Gossipy Letter about Lola Montez and “the Rothschildren”

Signed by Benjamin Disraeli

Item: 20924
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DISRAELI, BENJAMIN. (1804-1881). English author and politician; prime minister from 1874 to 1880 and confidant of Queen Victoria. ALS. (“D.”). 8pp. 8vo. N.p., [July 24, 1849]. [To his older sister, SARAH DISRAELI, 1802-1859.]

Benjamin Disraeli

Lola Montez


Ralph wrote you a bulletin. I have nothing very particular to add – or rather I am so pressed with affairs, that I can hardly bring my mind to write. I suppose we shall get down to H[ughende]n. in ten days or so – but it depends on many things – wh[ich] don’t go on as well as I c[oul]d wish. Last Saturday I dined at Sir Chas Burrell with the County of Sussex in the shape of D. of Richmond, Ld. March etc. Sir John Buller represented Devon & I Bucks – & there was Herries. The best guests how[eve]r were turtle, whitebait, venison, & Burgundy – our host very courteous & courtly. The Rothchildren have all gone abroad – to Wildbad principally bet[wee]n Baden Baden & Stuttgart – I remember it; very picturesque in the black forest – we slept there overnight & eat trout out of the stream. Lola Montez’ marr[iag]e makes a sensation. I believe he has only 3,000 per annum, not 13. It was an affair of a few days – She sent to ask the refusal of his dog, wh[ich] she understood was for sale – Of course it wasn’t, being very beautiful – But he sent it as a present – She rejoined – he called & they were married in a week. He is only 21 & wished to be distinguished – Their dinner invitations are already out I am told. She quite convinced him, previously, that she was not Mrs. James – & as for the King of Bavaria (who by the bye allows her 1500₤ per annum & to whom she really writes every day) that he is… was only a malheureuse passion. I am very tired, having been working five hours on the Ceylon comm[itt]ee, wh[ich] is very interesting…”

Born into a London family of Sephardic Jewish origins, Disraeli was especially close to his older and only sister, Sarah, who was employed as their father’s personal secretary, a prominent author and literary critic. She became engaged to William Meredith, a family friend, whose relatives objected to Sarah’s religious background. Her fiancée and brother embarked on a tour of the continent and “the travellers [sic] kept in close contact with her through letters; this is probably what sparked the life-long prolificy of Benjamin’s written communiques with his sister,” (The Death of Sarah Disraeli, Millar and Wiebe). In 1830, after arguing and then parting ways with Benjamin, Meredith contracted small pox and died. Sarah’s “role in Benjamin’s life, though important before, became the primary interest of her life… her relationship with her brother was both intellectual and emotional. She was involved in most aspects of his political and literary life, but she also depended on his affection,” (ibid.).

“Lola Montez’ marr[iag]e makes a sensation…”

It was during the 1820s that Disraeli, abandoning his secure position as a solicitor’s clerk, began to write fiction with his debut novel, Vivian Grey, appearing in 1826. He continued to write throughout the 1830s and 1840s, while at about the same time, became involved in Tory politics. Disraeli entered government with his election to parliament in 1837 and, again, in 1841. “For long his dream had been to acquire a great house in that county of Bucks to which he had attached himself,” and from 1848 to 1881, the Manor of Hughenden, mentioned in our letter, was Disraeli’s country home, (Disraeli, Maurois). Since his youth, Disraeli had been familiar with the place and thought it appropriate for his station.

His marriage to a wealthy widow, Mary Anne Wyndham Lewis, 12 years his senior, in 1832, disrupted the siblings’ bond but despite the strained relations with her sister-in-law, Sarah remained intimately involved with her brother’s political life but, sadly, did not live to see him elected prime minister. Following her death, most of her papers were destroyed. Our letter also mentions Benjamin and Sarah’s brother Ralph Disraeli (1809-1898).

King Ludwig I and his mistress Lola Montez

Our letter discusses the marriage of Irish adventuress and dancer Lola Montez (1818-1861) whose liaison with King Ludwig I of Bavaria (1786-1868) secured her reputation as the  19th-century’s quintessential femme fatale. Although her London dance debut in 1843 was disastrous, Montez’s striking beauty brought her more engagements, and in 1846, she danced for Ludwig I, who immediately became infatuated with her. The 16-month affair proved calamitous for the already unpopular king, as Montez influenced Ludwig to adopting liberal and anti-Jesuit policies. Upon the outbreak of revolutions in 1848, Ludwig abdicated in favor of his son, Maximilian II and Montez was forced to quit the country. Her amorous conquests were not limited to royalty, and in 1845, she set out for Berlin to meet Hungarian composer, Franz Liszt, with whom she traveled for a short time. Our letter regards her marriage to wealthy Army officer George Trafford Heald despite the fact that she had never divorced her estranged husband, Thomas James. Montez and Heald were forced to flee the country to avoid bigamy charges.

English Conservative MP Sir Charles Merrik Burrell, 3rd Baronet (1774-1862) represented the Sussex County seat of New Shoreham for 56 years, from 1806-1862, becoming Father of the House of Commons. In addition to his country estate, he owned a home in London’s Richmond Terrace.

Charles Gordon-Lennox (1791-1860) was the 5th Duke of Richmond as well as the 5th Duke of Lennox and 5th Duke of Aubigny, known as the Earl of March. A decorated military officer who served on the Duke of Wellington’s staff, he broke with Wellington while serving in the House of Lords over the subject of Catholic Emancipation, which he opposed. From 1835-1860, he served as Lord Lieutenant of Sussex. He also broke with the Conservatives to hold several cabinet posts in Earl Grey’s 1830 Whig government.

John Yarde-Buller, 1st Baron Churston (1799-1871) was a Conservative MP representing South Devon, a seat he held for 24 years. “Herries” is likely John Charles Herries (1778-1855), MP for Stamford at the time of our letter and former Chancellor of the Exchequer and Secretary at War, along with many other government positions, many of them financial in nature.

Disraeli amusingly refers to “the Rothschildren,” possibly a reference to the seven children of Nathan Mayer Rothschild who in 1798 established the British branch of his family’s banking business and eventually became the richest man in the world, helping Herries, incidentally, to finance the British war against Napoleon. One of his children was Lionel de Rothschild (1808-1879), the first practicing Jew to serve as a Member of Parliament thanks to Disraeli’s reform efforts. Although he was elected in 1847, it wasn’t until the Jews Relief Act of 1858 that all barriers to his taking the seat were removed.

Published in Benjamin Disraeli Letters: 1848-1851, ed. Gunn, volume 5, p. 198. Written on two folded sheets. Folded with some minor staining and the date noted in pencil in an unidentified hand in the upper margin of the first page. In very fine condition.

Gossipy Letter about Lola Montez and “the Rothschildren”

Signed by Benjamin Disraeli

$1500 • item #20924

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