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Debts of Honour [Paperback]

Michael Foot

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Book Description

15 April 2010

Debts of Honour is Michael Foot's most famous collection of essays. Adept at the longer distance though he was, one only has to remember The Pen and the Sword and his Aneurin Bevan biography, the essay very often saw his writing at its sharpest and most eloquent. He has been compared to Arnold Bennett and J. B. Priestley, but there is no exaggeration in extending that to A. J. P. Taylor.

Of this volume, Kenneth Morgan has written,' But it is still an enchanting volume, revealing of Foot's style and of his friends and heroes past and present. His heroes are literary and political, though it is clear that for Foot the categories merge into one common stream of aspiration.' There are fourteen essays. It is instructive to list the subjects: Isaac Foot (his father), William Hazlitt, Benjamin Disraeli, Beaverbrook, Bonar Thompson (Hyde Park Sceptic); Bertrand Russell; H. N. Brailsford; Ignazio Silone; Vicky (the cartoonist); Randolph Churchill; Thomas Paine; Daniel Defoe; Sarah, The Duchess of Marlborough, and Jonathan Swift. The range is impressively wide, something that struck a fledgling politician. In July 1982 Tony Blair wrote with depressing truth, 'The first thing that struck me about Debts of Honour was the prison if ignorance which my generation has constructed for itself.' Having mentioned Hazlitt, Paine and Brailsford and doubting they are still read, he ends with this exhortation, 'We need to recover the searching radicalism of these people.' Stirring words even if they might embarrass the author now!

'Michael Foot is an accomplished politician, a trenchant orator and a devoted Socialsit - all good things to be. But the Michael Foot I like best is the enthusiastic essayist, using his command of words to praise his Radical heroes past and present. Here are fourteen of them in all theiri variety. Some were politicians, one was philosopher, some were journalists, one was a woman . . . some were Socialsits; some strongly anti-Socialist. But all, including Michael himself, had one thing in common: a proud individualism and a rejection of conventional ways . . . The book is packed with delights from the first page to the last.' A. J. P. Taylor, Evening Standard

'He pays theses Debts of Honour to a variety of incongruous people from Right as well as Left of the political spectrum. No narrow bigot could acknowledge as heroes both Hazlitt and Disraeli, both Bertrand Russell and Lord Beaverbrook. Only a determined eclectic could pay homage both to Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, and to Jonathan Swift, both to Vicky and to Randolph Churchill . . . Michael Foot is open-mindedly one-sided.' The Times

'He is one of the best literary and political journalsits and essaysits of our time: he is far, far more than an unusually literate politician. Mr Foot is a worthy companion of all those he writes about. Such a thoroughly enjoyable book!' Bernard Crick, The Guardian


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About the Author

Michael Foot (1913-2010) was a writer, journalist and politician, leading the Labour Party from 1980 to 1983. His numerous books range from the withering polemic Guilty Men (co-written with Peter Howard and Frank Owen) about the hapless appeasers of the 1930s to his magnificent two-volume biography of Aneurin Bevan.

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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
4.0 out of 5 stars A book “of bewitching interest” 11 Jan 2014
By Morgan Rigg - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Much like he regarded his employer and friend Lord Beaverbrook, so I must say about this collection of essays from Michael Foot. He composed in this book, and quite well in fact, a series of tributes to those individuals he knew and worked with, as well as historical figures who he credited as playing key roles in influencing his beliefs. He gave credit where credit was due, particularly in his essays on Disraeli, the Duchess of Marlborough and her descendant, his friend (and political foe) Randolph Churchill, and his tribute to his father, Issac Foot, can only be described as moving. I was most fascinated by his essays on Disraeli, Thomas Paine and Jonathan Swift. This is a book which anyone, regardless of one's political beliefs, can read and learn from (the fact a libertarian and laissez-faire capitalist like myself can appreciate a book like Debts of Honour should serve as proof). Having finished reading this book, I came away with the conclusion that Michael Foot paid his debts in full.
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