Philip Sassoon would have been most surprised that today the most famous Sassoon is a hairdresser called Vidal. Next in the fame stakes is the poet Siegfried, with Phllip, his cousin, a distant and now rather obscure third. But in the first half of the twentieth century Sir Philip Sassoon was one of the most glamorous figures in Britain. Fabulously rich, he was a political fixer, society host and sybarite whose dazzling life was dedicated to collecting, entertaining and placing himself near people of power and influence. Prime ministers, artists, kings and every sort of queen lapped up his hospitality. He lived as a confirmed and apparently celibate bachelor in an embassy-sized house in Park Lane and in two country mansions. His wealth originally stemmed from the opium trade in India, from which, during the nineteenth century, a seventh of Britain’s income from India was derived; the Sassoons owned 70 per cent of that business. They were known as the Rothschilds of the East and on emigrating to England rose to the very pinnacle of British Jewry.
This biography of Philip and his sister Sybil was originally going to be part of an academic study of the Anglo-Jewish peerage and the extent to which outsiders were accepted into the Establishment. And that is still the evident interest of Peter Stansky as he narrates how the Sassoons seduced