DISRAELI by Sarah Bradford

DISRAELI

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KIRKUS REVIEW

At the outset, Bradford makes appropriate reference to Robert Blake's ""magisterial"" (1966) life of Disraeli, proposes to ""explore his inner life,"" and avers that pertinent material has recently come to light. The most obvious reason, however, for this workaday popularization--Bradford is a biographer of Cesare Borgia (1976) and Princess Grace (forthcoming)--is the forbidding heft of Blake's volume. Actually, with its smaller type and close-set lines, this is not as much shorter as it appears; and it's not nearly as cleanly and crisply readable. (""It seems always to have been hard for [Disraeli] to realize the effect some of his actions had upon others,"" writes Bradford--as against Blake's: ""Disraeli was curiously insensitive about his effect upon others."") Interpretively, Blake was the great conservative historian who squarely faced the personal shortcomings and political inconsistencies of the great conservative prime minister. Bradford, for her part, tut-tuts. We hear about Disraeli the flashy, upstart Jew opposing the solid, bourgeois Whigs who snub him. (He also lacks Whiggish sensitivity to ""human tragedy."") Opportunistically, he creates the ""myth"" of Young England--the 1840s movement of aristocratic youths, centering on a revived feudalism, which Disraeli briefly envisioned as a regenerating alliance between upper and lower classes (and then, pragmatically, abandoned). None of this, then, is altogether out-of-whack--just on the crude side. (The chapter about Disraeli and his turfman-colleague Lord Derby is entitled ""The Jew and the Jockey."") Bradford does indeed have some previously unpublished material on Disraeli's youthful imbroglios (the celebrated amours, the financial embarrassments) and on his domestic tribulations--arising from strains between silly, adoring, older wife Mary Anne and D.'s lifelong confidante, sister Sarah. Her coup is to have disinterred a letter suggesting that Disraeli may not always have been faithful to Mary Anne, as believed. The book has a gossipy vitality, though, and will have carryover readers from the PBS TV series--which, however, did better by Disraeli.

Pub Date: April 15th, 1983
Publisher: Stein & Day