Nigel Hamilton

Nigel Hamilton is now at work on the second volume of his biography of Montgomery. He is also the author of The Brothers Mann.

Diary: Writing Books, and Selling Them

Nigel Hamilton, 23 October 1986

Monday. The bookshop manager is away and my partner and I are running the shop, he in the morning, I in the afternoon. Today is different, however, for our new bank manager is coming to discuss long-term financing. We have been in business three months now and can at last ink real figures onto our accountant’s computer predictions.

Principal Boy

Nigel Hamilton, 21 March 1985

‘Dickie, you’re so crooked that if you swallowed a nail you’d shit a corkscrew!’ Thus the irascible Field Marshal Sir Gerald Templer, in a ‘Templerism’ openly addressed to Lord Louis Mountbatten. It is one of Philip Ziegler’s virtues as an official biographer that he is willing to quote the unkind as well as the kind remarks about his hero. Another is his readability: a seven-hundred-page opus that crackles with interest, intelligence and good judgment from the beginning of Mountbatten’s meteoric appearance in the 20th century to his end as a victim of the IRA; the portrait of a man who, born a royal German prince, was reduced to the courtesy title of Lord and, by a mixture of talent, industry and naked ambition, seared his way into naval, military and finally political history – as well as the longest entry in Britain’s Who’s Who.’

In the field

Nigel Hamilton, 5 November 1981

Some weeks ago Sir Isaiah Berlin gave a broadcast in which he described his first visit to the legendary Russian poet Anna Akhmatova in Moscow in 1945 – a visit cut short in its prime by the bellowing of Randolph Churchill in the courtyard outside, hotly pursued by the Russian Secret Police. Alas, such humorous anecdotes will not be found by Berlin devotees in his latest book, Washington Despatches. Berlin was actually on his way to Moscow as Press Attaché when he was dismissed by the British Ambassador, Sir Stafford Cripps, then greedily snapped up by our men in New York: by 1942 he had become a member of the Survey Section of the Embassy in Washington. Each week he drew up a political commentary for despatch to London, but any hopes of witnessing the formidable Berlin intellect at war in the corridors of US power will be disappointed. Although – a trifle immodestly – he claims in his Introduction that his material was considered by Denis Brogan in London to be ‘the Ariadne’s thread through the labyrinths of American politics’, it is hard to see Berlin as Theseus in these reports, which veer from matters of local American concern (labour troubles etc) to generalities so general one can only yawn one’s way through. The burning issues of America’s entry into the war, the loss of the Philippines, the disastrous first eight months of 1942, the whole question of the Second Front, the great conferences at Yalta and Tehran, the agonising questions of post-war Europe, of Palestine and – still so agonising today – of Poland, are dealt with summarily, drily, in no way memorably. Why should this gifted man have failed to deliver something more rewarding?


As time goes by

2 July 1981

SIR: Who is Brenda Maddox (LRB, 2 July) to insist that Ingrid Bergman strip naked or not at all? Why should she explain where all her Hollywood evenings went?Miss Bergman should be thanked for telling all that she has. Let horrid biographers pick over her affairs/bank accounts/private letters when she has departed this world – and not before.I say this as a horrid biographer.

The Kennedy Boys

R.W. Johnson, 28 January 1993

‘The first thing he did,’ recounted one of JFK’s helpers in his first Congressional campaign of 1946, ‘was to get one of Dowd’s staff pregnant’ – Dowd...

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E.S. Turner, 4 September 1986

It seemed to me, when editing Soldier in 1946, that a blown-up colour photograph of Monty’s ‘fruit salad’, his massed rows of medal ribbons, would make a good front cover. Would...

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David Fraser, 22 December 1983

There were and there remain two extremes of opinion about Field Marshal Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, as well as a large number of intermediate positions. At one end of the scale are those who...

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The Mothering of Montgomery

John Keegan, 2 July 1981

On the amalgamation of Woolwich and Sandhurst after the Second World War to form the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, 12 new companies were formed, bearing the names of British victories. Four...

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