THE DESIRE TO PLEASE by Harold Nicolson


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In 1938 Harold Nicolson published Helen's Tower, one panel in a project of no mean proportions -In Search of the Past, a blend of autobiography, family portraiture and recreation of England's past. Now-after a long interval-comes this volume, part of the same project but definitely a venture into the past, with a biography of Nicolson's great-great-grandfather, Hamilton Rowan. Born and bred in England, he diverted his hatred against a strict anglican mother into a general anglophobia, cultivated his Irish heritage of the rebellious and unexpected-and led a deplorable career. Caught by impulse, by new ideas, and the desire to please, ""he turned his vanity into pride, his loyalties into conspiracy, his convictions into obstinacy, his love into hate"". After a decade abroad, he went to ireland where he joined the Nationalist Movement, championed the virtuous poor, was dazzled by Lord Edward Fitzgerald and eventually landed in jail. He was implicated in high treason and to escape the hangman he broke jail and fled first to France, then America. There the realities disillusioned him in the proletarian cause and begging for pardon, he eventually returned to Ireland-to his family and aristocracy. Personal and period portrait which is fastidiously, perceptively presented, with graceful elegance and wit and urbanity.

Pub Date: Sept. 30th, 1943
Publisher: Harcourt, Brace