SIR ROBERT WALPOLE: The King's Minister by J. H. Plumb

SIR ROBERT WALPOLE: The King's Minister

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KIRKUS REVIEW

As ""the first modern Prime Minister of England"" Sir Robert Walpole wielded a power equalled by none of his successors; this notable book, second in a three-volume biography by an outstanding English historian, covers his career from 1722 to 1734, it begins where its predecessor in the Series, The Making of a Statesman, ends, with Walpole's emergence as Prime Minister under George I. A man of gross appetites, keen political perceptions and an astonishing love of beautiful objects, Walpole attained his vast powers through his ability to manipulate others and his mastery of the arts of patronage and bribery. Uncovering a Jacobite plot against George I, he made himself indispensible to that monarch, who hated him, and so ingratiated himself with George II and Queen Caroline that he ruled England through them. Known as ""The Great Man,"" he loaded his friends and family with favors, rid himself of his enemies, and enriched both himself and his country, steering England safely through the seething European politics of the time, increasing the national revenue and at the same time keeping taxes within limits. For his own delight as well as to symbolize his power he built Houghton Hall, one of the loveliest houses in England, and filled it with a matchless collection of pictures, later sold to Russia by his detestable grandson. By 1734, however, ""grown too great for his own good,"" Walpole began to lose his political acumen, and although years of power remained to him his career began ""to slope gently to defeat."" No book for amateurs in history, who may find themselves bogged in details, this superb middle-volume in what A.L. Rowse terms ""the most important historical biography going forward in our time"" is required reading for all students of 18th-century England and European political history; with its predecessor, The Making it is an essential addition to all historical collections of the period.

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin