Kirkus Star


Email this review


In my opinion, the first biography in its field to rival Strachey's period pieces, a book which has had a brilliant English press, and a book, which although dealing with a relatively minor figure, has such charm and distinction that it must win the place it deserves. Like Strachey, David Cecil has a deep appreciation of a bygone period and is fully successful in recreating it -- the period of the Whig aristocracy. Like Strachey, the focus is on personality rather than event. Like Strachey, the prose style is precise, urbane, luminous. The story deals with the formative years of William Melbourne, up to his 47th year, and before he became prime minister and advisor to Queen Victoria. It deals with the tragi-comic fiasco that was his marriage to Caroline Ponsonby, ""sad, mad, bad young Lady Caroline"", vivid, elusive, devastatingly egotistical, a fury bent on self destruction, and destruction of all who touched her. Her fame -- or infamy -- rests on her affair with Byron. William himself is a paradoxical and challenging character, combining his zest for life, worldliness, common sense and a cynical detachment of the Whig elite with the idealism of the coming century. Contemplative but lusty, tolerant but disenchanted, only in later years was he to attain some direction. His chief propensity lay in avoiding trouble, he was poised between personal and political issues, he was vacillating but not weak. A delicate and at the same time a brilliant book. The bookseller has a chance to help ""make"" this book, for here is a dark horse, a subject that will not sell on its name -- and yet a rewarding book which customers who want to be in the vanguard with important English biographies will appreciate having brought to their attentiol.

Pub Date: Aug. 28th, 1939
ISBN: 1443725463
Publisher: Bobbs, Merrill