The Great Rivalry: Disraeli and Gladstone

John Pemble writes:

‘All actors want to play Disraeli, except fat ones,’ the American filmmaker Nunnally Johnson said. ‘It’s such a showy part – half Satan, half Don Juan, man of so many talents, he could write novels, flatter a queen, dig the Suez Canal. Present her with India. You can’t beat that, it’s better than Wyatt Earp.’ And it’s as good as Lord Byron. Take the life of Disraeli, for ‘novelist’ read ‘poet’, and you’ve got an epic about what happened to Byron after he’d recovered from that deadly fever at Missolonghi.

(LRB 5 December 2013)

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