William Ewart Gladstone (1809-1898) was both the most characteristic and the most extraordinary of Victorians. His huge public career - in and out of office from 1834 to 1894 and four times Prime Minister - was consistently controversial and dramatic. His private life was a most curious blend of happiness and temptation. His Christian faith held the extremes of his character in sufficient harmony to avoid disintegration and to produce one of the most powerful political personalities in British history. The book describes Gladstone's early years as a Tory, the great transformation of his political position in the 1840s, his lengthy period as Chancellor of the Exchequer with its long-lasting implications for British financial policy, and his spectacular first administration from 1868 to 1874. It sets in context the remarkable private drama of sexual temptation and moral crisis which from the 1840s onwards accompanied these public developments. The account ends in December 1874, with Gladstone's formal retirement from leadership of the Liberal Party - the move which he intended as his farewell to party politics.
Gladstone was perhaps the most influential political leader of modern Britain, and this book is a major contribution to our understanding of his character, his life, and his role in the Victorian political arena.
"It is a superb biography of Gladstone to the end of his first government, and it is deftly united by several leitmotives. For example, Gladstone's lifelong admixture of high church and evangelical Anglicanism, his transition from Tory to Peelite to Liberal politics, his preoccupation with church-state relations, the great issue of the parliamentary franchise, Gladstone's outstanding powers of administrative concentration and maneuver--these themes connect the chapters....There is, too, in this biography an important and subtle appreciation of Gladstone as politician....A sophisticated and important book. It will surely stand high in the vast Gladstone literature."--History: Reviews of New Books
"With the publication of this book, students and general readers will now have convenient access to Matthew's important essays that have contributed significantly not only to an understanding of the Diaries
but to Gladstone and his age as well."--The Historian
"An important and useful overview of Gladstone's first sixty-three years."--Albion
"The biographical essay he offers is the best interpretative analysis available of Gladstone as a politician and as a person."--Journal of British Studies
"Matthew is among those very rare editors who can also write biography. Scholars and general readers should be delighted to have his work available at an affordable price."--Victorian Studies
"A rare combination of high scholarship and handiness"--Nineteenth-Century Prose
"An epoch making piece of research. Matthew's approach is thematic rather than strictly chronological, a distinct advantage in terms of both historiographical originality and the practical implications for the reader."--American Historical Review