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70 T Disraeli’s Endymion     and the Unfinished Falconet O ut of office and ailing in 1880, Benjamin Disraeli, Earl of Beaconsfield , left 10 Downing Street for his country home, Hughenden, and used his unwelcome leisure to complete a novel. He had last published Lothair in 1870, when he had last been defeated by the sanctimoniousW . E. Gladstone, who remained his political and personal archenemy. Endymion was already well along. He had begun it before he had returned as Prime Minister in 1874, and kept it a secret—almost. His private secretary, Monty Corry, knew, and safeguarded the manuscript. Endymion was in the planning stages in 1871 when Disraeli wrote to his old friend the Duchess of Somerset (Lady Seymour when he first knew her in the 1830s) to ask whether she had kept any souvenirs of the Eglinton Tournament, the great social and spectator event of its year. He wanted his novel’s semiautobiographical hero to be part of that early Victorian experience, the symbolic revival of romanticized medievalism.The reenactment had been staged at Eglinton Castle, home of a sporting peer in Ayrshire , near Glasgow, on 28 August 1839, theWednesday following the close of the parliamentary season. Thirteen costumed and armored knights had taken part and Lady Seymour as Queen of Beauty, despite drenching rain and mud, and the scattering of both participants and crowd, awarded a trophy to the champion and presided over a culminating banquet on the first dry day, August 30. The Duchess wrote back to Disraeli that a “stupid maid” had burnt her relics, all but a color print, which she sent him. Nevertheless, Disraeli created his own authenticity. In the nostagia-drenched England of his “Montfort Tournament” in Endymion, “The sun shone, and not one of the breathless multitude was disappointed.” Monty Corry’s recollection that his first glimpse of the novel came when the unfinished manuscript was locked away in the new strong room at Hughenden on 15 October 1878 is precise without being accurate. On 19 November 1877, accompanied by Corry, Disraeli had entrained for St. Albans, Disraeli’s Endymion and the Unfinished Falconet 71 where Lord Verulam’s carriage was waiting to take them to Gorhambury. A descendant of Francis Bacon (the first Baron Verulam and Viscount St. Albans), the ruins of whose house still remained on the property, Verulam was an agreeable aristocrat. Lame and using two crutches, he guided guests about his park, showing them Bacon’s observatory and the old “Kissing Oak” under which Queen Elizabeth reputedly embraced her host. His house was filled with Baconian relics. One of Verulam’s visitors was travel writer and memoirist Augustus Hare, who recalled Disraeli explaining why he never carried a watch: “I live under the shadow of Big Ben.” He also noted in his diary (about 20 November 1877) that the Prime Minister “seemed absorbed.… Scarcely noticed any one, barely answered his hostess when spoken to.” Apologizing for Lord Beaconsfield, “Corry said that his chief declared that the greatest pleasure in life was writing a book, because ‘in that way alone man could become a creator’: that his habit was to make marionettes, and then to live with them for some months before he put them into action. Lately he had made some marionettes; now he was living with them, and their society occupied him entirely.” When Disraeli began thinking out his marionettes is unclear. It may have been soon after he completed Lothair.The name of Disraeli’s autobiographical protagonist, Endymion Ferrars, may be a clue to the actual writing. Although the satirist William Aytoun had published a burlesque of Disraeli ’s “Ixion in Heaven” in 1842 entitled “Endymion,” Disraeli had almost certainly forgotten it.The mythological Endymion, the handsome son of Zeus and the nymph Calyce, was the object of the desperate love of Selene, the Moon goddess. One story about their relationship is that Endymion was lying asleep in a cave one night when Selene gently kissed his closed eyes, after which Zeus gave him eternal youth at the cost of his never awakening. Disraeli’s epistolary courtship of Selina, Countess of Bradford, dates from 1873, and his christening his hero Endymion seems to link the author with his own Moon goddess. When he put the manuscript away for safekeeping in 1878, not expecting to complete it, if ever, until he left office, he explained to Corry that there were about a hundred pages to go. In the box he left notes on how the plot...


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