Doulton commemorative jug, made in Lambeth, London, [for] John Mortlock, Oxford Street, London
Lent by a private collector
On 7 December 1837 Disraeli made his parliamentary debut. Characteristically he wanted to make his mark immediately. But his choice of topic, Irish elections, was highly unwise, as was his timing: the previous speaker was Daniel O'Connell (1775-1847) leader of the Irish MPs. In May 1835 during the Taunton by-election Disraeli had been involved in a ferocious quarrel with O'Connell over the latter's new alliance with the Whigs and Disraeli's move to the Conservatives. After O'Connell's inflammatory comments about Disraeli's lineage Disraeli challenged O'Connell's son to a duel, but ended up being bound over to keep the peace.
His maiden speech was met with derision and not only by the Irish MPs; his convoluted style of delivery compounded his difficulties. Most of his speech was inaudiable over the din but his closing remarks, 'Though I sit down now the time will come when you will hear me' were prophetic. Disraeli learnt from his failure and took the advice of an Irish MP with little enthusiasm for O'Connell, Richard O'Shiel (1794-1851): 'Get rid of your Genius for a session. Speak often for you should show yourself cowed, but speak shortly... try not to dull... and in a short time the House will sigh for [your] wit and eloquence' (Blake, Disraeli, p. 150).
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