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HE author of Vivian Grey' and Lothair' is again among the
longest, and that the ruling passion rules to the last. Orator, statesman, and peer, inspired by a love of power which his wonderful career must have keenly gratified, Benjamin Disraeli was from the first inspired by an insatiable thirst of literary fame, no less than of political ambition. Fame and power,' as he himself says, 'are the objects of all men, the divinities to which we all offer so many sacrifices; and no one has more fully verified his own canon of life, or sacrificed more persistently at the altar of both divinities. From "Vivian Grey,' which appeared in the year 1826, to Endymion' is a lifetime; and during all this period the writer has occupied a large share of the world's attention. The youthful desire for distinction, which then burned as a live coal in his heart, has never ceased to move him forward. I felt all my energies,' he says in "Contarini Fleming.' I thirsted for action. There seemed to me no achievement of which I was not capable. In imagination I shook thrones and founded empires.' Even such dreams of youthful ambition may be said to have been realised; and now, in his old age, when the fire of his aspiring ardour has burned low, and he has been twice Prime Minister of England, he returns to his earliest love, and in the quiet of Hughenden Manor can find no higher, or at least more pleasant, occupation than writing a new sketch of the social and political life of the country with whose history he must always remain identified. He was a social satirist and novelist before he was either Leader of the Opposition or Prime Minister, and the original instincts which led him to literature, and made him rehearse in dramatic form the ambitions of his career, and the types of political force amidst which it was destined to move, have again asserted their influence, and led him once more to picture-for the entertainment of a new generation-the world of politics and society in which he himself has played so conspicuous a part. It is meet, perhaps, that a
Endymion. By the Author of Lothair. London: Longmans & Co. 1880. No. 612 (No. CXXXII. N. s.) 3 A
life which began with literary satire should also close with it, and that the present generation should be reminded that the Lord Beaconsfield of the Berlin Treaty is at the same time a writer of fiction who has a niche-even if it should not ultimately prove one of the highest-in the temple of literary fame, which-no less than the throne of political power-was set before the dazzled vision of his youth.
It is not our present purpose to estimate Lord Beaconsfield's position as a littérateur any more than as a politician. His name is too living, and excites prepossessions too strongly on one side and another, to admit of a calm survey. Nor is it our business now to judge of the value of this his latest production as a novelist, or of the propriety or impropriety, as some may think, of his once more appearing in this capacity. Benjamin Disraeli has never been a student of the proprieties in the conventional sense of the word; and criticism of this kind would be very much thrown away. He has been a rule to himself from first to last; and, whatever others may think of either Lothair' or 'Endymion,' as the productions of one who has ruled the British Empire, and stood in the front rank of its political movements, he has, no doubt, had definite motives in both these publications, motives not merely of a private but of a public character. And as thousands read 'Lothair,' so will thousands read Endymion,' and criticise it amply for themselves. The success of 'Lothair' was unprecedented. The author himself complacently commemorates the fact that it was more extensively read than any work that has appeared for the last half-century.' More a lion now than he was in 1870, the public not only of Great Britain and America, but of the Continent, will peruse with ardent curiosity this new book from his pen. He has never indeed had occasion to complain of public neglect as a writer. As soon as 'Vivian Grey' was published, it was the rage in London drawing-rooms and elsewhere. "Have you read "Vivian Grey "?' was the general remark; we are all in it together. I sent this morning for a key to it.' When The Young Duke' appeared, in 1829, it was hardly less popular, and it was not only the triflers of society or the secondary political coteries of the time that were interested by it, but men like Macaulay and the distinguished literary set amidst which he lived. 'Coningsby' and Sybil,' in 1844 and 1845, carried his fame as an author to a further height. Three editions of the former were sold in three months, and thousands upon thousands were dispersed in America, and elsewhere abroad. Whatever, therefore, may be the ultimate judgment pronounced upon Lord Beaconsfield's literary works, they have at least always possessed the prime distinction of exciting attention; and, considering all the additional éclat
2 Preface to Lothair.
3 Lord Beaconsfield: a Study, by George Brandes, p. 65.
which has gathered around his name during recent years, we may safely predict for Endymion' a notoriety excelling even that of his previous works. One of the chief inquiries, no doubt, will be, as with Vivian Grey,' for a key to it.' And keys will be supplied whether they may fit the wards of its ingenious locks or not. One of the keys to Vivian Grey,' in 1829, is said to have run through ten editions!
In the meantime we must be content to give our readers a general description of a book which will soon be in all hands, and eagerly studied, not only by the clientèle of the circulating libraries, but by the world at large.
No one could doubt the workmanship of Endymion,' even if it had appeared anonymously. It is marked by the same features as all Mr. Disraeli's novels. Unconsciously we use his earlier rather than his later designation in speaking of him as a novelist. It is the name by which he will be remembered in literature, should the higher title supersede it in politics; and even this may be a question. 'Endymion' is a novel of society and of politics, like Lothair' and Coningsby;' it is twin to 'Lothair,' as may be readily supposed, rather than to any of the productions of his youth. It lacks the sparkle, brilliancy, and vivid if bitter abandon of Vivian Grey' and the first part of 'Tancred.' But, if more sober and staid in portraiture, and if the pages do not crackle with the same fire of wit and sarcasm, there is still plenty of both; while it is enriched by a deeper vein of experience, and the story, as in 'Lothair,' is more elaborately constructed. It is interesting throughout and brightif not with the old fire-especially in the first and second volumes. We cannot say that this interest is derived either from the character or career of the hero who has given his name to the book. He is meritorious, but not interesting a species of hero who has not hitherto attracted our author. Endymion is a model of prudence from the first, endowed of course, like all heroes, or at least all in Mr. Disraeli's novels, with youth and beauty and ambition. But he has none of the gay devilry, or 'pure courage,' of Vivian Grey, nor has he the dreamy and aspiring mysticism of Tancred, nor even the luxurious enthusiasm of Lothair. He has, as his friend and political patron, Mr. Sidney Wilton, says of him, 'good judgment, great industry, a fairly quick perception, little passion, perhaps hardly enough.' He is, in short, a plodding, earnest, calculating idol of society, moved by the slow and well-regulated force of his own ambition, but also moved largely from without,-dragged up the ladder of political ascent as much by the enticements and intrigues of his own sister and Lady Montfort, as by his own impulses. As his sister prophesied would be the case, women are certainly his best friends in life.' They make him from first to last; prompt his ambition, encourage him in his despondency, incline to marry him against his will in order to advance his political fortunes; and, finally, one of the most brilliant of them, with whom he had long
been in love, passionately but hopelessly-because she was a wife already opportunely loses her husband, and is at length able to invite him to share the vacant place which had seemed so far beyond his reach. The scene in which this occurs is one of the most characteristic in the book; with that touch of passion and yet unreality-of splendour suffused by sentiment and yet lowered by worldliness-which pervades the author's novels.
She took him to her house in Carlton Gardens, and showed to him exactly how it was all she wanted; accommodation for a first-rate establishment; and then the reception rooms, few houses in London could compare with them; a gallery and three saloons. Then they descended to the dining-room. It is a dining-room, not a banqueting hall,' she said, . 'but still it is much larger than most dining-rooms in London. But I think this room, at least I hope you do, quite charming,' and she took him to a room almost as large as the dining-room, and looking into the garden. It was fitted up with exquisite taste; calm subdued colouring, with choice marble busts of statesmen, ancient and of our times, but the shelves were empty.
They are empty,' she said, 'but the volumes to fill them are already collected. Yes,' she added in a tremulous voice, and slightly pressing the arm on which she leant. 'If you will deign to accept it, this is the chamber I have prepared for you.'
'Dearest of women!' and he took her hand.
'Yes,' she murmured, 'help me to realise the dream of my life;' and she touched his forehead with her lips.
But we have greatly anticipated. We must now return and, without sketching the hero's story, or taking off its zest for our readers, endeavour to introduce them to Endymion.' The scenes shift swiftly, and the pages are crowded with diversified characters. The father and mother of the hero are the central figures of the first volume. Both are drawn with a discriminating pencil, and there is a pathetic interest in this part which the author seldom reaches, and which touches, as with an under chord of gloom, some of the most brilliant successes in the after part. The hero and the heroine are made to bear the traces of the sorrows and troubles of early life.' But, after all, as Endymion's friend assures him, there is no education like adversity.'
The story opens with a rich, warm night at the beginning of August,' and the emergence of a gentleman enveloped in a cloak, concealing an evening dress, from a club-house at the top of St. James' He descends that celebrated eminence,' and, as he does so, encounters a friend with whom he enters into earnest political conversation, dashed with tender reminiscences of old ties which had once bound the friends together. The year is evidently 1827, when Canning, four months after the formation of his Ministry, was lying upon his death-bed. The friends had been separated by the advent of the Canning Ministry. The chief spokesman, Mr. Ferrars, who had been in search of his companion, Sidney Wilton, had adhered to Peel and Wellington, while the latter had gone with Canning.
or Chiswick,' as he is also called in the novel. Political estrangement, however, had not alienated the friends; and now that changes were impending there is once more the hope of their acting together. Ferrars has heard privately of the serious character of Canning's illness. What I am about to tell you is known only to three persons, and is the most sacred of secrets.' The usual veil of mystery hangs over incidents of political moment. Nothing but friendship could warrant the impartation of such a secret. His case is hopeless, and it has been communicated to the King.' 'Hopeless,' says the friend in amazement. Rely upon it, it came direct from the cottage to my friend.' It is plain that the political combination which Canning had formed will disappear with the disappearance of its chief, and equally plain to the speaker that the Duke is the only man to fill the post about to be vacant; the man of the age, the Saviour of Europe, in the perfection of manhood and with an iron constitution.'
'The salvation of Europe is the affair of a past generation,' said his companion. We want something else now. The salvation of England should be the subject rather of our present thoughts.'
'England? when were things more sound? Except the split among our own men, which will now be cured, there is not a cause of disquietude.'
'I have much,' said his friend.
You never used to have any, Sidney. What extraordinary revelations can have been made to you during three months of office under a semi-Whig Ministry?'
Your taunt is fair, though it pains me. And I confess to you that when I resolved to follow Canning and join his new allies, I had many a twinge. I was bred in the Tory camp; the Tories put me in Parliament and gave me office; I lived with them and liked them; we dined and voted together, and together pasquinaded our opponents. And yet, after Castlereagh's death, to whom like yourself I was much attached, I had great misgivings as to the position of our party, and the future of the country. I tried to drive them from my mind, and at last took refuge in Canning, who seemed just the man appointed for an age of transition.'
'But a transition to what?'
'Well, his foreign policy was Liberal.'
'The same as the Duke's; the same as poor dear Castlereagh's. Nothing more unjust than the affected belief that there was any difference between them-a ruse of the Whigs to foster discord in our ranks. And as for domestic affairs, no one is stouter against Parliamentary Reform, while he is for the Church and no surrender, though he may make a harmless speech now and then, as many of us do, in favour of the Catholic claims.'
We have given so much of this opening conversation, both as characteristic in itself and as marking the characters of the two men, one of whom, as we have said, is a main figure in the first volume, and the second of whom plays a more or less conspicuous part through all the subsequent incidents of the book. It is not easy to fix the personality of either, and we shall not attempt the task. Traits