'The Political Cheap-Jack'
Cartoon No.4 in The Earl of Beaconsfield K.G. Cartoon's from "Punch", 1843-1878 (London, 1878)
At the General Election of 1847, Disraeli was elected MP for his "beloved and beechy Bucks" (Disraeli to Isaac D'Israeli, 1 July 1830, cited by Roland Quinault, 'Disraeli and Buckinghamshire', in Helen Langley (ed), Benjamin Disraeli: Scenes from an Extraordinary Life (Oxford: Bodleian Library, 2003), p. 35). His close personal attachment to Buckinghamshire began during the late 1820s. Due partly to his failing health, the Disraeli family resettled in the Chiltern hills - Isaac renting Hyde House, near Amersham before acquiring the lease on the Bradenham manor estate in 1829 (see Item 18). Although his early parliamentary career placed Disraeli in Maidstone (1837-41) and Shrewsbury (1841-7), he spent the annual recess in 'quarantine' on the estate - 'amongst the woods and turfy wilderness of this dear county' (Disraeli to Lord John Manners, 19 September 1846, Ibid., p. 36). Later in life Disraeli described being returned for Bucks as 'the event of my public life which has given me the greatest satisfaction' (Disraeli to Francis Espinasse, 27 March 1860, Ibid., p. 37, quoting H.M. Swartz & M. Swartz, Disraeli's Reminiscences (London, 1975), p. 148). Despite his lack of property (Hughenden was not purchased until 1848), the opportunity to stand had been made possible by the withdrawal of Richard Grenville, the second Duke of Buckingham and Chandos (1797-1861), whose lavish lifestyle had seen him declared bankrupt. Chandos was a pivotal figure in the development of Disraeli's political career. Making his acquaintance through an election agent, Disraeli canvassed in support of Chandos in 1832 when his own attempts to stand for the Shire on a radical anti-Whig ticket failed - amid anti-Semitic prejudice and accusations of political opportunism: a Tory in all but name.
Coming just months after the fall of Peel, his pilgrimage from Shrewsbury led Punch to question Disraeli's sincerity. Speaking from the back of a caravan, Disraeli is depicted here as a travelling Jew. His eccentric dress, and shoulder length curly hair are augmented by a mysterious crystal ball - resting at his side atop copies of his novels, Coningsby and Tancred. He is shown peddling an assortment of political pledges, much to amusement of the sceptical public watching on. Not only does this satirise Disraeli's claim over his adopted home, but also his unsuccessful attempts to gain election as an Independent radical at Wycombe (twice) and Marylebone before realigning himself as a Conservative to fight Taunton in 1835 - with Chandos' financial support. Yet Disraeli was to earn the enduring respect of his constituents at large, both as their MP and an active county magistrate - an appointment that predated the former. He held the seat until his elevation to the House of Lords in 1876 - standing uncontested in nine of his eleven terms. Furthermore, when parliament reassembled in January 1847, Disraeli rose for his inaugural front bench appearance not in the exotic colours of old, but in a suit of 'impeccable black' (Robert Blake, Disraeli (London, 1966), p. 256).
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