The tenth and eleventh volumes of Gladstone's diaries (1881-1886) cover the years of his dramatic second and third administrations. The second administration confronted a series of crises: the Land League Campaign and the Phoenix Park murders, Majuba Hill and South Africa, Gordon and the Sudan, and the obstruction of franchise reform by the House of Lords. The administration met these with determined assertion of administrative and legislative reforms, more coherent
in policy and more consistent in practice than is often realized. Gladstone's third administration in 1886 attempted to pacify Ireland by granting Home Rule and in doing so provided one of the most
exciting and controversial twelve months in British politics since the Civil War. These volumes include not only the daily text of Gladstone's private diaries (maintained almost without a break) but also all of his Cabinet Minutes, hitherto unpublished and themselves a remarkable, and for the Victorian period, unique diary of decision-making. There are over 1400 of the letters (the vast majority hitherto unpublished) which he wrote in those years. These letters flesh out
the daily diary and the Cabinet Minutes, and cover the Church, the Queen and the Court, literature, theatre, art, and domestic affairs. There is much material in these volumes on Gladstone's
unsuccessful but repeated attempts to retire from political office. The volumes offer an extraordinary narrative of great force, a remarkable mixture of achievement and disappointment, of bold legislation and administrative and political disasters. They display some of the innermost thoughts of an astonishing political personality which mesmerized contemporaries and has continued to fascinate historians and general readers.
'monumental enterprise ... affectionate and scholarly presentation'
J. Enoch Powell, Spectator
'one of the great academic marathons'
Times Higher Education Supplement
'Publishing them represents an equally heroic commitment by the Clarendon Press ... they form an unprecedentedly complete picture of 19th-century government at work ... almost as important to each pair of volumes as the diary itself is Colin Matthew's magisterial introductory essay ... Cumulatively these introductions are forming a superb thematic biography in their own right.'
John Campbell, The Times
'meticulous preparation ... Colin Matthew magnificently justifies his claim that "Gladstone's diary ..." should be seen as "one of the central private documents" in unlocking our understanding of the Victorian mentalité.'
Times Literary Supplement
'The authority and skill of the introductions to the successive pairs of volumes of the Diaries has increased with the publication of each. So has the variety and scope of the 'prime-ministerial papers' included from Volume VII onwards.'
D.K. Fieldhouse, Jesus College, Cambridge, The English Historical Review, January 1991
'As the publication of The Gladstone Diaries proceeds, the value of successive volumes increases. Colin Matthew's editorial introduction to the latest pair covering the years 1881-1886 runs to 165 pages, longer than the commentary on any earlier period. It is a magisterial evaluation of the statesman and his policies during his second and third administrations. In future nobody will be able to discuss the exercise of power in this period without
frequent recourse to these excellent volumes.'
D.W. Bebbington, University of Stirling, History, February 1992
'Once again the edition is a superb one ... In his extremely long and, as ever, profoundly subtle and perceptive introduction, Dr Matthew expertly teases out Gladstone's own view of his initiatives, presenting him as rational, conservative and self-disciplined.'
J.P. Parry, King's College, London, Parliamentary History, Vol. 10 pt 2 (1991)
`this diary provides a mirror to the age, and happy hunting for historical browsers'
John Pollock, Christian Week
'The new introduction is masterly at every level, and it will be required reading for all students of Gladstone's life and politics. Its easy synthesis of his second prime ministership is a joy to read. For this reviewer, it contained the biggest surprise of the Diaries to date: Gladstone speculated heavily in Egyptian bonds, and thereby made a small fortune out of his conquest of Egypt ... for those who wish it to be so, it is a bombshell, or
equally, a tribute to the total honesty of the Gladstone Diaries Project.'
John Vincent, Nineteenth-Century Prose, Special Issue, Volume XIX, Number 3
`this chronicle's extraordinary interest and worth shine through. It shows what a single man could manage to cram into a lifetime: an immense diversity of reading, in several languages; friendships and acquaintances with men and women all over Europe; and a sizeable literary as well as stupendous political output.'
`Matthew's two volumes are very rich,...They have to be read with attention, to sovour the fastidious research and the editor's shrewd interpretation of it, usefully laced with a sharp, dry wit.'
New Statesman & Society
'though the diary served a variety of private functions, its public and scholarly value has been teased out through the meticulous editorial work of Colin Matthew'
Alvin Jackson, Queen's University of Belfast, Irish Historical Studies
`Professor Matthew's epilogue offers three lessons on the basis of this biographical experience:... These are valuable lessons that invite further lines of thought and research. Gratitude for this Gladstone leaves plenty of room for presentations less bounded by that conpelling but self-defining diary.'
The Times Literary Supplement