Mr and Mrs Disraeli

Mr and Mrs Disraeli[Reading] ➿ Mr and Mrs Disraeli By Daisy Hay – Deep in the archives of the Bodleian Library lies a tattered scrap of paper with newlyweds’ scribbles on it It is a table listing the ualities of a couple One column reads ‘Often says what he does Deep in the archives of the Bodleian Library lies a tattered scrap of paper with newlyweds’ scribbles on it It is a table listing the ualities of a couple One column reads ‘Often says what he does not think’ ‘He does not show his feelings’ ‘He is a genius’; the other ‘Never says what she does not think' ‘She shows her feelings’ Mr and Kindle - ‘She is a dunce’ The writing is Mary Anne Disraeli’s the ualities listed contrast her with her husband Benjamin Disraeli one of the foremost politicians of the Victorian ageThe daughter of a sailor on her second marriage and years older than her husband Mary Anne was highly eccentric liable to misbehave and worse still overdressed for grand society dinners Her beloved Diz was of Jewish descent a mid ranking novelist and freuently mired in debt He was fiercely protective and completely devoted to his wife She was devoted to him too and they were both devoted to the very idea of being devoted They wrote passionate letters to one another through their courtship and their marriage spinning their unusual tale into a romance worthy of the novels they so lovedReading between the lines of a great cache of their letters and the anecdotes of others in chilly Oxford reading rooms Daisy Hay shows how the Disraelis rose to the top of the social and political pile Along the way we meet women of a similar station and situation whose endings were far unhappier than Mary Anne’s acting as a counterpoint to her fairy tale ending as the landed Angel of the Prime Minister’s HouseIn an age where first ladies are under ever increasing pressure to perform and conform Mr and Mrs Disraeli offers a portrait of one who refused to do either in a society which demanded she do both. This review first appeared on my blog Shoulda Coulda Woulda BooksThis is not the first time that I've read Daisy Hay nor is it the first time I've read about Disraeli Both of those experiences made me want to read so this was a pretty fortunate confluence of book events for me very grateful that Hay's research lead her to this topic This book is a natural outgrowth of her previous work in Young Romantics In that book Hay looked at the Byron Shelley generation and attempted to break down the stereotype of the loner the misunderstood Romantic genius flourishing in isolation in favor of emphasizing how none of these people would ever have become who they were without their repeated encounters with each otherSo it is fitting that her next book continues to insist upon the importance of relationships and connections in the lives of Great Men This time it is not Byron we focus on but one of his most ardent disciples Benjamin Disraeli While many connections are covered Mr and Mrs Disraeli specifically focuses on the connection that changed Disraeli's life that with his wife Mary Anne In this book Hay does not even have to make an argument that this connection is important it is proven and accepted by history No here the task is much harder and delicate to complicate and uestion the very popular Victorian love story of this couple a story in which both participants and eventually the wider public including the ueen were heavily invested Before he met Mary Anne Benjamin Disraeli was a dreamer of a young man the son of the writer Isaac D'Israeli and honestly a bit of a feckless waste of space for the first twenty four years of his life He had an unsurprisingly anti Semitic experience at school and never went to university He seemed to mostly prefer bumming around obsessing about Byron much of the time and writing occasionally He eventually tried his hand at writing popular silver fork novels read chick litaspirational fantasy of the 1830s and got laughed out of town on his first attempt literally out of the country actually he fled to Europe to do a Byronic Grand Tour to escape his humiliation He had some successive novels that did moderately well when his ego recovered a few years later and his assumption of leadership of the Young England group of writers made his reputation grow a bit these writers were as far as I can make out sort of vaguely for reform but mostly about the importance of giving people heroes and arguing that writers would make amazing statesmen However his attempts to parley this into political success were similarly at first unsuccessful By his mid thirties he was also deeply in debt to the tune of thousands of pounds and perhaps about to be thrown into jail by his creditors that this didn't happen is only thanks to his first electoral win in which Parliamentary privilege prevented him from being prosecuted Which is how he met Mary AnneWhen she met Disraeli Mary Anne was Mary Anne Lewis a poor sailor's daughter who had had had the good fortune to become the wife of Wyndham Lewis a wealthy businessman and eventual Conservative MP Mary Anne was a popular figure who in lieu of the children she never had devoted much of her life to hostessing socializing and political campaigning Her popularity and tireless work was undeniably a large factor in getting her seemingly rather taciturn and unimpressive husband elected in his career in Parliament Lewis rose to speak only eight times She also had a long career as a flirt behind her with many cisibeos and hopeful lovers still clustering around her even in her mid forties Mary Anne loved to be adored and at times walked the line of reputation ruining gossip to get what she wanted Disraeli entered the picture when Lewis' district became so strongly Conservative that the party wanted to put up a second candidate Disraeli had been on the short list of go to possible candidates for years despite his losses and this time Lewis could put up the money to support him getting the votes he needed Mary Anne campaigned for both him and her husband and they grew close during that time As it happened Wyndham Lewis died not long after this leaving his very wealthy widow and unusually independently so by the way for the taking and Disraeli as her husband's best placed successorAs Hay points out it would be easy to tell the cynical story that must be positively leaping into your mind right now Disraeli swooped in on the much older wealthy widow and lied his bad poem writing pants off to get her money and Mary Anne jumped at maybe her last chance to be a pretty princess at a vulnerable moment in her life with a rising star in politics And that's exactly what some snotty people in Disraeli's most successful years did think and sometimes actually had the balls to say when they met his wife who many of them at first considered vulgar overdressed frivolous and not smart enough for Disraeli But you know what's incredible? Nobody did think that by the end Absolutely nobody at all In fact the Disraelis became celebrated for their marriage and the Disraeli's great love story was a huge part of their popular appeal Over the course of their twenty five years of marriage their family their friends Disraeli's colleagues and the public came to know their relationship as a true chivalrous old fashioned romance thoroughly devoted a true partnership And you know who believed in it the most after all in the end? Mary Anne and Dizzy themselves Which is considering everything the most remarkable part of the whole thingThis is Hay's real interest discussing how this couple created a fictional fairy tale for themselves that they both came to believe The Disraelis spun a romance out of some very unromantic circumstances And then they made it happen Just because they said soIt was fascinating From the beginning of their courtship you can see the importance of stories to them and especially their sensitivity to the character part they have been cast in Both of them insist upon ideals dreams to be heroes and heroines And that's how they spoke to each other in poetry and jealousy and longing But even in spite of these instincts the cynical story underlying it all tested them early on Their marriage almost failed before it started Disraeli really did urgently need her money to stave off his creditors and tried to rush her into marriage less than a year after her husband died with ardor being the excuse of course and pushed too hard and too obviously though he barely acknowledged these reasons to himself Mary Anne didn't want to be rushed into remarriage and was kind of enjoying the attention old admirers were giving her as a wealthy widow She didn't want the gossip around them to even seem to be true even though she was sleeping with him by this point she would have been fine with just doing that for awhile The story almost fell apart due to its actors not playing their roles very well But ultimately when she confronted him with his possible definite fortune hunting openly she caused a huge dramatic storming out of the house fight Disraeli pushed back wildly indignantly and at length Mary Anne had stepped outside the romantic narrative and he would not stand for it For the only time he addressed his less than noble motives openly basically saying that yeah he initially was interested in her money but it wasn't as much as he thought in the first place and he still loved and adored her SO THERE He was ready to give her up rather than be the gold digger in the marriage no matter how desperate he was Now for your fortune I write the sheer truth That fortune proved to be much less than I or the world imagined It was in fact as far as I was concerned a fortune which could not benefit me to the slightest degree merely a jointureWas this an inducement for me to sacrifice my sweet liberty and that indefinite future which is one of the charms of existence? No; when months ago I told you one day that there was only one link between us I felt that my heart was inextricably engaged to you and but for that I would have terminated our acuaintance From that moment I devoted to you all the passion of my beingdramatic declarations of parting follow I need hardly tell you He wanted to be thought the ideal lover or nothing Mary Anne decided she'd rather have the white knight too no matter what the reality was And there it was the deal that lasted a lifetime From that point on neither of them backed away from that story no matter what came up This story lasted through Disraeli's continual lies about debts and even when Mary Anne discovered them through prolonged physical separation and Disraeli's rise in prominence and power It lasted through Mary Anne's aging much earlier than he did through his deep and sometimes even stronger confiding relationship with his sister through her occasional failures to impress where he would have liked her to through his years of opposition through possible affairs with handsome young men and through family troubles on both sidesSometimes this fiction was best maintained at a distance Sometimes they spent many silent evenings in different parts of the house so as not to break the story Sometimes it threatened to become a necessary fiction rather than voluntary one since Disraeli had long since turned the story of their devoted marriage into one of his greatest public assets much like the ueen and Albert did and much as many many politicians would do after his example as Hay points out But the farthest Disraeli would go towards admitting imperfections would be to write coded messages in his yearly birthday poems to her hoping for reconciliation or in the absence of any poetry to her at all which considering the uality of some of it some of us may think was actually a real sign of love And he never broke loyalty to her publicly not once in nearly thirty years And in the end it seemed after twenty years it was real They got old and the last five years of their marriage was everything they pretended it was for years before that everything Mary Anne had ever wanted and only sometimes got from him everything Disraeli wanted to be and only sometimes had the focus and time to follow through on When offered a peerage during these years Disraeli asked that it go to his wife instead so she proudly became Viscountess Beaconsfield able to look down her nose at her detractors at last At this time Disraeli would write her just because he missed her Once when they were both ill they wrote back and forth to each other in their sickbeds on separate floors because they were too ill to be moved Disraeli by the way had become ill after sitting up at her bedside for many days And his last note to her in the midst of her final illness is uietly moving in its revelation of how truly he had become attached to her My dearest darling I have nothing to tell you except that I love you which I fear that you will think rather dullNatty was very affectionate about you and wanted me to come home and dine with him; uite alone; but I told him that you were the only person now whom I could dine with and only relinuished you tonight for my country My country I fear will be very late; but I hope to find you in a sweet sleepYour own DDespite everything ranged against her her age her class her personality her preferences her money Mary Anne made herself beloved both of Disraeli and the country In one of her last final illnesses there were bulletins in the newspapers reporting on the state of her health and vigils outside her front door like scenes out of Evita The ueen had come to admire her almost in spite of herself and the country went into virtual national mourning when she eventually did die in 1872 But Disraeli refused a grand funeral refused display and attention For one of the few times in his life and also one of the few times people would have preferred he hadn't he deliberately chose obscurity something he chose again when he himself died He could have been buried in Westminster with a public funeral and celebrity and he chose a uiet grave in the country next to Mary AnneAs you can probably tell I loved this It touched me Despite Hay revealing the cracks in this marriage no actually because of that I found it very compelling Ultimately and much less dramatically this is as revealing a portrait of marriage as Madame Bovary was for me perhaps even so in its way Lucidly Hay shows how most marriages are stories that the participants choose to believe in no matter what evidence is arrayed against them They are idealistic stories that are never never what they seem or what the participants want them to be at least not for than fleeting moments just enough to keep the dream alive Marriages end when people opt out of these stories don't live up to their end of the tale or want a different story in the end after all and don't agree on what that is But if both people choose to believe hard enough if both people keep choosing to try to be the people they agreed they would be and act up to it enough times well that may truly be the last utopiaDisraeli's grandfather seems to have been the last practicing Jewish member of the family his father broke with the synagogue over an argument and had Benjamin baptised as an Anglican at the age of 13 which is lucky since Jews were prevented from holding public office until the mid 1850s Disraeli's career would not have been possible without this happening There's a fascinating little story later in the book about how Louis Rothschild was elected to the House of Commons around that time and then provoked a crisis by refusing to swear his oath on the New Testament which then caused the reform to be passedSomething he was bitter about for the rest of his life mostly because of the lost potential connections and status implications it certainly didn't help that his younger brothers were sent to upper class schools where they learned all the class mannerisms that Disraeli had to try desperately to figure out from the outside it gives his idolization of Byron a whole other spin when you think about it in terms of class actuallyOh man the stories about how much money it cost to bribe people to vote for you were pretty incredible actually It makes being in Parliament sound like the sort of expensive status symbol that I dunno Apple Watches and Ferraris are now Sort of your sign you could afford to flush enormous amounts of money down the drain and still keep your wife in diamonds you know?Is there a humanizing bring you down to earth nickname that a Great Man could have than Dizzy? I submit to you there is notNever proven but there are some racy letters that make me believe something was going down at least on Disraeli's side even if it wasn't physical Hay reminds us that dudes were much comfortable expressing love for each other at this time and Platonic friendships were a thing in this Greek and Roman worshiping age but man even so I put money on some unexplored same sex attraction that or its the most desperate need to be looked up to as an authoritative daddy figure I've ever seen He was famous for it There's several stories about it but the one I remember is about how the Countess of Derby was rude to Mary Anne at a dinner party at her home after Disraeli had been angling for an invite to that house for years Mary Anne was hurt and Disraeli politely but firmly refused to ever set foot in that house again no matter how useful it would have been to him politically This struck me because Disraeli was all about power and advancement and getting into the highest circles and he was willing to give up one of his first breaks in that wall for herEven though after she died he became attached to another woman a few years later and contemplated marrying again her sister she was already married to be near her He was also famous for his courtly relationship with the ueen she knew he was buttering her up and ate it up Another woman who chose to believe in the best of Disraeli Despite all of this he still chose Mary Anne in the end As he always always did This is an oddly moving biography which looks at the marriage of Benjamin Disraeli and his wife Mary Anne Both Disraeli and Mary Anne had a tendency to romanticise and reinvent their backgrounds and later their marriage Mary Anne came from a fairly humble background and her marriage in 1815 to Wyndham Lewis a wealthy man but much older than her and very different in temperament was largely due to financial and social considerations Indeed stories at the beginning of each chapter – often from newspapers of the time – show how reliant women were on marriage for financial security and status At one point in the book Mary Anne shows a certain reluctance to see some unmarried sisters that she was friends with because of their increasing desperation to find husbands which made their visits uncomfortable for her and her guests This also becomes relevant when we come to Disraeli’s life story and his beloved sister Sarah who remained unmarried At times he is torn between his sister and his wife who becomes jealous of the attention he pays her When Disraeli meets Mary Anne she is the wife of Wyndham Lewis and he is an MP His career brings him to London but sadly for his wife it did not bring her the social acceptance and widening social circle she hoped for Her first husband’s political career was to be as unremarkable as her second husband’s was to be remarkable Meanwhile Disraeli increasingly in debt had begun writing novels which appealed very much to Mary Anne – in fact she was just the readership he was aiming for with his ‘silver fork novels’ Gradually he begins to appear on her guest lists and she figures in his correspondence We also read of Disraeli’s fledgling political career linked to that of Wyndham Lewis which after Lewis’s death brings him closer to Mary AnneWhen Mary Anne became widowed she was forty seven and Disraeli was a thirty five year old dandy mired in debt and not the only man intent on winning her fortune For it is apparent that Mary Anne’s wealth was very attractive – not only to Disraeli but to others Later she was to admit openly that he married her for money but there was to their relationship than that They reinvented their marriage of convenience as a grand romance but despite their age difference it certainly was a happy union Through letters and correspondence the author uncovers their courtship – the way Mary Anne felt initially pushed by him his joy – and relief – when he realises he has ‘won’ her the shifting dynamics between them and their family relationshipsIn a way this is a portrait not only of a marriage but also of the society of the time and of the importance of marriage for women within that society Disraeli’s rise to political power emerges Mary Anne takes obvious delight in his achievements and we see the way the political landscape changed Despite political success their marriage was mocked and Mary Anne often referred to as ‘absurd’ while Disraeli faced anti Semitism and career disappointments Yet despite all the difficulties they faced ultimately their marriage was a success Although Disraeli’s possible relationships with other men are explored he certainly appreciated her support her interest in his career her friendship and her love When she died he was bereft and Mary Anne had the delight in her lifetime of being recognised and loved by the public and also by her husband This is a wonderful read and a very interesting portrait of a couple who although they were not seen as an ideal match made their marriage a resounding success for both of them Marriage had its peculiarities in the nineteenth century but the marriage of Benjamin Disraeli and his Mary Anne was peculiar than most Nevertheless this account of their marriage goes beyond simple boundaries Before they wed in their middle age both had a great deal of experience Mary Anne was first married to a certain Wyndham Lewis a man who benefitted greatly from the Industrial Revolution and the opening of the book tells of their lives on the edge of high society uncomfortably located between that semi mythical state of wealth and power and the staid world of the middle classesThey inhabited a London residence called Grosvenor Gate built for display than for comfort and its description is an early triumph in Daisy Hay’s brilliant book about lives lived in ambiguity The dining room and the library for example are denominated “male spaces” while the rest of the large building is the domain of the female Even in marriage – at least in this social class – there is division than closeness in the relationship of the gendersDizzy himself spent those pre marital years as a writer – a curious social anomaly in all ages His closest friend was another novelist Edward Lytton Bulwer now known as Bulwer Lytton but only from the death of his parents Disraeli’s ambitions were high and his sense of material entitlement much greater than what could be supported by writing novels so that in bachelor life and even later his debts grew to be enormousMarriage to a wealthy heiress the widow of an industrialist was one way out of his dilemma and a place in Parliament was another It is extraordinary to follow his political career from this point of view – if his party gets into government he will be saved from financial disaster and social disgrace without the need to go into exile A precarious living Marriage was essential but love was not and yet while both participants were taking advantage of each other there was a genuine sympathy between them as well They understood each other’s sometimes sordid needsDaisy Hay gives a good account of the novels Disraeli wrote – even during a busy political life – and of the humble position of wealthy Mary Anne but the greatest interest in the book is the stressed and strained life of the couple as such Without underestimating the individuals she places the marriage in the foreground She adds depth to this by sketching extraordinary other – but relevant – marriages at the beginning of each chapter Those who think of Victorian society as puritanical and dull will be astonished at the sexual shenanigans described here The marriage of Sir Edward Bulwer and his wife Rosina is a dramatic and painful story in itself When Rosina disrupted her husband’s political meetings ‘his face paled’ and the press had a wonderful timeDaisy Hay has a lively and entertaining style without overdramatising what is already a dramatic story so that the book is a pleasure from beginning to end Although the persons she writes of can seem disgraceful in her telling they have a peculiar grace of their own So I have a funny story regarding this bookI first came across Disraeli during A Levels in which I studied the Age of Gladstone and Disraeli Disraeli became my favourite Prime Minister Because who couldn't love Disraeli? So the first thing I do when I'm in a bookshop is look at the political history section just to check up on the literature regarding Disraeli and other Prime Ministers of the time I was in Waterstones in Piccadilly Circus in London in February 2015 when I first saw this book and I turned to my friend and said I really want it And she responded but you have no money And that was that Story isn't finished yet though sorry In all the books I've read about Disraeli his wife is rarely mentioned and I really felt for her because in the historical literature she's always come across as important to Disraeli but not important enough to hold part of the narrative herself much like most women in history I suppose So I saved and bought it Of course I had to It was a book on Disraeli and Mary Anne and my book buyers brain was niggling at me to buy it I was going to a book festival that year and as it was a new release that year it was a featured book with a talk given by the author I was absolutely desperate to go I took this novel on holiday with me to Ireland Gladstone or Salisbury probably would have been better received though and I read it and I got so invested in this novel that I felt sad nearing the end because surprise surprise Mary Anne and Disraeli die As people tend to do at the end of historical biographies And I finished the book the night before the talk at the festival I had so many uestions I wanted to ask and so many thoughts running through my head and then I met the author and it was like I'd been struck mute I couldn't even say hello My friend had to speak for me And now I'm pretty sure that the author thought that I was a stupid person who didn't know who the subject matter was and bought the book because it looked pretty The book does look pretty though I will admit It's beautifulThis is possibly one of my favourite biographies of Disraeli Probably because it deals with Mary Anne as well comparing her to other women of the time period and how the other women because footnotes in history Unlike a lot of other historians Hay focused on how neither of the Disraeli's should have been able to reach the social and political position they did but still managed to make it This book doesn't overtake other biographies written regarding Disraeli but it is a pretty good biography of Mary Anne and it treats her life and relationships with dignity and care especially her first husband Hay takes into account the effect Mary Anne's first husband had on Disraeli's career which isn't a regularly recognized detail So yes this book is amazing It wasn't until the final chapter that I realised how emotionally involved I had become with the people and the narrative; it isn't until we experience loss that we realise the true extent of love and it appears this was certainly the case for Disraeli This biography deserves to be celebrated for finally shining a light on the woman behind the man so often ignored or reduced to a mere footnote in the tale of her brilliant husband It demonstrates how behind all human achievement there is love and support and how the course of love does not run smooth but the benefit of such intimate emotion and experience binds us together An astoundingly brilliant biography charting the relationship between one of this nation's greatest Prime Ministers Benjamin Disraeli and his wife Mary Ann Daisy Hay really has done a fantastic job Couldnt put it down The woman really doth maketh the man It's always fascinating to consider what makes for a long lasting and successful marriagerelationship and Daisy Hay's thorough analysis of the unlikely marriage between Mary Anne and Benjamin Disraeli provides a very intriguing example What is at first a marriage of convenience between a heavily indebted dandyish Disraeli and a rich widow 12 years his senior becomes a close loving lifelong attachment But this is not only a portrait of a famous marriage it also foregrounds yet another important woman who had been overshadowed by her husband While Daisy Hay has to cover Disraeli's political and writing career she makes sure that Mary Anne stays sharply in focus throughout especially when that ground has been so thoroughly covered by the numerous Disraeli biographersIt is also fascinating to see how in such a supposedly rigid class based society this couple from the 'wrong ' social backgrounds could still rise to the top The marriage of Mary Ann and Benjamin Disraeli was uncommon in many respects She was an wealthy independent widow he a debt ridden author with political ambitions She was loud flamboyant outspoken eccentric; he was controlled ambitious determined He married her for her money but grew to love her She valued her independence yet devoted herself utterly to his future career They were visibly devoted to one another in an era when marrying for love was seen as utterly déclassé in the circles they moved in Neither was of the Establishment Mary Ann was born of distinctly middling stock and Disraeli's antecedents were Jewish at a time when Jews could not hold political officeAnd yet by the time of their deaths they were both beloved and respected by the public the ueen and the political establishment and neither could have achieved their positions in politics and society without the love and support of the other Where Disraeli was unusual amongst his fellows was in his open acknowledgement of that fact perhaps best exemplified by his reuest to ueen Victoria to ennoble his wife in her own right instead of him It is only right therefore that this should be a dual biography to tell Disraeli's story without giving his wife her rightful due would be a distortion of historyHistory is fortunate indeed that both Disraelis were great collectors of personal papers and Daisy Hay's book relies heavily on chronicling the Disraelis lives through their own words which brings a realism and intimacy to these pages One finds oneself growing uite fond of both of them It also means there is so much less interpretation and extrapolation than one usually finds in biographies there is no need for the 'X must have thought' or 'Y must have felt' because we know what Mary Ann thought or Disraeli felt through the rich source of their lettersThis is the second of Daisy Hay's books I have read after her 'Young Romantics' about Shelley and Byron and Mary Shelley and I enjoyed it every bit as much She is a fine writer and a fine historian This well crafted and readable narrative is the biography of a relationship grounded in the history and culture of 19th century Britain With sympathy for the main actors Benjamin and Mary Anne Disraeli but without sentiment the book looks at their mutually beneficial yet self serving arrangement He got her financial support she got dignity and stature of his public achievement and the whole was greater than the sum of its parts with the two developing a perhaps unexpectedly deep regard for each other The author deftly interweaves anecdotes of other women's lives illustrating their financially provisional existence The author also exposes Disraeli's multiple motivations His early desperate efforts to win public office were motivated in part by the insulation from arrest for debt enjoyed by MPs How many nonfiction books detail the history of a marriage? Mr and Mrs Disraeli takes into account the beginning he married for money she for social advancement middle she was his stalwart supporter through thick and thin he would not allow people to disrespect her no matter how foolish she was and end she lived to see him become prime minister he repaid all of her steadfastness with deferring his bestowal of a title from the ueen to her I was disappointed at first that there was not political history in the book which would explain the significance of Disraeli but Daisy Hay set out to explain a Victorian marriage its evolution in contrast to many other examples besides

Mr and Mrs Disraeli Kindle Ø Mr and  Kindle -
  • ebook
  • 320 pages
  • Mr and Mrs Disraeli
  • Daisy Hay
  • English
  • 09 June 2014
  • 9781473511071