A definitive, celebratory biography of the greatest 19th- century British political leader, by a distinguished 20th-century British politician. Despite living in different centuries, Roy Jenkins (Lord Jenkins of Hillhead) and William Gladstone (180998) share many characteristics. Both men held powerful political positions. (Gladstone served four terms as prime minister of Britain.) Both men used their influence to split their own parties and drive them into the political wilderness. Both men published book after book while active in public life, a feat that appears to be beyond the ability of American politicians. (Imagine our surprise if, say, Bob Dole were to write a major biography of Teddy Roosevelt.) Like Gladstone, Jenkins (A Life at the Center, 1993, etc.) believes in the centrality of politics to the life of the nation. An excellent introduction to the political history of Britain, his biography also contains a judicious examination of Gladstone's deep religious commitments and his complex obsession with prostitutes, pornography, and moral reform. Gladstone recorded the details of his life in a massive diary, dividing every day into quarter-hour intervals, and Jenkins uses this magnificent source--recently edited and published--to delve into the secrets of Gladstone's enormous productivity. The key, it appears, was sheer energy. It drove him to put in 18-hour days and fueled his zealous pursuits. Although very good at political narrative, Jenkins rarely looks beneath the surface of politics to the people who sustained Gladstone's position. He mentions that Gladstone's inherited wealth was generated by the labor of generations of African slaves in the West Indies, but makes little of the fact. Politics appear to occur mainly in Parliament, and readers might miss the fact that Britain ruled over India. Still, Jenkins, who loves politics and admires politicians, has produced an authoritative life of one of his heroes.