Benjamin Disraeli

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In Texas, years ago, almost all of the oil came from surface operations. Then someone got the idea that there were greater sources of supply deeper down. A well was drilled five thousand feet deep. The result? A gusher. Too many of us operate on the surface. We never go deep enough to find supernatural resources. The result is, we never operate at our best. More time and investment is involved to go deep but a gusher will pay off.
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Benjamin Disraeli, 1st Earl of Beaconsfield

Benjamin Disraeli, 1st Earl of Beaconsfield (1804-12-211881-04-19) was a British politician, novelist, and essayist, serving twice as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. The anniversary of his death on 19 April is known as Primrose Day.

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  • To govern men, you must either excel them in their accomplishments, or despise them.
  • I am a Conservative to preserve all that is good in our constitution, a Radical to remove all that is bad. I seek to preserve property and to respect order, and I equally decry the appeal to the passions of the many or the prejudices of the few.
    • Campaign speech at High Wycombe, England (1832-11-27).
  • Yes, I am a Jew, and when the ancestors of the right honorable gentleman were brutal savages in an unknown island, mine were priests in the temple of Solomon.
  • I will sit down now, but the time will come when you will hear me.
    • The end of Disraeli's badly-received maiden speech in the House of Commons in 1837. Disraeli was being shouted down by other MPs. Compare: "I will be heard", William Lloyd Garrison, Salutatory of the Liberator (January 1, 1831).
  • Free trade is not a principle; it is an expedient.
    • On Import Duties (1843-04-25); compare: "It is a condition which confronts us, not a theory", Grover Cleveland, Annual Message, 1887, in reference to the tariff. See also "Protection is not a principle but an expedient" below.
  • Consider Ireland. You have a starving population, an absentee aristocracy, and an alien Church, and in addition the weakest executive in the world. That is the Irish Question.
  • The noble lord is the Prince Rupert of parliamentary discussion: his charge is resistless, but when he returns from the pursuit he always finds his camp in the possession of the enemy.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (1844-04-24), referring to Lord Stanley; compare: "The brilliant chief, irregularly great, / Frank, haughty, rash,—the Rupert of debate!", Edward Bulwer-Lytton, The New Timon (1846), Part i.
  • It is knowledge that influences and equalises the social condition of man; that gives to all, however different their political position, passions which are in common, and enjoyments which are universal.
    • Speech at the Manchester Athenaeum (1844-10-23).
  • The right honorable gentleman caught the Whigs bathing and walked away with their clothes. He has left them in the full enjoyment of their liberal positions, and he is himself a strict conservative of their garments.
  • A Conservative government is an organized hypocrisy.
  • Protection is not a principle, but an expedient.
    • ibid.
  • It is well-known what a middleman is: he is a man who bamboozles one party and plunders the other.
  • The right honourable gentleman [Sir Robert Peel] tells us to go back to precedents; with him a great measure is always founded on a small precedent. He traces the steam-engine always back to the tea-kettle. His precedents are generally tea-kettle precedents.
  • Things must be done by parties, not by persons using parties as tools.
    • Letter referring to the tactics of Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel (1846-12-17).
  • A precedent embalms a principle.
    • Speech on the Expenditures of the Country (1848-02-22).
  • My objection to Liberalism is this—that it is the introduction into the practical business of life of the highest kind—namely, politics—of philosophical ideas instead of political principles.
  • Nationality is the miracle of political independence; race is the principle of physical analogy.
  • You cannot choose between party government and Parliamentary government. I say you can have no Parliamentary government if you have no party government; and therefore when gentlemen denounce party government, they strike at the scheme of government which, in my opinion, has made this country great, and which, I hope, will keep it great.
  • The difference of race is one of the reasons why I fear war may always exist; because race implies difference, difference implies superiority, and superiority leads to predominance.
  • The legacy of heroes — the memory of a great name and the inheritance of a great example.
  • Sir, I say that justice is truth in action.
    • Agricultural Distress, speech in the House of Commons (1851-02-11).
  • Coalitions though successful have always found this, that their triumph has been brief.
  • This is the third time that, in the course of six years, during which I have had the lead of the Opposition in the House of Commons, I have stormed the Treasury Benches: twice, fruitlessly, the third time with a tin kettle to my tail which rendered the race hopeless. You cannot, therefore, be surprised, that I am a little wearied of these barren victories, which like Alma, Inkerman, and Balaclava, may be glorious but are certainly nothing more.
  • Finality is not the language of politics.
  • How much easier it is to be critical than to be correct.
    • Variant: It is much easier to be critical than to be correct.
    • Speech of 1860-01-24.
  • Posterity is a most limited assembly. Those gentlemen who reach posterity are not much more numerous than the planets.
  • He seems to think that posterity is a pack-horse, always ready to be loaded.
  • Colonies do not cease to be colonies because they are independent.
  • At present the peace of the world has been preserved, not by statesmen, but by capitalists.
    • Letter to Mrs. Sarah Brydges Willyams (1863-10-17).
  • Never take anything for granted.
  • The characteristic of the present age is craving credulity.
    • Speech at Oxford Diocesan Conference (1864-11-25).
  • What is the question now placed before society with the glib assurance which to me is most astonishing? That question is this: Is man an ape or an angel? I, my lord, I am on the side of the angels. I repudiate with indignation and abhorrence those new fangled theories.
    • Variant: The question is this— Is man an ape or an angel? My Lord, I am on the side of the angels. I repudiate with indignation and abhorrence these new fanged theories.
    • Variant: Is man an ape or an angel? Now, I am on the side of the angels!
    • Speech at Oxford Diocesan Conference (1864-11-25).
  • Assassination has never changed the history of the world.
  • In the character of the victim [Lincoln], and even in the accessories of his last moments, there is something so homely and innocent that it takes the question, as it were, out of all the pomp of history and the ceremonial of diplomacy—it touches the heart of nations and appeals to the domestic sentiment of mankind.
    • ibid.
  • Ignorance never settles a question.
  • Individualities may form communities, but it is institutions alone that can create a nation.
    • Speech at Manchester (1866).
  • For what is the Tory party unless it represents national feeling? If it does not represent national feeling, Toryism is nothing. It does depend upon hereditary coteries of exclusive nobles. It does not attempt power by attracting to itself the spurious force which may accidentally arise from advocating cosmopolitan principles or talking cosmopolitan jargon. The Tory party is nothing unless it represent and uphold the institutions of the country.
    • Speech at Mansion House (7 August, 1867).
    • William Flavelle Monypenny and George Earle Buckle, The Life of Benjamin Disraeli, Earl of Beaconsfield. Volume II. 1860–1881 (London: John Murray, 1929), p. 287.
  • In a progressive country change is constant;… change … is inevitable.
    • Speech on Reform Bill of 1867, Edinburgh, Scotland (1867-10-29).
  • I see before me the statue of a celebrated minister, who said that confidence was a plant of slow growth. But I believe, however gradual may be the growth of confidence, that of credit requires still more time to arrive at maturity.
  • In a progressive country change is constant; and the great question is not whether you should resist change which is inevitable, but whether that change should be carried out in deference to the manners, the customs, the laws and the traditions of a people, or whether it should be carried out in deference to abstract principles, and arbitrary and general doctrines.
    • Speech in Edinburgh (1867).
  • Yes, I have climbed to the top of the greasy pole.
    • To friends, on being made Prime Minister (1868).
  • What is earnest is not always true; on the contrary, error is often more earnest than truth.
  • The secret of success is constancy to purpose.
  • The author who speaks about his own books is almost as bad as a mother who talks about her own children.
  • Apologies only account for that which they do not alter.
  • Increased means and increased leisure are the two civilizers of man.
    • Speech to the Conservatives of Manchester (1872-04-03).
  • You behold a range of exhausted volcanoes. Not a flame flickers on a single pallid crest.
    • ibid.
  • Gentlemen, I am a party man. I believe that, without party, Parliamentary government is impossible. I look upon Parliamentary government as the noblest government in the world, and certainly the one most suited to England.
    • ibid.
  • Gentlemen, the Tory party, unless it is a national party, is nothing.
    • Speech to the National Union of Conservative and Constitutional Associations at the Crystal Palace (24 June, 1872).
    • 'Mr. Disraeli At Sydenham', The Times, (25 June, 1872), p. 7.
  • The most distinguishing feature, or, at least, one of the most distinguishing features, of the great change effected in 1832 was that those who effected it at once abolished all the franchises as ancient as those of the Baronage of England; and, while they abolished them, they offered and proposed no substitute. The discontent upon the subject of representation which afterwards more or less pervaded our society dates from that period, and that discontent, all will admit, has ceased. It was terminated by the Act of Parliamentary Reform of 1867-8. That act was founded on a confidence that the great body of the people of this country were "Conservative". I use the word in its purest and loftiest sense. I mean that the people of England, and especially the working classes of England, are proud of belonging to a great country, and wish to maintain its greatness—that they are proud of belonging to an Imperial country, and are resolved to maintain, if they can, the empire of England—that they believe, on the whole, that the greatness and the empire of England are to be attributed to the ancient institutions of this country...There are people who may be, or who at least affect to be, working men, and who, no doubt, have a certain influence with a certain portion of the metropolitan working class, who talk Jacobinism...I say with confidence that the great body of the working class of England utterly repudiate such sentiments. They have no sympathy with them. They are English to the core. They repudiate cosmopolitan principles. They adhere to national principles. They are for maintaining the greatness of the kingdom and the empire, and they are proud of being subjects of our Sovereign and members of such an Empire. Well, then, as regards the political institutions of this country, the maintenance of which is one of the chief tenets of the Tory party, so far as I can read public opinion, the feeling of the nation is in accordance with the Tory party.
    • Speech to the National Union of Conservative and Constitutional Associations at the Crystal Palace (24 June, 1872).
    • 'Mr. Disraeli At Sydenham', The Times, (25 June, 1872), p. 8.
  • The secret of success is constancy to purpose.
    • Speech at banquet of National Union of Conservative and Constitutional Associations, Crystal Palace, London (1872-06-24)
  • A university should be a place of light, of liberty, and of learning.
  • You have despoiled churches. You have threatened every corporation and endowment in the country. You have examined into everybody’s affairs. You have criticised every profession and vexed every trade. No one is certain of his property, and nobody knows what duties he may have to perform to-morrow. This is the policy of confiscation as compared with that of concurrent endowment.
  • For nearly five years the present Ministers have harassed every trade, worried every profession, and assailed or menaced every class, institution, and species of property in the country. Occasionally they have varied this state of civil warfare by perpetrating some job which outraged public opinion, or by stumbling into mistakes which have been always discreditable, and sometimes ruinous. All this they call a policy, and seem quite proud of it; but the country has, I think, made up its mind to close this career of plundering and blundering.
    • Letter to Lord Grey de Wilton (1873-10-03)
    • In W. F. Monypenny and George Earl Buckle, The Life of Benjamin Disraeli (1920), vol. 5, chapter 7, p. 262
  • An author who speaks about his own books is almost as bad as a mother who talks about her own children.
  • King Louis Philippe once said to me that he attributed the great success of the British nation in political life to their talking politics after dinner.
    • ibid.
  • Upon the education of the people of this country the fate of this country depends.
  • It has been discovered that the best way to insure implicit obedience is to commence tyranny in the nursery.
    • ibid.
  • The danger at such a moment is that designing politicians may take advantage of such sublime sentiments and may apply them for the furtherance of their sinister ends. I do not think there is any language which can denounce too strongly conduct of this description. He who at such a moment would avail himself of such a commanding sentiment in order to obtain his own individual ends, suggesting a course which he may know to be injurious to the interests of the country, and not favourable to the welfare of mankind, is a man whose conduct no language can too strongly condemn. He outrages the principle of patriotism, which is the soul of free communities. He does more—he influences in the most injurious manner the common welfare of humanity. Such conduct, if it be pursued by any man at this moment, ought to be indignantly reprobated by the people of England; for, in the general havoc and ruin which it may bring about, it may, I think, be fairly described as worse than any of those Bulgarian atrocities which now occupy attention.
    • Speech to the annual meeting of the Royal and Central Bucks Agricultural Association in Aylesbury (20 September, 1876).
    • 'Lord Beaconsfield At Aylesbury', The Times (21 September, 1876), p. 6.
  • What I see in the amendment is not an assertion of great principles, which no man honours more than myself. What is at the bottom of it is rather that principle of peace at any price which a certain party in this country upholds. It is that dangerous dogma which I believe animates the ranks before me at this moment, although many of them may be unconscious of it. That deleterious doctrine haunts the people of this country in every form. Sometimes it is a committee; sometimes it is a letter; sometimes it is an amendment to the Address; sometimes it is a proposition to stop the supplies. That doctrine has done more mischief than any I can well recall that have been afloat this century. It has occasioned more wars than the most ruthless conquerors. It has disturbed and nearly destroyed that political equilibrium so necessary to the liberties of nations and the welfare of the world. It has dimmed occasionally for a moment even the majesty of England. And, my lords, to-night you have an opportunity, which I trust you will not lose, of branding these opinions, these deleterious dogmas, with the reprobation of the Peers of England.
    • Speech in the House of Lords (10 December, 1876).
    • William Flavelle Monypenny and George Earle Buckle, The Life of Benjamin Disraeli, Earl of Beaconsfield. Volume II. 1860–1881 (London: John Murray, 1929), p. 1273.
  • It has been said that the people of this country are deeply interested in the humanitarian and philanthropic considerations involved in [the Eastern Question]. All must appreciate such feelings. But I am mistaken if there be not a yet deeper sentiment on the part of the people of this country, one with which I cannot doubt your lordships will ever sympathise, and that is—the determination to maintain the Empire of England.
    • Speech in the House of Lords (20 February, 1877).
    • William Flavelle Monypenny and George Earle Buckle, The Life of Benjamin Disraeli, Earl of Beaconsfield. Volume II. 1860–1881 (London: John Murray, 1929), p. 994.
  • The health of the people is really the foundation upon which all their happiness and all their powers as a state depend.
  • What, then, was that policy? It was a policy of conditional neutrality. Under the circumstances of the case we did not believe that it was for the honour or interest of England or Turkey that we should take any part in the impending contest; but while we enforced the neutrality which we prepared to observe, we declared at the same time that that neutrality must cease if British interests were assailed or menaced. Cosmopolitan critics, men who are the friends of every country save their own, have denounced this policy as a selfish policy. My Lord Mayor, it is as selfish as patriotism.
    • Speech at the Guildhall, London (9 November, 1877).
    • 'Lord Mayor's Day.', The Times (10 November, 1877), p. 10.
  • We have brought a peace, and we trust we have brought a peace with honour, and I trust that that will now be followed by the prosperity of the country.
    • Speech at Dover, England after arriving from the Congress of Berlin (16 July, 1878). 'Return Of Lord Beaconsfield And Lord Salisbury', The Times (17 July, 1878), p. 5.
  • Lord Salisbury and myself have brought you back peace, but a peace, I hope, with honour which may satisfy our Sovereign, and tend to the welfare of the country.
    • From the window of 10 Downing Street, after arriving from Dover (16 July, 1878). 'Return Of Lord Beaconsfield And Lord Salisbury', The Times (17 July, 1878), p. 5.
  • Which do you believe most likely to enter an insane convention, a body of English gentlemen honoured by the favour of their Sovereign and the confidence of their fellow-subjects, managing your affairs for five years, I hope with prudence, and not altogether without success, or a sophistical rhetorician, inebriated with the exuberance of his own verbosity, and gifted with an egotistical imagination that can at all times command an interminable and inconsistent series of arguments to malign an opponent and to glorify himself?
    • Speech to a banquet given to him in Knightsbridge, attacking William Gladstone for calling the Cyprus Convention an "insane covenant" (27 July, 1878). Reported in William Flavelle Monypenny and George Earle Buckle, The Life of Benjamin Disraeli, Earl of Beaconsfield. Volume II. 1860–1881 (London: John Murray, 1929), pp. 1228-9.
  • A series of congratulatory regrets.
    • Lord Hartington's Resolutions on the Berlin Treaty (July 30, 1878).
  • The harebrained chatter of irresponsible frivolity.
  • No one, I think, can deny that the depression of the agricultural interest is excessive. Though I can recall periods of suffering, none of them have ever equalled the present in its instances. Let us consider the principle causes of this distress. My noble friend who has addressed you has very properly touched upon the subject and upon the effect of the continuous bad harvests in this country...It is, however, true that at that time the loss and suffering were not recognized as they were in the old days, when the system of protection existed, because the price of the food of the people was not immediately affected by a bad harvest, and it was not till the repetition of the misfortune on two occasions that the diminution of the wealth of the country began to be severely felt by the people generally. The remarkable feature of the present agricultural depression is this—that the agricultural interest is suffering from a succession of bad harvest, accompanied, for the first time, by extremely low prices. That is a remarkable circumstance that has never before occurred—a combination that has never before been encountered. In old days, when we had a bad harvest we had also the somewhat dismal compensation of higher prices; but now, when the harvests are bad the prices are lower rather than higher...nor is it open to doubt that foreign competition has exercised a most injurious influence on the agricultural interests of the country. The country, however, was perfectly warned that if we made a great revolution in our industrial system, that was one of the consequences that would accrue. I may mention that the great result of the returns we possess is this, that the immense importations of foreign agricultural produce have been vastly in excess of what the increased demands of our population actually require, and that is why the low prices are maintained...That is to a great degree the cause of this depression.
    • Speech in the House of Lords on the state of agriculture (28 March, 1879).
    • 'House Of Lords, Friday, March 28', The Times (29 March, 1879), p. 8.
  • It cannot be denied that a state of great national prosperity is quite consistent and compatible with legislation in favour of the protection of native industry. That proposition, years ago, was denied; but with the experience we have had of France and the United States of America—the two most flourishing communities probably in existence—it is now incontestable. Well, my lords, many years ago—nearly 40—this country, which no one can say for a moment did not flourish with the old system of protection, deemed it necessary to revise the principles upon which its commerce was conducted...The scheme that was adopted was this—that we were to fight hostile tariffs with free imports. I was among those who looked upon that policy with fear. I believed it to be one very perilous. ...reciprocity is barter. I always understood that barter was the last effort of civilization that it was exactly that state of human exchange that separated civilization from savagery; and if reciprocity is only barter, I fear that would hardly help us out of our difficulty. My noble friend read some extracts from the speeches of those who had the misfortune to be in Parliament at that time, and he honoured me by reading an extract from the speech I then made in the other House of Parliament. That was a speech in favour of reciprocity, and indicated the means by which reciprocity could be obtained. That is to say—I do not want to enter into the discussion whether the principle was right or wrong, but it was acknowledged in public life, favoured and pursued by many statesmen who conceived that by the negotiation of a treaty of commerce, by reciprocal exchange and the lowering of duties, the products of the two negotiating countries would find a freer access and consumption in the two countries than they formerly possessed. But when he taunts me with his quotation of some musty phrases of mine 40 years ago, I must remind him that we had elements then on which treaties of reciprocity could be negotiated. At that time, although the great changes of Sir Robert Peel had taken place, there were 168 articles in the tariff which were materials by which you could have negotiated, if that was a wise and desirable policy, commercial treaties of reciprocity. What is the number you now have in the tariff? Twenty-two. Those who talk of negotiating treaties of reciprocity...have they the materials for negotiating treaties of reciprocity? You have lost the opportunity. I do not want to enter into the argument at the present moment; but England cannot pursue that policy.
    • Speech in the House of Lords (29 April, 1879).
    • 'House Of Lords, Tuesday, April 29', The Times (30 April, 1879), p. 8.
  • In assuming that peace will be maintained, I assume also that no Great Power would shrink from its responsibilities. If there be a country, for example, one of the most extensive and wealthiest of empires in the world—if that country, from a perverse interpretation of its insular geographical position, turns an indifferent ear to the feelings and the fortunes of Continental Europe, such a course would, I believe, only end in its becoming an object of general plunder. So long as the power and advice of England are felt in the councils of Europe, peace, I believe, will be maintained, and maintained for a long period. Without their presence, war, as has happened before, and too frequently of late, seems to me to be inevitable. I speak on this subject with confidence to the citizens of London, because I know that they are men who are not ashamed of the Empire which their ancestors created; because I know that they are not ashamed of the noblest of human sentiments, now decried by philosophers—the sentiment of patriotism; because I know they will not be beguiled into believing that in maintaining their Empire they may forfeit their liberties. One of the greatest of Romans, when asked what were his politics, replied, Imperium et Libertas. That would not make a bad programme for a British Ministry. It is one from which Her Majesty's advisers do not shrink.
    • Speech at the Guildhall, London (9 November, 1879).
    • William Flavelle Monypenny and George Earle Buckle, The Life of Benjamin Disraeli, Earl of Beaconsfield. Volume II. 1860–1881 (London: John Murray, 1929), pp. 1366-7.

Books

  • I suppose, to use our national motto, something will turn up.
    • Popanilla (1827) Ch. 7 referring to the Motto of "Vraibleusia".
  • "What is care?" asked the Princess, with a smile.
    "It is a god", replied the Physician, "invisible, but omnipotent. It steals the bloom from the cheek and lightness from the pulse — it takes away the appetite, and turns the hair grey".
    • The Wondrous Tale of Alroy, pt. 5, ch. 5 (1833).
  • I am prepared for the worst, but hope the best.
    • The Wondrous Tale of Alroy, pt. 10, ch. 3.
  • Despair is the conclusion of fools.
    • The Wondrous Tale of Alroy pt. 10, ch. 17.
  • Success is the child of audacity.
    • The Rise of Iskander ch. 4 (1833).
  • Though lions to their enemies they were lambs to their friends.
    • The infernal Marriage, part 2, Chapter 4 (1834).
  • Next to knowing when to seize an opportunity, the most important thing in life is to know when to forego an advantage.
    • The Infernal Marriage, part 3 (1834).
  • Courage is fire, and bullying is smoke.
    • Count Alarcos: A Tragedy Act IV, sc. i (1839).
  • The fool wonders, the wise man asks.
    • Count Alarcos: A Tragedy Act IV, sc. i.

Vivian Grey (1826)

  • The microcosm of a public school.
    • Book I, Chap. 2.
  • The Services in war time are fit only for desperadoes but, in peace, are fit only for fools.
    • Book I, Chap. 9.
  • Beware of endeavouring to become a great man in a hurry. One such attempt in ten thousand may succeed: these are fearful odds.
    • Book I, Chap. 10.
  • I hate definitions.
    • Book II, Chap. 6.
  • Fear makes us feel our humanity.
    • Book III, Chap. 6.
  • There is no act of treachery or meanness of which a political party is not capable; for in politics there is no honour.
    • Book III, Chap. 9.
  • Experience is the child of Thought, and Thought is the child of Action. We can not learn men from books.
    • Book V, Chap. 1.
  • Variety is the mother of Enjoyment.
    • Book V, Chap. 4.
  • There is moderation even in excess.
    • Book VI, Chap. 1.
  • In politics, nothing is contemptible.
    • Book VI, Chap. 4.
  • Man is not the creature of circumstances, circumstances are the creatures of men. We are free agents, and man is more powerful than matter.
    • Book VI, ch. 7.
  • I repeat that all power is a trust; that we are accountable for its exercise; that from the people, and for the people all springs, and all must exist.
    • Book VI, Ch. 7.
  • Grief is the agony of an instant; the indulgence of Grief the blunder of a life.
    • Book VI, Ch. 7.
  • A man's fate is his own temper.
    • Book VI, Ch. 7.
  • Like all great travellers I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen.
    • Book VIII, Ch. 4.
  • The disappointment of manhood succeeds to the delusion of youth: let us hope that the heritage of old age is not despair.
    • Book VIII, Ch. 4.

The Young Duke (1831)

  • Every man has a right to be conceited until he is successful.
    • The 'Advertisement' to the 1853 edition.
  • A dark horse, which had never been thought of, and which the careless St. James had never even observed in the list, rushed past the grandstand in sweeping triumph.
    • Bk. I, Ch. 5. The phrase "dark horse" was then a political phrase common in the United States.
  • Then there was a maiden speech, so inaudible, that it was doubted whether, after all, the young orator really did lose his virginity.
    • Bk. I, Ch. 6.
  • We are indeed a nation of shopkeepers.
    • Bk. I, Ch. 11.
  • The age of chivalry is past. Bores have succeeded to dragons.
    • Bk. II, Ch. 5
  • It destroys one's nerves to be amiable every day to the same human being.
    • Bk. III, Ch. 2
  • A man may speak very well in the House of Commons, and fail very completely in the House of Lords. There are two distinct styles requisite: I intend, in the course of my career, if I have time, to give a specimen of both.
    • Bk. V, Ch. 6

Contarini Fleming (1832)

  • Nature is more powerful than education; time will develop everything.
    • Part 1, Chapter 8. Compare: "La Nature a été en eux forte que l'éducation" (translated: "Nature was a stronger force in them than education"), Voltaire, Vie de Molière.
  • Never apologize for showing feeling. When you do so, you apologize for truth.
    • Part 1, Chapter 13.
  • With words we govern men.
    • Part 1, Chapter 21 .
  • Read no history: nothing but biography, for that is life without theory.
    • Part 1, Chapter 23 .
  • Amusement to an observing mind is study.
    • Part 1, Chapter 23.
  • The sense of existence is the greatest happiness.
    • Part 3, Chapter 1.
  • Patience is a necessary ingredient of genius.
    • Part 4, Chapter 5.
  • The practice of politics in the East may be defined by one word: dissimulation.
    • Part 5, Chapter 10.
  • All is mystery; but he is a slave who will not struggle to penetrate the dark veil.
    • Part 5, Chapter 18.
  • When men are pure, laws are useless; when men are corrupt, laws are broken.
    • Part 6, Chapter 3.

Henrietta Temple (1837)

  • Debt is the prolific mother of folly and of crime.
    • Book 2, chapter 1.
  • What we anticipate seldom occurs; what we least expected generally happens.
    • Book 2, chapter 4. Compare: "I say the very things that make the greatest Stir / An' the most interestin' things, are things that did n't occur", Sam Walter Foss, Things that did n't occur.
  • The magic of first love is our ignorance that it can ever end.
    • Book 4, chapter 1. Often misquoted as "The magic of first love is our ignorance that it can never end".
  • Nature has given us two ears but only one mouth.
    • Book 4, chapter 24.
  • Time is the great physician.
    • Book 6, chapter 9.
  • Man is not a rational animal. He is only truly good or great when he acts from passion.
    • Book 6, chapter 12.
  • Nature has given us two ears but only one mouth.
    • Book 6, chapter 24.

Tancred (1847)

  • Duty cannot exist without faith.
    • Bk. II, Ch. 1
  • A majority is always the best repartee.
    • Bk. II, Ch. 1
  • There is no index of character so sure as the voice.
    • Bk. II, Ch. 1
  • Duty cannot exist without faith.
    • Bk. II, Ch. 11
  • That fatal drollery called a representative government.
    • Bk. II, Ch. 13
  • The view of Jerusalem is the history of the world; it is more, it is the history of earth and of heaven.
    • Bk. III, Ch. 4
  • He was fresh and full of faith that "something would turn up."
    • Bk. III, Ch. 6
  • When little is done, little is said; silence is the mother of truth.
    • Bk. IV, Ch. 4
  • Everything comes if a man will only wait.
    • Bk. IV, Ch. 8
  • We moralise among ruins.
    • Bk. V, Ch. 5
  • London is a modern Babylon.
    • Bk. V, Ch. 5

Lothair (1870)

  • London is a roost for every bird.
    • Ch. 11.
  • The world is weary of statesmen whom democracy has degraded into politicians.
    • Ch. 17.
  • The pursuit of science leads only to the insoluble.
    • Ch. 17.
  • When a man fell into his anecdotage, it was a sign for him to retire.
    • Ch. 28.
  • Books are fatal: they are the curse of the human race. Nine- tenths of existing books are nonsense, and the clever books are the refutation of that nonsense. The greatest misfortune that ever befell man was the invention of printing.
    • Ch. 29.
  • I have always thought that every woman should marry, and no man.
    • Ch. 30.
  • You know who critics are?— the men who have failed in literature and art.
    • Ch. 35. Compare: "Reviewers are usually people who would have been poets, historians, biographers, if they could; they have tried their talents at one or the other, and have failed; therefore they turn critics", Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Lectures on Shakespeare and Milton, p. 36. Delivered 1811–1812; "Reviewers, with some rare exceptions, are a most stupid and malignant race. As a bankrupt thief turns thief-taker in despair, so an unsuccessful author turns critic", Percy Bysshe Shelley, Fragments of Adonais.
  • "My idea of an agreeable person," said Hugo Bohun, "is a person who agrees with me."
    • Ch. 35.
  • Had it not been for you, I should have remained what I was when we first met, a prejudiced, narrow-minded being, with contracted sympathies and false knowledge, wasting my life on obsolete trifles, and utterly insensible to the privilege of living in this wondrous age of change and progress.
    • Ch. 49.
  • Action may not always bring happiness but there is no happiness without action.

Endymion (1880)

  • Nothing is going on, but everybody is afraid of something.
    • Ch. 2.
  • Desperation is sometimes as powerful an inspirer as genius.
    • Ch. 8.
  • His Christianity was muscular.
    • Ch. 14.
  • I have brought myself, by long meditation, to the conviction that a human being with a settled purpose must accomplish it, and that nothing can resist a will that will stake even existence for its fulfilment.
    • Ch. 26.
  • The more you are talked about the less powerful you are.
    • Ch. 36.
  • As a general rule the most successful man in life is the man who has the best information.
    • Ch. 36.
  • An insular country, subject to fogs, and with a powerful middle class, requires grave statesmen.
    • Ch. 37.
  • The Athanasian Creed is the most splendid ecclesiastical lyric ever poured forth by the genius of man.
    • Ch. 52.
  • There is no education like adversity.
    • Ch. 61.
  • Without tact you can learn nothing.
    • Ch. 61.
  • As for our majority... one is enough.
    • Ch. 64.
  • The world is a wheel, and it will all come round right.
    • Ch. 70.
  • Real politics are the possession and distribution of power.
    • Ch. 71 .
  • "As for that," said Waldenshare, "sensible men are all of the same religion."
    "Pray, what is that?" inquired the Prince.
    "Sensible men never tell."
    • Ch. 81. An anecdote is related of Sir Anthony Ashley Cooper (1621–1683), who, in speaking of religion, said, "People differ in their discourse and profession about these matters, but men of sense are really but of one religion." To the inquiry of "What religion?" the Earl said, "Men of sense never tell it", reported in Burnet, History of my own Times, vol. i. p. 175, note (edition 1833).
  • There is no gambling like politics.
    • Ch. 82.
  • If you are not very clever, you should be conciliatory.
    • Ch. 85.
  • The sweet simplicity of the three per cents.
    • Ch. 96. Compare: "The elegant simplicity of the three per cents", Lord Stowell, in Lives of the Lord Chancellors (Campbell), Vol. x, Chap. 212.

Unsourced

  • "Diplomacy is the art of telling someone to go to hell and making them anticipate the trip."
  • A consistent soul believes in destiny, a capricious one in chance.
  • A sophistical rhetorician, inebriated with the exuberance of his own verbosity who can at all times command an interminable and inconsistent series of arguments to malign an opponent and glorify himself.
    • Said of W E Gladstone at a banquet in Riding School, Knightsbridge, 17 July 1878
  • A very remarkable people the Zulus: they defeat our generals, they convert our bishops, they have settled the fate of a great European dynasties.
    • Attributed in J A Froude Lord Beaconsfield (1890), chapter 14.
    • This quotation is current in many variant forms, but is cited here from the earliest source we have been able to find.
  • Be amusing: never tell unkind stories; above all, never tell long ones.
  • Characters do not change. Opinions alter, but characters are only developed.
  • Charles Greville was the most conceited person with whom I have ever been brought in contact, though I have read Cicero and known Bulwer-Lytton.
    • Attributed by George William Erskine Russell in his Portraits of the Seventies (1916), pp. 38–39. In Russell's earlier Collections and Recollections (1898) this appeared as "I knew the author, and he was the most conceited person with whom I have ever been brought in contact, although I have read Cicero and known Bulwer Lytton" (p. 177).
  • Cleanliness and order are not matters of instinct; they are matters of education, and like most great things, you must cultivate a taste for them.
  • Demagogues and agitators are very unpleasant, they are incidental to a free and constitutional country, and you must put up with these inconveniences or do without many important advantages.
  • Great countries are those that produce great people.
  • Great services are not cancelled by one act or by one single error.
  • His shortcoming is his long staying.
    • Also attributed to Lewis L Lewisohn.
  • I am dead: dead, but in the Elysian fields.
    • On being welcomed to the House of Lords
  • I feel a very unusual sensation— if it is not indigestion, I think it must be gratitude.
  • I never deny. I never contradict. I sometimes forget.
    • According to Henry W Lucy's Memories of Eight Parliaments (1908), p. 66, Disraeli said this was his rule when talking with the Queen.
  • I will not go down to posterity talking bad grammar.
  • If a man be gloomy let him keep to himself. No one has the right to go croaking about society, or what is worse, looking as if he stifled grief.
  • If Gladstone fell into the Thames, that would be a misfortune; and if anybody pulled him out, that, I suppose, would be a calamity.
    • A joke reported in Wilfrid Meynell's Benjamin Disraeli (1903), p. 146.
  • It would have been a good dinner, if
    The soup had been as warm as the champagne or
    The beef had been as rare as the service or
    The brandy had been as old as the woman on his left or
    The woman on his right had been as Hansom as the cab he took home.
  • Life is too short to be small.
  • Many thanks: I shall lose no time in reading it.
    • Reputedly Disraeli's reply to an author who had sent him an unsolicited manuscript. Wilfrid Meynell, in his The Man Disraeli (1903) p. 119, goes no further than to say "it might very well be his". It has also been fathered on Heinrich Heine and, needless to say, on George Bernard Shaw and Winston Churchill.
  • Moderation is the centre wherein all philosophies, both human and divine, meet.
  • Most people die with their music still locked up inside them.
  • News is that which comes from the North, East, West and South, and if it comes from only one point on the compass, then it is a class publication and not news.
  • No man is regular in his attendance at the House of Commons until he is married.
  • No success in public life can compensate for failure in the home.
  • Nobody is forgotten when it is convenient to remember him.
  • Nowadays, manners are easy and life is hard.
  • On the education of the people of this country the fate of the country depends.
  • One secret of success in life is for a man to be ready for his opportunity when it comes.
    • Variant: The secret of success in life is for a man to be ready for his opportunity when it comes.
    • Variant: The secret of success is to be ready when your opportunity comes.
  • Something unpleasant is coming when men are anxious to tell the truth.
  • Teach us that wealth is not elegance, that profusion is not magnificence, that splendor is not beauty.
  • The best security for civilization is the dwelling, and upon properly appointed and becoming dwellings depends, more than anything else, the improvement of mankind.
  • The best way to become acquainted with a subject is to write a book about it.
  • The governments of the present day have to deal not merely with other governments, with emperors, kings and ministers, but also with the secret societies which have everywhere their unscrupulous agents, and can at the last moment upset all the governments' plans.
  • The greatest good you can do for another is not just share your riches, but to reveal to him his own.
  • The more extensive a man's knowledge of what has been done, the greater will be his power of knowing what to do.
  • The most dangerous strategy is to jump a chasm in two leaps.
    • This has been attributed to Benjamin Disraeli, David Lloyd George, Winston Churchill, Vaclav Havel, Jeffrey Sachs, Rashi Fein, Walter Bagehot and Philip Noel-Baker. It has been described as a Greek, African, Chinese, Russian and American proverb, and as "an old Chassidic injunction". The earliest citation found so far is from Frederick Lewis Schuman Design for Power: The Struggle for the World (1942), p. 200: "A comment made...by Lloyd George, 'There is nothing more dangerous than to leap a chasm in two jumps'".
  • The palace is not safe when the cottage is not happy.
    • Said at a Wynyard Horticultural Show in 1848, according to Monypenny & Buckle The Life of Benjamin Disraeli (1913) p. 368.
  • The press is not only free, it is powerful. That power is ours. It is the proudest that man can enjoy.
  • The right honourable gentleman is reminiscent of a poker. The only difference is that a poker gives off the occasional signs of warmth. (On Robert Peel)
  • The very phrase 'foreign affairs' makes an Englishman convinced that I am about to treat of subjects with which he has no concern.
  • The worst atrocity in Bulgaria is Gladstone's pamphlet on the subject.
  • There are three kinds of lies: Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics.
    • This was attributed to Disraeli by Mark Twain, to whom the phrase has also been attributed. The earliest known use of it is actually that of Leonard H. Courtney, whom Twain might have thought to be referring to Disraeli in the essay in which he declared it.
      • Alternatively: There are truths, half-truths and statistics.
  • There can be economy only where there is efficiency.
  • Through perseverance many people win success out of what seemed destined to be certain failure.
  • To tax the community for the advantage of a class is not protection: it is plunder.
  • We should never lose an occasion. Opportunity is more powerful even than conquerors and prophets.
  • What is crime amongst the multitude, is only vice among the few.
  • What usually comes first is the contract.
  • When I want to read a novel, I write one.
    • According to Wilfrid Meynell (Benjamin Disraeli (1903) p. 124) this was Disraeli's reply on being asked whether he had read George Eliot's Daniel Deronda.
  • Where knowledge ends, religion begins.
  • Time is precious, but truth is more precious than time.
  • William Gladstone has not a single redeeming defect.
  • Without publicity there can be no public support, and without public support every nation must decay.
  • You have heard me accused me of being a flatterer. It is true. I am a flatterer. I have found it useful. Everyone likes flattery; and when you come to Royalty you should lay it on with a trowel.
    • Supposedly said in conversation with Matthew Arnold c. 1880; quoted in G. W. E. Russell, Collections and Recollections (1898) p. 224.
  • You will find as you grow older that courage is the rarest of all qualities to be found in public life.
  • Gladstone to Disraeli: Sir, you will either die on the gallows or of some unspeakable disease.
    That depends, sir, replied Disraeli, On whether I embrace your policies or your mistress.
  • I am the blank page between the Old Testament and the New. [2]

Misattributed

  • There are three kinds of lies: Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics.

This was attributed to Disraeli by Mark Twain, to whom the phrase has also been attributed. The earliest known use of it is actually that of Leonard H. Courtney, whom Twain might have thought to be referring to Disraeli in the essay in which he declared it. Alternatively: There are truths, half-truths and statistics.

  • Candour is the brightest gem of criticism.
    • Though ascribed to Benjamin Disraeli, it comes from the article "Literary Journals" in his father Isaac D'Israeli's The Curiosities of Literature.
  • Every production of genius must be the production of enthusiasm.
    • Here the father is confused with the son again. It comes from the article on "Solitude" in Isaac D'Israeli's The Curiosities of Literature.
  • Let the fear of a danger be a spur to prevent it: he that fears otherwise, gives advantage to the danger.
  • Mediocrity can talk; but it is for genius to observe.
    • Actually from Isaac D'Israeli's The Curiosities of Literature, "Men of Genius Deficient in Conversation".
  • Moderation has been called a virtue to limit the ambition of great men, and to console undistinguished people for their want of fortune and their lack of merit.
  • Plagiarists, at least, have the merit of preservation.
    • One more misattribution to Disraeli of one of his father Isaac D'Isaeli's observations (Curiosities of Literature, "Of Suppressors and Dilapidators of Manuscripts")
  • Seeing much, suffering much, and studying much, are the three pillars of learning.
    • A Welsh triad cited in A Vindication of the Genuineness of the Ancient British Poems of Aneurin, Taliesin, Llywarch Hen, and Merdin (1803), by Sharon Turner, reads, "The three pillars of learning; seeing much, suffering much, and studying much". This was quoted from Turner by Isaac D'Israeli in his The Amenities of Literature (1841) and, through the confusion of father with son, has come to be falsely attributed to Benjamin Disraeli.
  • The art of governing mankind by deceiving them.
    • Isaac D'Israeli's Curiosities of Literature has, "Between solid lying and disguised truth there is a difference known to writers skilled in 'the art of governing mankind by deceiving them'; as politics, ill understood, have been defined". The source of D'Israeli's quotation has not been found, but at any rate it was certainly not Benjamin Disraeli.
  • The choicest pleasures of life lie within the ring of moderation.
  • The wisdom of the wise, and the experience of ages, may be preserved by quotation.
    • One more example of Isaac D'Israeli's words being misattributed to his son. It is to be found in the article "Quotation" in his Curiosities of Literature.
  • Whenever we would prepare the mind by a forcible appeal, an opening quotation is a symphony preluding on the chords those tones we are about to harmonize.
    • Like "The wisdom of the wise", above, this actually comes from Isaac D'Israeli's Curiosities of Literature, "Quotation".

About Benjamin Disraeli

  • He was quite remarkable enough to fill a volume of Éloge. Someone wrote to me yesterday that no Jew for 1800 years has played so great a part in the world. That would be no Jew since St. Paul; and it is very startling.
  • In death he remains as he was in life. All show with no substance.
    • William Gladstone on discovering, after Disraeli's death, that he had refused a state funeral to be buried alongside his wife.
  • In whatever he has written he has affected something which has been intended to strike his readers as uncommon and therefore grand. Because he has been bright and a man of genius, he has carried his object as regards the young. He has struck them with astonishment and aroused in their imagination ideas of a world more glorious, more rich, more witty, more enterprising, than their own. But the glory has been the glory of pasteboard, and the wealth has been a wealth of tinsel. The wit has been the wit of hairdressers, and the enterprise has been the enterprise of mountebanks.
  • The downfall of Beaconfieldism is like the vanishing of some vast magnificent castle in an Italian romance.
  • What strikes me most singular in you is, that you are fonder of Power than of Fame.
  • Der alte Jude, das ist der Mann!
    • The old Jew, that is the man!
    • Otto von Bismarck of Disraeli's performance at the Congress of Berlin. [3]

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