The Mind of Gladstone: Religion, Homer, and Politics

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DAVID W. BEBBINGTON. The Mind of Gladstone: Religion, Homer, and Politics. New York, New York: Oxford University Press, 2004. Pp. x + 314, introduction, bibliography, index. $125.00.

With The Mind of Gladstone: Religion, Homer and Politics, David Bebbington (University of Stirling, United Kingdom) has rendered many previous studies of William Gladstone obsolete. Making excellent use of Gladstone's diaries, letters, notes, and other primary materials located at St. Deiniol's Library, Hawarden-Gladstone's home which now serves as a library and a refuge for scholars-and elsewhere, Bebbington has produced a remarkable study on the manifold aspects of Gladstone's thinking and interests. Gladstone, four-time prime minister of Great Britain, anti-imperialist, supporter of Irish home rule, leader of the Liberal Party, and perennial rival of the Conservative Benjamin Disraeli, was a prolific reader and author on a wide range of subjects that all contributed to the formulation of his political philosophy. To his educated contemporaries, Gladstone was considered a wise but not brilliant man who read and wrote much, but who failed to approach his sources critically. His nemesis, Disraeli, produced novels that are still read; he had a flare for style and imagination that Gladstone lacked. Nonetheless, Gladstone's scholarly work is of great importance because it contributed to the formulation of his political philosophy which still reverberates in English political life today. All of the current major political parties in Britain-Labour, Conservatives, and Liberal Democrats-are indebted to Gladstone for establishing an appreciation of community and individuality at the center of British political values. Gladstone connected his notions of religion and morality to family, the state, and the world, and contributed to the primacy of "humanity" and "dignity of human beings" as the central values in British democratic life. While recognizing the propensity to evil as inherent to the human condition, he embedded a sense of social justice into British politics. …


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