Page:1902 Encyclopædia Britannica - Volume 26 - AUS-CHI.pdf/207

This page needs to be proofread.


BEACONSFI'ELD allowed to forget amongst Christians. With all, he was proud of his race as truly, if not as vehemently, as his paternal grandmother detested it. Family pride contributed to the feeling in his case; for in his more speculative moods he could look back upon an ancestry which was of those, perhaps, who colonized the shores of the Mediterranean from before the time of the Captivity. More definite is the history of descent from an ennobled Spanish family which escaped from the Torquemada persecutions to Venice, there found a new home, took a new name, and prospered for six generations. The Benjamin Disraeli, Lord Beaconsfield’s grandfather, who came to England in 1748, was a younger son sent at eighteen to try his fortune in London. “A man of ardent character, sanguine, courageous, speculative, fortunate, with a temper which no disappointment could disturb ”

Lord Beaconskield. (b'rom a photograph by Hughes and Mullins, Hyde, I.W.) (so Lord Beaconsfield described him), he soon made the beginnings of a handsome fortune and turned country gentleman. That his grandson exaggerated his prosperity is highly probable; but that he became a man of wealth and consideration is certain. He married twice. His second wife was Sarah Siprout de Gabay, “a beautiful woman of strong intellect ” and importunate ambitions, who hated the race she belonged to because it was despised by others. She felt so keenly the social disabilities it brought upon her, and her husband’s indifterence to them, that “she never pardoned him his name.” Her literary son Isaac suffered equally or even more ; for though he had ambitions he had none that she could recognize as such. She could ridicule him for the aspirations which he had not and for those which he had ; on the other hand, he never heard from her a tender word “ though she lived to be eighty.” Nor did any other member of her family, according to her grandson. Isaac Disraeli was devoted to the reading and writing of books in domestic quiet; and his son Benjamin suffered

175

appreciably from his father’s gentle preoccupations. As a child—unruly and disturbing no doubt—he was sent to a school of small account at Blackheath, and was there “ for years ” before he was recalled at the age of twelve on the death of his grandfather. Isaac Disraeli was his father’s sole heritor, but change of fortune seems to have awakened in him no ambitions for the most hopeful of his sons. At fifteen, not before, Benjamin was sent to a Unitarian school at Walthamstow—a well-known school, populous enough to be a little world of emulation and conflict, but otherwise unfit. Not there,, nor in any similar institution at that illiberal time, perhaps, was a Jewish boy likely to make a fortunate entry into “the great family of mankind.” His name, the foreign look of him, and some pronounced incompatibilities not all chargeable to young Disraeli, soon raised a crop of troubles. His stay at Walthamstow was brief, his departure abrupt, and he went to school no more. With the run of his father’s library, and the benefits of that born bookman’s guidance, he now set out to educate himself. This he did with an industry stiffened by matchless selfconfidence and by ambitions fully mature before he was eighteen. Yet he yielded to an attempt to make a man of business of him. He was barely seventeen when (in November 1821) he was taken into the office of Messrs Swain, Stevens and Co., solicitors, in Frederick’s Place, Old Jewry. Here he remained for three years—“ most assiduous in his attention to business,” said one of the partners, “ and showing great ability in the transaction of it.” It was then determined that he should go to the bar; and accordingly he was entered at Lincoln’s Inn in 1824. But Disraeli had found other studies and an alien use for his pen. Though “assiduous in his attention to business” in Frederick’s Place, he found time to write for the printer. Dr Smiles, in his Memoirs of John Murray, tells of certain pamphlets on the brightening prospects of the Spanish South American colonies, then in the first enjoyment of emancipation — pamphlets seemingly written for a Mr Powles, head of a great financial firm, whose acquaintance Disraeli had made. In the same year, apparently, he wrote a novel—his first, and never published. Aylmer Papillon was the title of it, Dr Smiles informs us; and he prints a letter from Disraeli to the John Murray of that day, which indicates its character pretty clearly. The last chapter, its author says, is taken up with “Mr Papillon’s banishment under the Alien Act, from a ministerial misconception of a metaphysical sonnet.” About the same time he edited a History of Paul .Tones, originally published in America, the preface to the English edition being Disraeli’s first appearance as an author. Murray could not publish Aylmer Papillon, but he had great hopes of its boyish writer (Isaac Disraeli was an old friend of his), “ took him into his confidence, and related to him his experiences of men and affairs.” Disraeli had not completed his twenty-first year when (in 1825) Murray was possessed by the idea of bringing out a great daily newspaper ; and if his young friend did not inspire that idea he keenly urged its execution, and was " T/ie entrusted by Murray with the negotiation of all sentatlve ” manner of preliminaries, including the attempt to bring Lockhart in as editor. The title of the paper, The Representative, was Disraeli’s suggestion. He chose reporters, looked to the setting-up of a printing-office, busied himself in all ways to Murray’s great satisfaction, and, as fully appears from Dr Smiles’s account of the matter, with extraordinary address. But when these arrangements were brought to the point of completion, Disraeli dropped out of the scheme and had nothing more to do with it. He was to have had a fourth share of the proprietorship, bringing in a corresponding amount of capital. His friend