‘It is the past alone that can explain the present’: a comparison between a passage in Disraeli’s Sybil and a membership card of the National Chartist Association, Darren Ormandy
Benjamin Disraeli’s novel Sybil, or, The Two Nations was published in 1845. It is both a story of romantic adventure and a manifesto for the author’s unconventional political perspective, set to the backdrop of the Chartist risings. The membership card of the National Chartist Association is decorated with imagery and symbols that represented the concerns of that radical movement. One was the creative output of an educated, literate member of the privileged classes, the other intended for the ill-educated, probably illiterate masses. This article will compare a short passage from Sybil with this membership card. It will examine
how both artefacts share areas of common concern, despite their originators’ differences in political and social status, and in particular it will argue how they used interpretations of English history to give authority to their demands for change.