Benjamin Disraeli once gave a three-hour speech in which he consumed two bottles of brandy. He is one of my heroes. He is also famous for disliking Gladstone, once defining the difference between a misfortune and calamity thus: "If Gladstone fell into the Thames, that would be a misfortune; and if anybody pulled him out, that, I suppose, would be a calamity."
And he never let anti-semitism get him down. Responding to a remark by the Irish Nationalist, Daniel O'Connell, he remarked:
"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."
It is worth googling Disraeli quotes. What comes out from them and his career is a heady fusion of ruthless pragmatism, ego, ambition, wit, and romanticism. It is hard to imagine him functioning in a modern democracy, nor any modern politician being so mordantly witty on their deathbed. Asked, as he lay dying, whether he wanted the Queen to come and see him, he drawled that she would only want him to send a message to Albert. (Her husband she'd been mourning for twenty years)
Understandably, given the chance to visit his house I jumped at the chance.
Hughendon manor is mentioned in the Domesday book when it was given a value of ten hides. A more substantial house was built in the C18th century but failed to meet Disraeli's expectations when he bought it in 1862. He had it remodelled along the lines of Victorian gothic. It delighted him but not the architectural historian, Nickolaus Pevsner who called it 'excruciating.'
Disraeli himself greets you as you pass through the porch
This is far more imposing than the more bohemian Disraeli painted in later years
This in turn is more imposing than the many wonderful and surreal Victorian cartoons.
His dining room was quite small but this didn't bother Queen Victoria when she visited him once. She was quite small, too. In fact he had her chair cut and shortened so she could sit down without dangling the royal legs
His Drawing Room however was more spacious and sunny. A portrait of his wife, commissioned after her death, hangs over the mantelpiece.
Love it or loathe it, a fine piece of Victoriana
In one of the corridors, attached to the wall, is a carriage door. It's there for a reason
And its worth zooming in to read this.
Disraeli married his wife, Mary Anne, for her money, but it developed into a love match. In her words:“Dizzy married me for my money.But if he had the chance again, he would marry me for love.” He poked fun at her:
“My wife is a very clever woman, but she can never remember who came first, the Greeks or the Romans.” And she embarrassed him by telling Queen Victoria that she always slept with her arms around Disraeli’s neck, and prim society hostesses how beautiful her 'Dizzy' looked naked in the bath. It could have been worse. She could have discussed his merits in bed. Speaking of which
And finally, into the garden ---
--- which is seriously weird with its Flower-Pot man, Scary Spice, and Spanish dancer scaring small children and birds.
I leave their unholy love child until last.