Lot 8
  • 8

Disraeli, Benjamin.

20,000 - 30,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Fine series of sixteen long autograph letters to his family, signed with initials (and "your most affect. brother"; "your most affec. son", etc), being Disraeli's letters home during his Grand Tour of the Mediterranean in the years 1830 and 1831

to his father Isaac D'Israeli, his sister Sarah, his brother Ralph Disraeli and his mother (apparently his only significant surviving letter to her), describing his journey through the Mediterranean as an experience of renewal and rebirth after his disillusionment with his literary career in England, reporting his travels through Spanish bandit country, describing the beauties of Gibraltar, Cadiz and Seville, especially the Spanish ladies he meets  ("...Figaro is in every street, & Rosina on every balcony"...), reporting his experiences in Malta (including smoking a Turkish pipe),  revelling in the exoticism of Albania and Greece, drinking with the Bey at Yanina (an important 14-page letter, also describing depredations of war), his encounters with consular officials, the Turkish Grand Vizier, Austrian diplomats, commenting on the death of George IV, responding to news of the Reform Bill, which gives him hope of a seat in Parliament, and reporting the illness of Meredith to his sister Sarah

85 pages, folio and 4to, closely written, including on the autograph address-leaves, postmarks, some red seals, each bifolio mounted at the edge on a guard , with a few typescripts, engraved and other portraits, and engraved views (Geza, Carnac, Tentyra etc), Falmouth, Gibraltar, Cadiz, Seville, Grenada, Malta, Corfu, Prevesa, Athens, Constantinople, Alexandria and Cairo, 1 June 1830- 28 May 1831, some loss to 2 letters (one supplied in a contemporary transcript by the author's brother Ralph, the other evidently defective), a few seal-tears and repairs; with Ralph Disraeli's extra-illustrated copy of his edition of these letters (Home Letters, 1885), the two uniformly bound in nineteenth-century morocco gilt

[together with;] Disraeli's passport (issued at Gibraltar, 5 July 1830, for 12 months), made out to Disraeli, William Meredith ("J. Medrith") and one servant, with contemporary stamps and manuscript endorsements documenting their travels in Spain, and 8 autograph letters of condolence by Sarah and Isaac D'Israeli to Georgiana, sister of William Meredith (1831)

Catalogue Note

"...It is in vain that I attempt to convey to you all that I saw and felt in this wondrous week.  To lionize and be a lion at the same time is a hard fate...How shall I convey to you an idea of all the Pachas, and all the Agahs, and all the Selictars, whom I visited, and who visited me; all the coffee I sipped, all the pipes I smoked, all the sweetmeats I devoured?...I forgot to tell you that with the united assistance of my English, Spanish and fancy wardrobe, I sported a costume in Yanina which produced a most extraordinary effect on that costume-loving people. A great many Turks called on purpose to see it, but the little Greek physician who had passed a year at Pisa in his youth, nearly smoked me. "Questo vestito Inglese o di fantasia?" he aptly asked. I ocularly replied, "Inglese e fantastico"..."

Disraeli is perhaps the most attractive and entertaining figure in Victorian political life, a man of many parts, novelist and twice prime minister, unusually (for an Victorian) cosmopolitan and wide-ranging in his artistic interests and cultural sensibilities. This is major series of letters shows the burgeoning of many of these enduring character-traits, and forms a crucial point in the young Disraeli's personal development. His Grand Tour to the East of 1830 & 1831, for which these letters are a principal source, lifted him from the depression caused by his financial troubles and by the many literary disappointments suffered during the previous five years, and were a crucial preparation for the decades of public service that were to follow.

Disraeli's experiences of the Turkish courts, in particular, revived and enthused him with a cosmopolitan love of the exotic and the oriental;  and here he revels in the colourful splendour of his surroundings, the architecture and paintings he saw, the beautiful and sultry women, the mysterious intrigues of court politics, cementing his rejection of bourgeois and puritanical British moralism, and even providing the source for passages in his novels (much of the long letter to his mother from Granada, only published much later, is reused in Contarini Fleming (1832))Disraeli was accompanied on his travels by his sister Sarah's fiancé William Meredith, Meredith's friend James Clay and a servant.  He reports Meredith's illness in a letter to Sarah from Cairo, where her beloved was soon to die from smallpox.