12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 14 January 2014
An excellent selection from a huge archive which reveals much about the man and the scholar. The early letters particularly reveal a humorous, self-effacing, gentle and kind person whose public persona may have appeared completely differently. If anything, the volume is slightly over-footnoted but better too much than too little. The introductory paragraphs are enlightening and fascinating. The letters about the Hitler diaries fiasco are intriguing and alone tell us much of the real character of Hugh Trevor-Roper. A terrific read.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
This is a hugely enjoyable book . While I have to admit to being rather wide of Trevor Roper’s background and political standpoint, the quality, fluency and immaculate prose style of these fine letters quickly won me over. While the environment that Trevor Roper inhabits are flawlessly patrician, his erudition and learning worn so easily makes this so much more palatable when compare it to be compared to multivolume letters of love between the tweed clad. The academic duels that surround the prestigious Oxbridge seats of history and professorships, combined with genteel academic disputes due former the DNA of many of these letters, but there is so much more here. Trevor Roper’s connections to figures as diverse as the young Alan Clark, the Cambridge spy ring, and proximity to many mid-century political figures makes him a valuable witness. But all in all the reader keeps coming back to a gifted writer with a real sensitivity to language, who seemed far removed from the realities of journalistic dogfights that surrounded by Hitler diaries for example (which is placed firmly in historical context). With Edward Gibbon as a presiding spirit, it’s hardly likely that the reader comes grinding back to the cliché that this is a fine man probably born out of his time. This fine book does him and its authors much credit.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
This is a superb book, drawing together a wide range of letters covering Trevor-Roper's life and interests. The greatest pleasure is the prose style which is witty, acerbic, rigorous and entertaining. He does NOT suffer fools gladly, and given Roper's intellectual weight, I suspect most of those who read this would have suffered a little under his lash.
The most important thing, of course, is that the book is hugely entertaining.
In one of the letters included in this splendid anthology. H T-R bemoans the fact that the advent of the motor car and the telephone have significantly reduced the number of long letters being written. What he would say to the point over half a century later when the advent of email and texting would reduce hand written letters to a trickle one can only imagine. Letters by their combined physical and mental requirements produce a much deeper understanding of the writer and while in the case of Mdme de Sevigne style sometimes wins out over substance, in the present volume, style and substance jostle for supremacy in the most entertaining and delightful way. Richard Davenport - Hines' previous anthology of H T-R's letters to Bernard Berenson was engrossimg and the present volume with its mixture of recipients is equally so. Anyone interested in the increasingly rare art of letter writing will find much to enthral, instruct and amuse in this excellent volume.
As someone who has written few letters in his life, I always find reading those of others quite fascinating. At the same time I feel a little guilty at encroaching upon someone's personal correspondence, but Trevor-Roper's letters are so beautifully written and, perhaps, always intended for later publication that my guilt fades somewhat. They afford much insight into the personality of the author and inform about the particular elite society in which he circulated. In this digital age of brief Twitter tweets and Facebook postings, the contents seem to reflect a passing, less hustled era. An enjoyable read!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 13 July 2014
Unbridled, academic and worldly - no holds barred, opinionated, a tonic draught of candid bulletins from the heart of public and private life. Kind, cruel - highly recommended
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Hugh Trevor-Roper was a gifted individual who spent much of his life in fostering his career and social climbing. He was an excellent writer and stylist. One of his descriptions of Jerusalem and another of the infamous LSE riots of 1968 are quite superb. This book is full of fascinating stories about Hugh, is very entertaining and beautifully written. On every level it is richly rewarding.
Born in 1914, Trevor-Roper was one of the foremost historians of the mid-twentieth century. He was also a dreadful snob. He never missed a chance to criticise those Dons who came from lowly backgrounds (his dislike of the Oxford English scholar A.L.Rouse was based on this). Only those with a knowledge of Oxford dons and their behaviour in-house can begin to understand the degree of jealousy, backbiting, scurrilous gossip, intrigue and sheer bitchiness that pervades those hallowed academic grounds.
Trevor-Roper was a very complex, arrogant and colourful character He had a very unhappy upbringing experiencing very little love from either parent. His father was a doctor, a respected member of local society. The family could trace their origins back to the fifteenth century. By his teens Hugh had decided that his father had contracted out of parenthood. Neither of his parents had any intellectual interests. Horse racing was his father's chief interest. As a child, Hugh was frail, short-sighted, poor at games, and awkward in company. Reading was his great pleasure in life. After school at Stancliff Hall which he disliked he was sent to another boarding school, Belhaven Hill in Dunbar,which he loved and where he thrived academically. He won a scholarship to Charterhouse where in his last term he was placed top of the Classical Sixth, the highest form in the school. He was awarded a scholarship to read classics, philosophy and ancient history at Christ Church (the academic equivalent to the Brigade of Guards).
He left Charterhouse in 1932 and began his time at Oxford. He began reading modern History in addition to his other subjects; his tutors regarded him as brilliant. As expected, he was awarded first-class honours at the end of 3 years. He next sat examinations for All Souls. These included a viva which in his case was conducted by the Home Secretary, Sir John Simon. He failed to be elected because the examiners found him too flippant. The failure meant he could not seek a career in the Diplomatic Service.
The 100 letters selected from many thousands were written over 58 years ago from 1943 when Hugh was 23. They cover,for example: his time in intelligence, his time as Regius Professor of Modern History at Oxford, and his time as Master of Peterhouse, Cambridge (an unhappy time for many). They describe visits for example, to Spain, Greece, the USSR and the USA. The chosen selection illustrate the wide range of his life and interests. The reveal his wit, erudition, and the vanities of his contemporaries. In all, his letters amount to millions of words.
His appointment to the Regius Professorship caused a great deal of controversy because many Oxford scholars and others felt that the brilliant historian and lecturer A J P Taylor should have been appointed instead. It was well known that Hugh had fostered a very close relationship with the PM Harold Macmillan in order to get his backing. Also, Taylor's membership of CND, the fact that he was a 'popular historian', and his independent mind told against him. Much has been made of the frosty relationship that developed between the two. What is seldom stated is that this was only in public, on TV shows, and so on. In private the two got on very well although failure to get the post was a bitter pill for Taylor to swallow.
Trevor Roper never recovered his reputation as a leading historian after initially declaring the forged Hitler Diaries genuine. It was an astonishing error by the author of the acclaimed 'Last Days of Hitler's. Perhaps,it was said,his knowledge of Hitler was far less than he claimed. How could a leading historian believe a man like Hitler kept diaries! Several reasons have been put forward, for example,Hugh's expertise was firmly based in the 17th century, and he allowed the prestige of being selected to research and write the first major book on Hitler to override his
caution as an historian. Whatever the reasons, he suffered a major blow in academia (some of his enemies openly wallowed in his discomfort).
Sadly, he later lost his wife and went blind, tragedies that mellowed him and made him a much nicer man to know. A brilliant scholar who tragically allowed hubris to down him.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 21 February 2014
This is a wonderful book by an exceptionally learned, gifted and opinionated historian covering a tumultuous time in the profession. How he was able to read, travel and write so much in a single lifetime is a mystery!