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May 12, 2013

The Original Comeback Kid: Insufferable Young Ben Disraeli.

I am dying for action, and rust like a Damascus sabre in the sheath of a poltroon.

--Benjamin Disraeli, about 1835

British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli (1804–1881) was provocative and precocious, often a pain in the ass and a comeback kid all his life. Though he had very early success as a writer, he failed miserably in business. He then ran for office--but kept losing. As a young man, he picked ill-considered political fights that he often lost with Daniel O'Connell, the dangerously witty Irish barrister-politician. Finally, in 1837, he was elected to the House of Commons. But he blew his maiden speech so badly he was laughed at uproariously from beginning to end.

A shameless self-promoter, he attracted too much attention. He even dressed to provoke. He shunned most men, preferring women, especially the high-born.

Mainly, I think, Disraeli was restless. He bored easily. He simply liked the limelight, and getting important things done. As a student, the idea of practicing law, which he pursued briefly, left him feeling stale and useless. "Izzy" said he felt most alive when he was doing something both public and difficult. Early in his career, he once wrote unhappily to a friend: "I am dying for action, and rust like a Damascus sabre in the sheath of a poltroon." Disraeli, A. Maurois (Random House 1928).

Disraeli, by Sir Francis Grant, 1852.

Posted by JD Hull at May 12, 2013 12:59 AM


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