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Mr and Mrs Disraeli A Strange Romance by Daisy Hay

Mr and Mrs Disraeli A Strange Romance

Biography / Autobiography   History   

Sue Baker's view...

An intriguing look at a marriage between a Jewish novelist and an older woman embarking on her second marriage, a very successful marriage, they were a devoted couple. Together Mr and Mrs Disraeli would conquer society and the political world. Mary Anne would not fit today’s political and media expectations, she was eccentric, lower middle-class and her dress gave rise to laughter and comment, her husband was equally out of a different mould. As well as a wonderful behind-the-scenes view of an unorthodox Victorian marriage, Daisy Hay reminds us how today’s pressures, especially from our multi-channel media, strangles individuality with any decent person not wanting to put their friends and family through the mill.

Like for Like Reading

Disraeli: Or, The Two Lives, Douglas Hurd & Edward Young

The Sayings of Benjamin Disraeli, Robert Blake (Editor)

Who is Sue Baker

The Good Book Guide logo The Good Book Guide Review. Beloved of Queen Victoria, who created him Earl of Beaconsfield in 1876, Disraeli was twice prime minister, as well as a successful novelist, and an extraordinary and charismatic figure – to date, still the only prime minister of Jewish birth. Not the least extraordinary thing about him was his marriage to Mary Anne Lewis, which is the focus of this book. Mary Anne was twelve years older than Disraeli and married to someone else when she met him; nevertheless, theirs was to be a great, if puzzling, romance that endured until her death. As this excellent book shows, they were a perfect match, each as keen as the other to create their own romantic myth. Mary Anne was eccentric and quite often tactless, but she amused Queen Victoria with her sayings, and created a suitably stylish backdrop for Dizzy at opulent Hughenden Manor in Buckinghamshire.
~ Julia Hamilton


Mr and Mrs Disraeli A Strange Romance by Daisy Hay

Deep in the archives of the Bodleian Library lies a tattered scrap of paper with newlyweds' scribbles on it. It is a table, listing the qualities of a couple. One column reads 'Often says what he does not think', 'He does not show his feelings', 'He is a genius'; the other 'Never says what she does not think', 'She shows her feelings', 'She is a dunce'. The writing is Mary Anne Disraeli's: the qualities listed contrast her with her husband, Benjamin Disraeli, one of the foremost politicians of the Victorian age. The daughter of a sailor, on her second marriage and 12 years older than her husband, Mary Anne was highly eccentric, liable to misbehave and (worse still) overdressed for grand society dinners. Her beloved Diz was of Jewish descent, a mid-ranking novelist and frequently mired in debt. He was fiercely protective and completely devoted to his wife. She was devoted to him, too, and they were both devoted to the very idea of being devoted. They wrote passionate letters to one another through their courtship and their marriage, spinning their unusual tale into a romance worthy of the novels they so loved. Reading between the lines of a great cache of their letters and the anecdotes of others in chilly Oxford reading rooms, Daisy Hay shows how the Disraelis rose to the top of the social and political pile. Along the way, we meet women of a similar station and situation whose endings were far unhappier than Mary Anne's, acting as a counterpoint to her fairy tale ending as the landed Angel of the Prime Minister's House. In an age where first ladies are under ever-increasing pressure to perform and conform, Mr and Mrs Disraeli offers a portrait of one who refused to do either, in a society which demanded she do both.

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A tour de force, written with intelligence and compassion The Times Thorough and engaging... A warm and rounded portrait Daily Telegraph A fabulous book, as if Jane Austen were writing for a modern newspaper... Full of wonderfully observed detail... A great story of life and loves in a time when making the right marriage really mattered Independent All marriages have their mysteries, political marriages more than most. The marriage of Mr and Mrs Disraeli was stranger than fiction, but every bit as compelling -- Robert McCrum The Observer A beguiling account of a very unusual marriage -- Daisy Goodwin Sunday Times

About the Author

Daisy Hay was born in Oxford in 1981. She is the author of Young Romantics: The Shelleys, Byron and Other Tangled Lives, for which she was awarded the Rose Mary Crawshay Prize by the British Academy and highly commended by the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize. She has a BA and a PhD in English Literature from the University of Cambridge and an MA in Romantic and Sentimental Literature from the University of York. In 2009-10 she was the Alistair Horne Fellow at St Antony's College, Oxford and in 2010-12 she held a visiting scholarship at Wolfson College, Oxford. In 2012-13 she was a Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University. She is currently a Lecturer in English Literature and Archival Studies at the University of Exeter, and a BBC Radio 3 New Generation Thinker. She lives in Devon.

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Book Info

Publication date

8th January 2015


Daisy Hay

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Chatto & Windus an imprint of Vintage Publishing


320 pages


Biography / Autobiography

Biography: historical, political & military

Modern history to 20th century: c 1700 to c 1900



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