Do you worry about your hero – the one you are writing now or perhaps the one you are currently reading about? Do you fret about what is going to happen to him when you close the book? There are all kinds of things to worry about with historical hindsight –if he is a soldier or a sailor you know what battles lie ahead. You know about cholera outbreaks and the Indian Mutiny, riots and stock market crashes.
Or do you worry about more superficial things? What will your hero look like in ten, twenty, fifty years? I get depressed just thinking about Victorian fashions in trousers and ghastly leg of mutton side whiskers. And then there’s the physical side of things – will that chiselled jaw sag, the thick hair develop a bald patch, that flat stomach become a comfortable paunch?
The beautiful young man in the picture is twenty two years old and the year is 1826. I bought the print on the strength of a glimpse amongst a pile of others in the picture on an auction room’s website. He is a follower of Byron, quite obviously – the Turkish weapons and pipe and the slippers by the fireplace signal that. The litter of correspondence on the mantelpiece show that he has pretensions to be a man of letters, the elegant Biedermeier sofa and the studied elegance of his clothes demonstrate that he is a follower of fashion.
But who is this intellectual exquisite? When I got him out of the frame and bleached out the foxing I found the title at the bottom: The Author of Vivian Grey. It is Benjamin Disraeli, future Prime Minister, confident of Queen Victoria – “We authors ma’am…”
Now have a look for Disraeli on the web. The picture at the top of the Wickipedia entry will do. Oh dear. Now I worry about my heroes even more.