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When Mary Anne Lewis met Benjamin Disraeli, she was married to Wyndham Lewis, a rich, mildly successful politician at the center of nineteenth-century British high society. The three became friends and with his deep pockets Wyndham helped Disraeli--young, ambitious, and swimming in debt--get his start in the political arena. Mary Anne even referred to him as her "Parliamentary protégé." But when Wyndham suddenly died of a heart attack, Mary Anne's friendship with Disraeli (fifteen years her junior) soon evolved into a peculiarly romantic and undoubtedly advantageous marriage: Mary Anne avoided life as a widow, while Benjamin used her financial means to stay out of prison and make a run for office.
Anecdotally the Disraelis cultivated an outrageous reputation. Once asked if he had read any new novels, Benjamin reportedly replied, "When I want to read a novel, I write one." Mary Anne, on the other hand, supposedly once told Queen Victoria that she always slept with her arms around her husband's neck. "My wife is a very clever woman," Benjamin said, "but she can never remember who came first, the Greeks or the Romans."
An unusual story of Victorian romance and politics, Mr. and Mrs. Disraeli moves beyond the anecdotes to reveal the interior life of one of Britain's most influential couples. Often eclipsed by Benjamin, Mary Anne had at least as much political acumen as her husband, and this dual biography shows that she was frequently his voice of reason. In the wake of British Romanticism, Daisy Hay examines the paths available to women like Mary Anne, and chronicles a relationship that is surprising, unconventional, and deeply inspiring.
About the Author
Daisy Hay is the author of Young Romantics: The Shelleys, Byron, and Other Tangled Lives (FSG, 2010) and has a PhD in English literature from Cambridge University.