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This review is taken from PN Review 42, Volume 11 Number 4, March - April 1985.

PUBLIC AND PRIVATE MEN Margaret Fitzherbert, The Man Who Was Greenmantle: a Biography of Aubrey Herbert (John Murray) £15.00
Brocard Sewell, In The Dorian Mode: A Life of John Gray: 1866-1934 (Tabb House) £18.00

Although they are about strikingly dissimilar people these two biographies fall into the same genre. They cover the same period (c1880-1930) and they are both written from personal interest rather than by professional scholars funded from some university grant system. They are both concerned with re-establishing a reputation.

In The Man Who Was Greenmantle Margaret Fitzherbert writes about the life of her grandfather, the Hon. Aubrey Herbert, son of the Earl of Carnarvon. He was born with an eye defect (his only disadvantage) and he had to undergo two traumatic operations to see anything at all. Even though he was almost blind he took his appointed place at Eton and thence went to Balliol, where for three years he was part of the Raymond Asquith/John Buchan set, who regarded themselves as rulers by divine right and were given to writing fulsome praise of one another: 'He has the face and figure of a god, and such charm and distinction as I never saw in any other man' (Asquith on Lord Lucas). It was to Aubrey Herbert's credit that he was both too intelligent and too eccentric to be long taken in by this cloying claptrap. Leaving England and groups calling themselves 'The Souls', 'The Slips' etc. behind him, he took off for the East with a revolver and a first class honours degree in his pocket to serve in the diplomatic corps. Eventually he was posted to Constantinople and found a lifelong interest in that corrupt and ...


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