In the latest issue:

Real Men Go to Tehran

Adam Shatz

What Trump doesn’t know about Iran

Patrick Cockburn

Kaiser Karl V

Thomas Penn

The Hostile Environment

Catherine Hall

Social Mobilities

Adam Swift

Short Cuts: So much for England

Tariq Ali

What the jihadis left behind

Nelly Lahoud

Ray Strachey

Francesca Wade

C.J. Sansom

Malcolm Gaskill

At the British Museum: ‘Troy: Myth and Reality’

James Davidson

Poem: ‘The Lion Tree’

Jamie McKendrick

SurrogacyTM

Jenny Turner

Boys in Motion

Nicholas Penny

‘Trick Mirror’

Lauren Oyler

Diary: What really happened in Yancheng?

Long Ling

To put down Richard, that sweet lovely roseAlan Coren
Close

Terms and Conditions

These terms and conditions of use refer to the London Review of Books and the London Review Bookshop website (www.lrb.co.uk — hereafter ‘LRB Website’). These terms and conditions apply to all users of the LRB Website ("you"), including individual subscribers to the print edition of the LRB who wish to take advantage of our free 'subscriber only' access to archived material ("individual users") and users who are authorised to access the LRB Website by subscribing institutions ("institutional users").

Each time you use the LRB Website you signify your acceptance of these terms and conditions. If you do not agree, or are not comfortable with any part of this document, your only remedy is not to use the LRB Website.


  1. By registering for access to the LRB Website and/or entering the LRB Website by whatever route of access, you agree to be bound by the terms and conditions currently prevailing.
  2. The London Review of Books ("LRB") reserves the right to change these terms and conditions at any time and you should check for any alterations regularly. Continued usage of the LRB Website subsequent to a change in the terms and conditions constitutes acceptance of the current terms and conditions.
  3. The terms and conditions of any subscription agreements which educational and other institutions have entered into with the LRB apply in addition to these terms and conditions.
  4. You undertake to indemnify the LRB fully for all losses damages and costs incurred as a result of your breaching these terms and conditions.
  5. The information you supply on registration to the LRB Website shall be accurate and complete. You will notify the LRB promptly of any changes of relevant details by emailing the registrar. You will not assist a non-registered person to gain access to the LRB Website by supplying them with your password. In the event that the LRB considers that you have breached the requirements governing registration, that you are in breach of these terms and conditions or that your or your institution's subscription to the LRB lapses, your registration to the LRB Website will be terminated.
  6. Each individual subscriber to the LRB (whether a person or organisation) is entitled to the registration of one person to use the 'subscriber only' content on the web site. This user is an 'individual user'.
  7. The London Review of Books operates a ‘no questions asked’ cancellation policy in accordance with UK legislation. Please contact us to cancel your subscription and receive a full refund for the cost of all unposted issues.
  8. Use of the 'subscriber only' content on the LRB Website is strictly for the personal use of each individual user who may read the content on the screen, download, store or print single copies for their own personal private non-commercial use only, and is not to be made available to or used by any other person for any purpose.
  9. Each institution which subscribes to the LRB is entitled to grant access to persons to register on and use the 'subscriber only' content on the web site under the terms and conditions of its subscription agreement with the LRB. These users are 'institutional users'.
  10. Each institutional user of the LRB may access and search the LRB database and view its entire contents, and may also reproduce insubstantial extracts from individual articles or other works in the database to which their institution's subscription provides access, including in academic assignments and theses, online and/or in print. All quotations must be credited to the author and the LRB. Institutional users are not permitted to reproduce any entire article or other work, or to make any commercial use of any LRB material (including sale, licensing or publication) without the LRB's prior written permission. Institutions may notify institutional users of any additional or different conditions of use which they have agreed with the LRB.
  11. Users may use any one computer to access the LRB web site 'subscriber only' content at any time, so long as that connection does not allow any other computer, networked or otherwise connected, to access 'subscriber only' content.
  12. The LRB Website and its contents are protected by copyright and other intellectual property rights. You acknowledge that all intellectual property rights including copyright in the LRB Website and its contents belong to or have been licensed to the LRB or are otherwise used by the LRB as permitted by applicable law.
  13. All intellectual property rights in articles, reviews and essays originally published in the print edition of the LRB and subsequently included on the LRB Website belong to or have been licensed to the LRB. This material is made available to you for use as set out in paragraph 8 (if you are an individual user) or paragraph 10 (if you are an institutional user) only. Save for such permitted use, you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, post, reproduce, translate or adapt such material in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the LRB. To obtain such permission and the terms and conditions applying, contact the Rights and Permissions department.
  14. All intellectual property rights in images on the LRB Website are owned by the LRB except where another copyright holder is specifically attributed or credited. Save for such material taken for permitted use set out above, you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, post, reproduce, translate or adapt LRB’s images in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the LRB. To obtain such permission and the terms and conditions applying, contact the Rights and Permissions department. Where another copyright holder is specifically attributed or credited you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, reproduce or translate such images in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the copyright holder. The LRB will not undertake to supply contact details of any attributed or credited copyright holder.
  15. The LRB Website is provided on an 'as is' basis and the LRB gives no warranty that the LRB Website will be accessible by any particular browser, operating system or device.
  16. The LRB makes no express or implied representation and gives no warranty of any kind in relation to any content available on the LRB Website including as to the accuracy or reliability of any information either in its articles, essays and reviews or in the letters printed in its letter page or material supplied by third parties. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability of any kind (including liability for any losses, damages or costs) arising from the publication of any materials on the LRB Website or incurred as a consequence of using or relying on such materials.
  17. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability of any kind (including liability for any losses, damages or costs) for any legal or other consequences (including infringement of third party rights) of any links made to the LRB Website.
  18. The LRB is not responsible for the content of any material you encounter after leaving the LRB Website site via a link in it or otherwise. The LRB gives no warranty as to the accuracy or reliability of any such material and to the fullest extent permitted by law excludes all liability that may arise in respect of or as a consequence of using or relying on such material.
  19. This site may be used only for lawful purposes and in a manner which does not infringe the rights of, or restrict the use and enjoyment of the site by, any third party. In the event of a chat room, message board, forum and/or news group being set up on the LRB Website, the LRB will not undertake to monitor any material supplied and will give no warranty as to its accuracy, reliability, originality or decency. By posting any material you agree that you are solely responsible for ensuring that it is accurate and not obscene, defamatory, plagiarised or in breach of copyright, confidentiality or any other right of any person, and you undertake to indemnify the LRB against all claims, losses, damages and costs incurred in consequence of your posting of such material. The LRB will reserve the right to remove any such material posted at any time and without notice or explanation. The LRB will reserve the right to disclose the provenance of such material, republish it in any form it deems fit or edit or censor it. The LRB will reserve the right to terminate the registration of any person it considers to abuse access to any chat room, message board, forum or news group provided by the LRB.
  20. Any e-mail services supplied via the LRB Website are subject to these terms and conditions.
  21. You will not knowingly transmit any virus, malware, trojan or other harmful matter to the LRB Website. The LRB gives no warranty that the LRB Website is free from contaminating matter, viruses or other malicious software and to the fullest extent permitted by law disclaims all liability of any kind including liability for any damages, losses or costs resulting from damage to your computer or other property arising from access to the LRB Website, use of it or downloading material from it.
  22. The LRB does not warrant that the use of the LRB Website will be uninterrupted, and disclaims all liability to the fullest extent permitted by law for any damages, losses or costs incurred as a result of access to the LRB Website being interrupted, modified or discontinued.
  23. The LRB Website contains advertisements and promotional links to websites and other resources operated by third parties. While we would never knowingly link to a site which we believed to be trading in bad faith, the LRB makes no express or implied representations or warranties of any kind in respect of any third party websites or resources or their contents, and we take no responsibility for the content, privacy practices, goods or services offered by these websites and resources. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability for any damages or losses arising from access to such websites and resources. Any transaction effected with such a third party contacted via the LRB Website are subject to the terms and conditions imposed by the third party involved and the LRB accepts no responsibility or liability resulting from such transactions.
  24. The LRB disclaims liability to the fullest extent permitted by law for any damages, losses or costs incurred for unauthorised access or alterations of transmissions or data by third parties as consequence of visit to the LRB Website.
  25. While 'subscriber only' content on the LRB Website is currently provided free to subscribers to the print edition of the LRB, the LRB reserves the right to impose a charge for access to some or all areas of the LRB Website without notice.
  26. These terms and conditions are governed by and will be interpreted in accordance with English law and any disputes relating to these terms and conditions will be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales.
  27. The various provisions of these terms and conditions are severable and if any provision is held to be invalid or unenforceable by any court of competent jurisdiction then such invalidity or unenforceability shall not affect the remaining provisions.
  28. If these terms and conditions are not accepted in full, use of the LRB Website must be terminated immediately.
Close
Vol. 2 No. 21 · 6 November 1980

To put down Richard, that sweet lovely rose

Alan Coren

Nixon: A Study in Extremes of Fortune 
by Lord Longford.
Weidenfeld, 205 pp., £8.95, October 1980, 0 297 77708 4
Show More
Show More

Let me first of all say this: the man is not a crook.

So much for Lord Longford.

As far as his appalling subject goes, I am disinclined to be as charitable. And charity, unfortunately, is exactly what this hilarious little book requires of me: Lord Longford having taken it upon himself to set in train a sequence of events designed to process Richard Milhous Nixon through redemption to beatification and ultimately, I suppose, to canonisation, it is essential that his persecutors must first be made to see him as a martyr and recant the error of their own ways in failing to appreciate the blessedness of his. That achieved, we shall then be able to appreciate, as Lord Longford palpably does, his political successes as miracles, and the whole tenor of his public and (most important) private life as something which leaves Francis of Assisi looking like John Aspinall.

And, lest theologians rush to their nibs to remind me that there are no Quaker saints, let me quote one of those crystalline and unequivocal phrases that all who have read the martyr’s own tapes have imperishably committed to memory: ‘Look, I do not believe, I think that what we have here, I do not feel that we are looking at any kind of an obstacle at this point.’ Were Mr Nixon to wish to change any deeply held convictions for the chance of a better job, this being a behavioural pattern that emerges, willy-nilly, through the grimy gaps left by Lord Longford’s inadequate whitewashing, I cannot believe that the Society of Friends would stand in his way. After all, with Friends like that ...

So then. Lord Longford has put up his candidate before the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, where, you will recall, the bishop advances his case based upon the life and the writings; a Promotor Fidei is then required to step forward and suggest why these might be a barrel of (expletive deleted).

It is not a role to which I warm. Since the bishop’s case is based almost entirely upon the wickedly false premise that a religious upbringing, domestic moral rectitude and the love of a good woman will so shape a character that it is incapable of behaving in a manner so abominable that it reduced a great democracy to disillusioned chaos, then mine must be based almost entirely not only upon refuting the preposterous premise, but also (this is Longford’s started hare, not mine) upon looking somewhat more dispassionately upon those very virtues, if that is indeed what they are.

The former tack is quickly dismissed. While I should not dream of comparing Richard Nixon with these examples in any but the most circumstantial way, I cannot but be reminded that Josef Stalin was chosen by his devoted mother for a career in the Georgian Orthodox Church and to this end educated at the theological seminary in Tiflis, that Idi Amin has some sixty-odd children with all of whom he is besotted, and that the adoring eagerness with which Eva Braun shared a terminal Luger-clip with Adolf Hitler is a matter of historical record. Knowing less of Myra Hindley (well, it was bound to come up, was it not?) than the good bishop does, I cannot of course say with any certainty whether she loves her mother, but ask only that you agree the obvious, since Lord Longford refuses to – that her public career might most sensibly be assessed on other evidence.

But the trickier latter tack remains to be faced, because it is the centre of the bishop’s thesis: Longford judges the extra-political life to be supremely significant, and we must probe his extrapolations. ‘Richard Nixon was brought up in Whittier, a small Quaker town, his life dominated by family, church and school. The family went to church four times on Sunday and to Wednesday night services as well. During his high school and college years, Nixon played the piano for various church services each week.’ There is nothing there I should wish to deride: but as one who has lived in such small American towns, I count it a grave omission that Longford chooses not even to admit the possibility that their exclusive fundamentalism, their narrow-minded bigotry, their isolationist suspicion of everything beyond the town line, their moral rigidity and resistance to change, might not perhaps create the best atmosphere in which to raise a future President.

Nixon’ father was a failed grocer, who,

if materially unsuccessful, was a devoted family man. He was also quick-tempered and combative. No one, friend or foe, would deny that throughout his subsequent career Nixon revealed exceptional qualities as a fighter – courage certainly, but combativeness also. The first owed much to both parents, the second to the father alone.

What are we to make of this? That the qualities which made a failed grocer were those which went into making a failed President? Are we supposed to accept that combativeness is a moral virtue? Are we not tempted to wonder whether the grocery business went to pot because Nixon père was given to taking a swing at anyone who complained about his beans? Ought we not perhaps to question, since Longford wishes us to view Nixon’s subsequent career in this light, whether the will to fight should be judged against the purpose in fighting? Would you vote for Billy the Kid?

A little later in the book:

all [Nixon] could say was, ‘Mother, don’t give up.’ She pulled herself up in bed and said with sudden strength, ‘Richard, don’t you give up. Don’t let anybody tell you you are through.’ ‘A marvellous legacy’ is how he described his debt to her. This supreme duty of not giving up, not quitting, was to remain very deep in him.

What on earth does Longford mean by ‘supreme’ duty? Are we really to accept that the greatest public commitment that the notional leader of the free world can make is to stay in office when every further hour in that office only serves to degrade and discredit it?

In 1938, Nixon met ‘a beautiful and vivacious young woman with Titian hair’. Surprisingly, Longford does not insist that Titian hair is an unimpeachable moral quality, preferring to launch straight into the fact that Nixon’s parents were immediately knocked out by Pat’s ‘obvious strength of character and indomitable spirit. These qualities were to be tested to the utmost in the years ahead by extremes of good and bad fortune, success and failure, both carried to the nth degree. Pat’s courage and fidelity were absolute at all times, amid much joy and many sufferings.’

Do we feel that a certain wiry thread is becoming discernible, despite the best efforts of Longford’s atrocious style to turn us away from this farrago? Are we not beginning to feel that the entire Nixon family, inherited and acquired, is characterised by nothing so much as sheer bloody self-protective obstinacy? My Nixon, right or wrong? And did it not permeate every moment of the final days in the Oval bunker? I leap forward a few years, and a few pages, to a Longford sentence calculated (though not by him) to make thy knotted and combined locks to part, and each particular hair to stand on end, like quills upon the fretful porpentine: ‘Haldeman’s loyalty to Nixon was wholly admirable.’

Yet again, we have Longford’s elevation to a virtue of a quality which should never, ever, be endowed with an absolute value. Should you at this point hear a far, scrabbling noise, it is nothing more than Goebbels turning irritably in his grave. When will it be recognised that his loyalty to Hitler was wholly admirable? When will the truth about Von Stauffenberg’s disgusting treachery be given the airing that history requires? As for Charles Colson, surely beyond any disagreement one of the more poisonous of the little vipers clamouring at liberty’s battered bosom during those grisly two years of the second administration, not even Longford can actually deny that he had been a bit naughty. But it does not matter a fig, now:

I have met Chuck Colson several times, had prolonged talks with him and listened to him orating movingly on Christian issues. He was often referred to as ‘the hatchet man’ who had said he would walk over his own grandmother to serve the President, and who, in his own frank admission, was responsible for many a dirty trick, which he now regrets bitterly. Even before he went to prison, after the disclosures connected with Watergate, he had undergone a very remarkable Christian conversion. When he emerged, he not only wrote a deeply impressive Christian apologia, Born Again, but initiated a nationwide Christian Prison Fellowship. Some of us in Britain have paid him the sincere compliment of setting up a fellowship on similar lines in Britain ...

I have no comment to make on that. I should be as distressed as puzzled to hear that readers of a paper like this expected one. However, we cannot altogether dodge the issue of Life Eternal, since it suffuses this dreadful book, and if I am any judge, remainder shops are doomed to reek of incense for some time to come. Nixon, of course, will last longer and smell sweeter, for ‘it is at least certain that when, in a better world than this, all the books are open, there will be revealed many irregularities carried on by governments in warlike times which will shock us far more than the break-in at the psychiatrist’s office.’

I do not share Lord Longford’s certainty, but if I did, I should temper it with proper humility: the Almighty, if He exists, is no mug, and is unlikely either to accept burglary as irregularity, or to look tolerantly on a plea of mitigation based on the fact that Nixon wasn’t the first politician to get his hand caught in the till. Nor do I feel that Nixon will be best suited by a better world than this: it was just because this one is a flawed, corrupt, biddable and disordered place that he was enabled to succeed so remarkably in it. In a better world, he would be lucky to hang on to the job he had in his old man’s grocery.

I do not intend to examine at any length, since it is character and not action with which this mawkish volume occupies itself, the miracles of Richard Nixon, those triumphs of personal interface, as he has described them, upon which he has regularly expressed himself content to rest his case for immortality. As the first Quaker to invade Cambodia, he of all people must recognise that it is realpolitik by which this world turns, and I will have no truck with the sickening nonsense of the firm handclasp and the steady eye and the smack on the shoulder, nor will I be sold by either Nixon or Longford on insulting tripe like this:

Brezhnev told him after the broadcast [Nixon had spoken of being moved by the diary of a child killed in Leningrad] that this passage had brought tears to his eyes. Nixon’s sentimentality was much derided in sophisticated circles in America, but it was a genuine part of his nature and elicited a genuine response in many lands ... He records Brezhnev as very warm and friendly. ‘As we were leaving in the car out of the dacha, he put his hand on my knee and said he hoped we had developed a good personal relationship.’

Well, swell. There is nothing like the death of a child to commit world leaders to laying down their nukes forever, there is nothing like the brushing of hand and knee to ensure the security of all our children. But since all this genuine warmth, generated at their own parents’ knees, nurtured by loving wives and loyal friends, was in fact part of the rosy glow suffusing SALT, might it not be prudent to nip, with Lord Longford, across to Nixon’s latest book, The Real War, published this year by the good lord himself? ‘We needed a freeze, not only for arms control, but for strategic reasons. Our strategy was to agree on a five-year freeze – the interval we judged would enable us to catch up by developing cruise missiles, a new submarine, a new ICBM, and the B-1 bomber.’ Unquestionably, the man has come clean. Just how close that is to Godliness is a conundrum I gratefully leave to Lord Longford.

Send Letters To:

The Editor
London Review of Books,
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

letters@lrb.co.uk

Please include name, address, and a telephone number.

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.