While cheerfully toddling my way through the newest Flashman, I noticed in passing that the old scalawag is still calling Disraeli "D'Israeli." So what's that about, you ask? You'll need to go back several novels for the "editor's" explanation: "His extravagances of dress and speech, his success as a novelist, and his Jewish antecedents combined to render him unpopular--Flashman, like Greville, insists on spelling him D'Israeli, although Disraeli had dropped the apostrophe ten years earlier" . I've now and again stumbled across other writers who link the spelling of Disraeli's name to the speller's opinion of same. There's just one problem: I'm not sure that this is the most logical explanation for the Great Spelling Crisis. A few scattered reasons why, some empirical, some speculative:
- If T. A. Jenkins' transcription of Sir John Trelawny's diaries is accurate, Trelawny (a Liberal) spelled Disraeli's name both ways . It's difficult to see a pattern.
- In the 1840s, Hannah Rothschild used the "D'Israeli" spelling in one of her letters . It's a bit of a stretch to accuse a Rothschild of anti-Jewish sentiments, for reasons that I trust will be immediately obvious.
- In 1854, the fervently anti-Catholic journal The Bulwark happily notes that "Mr. D'Israeli" seemed to be leaning in their direction on the Maynooth Grant. Nearly four years later, the Bulwark, now irritated with D, manages to spell his name correctly .
- For that matter, in 1858, Disraeli himself reverted to the earlier spelling at least once .
- It took some time for people to figure out how to pronounce Disraeli's name; in the signature to his first letter to Queen Victoria, for example, Disraeli indicated that it was to be pronounced with a diphthong . Under the circumstances, we might speculate that people were also having a hard time spelling it.
- The twentieth- and twenty-first century reader may forget that, well into the 1850s, Benjamin was not the most famous Disraeli in the family. That would have been his father, Isaac D'Israeli (who, incidentally, now has his own blog). Under the circumstances, one would expect that most early and mid-Victorians would make the logical, if incorrect, assumption that the younger D spelled his surname like the older D. In fact, it may be possible to check this assumption by looking at the fate of Isaac's surname. My copy of the US "Standard Edition" of Isaac D's works, published in 1881, turns "D'Israeli" into "Disraeli"; in other words, the fame factor is operating in reverse . It would be interesting to see how often Isaac D's surname was normalized in accordance with Benjamin D's.
Obviously, this is not yet sufficient evidence to prove matters one way or the other. Still, I suspect that while it may not be possible to argue that the "D'Israeli" spelling was never an insult, it may be possible to argue that there was no necessary connection between the two things.
 George MacDonald Fraser, Flash for Freedom! (1971; New York: Penguin, 1985), 284 n. 7.
 T. A. Jenkins, ed., The Parliamentary Diaries of Sir John Trelawny, 1858-1865 (London: Royal Historical Society, 1990).
 Quoted in Richard Davis, The English Rothschilds (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1983), 87.
 "Popish Plots and Protestant Prospects," The Bulwark or Reformation Journal 4 (Nov. 1854): 114; "Popish Tactics in Parliament," The Bulwark or Reformation Journal 7 (May 1858): 290.
 Letter to Sir Frederick Pollock, 24 June 1858, Benjamin Disraeli Letters: 1857-1859, ed. M. G. Wiebe et al. (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2004), 213.
 Letter to Queen Victoria, 15 March 1852, Benjamin Disraeli Letters: 1852-1856, ed. M. G. Wiebe et al. (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1997), 38.
 Isaac Disraeli [sic], The Calamities and Quarrels of Authors..., ed. B. Disraeli, 2 vols. in 1 (New York: A. C. Armstrong and Son, 1881). The series title is also "Disraeli's Works," not "D'Israeli's Works."