Douglas Hurd and Edward Young - Disraeli - Orion Publishing Group
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    • ISBN:9780753828328
    • Publication date:13 Mar 2014
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    • ISBN:9780297860983
    • Publication date:11 Jul 2013


By Douglas Hurd and Edward Young

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A reappraisal of the life of the most celebrated and colourful 19th-century politician.

Benjamin Disraeli was the most gifted parliamentarian of the nineteenth century. A superb orator, writer and wit, he twice rose to become Prime Minister, dazzling many with his famous epigrams along the way.

But how much do we really know about the man behind the words? How did this bankrupt Jewish school dropout and trashy novelist reach the top of the Victorian Conservative Party? And why does his reputation continue to have such a hold over British politics today?

In this engaging reassessment, Douglas Hurd and Edward Young explore the paradoxes at the centre of Disraeli's 'two lives': a dandy and gambler on the one hand, a devoted servant and favourite Prime Minister of the Queen on the other. A passionately ambitious politician, he intrigued and manoeuvred with unmatched skill to get to - in his own words - 'the top of the greasy pole', but he also developed a set of ideas to which he was devoted. His political achievements are never quite what they seem: he despised the idea of a more classless society, he never used the phrase 'One Nation', and although he passed the Second Reform Act he was no believer in democracy.

By stripping away the many myths which surround his career, Douglas Hurd and Edward Young bring alive the true genius of Disraeli in this wonderfully entertaining exploration of his life.

Biographical Notes

Former diplomat and MP from 1974 to 1997, Douglas Hurd served Margaret Thatcher as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, as Home Secretary and as Foreign Secretary. He is the author of a highly acclaimed biography of Robert Peel, as well as a number of thrillers and his autobiography. He lives in Oxfordshire and London.

Edward Young gained a first-class degree in history from Clare College, Cambridge, and studied international relations with a Mellon Scholarship at Yale University. He has worked as a speechwriter for David Cameron and as Chief of Staff to the Conservative Party Chairman. He currently works at Brunswick Group LLP. Disraeli is Edward's third book in collaboration with Douglas Hurd. He lives in London.

  • Other details

  • ISBN: 9780297860976
  • Publication date: 11 Jul 2013
  • Page count: 320
Twice a prime minister and a dazzling parliamentarian, Disraeli was actually motivated by fame and was barely a democrat, according to this fascinating character study. — BIG ISSUE IN THE NORTH
superb and sometimes hilarious... It is a piece of calculated and deft iconoclasm, and so intoxicating that you will find yourself snorting it up in one go, as I did, with great pleasure... I ended the book reverencing Disraeli even more than when I began it — THE MAIL ON SUNDAY - Boris Johnson
this gripping, succinct and lethal book... is simply and beautifully written and always entertaining — THE TIMES - Matthew Parris
As Douglas Hurd and Edward Young point out in their splendidly written, finely judged and thoroughly persuasive book, a vast chasm yawned between the real Disraeli and his posthumous reinvention...There are plenty of books on Disraeli, and Hurd and Young are frank and generous in acknowledging their debts. What distinguishes their volume, however, is its accessibility and clear-sightedness. — THE SUNDAY TIMES - Dominic Sandbrook
The book is more a study in character - of the swift reactions of a volatile, opportunistic and irresponsible egotist to changing circumstances - than a staid political narrative. As a result, Disraeli: Or the Two Lives is full of unexpected jolts and paradoxes. It proves an unflagging pleasure to read - unexpectedly so for those who dislike the politics of the authors or their subject... Hurd, as a long-serving ex-cabinet minister, and Young, the former Westminster backroom boy, have imbued their astute and sparky book with rich political craft — THE GUARDIAN - Richard Davenport-Hines
Not only, they tell us in this vigorously debunking romp through [Disraeli's] political life, did he never use the phrases 'One Nation' or 'Tory Democracy', he was actively hostile to the concepts that they are now understood to represent....This is an invigorating account, bracingly cynical and told with commanding ease - at least one of these authors has been around the political block a bit - and a lovely dry turn of phrase — THE SPECTATOR - Sam Leith
[Disraeli] remains the wonderfully entertaining political magician of legend, full of dazzling wit and tactical audacity, adored and distrusted in equal measure. Where Douglas Hurd and Edward Young succeed is in the beautiful style of writing, the pace of their narrative and their ability to condense complex political problems. Their enjoyment shines through, whether it be a lively analysis of Disraeli's early, rather flowery, novels or a gripping account of his achievement in pushing the 1867 Reform Bill through Parliament — DAILY EXPRESS - Leo McKinstry
what Disraeli did accomplish was to make politics exciting. In an age when there were no film or TV celebrities to compete, he spoke out with a hugely impressive command of language. People liked that... What the Conservatives - or for that matter the other parties - need is a new Disraeli. Not for his ideas but for his charisma — DAILY MAIL - Peter Lewis
a concise but balanced assessment, full of bracing comment on a man who "was always less interested in other people than he was in himself" — NEW STATESMAN - Michael Prodger
splendidly readable — FINANCIAL TIMES - Antonia Fraser
a delightful-albeit disillusioning-little biography...Messrs Hurd and Young have written a discerning character study of a proud, over-feted man. Readers are sure to come away disabused, if charmed by Disraeli's wit — THE ECONOMIST
Douglas Hurd and Edward Young have written a wonderful reassessment of the great politician and showman in which they explore the paradoxes at the centre of his character, and how his exotic personality and ability to dazzle his contemporaries overcame his lack of principles, indebtedness and disloyalty — TOTAL POLITICS
In this punchy and sparkling book, Douglas Hurd, one-time Conservative Foreign Secretary, and Edward Young skewer the myths that have grown up around Disraeli... Part biography, part polemic, this is an engaging, original and enjoyable book — THE TABLET - Jane Ridley
in this highly absorbing biography...Hurd and Young ably chart Disraeli's two lives - the reality and the fantasy. They show how this supreme egoist regularly cast principle aside, only to achieve grand political reform; how, far from inventing the ideas of "one nation" and "Tory democracy", he in fact disdained them; and how his seducer's flattery, wit and personal myth-making led to a political cult which persists to this day. It is a gripping read — PROSPECT - Jesse Norman
less a biography than an unashamedly partisan, elegant and invigorating account of Disraeli the Tory. Hurd and Young navigate their way nimbly through the contours of Disraeli's life but are less concerned with exploring that story than with probing the contradictions in Disraeli's character, his role in the political landscape of the 19th century and his strange posthumous reshapings... They give a vivid sense of the drama and muddle of parliamentary business in the mid-19th century... Disraeli or, The Two Lives has romance and enthusiasm in spades and as a result succeeds triumphantly — LITERARY REVIEW - Daisy Hay
There is something lubriciously intriguing about the biography of a Victorian statesman subtitled "The Two Lives"...Hurd and Young are masterful in delineating the limited scale of Disraeli's actual achievements - they do so with dry wit, an ear and eye for telling detail and an elegant, economical, prose style. Yet they are even better when it comes to explaining Disraeli's one great real - and lasting - triumph, the second life of the subtitle. Disraeli succeeded - and succeeds still - in his construction of a mythic life - for himself, his party and his nation...the memory of what Disraeli conjured up still captivates. He gave all who study and practise politics a vivid lesson in how to move men's and women's hearts, through dash, romance and - above all - courage...with men and women of all kinds and classes putting aside narrow calculations of advantage in the interests of committing themselves to a struggle that history will remember as a fight for grace, nobility and virtue. — STANDPOINT - Michael Gove
Benjamin Disraeli remains the most colourful politician in English history... the book is well researched and written with the calm authority which was Hurd's hallmark when he was a minister — THE OLDIE - Roy Hattersley
Former Cabinet Minister Douglas Hurd and Edward Young strip away many of the myths surrounding one of the greatest Conservative Prime Ministers in Disraeli, which also amounts to a critique of the superficiality and shallowness of today's politics. — CHOICE
In their brilliant new biography of the famous Conservative hero, Douglas Hurd and Edward Young - two fine Tories differing widely in age but writing in perfect unity - show that...far from championing "one nation", Disraeli explicitly repudiated it...Douglas Hurd and Edward Young trace the rise - from bankruptcy to relative affluence, from youthful folly to serenity, from sexual adventure to uxoriousness - in under 300 pages, without a dull sentence. Disraeli triumphed over all his misfortunes, they conclude, because he believed that "imagination and courage are the indispensable components of political greatness for an individual or a nation". That is the essential message of the life that the immortal Dizzy actually led described so memorably here — THE HOUSE MAGAZINE - Lord Lexden, Conservative Peer and the party's official historian
notably well written, even thrilling at times — NEW STATESMAN - Peter Clarke
extensively researched...the authors make good use of the ongoing edition of Disraeli's letters — TLS
A highly enjoyable and thought-provoking book that convincingly makes the case that the real Disraeli is more extraordinary than the myth — IRISH TIMES - Richard Aldous
This is not the most comprehensive biography of Disraeli ever written, but it must be one of the most intelligent....As a colourful and convincing portrait of this notoriously slippery character it does the job brilliantly...Disraeli once derided the self-righteous Gladstone by claiming, "He does not possess a single redeeming defect." Nobody who reads this excellent book will ever lay the same charge at Dizzy's door — SUNDAY BUSINESS POST - Andrew Lynch
Pacey, readable and short, this is a study of an all-purpose Tory that yet invites you to reconsider... we are asked to stand back, think again and think straight about a man who was undeniably a bounder, but (shocking thought) perhaps little more. Only from the authors' imaginative and sympathetic study of the young Benjamin's formative years are we left loving him better. This may be read as an exceptionally respectful stiletto between the shoulder blades: not just of Dizzy but of a Tory folklore starved of loftier heroes. Augurs well for Boris — THE SPECTATOR (Books of the Year) - Matthew Parris
"One Nation" is a phrase that today's politicians like to conjure with but what would Disraeli, the original One Nation statesman, make of it? As Hurd and co make clear in this well-written history he never used the phrase. In fact, in this demolition of the Disraelian myth, we learn that this Victorian serial PM was a content-free zone, a flip-flopper, a shameless self-promoter, a jingoist, egomaniac. But still, what flair, charm and political savvy. — THE TIMES (Books of the Year: History) - Robbie Millen
Elegantly written — NURSING STANDARD
This well-written and taut book by Douglas Hurd and Edward Young represents a digestible read — PENNANT

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