Prior to entering politics, Disraeli enjoyed literary fame with such works as Vivian Grey, The Young Duke, Contarini Fleming, and Henrietta Temple. However, his literary accomplishments pale in comparison to his long political career, which began with his election to the House of Commons in 1837.
Lord Rowton (right) with his master, Benjamin Disraeli (left)
Disraeli first met Mary Anne Wyndham Lewis (later Mary Anne Disraeli, 1st Viscountess Beaconsfield, 1792-1872), 12 years his senior, in 1832. She had been married to an MP, becoming a widow in 1838. “Her first marriage to an iron magnate had brought her wealth but not social acceptance. She was the undereducated daughter of a sailor and the combination of her background, rackety manners and distinctly unwidow-like behaviour meant that London’s smart society ladies kept their distance… Disraeli, meanwhile, was an adventurer, an outsider of Jewish descent who was overwhelmed by debt and facing ruin. In 1838, the year in which Mary Anne’s first husband died, the only thing preventing Disraeli’s immediate exile or incarceration in a debtors’ prison was the fact that, as an MP, he was immune from arrest. He lived in dread of parliament dissolving and his immunity evaporating with it,” (“A political romance: Benjamin and Mary Anne Disraeli,” The Guardian, Hay). Disraeli triumphantly wooed her away from other suitors and several months after the March 1838 death of her husband, the pair were engaged, marrying in 1839.
In 1868, Disraeli was elected prime minister, holding office from February to December and becoming Queen Victoria’s trusted advisor and confidant. Upon his departure from office, she wished to ennoble him, but he did not want to give up his place in the House of Commons and asked that the title be conferred on his wife instead; in November 1868, she became Viscountess Beaconsfield. Mary Ann became ill with terminal stomach cancer in the spring of 1872 and died in December, just a few months after Disraeli penned our letter. With her death, Disraeli lost “the most cheerful and courageous woman I ever knew,” (quoted in Disraeli, Maurois). Yet she remained present in his thoughts, and for the rest of his life he used black-bordered mourning stationery as a sign of lasting grief.
In 1870, Disraeli published his novel Lothair in three volumes. A popular success it dealt with issues of Italian reunification and Catholicism, Anglicanism and Judaism. Lothair was not his last novel, however. He published Endymion, a three-volume romance, in 1880, and was at work on Falconet at the time of his death the following year.
Disraeli re-elected prime minister with the 1874 Conservative victory in the general election. Queen Victoria named Disraeli the Earl of Beaconsfield and Viscount Hughenden in 1876.
Carter, our letter’s recipient, was a co-founder with James Russell Lowell of The Pioneer, a Literary and Critical Magazine and a contributing editor to the first edition of the American Cyclopaedia. He also edited the Boston Telegraph, Rochester Democrat and, from 1870-1873, Appleton’s Journal. It is likely that Carter was soliciting news of a forthcoming novel by Disraeli to include in that periodical. Carter was also an active member of the Free-Soil movement and instrumental in the 1854 establishment of the Republican Party.
Montagu William Lowry-Corry (1838-1903) served as Disraeli’s private secretary from 1866-1881 and the pair enjoyed an unusually close relationship. Corry was awarded a peerage in 1880, becoming 1st Baron Rowton.
Folded with normal wear. Accompanied by the original envelope. In fine condition.