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Disraeli, Benjamin

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

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(1804-1881) UK politician and author born Benjamin D'Israeli, Conservative Member of Parliament from 1837 and – in 1868 and 1874-1880 – Prime Minister. In his almost-forgotten youthful Fantastic Voyage, The Voyage of Captain Popanilla (1828) published anonymously, the eponymous captain, who is an innocent savage from a prelapsarian (ie pre-missionary) South Seas Utopia, voyages to the land of Vraibleusia, which pejoratively resembles England, and whose capital Hubbabub clearly guys London (see Satire); the existing version of the tale constitutes Disraeli's reconstruction of his first novel, «The Adventures of Mr Aylmer Papillon in a Terra Incognita», which he had sent in 1824 to the publisher John Murray, who burned it (he is infamous for burning Lord Byron's journal at about the same time); Disraeli – who at least metaphorically thought of himself as Byron reborn, who dressed like Byron, who was Byronically transgressive both in his person and in his exorbitant early romances – had submitted his manuscript to the book-burner Murray for obvious reasons.

"Ixion in Heaven" (1833 Colburn's New Monthly Magazine), which echoes Lucian, and The Infernal Marriage (1834 Colburn's New Monthly Magazine; 1929 chap), which mockingly conflates the local monarchy and the immortal gods, appear with other tales in Popanilla and Other Tales (coll 1926). The title novel contained in The Wondrous Tale of Alroy and the Rise of Iskander (coll 1833; vt, containing title story only, Alroy (1927); further vt Alroy or the Prince of the Captivity 2007) has some claim to be the first Alternate History tale, with the eponymous false messiah establishing a global empire in the twelfth century, though the alternity is only scattily argued. Disraeli was created first Earl of Beaconsfield in 1876.

Modern sf normally uses actual Aliens rather than savages as their innocent observers in books of this kind, but the principle is the same. A similar satirical intent is clearly evident in some of the fantasies and narrative poems of his later career [see Checklist]. Disraeli features Recursively in The Difference Engine (1990) by Bruce Sterling and William Gibson. [PN/JC]

Benjamin Disraeli, Earl of Beaconsfield

born London: 21 December 1804

died London: 19 April 1881

works (highly selected)


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