Balfour: The Last Grandee

Ferdinand Mount writes:

It is perhaps over the top for R.J.Q. Adams to subtitle his Life of Balfour, ‘The Last Grandee’, with Rosebery lurking up the Firth of Forth getting steadily fatter and redder in the face, while Balfour remained lithe and bonny on his 36 holes a day. But Adams gives us a worthy companion piece to Leo McKinstry’s Rosebery (reviewed in the LRB, 22 September 2005), just as readable and equally surefooted on the politics – he is the biographer of Bonar Law and a historian of British domestic and foreign policy from 1890 to 1945. Balfour: The Last Grandee may perhaps lack the intimate charm of Max Egremont’s biography of 1980, which first untangled the scant skeins of Balfour’s love life, but in its lucid, generous and unobtrusive fashion, it offers readers everything they need to form a judgment on this baffling character. Adams’s reluctance to be censorious may lead the reader to make that judgment sterner than it would have been.

(LRB 20 March 2008)