Roy Jenkins

1996 Winner

Whitbread Biography Award

04 October 2018
720 pages


Winner of the Whitbread Biography of the Year.

William Gladstone was, with Tennyson, Newman, Dickens, Carlyle, and Darwin, one of the stars of nineteenth-century British life. He spent sixty-three of his eighty-nine years in the House of Commons and was prime minister four times, a unique accomplishment. From his critical role in the formation of the Liberal Party to his preoccupation with the cause of Irish Home Rule, he was a commanding politician and statesman nonpareil. But Gladstone the man was much more: a classical scholar, a wide-ranging author, a vociferous participant in all the great theological debates of the day, a voracious reader, and an avid walker who chopped down trees for recreation. He was also a man obsessed with the idea of his own sinfulness, prone to self-flagellation and persistent in the practice of accosting prostitutes on the street and attempting to persuade them of the errors of their ways.

Gladstone, by historian and eminent politician Roy Jenkins, is a full and deep portrait of a complicated man, offering a sweeping picture of a tumultuous century in British history, and is also a brilliant example of the biographer's art.

A splendid biography, which deals justly and fairly with all the controversies of Gladstone’s life … It is a notable achievement and will not be easily superseded.
Roy Jenkins has written many good books. This is his best. It is beyond praise.
Inspired by affection for his tremendous subject, the author has scaled the heights with panache … [Jenkins’s] evident delight in the man and his story carry the reader along as though on the crest of a wave.