A fatal chill
Dep. Hughenden 82/4, fols. 265r-6r
As the author of a runaway bestseller Disraeli purchased a seven-year lease on 19 Curzon Street, W1, in January 1881. It was the first time he had been able to purchase a house with his own money. Curzon Street was the scene of only one dinner party, on 10 March, to which seventeen guests were invited. Disraeli's health was already failing. The east wind cut into him as he made his way home on 22 March. The chill developed into bronchitis and the spiral of decline began. The house soon witnessed a procession of concerned visitors, including his old political rival Gladstone.
Queen Victoria grew concerned. Before setting off for Osborne on 5 April she wrote this, her last, letter to Disraeli. It was accompanied by primroses from Windsor and the promise to send more primroses from Osborne. Victoria had thought of going to visit him but considered it better to let him rest and looked forward to seeing him when they returned. 'You are ...constantly in my thoughts, & I wish I could do anything to cheer you.' Disraeli's reputed final reference to Victoria, when asked if he wanted her to be called to his bedside, was 'No, it is better not. She would only ask me to take a message to Albert.'
Disraeli died in the early hours of 19 April on the anniversary of Byron's death. At his bedside were Corry, who had returned from accompanying his sick sister to Algeria, Sir Philip Rose, Lord Barrington (Lord Derby's former secretary who was standing in for Corry) and his three doctors: Kidd (a homeopath), Bruce and Quain. His last recorded words were, 'I had rather live but I am not afraid to die'. Just before he slipped into unconsciousness he is said to have stirred, moving forward as he did when rising to speak in Parliament.
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