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Benjamin Disraeli
by [?]

For love as a passion, or supreme sentiment, ruling one’s life, Disraeli had no sympathy. He shunned love for fear it might bind him hand and foot. Love not only is blind, but love blinds its votary, and Disraeli, knowing this, fled for freedom when the trail grew warm. A man madly in love is led, subdued–imagine Mephisto captured, crying it out on his knees with his head in a woman’s lap!

But Mrs. Austen was happily married, the mother of a family, and occupied a position high in London society.

Marriage with her was out of the question, and scandal and indiscretion equally so–Ben Disraeli felt safe with Mrs. Austen. With her he put off his domino and grew simple and confidential.

And so the lady, doubtless a bit flattered–for she was a woman–set herself to push on the hazard of new fortunes. She encouraged him to write his novel of “Vivian Gray”–discussed every phase of it, read chapter after chapter as they were produced, and by her gentle encouragement and warm sympathy fired the mind of the young man to the point of production.

The book is absurd in plot, and like most first books, flashy and overdrawn. And yet there is a deal of power in it, and the thinly veiled characters were speedily pointed out as living personages. Literary London went agog, and Mrs. Austen fanned the flame by inviting “the set” to her drawing-room to hear the great author read from his amusing work. The best feature of the book, and probably the saving feature, is that the central figure in the plot is Disraeli, himself, and upon his own head the author plays his shafts of wit and ridicule. The impertinence and impudence which he himself manifested were parodied, caricatured and played upon, to the great delight of the uninitiated rabble, who gave themselves much credit for having made a discovery.

The man who scorns, scoffs, gibes and jeers other men, and at the same time is willing to drop his guard and laugh at himself, is not a bad man. Very, very seldom is found a man under thirty who does not take himself and all his wit seriously. But Disraeli, the lawyer’s clerk, at twenty was wise and subtle beyond all men in London Town. Mrs. Austen must have been wise, too, for had she been like most other good women she would have wanted her protege admired, and have rebelled in tears at the thought of placing him in a position where society would serve him up for tittle-tattle. Small men can be laughed down, but great ones, never.

A little American testimony as to the appearance of Disraeli in his manhood may not here be amiss. Says N.P. Willis: “He was sitting in a window looking on Hyde Park, the last rays of sunlight reflected from the gorgeous gold flowers of a splendidly embroidered waistcoat. Patent-leather pumps, a white stick with a black cord and tassel, and a quantity of chains about his neck and pockets, served to make him a conspicuous object. He has one of the most remarkable faces I ever saw. He is lividly pale, and but for the energy of his action and strength of his lungs would seem to be a victim of consumption. His eye is black as Erebus, and has the most mocking, lying-in-wait sort of expression conceivable. His mouth is alive with a kind of working and impatient nervousness, and when he has burst forth, as he does constantly, with a particularly successful cataract of expression, it assumes a curl of triumphant scorn that would be worthy of Mephistopheles. His hair is as extraordinary as his taste in waistcoats. A thick, heavy mass of jet-black ringlets falls on his left cheek almost to his collarless stock, which on the right temple is parted and put away with the smooth carefulness of a girl. The conversation turned on Beckford. I might as well attempt to gather up the foam of the sea as to convey an idea of the extraordinary language in which he clothed his description. He talked like a racehorse approaching the winning-post, every muscle in action.”