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428 THE UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO QUARTERLY never return to synthesize and re-evaluate, to make sure that we have really seen-what we have seen! Impression and intuition in such circumstances run the risk of being divorced from fact and this makes one wonder whether, at bottom, Mr. Matthiessen, in his "intuitive'' appreciation of literature and ideas, does not minimize unduly the spadework of scholarship. · NEVILLE CHAMBERLAIN A. BRADY The Life of Neville Chamberlain by Keith Feiling*· is one of the most llluminating books on the politics of Britain between- the world wars, and a fascinating study of a political character. Much of its interest dwells in the peculiar nature of its sources. The Chamberlain family, acting. on, Neville's own belief that a man's life should be written before he is forgotten , placed the dead statesman's papers at the author's disposal, and refrained from a scrutiny of the manuscript before publication. For years Chamberlain had kept a careful diary and in the period 1916-40 had regularly written letters to his two sisters on the men and incidents of public affairs. This rich store of private correspondence provides the principal substance of the present volume. Chamberlain here speaks for himself. Some reviewers have argued that he thoroughly damns himself, but that depends upon the reader's point of view.. . Neville Chamberlain was an excellent representative of the nineteenthcentury British ruling class active in the twentieth century. He possessed the insular prejudices of that class as well as its profound sense of public duty. Yet. in certain notable respects he was very modern. Without sentimentality, he was trenchant in criticizing it in others. He liked to think of himself as preserving the implacabJe realism of ·his father. His chief zeal was for a daring and efficient administration, and to this end he was tireless in seeking to improve the machinery of the state. No Tory, he was far removed from the conservatism of Mayfair. He wrote with contempt of «the strange dream life that goes on" in the Tory aristocracy. He' realized that the grand i.rpperative in the politics of twentieth-century Britain was to improve the l~t of the common man. He remarked of an illustrious contemporary, Lord Curzon, that he was a great .figure with superhuman industry and brilliant gifts, but a great failure too because he "never understood nor ·cared about the detailed aspirations of the workingclasses ." His intelle'ctual roots go back to Unitarian ancestors." He had the intensity of conviction and the sense of mission of the Nonconformist mind, c;lisliking in particular the shallow exhibitionism of elections. His life throughout was regular, simple, strenuous. He was sensitive, restless, and high-strung, but· in times of personal and public stress he was calm, patient, *The Life of Neo£1/e Clzamberla£n. By KEITH FElLING, London: Macmillan [Toronto: Macmillan· Co. of Canada}. 1946. Pp. x, 476. · ($5:50) REVIEWS 429 and strong. In brief, Neville Chambe_rlain was a man of potent character and first-class intelligence. Yet he was not really a great man. In his diary and letters there is no electric touch of imagination, nothing of that brilliant mentality which Winston Churchill throughout his career illus: trated. Be was merely a sober, painstaking, conscientious man of affairs. His diary and correspondence have interesting comments on the men and issues of his time. On Stanley Baldwin, his own leader for many years, his views changed little throughout the period. He admired Baldwin's character, liked his personality, paid tribute to. his understanding of men, but regarded him as without capacity for dynamic political leadership. "1 had hoped," he noted in an interview with Baldwin at Chequers in 1925, "for the disclosure of a policy ... every time one attempted to begin a conversation on such lines one is baffled by a break-off, and a remark about the beauty of the scenery." This experience·was irritating to Chamberlain's intense mind. He was no less occasionally irritated, for other reasons, by Lord Beaverbrook, to whom he refers in one place as "unstable as water." For Churchill he had admiration throughout. He regarded him as a man of genius, with the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 428-430
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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