Benjamin Disraeli : Literary Contribution

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      Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881) was born in London of a Jewish family He studied law at Lincoln's Inn but early showed his interest in literature. After the success of his first novel he spent three years making the Grand Tour of Europe, returning to England in 1831. In 1837, at the fifth attempt, he succeeded in gaining a seat in Parliament - as member for Maidstone. Ten years later he was leader of the Tories in the Commons, and he became Prime Minister in 1868 and again in 1870. He was raised to the peerage in 1876 and died in 1881 after a short illness.

Disraeli began his literary career as a novelist. Vivian Grey (1826-27) soon set the fashionable world talking of its author. It dealt with fashionable society, it was brilliant and witty, and it had an easy arrogance that amused, incensed, and attracted at the same time.
Benjamin Disraeli

      Disraeli began his literary career as a novelist. Vivian Grey (1826-27) soon set the fashionable world talking of its author. It dealt with fashionable society, it was brilliant and witty, and it had an easy arrogance that amused, incensed, and attracted at the same time. The general effect of cutting sarcasm was varied, but not improved, by passages of florid description and sentimental moralizing. His next effort was The Voyage of Captain Popanilla (1828), a modern Gulliver's Travels. The wit is very incisive, and the satire, though it lacks the solid weight of Swift's, is sure and keen.

      Disraeli wrote a good number of other novels, the most notable of which were Contarini Fleming. A Psychological Autobiography (1832), Henrietta Temple (1837), Coningsby: or the New Generation (1844), Sybil: or The Two Nations (1845), and Tancred: or the New Crusade (1847). These last books, written when experience of public affairs had added depth to his vision and edge to his satire, are polished and powerful novels dealing with the politics of his day. At times they are too brilliant, for the continual crackle of epigram dazzles and wearies, and his tawdry taste leads him to overload his ornamental passages.

      Disraeli also carried further the idea of Captain Popanilla by writing Ixion in Heaven and The Infernal Marriage (both published in The New Monthly 1829-30, and in book form in 1853), and The Wondrous Tale of Alroy and the Rise of Iskander (1833). These are half allegorical, half supernatural, but wholly satirical romances. In style the prose is inflated, but the later novels some times have flashes of real passion and insight.

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