This morning, I felt the oddest sensation, as though a tentacle was poking me in the back. But soon it all made sense, because I realized that Pharyngula had tagged me for a meme. History meme ahoy:
- Link to the person who tagged you.
- List 7 random/weird things about your favorite historical figure.
- Tag seven more people at the end of your blog and link to theirs.
- Let the person know they have been tagged by leaving a note on their blog.
I guess it's time to roll out the Benjamin Disraeli anecdotes:
- If you believe that William Pitt the Younger's last words were "I think I could eat one of Bellamy's veal pies," then...blame Disraeli, who is one of the people responsible for popularizing the story (although he didn't invent it).
- Then again, if you believe that Disraeli said that "There are lies, damned lies, and statistics," then...blame Mark Twain, who is the only source for that quotation.
- An issue of Blackwood's Magazine from the 1880s or 1890s features an anecdote about telling an anecdote about Robert Browning telling an anecdote about Disraeli to Gladstone. (Whew.) Apparently, Disraeli praised an art exhibition to the skies during the official dinner, but whispered to Browning afterwards that he thought the whole shebang was, well, dreck. According to Browning, says Blackwood's, Gladstone was appalled; according to someone else, though, Browning was appalled and Gladstone thought the whole thing was hilarious. Which is true, Maga wonders. There's a version of the innermost anecdote in Hesketh Pearson's biography of Disraeli.
- Disraeli is England's only novel-writing prime minister, which surely counts for something. (The historical novelist Winston Churchill is not that Winston Churchill.)
- Disraeli occasioned what may be John Stuart Mill's only recorded joke: "Mr. Disraeli offers his Reform Bill to the householders of the towns, and they say 'Thank you, Mr. Gladstone.'" (This is Sir Algernon West's version; Bruce Kinzer reports the same joke, worded slightly differently.) If John Stuart Mill ever demonstrated any other signs of something resembling a sense of humor, please let me know.
- In a diary entry for May 28, 1863, the radical politician Sir John Trelawny reports suspicions that an exasperated Disraeli may have "kicked" a fellow Conservative in order to shut him up (see The Parliamentary Diaries of Sir John Trelawny, 1858-1865, 252).
- Wherever he is, Disraeli cannot possibly be happy about the decision to stick his memorial statue in Westminster Abbey right next to Gladstone's.
If you'd like to have a go at this meme, be my guest.