The condition of the people was a question of compelling interest in "the hungry forties". A man who was to play a great part in English politics, Benjamin Disraeli, was deeply interested by it and for some time it looked as if he might take his share in the task, for which his religious preoccupations unfitted Ashley, of inspiring the Tory party with a realisation of its responsibilities for the well-being of the people.
Disraeli, a man of Jewish birth, was a strange recruit to the Tory party. His brilliancy was distrusted. His ideals of a paternal Toryism, no mere party of resistance, but a party that would solve the social problems of the age in a spirit of révérence for the established order, were derided. A group of enthusiastic young aristocrats, whom Disraeli called "Young England", looked up to him as their leader. Meanwhile, although he was a member of Parliament since 1838, he developed these ideas mainly in his novels, particularly in Sybil, or the two nations (1846), from which our first two quotations (a) are taken. They show that Disraeli, with an eye dimmed by no prejudices recognised the evils from which rural life suffered as well as those of the industrial population. They show also, as does the very title of the book (by the two nations are meant the rich and the poor of England), how well he realised the senousness of the problem and how daringly he could put it.
Yet when the final round was fought in the corn-law struggle Disraeli was to be found in the front rank of the defenders of privilege. As Morley has put it, severely but not unjustly: "To accidents of his position in society and necessities of personal ambition, it must, I suppose, be attributed that one who conceived so truly the seriousness of the problem, should have brought nothing better to its solution than the childish bathos of Young England."
The fact is that Disraeli was intensely ambitious and that he was something of a political adventurer, not without brilliant