Bereft of his wife of more than forty years and physically and mentally disintegrating, Harold Nicolson came to the conclusion that his life had been a failure. On entering the Diplomatic Service, he had been tipped as a future ambassador. But after little more than twenty years, a combination of boredom, the refusal of Vita Sackville-West to accompany him abroad, and the resentment of his colleagues at his fatal tendency to speak and even write irreverently about them persuaded him that he was getting nowhere, and he resigned.
Nicolson opted for a lucrative career in journalism in the employ of the often bullying Lord Beaverbrook, but soon found that he still craved a public role and turned to politics. Having mistakenly persuaded himself that he was a socialist, he was