He was close to his sister, and on affectionate but more distant terms with his surviving brothers. Turner stood as godfather when Benjamin was baptised, aged twelve, on 31 July Britain in the early-nineteenth century was not a greatly anti-Semitic society, and there had been Members of Parliament MPs from Jewish families since Samson Gideon in But until , MPs were required to take the oath of allegiance "on the true faith of a Christian", necessitating at least nominal conversion.

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In this novel Disraeli blends politics with religion when he fantasises about replacing the Ottoman Empire by British rule in Asia. These ideological subtexts make up a complex psychological, religious and political utopia. At the outset of the novel, dismayed by the materialism and lack of spirituality of contemporary British society, Tancred, refuses to run for Parliament because he does not believe it has real power.

A Parliamentary career, that old superstition of the eighteenth century, was important when there were no other sources of power and fame. An aristocracy at the head of a people whom they had plundered of their means of education, required some cultivated tribunal whose sympathy might stimulate their intelligence and satisfy their vanity.

Parliament was never so great as when they debated with closed doors. The public opinion, of which they never dreamed, has superseded the rhetorical club of our great-grandfathers. They know this well enough, and try to maintain their unnecessary position by affecting the character of men of business, but amateur men of business are very costly conveniences. In this age it is not Parliament that does the real work. It does not govern Ireland, for example.

If the manufacturers want to change a tariff, they form a commercial league, and they effect their purpose. It is the same with the abolition of slavery, and all our great revolutions. Parliament has become as really insignificant as for two centuries it has kept the monarch []. Tancred, who is an embodiment of Disraeli himself, sees Parliament as ineffective, oligarchical, and corrupt because it is controlled by coteries, factions, and interest groups than cannot solve great social problems.

How can they? Disraeli also regrets that the Monarch has been robbed of her prerogative. Seeing his nation and its institutions in disarray, Tancred decides to go to the Holy Land to discover a spiritual dimension of the East that could rescue England from utilitarianism and materialism.

Religious and racial discourse provide perhaps the most conspicuous subjects of the novel. Disraeli had a problem with his dual national identity as an Englishman and a Jew. In contrast, he characterises northern races, including Anglo-Saxons, by their spiritless materialism and practicality.

Following this theory, Disraeli pointed to a surprising affinity between the English and the Jews, and in Coningsby, Sidonia, goes further and equals Jews with Tories However, Tancred regrets that the Anglican clergy do not govern the people, as they did in medieval times. Earlier in Coningsby, Disraeli argues that the medieval system of parishes provided the foundation for the political system in England. In Tancred, he reconfirms this view, propounding his neo-feudal doctrine that England can be regenerated if the Anglican Church becomes again the spiritual foundation of the State.

Disraeli also reveals his Orientalist bias and fascination with Eastern mysticism and spirituality when he asserts that England can revive if it expands to the East. He argues that the institutions and laws of English society, as well as those of Europe, are based on Semitic principles.

Inspired by such premises, Tancred schemes to reinvigorate England through imperial expansion and unite the East and the West under British patronage. Fakredeen and Tancred talk about the new empire which could emerge after the collapse of Ottoman rule. When Fakredeen presents to Tancred a surprising proposal that Queen Victoria should move her capital to India , Disraeli reveals his full imperial dream as well as his true political intentions: Let the Queen of the English collect a great fleet, let her stow away all her treasure, bullion, gold plate, and precious arms; be accompanied by all her court and chief people, and transfer the seat of her empire from London to Delhi.

There she will find an immense empire ready made, a first-rate army, and a large revenue. In the meantime I will arrange with Mehemet Ali. He shall have Bagdad and Mesopotamia, and pour the Bedouin cavalry into Persia.

I will take care of Syria and Asia Minor. The only way to manage the Afghans is by Persia and by the Arabs. We will acknowledge the Empress of India as our suzerain, and secure for her the Levantine coast. If she like, she shall have Alexandria as she now has Malta: it could be arranged. Your Queen is young; she has an avenir. On Mt. Why art thou silent? Why no longer do the messages of thy renovating will descend on earth? Faith fades and duty dies.

A profound melancholy has fallen on the spirit of man. The priest doubts, the monarch cannot rule, the multitude moans and toils, and calls in its frenzy upon unknown gods. If this transfigured mount may not again behold Thee; if not again, upon thy sacred Syrian plains, Divinity may teach and solace men; if prophets may not rise again to herald hope; at least, of all the starry messengers that guard thy throne, let one appear, to save thy creatures from a terrible despair!

It was decreed that, when they burst from their wild woods, the Arabian principles should meet them on the threshold of the old world to guide and to civilise them. All had been prepared. He could have derived this idea from the theocratic state of the ancient Israelites, who had acknowledged the direct rule of God.

The monarch, who is also the Head of the Established Church, should assume the position of a leader best qualified to interpret the word of God and enforce it upon the whole empire. Instantly, the traditional British imperial idea is turned on its head. Tancred contemplates organising an army with the help of Fakredeen in Arabia to conquer the Ottoman Empire and also to reinstate the true religion of God of Sinai and Calvary in Europe.

This observation seems very plausible because Disraeli had an exquisite sense of irony and a talent for self-parody. Thus the overarching theme of Tancred is the utopian dream of blending East and West in a new civilisation founded on Judeo-Christian principles. Tancred, who rejects the secular achievements of the European Enlightenment, turns to Eastern mysticism for the spiritual rebirth of the West.

The law of the God of Sinai and Calvary must lay the foundation of such an imperial, multinational civilisation which unites various races and cultures.

In other words, Disraeli, in a veiled way, calls for the expansion of the British sphere of influence or simply colonisation of the East by the British, and definitely not the incursion of the Semitic peoples to Europe. However, the imperial dream is unresolved because it has an unsatisfying ending in the novel.

In the finale, Tancred does not marry Eva because his parents arrive in Jerusalem unexpectedly and take him back home to England. In fact, Disraeli as a politician supported the idea that the British colonies should become self-governing.

He also cleverly used the imperial idea to promote the Conservative Party and himself. Undoubtedly, he saw in imperial policy a way of promoting his popularity among new voters from the working class, and in foreign affairs he always sought above all to maintain the position of Britain as an imperial power, which gained him approval by both the Queen and the general public. Disraeli was overwhelmed by ambition, but he cleverly separated his political activity, which was highly pragmatic, from his idealistic literary musings.

References Blake, Robert. Brantlinger, Patrick. Rule of Darkness: British Literature and Imperialism, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, Disraeli, Benjamin. Sybil or, the Two Nations. London: Henry Colburn, London and Edinburgh, Tancred, or the New Crusade. London and Edinburgh: R. Brimley Johnson, Glassman, Bernard. Kirsch, Adam. New York: Nextbook and Schocken, Parrinder, Patrick. Oxford: Oxford University Press, Stephen, Leslie. Hours in a Library.

Second Series [].


Benjamin Disraeli

Together with Coningsby and Sybil it forms a sequence sometimes called the Young England trilogy. It shares a number of characters with the earlier novels, but unlike them is concerned less with the political and social condition of England than with a religious and even mystical theme: the question of how Judaism and Christianity are to be reconciled, and the Church reborn as a progressive force. Dissatisfied with his life in fashionable London circles, he instead leaves his parents and retraces the steps of his Crusader ancestors to the Holy Land , hoping there to "penetrate the great Asian mystery" [2] and understand the roots of Christianity. He meets the beautiful Eva, daughter of a Jewish financier, and becomes involved in the political machinations of her foster-brother, the brilliant Fakredeen, a Lebanese emir. He then has a vision of an angel who tells him he must be the prophet of "the sublime and solacing doctrine of theocratic equality", [3] a concept which Disraeli leaves somewhat hazy. Tancred falls ill, and is released at the instigation of Eva, who nurses him back to health. She teaches him about the glories of Mediterranean civilization and the debt that Christianity owes to Judaism.



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