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This should be bracketed with Sir Winston's own The Great Democracies (see p. 102- this issue), for the experience of reading the two books, the one after the other, which this reader did by chance, is one not to be missed. The first two thirds of Mr. Rowse's book (a successor to his fascinating The Early Churchills) gives the heart of that period of history that Sir Winston has covered in the 19th century through the pageant of the shifting fortunes of one of England's great families. One meets again the indomitable Sarah, widow of the great Marlborough, holding the fortunes of the family in her hands, and pulling the strings. One sees the sons in the Georgian period, in the Regency, through the Victorian era, as rakes and soldiers, politicians, statesmen and dignitaries of the church, as connoisseurs of the arts, as trail blazers of empire. The interweaving of the American background comes with intermarriage- as the New World pours new blood into ancient stock. And where one has glimpsed in intimate detail the many-faceted life of England's great figures against the changing pattern of court and expanding empire, one now gets a closeup picture of New York society in an era that still holds the glitter and the gold. All this portion of the book fits right into the pattern of Empire building in The Great Democracies -- human history documenting world history. The final third is Sir Winston's own career, and carries through to his retirement. Mr. Rowse is a thorough scholar; his approach to biography is at no point that of the popularizer. The general reader, seeking a glib, facile recreation of history and the people that made it, may find the meticulous documentation, the minutiae that make up this family portrait too laborious. But for one interested in finding himself almost a student again, seeking out those contemporary records that rebuild history, The Churchills provides its own savor of drama in the making.

Pub Date: April 28th, 1958
Publisher: Harper