"Mosaic Arabs": Jews and Gentlemen in Disraeli's Young England Trilogy

By Schweller, Russell | Shofar, Winter 2006 | Go to article overview

"Mosaic Arabs": Jews and Gentlemen in Disraeli's Young England Trilogy


Schweller, Russell, Shofar


Though converted to Christianity at an early age, Benjamin Disraeli, the popular novelist and prime minister under Queen Victoria, was outspokenly philosemitic. Fueled by contemporary ethnology and race theories, Disraeli argued that the Jews were a superior, "aristocratic" race destined to become the spiritual and intellectual guide for modern Europe. Enabling such claims was Disraeli's skillful manipulation of Orientalist discourse, whereby he routinely reversed its stereotypical privileging of West over East. Following the example of Thackeray's "Codlingsby," however, this essay argues that Disraeli's "strategy of reversals" ultimately failed because it did not adequately comprehend traditional Western associations and meanings of "aristocracy," a fundamental misunderstanding that, for Disraeli's political enemies and critics, exposed him yet again as foreigner, Oriental, and Jew.

"All is race; there is no other truth,"1 declares Sidonia to a gathering of Young England aristocrats in a well-known passage from Disraeli's Tancred, or The New Crusade (1847). The idea that race embodies the central truths of human existence because, as Sidonia suggests, it "includes all others"2 was hardly original or unique to Disraeli. Indeed, only a few years after the publication of Tancred, the British anatomist Dr. Robert Knox would echo Disraeli's "All is race" in his pseudo-scientific The Races of Men (1850), where he claimed that "race or hereditary descent is everything; it stamps the man."3 Such ethnological "truisms" were increasingly commonplace by the mid-nineteenth century, a testimony to the growing prominence of racial science in both public and professional spheres of Victorian discourse.4 So widespread and approved were these racial orthodoxies that, in the 1870 General Preface to his collected novels, Disraeli could nonchalantly refer to the "influence of race on human action" as the "universally recognized . . . key of history."5 Nevertheless, what distinguished Disraeli's racial beliefs from more conventional theories of race was their candid, often brazen assertion of Jewish superiority.

Converted to Christianity at the age of twelve - an event that permitted him legally to take his seat in Parliament upon his fifth attempt at office in 1837-Disraeli remained deeply committed to his Jewish origins and identity throughout his career. His novels, letters, and political writings consistently endorsed Jewish culture, while as leader of the Opposition his public support of Jewish Emancipation in 1847 openly contradicted the views of his own Tory party. In addition, against an increasingly Teutonic version of English history, Disraeli argued that Judaism formed the spiritual and intellectual basis for English laws, customs, and institutions, bringing civilization to the West and paving the way for its present wealth and prosperity.6 Thus Sidonia, the central Jewish character of the Young England trilogy and Disraeli's fictional alter ego, can tell the aspiring politician Coningsby that "at this moment, in spite of centuries . . . of degradation, the Jewish mind exercises a vast influence on the affairs of Europe; I speak not of their laws, which you still obey; of their literature, with which your minds are saturated; but of the living Hebrew intellect."7

Sidonia, who appears in both Coningsby (1844) and Tancred (1847), is generally regarded as Disraeli's most memorable literary creation. It was through Sidonia that Disraeli would forge his Hebraic identity and articulate his belief in the superiority of the Jews. Modeled partly on the Rothschilds and partly on Disraeli himself, Sidonia is an idealized, almost superhuman version of the entrepreneurial Jew: a highly cultivated, cosmopolitan banker who heads an international finance network that secretly funds and influences all the major countries of Europe. Like Disraeli, who, as leader of the short-lived but much remembered Young England party, acted as political mentor to an exclusive coterie of aspiring young aristocrats (among them, Lord John Manners and George Smythe), Sidonia assumes the role of Lord Coningsby's intellectual guide and surrogate father. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

"Mosaic Arabs": Jews and Gentlemen in Disraeli's Young England Trilogy
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.