The Argument and Significance of Disraeli’s Last Novels
Disraeli’s final novels, Lothair (1870) and Endymion (1880), are generally consigned to oblivion or treated as footnotes to his later years as a political figure. Not only has their merit been ignored, but their importance to students of Disraeli and the Victorian era has been underestimated.1 Lothair is Disraeli’s last effort to cope with the pluralism and dubiety which was becoming so much a part of Victorian life in the late 1860s, while his final novel Endymion is an elder statesman’s nostalgic reminiscence of what seemed the less complex period of his youth. The Reform Bill of 1867 with its extension of the franchise, the Hyde Park demonstrations in favour of extending the franchise, the insurrection and brutal suppression in Jamaica in 1865, and the subsequent trial of the British Governor of that colony, the financial crisis of 1866, the controversy over Irish Disestablishment, and the concomitant disturbances about Irish matters, all made the 1860s a particularly turbulent period. As Ian Gregor has noted, the ‘uneasiness, so general a characteristic of these years’, found expression not only in Arnold’s Culture and Anarchy, but in Bagehot’s The English Constitution, Marx’s Das Kapital and Carlyle’s Shooting Niagara: And After?.2
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- 2.Ian Gregor, Introduction to Culture and Anarchy (New York and Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1971), p. xxxiv.Google Scholar
- 11.Lionel Trilling, Mathew Arnold (New York: Norton, 1939; reissued Meredian Press, 1955), p. 24f.Google Scholar
- 18.James D. Merritt, ‘The Novelist St. Barbe in Disraeli’s Endymion: Revenge on Whom?’ Nineteenth-Century Fiction, 23 (1968), 85–8. Merritt argues that St. Barbe satirises Carlyle as well as Thackeray.Google Scholar
- 21.Gertrude Himmelfarb, Victorian Minds (New York: Alfreda Knopf, 1968), p. 35–7.Google Scholar