THE DISRAELI FAMILY.1

By:
Articles Image

"The resources of political invective seem to become poorer every day," said Lord Beaconsfield to Lord Rowton one day in the library at Hughenden, as he laid aside a Radical newspaper he had been reading. " Fifty years ago they called me an adventurer, and now, when they are very angry, they cannot think of anything more scathing to say of me." Then, after a pause, a merry twinkle came into his eyes, and he added: " Just fancy calling a fellow an adventurer when his ancestors were probably on intimate terms with the Queen of Sheba! " Lord Rowton used to tell this story in illustration of his chiefs insensibility to criticism. " He didn't care a d?n what people said of him," was the private secretary's breezy overture to the anecdote. It has, however, another value, w^hich relieves it of some of its apparent irrelevancy. It shows how much Lord Beaconsfield's mind dwelt on his Hebrew ancestry even in old age, when he was gorged with honours of his own making.

This ancestry was to him more a matter of race than of family. He had very little precise knowledge of his own direct forbears. His grandfather, a practical man of business, never tried to pierce the obscurity of his origin. His father could have told him a good deal about his maternal ancestors and other distinguished connections of the family, but he does not appear to have done so. The truth, no doubt, is that Judaism was one of the many questions upon which father and son differed, in spite of the deep personal affection which subsisted between them. Isaac D'Israeli, though he

1 The Society tenders its thanks to the proprietors of the Times for per? mission to reproduce the text of this paper, which was read before the Society on December 20, 1904, and printed in the Times of that and the following days, in connection with the centenary of the birth of Lord Beaconsfield.

never became a Christian, and always remained warmly attached to his co-religionists, was a pessimist in Jewish history, and utterly incapable of understanding the race idea. His son, though a Christian, was an enthusiast for his people's past, and, by his imaginative grasp of its mystic and grandiose spirit, actually became a pioneer of that revival of Jewish race consciousness to which the exact science of the new historical school has of late years given so strong an impulse. The different standpoints of the two men are strikingly illustrated by a comparison of Isaac's " Genius of Judaism" with Benjamin's " Alroy"?both written in the same year under the influence of sympathies strongly stirred in each by the struggle for Jewish emancipation. "While in the one we find a somewhat peddling advocacy of ceremonial reforms and social assimilation, in the other we are confronted by a glowing picture of unbending Judaism, laughing triumphant derision at the Gentile, even in the moment of blackest disaster. In this diversity of view there was obviously little

Become a member to read the full article
Become a member today

£7

24 hour access to JHSE online resources

Instant access to over 700 articles View the original articles as a PDF
Learn More

£40

Annual JHSE Membership

Members are entitled to a free copy of the latest Jewish Historical Studies, free access to our online resources and associate membership of the UCL Library in London.  In addition, they receive the JHSE Newsletter, special offers on books for sale and pay less to attend our series of lectures and other public events.
Learn More

£20

Student Membership

The JHSE want to encourage students to engage with Jewish history.  Apply for a Student Membership with your university email account and once we have verified your status you will soon have all the benefits of being a full JHSE member.
Learn More

£80

Associate your Institution with the JHSE

Give your members access to JHSE online resources and special offers on book sales.  Use your institutional email account when applying, and once your status is verified we will explain the scheme.  Preferred payment is by credit or debit card.
Learn More
0

Your Cart