Isaac D'Israeli

Isaac D'Israeli (May 11, 1766 - January 19, 1848) was a British writer and scholar. He was born in Enfield, Middlesex, England, the only child of Benjamin D'Israeli (1730-1816), a Jewish merchant who had emigrated from Cento in Italy in 1748, and his second wife, Sarah Syprut de Gabay Villa Real (1742/3–1825). He received much of his education in Leiden and as early as his sixteenth year began his literary career with some verses to Dr. Johnson. He was the father of the British prime minister, Benjamin Disraeli.

On February 10, 1802, D'Israeli married Maria Basevi (1774/5–1847), who came from another Italian-Jewish family living in London. The marriage was a happy one, producing five children: Sarah ("Sa"; 1802–1859); Benjamin ("Ben" or "Dizzy"; 1804–1881) (who was to become a Prime Minister of the United Kingdom); Naphtali (b. 1807, died in infancy); Raphael ("Ralph"; 1809–1898); and Jacobus ("James" or "Jem"; 1813–1868). The children were named according to Jewish customs and the boys circumcised. However, on the advice of his friend the historian Sharon Turner, and in the midst of an eight-year dispute with his synagogue (which ended with his withdrawal from it in 1821), all his children were baptized at St Andrew, Holborn, in 1817, as membership of the Church of England was valued for its social advantages. It was this baptism that allowed his famous son Benjamin to enter Parliament, years before Jews could sit in that legislature. Additionally, D'Israeli had changed the spelling of his children's last name to make it less foreign-seeming. He himself remained a Jew, however.

He wrote an adaptation of Mejnoun and Leila, which is a famous Persian story, but his fame was assured by his best known work, Curiosities of Literature, a collection of anecdotes about historical persons and events, unusual books, and the habits of book-collectors. The work was very popular and sold widely in the 19th century, going through many editions — it was first published in four volumes over several years but then combined into one. It is still in print. His book The Life and Reign of Charles I (1828) resulted in his being awarded the degree of D.C.L. from Oxford University.

In 1841 he became blind and, though he underwent an operation, his sight was not restored. He continued writing, however, and with his daughter's assistance he produced Amenities of Literature (1841) and completed the revision of his work on Charles I. He died of influenza at age 81, at his home, Bradenham House, in Buckinghamshire, less than a year after the death of his wife in the spring of 1847.

Major works

  • Amenities Of Literature [1841]
  • Calamities Of Authors [1812-3]
  • Curiosities Of Literature (4 vols. [1791-1823]; single vol. [1824])
  • The Life and Reign of Charles I [1828]
  • Quarrels Of Authors [1814]
  • Illustrations of the Literary Character
  • Mejnoun and Leila

External links

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