Bernard Crick

Political Memoirs

Political memoirs are in a class of their own. As regards truth, they are rarely as plausible as the confessions of either St Augustine or Jean Jacques Rousseau, nor as entertaining as those of Frank Harris. And their literary merit rarely attracts literary reviewers, or if so only of an unusual kind – one can imagine Orwell reviewing Churchill’s The Second World War (he did one volume in fact, his last review) but not, say, Cyril Connolly. Indeed political memoirs rarely get serious reviews at all, at least in the public eye. Literary editors of the serious dailies, the posh Sundays and the surviving aristocracy of the weeklies not surprisingly view political memoirs somewhat cynically; and they connivingly give them to big politicians, even a man’s former colleagues, to review. Otherwise they are tossed to political correspondents who go at them for factual accuracy, and for accounts of personalities, but for little else.

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