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Stephen Koss

Stephen Koss author of a biography of Asquith, teaches history at Columbia. The second volume of his Rise and Fall of the Political Press in Britain was published in March.

Wigan Peer

Stephen Koss, 15 November 1984

One evening in 1935, after a ‘copious’ dinner at Grillion’s, Austen Chamberlain retaliated against Winston Churchill. Course after course, Churchill had harangued his companions about British concessions in India ‘as though we were a public meeting... never letting anybody else get a word in’. Worthy of F.E. Smith’s gibe that he was the sort of gentleman who always played the game and always lost it, Austen waited for his adversary to depart before having ‘his revenge – pouring out an incessant flow of reminiscence which might be amusing were it crisp and to the point but every sentence is expanded and every trifling incident magnified, until dear good Austen begins to rank as a first-class bore – he is so insistent as to be a positive fatigue.’’

No Man’s Mistress

Stephen Koss, 5 July 1984

Christened Emma after her mother, whose later influence upon her was slight, the 11th of Sir Charles Tennant’s 15 children – three were born after he had remarried at the age of 75 – was to become famous and indeed notorious as Margot. W.E. Gladstone, allegedly more captivated by the challenge of the rhyme than by the personality of the 25-year-old woman who visited him at Hawarden in 1889, composed four stanzas of decidedly un-Homeric verse, each revolving around her name: ‘Though young and though fair, who can hold such a cargo/Of all the good qualities going as Margot?’ George Curzon, a Soulmate nearer her own age, was moved that same year to proclaim that, however ‘wide you may wander and far go … you never will beat’ the wit of dear Margot. (‘Emma’, presumably, would have posed a dilemma for both of them.) Gladstone also resorted to ‘far go’, but won higher marks by extending his ‘argot’ to embrace ‘embargo’. For all his ingenuity, however, the Grand Old Man did not use ‘farrago’, a term which Daphne Bennett’s new biography shows to have been singularly apposite.–

Letter

More Margot

5 July 1984

Stephen Koss writes: Although Michael and Eleanor Brock go far to clarify matters, they neglect to mention one relevant detail. Before dispatching my review from New York, I invested in a telephone call to Mr Brock, whom I rightly presumed to be well placed to know any recent developments with regard to the Margot Asquith diaries. Of course, transatlantic connections are sometimes unclear, and either...

Newspapers of the Consensus

Neal Ascherson, 21 February 1985

Readers who had encountered its first volume would have known that Stephen Koss’s work on the British political press was monumental. Now it has become his monument in another, brutally...

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Turning Turk

Robert Blake, 20 August 1981

This is the first of two volumes designed to describe the British press and its connection with politics and politicians from 1850 to 1951. It is a formidable task, and one cannot be surprised...

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