Page:1902 Encyclopædia Britannica - Volume 26 - AUS-CHI.pdf/210

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imagination which he possessed abundantly and employed overmuch, but the perceptive, interpretive, judicial or divining imagination, without which there can be no great man of affairs. Breadth of view, insight, foresight, are more familiar but less adequate descriptions of a faculty which Disraeli had in such force that it took command of him from first to last. Although he knew and acted on the principle that “ a statesman is a practical character,” whose business is to “ serve the country according to its present necessities,” he was unable to confine his vision to the nearer consequences of whatever policy, or course of action, or group of conditions it rested on. Without effort, and even without intention probably, it looked beyond first consequences to the farther or the final outcome ; and to complete the operation, the faculty which detected the remoter consequences did not allow them to remain in obscurity, but brought them out as actualities no less than the first and perhaps far more important than the first. Moreover, it did not allow him to keep silence where the remoter consequences were of that character, and ought to be provided for betimes. Of course silence was always possible. These renderings to foresight might be denied assertion either for the sake of present ease (and Disraeli’s prescience of much of his country’s later troubles only made him laughed at) or in deference to hopes of personal advancement. But the same divining imagination which showed him these things also showed him the near time when it would be too late to speak of them, and when not to have spoken would leave him irredeemably in the common herd of hand-to-mouth politicians. Therefore he spoke. Remembrance of these characteristics—remembrance, too, that his mind, which was neither English nor European, worked in absolute detachment—should accompany the traveller through all the turns and incidents of Disraeli’s long career. They are sometimes puzzling, often speculative; yet nearly all that is obscure in them becomes clear, much apparent contradiction disappears, when read by these persistent unvarying lights. The command which his idiosyncrasies had upon him is shown, for example, by reproachful speeches on the treatment of Ireland, and by a startling harangue on behalf of the Chartists, at a time when such irregularities could but damage him, a new man, where he hoped for influence and office. At about the same time his political genius directed him to open a resolute critical campaign against the Conservatism of the party he proposed to thrive in, and he could but obey. This he did in writing “ Con= " Coning shy, a novel of the day and for the ^Sybil’. ’” day, but commended to us of a later generation not only by the undimmed truth of its characterportraits, but by qualities of insight and foresight which we who have seen the proof of them can measure as his contemporaries could not. Sybil, which was written in the following year (1845), is still more remarkable for the faculties celebrated in the preceding paragraph. When Sybil was written a long historic day was ending in England, a new era beginning; and no eyes saw so clearly as Disraeli’s the death of the old day, the birth of the new, or what and how great their differences would be. In 'Goningsby the political conditions of the country were illustrated and discussed from the constitutional point of view, and by light of the theory that for generations before the passing of the Reform Bill the authority of the Crown and the liberties of the people had been absorbed and extinguished in an oligarchic system of government, itself become fossilized and soulless. In Sybil were exhibited the social relations of rich and poor (the “ two nations ”) under this regime, and under changes in which, while the peasantry were neglected by a shoddy

aristocracy ignorant of its duties, factory life and a purblind gospel of political economy embruted the rest of the population. These views were enforced by a startling yet strictly accurate representation of the state of things in the factory districts at that time. Taken from the life by Disraeli himself, accompanied by one or two members of the Young England party of which he was the head, it was the first of its kind; and the facts as there displayed, and Disraeli’s interpretation of them—a marvel of perceptive and prophetic criticism—opened eyes, roused consciences, and led direct to many reforms. These two books, the Vindication, published in 1835, and his speeches up to this time and a little beyond, are quite enough to show what Disraeli’s Tory democracy meant, how truly national was its aim, and how exclusive of partisanship for the “landed interest”; though he did believe the stability and prosperity of the agricultural class a national interest of the first order, not on economic grounds alone or even chiefly. -And if Disraeli, possessed by these views, became aggressively insubordinate some time before Peel’s proclaimed conversion to Free Trade, we can account for it on reasonable and even creditable grounds. Spite, resentment at being passed over when Peel formed the 1841 Government, is one explanation of these outbreaks, and a letter to Peel, lately published, is proof to many minds that Disraeli’s denial to Peel’s face in 1846 that he had ever solicited office was daringly mendacious. The letter certainly reads like solicitation in the customary half-veiled form. All that can be said in doubt is that since the ’41 Government came into existence on the 6th of September, and the letter was written on the 5th, its interpretation as complaint of being publicly neglected, as a craving for some mark of recognition, is possible. More than possible it is if Disraeli knew on the 5th (as he very well might from his friend Lyndhurst, Peel’s lord chancellor) that the appointments were then complete. The pecuniary need of office, if that comes into the question, had been lightened, if not extinguished, two years before by his marriage with Mrs Wyndham Lewis. Mrs Lewis—a lady fifteen years his senior—brought him a considerable fortune, which, however, was but for her life. She lived to a great age, and would gladly have lived longer, in any of the afflictions that time brings on, to continue her mere money-worth to her “ Dizzy.” Her devotion to him, and his devotion to her, is the whole known story of their private life ; and we may believe that nothing ever gratified him more than offering her a coronet from Mr Disraeli. Disraeli made Peel’s acquaintance early in his career and showed that he was proud of it. In his Life of Lord, George Bentinck he writes of Peel fairly and even generously. But they were essentially antipathetic persons; and it is clear that the great minister and complete Briton took no pains to understand the dazzling young Jew of whom Lyndhurst thought so much, and wished to have little to do with him. Such men make such feelings evident; and there is no reason for thinking that when, after 1841, Disraeli charged at Peel in obedience to his principles he gave himself pain. It was not long after it had settled in office that Peel’s Government, the creature of an anxious Conservative reaction, began to PoUtics be suspected of drifting toward Manchester. j84l=67. That it was forced in that direction we should say rather, looking back, for it was a time of dire distress, especially in the manufacturing districts of the north, so that in his second session Peel had to provide some relief by revising the corn laws and reducing import dues generally. His measures were supported by Disraeli, who understood that Protection must bend to the menacing poverty of the time, though unprepared for