Last modified on 28 July 2014, at 16:38

Coningsby (novel)

Nurture your mind with great thoughts. To believe in the heroic makes heroes.

Coningsby, or The New Generation, is an 1844 English political novel by Benjamin Disraeli. The book is set against a background of the real political events of the 1830s in England that followed the enactment of the Reform Bill of 1832. In describing these events Disraeli sets out his own beliefs including his opposition to Robert Peel, his dislikes of both the British Whig Party and the ideals of Utilitarianism, and the need for social justice in a newly industrialized society. He portrays the self-serving politician in the character of Rigby (based on John Wilson Croker) and the malicious party insiders in the characters of Taper and Tadpole.

QuotesEdit

Book IIEdit

  • No Government can be long secure without a formidable Opposition. It reduces their supporters to that tractable number which can be managed by the joint influences of fruition and hope. It offers vengeance to the discontented, and distinction to the ambitious; and employs the energies of aspiring spirits, who otherwise may prove traitors in a division or assassins in a debate.
    • Ch. 1.
  • A government of statesmen or of clerks? Of Humbug or Humdrum?
    • Ch. 4.
  • Conservatism discards Prescription, shrinks from Principle, disavows Progress; having rejected all respect for Antiquity, it offers no redress for the Present, and makes no preparation for the Future.
    • Ch. 5.
  • Hush!' said Mr. Tadpole. 'The time has gone by for Tory governments; what the country requires is a sound Conservative government.'
    'A sound Conservative government,' said Taper, musingly. 'I understand: Tory men and Whig measures.'
    • Ch. 6.
  • Fame and power are the objects of all men. Even their partial fruition is gained by very few; and that, too, at the expense of social pleasure, health, conscience, life.
    • Ch. 7.

Book IIIEdit

  • Youth is a blunder; Manhood a struggle; Old Age a regret.
    • Ch. 1.
  • Genius, when young, is divine.
    • Ch. 1.
  • Almost everything that is great has been done by youth.
    • Ch. 1.
  • Nurture your mind with great thoughts. To believe in the heroic makes heroes.
    • Ch. 1.
  • There arc some books, when we close them, — one or two in the course of our life, — difficult at it may be to analyze or ascertain the cause, after which our minds seem to have made a great leap. A thousand obscure things receive light; a multitude of indefinite feelings are determined. Our intellect grasps and grapples with all subjects with a capacity, a flexibility, and a vigor, before unknown to us. It masters questions hitherto perplexing, which are not even touched or referred to in the volume just closed. What is the magic? It is the spirit of the supreme author, by a magnetic influence blending with our sympathizing intelligence that directs and inspires it. By that mysterious sensibility we extend to questions which he has not treated, the same intellectual force which he has exercised over those which he has expounded. His genius for a time remains in us. 'Tis the same with human beings as with books. All of us encounter, at least once in our life, some individual who utters words that make us think forever. There are men whose phrases are oracles; who condense in a sentence the secrets of life; who blurt out an aphorism that forms a character or illustrates an existence. A great thing is a great book; but greater than all is the talk of a great man.
    And what is a great man? Is it a minister of state? Is it a victorious general? A gentleman in the Windsor uniform? A field marshal covered with stars? Is it a prelate or a prince? A king, even an emperor? It may be all these; yet these, as we must all daily feel, are not necessarily great men. A great man is one who affects the mind of his generation, whether he be a monk in his cloister agitating Christendom, or a monarch crossing the Granicus, and giving a new character to the Pagan world.
    • Ch. 2.
  • Talk to a man about himself, and he is generally captivated.
    • Ch. 2.

Book IVEdit

  • A great city, whose image dwells in the memory of man, is the type of some great idea. Rome represents conquest; Faith hovers over the towers of Jerusalem; and Athens embodies the pre-eminent quality of the antique world, Art.
    • Ch. 1.
  • I have been ever of opinion that revolutions are not to be evaded.
    • Ch. 11.
  • It was not reason that besieged Troy; it was not reason that sent forth the Saracen from the desert to conquer the world; that inspired the crusades; that instituted the monastic orders; it was not reason that produced the Jesuits; above all, it was not reason that created the French Revolution. Man is only great when he acts from the passions; never irresistible but when he appeals to the imagination.
    • Ch. 13.
  • Man is made to adore and to obey: but if you will not command him, if you give him nothing to worship, he will fashion his own divinities, and find a chieftain in his own passions.
    • Ch. 13.
  • The world is governed by very different personages to what is imagined by those who are not behind the scenes.
    • Ch. 15.

Book VIEdit

  • We live in an age when to be young and to be indifferent can be no longer synonymous. We must prepare for the coming hour. The claims of the Future are represented by suffering millions; and the Youth of a Nation are the trustees of Posterity.
    • Ch. 13.

Book VIIEdit

  • Life is too short to be little. Man is never so manly as when he feels deeply, acts boldly, and expresses himself with frankness and with fervour.
    • Ch. 2.
  • How very seldom do you encounter in the world a man of great abilities, acquirements, experience, who will unmask his mind, unbutton his brains, and pour forth in careless and picturesque phrase all the results of his studies and observation; his knowledge of men, books, and nature. On the contrary, if a man has by any chance an original idea, he hoards it as if it were old gold; and rather avoids the subject with which he is most conversant, from fear that you may appropriate his best thoughts.
    • Ch. 2.
  • Nature, like man, sometimes weeps from gladness.
    • Ch. 5.

Book IXEdit

  • They stand now on the threshold of public life. They are in the leash, but in a moment they will be slipped. What will be their fate? Will they maintain in august assemblies and high places the great truths which, in study and in solitude, they have embraced? Or will their courage exhaust itself in the struggle, their enthusiasm evaporate before hollow-hearted ridicule, their generous impulses yield with a vulgar catastrophe to the tawdry temptations of a low ambition? Will their skilled intelligence subside into being the adroit tool of a corrupt party? Will Vanity confound their fortunes, or Jealousy wither their sympathies? Or will they remain brave, single, and true; refuse to bow before shadows and worship phrases; sensible of the greatness of their position, recognise the greatness of their duties; denounce to a perplexed and disheartened world the frigid theories of a generalising age that have destroyed the individuality of man, and restore the happiness of their country by believing in their own energies, and daring to be great?
    • Bk. IX, Ch. 7.

External linksEdit

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