1832 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Isaac D'Israeli

William Maginn, "Gallery of Literary Characters: Israel D'Israeli, Esq." Fraser's Magazine 5 (April 1832) 321.



Opposite, in easy chair, sits Israel D'Israeli, one of the patriarchs of the author tribe. His name indicates the nation from which he has sprung, but there is nothing else Jewish — in the ill sense of the word, we mean — about him. That he is imbued with some of the spirit of the most recondite Jewish literature, is evident by many an indication, vocal to the intelligent, scattered throughout his amusing works.

We mean not the slightest offence by this reference to Mr. D'Israeli's original race; but we cannot help remarking it as a curiosity in literature, that among all the writers of the present day there is none who has so thoroughly imbibed the English feeling of affectionate regard for our history, even in its most minute branches, whether literary or political, or is so deeply impressed with a reverent love for all the great institutions of our country, as the gentleman before us. No Tory Doctor of Oxford is a warmer champion of the good old cause — not Anthony Wood himself a more unwearied searcher into the history of our literature. This we cannot help thinking a highly honourable trait. It was curious enough to perceive, in his late controversy with Lord Nugent, a descendant of the Grenvilles and Temples arraying himself with the enemies of Church and King, and a Hebrew of the Hebrews, whose ancestors, in the days of the great struggle against both, were wanderers over the earth, and would certainly have been rejected with marked indignation by the cavaliers and high churchmen of the days of Charles, raising his pen in zealous defence of the martyr. It is very unnecessary to say to those who have observed the works of Lord Nugent and Mr. D'Israeli on which side of the controversy the victory has rested.

D'Israeli has almost wholly escaped the two miseries which have formed the subject of his most amusing works. He has not mixed in the quarrels, nor has he been involved in the calamities of authors. His course has been prosperous and quiet, from agreeable youth to respectable old age. His future biographer will not have any materials to found "interesting anecdotes" upon, which is beyond question one of the pleasantest things that can be said of any man. His literary melanges will always be referred to as the most curious collections of anecdotical lore ever brought together, and his historical and political compositions justly regarded as works in which the trivial traditions of gossip, which have generally passed current as history not to be contradicted, and been invested with all the pomp of sonorous periods, or the ornaments of graceful diction, are exposed to a searching scrutiny, supported by the most multifarious reading and indefatigable consultation of authentic documents. Our acknowledged Toryism does not draw from us this panegyric. If we were to write on the same subjects as those which have occupied the pen of Mr. D'Israeli, it is highly probable that we should differ in many instances from his conclusions upon characters and events; for our propensities are by no means so strongly biased towards the house of Stuart. We are more of the mind of old Daniel Burgess (we believe, or some other celebrated punster of his time), who observed that the Scriptures themselves were against the party of King James, because although the original name of the founder of the chosen nation was Jacob, yet was the nation called after his adopted title Israel. They were called Israelites, said Dan, because the Lord would not allow them to be called Jacobites. One, at least, of the descendants of Jacob, we find, does not believe in the correctness of this comment.

We hope that the "blanda senectus" of Mr. D'Israeli may yet be employed in those agreeable labours for which his reading and information so admirably fit him. And when he at last retires from the scene, as we all must do, will he not leave an heir behind him, even Benjamin the son of his right hand, who with the pen of a ready writer inditeth tales and novels, greatly by the

—Spinsters in the sun,
And the free maids—

admired and extolled? By the way, it is not entirely off the chances that we may, in this gorgeous Gallery of ours, exhibit the figure and countenance of the author of Vivian Grey, with a brief biography. In the mean time we bid his father adieu, with every demonstration of respect. Peace be with him!