MR. DISRAELI IN CORDUROYS.
MR. DISRAELI has found his double, his intellectual double, and strange to say has found him among the wearers of corduroy. It is difficult to conceive of intellectual tendencies more opposed to each other than those of average English work- men and the honourable member for Bucks,—they so over earnest, and he so devoid of convictions; they so sensitive to criticism and he so impassive to attack ; they so dreamily confident that Utopia might be reached would men but strive hard enough to reach it, he so trustful in mere cleverness applied to the exigency of the hour; they so reliant on combination, ha so convinced that the world is only moved by the intrigues of individuals. There is one workman, however, an engine-fitter of Kent, whose mind exactly agrees with that of the acute and unscrupulous leader of Opposition. Whether he has been led by the accident of his
name to fashion himself on Mr. Disraeli's model, or only possesses an accidentally similar mind, Mr. Coningsby, workman of Penge, is the very double of Mr. Disraeli, schemer of Hughen- don Manor, and of him in the Coningsby stage, when he tried to build up a party by historical criticism, and in- spire belief in himself by showing that he was without a creed. There is the same assumption of superiority to prejudices, the same contempt for " ideas " as compared with intellectual toler- ance of ideas, the same profound inability to comprehend that other
men may be in earnest, or indeed to comprehend Englishmen at all, the same use of knowledge not to convince but only to strike, even the same belief that smart sentences, whether they convey a truth or only a sarcasm, will nevertheless have their effect. We do not know whether Mr. Coningsby has quite the same audacity,
whether, for instance, he would copy from Cobbett a brilliant panegyric on the old monasteries,—telling how every county had
once its " Chatsworth for the poor,"—and stick that into a social novel as a new thought and his own, but if he did we doubt not he
would assume while perpetrating that small theft Mr. Disraeli's air of high intellectual calm. The resemblance of style is wonderful, the only difference being a slight extra tinge of copper in the brum- magera of which both are composed. " Oar sickly children," writes Mr. Coningsby, quoting from some Liberal newspaper, " tell us they want reform,—I think they want physic?' The sentence is no repartee, the meaning of his opponent's remark being plainly that workmen if represented would insist on sanitary laws, but it sounds like sharp sarcasm, having the very ring of Mr. Disraeli's epigrams, suggesting like them the pungent smell which arises when acid is thrown upon a metal. Could there be a more delicious repro- duction of Mr. Disraeli's style than this paragraph in which every- thing, even sense, is sacrificed to an antithesis which is to true point what lacquer is to gold ? " Yes, we do want reform, but it is as individuals ; we do want the franchise, but it is to vote for our own emancipation from ignorant leaders. We demand a reduction of expenditure—in public-houses ; an educational vote, which shall enable us to bring forth our own ideas without the intervention of blundering political midwives; a ballot, which shall shield us from one another's intolerance ; and a further repeal of the paper duties which will release gentlemen connected with the press from the unpleasant necessity of using such strong
language to a working man who presumes to differ from them." How the Herald would exult over that sentence next day, if it bad been uttered in Parliament, and talk of the " brilliant in- , cisivens " of the Tory leader, and try to prove why an educational vote would enable working men to perform their own accouchments, and how a non-existent duty was to be repealed, and why when nothing had abolished nothing, gentlemen of the press would be released from an unpleasant duty, in which it was all the while exulting. Mr. Coningsby has caught even that sub-tone of scorn which belongs to every speaker and critic with Jewish blood in his veins, from Heine to Bernal Osborne, and amidst all his philanthropic sentences leaves the impression .that at heart he scorns the class whom he affects to represent. As was Mr. Disraeli, representative of the landed interest, who wrote -such bitter sarcasms on the class "acred up to their lips, consolled up to their chins," so it is Mr. Coningsby, representative workman, who says that workmen on 30s. a week will scarcely give a drink to workmen on 18s., and that the mass look on the struggle for political power as only "a pleasing excitement" Do not be squeamish about oppression, says Sidonia, " when it is an element in political power." Why do justice, says Mr. Coningsby, if it requires you " to waste your energies on State reform ?"
The similarity between the two men is, however, most strikingly displayed in their ideals. Mr. Disraeli's real ideal, the being he would like to be, is Sidonia, the man with boundless wealth and limitless culture, who knows all languages and has seen all countries, but who takes no part in politics, cares nothing about his fellow-men, " regards women as toys," looks on men with an eye " only to their intellects," and avows that what we call heart ' " is an emotion which disappears as the horizon of our experience `widens." That is Mr. Coningsby's ideal too, the workman with thirty shillings a week, who can read Cicero, and is free of in- tolerance, who " understands the laws and institutions of his country," and who is incessantly striving to acquire every in- tellectual advantage for his individual self, but who cares nothing for politics, does not desire to see his class stronger, defines reform as " after all only an experiment,"—as if any conceivable human action were anything else,—and is perfectly satisfied, having
raised himself, that everybody else should keep where he was,—
for be it noted Mr. Coningsby does not go without the suffrage himself, any more than Sidonia goes without power. The ideal Jew, with all his scorn, lends money to the Romanoffs on condition of internal reforms, and boasts that he sways the English Ministry, and Mr. Disraeli believing nothing, still tries to rule and does lead a great party. So Mr. Coningsby admits :—" Most of the
good people who want a vote can get it, as I did, without agitat- ing for the lowering of the franchise. There are plenty of house-
owners who will be glad of respectable tenants, and houses can be sub-let without loss. There is also a way of getting political influence without taking a house at all. Let a man reform himself, study his " country's laws and constitution," and he will be looked up to by many of his acquaintance who have votes and don't know what to do with them. Let him find agreeable excitement
in directing these forlorn ones, who will trust him implicitly, be- cause • he always was such a one for politics." Is not that a very epitome of Mr. Disraeli's creed? Don't be in earnest, for that is folly, don't strive to raise anybody, for that is waste of energy, but if you want the "agreeable excitement ' of power, then seem to want all these things, get it by
" governing those poor forlorn ones who trust you impli- citly." Be Vivian Grey in a workman's jacket, only, instead of ruling Marquises of Carabas and silly politicians, rule those poor forlorn ones who, believing you in earnest, trust you "implicitly." If Mr. Coningsby does as he advises, lie is but doing what the great Tory orator has been trying to do all his life. And in doing it he will be doing exactly that against which he preaches, namely, striving hard for political power. The struggle for power as a duty, as an obligation which every man capable of wielding it owes to those less capable, Mr. Coningsby rejects ; but the struggle for it as an excitement—that, to men who have " reformed their indivi- dual selves," and can understand Cicero, and fall into rhapsodies about Mozart, and write letters to the Times full of epigram and of heartlessness, is a justifiable expenditure of energy.
Finally, the two men agree exactly on their positive side. Mr. Disraeli, in spite of his contempt for reforms really wanted one, fought for the removal of all political brands from men of the Hebrew faith, was really roused to conviction by his sense of that one injury. So is Mr. Coningeby. He wants the brand removed from the workmen in Government dockyards, "the demoralizing practice of having workmen searched when leaving Government factories," that is the grievance which in his opinion demands reform. Yet surely on his own showing thereie no necessity for any such change. The dockyard workmen do not revolt, do not agitate, do not express any of the desire to be exempted from searching which, as he avows, ought to precede reform. Why should not they be con- tent with individual improvement, with seeing that no one is searched at home, nobody suspected at the club, with turning their minds to charity, and rising to the height whence- they can, doing nothing themselves, influence "poor forlorn ones who trust them implicitly " to agitate against the nuisance ? Not a bit of it. As Mr. Disraeli makes his ideal a Jew under disabilities, yet fought those disabilities with all his might, so Mr. Coningsby, exalting the workmen who will not demand any political reform, himself fights for the one he wants in a great newspaper, and would, we doubt not, were it feasible, put a very strong pressure upon the member for Penge. He professes to represent the Tory workmen, and he does it just as much as his prototype does the Tory land- owners of Great Britain.