Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Stella Gibbons’s Juliet: different, difficult and defiant

I didn’t expect to think of anything more to say about Stella Gibbons’s books, and I knew that as she died in 1989 there wouldn’t be any more of them.

I learned recently that two manuscripts she left to her estate have been published. I didn’t expect to like the new books - I prefer Stella Gibbons’s earlier to her later books - and I didn’t expect to find anything relevant to this blog either.

The stories contain anachronisms and anomalies, recycled and repurposed characters and other material that I recognised from her previous books, and I can’t say that I enjoying reading them for their own sake very much.

However, some of what I read in Pure Juliet (a draft that was completed in 1978 and retitled from An Alpha) resonated enough to inspire an article.

I want to concentrate on one character, the eponymous Juliet, and the most relevant aspects in this book: by coincidence, Juliet’s main interest in life is the study of coincidences.

Juliet’s personality
It seems to me that Stella Gibbons wanted to create and describe someone who was in many ways her exact opposite. She has not done too bad a job of it. Much of what she says about Juliet’s character and behaviour is familiar, and some of it could apply to INTJ girls. I can identify with a lot of it.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Benjamin Disraeli: three Napoleons and The Revolutionary Epic

I found the material for this article while looking for answers to some questions I had about Benjamin Disraeli. I wanted to know whether, despite the allegations of his enemies and detractors, he had any sincere beliefs. Did he have strong convictions about anything, or were his views changeable and just adopted from expediency?

I found that he did have some genuine and firmly-held beliefs.

The Revolutionary Epic
One thing that Disraeli definitely believed in was his own genius.
Another belief was that men are best influenced and governed by appeals to their imagination and by someone charismatic whom they could adore and obey. Someone they could hero-worship was what the people wanted. Romance was superior to reason when it came to leadership. He was right in that many people certainly do want their gods to be in human form.

These two beliefs came together in one of his attempts to make a name for himself as a creative writer.

In 1834, when he was 29 years old, he published his poem The Revolutionary Epic on this theme. It dealt with the French Revolution and the career of Napoleon Bonaparte. He considered it to be his masterpiece, the best thing he had ever done. It was going to show the world what a great genius he was, bring him fame and fortune and immortalise his name.

Or so he thought.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Some thoughts about good and bad role models

I wrote about the acceptance of responsibility a while back, as part of an exercise to start listing the attributes that in my opinion make someone a good role model.

Creating articles for this blog and making contributions to some forums has involved a lot of research. Much of the material that I have encountered recently is very disillusioning. I have seen some horrific revelations about public figures. 

These discoveries have inspired me to return to the subject of role models and associated attributes. This article continues the exercise with some ideas about bad role models and some attempts to define the qualities that make a good role model.

Bad role models
Many people are presented by the media as good examples to follow and emulate. We are given the message that we should respect these people just because of their power and position and because they are in the public eye. 

Celebrities and socialites, some talentless and lacking in achievements and with hedonistic, unwholesome or even degenerate lifestyles, are marketed as examples of success in life and good role models. After all, anyone who has millions of followers on social media must be doing something right.

They are the in crowd and we are outsiders. The suggestion is that we should admire them for their wealth, fame and glamour and envy them for and attempt to copy their lifestyles.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Benjamin Disraeli: Imperium Et Libertas, death and primroses

Benjamin Disraeli died on April 19th, 1881.

Protocol did not permit Queen Victoria to attend his funeral, but she sent two wreaths of primroses with a simple message attached: “His favourite flowers.”

She used to dispatch many bunches of primroses from Osborne House, her holiday home on the Isle of Wight, to Disraeli, for which he always thanked her effusively. Perhaps he was just being polite; perhaps he really did like primroses more than any other flower.

Queen Victoria sent primroses to Disraeli’s grave at his home in High Wycombe on each anniversary of his death until 1901, when she herself died.

Some people allege that by ‘his’, Queen Victoria meant Prince Albert’s!

Either way, because of what she wrote and sent, primroses became associated with Disraeli’s name and were featured in two legacies, Primrose Day and The Primrose League.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Benjamin Disraeli: clothes, debts and a very happy marriage

I have been looking at more information about Benjamin Disraeli’s life, personality and political career. He is still a man of mystery to me. Perhaps describing and contemplating the aspects, good and bad, that have interested and affected me the most will help me to decide what sort of man he really was and how sincere his views were.

This article describes some personal aspects that caught my attention.

Disraeli the dashing dandy
Benjamin Disraeli’s exotic appearance was a major factor in his life.
I have noticed many references in Victorian writings to coal-black eyes. This is odd; I have never seen anyone like that. Perhaps it was just a convention for describing very dark brown eyes. It is also possible that the dim lights they used enlarged people’s pupils so their eyes appeared black.

Disraeli too was described as having coal-black eyes, and he had glossy black hair too. His family was of Italian origin – just like Marie Corelli, he claimed Venetian ancestry - so perhaps this was where the dark colouring came from.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Benjamin Disraeli: reaching the dizzy heights in politics

Benjamin Disraeli reached the supreme summit of his ambitions when he entered the House of Commons as Prime Minister in February 1868.

The politician who became affectionately known as ‘Dizzy’ had first entered Parliament in 1837. He was jeered and shouted down when, as MP for Maidstone, he made his maiden speech. He sat down in defeat, saying, “I sit down now, but the time will come when you will hear me.”

His prophecy came true.

Lord Melbourne, who had condescendingly explained to Disraeli in 1834 why the likes of him could never become Prime Minister, said in 1848 after hearing that Disraeli had become Leader of the Opposition, “By God! The fellow will do it yet.”

He was right. Unfortunately, Melbourne didn’t live long enough to see his words come true.

What might be called The Politician’s Progress had been an uphill battle.

Disraeli spent around three quarters of his political career in opposition, some of it between terms as Prime Minister. He would have needed preternatural amounts of ambition, endurance, patience, persistence and determination, not to mention patronage by prominent people and emotional support, to recover from all the disappointments, setbacks, opposition and criticism, overcome all his handicaps, stay the course and reach his goal.

Was it all worth it?
Only Disraeli himself could tell us whether the game was worth the candle; all we can do is speculate.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Benjamin Disraeli: progressing in politics

Benjamin Disraeli has been called the most gifted Parliamentarian of the 19th century and a first class orator, writer and wit.

Twice Prime Minister, he played a major part in the creation of the modern Conservative Party. He also made the Tories the party most identified with the glory and power of the British Empire: he brought India and the Suez Canal under the control of the British crown.

Reading about Disraeli’s rise from relative obscurity to international renown and what he called ‘the top of the greasy pole’ makes me wonder how he did it, why he did it and which, if any, subterranean forces were at work to move him into such a high position. These articles are a record of my attempts to understand what was going on and to answer those questions.

Getting in: the political party lottery
Although Disraeli may have decided on a political career in 1826, he didn’t do much about it until 1832. This was after his return from the Grand Tour of Europe and the Orient, a tour that restored him to health.

His long term goal was to become Prime Minister.

The first step in this direction was to get into the House of Commons as a Member of Parliament.  This entailed deciding which of the three political parties to campaign for.

The Tory, or Conservative, Party was considered to be worn out at the time, a lost cause, and Disraeli didn’t want to attach himself to a falling star; he couldn’t bring himself to be a Whig (who became the Liberals), so in 1832 he decided that he would campaign as a Radical.

After making a few unsuccessful attempts to get into Parliament by standing as an Independent Radical, in 1835 Disraeli changed his political affiliations and campaigned as a Tory.

For Disraeli, the end was much more important than the means; he felt that he had to do whatever it took to reach his goal. He was in no position to have scruples. Perhaps he changed parties because he felt that time was running out; he was going nowhere with the Radicals so had not got much to lose by joining the Conservatives.

He lost a by-election in 1835. He was then offered the safe seat of Maidstone, and easily defeated his Whig opponent in the general election of 1837.

He was in! He had finally made it at the age of 32. His decision to switch parties had paid off.

The Conservatives, while still a minority in Parliament, made large gains in this election; their star was on the rise again.