A Pure and Perfect Love
"We have returned to unspeakable sorrow," Benjamin Disraeli wrote to his friend Lady Frances Anne Castlereagh, Marchioness of Londonderry, on 12 December 1859, "to the bedside of my only sister, our nearest and dearest relative, who is soon, most unexpectedly, and suddenly, to be lost to us.""She was a person of great intelligence and charm," he continued, "one of those persons who are the soul of a house and the angelic spirit of a family."1 Fate, he lamented, never permitted Sarah to attain the same distinguished position in Britain's intellectual community as Mary Lamb and Dorothy Wordsworth. Yet in her own circumscribed way, his beloved companion exercised just as much influence as they upon a more famous brother. If Sarah's life story lacked the great drama of these two other women, it was ultimately more representative than theirs of the struggle for self-expression facing the gifted but often overshadowed female child in nineteenth-century British society.
Sarah Disraeli, like Mary Lamb, was a native of London. She was born on 29 December 1802, at No. 6 King's Road (now No. 22 Theobald Street), about a fifteen-minute walk north of where the Lambs were then living in the Middle Temple. 2 This area, generally known today as Bloomsbury, could boast an almost equally important reputation as its neighbor in British history. The complex of centuries-old legal buildings abutting Sarah's house -- Gray's Inn -- once contained the living quarters of such part-time law students as Dr. Samuel Johnson, Oliver Goldsmith, Sir Philip Sidney, and Sir John Suckling. The front windows of Sarah's room looked out upon Gray's Inn Garden, one of London's most fashionable promenades and the inspiration for Sir Francis Bacon's famous essay On Gardens. Among its frequent strollers could be numbered Sir Walter Raleigh, Oliver Cromwell, Samuel Pepys, and Joseph Addison. Two catalpa trees, which stood at either end of the main walkway until