In The Lion and the Unicorn, Richard Aldous explores the lives of Benjamin Disraeli and William Gladstone and their influence on each other’s political careers. Already studied as individuals, Aldous combines both men in one book with good reason. Members of opposing parties within the British Parliament and often bitter rivals for the title of Prime Minister, their lives are inextricably linked.
The two men could hardly have differed more. Disraeli was flamboyant and charismatic, possessing great pride in his Jewish ancestry. Gladstone was somber, industrious, and an Evangelical Christian. Yet, Aldous argues that they were inverted doppelgangers, their differences so diametrically opposed that they created mirror images. This symbiosis of opposing character imbued their political rivalry with its energy and dynamism. In Aldous’ opinion, despite their enmity, Gladstone and Disraeli were each necessary to the other in order to draw out each other’s best talents and to spur each other on to new political heights.
In telling the story of these political titans of the 19th century, Aldous uses a narrative style that engages the reader. He is careful to keep his personal opinions of Gladstone and Disraeli to himself, although from the reader’s perspective, neither man comes off as particularly likeable. Illustrations, index, notes.