Comageby, or the New Generation. By B. Disraeli, Esq., M.P.. Author of
.• coutarini Fleming." In three volumes Cuthers.
Geology ; a Poem, in Seven Books. By the Rev. John Selby Watson, B. A.
CONINGSBY, OR THE NEW GENERATION. ACCORDING to its author, the "general object" of Coningsby is "to scatter some suggestions that may tend to elevate the tone of public life, ascertain the true character of political parties, and in- duce us for the future more carefully to distinguish between facts and phrases, realities and phantoms." Testing the work by the author's acknowledged design, we may say that he has succeeded better in the "phrases" and " phantoms " than in the more solid objects. This remark, however, like Mr. DISRAELeS annunciation, is too general to be very distinctly intelligible. Coningsby is a fiction of four parts,—personal, political, philosophical, and fashionable; the hero serving as a kind of connecting link to unite these sec- tions, as well as to introduce a little love, and romance in the way of sentiment. The personal portion consists of Coningsby's grandfather, the Marquis of Monmouth,—designed to represent the late Lord Hertford ; Mr. Rigby, the Marquis's man, and "exe- cutor,"—whom the reader will have little difficulty in recognizing though he may neither have read one of the dozen notices in the Times nor heard a syllable about the book in the gossip of society ; and there are passing introductions of Theodore Hook, under the name of Lucian Gay. The political phases embrace a critical sketch of public affairs at their different crises, from the opening of the tale in the Interregnum-week of 1832, when Lord Grey resigned on the second obstruction of the Reform Bill by the Peers, until the dis- solution of the last Melbourne Parliament, when Coningsby is re- turned in opposition to Mr. Rigby. The philosophy handles every- thing, from the Caucasian races,—the purity of the Hebrew blood, a remote immigration of the Jews into Spain, and the British Con- stitution with its " Estates,"— down to the necessity of a hot plate at dinner ; which last strikes us as being the most satisfac- torily-discussed question in the book. In these sections Coningsby only mingles incidentally and by the by, though bearing a greater part in the philosophical talk than in the politics or personality. In the fashion he plays first fiddle ; in the love, " first and only "; Whilst the sentiment emanates from the author in his own cha- racter.
Coningsby is of course the hero of the narrative, inasmuch as it could not advance without him. It opens with the boy at Eton, Etat. fourteen ; where he becomes the darling of the school, and lays the foundation of " Young England." A few years later, be mingles in three phases of social existence,—most respectably- fashionable at the Duke of Beaumanoir's, (a blarney-like and in- deed rather a buttery sketch of the house of Rutland); energetic and utilitarian among the mills of Manchester ; and splendidly Sybaritic at the mansion of his grandfather the Marquis. Coningsby then goes to Cambridge, and studies ; not, however, confining him- self to the routine mathematics and languages of the place, but pondering over the destinies and characters of man and communi- ties, including the sad deficiencies of the Conservative politicians, and their forgetfulness of the "Estates of the realm." He pays his grandfather a visit at Paris, to permit a description of French society ; and falls in love with Edith Millbatik, the daughter of a Manchester manufacturer, whose brother's life he had saved at Eton, and who is one of the sprouting heroes of Young England. Mysterious opposition from the heads of both families cause diffi- culties, which we shall not pursue ; and, partly by means of his love, partly through high-principled political opposition to his grand- father, Coningsby is cut off with a slender annuity : but in the end things are brought round ; and the work closes with Coningsby married, an M.P., and on the start to become a political Messiah.
BVLWEE used to be accused of making his hero a representative of himself; but one hero will not suffice for DISRAELI the Younger. He must have two, to represent the two great branches of the Caucasian race—the Northmen, and the Arabs or Hebrews ; and, with the trifling exception of some Mahometans, the two great creeds of the world. Coningsby is the Christian ; Sidonia is the Jew—a sort of Rothschild junior in heroics. His father was a Spanish grandee ; who, like many other Spaniards, according to our author, secretly maintained the Mosaic creed, in despite of the arts and power of the Inquisition. Emigrating from Spain, Sidonia's father and brothers made an immense fortune ; and the hero is left as rich as Crceaus, mover of cabinets, controller of kings, and a won- derful genius to boot. This hero of the Hebrews completely overrides the hero of Young England; uttering much finer "phrases," rais- ing more extraordinary " phantoms," and vanquishing the uncircum- cised whenever they contend,—though the highest effort in the way of action is a steeple-chase. Of course the characteristic traits of the writer and his brace of heroes do not always run parallel. Mr. Coningsby is very young, Mr. Sidonia is very rich; though the lat- ter personage eats eggs and bacon, he is of " that faith that the Apostles professed before they followed their Master," and was probably subjected to the rite that baptism has superseded. On the other hand, Sidonia has travelled, and in Palestine; he seems to nourish, like an eccentric M. P. of the present Parliament, some ideas respecting the gathering together of the chosen people; and Surely these (in his own estimation) are
TRAITS OF "THE COMING MAN."
Nis talk we fla vivacious u if the talker had been stimulated by the juices
of the finest banquet. Coningsby Lad never met or read of any one like this chance-companion. His sentences were so short, his language so racy, his
voice rang so clear, his elocution was so complete. On all subjects his mind seemed to be instructed, and his opinions formed. He flung out a result in a few words ; be solved with a PHRASE some deep problem that men muse over for years. He said many things that were strange, yet they immediately appeared to be true. Then, without the slightest air of pretension or parade, be seemed to know everybody as well as everything. Monarchs, statesmen, authors, ad-
venturers of all descriptions and of all climes—if their names occurred in their
conversation, he described them in an epigrammatic sentence, or revealed their precise position, character, calibre, by a curt dramatic trait. All this, too, without any excitement of manner ; on the contrary, with repose amounting almost to nonchalance. If his address had a fault in it, it was rather a de- ficiency of earnestness. A slight spirit of mockery played over his speech even when you deemed him moat serious ; you were startled by his sudden transi- tions from profound thought to poignant sarcasm. A very singular freedom from passion and prejudice on every topic on which they treated might be some
compensation for this want of earnestness. '
What Coningshy determined to conquer was knowledge. He had watched the influence of Sidonia in society with an eye of unceasing vigilance. Co- ningsby perceived that all yielded to him ; that Lord Monmouth even, who seemed to respect none, gave place to his intelligence; appealed to him, listened to him, was guided by him. What was the secret of this influence?—know- ledge. On all subjects his views were prompt and clear, and this not more from his native sagacity and reach of view than from the aggregate of facts which rose to guide his judgment and illustrate his meaning, from all countries and all ages, instantly at his command.
IIEBISEW ASCENDANCY. SIDONIA LOoulTUR ; CONINGSBY LISTENING.
" A few years back we were applied to by Russia. Now there has been no friendship between the Court of St. Petersburg and my family. It has Dutch connexions which have generally supplied it ; and our representations in favour
of the Polish Hebrews, a numerous race, but the most suffering and degraded of all ibe tribes, has not been very agreeable to the Czar. However, circum-
stances drew to an approximation between the Romanoffs and the Sidoniaa. I resolved to go myself to St. Petersburg. I had on my arrival an interview with the Russian Minister of Finance, Count Cancrin : I beheld the son of a
Lithuanian Jew. The loan was connected with the affairs of Spain ; I re- solved on repairing to Spain from Russia. I travelled without intermission. I had an audience immediately on my arrival with the Spanish Minister, Senor Mendizabel : I beheld one like myself, the son of a Nuovo Christians?, a Jew of Arragon. In consequence of what transpired at Madrid, I went straight to Paris, to consult the President of the French Council: I beheld the son of a French Jew, a hero, an Imperial Marshal—and very properly so, for who should be military heroes if not those who worship the Lord of Hosts?"
" And is Soult a Hebrew? "
" Yes, and several of the French Marshals, and the most famous; Maslen*, for example—his real name was Manasseh : but to my anecdote. The conse- quence of our consultations was, that some Northern power should be applied
to in a friendly and mediative capacity. We fixed on Prussia, and the Presi- dent of the Council made an application to the Prussian Minister, who at- tended a few days after our conference. Count Arnim entered the cabinet, and I beheld a Prussian Jew. So you see, my dear Coningsby, that the world is governed by very different personages to what is imagined by those who are not behind the scenes."
It is clear there wants but a Mordecai to displace our English Tiernan, and the world would be on the high-road to the New Jerusalem.
The fashionable sketches of Coningsby are clever, but they have no novelty beyond that which arises from the idiosyncracy of the author; for BULWER, Mrs. GORE, and several other writers, have presented similar scenes ; and perhaps, like the talk of Young England at Eton, they are not of much intrinsic attraction. The personal sections have more interest ; and though part of this may be factitious, and would be diminished to readers caring nothing. for the presumed originals, yet we still think they are
done with great felicity and art. The Marquis is a sort of beau ideal of the late Lord Hertford : the professional gamester and the abandoned profligate are sunk, and the features of his closing years are changed to avoid their disgusting and Caprman nature. He is
present in Coningsby as the magnificent Sybarite ; attentive to his own interests and his own ease, and ready to sacrifice anybody who
interferes with them ; but, like the Devil, "good-tempered when he's pleased." This character, together with his high and princely manner, and his hard, dry style, seem quite as characteristic of the
Duke of Queensberry as the Marquis of Hertford. It is probable that Mr. DISRAELI has been as much indebted to the Selwyn Cor- respondence as to his own observation for the leading conception of the man.
Mr. Rigby, though very clever, is a coarser and far inferior por- trait. The features of the original have been truly seized, but they are somewhat exaggerated. Yet withal the portrait is not perhaps
so very harsh ; because, as in the case of the Marquis, Mr. DIS- RAELS conventional ideas of morals induce him to think ink many
things scarcely blameable which people less fashionably gifted may deetn the worst part of the character. Still, there is a great deal of point and verisimilitude as long as the author is describing or nar- rating, but he is less successful when he exhibits Rigby dramatic- ally—acting or talking. Lucian Gay is described severely, but shown tenderly ; and there are several other persons—as Lord Esk- dale—admirably drawn, and less perhaps belonging to the fashion- able than the personal.
Judging by the space he occupies and the affairs in which be is ever mingled, Rigby is the hero of the book after Coningsby and Sidonia ; and here is his first appearance-
" He who uttered these words was a man of middle size and age, originally, in all probability, of a spare habit, but now a little inclined to corpulency. Baldness, perhaps, contributed to the spiritual expression of a brow, which was, however, essentially intellectual, and gave some character of openness to a coun- tenance which, though not ill-favoured, was unhappily stamped by a sinister character that was not to be mistaken. His manner was easy, but rather au- dacious than well-bred. Indeed, while a visage which might otherwise be described as handsome was spoilt by a dishonest glance, so a demeanour that was by no means deficient in self-possession and facility was tainted by an innate vulgarity, which in the long run, though seldom, yet surely developed
itself. • • •
"Mr. Rigby was a Member for ooe of Lord Monmouth's bcrittgla. Ile was the manager of Lord Monmouth's Parliamentary influence, sad the auditor of -his vast estates. He was more; be was Lord Monmouth's companion when in England, his correspondent when abroad—hardly his counsellor, for Lord Mon- mouth never required advice; but Mr. Rigby could instruct him in matters of detail, which Mr. Rigby made amusing. Rigby was not a professional man : indeed, his origin, education, early pursuits, and studies, were equally obscure : but be bad contrived in good time to squeeze himself into Parliament, by means which no one could ever comprehend, and then set up to be a perfect man of business. The world took him at his word ; for he was bold, acute, and voluble, with no thought, but a good deal of desultory information ; and though destitute of all imagination and noble sentiment, was blessed with a vigorous, mendacious fancy, fruitful in small expedients, and never happier than when devising shifts 'for great men's scrapes. "They say that all of us have one chance in this life, and so it was with Rigby. After a struggle of many years, after a long series of the usual alter- natives of small successes and small failures, after a few cleverish speecheb and a good many cleverish pamphlets—with a considerable reputation, indeed, for pasquinades, moat of which he never a rate, and articles in reviews to which it was whispered be had contributed—Rigby, who had already intrigued himself into a subordinate office, met wiih Lord Monmouth.
" He was just the animal that Lord Monmouth wanted, for Lord Monmouth always looked upon human nature with the callous eye of a jockey. He sur- veyed Rigby, and he determined to buy him. He bought him, with his clear bead, his indefatigable industry, his audacious tongue, and his ready and un- scrupulous pen ; with all his dates, all his lampoons. all his private memoirs, and all his political intrigues. It was a good purchase. Rigby became a great personage, and Lord Monmouth's man."
MR. RICEY.S FUNCTION.
What a great man wag the Right Honourable Nicholls Rigby ! Here was one of the first Peers of England, and one of the finest ladies in London, both waiting with equal anxiety his return to town : and unable to transact two affairs of vast importance, yet wholly unconnected, without his interposition ! What was the secret of the influence of this man, confided in by everybody, trusted by none ? His councils were not deep, his expedients were not felicitous ; be had no feeling, and he could create no sympathy. It is that in most of' the transactions of life there is some portion which no one cares to accomplish, and which everybody wishes to be achieved. This was always the portion of Mr. Rigby. In the eye of the world he had constantly the appear- ance of being mixed up with high dealings, and negotiations and arrangements of fine management ; whereas in truth,—notwithstanding his splendid livery and the airs he gave himself in the servants' hall—his real business in life had ever been, to do the dirty work.
The lady who sent for him was Lady Monmouth, the step- daughter of an Italian Princess, with whom Lord Montnouth had previously a tender friendship. On the death of her husband, she had expected to become the Marchioness ; but the Marquis had otherwise determined, and Rigby was employed to manage the affair.
MR. RIGHT.S OFFICE.
About half an hour after Mr. Rigby had entered that lady's 'apartments, it seemed that all the bells of Monmouth House were ringing at the same time. The sound even reached the Marquis in his luxurious recess; who immediately took a pinch of snuff and ordered his valet to lock the door of the ante-cham- ber. The Princess Lucretia, too, heard the sounds : she was lying on a sofa in her boudoir. reading the Inferno ; and immediately mustered her garrison in the form of a French maid, and gave directions that no one should be admitted. Both the Marquis and his intended bride felt that a crisis was at baud, and re- solved to participate in no scenes.
The ringing ceased; there was again silence. Then there was another ring; a very short, hasty, and violent pull, followed by some slamming of doors. The servants, who were all on the alert, and bad advantages of hearing and observation denied to their secluded master, caught a glimpse of Mr. Rigby -endeavouring gently to draw back into her apartments Madame Colonua, furious amid his deprecatory exclamations. • Then the lady, with a mantling visage and flashing eye, violently closing the door, was again lost to their sight. A few minutes after, there was a more -moderate ring ; and Mr. Rigby coming out of the apartments, with his cravat a little out of order, as if he had bad a violent shaking, met the servant who
-would have entered. • •
Mr. Rigby reported that evening to the Marquis, on his return, that all was arranged and tranquil. Perhaps he exaggerated the difficulties, to increase the service; but according to his account they were very considerable. It required some time to make Madame Colonna comprehend the nature of his communi- cation. All Rigby's diplomatic skill was expended in the gradual develop- ment. When it was once fairly put before her, the effect was appalling. That was the first great ringing of bells. Rigby softened a little what be bad per- sonally endured; but he confessed she sprang at him like a tigress baulked of her prey, and poured forth on him a volume of epithets, many of which Rigby really deserved. But after all, in the present instance, he was not treacherous, only base, which he always was. Then she fell into a passion of tears, and vowed frequently that she was not weeping for herself, but only for that dear Mr. Coningsby, who had been treated so infamously and robbed of Lucretia, and whose heart she knew must break. It seemed that Rigby stemmed the hest violence of her emotion by mysterious intimations of an important com- munication that he had to make; and piquing her curiosity, he calmed her passion. But really having nothing to say, he was nearly involved in fresh dangers. He took refuge in the affectation of great agitation, which prevented exposition. The lady then insisted on her travelling•carriage being ordered and packed, as she was determined to set out for Rome that afternoon. This little occurrence gave Rigby some few minutes to collect himself; at the end of which he made the Princess several announcements of intended arrangements, all of which pleased her mightily, though they were so inconsistent with each other, that if she had not been a woman in a passion, she must have detected that Rigby was lying. He assured her almost in the same breath, that she was never to be separated from them, and that she was to have any establish- assent in any country she liked. He talked wildly of equipages, diamonds, shawls, opera-boxes; and while her mind was bewildered with these dazzling objects, he with intrepid gravity consulted her as to the exact amount she would like to have apportioned, independent of her general revenue, for the purposes of charity.
In point of utility or purpose, the political narrative of the past in Coningsby is poor enough ; for Mr. DISRAELI can neither announce a definite principle nor point out any thing that might have been done. The sum and substance is, that the Duke of Wellington is no politician, Peel a dubious one, and that DISRAELI the Younger could have saved the cause of Toryism by some occult means. The faultfinding is clever. The estimate of the Percival and Liverpool Administrations, the sketches of the Reform-Bill Waverers, and the official drudges Tadpole and Taper, are smart, sharp, and cha- racteristic. His valuation of the present Conservative party is most bitter : Peel he only damns with faint praise,—seemingly .deterred from attack by a gentle rubbing-down the Premier gave him in Parliament : but of the Whigs he speaks rather leniently— they have a principle; and thus favourably of Lord John Russell.
" Lord John Russell has that degree of imagination which, though evinced rather in sentiment than expression, still enables him to generalize from the details of his reading and experience ; and to take those comprehensive views, which, however easily depreciated by ordinary men in an age of routine, are indispensable to a statesman in the conjunctures in which we live. He under- stands, therefore, his position ; and he has the moral intrepidity which prompts him ever to dare that which his intellect assures him is politic. He is, consequently, at the same time sagacious and bold in council. As an administrator, he is prompt and indefatigable. He is not a na- tural orator; and labours under physical deficiencies which even a Demosthenic impulse could scarcely overcome. But be is experienced in debate ; quick in reply, fertile in resource ; takes large views; and frequently compensates for a dry and hesitating manner by the expression of those noble truths that flash across the fumy, and rise spontaneously to the lip, of men of poetic tempera- ment when addressing popular assemblies. If we add to this a private life of dignified repute, the accidents of his birth and rank, which never can be severed from the man—the scion of a great historic family, and born as it were to the hereditary service of the state—it is difficult to ascertain at what period, or under what circumstances, the Whig party have ever possessed, or could obtain, a more efficient leader."
The writing of Coningsby is good throughout, and frequently rises to as much excellence as the author's school of rhetoric ad- mits. As a fashionable novel it may take place in the first line; as a personal and political fiction it may rank among the first ; and it is not disfigured by the flippancy and coxcombry which tainted Mr. DISRAELfS earlier tales. But to claim for Coningsby the character of a representative of " Young England," or even an exponent of the views of that party, seems to us ridiculous. The thing is impossible, and cannot be. Theologians tell us that if the souls of the wicked were even admitted into heaven they would not be comfortable there : with their habits of mind and ideas of enjoyment, the ministrations and pleasures of the blessed would not only not yield them happiness, but they would not be able to conceive how such things could be happiness at all. In this world, where we sadly want Ithuriel's spear to detect false shapes by its touch of celestial temper, accident or motives frequently bring men into company fur which they are as little fit as the damned for beatitude, and where they proceed much in the same way as the unhappy soul in the wrong place ; taking a part in all that is going on, but without relishing, or indeed fully comprehending anything, be- yond the dead letter of their ride, and ever liable to leave undone or overdo, especially when prompted by vanity or interest to " launch out." The essential property of Young England is human sympa- thy : they can overlook the prejudices of country, creed, and even caste, to heartily greet the fellow-creature and try to serve him. This quality gives to some of them a critical acumen which we do not think they possess from nature—at least they only exercise it on the subject of human character; it distinguishes them from all previous political sects, who have looked to party, not to mankind; and it is this quality which gives them their political power and -rank, in despite of the paucity of their numbers, the mediocrity of their abilities, and the zeal without knowledge which sometimes dashes their proceedings. But of this quality Mr. DISRAELI has not a particle. He can quote glibly enough, "Homo sum," and so forth; he could write a fine large theme upon those words as a text ; but he cannot enter into the motto of Young England. All the social evils or abuses in which the poor are at once the actors and the victims, might for him have remained disregarded and standing as a necessity of life. Even now, that others have brought them into staring relief, he cannot feel them. They are to him as the " letter that killeth." He can make them a subject fur turning phrases or raising phantoms ; but, like angelic hymns performed by vocalists from another region, natural ability and technical skill only serve more fully to develop the want of the one thing needful. Many of the great social questions of the day are omitted in Coningsby ; those which are handled exhibit the declamations of a rhetorician or the theories of a schemer. He would remedy the New Poor-law by an " Estate of the Peasantry "; he would relieve the distress of the agricultural labourers by a distribution of alms twice a week at the "great house," duly announced by the ringing of bells ; in the present breaking-up of mere parties, and the necessary caution which the transition-state imposes upon men, be sees reason for making the Crown absolute, checking it by opinion ; and he would intrust the function of taxation " to some power [lucid ex- planation i] that would employ it more discreetly than in creating our present amount of debt and in establishing our present system of imposts," [Vol. III. page 103]; whilst, though he talks about the Universal Church, he can, in despite of his junction of Jew and Gentile, only leave it to Providence.