Biography of Isaac D'Israeli
Isaac D'Israeli (11 May 1766 – 19 January 1848) was a British writer, scholar and man of letters. He is best known for his essays, his associations with other men of letters, and as the father of British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli.
Isaac was born in Enfield, Middlesex, England, the only child of Benjamin D'Israeli (1730–1816), a Jewish merchant who had emigrated from Cento in Italy in 1748, and his second wife, Sarah Syprut de Gabay Villa Real (1742/3–1825). He received much of his education in Leiden. At the age of sixteen he began his literary career with some verses addressed to Samuel Johnson. He became a frequent guest at the table of the publisher John Murray and became one of the noted bibliophiles of the time.
On 10 February 1802, D'Israeli married Maria Basevi (1774/5–1847), who came from another London merchant family of Italian-Jewish extraction. The marriage was a happy one, producing five children: Sarah ("Sa"; 1802–1859); Benjamin ("Ben" or "Dizzy"; 1804–1881); Naphtali (b. 1807, died in infancy); Raphael ("Ralph"; 1809–1898); and Jacobus ("James" or "Jem"; 1813–1868). The children were named according to Jewish customs and the boys were all circumcised. Religiously however, Isaac D'Israeli was perhaps the first English Jew who took the modern attitude toward traditional Jewish ceremonies. In the midst of an eight-year dispute with the Bevis Marks Synagogue and on the advice of his friend, historian Sharon Turner, all his children were baptized into the Church of England in 1817. He himself did not receive baptism however, and never indicated any desire to exchange Judaism for Christianity, but he did attend the inauguration ceremonies of the Reform Synagogue at Upper Berkeley Street, London.
He penned a handful of English adaptations of traditional tales from the Middle East, wrote a few historical biographies, and published a number of poems. His most popular work was a collection of essays entitled Curiosities of Literature. The work contained a myriad of anecdotes about historical persons and events, unusual books, and the habits of book-collectors. The work was very popular and sold widely in the 19th century, reaching its eleventh edition (the last to be revised by the author) in 1839. It is still in print. His book The Life and Reign of Charles I (1828) resulted in his being awarded the degree of D.C.L. from Oxford University.
In 1841 he became blind and, though he underwent an operation, his sight was not restored. He continued writing with his daughter as his amanuensis. In this way he produced Amenities of Literature (1841) and completed the revision of his work on Charles I. He died of influenza at age 81, at his home, Bradenham House, in Buckinghamshire, less than a year after the death of his wife in the spring of 1847.