Disraeli: The Romance of Politics

Disraeli: The Romance of Politics

Weight 0.00 lbs
By Robert O’Kell
University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division © 2013
World Rights
624 Pages 17 Images
ISBN 9781442627062
Published Jun 2014
Online discount: 25%
 $44.95    $33.71
ISBN 9781442644595
Published Jan 2013
Online discount: 25%
 $97.00    $72.75
ebook (EPUB format)
ISBN 9781442661042
Published Jan 2014
Online discount: 24%
Full purchase $44.95

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

‘This truly interdisciplinary study illuminates the way that drama and narrative art infuse the practice of nineteenth-century politics.’

Jane Stabler, SEL Studies vol 55:04:2015

“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

‘Disraeli: The Romance of Politics is the most thorough study to date of the relationship between Disraeli’s political and literary careers… O’Kell’s book, already thorough and valuable, may yet come to acquire additional relevance, by highlighting the circuitous nature of routes to political power, and the tenacity of the adventurer.’

Michael Flavin, Canadian Journal of History vol 49: autumn 2014

‘O’Kell has brought a remarkably fresh perspective to Disraeli’s career… It is certainly a book that should stand as an example of how a genuinely cross-disciplinary approach to Victorian Studies in general, and ‘the dynamics of political culture’ in particular, can enliven the most studied of nineteenth-century topics.’

I. Cawood, The English Historical Review; September 2014

‘The literary life of Benjamin Disraeli is the most important book to be published on this intriguing figure in at least a decade… For the Victorianist, O’Kell’s magnum opus is an exemplar of interdisciplinary methodology and offers a refreshing re-interpretation of Disraeli’s political life and literary works.’

Rosemary Mitchell, Journal of Victorian Culture, 19 June 2015

‘Thoughtful, lucid, well-researched book… O'Kell throws new, important, and interesting light on $rdquo;The Chief$rduo;’.

Richard Aldous, Review19, August 2015

O’Kell’s study is a fascinating and compelling portrait of one of Victorian Britain’s most colourful figures… A book that is certain to set a precedent for years to come.’

David G. Reagles, Victorian Periodicals vol 48:02:2015

‘Robert O’Kell’s Disraeli: The Romance of Politics is a brilliant original book that illuminates Benjamin Disraeli’s mind and temperament as no previous work has managed.; it threatens many other Disraeli biographies seem superficial.’

Frederick Schweitzer, Victorian Studies vol 57:01:2014