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The use of politics by Disraeli the novelist and the use of the novel by Disraeli the politician: a study of reciprocity

Hay-Will, R. H. (1983) The use of politics by Disraeli the novelist and the use of the novel by Disraeli the politician: a study of reciprocity. Masters thesis, Durham University.



Disraeli's fame as a politician is well recognised: his Premier-ship under Queen Victoria and his Parliamentary duels wit^ Peel and Gladstone, amongst others, are established in history. But, with the exception perhaps of Coningsby and Sybil, his novels are net well known, even to students of literature, This thesis seeks to redress the balance, by showing that Disraeli's career as a whole was shaped as much by him literary nature as by his political ambitions. So it is a mistake to argue that should have confined himself to one pursuit or to the other; because both were psychologically essential to him - two ambitions exerting a reciprocal influence on each other. In some instances these 'two natures' can be accused of diluting his energies, but as a rule their interaction was a dynamic which prevented introverted and self-defeating absorption in one of them. So, although Disraeli never achieved great fame as a novelist, he actually wrote more successfully after entering Parliament, than before. And this was not entirely due to the interest aroused in a politician taking his experiences into print. In themselves, the tone of his works became less self-concerned, and the style sharper: less self-conscious and ponderous. The early novels were too autobiographical and introverted: they lacked an objective outside of themselves, and political issues were to provide this. Coningsby and Sybil, written in the heat of frustrated political ambition, veered to the opposite and polemical extreme. They were rooted in the active world of politicians and political struggles, and read at times like Parliamentary reports or speeches rather than novels. The basic elements of most novels: an historical/social contest, a meaningful structuring or commenting upon it, and a suitable 'plot', are certainly present, but mot always satisfactorily integrated. Nevertheless, Disraeli's position in polities gave him some unique advantages of access to, and familiarity with, the world of government. Thus in time he learnt to incorporate his perspective on the political world into more balanced works: Lothair and Endymion. Without the challenge of presenting political subjects, however, his writing would probably have tailed off into irrelevant and self-indulgent autobiography. Conversely, although Disraeli wrote few novels after entering Parliament, considering the length of his career, he still acknowledged a debt to the literary side of his nature, in the policies and speeches he initiated. Some of his moves were to fulfil the apparently wild prophecies of the earlier novels with almost uncanny fidelity. And he retained a dramatic self-consciousness and a symbolic sense, even after adopting the sober dress and impassive manner of the Conservative leader. Whether one calls his approach romantic, or spiritual, or simply sentimental, the novelist in Disraeli was borne out in a number of acts which seem to have come not from the committee-room, bat from the pages of his quixotic romances.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Award:Master of Arts
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > English Studies, Department of
Thesis Date:1983
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:18 Sep 2013 09:25

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