My Father: The True Story

My Father: The True Story

My Father: The True Story

My Father: The True Story

Excerpt

England, in her wisdom, usually holds her rougher men in store for violent times, when, having kept the peace so long without their help at home, she lets them loose at the head of a united nation on her astonished enemies abroad. Since 1939 the world has been living in such times, and is likely to be doing so for as far ahead as we can see. But the man whose story I am to tell in this book was of a peaceful disposition and, except for the four years of the First World War, passed his political life as a representative in Parliament of a people with a similar outlook. It is well for amateurs of history to remember this at the start.

One of the few remarks that Baldwin ever made to me about his political actions was made shortly before his death. He said that he was content to leave his reputation to the judgment of history. He kept no diary, no personal records of events, private or public, and, so far as I know, no copies of the many letters that he wrote in his own hand. Furthermore, he was rarely known to dictate a letter to a shorthand typist during the last twenty-five years of his life. His chief medium was the spoken word, usually unrecorded.

The normal paraphernalia of notes, therefore, are lacking. Whether he destroyed much that might reveal the inner feeling of his earlier days I cannot say, but I do not think that he carried the dislike of others prying into his private life to the point of such action. He concerned himself far less with the report than with the substance of his public work, and for the private side he left it quite naturally as it was.

Milton saw with a poet's vision the deepest felt desire of active men when he called fame 'that last infirmity of noble mind'. Fame among the living and, more precious still, fame among the dead--the applause of posterity. Towards that prize I never saw Baldwin stretch out his hand, far less make written application for it. Hence the lack of records. And that is why the task of any biographer who does not really understand his subject will be one of hopeless difficulty.

Within the last thirty years, at least six authors have pub-

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