Benjamin Disraeli Criticism - Essay

Patrick Brantlinger (essay date 1972)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Tory Radicalism and 'The Two Nations' in Disraeli's Sybil," The Victorian Newsletter, No. 41, Spring, 1972, pp. 13-17.

[In the following essay, Brantlinger explores the political theory expressed in Sybil, focusing on Disraeli's Tory-Radicalism and analyzing his purported acceptance of the "two-nations" theory of the Chartists.]

Despite F. R. Leavis' praise of Disraeli's neglected maturity in a footnote to The Great Tradition, there has been no revival of interest in his novels. And rightly so, if only because Disraeli's three most important novels, Coningsby Sybil and Tancred espoused a cause that was more laughed at than respected...

(The entire section is 4091 words.)

Robert O'Kell (essay date 1976)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Autobiographical Nature of Disraeli's Early Fiction," Nineteenth-Century Fiction, Vol. 31, No. 3, December, 1976, pp. 253-84.

[In the essay that follows, O'Kell discusses how Disraeli's early novels reflect his attempt to forge a public identity. According to O'Kell, these early works represent Disraeli's struggle to combine a desire for public recognition with an acute sense of his marginalization as a writer of Jewish descent.]

Extant biographical material suggests that the young Disraeli held two opposing senses of himself that were manifested in contradictory desires for recognition of very different sorts. Although he gloried in the ambitious egotism...

(The entire section is 13030 words.)

Robert O'Kell (essay date 1979)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Disraeli's Coningsby: Political Manifesto or Psychological Romance?," Victorian Studies, Vol. 23, No. 1, Autumn, 1979, pp. 57-78.

[In the following essay, O'Kell interprets Coningsby as an attempt by Disraeli to clarify his developing Tory ideology by "replacing the actuality of his struggle to transcend his alienation from the establishment … with ideal versions of the past as it should have been."]

Coningsby; or, the New Generation, written in the autumn and winter of 1843-44, has traditionally been seen as the first example of a subgenre, the political novel, and, as such, part of a trilogy that is overtly propagandist in conception....

(The entire section is 9141 words.)

Daniel R. Schwarz (essay date 1979)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "From Immersion to Reflection: Romance and Realism in Henrietta Temple and Venetia" in Disraeli's Fiction, Macmillan, 1979, pp. 55-77.

[In the following excerpt, Schwarz defends Henrietta Temple and Venetia against charges that the novels lack aesthetic value and are discontinuous with Disraeli's other works.]


The only book-length critical study of Disraeli's novels, Richard A. Levine's Benjamin Disraeli, criticises Henrietta Temple (1836) and Venetia (1837) because of their supposed objectivity:

In the final analysis, however, [Henrietta...

(The entire section is 9755 words.)

Robert O'Kell (essay date 1987)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Two Nations, or One?: Disraeli's Allegorical Romance," Victorian Studies, Vol. 30, No. 2, Winter, 1987, pp. 211-34.

[In this essay, O'Kell examines Sybil in terms of its political, religious, and allegorical content, distinguishing it from the psychological romances typical of Disraeli's early work.]

The popularity of Coningsby: Or The New Generation when it first appeared in May 1844 was undoubtedly part of what prompted Disraeli to begin immediately writing another "political" novel. But part of his motive must also have been his realization that the enormous success of Coningsby derived less from any appreciation of his reflexive...

(The entire section is 11668 words.)

Gary Handwerk (essay date 1988)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Behind Sybil's Veil: Disraeli's Mix of Ideological Messages," Modern Language Quarterly, Vol. 49, No. 4, December, 1988, pp. 321-41.

[In the following essay, Handwerk analyzes Disraeli's rhetorical and political aims in Sybil, contending that despite the tension among the various strands of the novel, Disraeli actually put forward a coherent ideology.]

The status accorded Benjamin Disraeli's fiction has begun to shift significantly of late as critics have started to reestimate the interest and complexity of his novels. Those texts were long considered to be of secondary or merely historical value as novels of ideas whose aesthetic possibilities...

(The entire section is 8631 words.)

Daniel Bivona (essay date 1989)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Disraeli's Political Trilogy and the Antinomic Structure of Imperial Desire," Novel: A Forum on Fiction, Vol. 22, No. 3, Spring, 1989, pp. 305-25.

[In the following essay, Bivona argues that Disraeli's political trilogy was written in order to reinvigorate the Tory party and, particularly, to give him "a forum in which to ally ideological argument with imperial fantasy" through his portrayal of the government's expansion to include the middle and working classes.]

Recent history provides few examples of successful political careers founded on literary careers. When politicians turn to letters, they usually do so after leaving the political wars to beguile the...

(The entire section is 11416 words.)

John Vincent (essay date 1990)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Earlier Writings" in Disraeli, Oxford University Press, 1990, pp. 57-80.

[[In this excerpt, Vincent surveys Disraeli's early novels, concluding that they have little literary value.]

Disraeli's novels have never lacked intelligent, if unlikely, admirers, The great Victorian critic Sir Leslie Stephen, inventor of muscular atheism, warmly approved. The equally austere Dr Leavis, in the least damnatory footnote in The Great Tradition, singled out Disraeli as a supreme intelligence. In youth, Disraeli was saluted by Heine; in age, Henry James wrote in his defence. The reviewer and Labour leader Michael Foot (who called his dog Dizzy) has argued...

(The entire section is 8375 words.)

Mary S. Millar and M. G. Wiebe (essay date 1992)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "'This power so vast … & so generally misunderstood': Disraeli and the Press in the 1840s," Victorian Periodicals Review, Vol. XXV, No. 2, Summer, 1992, pp. 79-85.

[In the essay that follows, Millar and Wiebe discuss ways in which Disraeli used his writing for newspapers as a means to transmit his political views, and conclude that his "management of the press" contributed significantly to his political success.]

In October of 1849, Disraeli wrote to G. Lathom Browne, the editor of his local newspaper, The Bucks Herald: "No newspaper is important as far as its advocacy. The importance of newspapers is to circulate your opinions, and a good report...

(The entire section is 5542 words.)