LLOYD GEORGE: A Diary by Frances Stevenson


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Frances Stevenson was Lloyd George's private secretary and devoted (not worshipful) mistress for some 30 years. Her diary is thus a unique historical document: a detailed, candid picture of the most paradoxical and elusive of 20th century English politicos. Tantalizingly incomplete, with large abrupt gaps which too often come at the most critical junctures of his career -- e.g., the Irish Settlement and his resignation in 1922 from the Coalition government -- it will nevertheless be an invaluable original source for historians seeking access, or at least proximity, to the mercurial mind of the Welsh Wizard. Luckily, the war years are covered most thoroughly; Lloyd George at the height of his powers as Chancellor of the Exchequer, Minister of Munitions and, after Asquith's fall, Prime Mini, stet -- restless, volatile, exasperated at the mismangement of the war effort. Cabinet machinations which resulted in the ouster of Asquith, Churchill's Dardanelles fiasco, the embarrassment of Kitchener and Haig at the War Office are all recorded with intelligence, spontaneity, and considerable wit. Critically annotated by Taylor (who points out those instances when Lloyd George was being ""monstrously unfair""), the diary nevertheless undermines facile textbook assessments of Lloyd George as a ruthless, self-seeking careerist; rather his isolation among shilly-shallying colleagues and his perpetual outsider status within the Liberal Party seem to be responsible for the mistrust he inspired in Parliament. ""The only person of action among them,"" remarked Miss Stevenson; ""I have no contemporaries, save perhaps Churchill"" said Lloyd George. Politics apart, there is just enough cattiness to make it credible, i.e., ""It is extraordinary how everyone dislikes Mrs. LI. G."" but the deep abiding love which obviously existed between him and Miss Stevenson in good times and bad considerably modifies the picture of Lloyd George as a fickle, amoral womanizer. Obligatory for historians and an unqualified delight for others.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1971
Publisher: Harper & Row