The many lives and public personae of Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881) included those of Byronic socialite, flamboyant dandy, fast-selling silver-fork novelist, political opportunist, Jewish-born social and ethnic outsider, two-times Prime Minister, and icon of Conservative politics. What renders Disraeli’s extraordinary career such a compelling subject of analysis from the perspective of Celebrity Studies are the remarkably close ties between his literary and political ambitions as equally viable routes to public acclaim and prominence. This paper focuses on the intersections of literary and political fame in Disraeli’s public image and argues that it was his life-long ability to migrate between literature and politics as equally significant arenas of self-fashioning that shaped his position as one of the ‘eminent Victorians’. It firmly locates Disraeli’s life and work within the context of nineteenth-century literary and political celebrity culture and reflects on how such a biographical project might benefit from some of the concepts and approaches developed in the multi-disciplinary field of Celebrity Studies.
Sandra Mayer is an Erwin Schrödinger Research Fellow (Austrian Science Fund) in English Literature at the University of Oxford’s English Faculty and Wolfson College, where she works on a post-doc project that focuses on Benjamin Disraeli as a literary celebrity and celebrity politician.