The last two volumes of Gladstone's diaries depict the extraordinary energy of a remarkable octogenarian: Gladstone was eighty-four when he resigned the Premiership in 1894 to close his fourth administration. His pursuit of 'justice for Ireland' through the successful passage of a Home Rule Bill through the Commons in 1893 forms the political centrepiece of these volumes. But there is also a wealth of material on imperial, foreign, domestic, and religious politics
contained in the daily diary entries, the minutes of the Cabinets of the 1892-4 government, and the five hundred letters which accompany the entries for the governmental period. Gladstone's
life-style made few concessions to his age: his reading, writing, theatre-going, and trips abroad continue, as do his speech-making and his church-going. His declining eyesight eventually curtailed his reading and led to the end of regular diary-writing in 1894. His vast diary, which he began in 1825, ends in 1896. Its final entries are a moving conclusion to one of the most remarkable and one of the most curious documents of British history.
`Professor Matthew and his dedicated team have produced one of the great editions of the twentieth century, from which all serious consideration of Gladstone must begin.'
Times Literary Supplement
`the most important single contribution to our knowledge of British 19th-century political, religious and cultural history has been completed ... He is an editor sans Pareil, and the originality of the achievement is as notable as its scale. His erudite, unwaveringly scrupulous editing has transformed brief, often cryptic diary entries into a huge corpus of ordered information. This whole massive work is a triumph of modern historical
Angus McIntyre, The Times
`The publication of the diary, masterminded by Colin Matthew, who has devoted over half an academic career to it, has transformed our view of Gladstone. In successive introductions, Matthew has set out a subtle yet lucid analysis of all aspects of his public and private life, and his extraordinary mental composition. It has left us with a much clearer view of his religious motivation and his intense anxiety to use his allotted time to battle against
sinfulness in himself and in others.'
London Review of Books
`There is no better guide than Colin Matthew's excellent introduction to Volumes 12 and 13 of the Gladstone diaries, which cover most of the Home Rule period.'
Andrew Adonis, New Statesman & Society
`With the appearance of these three volumes, a publishing project which has been as successful as it was ambitious comes to an end.'
Mark Garnett, The Guardian
`The last decade of Gladstone's career ... is particularly relevant to the contemporary left. There is no better guide than Colin Matthews excellent introduction to Volumes 12 and 13 of the Gladstone diaries, which cover most of the Home Rule period.'
Andrew Adonis, New Statesman & Society
`These new volumes throw light on many matters. ... These books may not be for the general reader, yet their reward comes from steady reading and not much from mere dipping. The introduction by Matthews is as always engrossing, his touch sure. Gladstone, of charm, intelligence, industry, and compassion, deserves his outstanding editor.'
`The foundation for this remarkable achievement was laid by M. R. D. Foot and built upon, and out from, by H. C. G. Matthew with consistency sustained to this, the triumphant end. The indexes and the Introduction are alike masterpieces.'
EHR Book Reviews
`a monumental achievement, for which congratulations are in order to the editorial body led by Lord Blake and to the staff of the Clarendon Press as well as to Professor Matthew's devoted assiduity ... There are many felicities and excellences in Professor Matthew's reading of Gladstone ... what remains truly invaluable in the diaries are the very occasional flashes of illumination in which Gladstone reveals the deepest inwardness of himself.'
Richard Shannon, University of Wales, Swansea, Parliamentary History, Vol. 15, pt.2 (1996)