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Scenes from an extraordinary life:

A Bodleian Library exhibition
marking the bicentenary of

Benjamin Disraeli


Dates: 4 December 2003 - 1 May 2004
Venue: Bodleian Library Exhibition Room

portrait of Disraeli

Detail from Benjamin Disraeli,
Earl of Beaconsfield (1804-81)
by Robert Muller (active 1872-83)
after Heinrich von Angeli (1846-1925).
Reproduced by permission of Hughenden Manor
(The Disraeli Collection)
© The National trust

The exhibition Scenes from an Extraordinary Life focuses on some of the key stepping stones in Disraeli's long and fascinating life. The exhibition draws mainly on Disraeli's private papers held in the Library on deposit from the National Trust, the owners of Hughenden Manor, Disraeli's Buckinghamshire home, and additional material lent by the John Murray Archive and three private collectors.

A complex and controversial figure, Disraeli ascended the ‘Greasy Pole’ to become Conservative Prime Minister in 1868 and again between 1874 and 1880. En route he had split the Conservatives by spearheading the defeat of Sir Robert Peel over the repeal of the corn laws, practically invented the role of Leader of the Opposition in the House of Commons in the 1850s, set in process the modernisation of the Conservative party's organisation, served three times as Chancellor of the Exchequer, piloted the 1867 Reform Bill through the Commons and pursued an imperialist foreign policy. Born into the Jewish faith and later baptised, he had to contend with the marked antisemitism of the times.

Among the items on display are the ‘Mutilated Diary’ begun in 1826 and continued between 1833-7; personal letters from Lady Sykes (d. 1846), (the inspiration for the novel Henrietta Temple), and his wife, Mary Anne Disraeli (d. 1872); political letters from several of the key figures of the day, including Lord Derby (1799-1869), Disraeli's predecessor as Conservative Prime Minister and Lord Salisbury (1830-1903), Disraeli's successor; political cartoons from the John Johnson collection of printed ephemera; photographic images of several of the portraits in Disraeli's ‘Gallery of Affection’; and the fan signed by the delegates of the Congress of Berlin in 1878.

There is an illustrated publication to accompany the exhibition: Benjamin Disraeli, Earl of Beaconsfield (1804-81), scenes from an extraordinary life, published by the Bodleian Library and Cambridge University Press, (£25). The book is available in the Bodleian Library Shop. For mail orders, please cite the code BK1135. Contact Bodleian Library Sales for additional shipping charges:
Bodleian Library Sales
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG
Tel. +44 (0)1865 277091
Fax. +44 (0)1865 277137

Disraeli LecturesImages from the exhibition

Links to related sites

The National Trust
National Register of Archives
British Library
The Disraeli Project
The Rothschild Research Forum

Last Modified: 02 December 2003 by LwM