Leslie Mitchell

Wit & Whiggery

One Hundred Letters from Hugh Trevor-Roper


Oxford University Press 447pp £25 order from our bookshop

For Hugh Trevor-Roper the writing of a letter was part entertainment, part lecture and part therapy. He was clear that ‘if one never writes real letters one can never acquire the art of expressing one’s self, and at times it is such a relief to do so’. It was a form that allowed people to write of serious things inconsequentially and of inconsequential things seriously. For the scholar, normally constrained by the bounds of evidence, there was ‘the pleasure of total vacancy’. He hoped that he would not be judged by his letters, because, in them, he had felt ‘licensed to be free and irresponsible’. What better way, then, to celebrate the centenary of Trevor-Roper’s birth than to treat the reading public to a hundred of his letters? Here he is, off-guard, intimate, giving full rein to an amused view of life.

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