Life is too short to be little. Man is never so manly as when he feels deeply, acts boldly and expresses himself with frankness and with fervor.
Nurture your mind with great thoughts. To believe in the heroic makes heroes. Benjamin Disraeli
Few prime ministers of England have been more stylish or accomplished as Benjamin Disraeli. A well-known dandy whose novel Vivian Grey was one of the inspirations for Oscar Wilde’s Portrait of Dorian Gray, was an fashion icon for many of his contemporaries.
His political career was harder won. Benjy ran for office five times before becoming a member of Parliament. Once he got his foppish foot in the door, he celebrated by unleashing the full majesty of his pent-up fashion exhibitionism. In the dusty corridors of power, Disraeli was an exotic orchid whose drag enlivened many a boring wet Monday. While the bombastic power-toffs were repelled by his lace-and-brocade flamboyance, few could fail to be amused by his playful badinage: When his ethnicity was dissed by an adversary, Disraeli replied, “Yes, I am a Jew and when the ancestors of the right honorable gentleman were brutal savages in an unknown island, mine were priests in the temple of Solomon.” Sashay! Touché! Simon Doonan
Helen Selina Sheridan, Lady Dufferin, Sheridan’s grandaughter describes his attire at their first meeting–He wore a black velvet coat lined with satin, purple trousers with a gold band running down the outside seam, a scarlet waistcoat, long lace ruffles falling down to the tips of his fingers, white gloves with several brilliant rings outside them, and long black ringlets rippling down upon his shoulders.”
With his penchant for velvet jackets, scent, ostentatious hats, and bejeweled rings worn over white silk gloves, Disraeli was unlike any prime minister before or after him. As in the case with dandies such as Poe, Flaubert, and Dickens, there is a paucity of images. Others, such as Georgia O’Keeffe, Louise Nevelson, and Gertrude Stein were fortunate in having famous photographers as friends who documented them extensively.