Balfourian Dog Days

Part of the British Studies Series book series (BRSS)


Lloyd George said of Balfour that he was ‘not a man but a mannerism’. Other contemporaries, like F. E. Smith and Winston Churchill, said of him that his was the finest intellect which had devoted itself to politics in their time; but Balfour’s career suggests that of all the qualities necessary for success in politics, intellect is one of the less important ones. Despite F. E.’s verdict, Balfour’s intellect was not quite as penetrating as he liked to pretend, and he possessed in reality the sort of cleverness which impresses dons (and thus, by extension, later historians). It was once said that Franklin D. Roosevelt possessed a ‘second class intellect with a first class temperament’; we might modify this in Balfour’s case and conclude that he possessed Cambridge cleverness with a second-class temperament. It is usual, when considering his career, to contrast the initial verdicts that he was a lightweight figure — known to some as ‘Pretty Fanny’ — with the sternness he showed as Secretary for Ireland, where he earned the sobriquet ‘Bloody Balfour’, but taking his career as a whole, it is by no means clear that the first opinions were wrong.


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Notes and References

  1. 1.
    Lady Gwendolen Cecil, Life of Robert, Marquis of Salisbury, vol. II (London, 1921), p. 3.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Julian Amery, Life of Joseph Chamberlain, vol. IV (London, 1951), p. 478.Google Scholar
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    Sir C. Petrie, The Life and Letters of Sir Austen Chamberlain, vol. I (London, 1939 ), p. 142.Google Scholar
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    J. Vincent (ed.), The Crawford Papers (Manchester, 1984), 10 Feb. 1905, p. 60.Google Scholar
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    D. Dutton, His Majesty’s Loyal Opposition (Liverpool, 1992), pp. 10–11.Google Scholar
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    Julian Amery, Joseph Chamberlain, vol. VI (London, 1969), p. 784.Google Scholar
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    John Campbell, F.E. Smith (London, 1983) pp. 127–31Google Scholar
  14. for Liverpool politics see P. Waller, Democracy and Sectarianism: A Political and Social History of Liverpool 1868–1939 (Liverpool, 1981 ).Google Scholar
  15. 36.
    For a convenient and up-to-date summary of an often confusing debate see K. Laybourn, ‘The Rise of Labour and the Decline of Liberalism: The state of the debate’ in History, June 1995, pp. 207–26.Google Scholar
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    Sir Austen Chamberlain, Politics from Inside (London, 1936), pp. 298–311.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© John Charmley 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of East AngliaEngland

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