Young Disraeli 1804 - 1846

Jane Ridley, Author Crown Publishers $35 (406p) ISBN 978-0-517-58643-3
At the age of 20, future British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881) lost a borrowed fortune speculating in South American mines, and his battles with creditors over the next 20 years, according to British historian Ridley, shaped a personality addicted to political intrigue and dissimulation. Overcome by self-doubt exacerbated by virulent anti-Semitic attacks, the young novelist, dandy, epic poet and journalist suffered a nervous breakdown in 1827-28. But he rebounded, proudly asserted his Jewishness (though baptized a Christian in 1817) and toured the Middle East in 1830-31. Disraeli then developed a theory of Jewish (and Caucasian) racial superiority, stressing his own ancient descent. Ridley maintains that this was his way of compensating for feeling like an outsider. Marrying a rich widow 12 years his senior, Mary Anne Lewis, to help pay off his debts, Disraeli evolved into a devoted husband to his adoring wife. This first half of a planned two-volume biography is a captivating, full-bodied portrayal. Photos not seen by PW. (May)
Reviewed on: 04/03/1995
Release date: 04/01/1995
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