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Lot 36: Benjamin Disraeli Autograph Letter to the Under-Secretary of Foreign Affairs Edmund Hammond
Presidential Letters, Free Franks & Speeches: Washington to Bush + Important Autographs in History, Science & the Arts
October 26, 2016
New York, NY, USALive Auction
Description: “I have not seen you since the peace!” ********** DISRAELI, BENJAMIN. (1804-1881). British author and politician who served as prime minister from 1874 to 1880. ALS. (“Disraeli”). 4pp. 8vo. London, August 6, 1859. On his Grosvenor Gate stationery to the Permanent Under-Secretary of Foreign Affairs EDMUND HAMMOND (1802-1890). ********** “Could you, without inconvenience, obtain a letter of introduction for my colleague, Mr. Caledon Dupré, M.P. for Bucks, to our new minister at Naples. Mr. Dupré is going to reside there, with his family, for some months, & expected, when he made his arrangements, to find his kinsman, Magenis at Parthenope. I have not seen you since the peace! It is curious, that there strange complications began, & ended, at Villafranca; for, if I recollect right, that is the name of Russia’s Mediterranean port…” ********** Prior to entering politics, Disraeli enjoyed literary fame with such works as Vivian Grey, The Young Duke, Contarini Fleming, and Henrietta Temple. However, his literary accomplishments pale in comparison to his long political career, which began with his election to parliament in 1837. Starting in 1847, he represented Buckinghamshire, alongside Caledon George Du Pré (1803-1886), a conservative MP from 1839-1874. In 1868, Disraeli was elected prime minister and reelected in 1874. He became Queen Victoria’s trusted advisor and confident and she rewarded him by naming Disraeli the Earl of Beaconsfield and Viscount Hughenden in 1876. ********** In 1854, Hammond succeeded his father as Permanent Under-Secretary of Foreign Affairs, a post he held for nearly 20 years. In 1866, he became a member of the Privy Council and was awarded a peerage in 1874. During his tenure, Hammond increased the responsibilities of the permanent under-secretary to the point that he earned the “posthumous epithet of ‘the autocrat of the Foreign Office.’ Even friendly commentators noted that he ‘was the foreign office,’” (The Permanent Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs, 1854–1946, Neilson and Otte). ********** Our letter refers to the conclusion of the Austro-Sardinian War or Second Italian War of Independence, which ended on July 11, 1859 with Napoleon III signing and Austria signing an armistice in the northern Italian town of Villafranca, an event which laid the groundwork for Italian unification. ********** From 1858 to 1860, career diplomat Henry George Eliot (1817-1907) served as minister at the Mediterranean port city of Naples, then part of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. On June 1, 1859, he was charged with a special mission to congratulation the new King on his accession to the throne. In our letter Disraeli refers to it by its ancient name, Parthenope which had been revived by the French in 1799 when the short-lived Parthenopean Republic was formed. ********** The recently knighted diplomat Arthur Charles Magenis (1801-1867) had been appointed ambassador to Naples on June 6, 1859, but was never sent, having retained his post in Sweden and Norway until November of that year. ********** Published in Benjamin Disraeli Letters: 1857-1859, ed. Gunn and Wiebe. Folded with an ink docket written upside down in the lower margin of the last page. In fine condition.