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leather. The price which began at twelve shillings bounded to a guinea on the first issue of The Keepsake; whose second number, it may be stated, cost its proprietors sixteen hundred pounds.
With the editorship of the Book of Beauty a new phase may be said to have begun in Lady Blessington's life; a phase fuller of interest and event, than those which had gone before.
Lady Blessington's Circle widens-Young Disraeli
As editor of the Book of Beauty, Lady Blessington was brought into correspondence and connection not only with authors, poets, and essayists, but likewise with artists, engravers, publishers, editors, and critics. Her circle widened, became richer in variety, losing nothing of the old it gained by the new. She now made the acquaintance and subsequently gained the friendship of such men as Bulwer, Macready, actor and manager; the elder Disraeli and his brilliant son Benjamin; Barry Cornwall, Captain Marryat, the poet Campbell, Harrison Ainsworth; Albany Fonblanque, an eminent political writer and editor and proprietor of the Examiner; Maclise, and James and Horace Smith, authors of The Rejected Addresses.
THE MOST GORGEOUS LADY BLESSINGTON
Gradually her drawing-room became the acknowledged centre of all that was brilliant in literature and art; the common ground where the aristocracy of rank met that of talent; where painters were introduced to patrons, and authors met editors and publishers, and critics came face to face with the criticised: the hostess presiding over an assemblage whose prejudices on the one hand and whose sensitiveness on the other, made them difficult to manage; but which she with her strong individuality, felicitous tact, and common sense, succeeded in harmonising.
Perhaps the most remarkable, most interesting of all who crowded her salon was young Benjamin Disraeli; a distinguished figure in any assembly, physically and mentally.
In thought he had ever been in advance of his years, as a school-boy had fretted at formulas that had given him words instead of ideas and at a period when most lads are unformed in mind and plastic, this youth had distinguished himself by his imagination, fluency, his ambitious dreams, his brilliancy. It was out of school indeed he had learned most; the place which pleased and helped him best being his father's library.
In the course of his reading he was left to his fancy, the volumes which had most attraction, dealing with men who had risen by force of their own abilities. Young Ben was acutely conscious of power within himself, but the scene towards which it led was unknown, unsighted; one of those mysteries
which lend a delightful charm to untried youth.
Early in life he was seized by that greed of distinction which was later to elevate him; and he had been bidden by his father to beware of being a great man in a hurry. The elder Disraeli who was something of a poet and a dreamer had early in life, with a choice strange to his race, refused to become interested in business, and employed himself as an author; in which pursuit he immediately gained distinction and attracted round him many scholars and leading literary men of the day. Having inherited a fortune from his father he became independent, and soon after abandoned Judaism because, as he explained, of the narrowness of its system in modern days, and with all his family joined the Church of England.
The elder Disraeli had three other children to educate and provide for, two sons and a daughter. Soon after he left school, Benjamin's career was mapped out for him, a powerful friend of the family having offered to secure him a post in the Court of Chancery, which in due course would lead to a good position and a handsome income. But that he might become qualified for this, it was necessary he should first be admitted as a solicitor. At the age of seventeen he therefore entered a lawyer's office; and though its business was wholly uncongenial to his restless and aspiring spirit, he conscientiously went through the routine of his duties whilst there.
His whole time however was not given to law books. At his father's house he continually met poets and politicians, the great critics, newspaper writers and men of general ability, to whom he condescended to listen, weighing them, measuring them against himself somewhat to their detriment, commenting on them mentally. He then began to write for the press, and presently in his twentieth year produced a remarkable novel, Vivian Grey, no less full of affectation than ability, and replete with satire and personality.
The book which was published anonymously, seized upon public attention, its impertinence was laughed at and resented, its wit discussed at dinner-tables, and a key to the personages it satirised published. Lady Blessington, reading it in Paris, declared it was wild but clever, 'full of genius and dazzling by its passionate eloquence.'
The delight which success brought him was checked by a strange and unaccountable illness that befel him. His head became heavy and dull, he was seized with fits of giddiness during which the world swung round him, he became abstracted and once fell into a trance from which he did not recover for a week. Work in a lawyer's office was no longer possible, doctors were consulted and he was advised to travel. With friends of the family he went through Switzerland to the north of Italy as far as Venice and back by France. On his return home he was little better, and all thought of serious work was postponed.