J M Keynes: Hopes Betrayed 1883-1920 by Richard Skidelsky - review by A L Rowse

A L Rowse

Liberal Illusionist

J M Keynes: Hopes Betrayed 1883-1920


Macmillan 500pp £14.95 order from our bookshop

Professor Skidelsky was an excellent choice to undertake the difficult task of Keynes’s official biography; very few could do it, for it needs not only a writer of wide culture and sympathetic human perception, but also an expert knowledge of economics. Roy Harrod had these qualifications for his earlier biography; but he was hampered by three considerations. In the climate of that time it was impossible to tell the truth about the homosexuality of Keynes and his Cambridge circle; secondly, so many of his friends and relations were alive to exercise censorship; and thirdly, Harrod simply worshipped Maynard: he could do no wrong in his eyes, or ever be wrong. Skidelsky has none of those disadvantages; he has more material than ever at his disposition, and he has made a triumph of a difficult and important job.

To get the first consideration out of the way. Sympathetic as I am to Keynes’s homosexuality – anything to keep the population down, short of murder! – even I am surprised by the aggressive devoutness of Maynard’s behaviour, the range of his experiences, and the risks he took. All very

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