Gladstone: A Biographyby Roy Jenkins
William Gladstone was, with Tennyson, Newman, Dickens, Carlyle, and Darwin, one of the stars of nineteenth-century British life. He spent sixty-three of his eighty-nine years in the House of Commons and was prime minister four
From the New York Times bestselling author of Churchill, a towering historical biography, available for the first time in paperback.
William Gladstone was, with Tennyson, Newman, Dickens, Carlyle, and Darwin, one of the stars of nineteenth-century British life. He spent sixty-three of his eighty-nine years in the House of Commons and was prime minister four times, a unique accomplishment. From his critical role in the formation of the Liberal Party to his preoccupation with the cause of Irish Home Rule, he was a commanding politician and statesman nonpareil. But Gladstone the man was much more: a classical scholar, a wide-ranging author, a vociferous participant in all the great theological debates of the day, a voracious reader, and an avid walker who chopped down trees for recreation. He was also a man obsessed with the idea of his own sinfulness, prone to self-flagellation and persistent in the practice of accosting prostitutes on the street and attempting to persuade them of the errors of their ways. This full and deep portrait of a complicated man offers a sweeping picture of a tumultuous century in British history, and is also a brilliant example of the biographer’s art.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
—The Atlantic Monthly
“Excellent...wry, urbane, and laced with a gentle, affectionate irony—exactly the right tone for a historical monument who really was monumental....Jenkins makes Gladstone’s life intelligible, affecting...entertaining.”
—The Boston Sunday Globe
“A question that Jenkins’s biography raises for the reader: why is it so much fun to read about Victorian politics?...An exhaustive, permanent biography, whose greatest virtue is its extraordinary worldliness. Jenkins has a bred-in-the-bone sense, almost unique among political biographers, of politics as improvisation, game, and even theatre.”
—The New Yorker
- Random House Publishing Group
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I make it a policy not to read biographies by British authors - they tend to be dry, are overly and unnecessarily detailed, and utterly lack drama. I should have stayed with my policy. Jenkins book, while comprehensive, well-written and at times fascinating, utterly lacks context. Unless one is already intimately familiar with Gladstone and the vicissitudes of 19th century British politics (a passing familiarity will NOT suffice), the book will likely be, as the reviewer from Publishers Weekly says, impenetrable. Jenkins mentions event after event in the context of Parliamentary discussions thereon, but never mentions what happened in the event itself. He goes on and on about the peronalities of party figures but mentions not a word as to what the parties stood for. Jenkins wrote a good 20 page introduction for the American edition, but he should have written 20 pages of simple background and explanation into the text itself. With that, the book would have been phenomenally readable. Without it, it was a frustration.