Disraeli: The Romance of Politics

Disraeli: The Romance of Politics

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By Robert O’Kell
University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division © 2013
World Rights
622 Pages
ISBN 9781442627062
Published Jun 2014
Online discount: 30%
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ISBN 9781442644595
Published Jan 2013
Online discount: 30%
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ebook (EPUB format)
ISBN 9781442661042
Published Jan 2014
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When we think of Benjamin Disraeli (1804–81), one of two images inevitably first springs to mind: either Disraeli the two-time prime minister of Britain, or Disraeli the author of major novels such as Coningsby, Sybil, and Endymion. But were these two sides of his persona entirely separate? After all, the recurring fantasy structures in Disraeli’s fictions bear a striking similarity to the imaginative ways in which he shaped his political career.

Disraeli: The Romance of Politics provides a remarkable biographical portrait of Disraeli as both a statesman and a storyteller. Drawing extensively on Disraeli’s published letters and speeches, as well as on archival sources in the United Kingdom, Robert O’Kell illuminates the intimate, symbiotic relationship between his fiction and his politics. His investigation shines new light on all of Disraeli’s novels, his two governments, his imperialism, and his handling of the Irish Church Disestablishment Crisis of 1868 and the Eastern Question in the 1870s.

Robert O’Kell is Professor of English, and Dean Emeritus of the Faculty of Arts, at the University of Manitoba.




1. The Representative Affair

2. The Byronic Legacy

3. Virtues and Vanities

4. Henrietta: A Love Story

5. What Is He? The Crisis Examined

6. Prejudice

7. Vindication

8. “The Arts of a Designing Person”: Disraeli, Peel, and Young England / Coningsby; or the New Generation

9. Sir Robert Peel and the Apotheosis of Young England

10. Sybil; Two Nations, or One?: Disraeli’s Allegorical Romance

11. The Corn Law Debate of 1846 and the Politics of Protection

12. Tancred: Principles, Expediency and Trust

13. Leadership

14. On Top of the Greasy Pole: The Disestablishment Crisis of 1868 

15. Lothair: The Politics of Love, Faith and Duty

16. “The Family Romance”: Politics, Power and Love in Disraeli’s Endymion

17. The Faery Queen, the “Arch Villain,” and “the Mephistopheles of Statesmanship”

18. The Conquering Hero / Falconet



Disraeli: The Romance of Politics casts new light on the complex interrelationship of Disraeli’s political career to his novels and controversial psychology. Robert O’Kell’s knowledge of Disraeli’s life, fictional works, and politics is eminently sound, and his use of primary materials and secondary sources evinces a long-standing familiarity with Disraeli and his milieu. This is altogether original and exemplary scholarship, written in fluid, jargon-free prose that is a pleasure to read.’

Michel Pharand, Director, The Disraeli Project, Queen’s University

‘Disraeli: The Romance of Politics examines how, without inherited privilege in an aristocratic establishment, Benjamin Disraeli immersed himself in fiction and in fact in the heady atmosphere of national politics, and contrary to the realities of birth, prejudice, and class, realized his extravagant fantasies.  Robert O’Kell convincingly evokes, through Disraeli’s writings, the complete outsider whom his envious enemies called “the Mephistopheles of statesmanship.”’

Stanley Weintraub, author of Disraeli: A Biography

‘Highly recommended.’

E.J. Jenkins, Choice Magazine, vol 51:02:2013

“O’Kell is at his most innovative when he reads Disraeli’s explicitly political writing against the imaginative backdrop of the novels. […] The result of this layered reading is that Disraeli’s career in fact appears more plausible as its disparate elements are yoked together in an account which incorporates the different tones of his voice.”

Daisy Hay, Times Literary Supplement, September 20, 2013