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Champion Redoubtable: The Diaries and Letters of Violet Bonham Carter, 1914-45 (Phoenix Giants) [Paperback]

Dr Mark Pottle
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

11 Feb 1999 Phoenix Giants
Violet Bonham Carter, the only daughter of H.H. Asquith, kept a diary from the age of 18. She moved in privileged circles with the great figures of the day and wrote revealingly about what she saw. This book contains a selection of her diaries and letters, covering the years 1914-1945.

Product details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicholson; New edition edition (11 Feb 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0753805464
  • ISBN-13: 978-0753805466
  • Product Dimensions: 13.8 x 3.1 x 21.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 934,289 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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From the Publisher

“She was always at the perfect place at the crucial time talking to the most powerful person about the most interesting topic of the day.” Andrew Roberts, Evening Standard

About the Author

Mark Pottle read modern history at the University of Sheffield and at Wolfson College, Oxford (where he is now a research fellow). He is the editor of the previous volumes of these letters & diaries.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a fresh and energising book 26 April 2011
As an afficionado of diaries since being given The Assassins Cloak compendium as a starter ten years ago, I approached the three volumes of Violet Bonham Carter with some doubts since they do not appear in that volume. It is true that they lack the brilliance of style and the memorable sayings of the very best. But for anyone interested in how British society and top level politics evolved in the first half of the C20, viewed from the perspective of Asquith's daughter, Churchill's friend and acute observer of the Liberal Party, this like the other two volumes is a good read. The combination of privileged and radical offers a distinctive vantage point on events. If you enjoyed Nicolson and Channon's diaries, these could be your cup of tea.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Jot A Day Keeps The Reader Away 16 Jan 2010
Having read several volumes of diaries recently, mostly by women, I think that my tentative conclusion is that the big, important British diaries (and books of memoirs) of the 20th Century were all published some time ago, as were those of less import but containing great interest: Churchill, Nicholson, Wyatt, Alan Clark et al. Now all that is left are volumes of trivia, not entirely without interest but really not of the first water, raked over in excruciating detail by academics and researchers needing to publish or die (as in American academia). This book must fall into the latter category of publications.

Violet Bonham-Carter was the daughter of the Liberal prime minister, Asquith and led a charmed and pampered life, all through that life. These papers are penned in an endless succession of country houses and foreign ports of luxury like Monte Carlo, Lake Lugano etc. They are sometimes to people of literary or other interest, like rupert Brooke, but are mostly domestic trivia. The lady (who, incredibly, was a Member of Parliament for many years and later a life peer), does talk about foreign affairs and does display some intelligence here and there, but her views seem to be mostly taken from the mass media of the day, with a veneer of upper-crustism on top.

Not for me.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Has the piercing beauty of this spring been sent to mock or to console us?" --- June 3, 1940 1 Dec 2013
By Don Reed - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
"Lantern Slides, The Diaries & Letters of Violet Bonham Carter, 1904-1914" [VBC 1887-1969], edited by Mark Bonham Carter [1922-1994] & Mark Pottle [YOB unavailable]; Weidenfeld & Nicholson (1996*);

"Champion Redoubtable, The Diaries & Letters of Violet Bonham Carter, 1914-45," edited by Mark Pottle; Weidenfeld & Nicholson (1998**).

This is a composite review of the first two books, "Lantern Slides" & "Champion Redoubtable," of a historical trilogy.

Post Note (10/24/14) Please also see my review of "Winston Churchill: An Intimate Portrait," by Violet Bonham Carter [1887-1969]; Harcourt Brace & World, Inc. (1965 hardcover first edition). The review date is Oct. 22, 2014.


"Mark Pottle has throughout provided passages of historical continuity, informative but not obtrusive annotation, biographical sketches of the more important persons figuring in Violet Bonham Carter's life, & glossaries of people, places & terms. The editing is a model of its kind; I have not encountered better."

--- Louis Decimus Rubin, "The Summer The Archduke Died" (2008; pp. 145-6)


From my review of 'Readings in The Classical Historians,' edited & introduced by the inept Michael Grant (1992), amended:

"What should Grant have done, other than selecting the best work of these various historians? What could another editor have done?

"Introductions et al should be indispensable enhancements to histories --- not things from which to recoil in distaste, even scorn.

"See 'Lantern Slides, The Diaries & Letters of Violet Bonham Carter, 1904-1914'... edited by Mark Bonham Carter & Mark Pottle.

"Pottle's superb Preface & Editorial Note is supported & beautifully enhanced by Roy Jenkins's penetratingly candid Introduction.

" 'Lantern' is the first of a trilogy. The second... 'Champion Redoubtable, The Diaries & Letters of [VBC] 1914-45'... is also defined as a classic, with its Preface & an Editorial Note written by MP & an equally informative & touching Introduction contributed by John Grigg.

"These two volumes reveal that Mark Pottle's talents & standards are equal to those cherished by the renowned William Shawn, editor of the New Yorker Magazine between 1952 & 1987.

"Copy editor Peter James is also gratefully appreciated & thanked for his role in the creation of these remarkable & cherished books."

This is History in its absolute finest form, presenting the life of the daughter of British Prime Minister Herbert Asquith (1852-1928), PM 1908-1916 & in office for the first two devastating years of World War I.

Her letters, particularly those written during her youth, make for fascinating reading. Her correspondents, including Winston Churchill, are equally compelling writers.

Hence, five stars are gratefully nominated for both volumes.


The quality of the paper used in the formation of both books is exceptional (considering the lapse in the publishing houses' standards since about 1980, bordering on the miraculous).

For that reason, I quote, with likewise keen appreciation for their skills & talents, from the Preface of Lantern Slides:

"For their assistance with the practicalities of book production, thanks are made to: Jackson & Dennett, bookbinders (Oxford); Photocraft Ltd., Hempstead; [&] The Composing Room Ltd. (photography), London."

From the preface of Champion Redoubtable: "I would also like to thank Jackson & Dennett of Oxford, bookbinders."


The 3rd book of the Trilogy, "Daring to Hope: The Diaries & Letters of Violet Bonham Carter, 1946-1969" (2002) has yet to be read & reviewed.


Added to this review (posted as a "comment") is the obituary of one of Violet's sons, Raymond Bonham Carter.

The tragic fate of so many of the Asquith family members is simply uncanny. Service to their country resulted in death or serious injury in the World Wars. Peacetime could be equally treacherous.

They were, as it was contemptuously said elsewhere, a family of "privilege" ("toffs").

That privilege entailed painful, personal sacrifices.


* From the Lantern Slides copyright page: "The right of Mark Pottle to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988."

** From the Champion Redoubtable copyright page: "The moral right of Mark Pottle to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act of 1998."


Post Note (01/21/14) - A minor detail, considering the enormous task already accomplished: There's no consolidated list of the family relatives, close friends, associates & other notables in Violet's life who died in World War One.

"Charles [Lister's] death is the last touch in the devastation of our poor stricken generation... but since Rupert [Brooke's] death I've had a sort of numb feeling... One feels too the living so mixed with the dead just now - one hardly knows them apart. The living are so absent & the dead so present."

(September 7, 1915, to Eddie Marsh; from "Champion Redoubtable," p. 77)

The war still had yet three years to run.


Violet's Family Relatives, Friends, Associates & Other Notables, Killed In WWI;

Name; YOB-YOD; Comments ("LS" = Lantern Slides; "CR" = Champion Redoubtable)

Thomas Agar-Robartes (1880-1915); CR p. 80 fn; Liberal MP

Raymond Asquith (1878-1916); CR, p. 95; Violet's brother

Alfred Brooke (1891-1915); CR p. 59; brother of Rupert

Rupert Brooke (1887-1915); CR p. 384 (biographical sketch); brother of Alfred

William Denis Brown (d. 1915); CR p. 16; also p. 69

Guy Bonham Carter (1884-1915); CR p. 62; cousin of Violet's husband, Maurice

Norman Bonham Carter (d. 1917); CR p. 99; Violet's brother-in-law

Hugo Charteris (1884-1916); LS p. 63; also CR p. 65

John Flower (1883-1919); LS p. 41; died of wounds after war ended

Oscar Freyberg (1881-1915); CR p. 66 fn; also p. 69; brother of Bernard (1889-63)

William Gladstone (1885-1915); LS p. 307 fn; grandson of "the liberal premier" & Liberal MP

Billy Grenfell (1890-1915); LS p. 57; also CR p. 81; brother of Julian

Julian Grenfell (1888-1915); LS p. 57; also CR p. 61; brother of Billy

E.W. Horner (1888-1917); LS p. 48; also CR p. 61

Frederick "Cleg" Kelly (1881-1916); CR p. 27

Charles Lister (1887-1915); LS p. 48; also CR pp. 76-77, 80

John Manners (1892-1914); LS p. 48

Francis McLaren (1886-1917); LS p. 307 fn; Liberal MP

Cyril Ponsonby (1881-1915); CR p. 80 fn

Arnold Quilter (d. 1915); CR, p. 19 fn, 78

Patrick Shaw-Stewart (1888-1917); LS p. 135

Edward Tennant (1897-1916); CR p. 79 fn; family relative

John Tennant (1889-1915); CR p. 79 fn (note: it is assumed, with his year of death being 1915, that he was killed in the war; the fn does not provide information); family relative

Alexander Thynne (1873-1918); LS p. 54

George Venables-Vernon (1888-1915); LS p. 174

Percy Wyndham (1887-1914); CR p. 7
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