Biography

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Disraeli enters parliament

In 1837, Benjamin Disraeli became one of the MPs for Maidstone. The other MP was Wyndham Lewis: Disraeli married Lewis' widow, Mary Anne, in August 1839.

Taken from Lord Beaconsfield’s Correspondence with his Sister, 1832-1852, (ed. Ralph Disraeli :John Murray, 1886).


November 15, 1837

I took my seat this morning. I went down to the House with Wyndham Lewis at two o’clock, and found it very full, the members standing in groups and chatting. About three o’clock there was a cry of ‘Order! Order!’ all took their seats (myself on the second bench, behind Sir Robert Peel)... Then Abercromby, who looked like an old laundress, mumbled and moaned some dulness, and was then carried to the chair, and said a little more, amid a faint cheer. To me of course the scene was exciting enough, but none could share my feelings, except new members. Peel was a great deal at the Carlton yesterday. He welcomed me very warmly, and all noticed his cordial demeanour. He looks very well, and asked me to join a small dinner at the Carlton on Thursday.

November 21, 1837

Yesterday, after being obliged to go down to the House at eleven, to ensure a house for members to swear, I went to a great meeting at Peel’s. There must have been 300 members. Peel addressed, full of spirit, and apparently eager for action. Thence again to the House, where we were summoned to the Lords at two o’clock. The rush was terrific; Abercromby himself nearly thrown down and trampled upon, and his mace-bearer banging the members’ heads with his gorgeous weapon, and cracking skulls with impunity. I was fortunate enough to escape, however, and also to ensure an entry. It was a magnificent spectacle. The Queen looked admirably, no feathers but a diamond tiara.

From the Lords I escaped, almost at the hazard of our lives, with Mahon, who is now most cordial, and we at length succeeded in gaining the Carlton, having several times been obliged to call upon the police and Military to protect us as we attempted to break the line, but the moment the magical words ‘Member of Parliament’ were uttered all the authorities came to our assistance, all gave way, and we passed everywhere. You never saw two such figures, our hats crushed and covered with mud, and the mobocracy envying us our privileges, calling out ‘Jim Crow’ as we stalked through the envious files.

I went down, after refitting at the Carlton, for about half an hour, during which I tried to scribble to you. The seat I succeeded in securing behind Peel I intend if possible to appropriate to myself... I then left the House at ten o’clock, none of us having dined. The tumult and excitement great. I dined, or rather supped, at the Carlton with a large party off oysters, Guinness, and broiled bones, and got to bed at half-past twelve o’clock. Thus ended the most remarkable day hitherto of my life.

Disraeli's Maiden Speech, 7 December 1837

from Hansard, 1838

Nothing was so easy as to laugh. He wished before he sat down to show the House clearly their position... He would certainly gladly hear a cheer even though it came from the lips of a political opponent. He was not at all surprised at the reception which he had experienced. He had begun several times many things, and he had often succeeded at last. He would sit down now, but the time would come when they would hear him.

***

It is particularly deserving of mention that even Sir Robert Peel, who very rarely cheers any honourable gentleman, not even the most able and accomplished speakers of his own party greeted Mr. D’Israeli’s speech with a prodigality of applause, which must have been severely trying to the worthy baronet’s lungs. Mr. D’Israeli spoke from the second row of benches immediately opposite the Speaker’s chair. Sir Robert, as usual, sat on the first row of benches, a little to the left of Mr. D’Israeli, and so exceedingly anxious was the right honourable baronet to encourage the débutant to proceed, that he repeatedly turned round his head, and, looking the youthful orator in the face, cheered him in the most stentorian tones...

At one time, in consequence of the extraordinary interruptions he met with, Mr. D’Israeli intimated his willingness to resume his seat, if the House wished him to do so. He proceeded, however, for a short time longer, but was still assailed by groans and under-growls in all their varieties; the uproar, indeed, often became so great as completely to drown his voice. The exhibition altogether was a most extraordinary one.

Mr. D’Israeli’s appearance and manner were very singular. His dress also was peculiar: it had much of a theatrical aspect. His black hair was long and flowing, and he had a most ample crop of it.

from James Grant, The British Senate in 1838 (London, 1838) .


James Abercromby, later Lord Dunfermline (1776 1858), Speaker of the House of Commons from 1835 to 1839. [back]

Jim Crow a well-known London street-clown, who dressed in rags but pretended to be’a member of fashionable society. He died in a workhouse in 1851. [back]


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