Cornelius Jabez Hughes, Earl of Beaconsfield, K.G. Photographed at Osborne by Command of H.M. The Queen, July 22, 1878 [Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881)], 1878, Glossy collodion print on card

“I am not an admirer of contemporary biography,” Benjamin Disraeli told an admiring contemporary biographer of his in 1860, “and I dislike to be the subject of it.” This was one of the few wishes the extraordinary statesman did not realize. Fascination with the eccentric middle-class Jew whose genius and invincible drive placed him in the pantheon of English immortals remains unabated by time; four respectable biographies have appeared in the

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