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Gladstone Paperback – 6 Sep 2002

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Product details

  • Paperback: 720 pages
  • Publisher: Pan; New Ed edition (6 Sept. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330411713
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330411714
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 4.5 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 99,055 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Book Description

Originally published in 1995,this is a biography of William Ewart Gladstone (1809-98), which charts the political career and personal life of the only person who saw four terms as the British Prime Minister and who left behind a long and successful line of legislation. Roy Jenkins examines the manifold activities of Gladstone's life and uses it to relate the political rhythms, travel patterns and religious assumptions of Victorian England to the modern day.

About the Author

Roy Jenkins was the author of many books, including Churchill and Gladstone, which won the Whitbread Prize for Biography. Active in British politics for half a century, he entered the House of Commons in 1948 and subsequently served as Minister of Aviation, Home Secretary, and Chancellor of the Exchequer; he was also the President of the European Commission and Chancellor of Oxford University. In 1987 he took his seat in the House of Lords. He died in January 2003.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Jimbo on 8 Jan. 2004
Format: Paperback
This is the second book of Roy Jenkins that I have read, having greatly enjoyed his biography of Winston Churchill. Initially I felt that I had read the books in the wrong order - in the introduction to Churchill there are many references to this previous work - how he had thought that Gladstone was the greater Prime Minister until he had written about Churchill's life, but gradually settled down to enjoy this highly readable biography.
There were two things that immediately struck me. The first was the extreme religiosity of Gladstone, especially in regard to sin he felt from his rescue work. He was a man who continually struggled to reconcile his faith to his actions, and through his meticulous diary keeping we are allowed to peer through a large window into his soul, as opposed to the speculation that often litters biographies.
The second was his troubled relationship with Queen Victoria. Whilst I had previously been aware of her preference for Disraeli, I had not been aware of the adverse reaction she had to almost anything that Gladstone did as Premier, especially in later years. The snub she delivered to him regarding a peerage upon the close of his final premiership was particularly vitriolic (and amusing reading!), and the feel of the book is that his struggles were as much with Victoria as with Benjamin Disraeli.
Jenkins succeeds in stripping away completely the layers of Gladstone. He goes into the right amount of detail on the key events of his life, and also critically evaluates them. Jenkins is not in slavish approval of his every action or personality trait. His prose is occasionally witty but always well constructed, though the Latin and French phrases often reveal the pompous character of the author.
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71 of 78 people found the following review helpful By Gildas Sapiens on 1 Nov. 2003
Format: Paperback
This much acclaimed biography was to be my introduction, not just to the great man, but to the Victorian era itself and the history and politics of Britain in the 19th Century. Sure enough, Gladstone has inspired me beyond expectation; his biography has informed me of the rich variety of the Victorian era and of the complexities of British politics.
Roy Jenkins has produced a work which is transparently honest and scrupulous in the richness of detail it unfolds. I can well believe the plaudits which acclaim its scholarship. Yet only a few chapters into it I found myself on an unexpected journey which has proved fascinating and instructive in further feeding my appetite for Gladstone and the Victorian era, but wary of the critics who have acclaimed this book.
Four themes In Roy Jenkins book increasingly unsettled me. They drove me to a second hand bookshop where I found a copy of an earlier biography of Gladstone by Philip Magnus. It was the earlier biography (published 1954) which captivated me and led me to plough my way through both biographies side by side. It was Magnus who proved to be more interesting and rewarding. Perhaps because he is slightly shorter he has also greater clarity. So what was it in Jenkins biography which sent me down this route?
First the prose. Whilst generally very readable his syntax reminded me of that master of written argument, Bernard Levin. But sometimes for Jenkins the complex and lengthy sentences just didn’t work. Several times I read a multi-clause sentence again and again and still failed to find either the intended sense or the gramatical logic. The prose was at times over ambitious and cumbersome.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By BobH on 25 Mar. 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
‘Gladstone’(1996) by Roy Jenkins is a well-written and highly effective single-volume biography. ‘He was the most remarkable specimen of humanity of all the fifty who, from Walpole to Major, have so far held the office of British Prime Minister’ (P. xvi) states the author sat the start and proceeds to show why.
William Ewart Gladstone was a rather enigmatic character and so is the author’s treatment of him. He frequently declares how great Gladstone was, how he dominated 19th century British politics, but Jenkins still carps at his rigid religious views, his verbose treatment of virtually everything he wrote – including diaries (kept 1825- 94 and published in 14 volumes) and a proposal of marriage -, his prurience, his (often ill-considered) rush at doing everything. Nevertheless, for most of the book I was asking, does Jenkins like his subject?
In old age Gladstone was described as an ‘old man in a hurry’. Jenkins demonstrates that he was also a young / middle-aged ‘man in a hurry’ – reading voraciously, travelling continually, reclaiming fallen women, speaking verbosely, writing at inordinate length and one aspect, giving Jenkins ample opportunity for his witty description, sticking his ‘sanctimonious and judgemental’(P. 95) nose into other people’s business. Throughout the GOM remains an enigma. What was it about his attempts to rescue ‘fallen women’ which often led him to scourge himself afterwards? How can Jenkins describe his interest in prostitutes like Marion Summerhayes and Elizabeth Collins as ‘infatuation’ when some evidence suggests ‘marital fidelity’ – or am I getting into Bill Clinton /Monica Lewinsky country here?
In the world of politics Gladstone was a mystery with his amazing switches in political loyalty and viewpoint– but Disraeli was an equal weather-cock.
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