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Smart Alec

Peter Clarke

17 October 1996
Alec Douglas-Home 
by D.R. Thorpe.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 540 pp., £25, October 1996, 1 85619 277 6
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... which turned the coroneted head of another contender, the once and future Lord Hailsham, by unmasking him as nothing more than a professional politician out of the chorus line in Iolanthe. D.R.Thorpe’s reference at one point in this engaging new biography to ‘the insouciant calm under pressure that eight hundred years of history gave a 14th earl’ may suggest an unduly deferential image of ...

Bad Timing

R.W. Johnson: All about Eden

22 May 2003
Eden: The Life and Times of Anthony Eden, First Earl of Avon 1897-1977 
by D.R. Thorpe.
Chatto, 758 pp., £25, March 2003, 0 7011 6744 0
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The Macmillan Diaries: The Cabinet Years 1950-57 
edited by Peter Catterall.
Macmillan, 676 pp., £25, April 2003, 9780333711675
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... ageing Emperor.’ Indeed, a survey of historians shows that Eden’s short premiership was enough to earn him the title of ‘worst prime minister of the 20th century’. One of the merits of D.R.Thorpe’s new biography is that it enables one to sympathise with Eden’s own verdict (after Horace Walpole): ‘Life is a comedy to those who think, a tragedy to those who feel.’ Eden was a man only ...

Too Obviously Cleverer

Ferdinand Mount: Harold Macmillan

8 September 2011
Supermac: The Life of Harold Macmillan 
by D.R. Thorpe.
Pimlico, 887 pp., £16.99, September 2011, 978 1 84413 541 7
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The Macmillan Diaries Vol. II: Prime Minister and After 1957-66 
edited by Peter Catterall.
Macmillan, 758 pp., £40, May 2011, 978 1 4050 4721 0
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... a sofa. And so all the agony that Macmillan had poured out to him was on tape, and Boothby played it back to his new wife, Wanda, when she came in, with tears running down his face. This is how D.R.Thorpe tells the story, eloquently and elegantly, as he does everything in this exemplary biography, which complements if it does not entirely supplant Alistair Horne’s two-volume official Life; Horne is ...

Hoylake

Peter Clarke

30 March 1989
Selwyn Lloyd 
by D.K. Thorpe.
Cape, 516 pp., £18, February 1989, 0 224 02828 6
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... as ‘a little country notary’, did Macmillan forget that Lloyd George had not disdained to describe himself as ‘a Welsh country solicitor’? One of the aspects of Lloyd’s career which D.R.Thorpe’s very useful biography brings out is the way that it was rooted not in Conservatism but in Lloyd George Liberalism. It was when Lloyd George’s serious bid for power had failed after 1931, and he ...

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