In Endymion, which celebrates Disraeli’s myth of success, he once again propounds his ideas of Jewish racial superiority and secret power, which he formulated in some of his earlier novels (The Wondrous Tale of Alroy, Coningsby, Sibyl and even Lothair). Endymion’s mentor, a foreign aristocrat, Baron Sergius describes with appreciation the effectiveness of the Jewish race.

The Semites are unquestionably a great race, for among the few things in this world which appear to be certain, nothing is more sure than that they invented our alphabet.But the Semites now exercise a vast influence over affairs by their smallest though most peculiar family, the Jews. There is no race gifted with so much tenacity, and such skill in organisation. These qualities have given them an unprecedented hold over property and illimitable credit. As you advance in life, and get experience in affairs, the Jews will cross you everywhere. They have long been stealing into our secret diplomacy, which they have almost appropriated; in another quarter of a century they will claim their share of open government. Well, these are races; men and bodies of men influenced in their conduct by their particular organisation, and which must enter into all the calculations of a statesman. But what do they mean by the Latin race? Language and religion do not make a race — there is only one thing which makes a race, and that is blood. [Chapter LVI]

Baron Sergius argues that Jews are a superior 'aristocratic' race destined to become the spiritual and intellectual guide for modern Europe. Disraeli had long meditated on the question of race before racism emerged. In reaction to the anti-Semitism of the period, he expressed a conviction that race was the key to understand the progress of history. David Cesarani speculated in his last book that Disraeli contributed unintentionally to the construction of an anti-Semitic discourse in the twentieth century, which culminated in the appropriation of Disraeli by the Nazis. Hitler even cited Disraeli in a speech in the Reichstag in 1941: 'The British Jew, Lord Disraeli, once said that the racial problem was the key to world history. We National Socialists have grown up with that idea' (168-69). Cesarani admitted that 'Disraeli could not have foreseen the vector of racial thinking, and he lived in a time of innocence before “race science” was explicitly and deliberately conjoined with discrimination, persecution, population displacement, and genocide' (169). Did Baron Sergius’ opinions reflect Disraeli’s own views? There is no hard proof for it. A characteristic feature of both Disraeli's literary style and his public behaviour was ambivalence. His ambiguous attitude to Jewishness and the Jewish race stemmed from his ambivalent identity of a converted English Jew. He may have shared the belief of many of his contemporaries that race 'was the most important causal force in history and culture, though he also inverted conventional ideas about race and employed these inversions as elements of his self-fashioning and of his continual struggle against anti-Semitism' (Brantlinger quoted in Borgstede 21).

Endymion , Disraeli’s last finished novel, is his nostalgic farewell and a warm tribute to the world of politics and the beau monde of the post Regency and early Victorian London. Disraeli described a great number of public people, statesmen and fashionable ladies from his youth and at the beginning of his political apprenticeship between the 1830s and 1850s. The newspapers in England and America printed keys to the novel so that the public could match its characters with their real-life personages. Endymion reveals much of Disraeli’s long political career as well as his personal life, particularly his almost obsessive desire to change his social and ethnic standing and join the highest spheres of English politics and society.

Related material

References

Blake, Robert. Disraeli. London: Eyre & Spottiswode Publishers, 1967.

Borgstede, Simone Beate. ‘All is Race’: Benjamin Disraeli on Race, Nation and Empire. Münster: LIT Verlag, 2011.

Braun, Thom. Disraeli the Novelist. Abington and New York: Routledge, 2016.

Buckle, George. In succession to W.F. Monypenny.The Life of Benjamin Disraeli, Earl of Beaconsfield. Volume VI. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1920.

Disraeli, Benjamin. Endymion. Project Gutenberg.

Kirsch, Adam. Disraeli. New York: Nextbook and Schocken, 2008.

Kuhn, William M. The Politics of Pleasure: A Portrait of Benjamin Disraeli. London: Simon & Schuster UK Ltd, 2006.

O’Kell, Robert. Disraeli: The Romance of Politics. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2013.

Merritt, James D.. ‘The Novelist St. Barbe in Disraeli’s Endymion: Revenge on Whom?’ Nineteenth-Century Fiction 23 (1968): 85-88.

Pearson, Hesketh. Dizzy: The Life & Personality of Benjamin Disraeli Earl of Beaconsfield. New York: Harper, 1951.


Last modified 12 February 2018