Treason of the Heart: From Thomas Paine to Kim Philby by David Pryce-Jones - review by Frederic Raphael

Frederic Raphael

Ship of Fools

Treason of the Heart: From Thomas Paine to Kim Philby


Encounter Books 258pp £17.99 order from our bookshop

The Ship of Fools is never short of passengers or crew. In David Pryce-Jones’s brisk new polemic, he sketches a pageant of British men and women who regularly had a good word for dictators, left and right: from Tom Paine to Kim Philby; Joseph Priestley (the great eighteenth-century scientist who applauded the renovating qualities of the guillotine) to ‘jolly’ J B Priestley (who in 1946 reported that there were no secret police in Russia, ‘unless they were disguised as sparrows’); and from Hazlitt (three cheers for Boney!) to Bernard Shaw. 

With the anecdotal sparkle and accurate animus of a moralist who never flinches from naming names, Pryce-Jones arraigns scores of men and women – Beatrice Webb the cleverest, Doris Lessing the most smug – who have, for a variety of motives, embraced barbaric causes at the expense of

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