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This is definitely the guy you wanted to sit next to at dinner, anyway. Of the two, I definitely was more pleased to see Disraeli win whenever he did It's just funny that in this story that was set up to be a boxing match, I really ended up not being able to root for either of them fully, because you see just how many flaws each of them had.

It's just a never-ending mess. Yeah, I know. That's politics.

The Lion and the Unicorn : Gladstone vs Disraeli

View 1 comment. Shelves: british-history , history , 19th-century , victorian , biography , favorites. Fascinating and well-written. Jul 31, Paula rated it really liked it. Sad but true: my interest in Disraeli can be traced to a Family Guy episode. Peter's blathering on, as he does, and compares someone to Benjamin Disraeli. Cut to Disraeli in his study, who looks at the camera and sadly tells the viewer, "you don't even know who I am.

It turns out that "The Lion and the Unicorn" was not the best book for a first foray into the subject. Aldous assumes the reader is already familiar with the gen Sad but true: my interest in Disraeli can be traced to a Family Guy episode. Aldous assumes the reader is already familiar with the general timeline and issues of the day, and focuses almost entirely on the personal enmity and numerous smackdowns between Gladstone and Disraeli. Although the writing is excellent and the hatred palpable, I found it somewhat difficult to follow.

Personally, my knowledge of British history fades out somewhere after and doesn't show up again until , so lots of historical figures and bills The Reform Acts, The Irish Question were news to me. As if that weren't bad enough, I also had to decipher the Westminster system of government. I pieced most of it together while reading, but it was so confusing, I was sure I was missing a crucial part. So I went on to wikipedia and it turns out, it's just as confusing as I thought.

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Calling for an election whenever you feel like it? Casting a vote of no confidence in the government?

Hell, in America, we'd do that every day. All that aside, I still thought this book was a great read. Aldous is excellent at illuminating Gladstone's and Disraeli's vastly different personalities and how they affected British politics for half a century. The comparisons are integrated and don't feel repetitive, unlike what you'll find in, say, [The Courtier and the Heretic]. And though I was sometimes lost in historical debates, I was rarely bored.

So if you're interested in political rivalries and mudslinging in the 19th-century fashion, I'd definitely recommend "The Lion and the Unicorn," but make sure you've got a solid understanding of the basics first. Sep 07, Frank Stein rated it liked it. This book is a missed opportunity.

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William Gladstone and Benjamin Disraeli were two of the oddest characters to traipse across the 19th century. Their political feud reached almost apocalyptic proportions, and came to define the nature of Great Britain when that country was at the pinnacle of global power. It's hard to imagine a better feud about which to write. Yet time and again the author decides to focus on fripperies and odd set-piece scenes rather than the real struggle between the two.

Wi This book is a missed opportunity. William Gladstone, like his hero, Tory Prime Minister Robert Peel, was the son of a wealthy manufacturer who had bought a country estate and provided his children with all the advantages of the British aristocracy, except the title. Gladstone's indefatigable high-church conscience pushed him to work incessantly. He rose through the political ranks, and become head of the Board of Trade under Peel by , when he was only 34 years old. After the Tory Party broke apart under Peel's low tariff policy, he joined the rump group of "Peelites" fighting for free trade and the memory of their hero.

He finally moved over to the Liberal Party, and became prime minister four separate times. Despite his attachment to the Church of England, he championed the freedom of Irish Catholicism and eventually Irish nationalism, and despite his frugal inclinations, supported increased outreach to the poor.

Gladstone's dark secret, however, was that he spent many nights wandering the London streets looking for prostitutes, under the guise of "saving" them, and then whipped himself for his transgressions later. His whole life he walked a tight line between salvation and damnation. Benjamin Disraeli, by contrast, was the son of an immigrant Jewish family, and he wore his converted religion very lightly.

His fame came from his novels, such as Coningsby, which became the talk of the literary world, and made him a young romantic hero, one who rouged his cheeks and sauntered around town in flashy clothes. Disraeli soon, however, also became the surprising hero of the conservative movement that broke with Peel, when he defended the value of the aristocracy and the Church of England against liberal reform.

And despite his scandalous reputation, he was intensely attached to his older wife, Mary Anne, who became one of the most powerful political women in England. Disraeli's two terms as prime minister caused him to champion gradual conservative reform and international realpolitik, especially in defending the Ottoman Turks against the expanding Russian empire.

The Lion and the Unicorn Gladstone vs Disraeli

The two men, who were so dissimilar in every way, and who somehow took the political stance which seemed more appropriate to the other one, absolutely despised each other. It didn't help that Queen Victoria was clearly infatuated with Disraeli, yet threatened to not even accept a government with Gladstone as its head.

Victoria gave Disraeli and his wife titles they became the Earl and Viscountess of Beaconsfield , and ignored his opponent. Gladstone's public attacks against "Beaconfieldism," as the ultimate corrupting influence in British life, in his famous Midlothian campaign of , helped make him the "People's William," but only further tanrished the Queen's opinion of him. So, a great story, but the author seems incapable of telling it straight.

Instead, in each chapter we get boring vignettes, followed by backtracking over some older stories, followed by a series of new narratives with little relation to the political stakes. I'm sure there are better versions of this amazing tale out there. Feb 11, Palindrome Mordnilap rated it really liked it Shelves: history-books. A very enjoyable and informative review of two great titans of British political history. Both men are given a fair hearing, though it is apparent that the author favours Disraeli over Gladstone which is fine by me as that chimes with my own opinions. The book emphasises the struggle between them rather than simply giving potted histories of each man, which makes the material all the more interesting to read.

Some of Disraeli's barbs aimed at Gladstone were just as funny to read now as they mu A very enjoyable and informative review of two great titans of British political history. Some of Disraeli's barbs aimed at Gladstone were just as funny to read now as they must have been at the time. The book also pulls back the covers! An excellent book for anyone with even a passing interest in the period, and definitely one for Disraeli fans like myself. Jul 09, Thomas Canfield rated it liked it.

It was, by any measure, a battle of heavyweights. Two men of outsized talent — and of correspondingly large egos — pitted one against the other, dominating the political arena with their oratory, their intellects and the force and dynamic thrust of their personalities. Where it might be easy to champion one man at the expense of the other, Aldous maintains an admirable impartiality, giving to each his due and favoring neither. This is easier said than done, given the strong contrasts between the two men, the genuine hostility and dislike which existed between them and the inevitable partisanship which such contrasts political and personal give rise to.

In the end, perhaps the greatest compliment which can be paid to the author is that one finishes the book with a genuine respect and appreciation for both men. Though flawed, each aspired to greatness and, in more than a few instances, attained it. Gladstone and Disraeli were two greatest British statesmen of the second half of the nineteenth century, and they hated each other.

It is almost impossible to write the biography of one without including the other, since they were like two sides of the same coin.

The book is very well written, I would only complain of the excessive use of the word 'brilliant' but it might be possible that the adjective really applied to every speech made by them. Why this period is important? In the first half Gladstone and Disraeli were two greatest British statesmen of the second half of the nineteenth century, and they hated each other. In the first half of the nineteenth century, British politics was still a exclusive club.


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Only a minority of the population could vote and the parliament was populated almost exclusively by aristocracy. After a series of reforms, the voting population was expanded, culminating in the ascension of the labour party in the twentieth century. Disraeli and Gladstone were the ones that passed the majority of those reforms through parliament, albeit from different sides of the political spectrum. It is quite a unique phenomenon in history: elites relinquishing power voluntarily to obtain the new electorates' sympathy for their parties and an immediate advantage in the political competition.

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It is the second book I read about the same subject and it is hard for me not to sympathise more with Disraeli, the reason being that he was a jew and thus an outsider to the aristocratic group when he started and because he was more of a human character: imperfect but capable of great deeds.

This book also clarified something that puzzled me: Gladstone's 'charity work' with prostitutes was not charity at all. Jul 16, AshleyS rated it really liked it Shelves: politics , non-fiction , history , writing-research , rivalry. Detailed and well-written, but unequal and lacking context Aldous focuses on the personal nature of the rivalry, which helps to avoid dryness.

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The quality of the writing is high and consistent throughout, so that it is very easy to read. He slightly undermines his thesis by seeming to accept that Disraeli was 'better' and Gladstone succeeded only through some phoney religious populism he keeps mentioning Gladstone's reliance on prostitutes. In describing the response to Gladstone's death, he quo Detailed and well-written, but unequal and lacking context Aldous focuses on the personal nature of the rivalry, which helps to avoid dryness.