Isaac D'Israeli's contributions to the formation of literary history in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries remain unexplored, his voluminous writings mined for apt quotations rather than considered as significant in their own right. This article argues that his questioning of genre hierarchies and period distinctions grew out of an attempt to correct what he saw as the limitations of contemporary historiographic and literary critical representations. Following his renunciation of revolutionary ideals,these inquiries were framed by a “conservative iconoclasm” that was fostered by the need to adjust loyalist sympathies to fit his own peripheral status. Committed both professionally and temperamentally to a pluralist understanding of history writing, D'Israeli integrated into his work from the 1790s through to the 1840s biographical, political, social, and psychological elements that led him ultimately to a distinctively literary historical mode of thought. Drawing on the resources of opinion, anecdote, and secret history, he articulates possibilities for historicist inquiry that continue to stand as powerful alternatives to the romantic ideology.
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Research Article| September 01 2005
April London; Isaac D'Israeli and Literary History: Opinion, Anecdote, and Secret History in the Early Nineteenth Century. Poetics Today 1 September 2005; 26 (3): 351–386. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/03335372-26-3-351
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