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The Lion and the Unicorn Disraeli is a character and though I think in many ways would have agreed with Gladstone politically I find his brand of religiosity uite annoying and the hypocrisy of his missionary work to prostitutes Also Gladstone was like a stereotypical hysterical woman of the Victorian era always on the verge of emotional collapseDisraeli on the other hand had the heart of a romantic and was able to stir the people and Parliament with his ability with rhetoric and prose I understand why ueen Victoria was uite taken with him This book makes much of the contrasting personalities and their historical dislike for the other Very interesting read A very enjoyable and informative review of two great titans of British political history Both men are given a fair hearing though it is apparent that the author favours Disraeli over Gladstone which is fine by me as that chimes with my own opinions The book emphasises the struggle between them rather than simply giving potted histories of each man which makes the material all the interesting to read Some of Disraeli's barbs aimed at Gladstone were just as funny to read now as they must have been at the time The book also pulls back the covers on Gladstone revealing his night time dalliances with prostitutes his rescue work as he deemed it and his insatiable sexual appetite not something you would expect from the severe portraits and gruff speeches through which we tend to analyse Gladstone's personalityAn excellent book for anyone with even a passing interest in the period and definitely one for Disraeli fans like myself William Gladstone and Benjamin Disraeli were the fiercest political rivals of the nineteenth century Their intense mutual hatred was both ideologically driven and deeply personal Their vitriolic duels carried out over decades lend profound insight into the social and political currents that dominated Victorian England To Disraeli—a legendary dandy descended from Sephardic Jews—his antagonist was an unprincipled maniac characterized by an extraordinary mixture of envy vindictiveness hypocrisy and superstition For the conservative aristocrat Gladstone his rival was the Grand Corrupter whose destruction he plotted day and night week by week month by month In the tradition of Roy Jenkins and A N Wilson Richard Aldous has written an outstanding political biography giving us the first dual portrait of this intense and momentous rivalry Aldous's vivid narrative style—by turns powerful witty and stirring—brings new life to the Gladstone and Disraeli story and confirms a perennial truth in politics everything is personal This book is a missed opportunity William Gladstone and Benjamin Disraeli were two of the oddest characters to traipse across the 19th century Their political feud reached almost apocalyptic proportions and came to define the nature of Great Britain when that country was at the pinnacle of global power It's hard to imagine a better feud about which to write Yet time and again the author decides to focus on fripperies and odd set piece scenes rather than the real struggle between the two William Gladstone like his hero Tory Prime Minister Robert Peel was the son of a wealthy manufacturer who had bought a country estate and provided his children with all the advantages of the British aristocracy except the title Gladstone's indefatigable high church conscience pushed him to work incessantly He rose through the political ranks and become head of the Board of Trade under Peel by 1843 when he was only 34 years old After the Tory Party broke apart under Peel's low tariff policy he joined the rump group of Peelites fighting for free trade and the memory of their hero He finally moved over to the Liberal Party and became prime minister four separate times Despite his attachment to the Church of England he championed the freedom of Irish Catholicism and eventually Irish nationalism and despite his frugal inclinations supported increased outreach to the poor Gladstone's dark secret however was that he spent many nights wandering the London streets looking for prostitutes under the guise of saving them and then whipped himself for his transgressions later His whole life he walked a tight line between salvation and damnationBenjamin Disraeli by contrast was the son of an immigrant Jewish family and he wore his converted religion very lightly His fame came from his novels such as Coningsby which became the talk of the literary world and made him a young romantic hero one who rouged his cheeks and sauntered around town in flashy clothes Disraeli soon however also became the surprising hero of the conservative movement that broke with Peel when he defended the value of the aristocracy and the Church of England against liberal reform And despite his scandalous reputation he was intensely attached to his older wife Mary Anne who became one of the most powerful political women in England Disraeli's two terms as prime minister caused him to champion gradual conservative reform and international realpolitik especially in defending the Ottoman Turks against the expanding Russian empireThe two men who were so dissimilar in every way and who somehow took the political stance which seemed appropriate to the other one absolutely despised each other It didn't help that ueen Victoria was clearly infatuated with Disraeli yet threatened to not even accept a government with Gladstone as its head Victoria gave Disraeli and his wife titles they became the Earl and Viscountess of Beaconsfield and ignored his opponent Gladstone's public attacks against Beaconfieldism as the ultimate corrupting influence in British life in his famous Midlothian campaign of 1880 helped make him the People's William but only further tanrished the ueen's opinion of himSo a great story but the author seems incapable of telling it straight Instead in each chapter we get boring vignettes followed by backtracking over some older stories followed by a series of new narratives with little relation to the political stakes I'm sure there are better versions of this amazing tale out there Gladstone and Disraeli were two greatest British statesmen of the second half of the nineteenth century and they hated each other It is almost impossible to write the biography of one without including the other since they were like two sides of the same coin The book is very well written I would only complain of the excessive use of the word 'brilliant' but it might be possible that the adjective really applied to every speech made by them Why this period is important? In the first half of the nineteenth century British politics was still a exclusive club Only a minority of the population could vote and the parliament was populated almost exclusively by aristocracy After a series of reforms the voting population was expanded culminating in the ascension of the labour party in the twentieth century Disraeli and Gladstone were the ones that passed the majority of those reforms through parliament albeit from different sides of the political spectrum It is uite a uniue phenomenon in history elites relinuishing power voluntarily to obtain the new electorates' sympathy for their parties and an immediate advantage in the political competition It is the second book I read about the same subject and it is hard for me not to sympathise with Disraeli the reason being that he was a jew and thus an outsider to the aristocratic group when he started and because he was of a human character imperfect but capable of great deeds This book also clarified something that puzzled me Gladstone's 'charity work' with prostitutes was not charity at all ‘The Lion and the Unicorn’ by Richard Aldous is an engaging and insightful account of the decades long struggle between Gladstone and Disraeli to forge political majorities in Parliament and to lead and fashion Britain according to Liberal or Conservative principles It was by any measure a battle of heavyweights Two men of outsized talent – and of correspondingly large egos – pitted one against the other dominating the political arena with their oratory their intellects and the force and dynamic thrust of their personalities To add to the drama all of this took place against the backdrop of Britain’s ascendency to the height of her powers as the Industrial Revolution triumphed at home and Great Britain extended her power around the globeAldous’ book provides than adeuate context for this rivalry but its focus remains on the two men themselves delivering fascinating portrayals of each depicting not only their many strengths but their idiosyncrasies their flaws and their failures – both political and personal Where it might be easy to champion one man at the expense of the other Aldous maintains an admirable impartiality giving to each his due and favoring neither This is easier said than done given the strong contrasts between the two men the genuine hostility and dislike which existed between them and the inevitable partisanship which such contrasts political and personal give rise toIn the end perhaps the greatest compliment which can be paid to the author is that one finishes the book with a genuine respect and appreciation for both men Though flawed each aspired to greatness and in than a few instances attained it Detailed and well written but uneual and lacking contextAldous focuses on the personal nature of the rivalry which helps to avoid dryness The uality of the writing is high and consistent throughout so that it is very easy to readHe slightly undermines his thesis by seeming to accept that Disraeli was 'better' and Gladstone succeeded only through some phoney religious populism he keeps mentioning Gladstone's reliance on prostitutes In describing the response to Gladstone's death he uotes The Times Disraeli left a policy a school of admirers and something like a creed and a cult Where are the Gladstonites? He does not challenge this statement leading one to believe that he concurs If it was such an uneven rivalry why did it deserve 300 pages?Some knowledge of politics and history is assumed and I was left googling around a few of the topics what was the significance of the Corn Laws exactly? Who could vote before the first Reform Bill? What happened next for the Church of Ireland? Did the Peelites run as independents afterwards I guess so? It lacked a sentence or two here and there to give sufficient context that you felt like you were learning about British political history and not just a personal rivalry It’s history Jim but not as we know it Let me say first off I really enjoyed this It was well written fast paced and had moments of genuine tension The author took an approach that combined actual history with a little bit of cod psychology of personalising these great men by getting inside their heads It generally works though at the cost of marginalising a lot of other big personalities Robert Peel and Palmerston are background characters at best despite being very influential historical and Parliamentary figures The uotes liberally used throughout from contemporary characters are great for context though they contain a certain degree of bias often being close friendsIt must be said though that as a way of making history interesting and accessible this is definitely a success Fascinating and well written Sad but true my interest in Disraeli can be traced to a Family Guy episode Peter's blathering on as he does and compares someone to Benjamin Disraeli Cut to Disraeli in his study who looks at the camera and sadly tells the viewer you don't even know who I am Thus my curiosity in the infamous British Prime Minister was piued It turns out that The Lion and the Unicorn was not the best book for a first foray into the subject Aldous assumes the reader is already familiar with the general timeline and issues of the day and focuses almost entirely on the personal enmity and numerous smackdowns between Gladstone and Disraeli Although the writing is excellent and the hatred palpable I found it somewhat difficult to follow Personally my knowledge of British history fades out somewhere after 1812 and doesn't show up again until 1914 so lots of historical figures and bills The Reform Acts The Irish uestion were news to me As if that weren't bad enough I also had to decipher the Westminster system of government I pieced most of it together while reading but it was so confusing I was sure I was missing a crucial part So I went on to wikipedia and it turns out it's just as confusing as I thought Calling for an election whenever you feel like it? Poppycock Casting a vote of no confidence in the government? Hell in America we'd do that every dayAll that aside I still thought this book was a great read Aldous is excellent at illuminating Gladstone's and Disraeli's vastly different personalities and how they affected British politics for half a century The comparisons are integrated and don't feel repetitive unlike what you'll find in say The Courtier and the Heretic And though I was sometimes lost in historical debates I was rarely bored So if you're interested in political rivalries and mudslinging in the 19th century fashion I'd definitely recommend The Lion and the Unicorn but make sure you've got a solid understanding of the basics first