth than its author ever
again attempted. I find here also unmistakable
indications of the * Young England ' ideals to which
the later novels of our group are consciously and



avowedly devoted. Coningsby represents the exist-
ing state of political parties : the new creed and its
mission. Sybil is a study of the conditions and the
relations of rich and poor in England, and of the
policies required to cure their defects. Tancred
illustrates the power of the Church as a national
institution and a remedial agency, while incidentally
revealing Disraeli's Imperial ideals.

Bearing in mind the special interest always attach-
ing to the youthful expression of an ideal one, too,
which is avowedly dependant on the strength and
inspiration of youth, I have determined to reprint
the novels as they were originally issued. In later
editions, now alone available, of Vivian Grey whole
chapters and characters were omitted, and minor
revisions confront us at every turn. Yet these
changes were never acknowledged and have not, so
far as I can ascertain, been remarked by his critics.
To-day we are more desirous of studying the
ideas of the youth, than that youth's ideas corrected
some twenty years later by the man.

At the present time, when the acquisition of wealth
is often openly adopted as an Ideal of Life, when Faith
is called Faddism, and Enthusiasm Fanaticism, it
cannot but be well to study through the writings of
its chief exponent a political movement which based
its practices on its faith, and its faith upon a nobler
ideal than materialism in an age when, as now, the
older political watchwords were outworn and con-
fused, and it was for the youth of the nation, * the
trustees of posterity,' to form and mould them anew.



A few notes are appended to each volume on
obscure or forgotten incidental allusions and incidents
of contemporary history. Brief bibliographical notes
will point the way for any desirous of studying
the subject further for themselves. My thanks are
due to Mr. Lucian Oldershaw for his assistance in
reading proofs, as well as for the original conception
of the reprint, and for help and advice at every stage
of its progress. Of the two drawings in each novel
by Mr. Byam Shaw, one is designed as an allegorical
presentation of its central idea, the second is illustra-
tive of a leading incident.

B. N. L-D.

o. xiii


NEARLY a century ago there flourished at Cambridge
one of those groups of clever and enthusiastic young
men, who form themselves into societies to read
papers, to hold discussions and to formulate theories
of private and public well-being. The Universities
are, and always have been, the natural homes of
societies founded with every kind of intellectual ideal,
and for every kind of intellectual exercise, and it is
often from these societies that ideas emerge into the
world to produce practical results. It is but rarely,
however, that a society which consists of men of the
same or similar views, whose ideals are but slightly
academic, and whose members are for the most part
so young, attains to such general and lasting fame as
did the ' Apostles.' Led by Frederick Denison
Maurice, and counting among its members such
men as Alfred Tennyson, Monckton Milnes, R. C.
Trench, Charles Buller, and Arthur Hallam, this
Society gave birth and inspiration at the University
to what afterwards became in politics the Young
England Party. Looked at more broadly the Society
was itself a part of a wider movement which affected
not only England but the whole of Europe early in
the nineteenth century. In literature it appeared as
the Romantic Revival, in government as a return of


political faith, and an appreciation of the duties of the
classes and of the rights of the masses. It finally
swept away the coarse materialism, the infidelity, and
the sentimental artificiality of the eighteenth century,
and gave birth to a vigorous belief in the legitimacy
of the desire to live and to enjoy life, to be swayed
by generous emotions, and to give allegiance to noble
causes. Call it the Romantic Revival, call it the
heritage of the French Revolution, call it what you
will ; it was Vigour and Faith usurping the place
of Apathy and Infidelity.

In England, however, there was no apparent up-
heaval which marked this change. There was no
one year, one movement, one body of men, which
appears in history as the hinge upon which the
door leading to the new ideals opened. In France
the appearance of the great Encyclopaedia was the
first sign, the assembling of the States-General, and
the fall of the Bastille are cardinal events. England
had never had to bear the burden of aristocracy,
either civil or ecclesiastical, as France or even Ger-
many had to bear it. Neither of these influences
was at work to unite in revolt her philosophers and
her peasants, her men of genius and her paupers.

The constitutional liberty of England was, as every
schoolboy knows, founded at Runnymede far back in
the thirteenth century. After many interruptions
and many experiments the machinery of this con-
stitutional liberty has, by a long series of almost
automatic changes of detail, lasting from 1641 or
1688 down to the present day, been brought to
something approaching completion. It cannot be
said that it was the Grand Remonstrance of 1641,
or the Convention Parliament of 1688, or the
growth of Cabinet Government under Walpole in



the eighteenth century, or the Reform of Parliament
under Earl Grey, Lord John Russell, and Mr. Glad-
stone in the nineteenth, which was the actual turning
point in the history of our constitutional develop-
ment. The reforms, or rather the advances, have
been slow and tentative, and for the most part
peaceful. It has long been the custom to regard the
Reform Bill as the English Revolution. Disraeli
himself called it so, and to the men who lived
through the delirious period of its passing, no doubt
it seemed a revolution. But as a matter of fact
it did little more than arrange the practical working
of an accepted principle. Class interest, prejudice,
and views of expediency were opposed to it, con-
sequently it created an uproar, but it was not a

The political and the social aspects of a revolution
are not identical, and are but rarely contemporaneous.
Rarely it happens that a sweeping change in the
machinery of government is accompanied by a change
in the status, well-being, and happiness of the in-
dividual citizen. More often the constitutional
changes precede by many years, and only partially
and remotely cause the social amelioration of a people.
Men believe that better machinery will immediately
conduce to better conditions of life and govern-
ment. Generally constitutional reform and social
reform are two things produced by the same
movement and inter-acting to help each other for-
ward. In this light may political affairs in England
during the first half of the nineteenth century be
regarded. The constitutional reforms of a century
and a half did not and could not produce the results
expected of them by their authors. All the difficulties
caused by the introduction of machinery and the con-



sequent shifting of the population were not cured
because Manchester was represented in Parliament.
The sordid ideals and the gross materialism of the
eighteenth century were not swept away by the
Reform Bill or Catholic Emancipation. Poverty
was not done away with by the Poor Laws, nor
crime by the Criminal Law Reforms.

In 1844, the year of the publication of Coningsby,
the political situation was uncertain and difficult.
The great reform ministry had gradually broken up,
and the Whigs had definitely fallen from power.
Already, however, Peel was embarking on that course
which caused Disraeli to say of him that he ' had
caught the Whigs bathing and run away with their
clothes.' Chartism was still alive and the terrors it
engendered in the public mind were still fresh. Mass
meetings were being held from end to end of the
country to denounce the principles of Protection, and
to urge the cause of Free Trade. O'Connell and his
followers were setting fire to the fuel in Ireland by
their systematized agitation for the repeal of the
Union. The Reform Bill had been passed, the
Criminal Law reformed, Catholics emancipated, and
the Poor Laws recast. Yet social distress and con-
stitutional grievances were still evolving the monster
of Revolution and none knew how to banish it. Each
question settled, each reform passed, seemed to call
into existence new questions, new grievances and new
difficulties. Puzzling as this might be to the men of
the time, the reasons for it are clear enough to-day.
Whole classes, towns, and districts had existed before
the Reform Bill, powerless in politics, unless it were
for agitation, but each and all with their special
political and social needs, grievances and aspirations.
Year by year the numbers and powers of this new



nation were growing ; year by year each section of it
came to a clearer perception of what it had not got,
and what it wanted. When political power came to
these men, it was but a beginning. They or their
friends had now in their hands the instrument with
which to bring about the changes they desired ; in
the use of that instrument they were as yet un-
skilled and ignorant.

To classify statesmen who were faced with these
difficulties as Whig or Tory is not enough. At
this time the party labels merely served to show
with what associates the men were for the time
being acting. At any moment either party was
liable to a complete dissolution, and the party-
divisions might on any given question be formed
anew. By whatever names we call them, there were
in regard to the questions of the day four main
bodies in Parliament. In the first place there were
those who had opposed and still murmured at the
Reform Bill ; the old high Tories, that landed
aristocracy which followed the Duke of Wellington,
the Duke of Buckingham and, in his earlier days, Sir
Robert Peel. Next came two groups who were
officially opposed to one another, but whose gradual
tendency during this period was towards union. The
first of these consisted of those members of the Tory
party who now accepted the principle of the Reform
Bill and who could be convinced of a need for
further and consequent reform, but who did not
give unqualified adherence to what may be regarded
as the Whig doctrines of civil and religious equality.
The views of this party were those of Peel's famous
Tamworth Manifesto of 1834. He had then said
that he considered ' the Reform Bill as a final and
irrevocable settlement of a great constitutional ques-



tion,' and had also said, ' if the spirit of the Reform
Bill implies merely a careful review of institutions,
civil and ecclesiastical, undertaken in a friendly
temper, combining, with the firm maintenance of
the established rights, the correction of proved abuses
and the redress of real grievances in that case,
I can for myself and colleagues undertake to act in
such a spirit and with such intentions.' Almost
identical with these were the views of the official
Whig party. They were at this date only just
recovering from the shock of their great successes.
It was impossible that people called Whigs should
coalesce so soon after the Reform Bill with people
called Tories, but, save for the name, the two groups
might, as regards their guiding principles of govern-
ment, have been classed together. Lastly, there was
the comparatively small body of the statesmen who
saw in the Reform Bill but the means of introducing a
long series of further reforms. In 1844 this body was
small and its members were generally regarded as
agitators and fanatics ; before long it became the pre-
ponderating force in the Whig party. For the sake
of clearness these four parties at this transition stage
may be called Tory, Conservative, Whig and Radical.

Such was the position of political parties when
Disraeli produced Coningsby in 1844.

Since the appearance of Vivian Grey in 1826
he had not been idle. He had travelled in Spain,
Italy, the Levant and the south-east of Europe.
He had stood four times for Parliament before
he was elected member for Maidstone in 1837.
He had become one of the best-known figures
in English society, and was beginning to be a
power in politics. But it was as an author that
he was, as yet, most famous. Besides Vivian Grey


he had written The Young Duke, Contarini Fleming,
Popanilla, The Wondrous Tale of Alroy, 'The Rise of
Iskander, The Revolutionary Epic, Venetia, and Henrietta
Temple. It was through these works and through
his position in London society that Disraeli had
attained to his extraordinary reputation, but it
is not for these things that this period of his
career is chiefly important. Before his election
to Parliament he had appeared before the public
as a correspondent on political subjects to the
newspapers, and he had published four important
political pamphlets. Some knowledge of these
pamphlets, as well as of the history of his early
years in the House of Commons, is necessary to
show how he came to hold the views of parties
and policies which we shall find in Coningsby as the
tenets of young England.

What is He ?, The Present Crisis Examined, A
Vindication of the British Constitution, and the Runny-
mede Letters are the four pamphlets from which
Disraeli's political position in the years before he
entered Parliament may be learned. Much has been
made of his inconsistencies during these early years
of his political life; he has been represented as a
time-server and a political traitor ; he has been
accused of obscurantism and charlatanism. ' He
who anticipates his century,' said Mr. Sievers in
Vivian Grey, ' is generally persecuted when living,
and is always pilfered when dead.' Perhaps Disraeli
anticipated his century, or perhaps he only committed
the crimes of being a novelist as well as a statesman,
of being more interested in principles of life and of
government than in details of livelihood and admini-
stration. At all events he used every effort to
make his position clear. He may have been right



or he may have been wrong in his ideals ; what
irritated his opponents and what raised a scornful
smile where it did not force an angry retort was
the fact that he possessed ideals at all.

The first, second and third articles of his political
creed were his opposition to Whiggism. ' If there
be anything on which I pique myself,' he said in
1835, ' it i s mv consistency. Here is my consistency.
I have always opposed with the utmost energy the
party of which my honourable opponent is a dis-
tinguished member.' And what was his reason for
this hostility to the Whigs ? Was he opposed to
the principle of civil and religious equality, which
may be taken as the foundation of the Whig
position ? This was a principle in which Disraeli pro-
bably had but little faith. Such equality he very
likely conceived as neither desirable nor possible.
Still it was not this which provoked his chief opposi-
tion. He expressed his objection clearly enough
when he wrote in one of his pamphlets, ' A Tory,
and a Radical, I understand ; a Whig, a democratic
aristocrat, I cannot comprehend.' Looking at the
history of the Whig party broadly, and after an
interval of time, we can discern its leading principles.
Viewed at close quarters at the time of Disraeli's
entrance into political life, those principles appeared
to him unreal or paradoxical. It was essential, he
maintained, that the country should have a strong
government. And in view of the condition of the
country described above he was right. It was clear
that neither the Tories nor the Whigs could provide
such a government. What was the reason ? Because
neither of them had a principle on which to govern.
The choice lay between the aristocratic and the
democratic principles. The Whigs were an aristo-



cratic party and had tried to make their aristocratic
sway permanent by the Reform Bill. The Bill itself
was therefore an aristocratic measure, but the way
in which it had been passed against the will of the
House of Lords had destroyed the aristocratic
principle. The advance to the democratic principle
was now necessary or no government could be
strong. The Whigs would not and could not make
this advance. The Tories must coalesce with the
Radicals and form a National Party.

These are the main lines of Disraeli's political
creed in his early political life, and he was consistent
enough in his adherence to them. Towards in-
dividual measures his views changed from time to
time and he frankly acknowledged the fact. Triennial
Parliaments he thought, in 1832, essential in order
to break the power of the Whig oligarchy ; at the
same date he conceived that the Ballot alone could
' give country gentlemen a chance of representing
neighbouring towns where they are esteemed, instead
of the nominees of a sectarian oligarchy.' By 1835
it was evident that the power of the Whigs was
not permanent, and Disraeli v/as willing to admit
that he had been mistaken in his view that the
constitution could not be efficient without the passing
of these two measures.

The first five years of his Parliamentary life were,
save for his historic failure in his first attempt, and his
sympathetic speech on the Chartist petition, unevent-
ful to the public view. He was at first unpopular, an
object of derision for the peculiarities of his dress and
manner, of suspicion for his nationality, and of fear
for his powers and his ideals. British statesmen
naturally enough resented their political parties being
refounded and educated, and their leading men



being attacked by such an individual as they imagined
Disraeli to be. Meanwhile his ideals of a Tory
Democracy remained as strong as ever, and he had
learned by experience that to win he must wait and
work and plan. When he found that the Tory party
would not listen to his teaching, and before Peel's
conversion to Free Trade gave him the glorious
opportunity of capturing the old Tory allegiance,
he sought to lay the foundations of the National
Party by means of Young England.

Young England was never really a political party,
nor was it at any time an organised force of any
kind. It was originally one of those spontaneous
associations of men with kindred aims which occur
from time to time in all politics. It had no com-
pulsory creed, though, as the guiding principles of
its members were similar, their views on individual
measures were usually the same. It arose among
the young Tories first returned to the Parliaments of
1837 and 1841 ; it broke up over Peel's proposal to
increase the grant to the Maynooth College in 1845.
But it was out of its fragments and on the basis of
its ideals that Disraeli built up the Tory Democracy
which was completed in 1874. A few scattered
speeches, some paragraphs, chapters and magazine
articles, the verses of Lord John Manners, and the
' Historic Fancies ' of Lord Strangford ; these, besides
Disraeli's novels, are the only direct and definite
records of Young England. Yet its spirit permeated
English political parties and perhaps the whole of
English life.

The power, the inspiration, the splendour of
'glittering youth' was its first belief, and perhaps this
fundamental article of its creed has had the greatest
influence of all as the years have gone on. This



belief in youth, shadowed forth in Vivian Grey, was
definitely stated again and again in the pages of the
novels written specifically to expound the Young
England principles and in the speeches made by
Disraeli and his Young England friends at the time.
Enough perhaps was said to make this clear in the
introduction to Vivian Grey. But in Coningsby a
definite group of individuals is portrayed, and their
school and University life and subsequent entrance
into Parliament are sketched. It is essentially a study
of young men, and in a great measure of certain par-
ticular young men the Young England group.
The New Generation is the second title of the work,
and it is to the new generation that its teachings were
addressed. Youth and the power of the individual
are its constant theme. 'It is a holy thing to see a
state saved by its youth,' said Coningsby.

And it was not only a belief in the power at
all times of youth that Young England professed,
but also a belief in the special importance and in-
fluence of youth at that particular epoch. The new
conditions of social and political life brought about by
the inventions of steam and electricity, by the wide
distribution of the franchise and by the assuring of
civil and religious equality, had put a special trust
into the hand of the young men of the day. 'The
youth of a nation,' said Disraeli in a speech at the
Manchester Athenaeum in 1 844, ' are the trustees of
posterity ; but the youth I address have duties

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