cover image Disraeli: 2a Biography

Disraeli: 2a Biography

Stanley Weintraub. Dutton Books, $30 (736pp) ISBN 978-0-525-93668-8

Perceived by his well-born contemporaries as an outsider and discriminated against as a Jew, despite his Anglican conversion at age 12, Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881) could not escape his origins, so ``he made the most of them, with an authentic pride,'' notes the author in this magisterial, exhaustively researched biography. More than any other biographer, Weintraub ( Victoria ) makes us see the relentless anti-Semitism Disraeli faced, as well as the Conservative prime minister's strong identification with his Jewish roots (he spoke passionately about ``restoring the Jews to their own land''). Using Disraeli's novels as a mirror of events, Weintraub ably charts his metamorphosis from heavily indebted dandy to caustically witty politician, favorite of Queen Victoria, domestic reformer and architect of British imperial policy. One chapter is devoted to tantalizing new circumstantial evidence that Disraeli, while married, may have fathered two illegitimate children by two different women. Illustrated. (Oct.)