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By ingenious amalgamations, judicious bribery, the use of a small private army, and varying extremes of fraud and sycophancy, Cecil Rhodes assumed control over the diamond and gold wealth of South Africa. He bilked England to the tune of millions; through his representatives in the jungle, Rhodes induced the illiterate ruler of Bechaunaland to sign over his territorial rights. Rhodes' climb to the Prime Ministership was equally tortuous and nimble. Alternately, he curried favor with and sought to overthrow every major political faction. He fomented revolution and also stomped for peace, unity and his Cape to Cairo movement. Rhodes' private life unfortunately throws little if any light on the incongruities of his career. A clergyman's son, his upbringing was in a happy though harassed home. His ailing lungs brought Cecil to Africa, but it was not the lung condition which kept him there. He was as free of vices as virtues- none of the usual human passions ever tempted him. He had, however, two definite weaknesses: a deficient sense of hygiene and a bottomless conceit. It seems unthinkable that it was Rhodes, with his falsetto laugh, his outbursts of absurd sentiment, his contemptuous daring, that perhaps more than anyone symbolized the spirit and caused the first welding of modern Africa. Yet this is so. The biography, though it fails on subtle psychological points, has caught surpassingly well the role of Cecil Rhodes and tracked him through the wilderness of all his schemes.

Pub Date: May 24th, 1957
Publisher: Praeger