The Goat

Lloyd George: A Diary

by Frances Stevenson, edited by A.J.P. Taylor
Harper & Row, 328 pp., $10.00

In his Preface to these diaries, A. J. P. Taylor remarks that Lloyd George was called the Welsh Wizard by his admirers and the Goat by those who mistrusted him. It may be so. Taylor is the doyen of modern British history and no one is better able to distinguish fact from legend. But I was brought up to believe that just as Asquith’s enemies called him Squiff because he was so often squiffy, or tipsy, in the evening, so Lloyd George’s enemies called him the Goat in their disgust with (or envy of) his inexhaustible sexual appetite.

His elder son’s memories of his boyhood were those of constant rows between Lloyd George and his wife over his affairs with women, some of which as a small boy his son inconveniently observed. There was the episode in Buenos Aires when he had to shave off his moustache to throw his pursuers, friends of an outraged husband, off the trail. According to his son, his political career was three times on the point of explosion. At the very beginning, when he stood for the first time for Parliament, it became known that he had got a young widow with child in Caernavon and an annuity for the child had to be hastily arranged to preserve silence. The second occasion was in 1897 when he was again accused of fathering a child on a young wife in Wales but was able to prove that on the night in question he was in the House of Commons.

The third, and worst of all, was when as Chancellor of the Exchequer he had to bring two suits for libel to defend himself against a charge of adultery. He won by persuading his wife to appear publicly with him in court to stand by him, but only after he had sworn to her never again to humiliate her in this way.

He never did in that particular way. But the affairs went on, conducted with the recklessness that was characteristic of his political behavior. He was a womanizer on a Gargantuan scale. In political warfare his charm was notorious for persuading people to do what he wanted while not incurring in his own mind any obligation toward them. Others, impervious to charm, he could fascinate so that against their will they found themselves complying with his; and when that failed he was the master of every political trick and stratagem to defeat the intransigent.

In sexual warfare he deployed the same tactics. When he was young he enjoyed conquest preferably of “deep” or “interesting” women, as he put it; but in the years of his success and decline he demanded endless variety. It was said that he used to have the typists in the lunch hour, and his family, by now estranged from him, were enraged by his treatment of their mother from whom he was separated, and depicted him as surrounded by a seraglio supported by his political fund which he …

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Letters

Lloyd George March 23, 1972