I discovered this book at the second-hand book stall when on holiday. Whilst I must have seen the name here and there I never appreciated how important he was and how near he came to being Leader of the Liberal Party, and even PM.
The Jenkin's biog falls into three parts (as did Dilke's life). In the first part (1843-1885) Dilke showed early promise as an outstanding undergraduate and, at the presumptive age of 26, after a world tour, he published `Great Britain', a record of his travels. This was a huge & instant success, which helped him to become an MP in 1868. Dilke was very radical and, through a close partnership with Joseph Chamberlain, became an irritant to his party leaders yet, so influential was he that, when Gladstone formed his 1880 Govt, Dilke got a post in the Foreign Office & Chamberlain one in the Cabinet (Bd of Trade). Their joint resignation in 1885 (over Ireland) helped bring an end to Gladstone's administration.
Then began the second phase of Dilke's life (1885-1892) when he was cited in the Crawford divorce case. Despite his near certain innocence of the charges made against him in two court cases, his political career was ruined, although he did manage to get elected for the Forest of Dean in 1892.
The last phase (1892-1911) was Dilke's isolation on the back-benches.
What is extraordinary about this story is that Dilke was one of the best-known politicians of his day and widely talked of as the leader-in-waiting. Yet his citation in a divorce case where the chief witness (Mrs Crawford) seems to have invented every charge that she made against him, was enough to remove him from the scene. Today investigative journalism would have exposed Mrs Crawford & a more tolerant age would have accepted Dilke back on the front bench after a decent interval.
Jenkins tells the story with great gusto. It is a magnificent book.