10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Douglas Hurd's elegantly-written masterpiece - I think!,
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This review is from: Sir Robert Peel: A Biography (Hardcover)
Others have written biographies of Sir Robert Peel and it is complained by some reviewers that (Lord) Douglas Hurd has cribbed much of his material from these earlier works. Quite frankly, I see nothing wrong in the practice, provided due credit is given, and I would have thought it beneficial in any case. When writing a life, one cannot read enough. And besides, it is plainly obvious that there is much fresh material in this elegantly-written masterpiece that has the advantage of being a political biography of one of the nineteenth century's all-time 'greats' by a very experienced and respected 'great' of the twentieth century. The only weakness that I could detect was the author's apparent inability or unwillingness to avoid occasional and unnecessarily sarcastic references to two of my all-time twentieth century 'greats' - Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair. Despite that, this work is educative, erudite and entertaining, as one might expect. What did I learn from it? Well, I suppose that the intricacies of the Great Reform Bill's arguments are now clearer to me; I am sure that Peel's changing attitudes to Ireland are much more understandable and it is very clear indeed that the Conservative Prime Minister's reaction to the Irish potato disaster was infinitely wiser and more helpful than that of the 'Liberal' Lord John Russell, a man whose memory is not honoured; and, though my own English farming ancestors must have held strong feelings against the repeal of The Corn Laws, again I have had it made clearer that it was the Conservative Peel who came to see that high food prices were against the national interest - and he was right, too. It is also proved, to my satisfaction at least, that Sir Robert Peel, despite his difficulties with his own kind and his own 'party,' was a man and a politician and a statesman way ahead of his contemporaries and of his peers. And, surprising as it is coming from a supposed 'One Nation' Tory, Douglas Hurd, the book's verdict on Benjamin Disraeli's early political career is damning: the fellow was obviously a cad and a bounder. Finally, I learned again that another great British hero, the Duke of Wellington, born in 1769, the victor of Waterloo in 1815, and Prime Minister in the 1830s, was still doing his patriotic duty as late as 1846: what a man! Maybe Lord Hurd or someone of equal eminence should bring out an up-to-date assessment of 'The Iron Duke' as his or her next project.