Vivian Grey is Benjamin Disraeli's first novel, published by Henry Colburn in 1826. In 1827, a second volume was published. Originally published anonymously, ostensibly by a so-called "man of fashion," part 1 caused a considerable sensation in London society. Contemporary reviewers, suspicious of the numerous solecisms contained within the text, eventually identified the young Disraeli (who did not move in high society) as the author. Disraeli wrote a sequel to Vivian Grey, and this second part is Books 5 - 8 of the total work. The form in which Vivian Grey is published now is the revised 1853 edition, which was severely expurgated and hence lost much of the charm and freshness of the 1826 edition. The book is a frequent touchstone for discussions of Disraeli's political and literary career.
Vivian Grey follows its eponymous hero from childhood through his attempt to succeed in the world of politics. The various systems of education through which Vivian Grey passes are analysed. The final system of education is experience, which proves the most instructive and the most shattering. Vivian chooses politics as his career and the novel traces his abortive attempt to gain political power through manipulation of an influential but ineffectual member of parliament. Vivian attempts to organise a party around the Marquess of Carabas, and is ultimately thwarted by his inexperience and naivete in dealing with the political machine. Vivian emerges as a misguided and arrogant young man who is ruthless in his pursuit of power. The catastrophe at the conclusion provides Vivian with a brutal but essential lesson in human behaviour. The novel offers a comment on the political and social temper of England in the early 1820s, and is specifically concerned with the question personal advancement in a rigidly restrictive social structure. The plot is commonly considered to be a thinly-disguised re-telling of Disraeli's involvement with John Murray in the publication and failure of a new newspaper, The Representative.
Vivian Grey provided a natural beginning for students of Disraeli, and a frequent touchstone for discussions of Disraeli's political and literary career. This situation is possible only when the scholar accepts the protagonist of Vivian Grey as a replica of the author, revealed in uncounselled and damaging testimony. The details of the composition of the first part of the novel, and the role of Sara Austen in that composition, as well as awareness of publishing practices in the 1820s in London, challenge the assumption that Vivian Grey is synonymous with the young Benjamin Disrael.
Vivian Grey includes the first use in print in English of the word "millionaire" (I.ix): "Were I the son of a Millionaire or a noble, I might have all".
The British poet Mary Montgomerie Lamb took her pen name 'Violet Fane' from a character this novel.
Famous quotes containing the word grey:
“They plough, harrow, reap, dig, make hay, rake, bind grain, thresh, chop wood, milk, churn, do anything that is hard work, physical labor, and who says anything against it?”
—Jane Grey Swisshelm (18151884)