Published online by Cambridge University Press: 19 March 2010
There has been something like a new wave of study of Disraeli in the last decade and a half, in which much attention has been paid to aspects of his personality and œuvre inadequately recognized or analysed in the standard accounts, especially his social and political ideas, his style of self-presentation, and the significance of his Jewish origins and his assumption of the romantic mode. This volume tries to deepen and expand those explorations for the most formative period of his life, up to about 1850, in the belief that Disraeli sought strenuously to construct the persona with which he confronted the world, and that the analysis of that process of construction – the situation and the stimuli to which it responded, the goals it sought to reach, the materials which it employed, and the manner in which it was pursued – offers the best prospect that we have of advancing our understanding of his character.
For this purpose, we need to escape from the historiography which treats Disraeli, perhaps unconsciously, as an aberrant Victorian, judging him, often in highly moralistic terms, by the standards of an age in which he was already an anachronism and a culture to which he only partially belonged, and therefore seeing him as a deviant from a norm he did not acknowledge. The studies here collected attempt to see him as himself – a product of Jewish origins and European intellectual strains which made him in some sense and degree a stranger and a sojourner in England, and obliged him to pursue in society, literature and politics an intense effort of denization, through which his ‘genius’ could be materialized in terms appropriate to its physical location and to its need to dominate.
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