Endymion, by Benjamin Disraeli

Chapter 36

Colonel Albert and Baron Sergius drove up in their landau from Hainault while Endymion was at the door in Warwick Street, returning home. The colonel saluted him cordially, and said, “The baron is going to take a cup of coffee with me; join us.” So they went upstairs. There was a packet on the table, which seemed to catch the colonel’s eye immediately, and he at once opened it with eagerness. It contained many foreign newspapers. Without waiting for the servant who was about to bring candles, the colonel lighted a taper on the table with a lucifer, and then withdrew into the adjoining chamber, opening, however, with folding doors to the principal and spacious apartment.

“A foreign newspaper always interests our friend,” said the baron, taking his coffee.

“Well, it must always be interesting to have news from home, I suppose,” said Endymion.

“Home!” said the baron. “News is always interesting, whether it come from home or not.”

“To public men,” said Endymion.

“To all men if they be wise,” said the baron; “as a general rule, the most successful man in life is the man who has the best information.”

“But what a rare thing is success in life!” said Endymion. “I often wonder whether I shall ever be able to step out of the crowd.”

“You may have success in life without stepping out of the crowd,” said the baron.

“A sort of success,” said Endymion; “I know what you mean. But what I mean is real success in life. I mean, I should like to be a public man.”

“Why?” asked the baron.

“Well, I should like to have power,” said Endymion, blushing.

“The most powerful men are not public men,” said the baron. “A public man is responsible, and a responsible man is a slave. It is private life that governs the world. You will find this out some day. The world talks much of powerful sovereigns and great ministers; and if being talked about made one powerful, they would be irresistible. But the fact is, the more you are talked about the less powerful you are.”

“But surely King Luitbrand is a powerful monarch; they say he is the wisest of men. And the Emperor Harold, who has succeeded in everything. And as for ministers, who is a great man if it be not Prince Wenceslaus?”

“King Luitbrand is governed by his doctor, who is capable of governing Europe, but has no ambition that way; the Emperor Harold is directed by his mistress, who is a woman of a certain age with a vast sagacity, but who also believes in sorcery; and as for Prince Wenceslaus, he is inspired by an individual as obscure as ourselves, and who, for aught I know, may be, at this moment, like ourselves, drinking a cup of coffee in a hired lodging.”

“What you say about public life amazes me,” said Endymion musingly.

“Think over it,” said the baron. “As an Englishman, you will have difficulty in avoiding public life. But at any rate do not at present be discontented that you are unknown. It is the first condition of real power. When you have succeeded in life according to your views, and I am inclined to believe you will so succeed, you will, some day, sigh for real power, and denounce the time when you became a public man, and belonged to any one but yourself. But our friend calls me. He has found something startling. I will venture to say, if there be anything in it, it has been brought about by some individual of whom you never heard.”

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Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 15:19