British Fiction, 18001829

DISRAELI, Benjamin, Earl of Beaconsfield. Vivian Grey (1826)

Anecdotal Records

Letter from Sir Charles Morgan to Sydney Owenson, Lady Morgan.
29 May 1826.
I am reading Vivian Grey, at night, and in bed in the morning.
Source: Lady Morgan’s Memoirs: Autobiography, Diaries and Correspondence, ed. by W. Hepworth Dixon, 2 vols (London: William H. Allen & Co, 1862), II, 229.

Letter from Maria Edgeworth to Mrs Margaret Ruxton.
8 Apr 1827.
We are reading the second part of Vivian Grey, which we like better than the first. There is a scene of gamesters and swindlers wonderfully well done. I know who wrote Almack’s. Lady de Ros tells me it is by Mrs Purvis, sister to Lady Blessington; this accounts for both the knowledge of high, and the habits of low, life which appear in the book.
Source: The Life and Letters of Maria Edgeworth, ed. by Augustus J. C. Hare, 2 vols (London: Arnold, 1894), II, 150.
Notes: Marianne Spencer Hudson’s Almack’s is EN2 1826: 47.

Journal Entry by Walter Scott.
11 June 1827.
[…] reading among the rest an odd volume of Vivian Grey—clever but not so much as to make [me] in this sultry weather go up stairs to the drawing room to seek the other volumes.
Source: The Journal of Sir Walter Scott, ed. by W. E. K. Anderson (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972), p. 314.

Diary Entry by Henry Crabb Robinson.
16 Mar 1828.
I read at night an odd volume of Vivian Grey, the fourth; it amused without pleasing me. Neither truth of character nor beauty of character, neither sentiments nor descriptions worth recollecting. This volume purports to describe German manners, and in particular the court of a mediatised prince who had resisted France, and of another prince who retained his sovereignty by skilfully changing his party. The character of the prime minister, Beckensdorf, is only odd, not intelligible or consistent. He is a sort of humorist, who rules his prince absolutely while he lives a retired and whimsical life—a caricature picture of the drinking and hunting parties of the German nobility [which] belongs to a remote, not the last age.
Source: Henry Crabb Robinson on Books and their Writers, ed. by Edith J. Morley, 3 vols (London: Dent, 1938), I, 354.

Diary Entry by Henry Crabb Robinson.
24 July 1839.
I read another volume of Vivian Grey, which I felt no inclination to finish. The same occurred with Sense and Sensibility—a rare occurrence in novel-reading. Nor shall I think of reading anything else by the younger Disraeli.
Source: Henry Crabb Robinson on Books and their Writers, ed. by Edith J. Morley, 3 vols (London: Dent, 1938), II, 574.
Notes: Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility is EN2 1811: 16.

Memoirs by Cyrus Redding.
Mr Disraeli published ‘Vivian Grey’ about this time. The characters were supposed to be drawn from real life. At least, it was clearly implied, that though the author did not intend to depict Lord A. or Lady B., yet he drew his outlines from those seen in the fashionable circles […] It was at the time Mr Disraeli incog, was publishing a periodical paper called the ‘Star Chamber,’ of which the public took little notice, that the first two volumes of ‘Vivian Grey’ made their appearance […] // Mr Disraeli reviewed and extolled his own book in its columns. Calling one day upon Colburn, who published ‘Vivian Grey’, he [Colburn] said to me: [321/322] ‘I have a capital book out, “Vivian Grey”, the authorship is a great secret—a man of high fashion—very high—keeps the first society. I can assure you it is a most piquant and spirited work, quite sparkling.’ […] Three or four days after this, walking down Oxford Street, I saw one of Colburn’s establishment come out of the shop of Marsh, Disraeli’s publisher of the ‘Star Chamber.’ He had a number of pamphlets under his arm. […] the word ‘key’ was signified by a wood-cut of a key, and below the cut were the words ‘to Vivian Gray! Being a complete exposition of the royal, noble, and fashionable characters who figure in this most extraordinary work.’ […] I took away one of the pamphlets, and found it filled with [322/323] extracts from ‘Vivian Gray,’ and remarks, some of feigned censure, to give critical verisimilitude, others were puffs of the work, highly laudatory. At the end of the key there was a clue to the living personages, whose names were affixed to the real and imaginary characters in the work […]. Such were some of the artifices made use of the get the book into notoriety, and they were successful.
Source: Cyrus Redding, Fifty Years’ Recollections, 3 vols (London: Skeet, 1858), II, 321–23.

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