“It is a captivating and enthralling biography that will change the way we view Victorian England.” The second part of this jacket puff troubled me. Could a biography of a minor figure, even of “Disraeli’s disciple,” really accomplish so much?

George Augustus Frederick Percy Sydney Smythe, Viscount Strangford (1818–1857), called a “splendid failure” in one of his obituaries and reputedly the last man to fight a duel in England, unquestionably was a member of Disraeli’s “Young England” group and the inspiration for several of Disraeli’s fictional heroes. He was a promising member of Parliament, a first-class journalist, and the first aristocrat to become a member of the press—not to mention a handsome and dashing gentleman whose affairs are reminiscent of Byron’s Don Juan. Smythe certainly deserves a biography, one that finally does him proud, after his...


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