Ferdinand Mount is the former Editor of The Times Literary Supplement. His most recent book is Prime Movers.
 (June 2019)

IN THE REVIEW

Nasty, Brutish, and Great

Winston Churchill, then secretary of state for war, at a procession of the 47th Division of the British army, Lille, France, October 1918

Churchill: Walking with Destiny

by Andrew Roberts

The Kremlin Letters: Stalin’s Wartime Correspondence with Churchill and Roosevelt

edited by David Reynolds and Vladimir Pechatnov
Other colossi crumble or are dragged off their pedestals by angry students and dismissive dons, or you don’t notice them anymore because they are so sadly weathered. But Winston Churchill is still up there, if anything more firmly anchored as the years go by, glaring out at posterity with unquenched …

An Ordinary Man

An engraving of Napoleon based on a drawing by a British army captain stationed on Saint Helena, 1820

Napoleon: A Life

by Adam Zamoyski

The Invisible Emperor: Napoleon on Elba From Exile to Escape

by Mark Braude
Napoleon didn’t think much of his father. He recalled him as a good man but also as “a man of pleasure” who dissipated the family fortune and played the grand seigneur in Paris. He shed only passing tears when Carlo Maria Buonaparte died in 1785 at the age of thirty-eight, …

The Mouse That Roared

British Prime Minister Clement Attlee watching election returns, 1950; 
photograph by W. Eugene Smith

Clement Attlee: The Man Who Made Modern Britain

by John Bew
Was any public figure ever so conspicuous for being inconspicuous? “An empty taxi drove up to Number 10 and Mr. Attlee got out.” I think this was the first political joke I ever laughed at; I must have been nine or ten at the time. It was attributed to Winston …

Super Goethe

Johann Wolfgang Goethe

Goethe: Life as a Work of Art

by Rüdiger Safranski, translated from the German by David Dollenmayer
Herr Glaser of Stützerbach was proud of the life-sized oil portrait of himself that hung above his dining table. The corpulent merchant was even prouder to show it off to the young Duke of Saxe-Weimar and his new privy councilor, Johann Wolfgang Goethe. While Glaser was out of the room, the privy councilor took a knife, cut the face out of the canvas, and stuck his own head through the hole. With his powdered wig, his burning black eyes, his bulbous forehead, and his cheeks pitted with smallpox, Goethe must have been a terrifying spectacle. While he was cutting up his host’s portrait, the duke’s other hangers-on were taking Glaser’s precious barrels of wine and tobacco from his cellar and rolling them down the mountain outside. Goethe wrote in his diary: “Teased Glaser shamefully. Fantastic fun till 1 am. Slept well.” Goethe’s company could be exhausting.

Good Lord

Lord Patten

First Confession: A Sort of Memoir

by Chris Patten

Kind of Blue: A Political Memoir

by Ken Clarke
History to the defeated doesn’t even say “alas,” it just cuts them dead. In the British Conservative Party especially, the waters of oblivion close over the defenders of deserted orthodoxies like appeasement and the Corn Laws. So now with the Tory Europhiles. For a generation and more, to be “a …

When Our World Turned Upside Down

Pope John Paul II with a group of children in Czestochowa during his first papal visit to Poland, June 1979

Strange Rebels: 1979 and the Birth of the 21st Century

by Christian Caryl
We have lived through an Age of Astonishment, and have now come out on the other side, still a little bewildered about how we got here. Never before have so many savants—economists, political scientists, diplomats, sociologists, and commentators alike—been quite so stunned by the turn of events. In 1789 and …