Note #12: George W.M. Reynolds: Passing Through Time

March 5, 2022

Note #12:  George W.M. Reynolds: Passing Through Time.


R.E. Prindle

Texts:  Ewald, Alexander Charles, The Right Hon. Benjamin Disraeli, EARL OF BEACONSFIELD, K.G. And His Times, William MacKenzie, 1883

Reynolds, George W.M., Works 1844-1860


In order to understand an author correctly one must have some idea of his cultural milieu.  I am offering some here, I am not being comprehensive.  I am going to take a longish quote from Alexander Charles Ewald’s ‘The Right Hon. Benjamin Disraeli, First Earl of Beaconsfield, K.G., And His Times to begin.

Ewald was especially suited to interpret Disraeli in great detail and length.  The work is divided into five divisions, two volumes in a beautifully designed book designed to honor Ewald’s great man.  Each page is a wonderfully detailed, almost day by day, hour by hour, account of Disraeli’s political career. The social, cultural and historical context is amazing.

Ewald was especially suited to interpret Disraeli as he too was a converted, or in Disreali’s term, ‘completed Jew’, observing both the new and old testament.  His understanding is that Jesus came to fulfill the law.  Ewald was born in Jerusalem, converting to, or assuming a complementary, Christianity.  Something like the contemporary Jews for Jesus.  I’m just guessing but I’m going to put his assumption at about the age twenty after he had time to recognize Disraeli and imitate him.  In his book her he assumes the role of Disraeli’s Boswell.

He provides magnificent detail, worshipping every word the Disraeli spoke in Parliament.  Below he is setting the stage, discussing electoral matters.  Division 1, p. 47


During the present generation the House of Commons, owing to the development of the reforms that have been effected in its constitution, has lost many of the characteristics which it formerly possessed.  It is now a practical, business-like, but, it must be confessed, a somewhat dull assembly.  The elements of youth and wit are conspicuous by their absence, while municipal eloquence and vestry-like personalities reign in their stead.  Before the abolition of nomination boroughs, a young man of great ability—like the second Pitt, Canning, Macauly and others—was taken by the hand by some powerful minister, and launched upon a parliamentary career in the easiest and most inexpensive fashion.  The leaders of the great parties, who swayed the opinions of parliament were always on the watch for talent that might serve their political ends.  Many a young man by his clever speeches at the debating-club of his university, by a happy pamphlet, or by a bitter and opportune squib, found himself safely seated on the green benches of the House of Commons as a representative of a borough in the hands of a powerful lord, or of a large-acred  squire without his election having cost him more than the issue of his address or the delivery of a few speeches before a sympathetic audience.  Commerce had not then assumed the high position it now occupies, nor had the banker’s book usurped the influence of  the pedigree chart.  The lower house was in a large measure, filled by the representatives of the landed gentry, who knew little of science of the laws of political economy, but who shuddered if they heard a false quantity, and piqued themselves that they were as familiar with the classics as a priest is with his breviary.  A few merchants of the highest class, a few successful lawyers, a few Irish, then as now not held in much esteem, and several clever young men who were the little deities of their university, completed the list. The constitution of such an assembly, though it might not offer the same scope as now exists for the exercise of those talents which especially appeal to what Mr. Disraeli called the “parochial mind,” yet afforded every opportunity for the display of culture.  A classical and a literary flavour penetrated the parliamentary eloquence of those days.  A speech delivered in the House was a solemn undertaking, and not to be lightly entered upon; its periods were carefully dismissed in stately terms worthy of the occasion; the gestures and attitudes of the speaker were studied with a Chatham-like view of effect; whilst his words were listened to by an assembly which never forgot, even in the most feverish times of party heat, that it represented the gentry of England.  Then on the following day the details brought forward were fully reported and discussed in the leading journals.  Eloquence was thus the most powerful weapon that could be wielded in parliamentary warfare, and it consequently became the favorite and most cultivated of all studies.  To be a showy speaker or a ready debater, no matter how incorrect or superficial the sentiments expressed, was to be on the high road to the cabinet; whilst the erudite and the thinker, who could never address a few words to the Speaker without confusion, were completely ignored. 

The Reform Bills and the development of a newspaper press have, however, ushered in a new state of things. The abolition of pocket boroughs has rendered it impossible for clever but impecunious youth to obtain a seat in parliament.  The competition that arises upon every vacancy in the House of Commons, and the rigid measures now most properly dealt out of those guilty of bribery and corruption, make it a matter of necessity at the present day for the candidate for parliamentary honours  to be not only a rich man, but one who has long been courting the favours of a constituency.  Those who derive their wealth from industry seldom have attained to fortune till past middle age and consequently the House of Commons will become more and more the assembly of elderly men; in other words, more grave, more practical, more dull.



What Ewart describes is the grey ease of the transition point between a change of scale, the changing of the guard.  As Greg Allman lyricist for the Allman Bros. Band described it:  ‘See that clock upon the wall?  Time can make it fall.’  Time flows it doesn’t run.  One era was ending, another beginning.

Disraeli’s career can be divided into two parts, 1837 to 1860 and from 1860 to his death.  The first period ended in success as in 1858 he and Lionel Rothschild breached the British square to allow Jews to seated in Parliament as Jews and not English thus creating the real Two Nations contending for mastery.  The Rothschilds succeeded in extending their power over all Europe while operating in the US initially through their agent August Belmont, who proved to independent and after  with the full cooperation of the J.P. Morgan organization and Kuhn-Loeb on the Jewish side.

By then Disraeli had established himself as the leader of the Conservative Party.  He was then instrumental in managing English political affairs until his death.

Reynolds’ destiny seems to have been written out of both literature and history.  The deeper I get into his study the more convinced I am that he was much more influential in promoting his agenda than he has been accredited for even by his literary admirers.  His entire political agenda was effected by the time he died.  The Chartist program which I am sure he must have had a hand in forming and which in his utopianism he thought was going to produce the perfect world had been realized.

  Disraeli seemed aware, as he was promoting the change was able to transition from one period to the other with some success.  Ewart in his political biography quotes from a Disraeli speech: Division II, p.423:


But I think that the reform of the House of Commons in 1832 greatly added to the energy and public spirit in which we had then become somewhat deficient.

But, sir, it must be remembered that the labours of the statesmen who took part in the transactions of 1832 were eminently experimental.  In many respects they had to treat their subject empirically, and it is not to be wondered at if in the course of time it was found that some errors were committed in that settlement; and if, as time rolled on, some, if not many deficiencies, were discovered.   I beg the House to consider well those effects of time, and what has been the character of the twenty-five years that have elapsed since 1832.  They form no ordinary period.  In a progressive country and a progressive age, progress has been not only rapid, but perhaps precipitate.  There is no instance in the history of Europe of such an increase of population as has taken place in this country during this period.  There is no example in the history of Europe or of America, of a creation and accumulation of capital so vast as has occurred in this country in those twenty-five years.  And I believe the general diffusion of intelligence has kept pace with that increase of population and wealth.  In that period you have brought science to bear on social life in a manner no philosopher in his dreams could ever have anticipated; in that space of time you have, in a manner, annihilated both time and space.  The influence of the discovery of printing is really only beginning to work on the multitude.  It is, therefore, not surprising that in a measure passed twenty-five years ago, in a spirit necessarily experimental, however distinguished were its authors, and however remarkable their ability, some omissions have been found that ought to be supplied, and some defects that ought to be remedied.  In such a state of things a question in England becomes what is called a public question.


Disraeli seems to handle space and time well is that excerpt.  Satisfied me anyway.

 Reynolds on the other hand was fairly rooted in the departing era that he examined in great detail handling time and space well for the period 1826 to 1848 .  When the break point came in 1859-60 he knew he couldn’t adapt to the new era.  Gave it up, handed his pen and ink to the younger generation to drift off ostensibly to do newspaper work on his newspaper, involving himself in political affairs anywhere he was welcome, wandering in the wilderness for nearly twenty years, while the new generation of novelists such as Anthony Trollope took his place as political and social commentators.  His earthly travails ended at seventy-nine.  His time had been well spent.

Disraeli died a couple years later, if I’m not mistaken, a bitter vengeful old man nursing his delusions of being a ‘great man.’  Lionel Rothschild also died in 1980 thus topping off the period.

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