So perhaps the book is intended to be popular rather than serious. The case for writing the biographies of living men is at best poor unless they offer their collaboration." Thus commented the Times Literary Supplement on a recent biography of Neville Chamberlain written while he was still Prime Minister, and it summarized what I suppose is the general verdict of literary and even political purists to books of this nature. But without challenging, although it is tempting to do so, the arbitrary distinction between seriousness and popularity, and while freely admitting the many obvious difficulties, even with the subject's active assistance, in the way of adequate and impartial analysis of a public career which is in active progress and necessarily screened from full public scrutiny, there is still, I believe, a margin of usefulness for the contemporary biography.
In undertaking this study of Viscount Halifax I had in mind that only a synthesis of the three distinct phases of his career contained in the three names by which he has been known could do justice to the inherent continuity and consistency of his life story, and that such a narrative was needed if balanced judgment was to be applied to the man and his work. Secondly, although for the past fifteen years he has been among the most powerful of British leaders, he remains a more than usually submerged personality. His way has been set in places of power and influence and he has never felt the need to court popular approval or attention, with the result that although quick to defend the causes he has advocated he has only rarely been stirred to justify himself as well and has suffered more than his fair share of misrepresentation. This book is in no sense an apologia, but it is an attempt to break down the barrier of anonymity that stands between Halifax and a critical estimate of the man; nor is it primarily a personal study, for I have been at pains to fill in the political background.
Both with the outbreak of war in September 1939 and . . .