‘I perceive,’ said Coningsby, pursuing a strain of thought which the other had indicated, ‘that you have great confidence in the influence of individual character. I also have some confused persuasions of that kind. But it is not the Spirit of the Age.’
‘The age does not believe in great men, because it does not possess any,’ replied the stranger. ‘The Spirit of the Age is the very thing that a great man changes.’
‘But does he not rather avail himself of it?’ inquired Coningsby.
‘Parvenus do,’ rejoined his companion; ‘but not prophets, great legislators, great conquerors. They destroy and they create.’
‘But are these times for great legislators and great conquerors?’ urged Coningsby.
‘When were they wanted more?’ asked the stranger. ‘From the throne to the hovel all call for a guide. You give monarchs constitutions to teach them sovereignty, and nations Sunday schools to inspire them with faith.’
‘But what is an individual,’ exclaimed Coningsby, ‘against a vast public opinion?’
‘Divine,’ said the stranger.
Disraeli, Coningsby, 1844.