An interesting and distinguished portrait of George Nathanial Curzon, for seven, generally wretched, years (1898-1905) Viceroy of India. Although the author relegates Curzon's India experiences to a chapter-sized ""Epilogue,"" the seven years which broke his spirit and health seem the inevitable fruition of a career and an ambition of ""respectable mediocrity,"" a drive for power and, a pride of ancient lineage, Curzon was to engage in a battle of wills with the Secretary of State. ""Should the day ever come...when the Viceroy of India is treated as a mere puppet or mouthpiece of the Home Government ...the justification for the post would have ceased to exist,"" he declared at the height of the storm. A quarrel over control of the Indian Army was perhaps the thorniest problem, but since the emphasis here is on the man rather than issues, one might gather from the inclusion of some self-pitying letters from Curzon that the author feels the real cause of the idealistic Curzon's term lay in an overemotional investment in status and success. ""Grind, grind, grind,"" he wrote to his wife, ""with never a word of encouragement...and no one caring one little damn..."" The author reviews Curzon's childhood, education, family and friends, travels, politicking -- all with a skillful command of extensive research and lively style. And this is a commanding portrait of a superior but touchingly vulnerable person and his age.