A gallimaufry of oddities and a treasure house of material for the aspirant bore""--so Winchester describes Burke's Peerage, and the words might serve for his own slighter summary of the state of the British hereditary (as opposed to mere lifetime) peers. It's sort of an Agatha Christie without the plot, just the succession of eccentrics--dukes who do nothing but hunt and dukes who flee to Rhodesia, earls who murder and earls who write, and a baroness who raises tomatoes. Peers have been scaled down by merciless Time and even unkinder Labour governments, but they still get away with a great deal of ""perks,"" and they tend to live longer, divorce oftener, and own more Canalettos than the man in the street. For each rank, Winchester gives a brief history, some life stories, dull statistics, and interviews. His favorites are the ones who talk the most and he gets some good gab. This is a volume of anecdote, thin on actual history of the great titles, mostly gossip of the last mere half century. (He does have the British pedantic bug--who else will tell you that Marquess of Lorn is slang for an erection, and every duke's relationship to a royal mistress or Winston Churchill?) Some delicious stuff and well recounted but for addicts only.