University Archives


Disraeli Offers Business Advice to His Newspaper’s Editor

“If the journal is carried on with spirit & success till the meeting of Pt, you will be able to command support....” This interesting letter by Benjamin Disraeli, a key leader in the House of Commons, urges the editor of The Press newspaper that Disraeli had established to continue editing carefully until the meeting of Parliament, when they can raise more support for it from fellow Conservatives.

BENJAMIN DISRAELI, Autograph Letter Initialed, to Samuel Lucas, October 29, 1853. 4 pp., 4.5" x 7.25". Expected folds; hole in top left corner, not affecting text. Complete Transcript Private [W?] Oct. 29, 53 My dear Sir, In the present difficult position, you must concentrate all yr resources on articles of joint necessity. A good leader, a good inner page, & the mechanism of the paper efficient—these are what you must now rely upon. If the journal is carried on with spirit & success till the meeting of Pt, you will be able to command support, wh: now you must, & unsuccessfully, solicit. I had read the letter you sent me in print: in the “Sentinel” a Dublin “Protestant Jack” paper under the direction of the notorious Tresham Gregg No paper conducted in such a vein cd find any support in England, or it wd be tried. Even Bibles wd not venture on it. The gentry of England are in general indisposed to Low Church, & the low chief Tresham Gregg is the “sword of the Lord & of Gideon.” Yrs sincerely D.

Historical Background:

Early in 1853, Disraeli worked to establish a weekly newspaper that would raise the level of Conservative journalism and propagate his own Tory Democratic ideas. He initially considered Daniel O. Maddyn, who had served on the Morning Chronicle, for editor, but settled on Samuel Lucas, who had for many years been a well-known writer for The Times. In March 1853, Lucas began collecting his staff under Disraeli’s inspiration. The first issue of The Press appeared on May 7, 1853. It was published every Saturday morning, and was both a newspaper and a review. It included a short report of Parliamentary proceedings, common news items, leading articles on home and foreign politics, and critical essays on literature and the arts.

The Rev. Tresham Dames Gregg (1800-1881) was born in Ireland and received his BA degree in 1826, his MA degree in 1830, and his Doctorate of Divinity in 1853. From 1837, he served as chaplain of Swift’s Alley Free Church in Dublin. He was a prominent and controversial figure in both religious and political matters. As a militant Protestant clergyman, he spent much of his career campaigning against Catholicism. In May 1854, Lucas resigned as editor of The Press, apparently at Disraeli’s urging.

Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881) was born in London into a Sephardic Jewish Italian mercantile family. His father had his four children baptized into the Church of England in 1817, which opened the possibility of a political career. Disraeli was brought up as an Anglican, “the blank page between the Old Testament and the New,” as he described himself. He first stood for election in 1832 as a Radical, but lost. In 1835, after running as a Tory and again losing, he began writing for the Tory Party. In 1837, he won a seat in the House of Commons, his campaign funded in part by his writing of novels. He married widow Mary Anne Lewis (1792-1872) in 1839, who was wealthy and a dozen years his senior. Disraeli hoped to forge a paternalistic alliance between Tories and Radicals, and while he developed a personal relationship with radical John Bright, he was unsuccessful in establishing an alliance. During the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846, Disraeli led the protectionists who battled repeal. In the late 1840s, Disraeli purchased Hughenden Manor, in Buckinghamshire. Disraeli served as Chancellor of the Exchequer and Leader of the House of Commons under the Earl of Derby as Prime Minister in 1852, from 1858 to 1859, and again from 1866 to 1868. He served as Prime Minister in 1868 and again from 1874 to 1880, succeeded each time by Liberal Party leader William Gladstone. Disraeli maintained a close relationship with Queen Victoria, and in 1876, she appointed him as Earl of Beaconsfield. He published his last completed novel shortly before he died at the age of 76.

Samuel Lucas (1811-1865) was born into a Quaker family. In 1839, he married Margaret Bright (1818-1890), a younger sister of reformer John Bright (1811-1889). From 1845 to 1850, Lucas lived in Manchester, where he had an interest in a cotton mill and supported public schools. He and his wife were abolitionists and reformers who fought for the industrial middle class by participating in the Anti-Corn Law League, founded in 1838 by Richard Cobden and John Bright. They represented what Benjamin Disraeli called the “Manchester School” of economics that advocated a free market with only minimal government regulation. Back in London, Lucas served for one year as the inaugural editor of The Press (1853-1858), a weekly newspaper begun by Disraeli. Six years later, Lucas became the editor of the Morning Star (1856-1869), an abolitionist newspaper begun by Cobden and Bright in 1856 that was the only national British newspaper to support the Union side in the American Civil War. In 1859, Lucas also became the editor of the newly established Once A Week literary magazine (1859-1880).

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