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Coningsby

Benjamin Disraeli

Book Overview: 

Coningsby is the first of trilogy of political novels that Disraeli and gives an insight into his views of the political turmoil following the passage of the Great Reform Bill by the Whigs in 1832 (a second Reform Bill was passed in 1867 under Disraeli’s Tory leadership as prime minister). While Coningsby looks primarily at political questions, its successor -- Sybil, or the Two Nations -- was concerned with the “condition of England” question and the growing social and economic imbalance between rich and poor that in tje writer's view was hastened (though not begun) by the industrial revolution. Granted that Disraeli was not Dickens or Trollope or Eliot or one of the other giants of British letters in the nineteenth century, it’s a bit unfair to suggest (as some have) that the plots are thin and only there to provide the writer with a podium for setting forth his political and social views. It’s true that Boy Meets Girl, Boy Loses Girl, Boy Gets Girl, but much else happens as well, particularly thanks to the role played by the mysterious figure of the Jewish Sidonia, who in addition to enormous wealth and widespread international connections embodies a kind of wisdom that transcends the mere knowledge acquired by even the best educated Englishmen. Coningsby, himself a product of both Eton and Cambridge, is fortunate enough to be taken under his wing, and intelligent enough to accept his guidance.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .wn prescient sagacity and maturing ambition; were all men gifted with a high spirit of enterprise, and animated by that active fortitude which is the soul of free governments.

It was a lively season, that winter of 1834! What hopes, what fears, and what bets! From the day on which Mr. Hudson was to arrive at Rome to the election of the Speaker, not a contingency that was not the subject of a wager! People sprang up like mushrooms; town suddenly became full. Everybody who had been in office, and everybody who wished to be in office; everybody who had ever had anything, and everybody who ever expected to have anything, were alike visible. All of course by mere accident; one might meet the same men regularly every day for a month, who were only 'passing through town.'

Now was the time for men to come forward who had never despaired of their country. True they had voted for the Reform Bill, but that was to prevent a revolution. And. . . Read More